“Hey, computer geek? You want another cup of coffee or something?”
Fernando let out an annoyed noise, not taking his gaze away from his laptop. “I have a name, David. But yes, another cup of coffee would be nice.”
“Coming right up then.”
Fernando barely heard the sounds of the various coffee machines, his eyes focused on the code in front of him. He was so close to a breakthrough on this particular script that he wasn't going to stop until he got it to work.
“Here,” David said as he set the cup and saucer down on the small table Fernando was working at. “I put an espresso shot in it for you too.”
“I didn't order an espresso shot,” Fernando said, tearing his eyes away from the screen and looking up at his friend.
“You look like you're about to drop, Fer. You need it. Don't worry, it's on the house.” David began to walk back towards the coffee shop's small counter, glancing up at the clock on the wall as he passed by. “You mind if I turn the television on? Rumor on the internet is that Feliciano López was released from rehab at midnight, so that means the whole Serenidad scandal is going to heat up again.”
Fernando took in the silence of the coffee shop as he brought his cup to his lips, frowning after taking a sip of the coffee. “Are we the only ones in here? What happened to those college kids?”
“It's almost four o'clock in the morning,” David said, leaning against the counter. “Of course we're the only ones here. As for the college kids, they left hours ago so they could get back to the dorms before curfew locked them out. You didn't notice because you were like in a trance with that laptop of yours. And for asking such stupid questions, I am turning the television on.”
Fernando blinked rapidly as David reached for the remote, realizing that it was far later than he had imagined as the television that was mounted on the wall across the room came to life. He took a longer sip of his coffee as David flipped through the channels, groaning inwardly when he stopped on some news show. “Don't you have something better to do than watch that?”
“Hey, just because you're in love with your laptop doesn't mean that the rest of us are. I watch the news for information. So that I can make small talk. In a bar. Over drinks. Hopefully with someone gorgeous. You should try it some time.”
A flash of pain ripped through Fernando's chest, and he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths until it faded away. “How many times must I tell you? I'm never having a relationship ever again. Stop.”
“I'm not talking about a relationship,” David pointed out. “I'm talking about a date. Or maybe not even a date. Just someone you meet in a bar and go home with for the night.”
“That doesn't interest me,” Fernando said, bringing his cup back to his lips.
“Oh come on, Fernando. How long has it been since you had sex?”
Fernando nearly choked on his coffee. “That is none of your business, Ferrer.”
“Well, it certainly hasn't been since I've known you. And considering that you started coming in here every night about two months after I started working here, and I've been working here for nearly seven years......”
“For the record,” Fernando said as seriously as he could, “I am not in here on the weekends, though you would not know that seeing as you don't work the weekends.”
“Whatever, it doesn't change the fact that you've gone at least seven years without sex. My God, how can you stand it? I don't think I could make it seven days!”
“Fuck off, David.” Fernando was grateful that the shop door swung open then, distracting David from their conversation and allowing him to get back to his code. The script was almost perfect, just one or two more algorithms to change, and then he thought it should work. He was just about to begin typing when someone sat down across from him, reaching out and closing the lid on his laptop. “Rafa, that was ridiculously childish.”
“No, it wasn't,” Rafael said, snatching the laptop up and setting it in front of himself. “Fernando, you've been in this coffee shop every single night for the past seven years, and it's really time that you got a life.”
Fernando sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair, staring at the younger man. “You two obviously do not understand. I have a life. It involves that laptop, several other computers, a couple of servers, and a ton of coding work. And neither one of you really wants me to stop working at the pace that I do, either. For fuck's sake, I'm working on a change that you yourself suggested last week, Rafa.”
Rafael's eyes widened slightly and then a big smile crossed his face. “You mean the tagging thing? Wow, Fer, I totally just said that. I didn't think you'd actually incorporate it!”
“Why wouldn't I?” Fernando asked, reaching for his coffee. “It's a great idea. The ability to add your own tags to posts made by other people in order to make searching through your favorited posts easier. I'm mad that I didn't come up with it myself. I'm totally crediting you with the idea when I send out the notice with the new release.”
“Rafa, that's great and all, but,” David said, clearing this throat and drawing the attention of both men towards him, “can we get back to the plan?”
“Plan?” Fernando asked, glancing between the two of them. “You planned to ambush me about whatever the fuck it is this is about?”
“We just think you'd be a lot happier if you had someone in your life,” Rafael said softly. “You're on the wrong side of thirty now, and you know that we totally love the website and all, but we're also your friends, Fernando, and we think that you need to get out and live a little. I've barely seen you without a computer in front of your face in the last four years.”
“At the very least, go out and get laid,” David added. “I have absolutely no idea how you have gone so long without sex.”
Fernando shook his head and pushed his chair back, reaching for his messenger bag and taking the laptop back from Rafael's grasp. “I do not have to listen to this.”
“We're not trying to upset you, Fer,” Rafael said quickly. “We just want you to be happy. And you can't lie to us. You're not happy.”
Fernando finished stuffing all of his equipment into his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “I am perfectly happy,” he said, fishing his wallet from his pocket and tossing a couple of bills down onto the table. “I don't know what I have to do to make you two realize that. You don't have to be with someone to be happy. Being alone? That makes me happy. Fucking deal with it.”
