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Concession by Jamiesstories


A/N: Thank you all for your support on my last story! This one was inspired by a friend who is actually traveling to South America to do research (how cool is that?!?). I’m working on something longer, but it’s probably going to be a while, so enjoy this in the meantime!

Concession

The head in front of Aaron ducked before quickly coming back up.

"Yo, Aaron, watch out for that-"

"AH, F***!"

"Spider web," Carlos finished quietly, stopping and turning around to face his research partner. "Are you okay…" he started, but trailed off as his eyes focused on something just above Aaron’s head.

Aaron continued to attempt to get the webs off his face, not noticing the strange expression on his partner’s face.

"I think I, puh, got it in my mouth," Aaron spit, before registering Carlos’s look of shock, "Carlos? What’s wrong?"

Carlos stared at the spot right above Aaron’s head for a moment longer before looking down to meet Aaron’s eyes.

"Huh? Oh it’s nothing, really," he replied, with an overly worried tone for something that was supposedly nothing.

"Carlos," Aaron said, more sharply this time.


"It’s really not a big deal Aaron, it’s just, well, there may be some spider webs in your hair…"

"How bad is it?" Aaron asked, cautiously, unsure if he wanted the answer.

"It’s not-" Carlos fumbled, "let’s just get back to base and I’ll help you take care of it." Carlos turned back around to encourage Aaron to start walking behind him, but he quickly sensed Aaron wasn’t done with this conversation. He turned back around to see that Aaron had not moved.

Slowly, Aaron raised his hand up to his bun. Carlos considered telling him to stop, but decided against it, knowing it was fruitless. Aaron’s hand came away from his hair sticky and full of white webbing.

"Oh, God! This is a disaster!"

Carlos walked back over to where Aaron was standing.

"Aaron, don’t worry. I can help you take care of it when we get back to base, but standing here isn’t helping anyone."

Aaron sighed.

"Besides," Carlos joked, turning back around and starting down the trail once again, "your man bun is the real disaster; you just destroyed a whole spider village!"

"Not funny Carlos!" Aaron scolded, following behind the man.

Aaron was seething, and scared.

XXXXX

He had gotten the opportunity of his life, really, he had. The chance to return to Peru, his favorite place on earth, and where he’d studied abroad in undergrad; the chance to do real, possibly revelatory, environmental science research; the chance to work in the Amazon rainforest. These were things that some scientists spent their lives dreaming about, and he’d gotten to do it before he even had his PhD. And, for the most part, the trip had been amazing: the research was just as interesting as he’d hoped, the culture was just what he’d missed, and his team was incredible. There was only one problem: his hair.

When he’d arrived at the Los Amigos biological station, he quickly noticed everyone there had their hair cut short. And it wasn’t just the guys, either. Besides a few hold-outs, regardless of gender, everyone sported some form of clipper cut, and in the short month Aaron had been there, another so-called "hold-out" had given in and let her friend give her a short back and sides. Of course, Aaron, with his chocolate brown hair that fell beyond his shoulders, had been the butt of many haircut jokes and the recipient of many serious offers to cut his hair.

Aaron, however, refused them all. He loved his hair, and there was no way he was cutting it. No matter what. He saw the utility in it, sure. The compound was fine, most of it being air conditioned, but Aaron soon realized that, as a grunt-work grad student, he would be spending little time at base. Most of his days were spent on excursions into the forest, hiking, collecting samples, and working up a sweat. The long hair did not do him any favors in the humid, hot, sauna-like rainforest. Aaron still maintained his hard-line stance, however, refusing to concede that his hair was at all annoying or an inconvenience.

The offers from Carlos, however, were hard to refuse. He had caught Aaron’s attention from day one, in part because of his hair, which, despite the fact that everyone sported a clipper-cut, was some of the shortest in the compound, his midnight black bristles barely stopping his scalp from showing through. But that was not the only thing about Carlos that had caught Aaron’s attention: his smooth, copper skin, his perfectly toned body, and winning smile certainly weren’t lessening Aaron’s interest. It had been hard to say no to Carlos, near impossible, and now that Aaron had refused his offers multiple times, the spider-related predicament his hair had gotten him in was extra embarrassing. Aaron shuddered to think what "take care of it" meant to the buzz-cut man in front of him.

XXXXX

As they returned to the compound, Carlos laid out the game plan.

"Give me your backpack," he ordered, "I’ll run our samples and notes over to the lab, you go back to our room and keep your hands out of your hair."

Oh, yeah, Aaron and Carlos were also roommates.

