Takes place in September of 2013. Title is from the song Dance With Me by Phillip Phillips.
Zain sat on the roof shingles and looked out over the ocean. Moonlight was reflecting off the water in a million tiny droplets of silver. He studied them, then Seb lying beside him. No, he decided. Seb’s eyes were still more stunning.
Today hadn’t been anything special. Just their routine, ordinary lives in paradise. Didn’t that make it an even better time to ask?
He smiled. “Babe?”
“Yeah?” Seb asked, not moving his gaze off the stars above.
“Do you wanna get married?”
Seb blinked, and then frowned at him. “Is this about health insurance?”
A record scratched in Zain’s head. “What? Did you hear what I said?”
Pushing himself onto his elbows, Seb replied, “Yeah, I heard. Are you trying to make sure I’ll be covered under your health insurance after I age out of my parents’?” His eyebrows went up and together. “Because I can buy my own. Really. I’ll manage.”
Zain stared at him for a few silent moments, trying to make sense of his reaction. “You’re covered under your parents’ for seven years. You think I’m proposing to you now for–”
“You’re proposing?” Seb cut in, his voice rising to a screech and his jaw hanging open after the last word.
Sputtering, Zain waved his hand between them and the moonlit ocean beneath, trying to convey what he’d thought was obvious from the scene. “I said, did you wanna get married!”
“That’s not a proposal!” Seb sat up fully and smacked his arm hard. “ZAIN!”
“You can’t say it like that!” He hit him again. “Try to be romantic!”
“I was!” Zain protested, rubbing Seb’s target area. “You’re the one who brought up health insurance, the least romantic topic ever.”
“Oh mes dieux,” said Seb, but now it was fear in his face, not shocked exasperation.
The next second, he’d propelled himself over the edge of the roof. Zain heard the thud of his feet hitting the railing below and thought, Oh, no you don’t bolt and hide on me! He careened after, scratching his palms on the shingles as he swung down past the railing and landed directly on the lanai itself. Seb was almost at the sliding glass doors to the bedroom. Locking onto him like a missile to its target, Zain took two long steps and swatted.
That stopped him just long enough for Zain to scoop him up around the waist and carry him backwards to the swing suspended from the ceiling. They landed on it sideways, sending it swaying haphazardly in an oval. Zain planted one foot on the decking to steady it as he held his brat tight. He could feel Seb’s uneven breaths, matching his own, and how his muscles were coiled like a spring.
He sighed. He’d wanted to catch him by surprise, but a nice surprise. Maybe if he hadn’t needed to explain his intention. “I didn’t get a ring,” he admitted. “Would that have made it more obvious? It would’ve. I should buy you a ring.”
His chest felt like a thousand-pound weight was dropped onto it. “Why not?”
The uncertainty in his voice hurt Seb to hear. So many things about this were wrong, but that was the worst. He was glad Zain held him facing away, letting him blink back tears unobserved. “I could never wear a ring. It’d get covered in paint,” he explained. “Anyway, I don’t like the idea of metal or stone as a symbol of love. They’re cold and lifeless.”
“Okay,” Zain said, slowly. He sounded only puzzled now, which was a relief. “So it’s not the lack of a ring. Do you really think I want to marry you just to give you health insurance? Why would I do that?”
“Because…” Seb shrugged against his broader frame. “That’s how you get.”
The arms around him loosened, then rearranged themselves so he was forced to sit up more and turn towards Zain, who was frowning. “How do I get?”
“Determined to protect,” Seb whispered. His gaze dropped to his lap. “No matter how negatively it affects you.”
For a moment, only the sound of the waves filled the air. Then Zain asked, “Negatively, huh?”
A jolt went straight up from the tips of Seb’s toes to the top of his head. He glanced through his eyelashes to see Zain grinning with his chin tilted to the left. Not that he needed the visual confirmation. The next second, he was pulled forward across Zain’s thighs, nearly knocking his nose into the arm of the swing. Another swat landed on the burn of the earlier one.
“Yep,” Zain said, cheerfully spanking faster than he spoke. “I can’t imagine a worse fate than being forced to marry the boy I’ve loved since I was fifteen; who makes me happy just by being near me; who is the most talented, caring, brave, and gorgeous person I know; and who has the cutest ass.”
Seb huffed and tried to wiggle said ass out of the way. His whole middle squirmed in embarrassment at the words showered down on him.
“No, don’t argue,” Zain told him, as if he could speak. “It’s the… cutest.” He punctuated himself with the two hardest spanks yet, leaving Seb breathless. “Want me to pull your pants down so you can see for yourself?”
Swiftly, he shook his head. He was barely managing not to cry with his clothes on.
“So you concede that I have many good reasons for wanting to marry you that have nothing to do with health insurance?”
Zain pulled him upright and immediately into a hug like a steel trap.
The panicked urge to hide faded bit by bit. He closed his eyes and rested his head on Zain’s shoulder. Fingers brushed through his hair.
“Now that it’s legal again in California, we can do it there,” Zain said after awhile, “or here in Hawaii once they pass that bill in the special session next month. Wherever you want. So?”
Seb sighed and drew back as much as he could. “Z, you can’t…” He blushed. “You can’t spank me and then talk about marriage equality laws and call that a proposal.”
“Well, you ruined my moment on the roof,” Zain began, then stopped himself and shook his head. “Never mind. You’re right. We need to inject more romance into this.” He patted out a rhythm on his knee for a few seconds as he looked around the lanai and yard.
Then he shoved Seb away from him, sprang to his feet, and leapt down the steps to the grass. In utter confusion, Seb watched him run to the seawall where his favorite climbing tree grew. Zain bent over and combed the ground for something before coming back just as quickly.
Instead of sitting on the swing again, though, he went to one knee in front of Seb and held up the object. It was one of the narrow, pointed green leaves the tree shed in strong winds. Seb’s throat closed.
“Sébastien Leon McKenna Crews,” Zain said, solemnly, “your name is already ridiculously lengthy, so you probably don’t want to add mine onto it.”
Seb gave a weak giggle.
Grinning, he added, “Which is fine with me.” Then he took a breath, and as he continued, his voice thickened and shook more with every syllable. “As long as you let me call you my boy, and babe, and brat, and habibi for the rest of our lives, that’s enough. But if–” He swallowed hard. His eyes were glimmering like the moonlight on the ocean. “If we could also call each other husband, I would be happier than…than… I don’t even know how to explain how happy I’d be.”
As happy as I am now, thought Seb. Being happier simply wasn’t possible.
“I love you,” said Zain. “Will you marry me?”
For once, the right words didn’t vanish. “Oui. Je t’aime aussi.”
And Zain took his shaking hand and wrapped the leaf around the base of his ring finger, and they both held it there as they kissed.