“So?” Carlos asks.
Francisco takes another turn about the room before finally taking a seat on the sofa. His voice is deep when he asks, “Did Doña Carmen make you buy this one?” He’s tracing the pattern on the fabric, a smirk on his face.
Carlos rolls his eyes, moving so he can sit astride Francisco’s lap. He leans in close, a hand behind Francisco’s neck. “Can we please not talk about my mother?”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Francisco teases, his smirk giving way to a genuine smile as he reaches up to tangle a hand in Carlos’ hair.
Francisco tastes like the whiskey Carlos poured him ten minutes ago and his cheap cigarettes. And there’s something under that, too, like sea salt under his tongue.
“I like your new place,” Francisco tells him, his hands undoing his tie. “I like the view, and the kitchen, and even this very living room.”
“And I haven’t even shown you the bedroom yet.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“No better time than the present,” Carlos says, rolling off Francisco and leading the way.
The master bedroom in his new apartment is slightly smaller than his old bedroom at his parents’ house. But this one is his and his alone. It’s the one place where he absolutely refused to let his mother intervene. Everything in it is his, to his own taste and needs.
“So?” Carlos asks again, pulling Francisco onto the bed next to him.
“I like it,” Francisco says, shifting so he’s on top of Carlos. “But it isn’t my favorite bit.”
“Ah, well, in that case, you must enlighten me.”
Francisco’s thumb rubs lazy circles over Carlos’ cheek, his eyes bright. “My favorite bit is how alone we are,” he says.
“And what are your plans for this newfound solitude of ours?” Carlos asks, spreading his knees so Francisco can settle in between them.
“Many plans,” Francisco answers. “But for now,” his hand trails down Carlos’ side, and over his upper thigh, cupping him where he’s already hard, “let’s start with this.”
“Scandalous,” Carlos replies, just before Francisco leans down for a kiss.
He feels Francisco’s smile against the skin on his neck, on his collarbone and further down, right next to his navel. “Fuck,” he mumbles, arching up into the touch.
“Soon,” Francisco replies, and there’s a laugh somewhere in there, just before he’s kissing Carlos on his hipbone.
They’ve been doing this —whatever this is— for a while, but it still makes the breath catch in his throat when Francisco is the one tugging at his belt; when it’s Francisco undoing his buttons and unzipping his trousers. He takes off Carlos’ trousers and underwear in one go, lifting up one of his legs to take off his sock.
Carlos is ticklish on his calves and the soles of his feet. He shivers when Francisco runs his fingertips over his skin, sucking a breath when he moves up his thighs. He does the same with his other leg. Fingers light, so light Carlos almost flinches away.
Then Francisco’s hands move up and behind, his thumb parting Carlos’ cheeks just right and—
“Carlos?” Francisco asks, stopping all movements from where his face is almost buried in between Carlos’ legs. He looks up, searching for something, an answer, on Carlos’ face. He presses thumb further, and if he hadn’t felt it before, he can sure feel it now. The oiled skin, the slick, wet sensation of it. “Did you—did you do this to yourself?” he asks, his eyes dark.
“Yeah,” Carlos reply, his voice breaking as Francisco presses his thumb inside.
He blushes, can’t help it as he remembers earlier, the lavender oil, three fingers in, stretching his own muscles, toes curled tight in anticipation. His own hard breaths and having to stop, pull out altogether because he could make himself come like that, and he didn’t want it then. He wants it now.
“When?” Francisco asks, removing his thumb to replace it with his index. He curls his finger inside, once, twice and a third time until he finds the spot he’s looking for.
“Fu-uck,” Carlos breathes out, tensing up all over.
“When?” Francisco asks again, and his voice is surer this time, harsher, and Carlos understands he isn’t asking, he’s demanding.
“Two,” he starts, groaning at Francisco’s touch, “maybe three hours ago.” Then, his face on fire, “Do you like it?”
Francisco pushes a second finger in, easy as nothing. “You’re loose,” he says, crawling up so he can kiss Carlos again, fingers still buried deep. “I like that part,” he says, a third finger in. He bites Carlos’ bottom lip, so hard it feels sore and warm when he lets go. “I don’t like thinking about you starting without me, though.”
“I…” Carlos starts, the muscles on his abdomen tensing.
“You…?” Francisco asks, sucking on the side of his neck.
It makes Carlos moan low and wet. “You’ll leave a bruise,” he pants.
Francisco only sucks harder. Then, “You were about to say something else?”
Again, Francisco stops altogether. He’s taking his fingers out and there’s space, too much space between them. “Don’t lie to me,” he says evenly.
Carlos swallows hard, nodding. “God,” he starts, hands covering covering his face. “This is—it’s so embarrassing.”
“Tell me,” Francisco says, his voice soft and coaxing, but there’s still something under it, an order.
“I… I didn’t finish.”