Aaron nodded his consent and made his way back to the dorm building. Each room in his dorm had its own private bathroom, so, Aaron comforted himself, at least Carlos would be the only witness to whatever he was about to do to Aaron’s hair.

When Aaron entered their bathroom, the mirrors forced him to realize just how bad it was: his hair, from almost his hairline all the way up and across his bun was covered in white strings. In some sections, it was so thick that you couldn’t see his hair underneath the mess. Aaron was no biologist, but he’d paid attention in undergrad enough to know that spiderweb was waterproof. Essentially: he was f***ed.

By the time Carlos returned to their dorm, Aaron’s brain had created a laundry list of horrible scenarios, all ending with the cutting of his hair. This was why, the moment Carlos entered the bathroom, Aaron jumped about a foot in the air from pent-up anxiety.

"Jump any higher and I’ll mistake you for a kangaroo!" Carlos joked, but seeing Aaron’s expression, he stopped, "are you okay, dude?"

"Yeah," Aaron lied in response, "I’m [voice crack] fine."

Carlos rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"That’s what all fine people sound like."

Aaron exhaled, "what exactly are you planning to do?"

"Oh, Aaron, I’ll figure it out," Carlos began to soothe the nervous man, "I’m thinking the best strategy is to try and get as much web out of your hair as possible while it’s still dry and in a bun, but I’m not really an expert…" Carlos walked out of the bathroom for a moment and returned with a wooden chair from their room, setting it up so the back was against the sink.

"You have a seat right there," he instructed, "I’m going to grab a comb and some gloves and I’ll be right back." Aaron followed Carlos’s instructions, rolling the possibility over in his mind of a possible end to this situation that didn’t involve shaving his head. Carlos returned a minute later, holding exactly what he said he was leaving to find.

"Wait, Carlos-"

"Hm?" The man looked up from opening the box of gloves.

"You’re not going to cut my hair?" Aaron asked tentatively, afraid of the answer. Carlos’s face changed from sharp concentration to tender kindness in a moment, and he chuckled.

"Of course not! You’ve made it very clear you don’t want anyone cutting your hair."

Aaron breathed a huge sigh of relief, and fell a little more in love.

"Unless you’ve changed your mind?" Carlos offered, jokingly, "You’d save me a lot of time…"

"No, thank you." Aaron responded emphatically, but with a smile as well, catching onto Carlos’s joke.

"You didn’t really think I was going to cut your hair, did you?" Carlos asked disbelievingly, "Without asking your permission first?"

Aaron blushed and turned away, embarrassed by his own paranoia.

"Wow, you really have that little faith in me…" Carlos trailed off, walking closer to Aaron and patting his shoulder. "For the record, I will not cut your, or anyone’s hair, without permission, capisce?"

Aaron smiled.

"Capisce," he responded.

"Now," Carlos said, returning to his box of rubber gloves and finally managing to bust it open, "you just sit back and relax. Let me take care of this web problem."

Aaron sat back in the chair and leaned his head back at Carlos’s directive. With the harsh light in their bathroom, Aaron elected to close his eyes, feeling only a slight push or pull on his scalp from time to time as Carlos attempted to pull webbing off of his hair. The only sound was the occasional changing of rubber gloves, as Carlos’s current pair accumulated too much web to be functional.

After an unknowable amount of time on Aaron’s end, he opened his eyes, wanting to watch Carlos work. The man was standing over Aaron, chocolate eyes sharp with concentration, tongue caught between his teeth as he thought about his next move. Every once in a while, he would lean back, surveying his work. Suddenly, his eyes flicked down to Aaron’s face, finding a pair of eyes staring back at him. The two men made eye contact, and, as Carlos returned to work, he allowed his lips to slide into a warm smile. Carlos pulled his eyes away from the seated man, and returned his focus to the task at hand, removing another strand of webbing from the chestnut locks. He paused for a moment.

"Can I ask you something, Aaron?"

"Sure."

"Why don’t you want to cut your hair?"

Aaron, momentarily shocked by the question, sought Carlos’s gaze. Carlos met Aaron’s look, clearly serious in his questioning.

"W- what do you mean?"

"Well," Carlos started, and then cut himself off, "and don’t take this the wrong way because I’m perfectly aware you don’t want to cut your hair, I’m just curious [Aaron let out his held breath for the second time in an hour], but it’s clearly an annoyance. Right now mostly to me-"

"You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to," Aaron interrupted. Carlos laughed.

"I’m just joking, bud, I really don’t mind."

"Okay…"

"What I was going to say," Carlos continued, "is that right now it’s mostly an annoyance to me, but, most of the time, it seems like an annoyance to you most of all, so why not just remove the very-easily-removable annoyance?"