Rafael sighed as Fernando stalked out of the coffee shop, looking over at David as he heard the door open and close. “We tried?”
“Yeah, we tried,” David said, shaking his head. “We need to push Tommy for information again, even though he claims he knows nothing about that last relationship Fernando keeps talking about.”
“He went to fucking university with him! He should know this!”
“I know,” David said, turning his gaze to the television. “But Tommy says he doesn't remember Fernando ever being in a relationship during university, even though Fer's told both you and I on multiple occasions that his last relationship was during university.”
“We've got to work this out,” Rafael said, standing up. “I feel like we're going to have to know what happened before we can ever get him to work through it.”
“I agree,” David said, reaching for the remote. “Now be quiet so I can hear this. They just said they've got an exclusive on Feliciano López coming up. That's got to be the official confirmation that he's out of rehab.”
And in other news, Serenidad founder and CEO Feliciano López was released from a private rehabilitation center today, nearly three months after checking in following drug and alcohol abuse allegations that were made by a former girlfriend. During her exclusive interview with ¡Hola! magazine in April, María José Suárez also made further allegations of sexual relationships between López and several of his male employees.
According to a statement released by Serenidad three hours ago, López remains on a voluntary leave of absence while internal investigations of his conduct continue. Sources within the company have told TVE that he will likely step aside as CEO as soon as Friday. López is thought to be currently hiding out at his family's home in Toledo. Coming up later this hour, an exclusive interview with Sebastián Maceiras, an assistant in Serenidad's legal department, who has confirmed to our Juanma Fernándiz that he did have a sexual relationship with López.
Fernando reached for the remote and turned off the television, not wanting to hear another word about that particular scandal. He turned back to his computer screen where rows of source code stared back at him, daring him to find the problem within the script he'd just implemented. He was about to start changing another algorithm when he was interrupted by the sound of his doorbell. After glancing at the clock in confusion, he took a moment to make sure his progress had been successfully saved before standing up and heading towards his door, wondering who would be there at just past seven o'clock in the morning. The doorbell rang again as he reached for the lock, and as he pulled the door open, a man came into view.
His hair was dark, darker than Fernando ever remembered it being, and long, nearly to his shoulders. He was dressed impeccably, as he always was, light gray slacks and a thin black sweater worn over a white button-down shirt. A pair of oversized sunglasses rested on the bridge of his nose until a delicate hand reached up and pulled them off.
His voice was soft, tone apprehensive yet still friendly, as though he wasn't sure he'd be welcomed. Fernando understood that without much thought. It had, after all, been ten years since the last time they'd stood face to face.
Fernando knew he could easily shut the door, make it very clear that he wanted nothing to do with the other man. But one look into the eyes he knew so well had him stepping back and motioning for him to come inside.
He stood aside as Feliciano crossed through the doorway, then took a deep breath as he closed the door, making sure to re-lock it before turning around. Feliciano's back was to him, and Fernando leaned against the door, taking in the sight of the other man. “It's good to see you.”
Feliciano glanced back over his shoulder, laughing slightly. “No, it's not. You don't have to lie to me.”
“I wasn't,” Fernando said truthfully, pushing away from the door and walking towards the apartment's small kitchen. “Television keeps saying you're in Toledo.”
“Good,” Feliciano said, following Fernando. “That's what I want them to think.”
Fernando sighed as he reached the counter, shaking his head briefly. “You don't want anybody to know where you are, and so that's why you came here. I always was your hideout.”
Feliciano leaned up against the doorway, watching as Fernando pulled a couple of coffee cups from a cupboard. “You were a lot more than that.”
“If I was a lot more than that, you never would have stolen my idea and disappeared,” Fernando said, surprising himself with the calm in his voice. “Coffee? It's not that fancy, designer coffee I imagine you still drink, but it's all I've got.”
“That's fine,” Feliciano said softly, watching as Fernando filled up both cups. “You look good.”
“I already let you in here,” Fernando said, taking the cups and walking over to his small table. “You don't have to flatter me.”
Feliciano wanted to protest but thought better of it, instead walking over to the table and joining Fernando, smiling when a couple of sugar packets were tossed in his direction. “Gracias, Fernando.”
“De nada,” Fernando said, twirling his cup around in his hands as Feliciano stirred the sugar into his coffee. “You didn't even try to deny it.”
Feliciano glanced up at him. “You expected me to?”
Fernando nodded honestly. “Yes.”
Feliciano shook his head lightly. “What's there to deny? Serenidad is based entirely off of an idea of yours, an idea that I watched you work on practically every night for three years, knowing that it was better than any idea I'd ever be able to come up with. And so when it was time for me to head out into the real world and make something of myself, instead of figuring out how to do that on my own, I broke into your dorm room and stole every single thing you'd ever written or planned out about it, right down to the laptop that I knew had the initial coding on it.”
Fernando stared at him as Feliciano sipped at his cup, unable to keep from rolling his eyes at the look of distaste that crossed Feliciano's face. “I didn't even know that you were the one who did it until I first started hearing about Serenidad, and even then, I was still so ridiculously and stupidly in love with you that I didn't want to believe it. I was that way the whole fucking time, truthfully, because you had to have been the one who did it. No one else knew about the idea but you.”