“I started without you,” Carlos says, pressing his fingertips into his closed eyes, as though that'll make the warm shame bubbling in his chest go away. “But I didn’t finish.”
“Oh,” Francisco says, and they’ve known each other long enough that Carlos can hear the smile in his voice. “Oh,” he says again, and this time he’s closer, warm and solid on top of Carlos. Then, wrapping a hand around Carlos’ cock, “Is that why you’re so hard?”
His grip is so tight it hurts, but his thumb is rubbing circles on the tip of Carlos’ cock, and it’s too much and not enough, all at once. He nods, words failing him with Francisco all over him.
“Well, I like that,” Francisco says. “Maybe—maybe next time you should tell me.”
“Call me,” Francisco elaborates, a little teasing. “Isn’t that what you do for a living?”
“Right,” Francisco says, hand still tight around Carlos’ cock. “Have an operator dial me, then.”
“She might find out.”
“Might find out what, exactly?”
“That—that you and I are, uh…” Carlos lets his voice trail off.
“That we’re what,” Francisco presses, grip tight. “Fucking?”
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” Carlos mutters, and he’s been blushing for so much of this conversation that he feels feverish now.
“Or maybe you don’t want her to know how much you want me,” Francisco continues. “How you can’t even wait a couple of hours,” he says, breath warm on Carlos’ skin.
They kiss again, Francisco letting go of his dick for better leverage, so he can grab at Carlos’ ass, dig his fingers into the skin. They’re grinding now, and Carlos is so hard he could come just from this, from this friction between them. He just needs a little harder, and little more.
Then Francisco’s voice is back in his ear, “You’ll call me, next time.” There’s no hesitation. Not even the hint of a question, because this is not a request.
“Yeah,” Carlos promises, arching his hips up. “Fuck, can we just—”
“Just,” Carlos pants. “Fuck me.”
He feels Francisco chuckle against him, his whole body rolling with the sensation. “Whatever you want,” he whispers.
Francisco fits seamlessly in the company. Unlike Carlos, he finds a place for himself almost as soon as he gets there. Unlike Carlos, his work is impeccable, irreproachable. He’s early to every meeting and the last one to leave the office, every time, every single day.
At first, Carlos thinks Francisco is doing it to prove a point. To prove to his father that he deserves to be there. Carlos is only too happy to see him rising to meet his father’s expectations and beyond. He’s even happier just having Francisco around.
Before Francisco, every meeting seemed to drag on and on, an endless lecture on budgets and targets and other things Carlos has never cared about. Before Francisco, every week ended with his father disappointed, yet again, because Carlos wasn’t the son he wanted him to be. This was the status quo and the reason why Carlos spent his days parading around Madrid, doing anything under the pretense of work and networking, with little actual work done.
Then Francisco came along, and now the meetings aren’t as boring anymore. There’s something about Francisco’s voice that demands to be heard, that captures the attention of everyone in the room. And it’s easy, it’s so easy to just sit there and listen, watch him work when he’s comfortable and at his best.
He gets Carlos to stay late with him at the office. They clink their glasses as Francisco goes over budget reviews, and Carlos spitballs ideas, crazy ideas he’s always had.
“It’s impossible, I know,” he says.
Francisco puts down his papers, fixing him with a stare. “It’s not.”
“Come on,” Carlos says. “You would never come up with something this… this ridiculous,” he finishes, thinking about his father and what he said when Carlos mentioned the rotary in passing.
Francisco’s eyes are dark and tired, but there’s something else there. “No,” he says. “But that’s because I’m not like you.”
Carlos snorts. “Well, consider yourself lucky.”
He’s expecting Francisco to roll his eyes or change subjects. He’s expecting Francisco to deflect and let the matter be dropped.
Instead, Francisco keeps staring at him, so uncomfortably determined that Carlos has to look away. He hears him say, “I don’t think so. Sometimes—sometimes I wish I were more like you.”
Carlos feels heat rising in his cheeks. “You flatter me, but I think we’re past the flirting stage.”
Before Francisco can reply, Carlos is already standing between his legs, eyebrows raised. He takes the glass from Francisco’s hands, leaving it on the table. “Ready to go?” he asks.
“Don Carlos,” Carolina says, picking up a folder before turning to take her leave.
Her eyes widen when she nearly stumbles into Francisco on her way out, but her face betrays nothing else about the conversation she and Carlos just had. Not even slightest hint, Carlos thinks, almost impressed.
“Who was that?” Francisco asks, following Carolina out with his dark eyes.
“Do all new operators come talk with you?”
“No,” Carlos answers, moving around papers so the desk in front of him is clear. He leans back into his seat. “She just wanted some advice.”
For a moment, all Francisco does is stare. It’s a thing he does when he doesn’t like something, but isn’t sure why or how to proceed. He did it when he first came over to the Cifuentes household for dinner and his mother had the clever idea to test his upbringing by serving escargots, and he’s doing it now.