Aaron smiled, entertained by Carlos’s pragmatism. If it were any other time, or with any other person, Aaron would’ve denied the annoyance, but he was too tired and too comfortable with Carlos to lie.

"Okay, so, sometimes my hair is annoying," Aaron said.

"More like all the time…" Carlos muttered, but with a light and joking tone.

"Like I was saying," Aaron took his turn to jest, "sometimes my hair is annoying, but I also really like it."

"Why?" Carlos was quick to ask.

"Well…" Aaron began, searching for the reasons he liked his hair, and coming up… empty? He did like his hair, didn’t he? "Ah! I got one!" Aaron exclaimed, making Carlos chuckle, "I like how I look with long hair."

"It took you that long to come up with ‘I like how I look’?"

"I’m under pressure, okay?"

"Okay, what else do you like?" Carlos challenged.

"I like the feeling of hair on my shoulders, like, that comforting weight," Aaron paused for a moment to think, "it’s just… me. I have long hair."

"Hm," Carlos murmured, clearly thinking over what Aaron had said.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"Carlos," Aaron insisted for the second time that day, "what?"

"You know, when I don’t say things, it’s usually for your protection," Carlos replied.

Aaron wasn’t taking that for an answer.

"What?"

"It just seems like," Carlos paused, "it seems like the biggest reason you’re not cutting your hair is that you don’t like change."

Aaron’s heart dropped to his stomach, was Carlos right? Was that really the reason he didn’t want to cut his hair? No, it couldn’t be… could it?

When Aaron’s eyes met Carlos’s, this time, there was a bit of a challenge hidden in their depths. Aaron closed his eyes again, wanting to hide from the stampede of intrusive thoughts that had just entered his brain.

Carlos continued to work for a while longer, before Aaron felt the release of pressure from his scalp that signified he’d leaned back to inspect his work once again. Aaron opened his eyes to find Carlos chewing on his bottom lip, clearly unsure of what to do next.

"I’ll be right back," Carlos suddenly said, walking back into their bedroom. When the man returned, Aaron caught sight of a very familiar looking pair of finger rings sticking out of his back pocket.

"Carlos," Aaron started nervously, "what is in your pocket and why is it there?"

Carlos exhaled sharply.

"I was hoping you wouldn’t see them…"

"Why?" Aaron interrogated.

"Because I knew that they were going to freak you out," Carlos paused and reached into his back pocket, pulling out a pair of scissors.

"What are you doing with those?" Aaron anxiously asked.

"Not cutting your hair, if that’s what you’re worried about," Carlos clarified, "I’m going to use them to cut the hair tie out of your hair."

"And there’s no way you can just pull the hair tie out?" Aaron asked hopefully. Carlos shook his head.

"It’s covered in webbing. I did not just spend an hour pulling spiderweb out of your hair to drag it back through your hair again."

It was Aaron who sighed this time.

"Go fast please."

Carlos jokingly saluted at Aaron’s request before walking back up to Aaron and attempting to pull the hair tie away from the rest of his hair. After a little bit of pulling, Carlos managed to slip the blade of the scissors under the elastic; he pulled the scissors and band away from Aaron’s bun.

"Don’t move," he instructed, before closing the scissors on the elastic. There was a snap as the hair tie was broken, and Aaron felt a sudden loosening of the hair on his scalp. Aaron head footfalls getting further away as Carlos walked to the other end of their bathroom.

"Hey Aaron," Carlos said; Aaron looked over towards the man. Carlos placed the scissors on the windowsill on the other end of the bathroom and returned to his place right beside Aaron.

"Totally inaccessible."

Aaron laughed, but inside he was flattered that Carlos cared enough to do that for him.

"Is there much more?" Aaron asked.

"No, we’re almost done," Carlos replied, "I took your bun out because I thought we were basically done."

Carlos put on a new set of gloves, picked up the comb, and went back to work, removing the last strands of web from Aaron’s mane. As Carlos was finishing up, someone banged on the door to their room.

"Carlos, Aaron, you in there?" Yelled a commanding female voice. Carlos put down the comb and took one of the gloves off to go answer the door.

"Carlos, no," Aaron pleaded.

"Aaron, she’s our boss," Carlos chided, "besides, she’s just a little… strong is all. You can handle it."

"No, Carlos, she’s going to say something about my hair. I’ve already had enough hair-related stress today," Aaron responded. Carlos gave Aaron a stern look.