“I kept waiting for you to sue us,” Feliciano said after a moment, “but you never did.”
“How could I?” Fernando asked, sighing heavily. “I had no money and you took every single piece of evidence that existed that would have proven it was my idea.”
“You have money now,” Feliciano said softly. “La Casa is worth at least thirty to thirty-five million Euros.”
“I think you're crazy if you think the stupid website I run is worth that much money,” Fernando said, laughing. “And even if it was worth that kind of money, that doesn't mean that I have that kind of money. I still need at least another fifteen people to either sign up for or renew paid accounts this month or I might get evicted for not being able to pay my rent.”
Feliciano set his cup down and reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet. He looked through it for a moment before pulling out five brand new hundred Euro bills. He let his fingertips run over the crisp paper before tossing them across the table and putting his wallet back in his pocket. “There. That should help.”
Fernando stared at the Euros lying in front of him before taking another sip of his coffee. “I can't take your money.”
“Let's just call it the beginning of me paying you back for the unauthorized use of your idea for the past decade, okay? Take it.”
Fernando sighed and drained the rest of his coffee from the cup, standing up and walking towards the sink. “I don't have a guest room, but there's a sofa in there with the television,” he said, pointing towards the room where all his equipment was set up. “You can sleep there.”
Feliciano glanced over at him, watching as Fernando rinsed out his cup and set it upside down on a towel next to the sink. “Sleep?”
“Yeah, you know, that thing that happens when you lay down and close your eyes?” Fernando asked sarcastically, walking towards the refrigerator and flipping the light switch on the wall, plunging the apartment into darkness. “I go to bed at seven. I usually wake up around one-thirty. Whether you're here or not when I do, I don't really care. Just don't steal anything if you decide to disappear again, alright?”
Fernando didn't wait for a response, walking out of the kitchen and towards his bedroom. He shut the door behind himself and stripped off his t-shirt, stretching for a moment before sliding his jeans off and kicking them towards the closet. He stared at the old t-shirt that was lying on the bed for a moment before picking it up. The blue had faded almost entirely from the cotton, and it had been worn so much that it was thin and practically falling apart. He glanced at his bedroom door, then walked back to it and locked it before sliding the old t-shirt over his head. He climbed into his bed and pulled the sheets up to his chest, closing his eyes and letting his hands run over the worn cotton shirt.
To anyone else, he was sure it looked like something that should be thrown into the trash, but to Fernando it was his most prized possession. The only thing he had left of Feliciano; the only reminder he had of the fact that long ago, he felt he had been loved. Feliciano had stolen the information that Fernando had been planning to make his living off of, and Fernando had stolen a lousy t-shirt.
The quiet was broken a few moments later, the sound of the chair Feliciano had been sitting in sliding backwards echoing through the small apartment. Fernando listened to his footsteps, heard them come close to his bedroom door then change and head in the direction of the apartment's door. Fernando squeezed his eyes shut even further at the sound of the door opening, then snapped them open as the sound of a conversation drifted into the room. It took his sleepy mind a moment to realize that Feliciano must have had some sort of security waiting for him in the hall, and he shook his head at the insanity of the situation. The conversation ended abruptly and then the door shut, and Fernando listened for footsteps, getting angry with himself for feeling disappointed when he heard none. He rolled onto his side and slammed his hand into the mattress, readjusting the pillow beneath his head before trying to allow himself to settle into sleep.
And then the footsteps started again, heading from the apartment's door and into the small room where the sofa was wedged in between servers. The telltale sound of a suitcase being set down on the hardwood floor made its way to Fernando's ears, and he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
He eventually drifted off to sleep with a single thought on his mind.
Feliciano was staying.
Fernando glanced over at the sofa when he heard Feliciano groan, flicking his gaze back to the computer screen as soon as Feliciano's bare chest came into view. He ran his hands through his hair as he reminded himself that Feliciano was not his to look at any longer, then brought his fingers back to the keyboard and began to type. The program update was done, the new scripts all worked perfectly, and now all that was left was to upload the changes to the server and post the change log on the official staff account. He took a deep breath as he finished typing in the command, then hit the enter key and prayed everything would upload correctly.
“Why is there is a gigantic purple circle on your ceiling?”
“Because it was there when I moved in and I've never been able to afford to repaint it,” Fernando said, tilting his head to the right until the sofa and the man laying on it came into view. “David thinks that I should keep it. He's always going on and on about how it's one of the primary colors symbolizing gay pride.”
Feliciano propped himself up on his elbows, still blinking the sleep from his eyes. “David. Same David you're always going on about in your blog posts?”
Fernando's eyes widened slightly at that. “I always refer to David by his screen name whenever he needs to be mentioned in a staff post.”
“Right. He's Ferru04, yeah? I wasn't talking about your staff posts though.”
Fernando suddenly felt extremely vulnerable. “My private posts are locked to friends only.”
“I know,” Feliciano said softly, looking directly at him.
“How?” Fernando uttered after a minute.
“I knew just enough to say to make you think I had been in your Computer Architecture class. I was convinced you would have figured me out, though. Especially after I was stupid enough to use voleur as a screen name.”
Fernando closed his eyes and thought about what Feliciano had just said, the meaning coming to him fairly quickly. “Thief,” he murmured. “Voleur is French for thief. Why did you do that?”