"Okay, well, she is our boss, so I have to answer the door," Carlos answered, ever the realist, causing Aaron to sigh melodramatically, "and while I answer the door, maybe you can ponder why you’re so anxious about your hair, and whether that’s causing you more hair-related stress than anyone else can impose upon you." And with that, Carlos walked towards the door.

As Carlos opened the door, he was greeted with the weather-worn face of his boss, Mary. She was between 55 and 60, and wore her gray hair in a practical crew cut.

"There you are! I’ve been looking for you," she exclaimed, "where’s Aaron?"

"In the bathroom," Carlos responded, truthfully. Mary entered their room.

"With the door open?"

"Why don’t I show you exactly what Aaron and I are doing in the bathroom?" Carlos responded, loud enough so Aaron could understand it was a jab at him.

"Please."

Carlos led Mary to the bathroom, where Aaron sat, hair splayed out in the sink behind him. The comb and the paper towels covered in spider web told a pretty clear story, but just to make sure Mary got it, Carlos explained.

"Aaron unfortunately ran hair-first into a pretty big spider web today."

Mary raised her eyebrows and shook her head.

"You are too nice, Carlos."

"Why’s that?" Carlos asked.

"Well," Mary started, looking in between Carlos and Aaron, "if my roommate ever runs into a spider web, I have another method of web removal."

Carlos raised his eyebrows in mock interest.

"It takes a lot less time and includes a pair of clippers," Mary explained.

Aaron raised his eyebrows and made aggressive eye contact with Carlos, his expression a mixture of fear and exasperation. Carlos chose to ignore Aaron.

"It’s a good thing I’m Aaron’s roommate, then," he said diplomatically, and walked over to stand next to the seated man.

"Look," Mary moved on, unaware of the second conversation going on between Aaron and Carlos, "no matter what method you choose to use, Carlos, I hope you’re close to done. Dinner is soon and I want reports from both of you before I go to bed tonight."

"Yes ma’am," Carlos replied.

Mary shook her head in disbelief.

"Aaron, thank your lucky stars you have him [she nodded towards Carlos], I don’t know many others who’d be willing to do this for their roommate."

With that, she turned on her heel and left, closing the door behind her.

"Okay, that was pretty mean," Carlos admitted, "but you survived!"

"That was your fault," Aaron replied. Carlos swatted Aaron’s shoulder.

"Oi! That doesn’t sound like thanking your lucky stars for me!"

Aaron smiled despite himself.

"Let’s finish up soon if we want any dinner," Aaron said.

"No worries," Carlos responded, "I just want to wash your hair to get rid of any remaining webbing, and then you’ll be good to go."

"Oh, Carlos, I can do that!" Aaron replied, getting ready to get up from his seat.

"Nonsense," Carlos replied, pushing him back down, "there’s still some web in there, you won’t be able to see it."

"Are you sure?" Aaron asked, incredulous.

"Positive."

Aaron heard Carlos turning the taps, and testing the temperature of the water.

"It’s no salon," Carlos warned, "but let me know if there’s something I can do to make you more comfortable."

Carlos bent Aaron’s head back further, and Aaron felt warm water spilling over his scalp, sending a shiver down his spine at the sudden change in temperature. Carlos’s fingers made their way into his hair, pulling it away from the scalp slightly and making sure everything was wet. Then, Aaron heard the water turn off, and Carlos reached into their shower for a bottle of shampoo. Carlos squirted some in his hands, before massaging the product into Aaron’s scalp and pulling the suds through his hair. But when Aaron expected Carlos to rinse the shampoo out, Carlos continued to massage, his firm hands running their way up and down Aaron’s scalp, relaxing him further every moment.

"How are you so good at this?" Aaron moaned. Carlos chuckled.

"Who knows?" Carlos replied, "Maybe I was a barber in my past life."

Aaron opened his eyes for a moment to see Carlos’s perfect smirk, his mirthful brown eyes locking with Aaron’s.

Eventually, he looked away and Aaron closed his eyes as Carlos ran warm water over Aaron’s scalp once again. Carlos conditioned Aaron’s hair next, combing his fingers through it before rinsing the product out once again.

Eventually, Carlos turned the water off for the final time. Aaron was disappointed, just the thought of Carlos’s hands running through his hair filled his stomach with butterflies. Aaron felt a tugging on his scalp as Carlos twisted the water out of Aaron's hair, before running his hands through it one last time.

"You’re officially web-free," Carlos announced. Aaron rose from the chair and turned to face the mirror, his wet hair framing his face and falling a few inches beyond his shoulders, dampening his shirt. Aaron turned towards Carlos, who had come up behind him.

"Carlos- I- thank you." Carlos mussed Aaron’s hair.

"Of course, dude. Don’t even worry about it."

Aaron wanted to say something, anything, but the words wouldn’t materialize in his mouth, so, instead, he just turned back towards the mirror and looked down at the counter around the sink. Strewn there were a few pairs of rubber gloves, some crumpled up paper towels, and a comb, all covered with strands of spider web. Aaron reached down and touched the comb, his fingers coming away covered in webbing.

"I guess this comb is trashed…" He said, and Carlos snickered in agreement. Aaron instinctually reached up to run his hands through his hair, like he did whenever he was anxious, but before his hand could get there, Carlos had caught it in an iron grip.

"If you run spider webs through your hair after I just spent over an hour getting them out, I am going to personally shave your head," he said sternly in Aaron’s ear.

This comment, which would usually send bolts of anxiety shooting through Aaron, instead made him feel… excited? Just the thought of Carlos and those hands in his hair once again…

What the hell was going on?

Aaron faked a few chuckles as Carlos released his hand, but he was drowning in his own confusion.

"Alright," Carlos said, "I’m headed to dinner. Do you mind cleaning up?"

"It’s the least I can do," Aaron replied. Carlos smiled.

"Thanks."

After he left, Aaron set about throwing away all the web-covered items and returning everything else to its normal spot. Finally, after everything else had been reset, Aaron picked up the scissors from the windowsill and walked them back over to Carlos’s desk. As he set them down, he noticed something else: the clippers, which usually sat in the bottom drawer of Carlos’s desk, were lying out on the table. Carlos must’ve taken them out when he went to get a comb. Aaron stood looking at them, Carlos had acted confident that no hair would be cut, but, clearly, he hadn’t been so sure. Aaron smiled, leave it to Carlos to try to protect him from his own anxiety. He inspected the device for a moment longer. In the end, he wasn’t so sure he was happy Carlos had spared him from the clippers.

XXXXX

It was a week after the spiderweb incident and Carlos and Aaron were spending the evening in their room, doing work. Aaron was sitting in his bed, laptop in his lap, while Carlos was sitting at his desk, back turned to Aaron, also bent over his own computer. Aaron was trying to get things done, he really was. There was an unwritten report for Mary due tomorrow morning and that was on top of the page goal he’d set for his thesis that he was currently not even close to meeting. But the bandana he was using to hold his hair back was too tight, and he had other things on his mind.

Ever since last week, he hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything. Every day, he couldn’t help but let his mind slip back to that evening, Carlos’s hands in his hair, the excitement he’d felt at the idea of Carlos shaving his head, Carlos’s words: "the biggest reason you’re not cutting your hair is that you don’t like change…" Did he want Carlos to shave his head?

F*** it. He was figuring this out. Tonight.

"Hey, Carlos?" Aaron started, lowering his laptop.

"Hmm?" Carlos replied, looking up from his work and twisting his body in the chair so he could face Aaron.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course. What’s up?"

"Do you- do you like your buzz cut?"

Carlos smiled to himself, and turned his chair so he could fully face Aaron.

"I love it."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously. I’ve never regretted it," Carlos affirmed.

"Did you cut it when you came to Los Amigos?" Aaron asked, gathering intel.

"Oh, no," Carlos replied, "I’ve had it much longer than that. Close to three years now, I think."

"But you had another hairstyle before it? Like, you haven’t always had a buzzcut?"

Carlos laughed.

"I had a lot of other hairstyles before I went for it."

"So," Aaron began, "before you buzzed your head, what did your hair look like?"

"Well…" Carlos leaned back in his chair, so the front two legs lifted off the ground, "My hair was actually a couple inches longer than yours."

"Really!?" Aaron replied, shocked. He tried to imagine Carlos with long hair, thick ebony strands down to his shoulder blades, but the face and the hairstyle just didn’t fit together. Aaron couldn’t see it.

"Really."

"Were you scared?" Aaron asked, no longer able to contain his interest. Carlos laughed, again.

"I’m not really the right person to ask about this sort of thing…" He replied, "I was so sick of my hair when I cut it, I was practically begging my friend to shave my head. So, no, I wasn’t scared," Carlos paused for a moment, his expression taking on a more empathetic character, "But I would imagine, for someone who likes their hair, it would be incredibly frightening."

Aaron suddenly felt very exposed. There was silence for a moment, before Aaron continued his interrogation, more shyly this time.

"Why didn’t you like your hair?"

"I’m lazy and I hate being hot; two qualities that do not combine well with long, thick hair."

Aaron nodded, trying to force words out of his mouth that wouldn’t come.