Feliciano watched as Fernando sunk further into his chair, his head tilting back to rest on the top of the chair's back. “It was the only way I could find out what was going on with you,” he said quietly. “You crossed my mind a lot more than I think you would ever realize.”
Fernando decided he was going to ignore the admission Feliciano had just made. “I didn't even know that you knew about La Casa. Or that you knew I was behind it.”
“I heard about La Casa from María, actually,” Feliciano said, lying back down. “I came back from some business trip and she just started going on about it and how cool it was. So I looked into it, initially because Mis Lugares was in development and I wanted to check out the competition, but once I figured out that you were the one running it, I paid a lot more attention to it than I probably would have otherwise. So who is David? The boyfriend?”
Fernando couldn't stop the laugh that escaped at the thought of David as his boyfriend. “David is a dear friend, but nothing more.”
“So who is the lucky man that gets to have you then?”
“There isn't one,” Fernando said softly, making himself look back at his computer screen. He breathed a sigh of relief when he noticed the message proclaiming the update had been successful and reached towards the keyboard to begin typing up the staff post. He heard Feliciano moving around in the other room but forced himself to ignore the sounds of the other man, searching through his brain to make sure he typed every change into the post and making sure he credited Rafael for the tagging idea.
Once he was finished, he scanned through the post one last time before publishing it, then promptly signed out of the staff account and into his personal one. He clicked through a couple of screens before he got to his friends list, switching it so the list was alphabetized then scrolling down to find the account Feliciano had been referring to. He paused once he saw it, moving his mouse so it was hovering over the option to unfriend the account, before shaking his head and signing out of his personal account.
Voleur was sleeping on his sofa. Unfriending him wouldn't really make any difference at this point.
He stood up and started to walk towards the kitchen, freezing when he noticed Feliciano leaning against the doorway. Fernando let his eyes trail down Feliciano's body despite himself, sucking in a quick breath when he realized Feliciano was wearing nothing more than a pair of briefs. “I see your sleeping habits haven't changed,” he forced himself to say, drawing his eyes back up to Feliciano's face. “Now can you move so I can get into the kitchen?”
Feliciano pushed away from the wall and walked towards Fernando, reaching out and pulling the younger man flush against him. “If you're going to look at me like that, you better be prepared to back it up.”
“Excuse me?” Fernando choked out, trying not to let on how much being that close to Feliciano was affecting him.
Feliciano darted forward and captured Fernando's lips with his own, tightening his arms around Fernando's waist when Fernando went slack against him. His tongue slid passed Fernando's lips and began to explore, each twist and tangle with Fernando's tongue reminding him of all the knowledge he possessed when it came to the subject of pleasing a certain computer genius named Fernando Verdasco. His hands slid up underneath the t-shirt that Fernando was wearing, fingertips dancing across his lower back until Fernando growled.
Feliciano broke the kiss and rested his forehead on Fernando's, taking a moment to catch his breath. “Bedroom?”
The voice in Fernando's head that he always associated with logic started screaming at him, telling him all the reasons why taking Feliciano to his bedroom was a terrible, terrible idea. But his body was pulsing with need, a feeling he hadn't experienced in years, and he wanted nothing more than to satiate it. He grabbed a hold of Feliciano's hips and started walking backwards. “This way.”
Feliciano kicked the door shut once they were inside the room, then they were tumbling onto the bed together. Fernando took a deep breath as Feliciano tore his clothes off, then let his eyes drift closed as familiar hands began tracing familiar paths along his skin. He lost himself in the moment, in the haze of passion that surrounded them. There was a flash of pain, and then immense pleasure, and Fernando relaxed into it, letting Feliciano play his body as though it were an instrument.
It was over far too quickly for his liking.
They were lying next to one another when Fernando felt like he'd fully rejoined reality. He wanted to look over at Feliciano, wanted to say nine hundred different things, wanted Feliciano to say something to break the silence that had descended upon them, but instead he just laid there, listening to them as their breathing somehow synchronized just the way they used to. He closed his eyes and his memory took him back to a tiny room on the fourteenth floor of one of the university's largest dormitories, lying on a bed just as he was now, lying next to the same man he was now.
He opened his eyes when he felt someone staring at him, turning his head to see Feliciano watching him. “What?”
“I was just thinking,” Feliciano said softly, “of how many times over the last ten years that I've laid in bed next to someone and wished it was you.”
Fernando turned his gaze back to the ceiling, letting Feliciano's words sink in. They were words he'd longed to hear, words he'd dreamed of hearing on cold, lonely nights, but now that he actually was hearing them, Fernando felt overwhelmed by a myriad of different emotions. Love, lust, confusion, anger, want, despair – they echoed through his head and made him feel as though the room was spinning. After a few minutes of lying there in that state, he decided that what he needed to do was remove himself from the situation so he could attempt to think clearly about it.
He got up and got in the shower without saying a word. Feliciano was still lying naked on his bed when he came back into the bedroom, and Fernando could see the question written across his face. But still he said nothing, silently getting dressed and walking out of the bedroom. He stopped by his computer and shut it off, reaching for his laptop and sticking it in his messenger bag.