"Aaron," Carlos said, in a commanding tone, "What do you really want to ask me?"

Aaron froze. Carlos held Aaron in his stare, his eyes challenging the long-haired man.

"Carlos, W- will you-" Aaron started; Carlos nodded his encouragement. "Will you give me a buzz cut?"

Carlos’s face slowly split into a grin. The man took a moment to control himself before speaking, clearly trying to avoid saying something impulsively that he would regret.

"It would be my pleasure, Aaron."

Carlos leaned forward in his chair so the front two legs landed on the floor with a bang, and rose from his seat. Aaron jumped at the clap of the chair hitting the floor, and then felt a creep of anxiety as he realized Carlos was going to do it right at this very moment. He began to slide off his bed and stand up.

"We’re doing it right now?" Aaron asked.

"Before you chicken out," Carlos said playfully, but with a note of severity.

Aaron rolled his eyes in response, but felt another jolt of anxiety, larger this time, and elected to sit back down on the bed.

Carlos moved the wooden chair he had been sitting to the middle of the room, where he had space to stand on all sides of Aaron. It was the same chair Aaron had sat in last week. Carlos patted the back of the chair.

"You can have a seat here."

Aaron walked over to the chair, his legs feeling like jelly, and sat. Hearing Carlos walk behind him was making Aaron more nervous, so he turned to watch the man. Carlos was rummaging in the bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out a pair of clippers and a blue plastic guard.

"How short are you going?" Aaron asked, nervously. Carlos turned back to him, this time with a comforting smile.

"Don’t worry, I’m still leaving you with hair."

Aaron thought there was going to be more explanation, but Carlos elected to leave it at that. As Carlos finished plugging in the machine, he turned to Aaron.

"I’m going to run and get a towel, I’ll be right back."

"Wait, Carlos," Aaron exclaimed. Carlos turned, hand on the doorknob.

"Yeah?"

"Can you not tell anyone you’re giving me a haircut?"

Carlos gave Aaron an incredulous look.

"You know they’re going to know I gave you a haircut after you walk around with a buzz cut, right?"

"I know, I know," Aaron said, "That’s not it. I just-" he cut himself off, embarrassed by what he was about to say, "I don’t want them to watch."

The golden rays in Carlos’s eyes shone as understanding dawned on him.

"Your secret is safe with me," he smiled.

With that, he jogged out the door and down to the compound grounds. Aaron could hear him through the open window as he yelled for an extra towel. He heard Mary’s gruff voice as she exclaimed,

"Jesus, Carlos. Why so loud?"

"It got your attention," he paused, "Do you have any extra towels I can borrow?"

"What are you doing?"

"Pleasedon’ttell," Aaron whispered to himself over and over again.

"Giving myself a haircut," Carlos replied to Mary, nonchalantly.

"I’ll get one, give me a moment," Mary responded. A moment later, Aaron heard her voice again, "Here you go, Carlos. Don’t use ‘borrow’ when you mean keep."

Carlos walked back into their room a moment later, smiling wide, towel in hand.

"Let’s do this!" He exclaimed, forcing a chuckle of nervous laughter out of Aaron. Aaron reached up and untied the bandana holding his hair back, throwing it on the desk beside him. He ran his hand through his hair a few times, feeling the soft tresses against his fingers, inspecting the chocolate brown as it ran through his fingers. Another jolt of anxiety ran through him.

Aaron looked up from his hair-related reverie to find Carlos watching him, eyes filled with sympathy.

"Having second thoughts?"

Aaron looked away, revealing more than words ever could.

"You know," Carlos began, "I meant what I said earlier, I imagine this is quite frightening for you."

Aaron couldn’t raise his gaze to meet Carlos, so, instead, he kept his eyes focused on a spot on the wood floor.

"It’s a little scary," he replied, attempting to act casual.

"Aaron," Carlos said, and Aaron felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. He looked up to find Carlos standing over him. "Tell me what you’re thinking right now."

"I-" Aaron started, and stopped, embarrassed, "What if I hate it?"

"I guarantee you’re going to be way more comfortable than you are now," Carlos replied.

"But what if I look bad?" Aaron asked, quietly, embarrassed by his own vanity.

"Is that seriously what you’re worried about Aaron?" Carlos asked, incredulously, "C’mon, you can’t be serious."

"I am serious!" Aaron exclaimed, "I don’t want to hate how I look!"

"Oh, Aaron," Carlos soothed, realizing he’d been misinterpreted, "nobody wants to hate how they look, but you, of all people, have nothing to be worried about."

"Me of all people? What does that mean?"

"Aaron," Carlos chided, "You’re hot now, you’re going to be hot with a buzz cut, you’re just hot. We both know it."

Aaron was so shocked, he nearly couldn’t speak.

"Y- you think I’m hot?"

"Of course I do, you obviously are."

"Wait, wait, wait," Aaron said, words tumbling out of his mouth, "Do you think I’m hot in the objective, ‘he’s just generally hot’ kind of way, or in the ‘I personally find him attractive’ way?"

Carlos walked behind Aaron, taking his time before answering. When he did answer, he was standing directly behind Aaron. Aaron could hear he was smiling.

"Why not both?"

Aaron jumped around in his seat to face the man, and was greeted with a direct view of his bronze hand holding a pair of clippers.

"We can continue this conversation later," Carlos commanded, standing above Aaron, "but for now, someone needs a haircut, and now he has nothing to worry about."

"Bastard," Aaron muttered under his breath, turning back around in his chair. But, although he was acting annoyed, he felt his anxiety dissipate somewhat.

Carlos placed his hand on the back of Aaron’s head and applied a gentle pressure.

"Head down," he instructed. As Aaron bent his head, Carlos let his hand travel down a bit, his thumb finding the end of Aaron’s hairline in the back, at the nape of his neck. Carlos applied a slight pressure there, before slowly dragging his thumb down Aaron’s neck, sending a shiver of excitement through Aaron’s whole body. Aaron then felt the rustle of fabric before the towel was placed around his shoulders. Carlos placed his thumb at the nape of Aaron’s neck once again, using his hand to fish through Aaron’s hair to find where he would place the clippers.

When Carlos flipped the clippers on, the snap sent another wave of anxiety through Aaron. As if he was reading Aaron’s mind, Carlos allowed his thumb to drag down Aaron’s neck once again, relaxing the man. Carlos leaned down and spoke softly into Aaron’s ear, the bass of his voice sending reverberations through Aaron’s head.

"When I’m nervous, I like to take deep breaths and just focus on one thing."

Taking his advice, Aaron took a long, slow breath, in and out, relaxing his body a little bit more. Aaron felt Carlos’s free hand make its way into his hair once more, the strands running in between his fingers. There was a little tug on the hair at the base of Aaron’s neck, as Carlos pulled it away slightly from his scalp. Finally, Aaron felt the plastic teeth of the clipper guard enter his hair at the nape, slowly making their way up his scalp. The pitch of the clippers suddenly jumped as the blades began to cut hair, and Aaron felt a release of pressure as the hair Carlos was just pulling was separated from Aaron’s scalp. Aaron felt the machine slowly work up the back of his head, until Carlos pulled it away from Aaron’s head at the crown. Aaron saw a few long strands of dark hair fall to the floor, but he knew most of the hair was behind him, hidden from view.

Carlos ran his hand through Aaron’s hair again, directly to the right of where he’d just cut. Again, Carlos tugged the hair taught before he, once again, slipped the clippers into Aaron’s mane, cutting another path up the back of Aaron’s hair.

Aaron slowly adjusted to the pattern: comb, tug, shave. He breathed and closed his eyes, feeling the vibrations of the clippers against his skull, thinking of it as a massage. The weight he was used to feeling on his shoulders was becoming lighter and lighter, and he could feel the breeze of the air conditioning playing with the back of his neck.

Aaron then felt the clippers traveling further forward, and instead of coming up the back of his head, they came forward, over his ear and through the locks at his right temple. This time, he could feel the soft tresses brush his cheek as they fell to the ground. He closed his eyes a little tighter. Aaron then felt the same happen on the left side, his ears significantly cooler than before.

Carlos’s free hand reached, this time, under Aaron’s chin.

"Head up," he instructed, as he tilted Aaron’s head up and slightly back. Carlos smiled, seeing Aaron’s eyes closed. "You might want to keep your eyes closed for this next part," he advised, reaching down and briefly squeezing Aaron’s shoulder. Aaron blushed a bit at the instruction, but kept his eyes closed, as directed.

Carlos took hold of Aaron’s forelock this time, pulling it back from in front of his face, where it had fallen. Carlos then took the clippers in his other hand and drove them back into Aaron’s hairline, causing Aaron to shiver. Carlos dragged the clippers back to Aaron’s crown and then pulled them up, as they met the buzzed-down back of Aaron’s head.

"No going back," Aaron said, quietly.

Carlos ran his thumb down the line of Aaron’s scalp he had just shaved, Aaron felt the pressure on his scalp, through the scant bristles left.

"Good," Carlos replied.