Feliciano was standing in the bedroom's doorway when he walked passed, and even though Fernando heard him call out his name, he stepped out of the apartment and into the cool early evening air. He took a deep breath as he locked the door and then headed towards the elevator, noting with every step that Feliciano had not attempted to follow him.
He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
The moment Fernando entered the coffee shop, David knew something was wrong. He watched him as closely as he could while dealing with all the customers, knowing that it would be a few hours before things calmed down enough that he could go talk to Fernando. The coffee shop was extremely busy for a Wednesday night, and David grew more frustrated by the second, wanting nothing more than for every single one of the annoying college kids to disappear.
Finally, at around ten o'clock, David felt things had calmed down enough that he could leave the new trainee to handle things on her own so he could take a break. He walked around the counter and headed directly for Fernando's table, deliberately choosing to sit in the chair next to him instead of across the table from him as usual. He glanced at the laptop screen, noting that Fernando was angrily replying to comments that had been left about the new changes to the website. “What's wrong?”
“Fernando,” David said seriously, “you look like shit, and you're getting angry with your users. You never do that. Tell me what's wrong.”
Fernando sighed heavily and stopped typing, looking over at David and taking in the concern on his friend's face. “David, I love you, but I can't tell you.”
“Of course you can!” David exclaimed, wrapping an arm around Fernando's shoulders. “Come on, amigo. You know the deal between the four of us. We tell each other the truth. No secrets.”
Fernando sighed and slid down in the chair, letting his head come to rest on David's shoulders. “I really can't tell you, David. It's......it's far too complicated.”
“You'll tell me soon enough.” David squeezed Fernando's shoulders and leaned his head closer to Fernando's, lowering a voice to a whisper. “Can I at least make an observation?”
“If you must.”
“You had sex.”
Fernando sat up straight and stared at David for a moment before groaning and resting his head against the table. “How did you—never mind.”
“Well, you can at least tell me about that, right?” David asked, a hint of excitement in his voice. “It's been a couple of weeks since I've gotten some. I need something to think about.”
Fernando sat back up and ran his hands over his face. “There are far too many people in here for me to even begin to be comfortable talking to you about that, okay?”
David grinned at him. “Then I will be back once everyone else fucks off.”
Fernando groaned as David stood up, shaking his head. “I'm not telling you.”
“Oh, you're totally telling me,” David said, messing up Fernando's hair. “It's not even up for discussion.”
David heard Fernando sigh as he walked back behind the counter, and he stepped back into his position at the cash register. A few more hours passed before the last of the college kids walked out of the shop, the new trainee right behind them because her shift was over, and David wiped down the counter quickly before heading for Fernando's table. He was nearly there when the shop door opened again, his head snapping in that direction angrily before realizing who it was. “Tommy! Perfect timing!”
Fernando looked up from his laptop and groaned when he saw Tommy walking towards his table, David saying something in the background about getting them all some coffee. Tommy went to sit across from Fernando, but Fernando shook his head no and pointed to the chair next to him, so Tommy walked around the table and sat there.
“Thanks,” Fernando said softly. “I didn't want David sitting next to me.”
Tommy nodded, taking in Fernando's appearance for a moment. “You look terrible.”
“I feel terrible,” Fernando admitted, shaking his head lightly. “I'm an idiot. A complete, total motherfucking idiot.”
Tommy nodded in recognition, glancing up as David approached the table with a tray full of coffee cups. “I take it the reason for that is why I have perfect timing?”
“He had sex!” David exclaimed as he set the tray on the table. “And now he's going to tell us all about it.”
“No, I'm not,” Fernando said, reaching for one of the coffee cups as David sat down. “I already told you, David. It's too complicated to even begin to explain.”
“Do we have to discuss the rules again, Fer?” David asked, handing a cup to Tommy. “No secrets. You have to tell, especially now that Tommy's here.”
Tommy took the cup from David and gave Fernando an incredulous look. “You had sex? With who?”
“Someone,” Fernando said defensively. “And that is all that I am saying about it.”
“Well, it was a man, right?” David asked. “Or have you turned secretly straight on us?”
Fernando rolled his eyes as Tommy laughed. “David!”
“Oh, I know, I know, Fer is the most comfortable with his sexuality out of all of us. I'm just trying to get him to say something.”
“Yes, moron, it was with a man,” Fernando muttered, taking a long sip from his coffee. “I'm not saying anything else about it.”
“Not even his name?” David asked, his voice taking on a pleading tone. “Come on, Fer, this is a big moment!”
“Shut up about this being some big moment. And I can't tell you his name because then you'll know who it was,” Fernando said without thinking, his eyes widening when he realized what he said. “Fuck, I shouldn't have said that.”
“It's someone we know?!” David was practically bouncing from excitement. “Oh, now you definitely have to spill. All the details. All of them.”
Tommy stared at Fernando for a moment, a few wild thoughts flying through his mind. “It's someone from university, isn't it?” he asked, trying to work out whether his crazy idea was right or not.
Fernando groaned and it took David a moment, but then he suddenly realized what Tommy meant. “It's him, isn't it? The guy from your last relationship.”
Fernando sighed heavily, flicking his gaze between Tommy and David. “Yes,” he mumbled. “Now leave me alone.”
“You can't just admit that and leave it there,” David said. “Come on, you've got to explain.”
Fernando shook his head and stood up, reaching for his messenger bag. “No, David, I really don't.”
Tommy reached out and grabbed Fernando's wrist as he reached for the laptop, making Fernando look at him. “I just have one question. Did I ever meet him?”
Fernando shook his wrist out of Tommy's grasp and picked up the laptop, closing the lid and sliding it into the messenger bag. “No, you never met him. That's why you know nothing about it.”
“I can't believe you never told me,” Tommy said, an edge of hurt creeping into his voice, knowing that he was going to have to guilt trip Fernando to get him to say what he needed to know. “Best friends, Fer. We were supposed to tell each other everything.”
Fernando finished zipping up his bag and slung it across his shoulder. “I wanted to. Believe me, I wanted to. But he wasn't ready for anyone to know about his sexuality, and I wasn't about to out him. So he made me swear that I wouldn't tell anyone until he was ready. He was never ready, and he's paying the price for that now. And that's all I can say. Buenas noches, amigos.”
David watched as Fernando walked out of the shop, then turned to Tommy with a question in his eyes. “So, did any of that make you realize who it was?”
Tommy took a sip of his coffee and looked over at David, nodding slightly. “Perhaps.”
“No,” Tommy said, shaking his head. “Not until I know for sure. Now tell me about this date that Rafa's on right now. He was mumbling something about a foreign exchange student when I called him earlier.”
The apartment was dark when Fernando returned, but it wasn't quiet like he'd anticipated. The soft hum of classical music was drifting out from his stereo, and he knew instantly that Feliciano was still there. He made his way to his desk and set his messenger bag in the chair, then walked further into the room and turned the floor lamp on.
Feliciano was lying in the middle of the floor, still wearing nothing more than a pair of briefs, a half-empty bottle of whiskey sitting next to him. Fernando could tell that he was awake, but Feliciano made no attempt to acknowledge Fernando's presence. Fernando looked around the room for a moment before walking over and laying down next to him. “So what is this?”
“Beethoven's piano sonata number eight,” Feliciano said after a moment. “It is called Pathétique. Pathetic. Seems fitting right now.”
“You are not pathetic,” Fernando said softly, looking over at him. “ It's beautiful.”
“That it is. I've played it for you before.”
“You've played me a lot of classical music. You can't expect me to remember every single one,” Fernando said, running his hands over his face. “Look, I'm sorry I just walked out earlier. I should have at least said something to you before I left.”
“It's alright,” Feliciano said. “I took advantage of you, got you to do something that you obviously didn't want to do, and for that, I'm sorry. I suppose it was fitting that you walked out this time. It made me realize I still don't know what it's like to wake up beside you. Wait, forget I said that. That was inappropriate.”
Fernando reached over and turned Feliciano's face towards him, looking into his eyes. “You only don't know what it's like to wake up beside me because you were the one who always left as soon as I was asleep.”
“I know,” Feliciano said softly. “I hope that you realize I only did that because I was scared. It was never because of you.”
“I did,” Fernando whispered, “after awhile.”
Feliciano turned his gaze back to the ceiling. “I meant what I said earlier. I've been wishing you were next to me for a decade. I've always known that it was my own fault that you weren't, but I couldn't change that.”
“I,” Fernando started before drifting off, making sure that he really wanted to say what he was about to before continuing. “I was going to ask you to go in on the business with me.”
Feliciano slowly turned his head back towards Fernando. “You were?” he choked out.
“Yes,” Fernando said, avoiding Feliciano's gaze. “I remember telling you several times that I could write all the software, but I was going to be pathetic at the business side of it. You figured all of that out, remember? Initial production costs, licensing, graphic design for the logos and boxes, all of that. So when I started to seriously think about dropping out and starting the company, I realized that I was going to need your help. And then you disappeared, all of my work disappeared, and I was left with nothing. Not even a note. Just a disconnected phone number, an empty apartment, and one of your t-shirts.”
Feliciano rolled onto his side and reached for Fernando's hand, squeezing it gently. “I'm never going to be able to forgive myself for what it is I did to you. You shouldn't forgive me either.”
“I already forgave you,” Fernando murmured. “And you're crazy if you think I didn't want what happened this afternoon.”
Feliciano watched as Fernando reached out and pushed his hair out of his eyes. “You've always been too good for me. Far more than I ever have or will ever deserve. A horrible, wretched person like myself deserves someone equally as awful.”
“No,” Fernando said softly. “You're not a bad person, Feli.”
Feliciano just shook his head. “Of course I am! How can you say that after everything that I've done?”
Fernando moved closer to Feliciano, pushing him onto his back and looking down at him. “You have begun to believe the facade that you put up for people. But I know the person underneath. I got to know him all those years ago.”
“That person doesn't exist anymore,” Feliciano said, tangling his fingers together with Fernando's on his chest. “He stopped existing the moment he decided to fuck over the only person he's ever loved. And he's never coming back.”
“He wants to come back. You wouldn't be here otherwise.” Fernando pressed a kiss to Feliciano's shoulder and broke their embrace, standing and picking up the bottle of whiskey. “You hardly drank any of this, if my memory of how I left it is correct.”