Carlos then returned to his rhythm: lifting the hair back from Aaron’s face before pulling the clippers back through the remains of his hair. At some point, Carlos sighed, then chuckled.

"What?" Aaron asked.

"You have a lot of hair, Aaron Bauer."

Aaron laughed, too.

"Aren’t you in the middle of resolving that issue?"

"Doing my best," Carlos said, feigning exasperation.

Carlos ran the clippers down Aaron’s scalp a few more times, before Aaron heard him step back.

"Okay," he announced, "I’m just going to go over it one more time, to make sure I didn’t miss anything."

Aaron opened his eyes to find Carlos standing before him, clippers in hand, satisfied smile on his face. Aaron nodded his consent.

"Sounds good."

Carlos stepped behind Aaron once again, turning the clippers back on and deftly running them all over Aaron’s head. Aaron felt small bits of hair rain down on his neck once or twice, but, mostly, he just enjoyed the vibrations of the clippers running over his skull again.

Aaron felt the machine leave his scalp and heard the snap of Carlos turning it off. Suddenly, Aaron felt Carlos’s hand against his scalp, brushing off cut hairs. Carlos tilted Aaron’s head from side to side one last time, his grip dominant, but not overly rough. Aaron marveled at the new sensations he was experiencing. Unlike last week, when Carlos had mussed his hair, Aaron could feel the heat of Carlos’s hands on his scalp, the pressure of his touch, every finger against his head.

Finally, Carlos walked around to face Aaron, standing in silence in front of him.

"How do I look?" Aaron asked.

"Hmm…" Carlos hummed, appearing to be in deep thought. He leaned forward, placing one hand on the back of the chair above Aaron’s shoulder, bringing his face eye-level with Aaron’s. The hand that was not holding onto the chair reached up, and Carlos slowly dragged his palm along Aaron’s scalp, starting at his hairline and making his way all the way to his jawbone, allowing his thumb to rest there for a moment before removing it.

"You look alright," Carlos replied, feigning indifference.

Aaron, who was awaiting Carlos’s response with baited breath, let out a half sigh, half chuckle.

"F*** you," he said, smiling and rolling his eyes. Carlos smiled as well, continuing to watch the other man. He leaned closer to Aaron, placing both of his forearms on the back of the chair on either side of Aaron. Aaron, who had turned his head to the side, looked up again, finding Carlos’s face, his perfect face, inches from Aaron’s own.

"Aaron," Carlos paused, "Can I kiss you?"

"Yes," Aaron replied, breathless. He barely had time to finish his syllable, however, when Carlos’s lips crashed against his own.

Aaron had imagined this kiss a lot, every day, but it was better than he ever could’ve thought. The rasp of Carlos’s one-day beard against his cheek, the taste of the man-- mate and spearmint Tic Tacs, the almost soundless growl that emanated from Carlos as the men kissed longer, deeper.

Eventually, Aaron felt Carlos’s lips pull into a smile, before pulling away. His face was an adorable mixture of self-satisfaction and joy.

"If I had known cutting my hair would make you kiss me, I would’ve done it sooner," Aaron joked. Carlos laughed in response.

"What can I say? You look good."

Aaron’s hand shot up to his head, preparing to run his hands through his hair, before remembering the obvious fact that it was no longer there. Instead, he opted to run his hand over his freshly buzzed head, enjoying the feeling of the bristles against his palm.

Carlos reached around Aaron and removed the towel from his shoulders, sending sheaves of dark hair to the floor. Aaron noticed the falling hair and looked down for the first time; he was surrounded by dark piles of hair, and there seemed to be more behind him. Aaron whistled in surprise.

"I did have a lot of hair," he said. Carlos smiled and reached down to touch Aaron’s shoulder gently.

"You go see what you look like, I’ll clean this up," Carlos said, and walked to the closet to grab a broom.

Aaron rose slowly and walked to the bathroom, his legs still a bit weak. His anxieties started to rise up again: what if he hated it? But the kiss from Carlos had lessened his worries, at least he knew the hottest person in the world was in support of his new haircut. As reached the mirror, he braced himself, but… it looked good. Sure, it was extremely short, almost identical to Carlos’s, in fact, except for the color, but he liked how he looked. His jawline was accentuated, you could better see his golden brown eyes, and he just looked… better.

He saw Carlos come up behind him a moment before the man wrapped his arms around Aaron’s waist. Okay, Aaron could definitely get used to this.

"Do you like it?" Carlos muttered in his ear.

"I do."

"Another hold-out, down for the count," Carlos chuckled, "defeated by his d***."

Aaron let his head fall back onto Carlos’s shoulder.

"Defeated by a very convincing man."




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