“One shot,” Feliciano said, watching as Fernando walked towards the kitchen. “Then everything that was drilled into my head over the last three months came back to me and I lost my taste for it.”
“Good,” Fernando called out, walking into the kitchen and putting the bottle back in the refrigerator. “Did you find something to eat for dinner? I know I hardly have any food, but I don't exactly eat here much.”
“I had Francisco bring me something,” Feliciano said, watching as Fernando walked back into the room.
“I don't want my name in the papers,” Fernando said firmly. “And I don't want the parking lot crawling with paparazzi waiting for you to venture outside the apartment.”
“He's the only person who knows where I am, besides you. I trust him not to tell anyone. Hell, I pay him not to tell anyone,” Feliciano said, standing up. “He won't say a thing. He doesn't know who lives here anyway. All I've told him is that you are an old friend, not even your name.”
“Good,” Fernando said, reaching towards the floor lamp and turning it off, plunging the room into darkness. “I don't usually go to bed until seven, but I think I'm going to go earlier tonight.”
Feliciano nodded even though he knew Fernando couldn't see him and turned towards the sofa, reaching for the blanket. The music suddenly stopped, and he jumped when he felt Fernando latch onto his hand, following when Fernando tugged at his arm. “What are you doing?”
“Going to bed, just like I told you.”
“Right,” Feliciano said, confusion in his voice. “So where am I going?”
“To bed,” Fernando said, pushing open the door to his bedroom and pulling Feliciano inside. “I never said anything about going to sleep, you know.”
Feliciano grinned as he was pushed onto the bed, reaching up to thread his hands through Fernando's hair as the younger man climbed onto the bed and hovered over him. “You sure about this?”
“This afternoon was the first time I've had sex since the last time we had sex,” Fernando said softly. “I want more.”
Feliciano froze from the shock, then quickly shook himself out of it. He knew he should say something, but then Fernando's lips were on his and Fernando's hands were stroking him through his briefs, and all coherent thought flew out of his head.
Fernando was alone when he woke up the next morning, but he could hear Feliciano somewhere else in the apartment, having a one-sided conversation. Fernando blinked a few times as the realization that Feliciano was on the phone hit him, and then he listened as the anger built in the other man's voice.
“I honestly do not motherfucking care what it is she thinks she deserves. I have absolutely no legal obligation to give her a damn thing.”
“Then continue to make it extremely clear to her lawyer that she was never my wife, and therefore I am not entitled to give her alimony, and there is absolutely no motherfucking way I'm giving her anything. It was her motherfucking interview with that stupid tabloid that has destroyed my professional career and public life.”
“Get someone from media to start pressuring the papers to stop printing this bullshit. The company is one hundred percent not for sale. If some of the investors want out, then negotiate buyouts with them.”
A shoe tapping against the hardwood floors.
“Of course the boys are going to see this as an opportunity. Everyone is going to see this as an opportunity. How many lawsuits am I looking at?”
A sharp intake of breath.
“Fuck. Any chance of out of court settlements on any of them?”
Footsteps, then the sound of a glass being set in the sink.
“I'll pay whatever I have to pay to stay out of court. As for Serenidad, I haven't completely worked that out yet. I'm not going to be forced out of my own company. Even if I step aside as CEO, I'm going to put someone in there who will do what it is I want. And I am choosing my replacement, not the investors. If any of them don't like that, then offer them ten percent less than what their percentage is worth to buy them out.”
Cupboard door opening then closing.
“Alright, let me know. And let me know as soon as possible. Television and the papers are convinced I'm stepping aside by the end of the day tomorrow.”
Fernando sat up as something hit the wall, then watched as Feliciano walked into the room and climbed onto the bed next to him. “Lawyer?”
“Something like that. Did you hear most of that?” Feliciano asked, wrapping his arms around Fernando's waist and pulling him back down to the mattress. “Not that it fucking matters or anything. My future is apparently going to be decided by attorneys and judges, and then criticized and scrutinized on television and in the newspapers.”
Fernando reached out and tucked a lock of hair behind Feliciano's ear. “Your future is up to you, not what some judge thinks.”
“I wish I could believe that,” Feliciano said, sliding closer to Fernando. “You should sue the company. Sue me.”
“To get what you deserve,” Feliciano said softly. “I'm not just talking about money. I'm talking about credit. You deserve credit for all of the work you did.”
Fernando shook his head lightly. “I'm not going to sue you, Feli.”
“Why didn't you just slam the door in my face?” Feliciano asked suddenly, staring into Fernando's eyes. “I would have deserved it.”
Fernando sighed heavily and shifted onto his back. “You aren't the only one who has been wishing the other was around for the last decade.”
“Is that why there's no boyfriend at the moment?”
Fernando let out a bitter laugh. “There hasn't ever been a boyfriend. I kept telling myself that one day I'd reach a point where I'd be interested in finding someone that wasn't you, even just for a night, but that has never come.”
“So you were serious when you said you hadn't had sex since......”
“Yes,” Fernando said, running his hands over his face. “I'm that pathetic.”
Feliciano put his head on Fernando's shoulder and slung an arm across his waist. “You turned yourself celibate, and I had sex with anyone and everyone I could find.”
“Everyone has different ways of dealing with things,” Fernando said after a moment. “I'm not really surprised that our methods were different.”
“It was all girls at first,” Feliciano said softly. “I was trying to convince myself that you had been an anomaly and that I really was straight. Then Serenidad took off and I was getting invitations to all these exclusive parties and premieres, and I met María at one of them and I fell for her charm. Everything was perfect, except for the fact that it really wasn't. How could it be after everything I did? And that's when it really started to all fall apart, and I got myself into the gigantic mess I'm in now. And that's without anyone but you knowing the worst of it.”
“That Serenidad was my idea.”
“Yeah,” Feliciano said. “It wasn't like I stole all that from you and then forgot about it. As Serenidad got bigger and bigger, the guilt got worse and worse until it was eating me up inside. Every moment that I spent feeling guilty made me think about you, and I couldn't really handle thinking about you, to be honest. So I drank to forget you and forget the guilt, and that didn't work, so I got into the drugs, but that only worked for a little while. María was starting to drive me fucking crazy, spending my money on whatever she felt like without even asking me and hinting at marriage at every chance she got, and by that point I knew that marriage was never going to happen, not with her.
“And then I was at work and I found myself alone in the design department with this intern named Nicolás. The kid was blatantly flirting with me, and he worked out that I was interested, and a few minutes later I was fucking him up against the wall. Right there in the design department, with the door unlocked and the design team due back from lunch at any moment. I should have been thinking about how we were going to get caught, or how wrong it was that I was fucking one of my employees, but I wasn't.”
Fernando waited for Feliciano to continue, prompting him only when he didn't. “What were you thinking about then?”
“How much I needed that. How if I kept the kid's face turned away from me, I could almost pretend it was you. How much I wished it was you. How much I still loved you, even though I hadn't seen you for almost seven years. And that's why I did it again and again with Nicolás, and eventually with Sebastián from legal and Damián from shipping and Xavier from the mail room. I couldn't stop myself. But somehow, it all stayed quiet and discreet.”
“Until María found out?”
“Until María found out,” Feliciano repeated, sighing heavily. “She came to the office to surprise me, which was something she never did. Walked in to find Nicolás bent over my desk with me balls deep in him. I don't think I've ever seen someone so angry in my life. Yelling, screaming, yelling some more when I told her Nicolás wasn't the only one, then storming out. I'm sure she expected me to follow her, but I just finished fucking Nicolás instead.”
Fernando tried not to laugh but failed miserably, which drew a smile from Feliciano. “I didn't much fucking care at that moment. I was pretty high then. Nicolás had brought some really good stuff with him when he came up to the office that day, and I don't know if it was the drugs that made me think it or what, but I just remember thinking his ass was ridiculously tight considering I'd been fucking it at least five times a week for three years.”
“Feli!” Fernando exclaimed, this time allowing himself to laugh freely.
“María was gone when I got home that night, all her stuff was gone too. I knew that wasn't the end of it though. Three weeks later, there she was on the cover of ¡Hola!.” Feliciano sighed heavily. “When I fuck things up, I do it in spectacular style, don't I? And the worst part of it all is the fact that I feel worse about what it is I did to you than I do about what it is I did to her. She never deserved any of that. Not that I'm trying to say you did, but......I'm just a tremendously horrible person.”
“I know what you mean,” Fernando said, turning his head and pressing a kiss to Feliciano's forehead. “But none of that makes you a tremendously horrible person. You made some really, really awful decisions over the last ten years, but making bad decisions doesn't make you a bad person.”
“How can you just lay here and tell me that?” Feliciano asked, looking up at him. “After everything that I've done, and everything that I did to you. I honestly don't understand why you haven't kicked me out.”
“I was too tired to deal with you when you first showed up,” Fernando said truthfully. “I didn't think you would stay. But you did. Then I watched you sleep later that day, and......you leaving every time I fell asleep meant that I never got to watch you sleep. I was sort of fascinated. Then you were practically naked in my doorway and I hadn't had sex in forever and you initiated it and I needed it so it happened. Then I left and I thought you'd be gone when I got back but you weren't, and, well, I've wanted you back for so goddamn long that I'm not going to kick you out. I have no doubt that once you get whatever it is you want out of this encounter you'll be gone again, but even that thought can't get me to kick you out.”
Feliciano pushed himself up, looking down at Fernando. “You think I'm going to leave again.”
“Yes,” Fernando murmured. “If I wasn't enough to keep you around the first time, I'm certainly not going to be enough to keep you around this time. Tommy claims I've regressed since university, that I'm nowhere near as much fun as I used to be. He's probably right. We used to go out to bars or to the Bernabéu to catch a game. The only thing I do now is work on the website. So I'm just going to make the most of each moment I get with you. I suppose I could be really furious with you and yell and scream and all that, but that's not how I want to spend the little bit of time I've got with you.”
Feliciano bent and pressed his lips to Fernando's, reaching down to shove the bedsheet out of the way before straddling Fernando's hips. Fernando let his eyes drift closed as Feliciano's hands moved across his body, settling in for something he was quickly becoming re-addicted to.
But he had noticed that Feliciano didn't say he was going to stay. He didn't say he was going to leave, but he didn't say he was going to stay either.
He didn't enjoy it that time, because he had always found it was difficult to enjoy something that was equal parts amazing and heartbreaking.