“You and the women,” he finally says.
“Me and the women?” Carlos parrots, pointing at himself with incredulity. “You and the women, you mean.” Then, smirking because this sort of attention still takes Francisco by surprise, he adds, “She asked me about you, you know. I had to let her down easy.”
“Oh, yes. You’re all everyone’s talking about.”
Francisco frowns. “I don’t enjoy people talking about me behind my back.”
“No,” Carlos agrees, smiling. “You’re much too serious to be the stuff of gossip.”
“That is not what I meant.”
“No, you’re right. Shall I tell you what they’re saying instead?”
Francisco rolls his eyes, taking the seat across the desk. Leaning in, he looks as serious as ever when he asks, “Why is this making you so happy?”
Carlos stretches out his legs so his feet can touch Francisco’s. “Because,” he starts, “everyone wants to know who the new guy is. Handsome like a Cifuentes, I’ve heard them say, but serious, unlike the Cifuentes. I heard one of the operators say she’d take a bite off you if she could.”
“That’s—” Francisco stammers, blushing, like he so rarely does. “I—”
“Relax,” Carlos says. “By now, Carolina would’ve told everyone downstairs that you are, uh, unavailable. Keeping secrets isn’t really what she’s known for.”
“You told her that? That I’m unavailable?”
He can feel heat rising in his cheeks, but he still stares straight at Francisco when he answers, “Yes.”
Francisco shakes his head, but he’s smiling and saying, “Good. Wouldn’t want them thinking otherwise.”
Sometimes, Carlos catches Elisa staring at Francisco. It’s subtle —his sister is always so subtle— but it’s there. It’s in the way she smiles at him and pours him another glass of wine. It’s in the way she extends her hand so Francisco can kiss it goodbye. In how she blushes, just the tiniest bit.
Carlos first thought it was for show. A lot of the things Elisa does are for show. To show their parents that she can. To show a friend that she has. To show she’s a woman and old enough.
It’s different with Francisco, though. It feels more genuine than anything she’s done in recent years, and Carlos doesn’t know what to do with that.
He wants his sister to be happy. He wants her to smile at a man the way she does when Francisco is around. He wants to see her settled down, outside of their parents house, outside of their control and everything else that comes with it. And yet.
He knows he and Francisco are going nowhere. And yet. And yet, the truth is, he would rather be heading nowhere with Francisco than without him.
Things keep getting busier at the company. Francisco is needed more and more, and Carlos isn’t sure if that’s because his father knows the best way to get Carlos into a meeting is to have Francisco there as well, or if it’s because Elisa keeps whispering about Francisco in their father’s ear. It’s probably a mix of both.
He’s happy for Francisco, he really is. Happy he gets to have this, happy his father has started trusting his judgement, happy life isn’t so hard on him any more. But all of these things mean they have less time. It’s harder to sneak around, harder to blend in and hide.
Carlos can’t remember the last time they were in his apartment alone as he picks up the phone.
A moment later, Francisco’s sleepy voice is coming through. “Carlos?”
“Did something happen?”
“No,” Carlos starts, taking a deep breath. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Yeah,” he continues, face burning, “so I thought I might jerk off.”
He hears a chuckle on the other end of the line. “And you thought you should call?”
“You told me to call,” Carlos reminds him, “before starting without you.”
Francisco makes a noise of acknowledgement. Then, sounding much more awake, “I did, didn’t I?”
“What would you do if the operator were listening in?”
“Operators know not to listen in on calls,” Carlos replies automatically, though that has never stopped them.
Francisco chuckles again. “How long has it been since you last went down to supervise them?” he asks, amused.
Rolling his eyes, Carlos says, “I doubt any operator would still be listening now, anyway.”
“And why’s that?”
“Well, I did start by saying I was thinking about jerking off,” Carlos deadpans. “And there, I’ve said it again. No decent lady should want to listen to this.”
Francisco’s chuckle becomes a full laugh this time, a breathy sound over the phone. “I’ll give you that.” Then, “So, anything else you’d want to tell me?”
“Tell you? About what?”
“You wake me up in the middle of the night because you couldn’t sleep,” Francisco says, his voice lower, reaching that tone. “That’s very selfish of you. I feel I should be compensated.”
“Oh,” Carlos says, his stomach dropping. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think—”
“I’m glad you woke me up, I did tell you to call,” Francisco interrupts, another step closer to that voice. “But now that I’m awake, you should make it worth my while.”
Taking a deep breath, Carlos asks, “And how would I do that?”
There’s a pause on the other end of the line. Then, “Tell me your plan.”
“You called because you were thinking about jerking off. Tell me how you plan to do that.”
Carlos really had no plan, but he can see where this is going. “I guess—I guess I’d start—I’d find the oil first.”
“Go find it,” Francisco says, his voice finally reaching that place where it’s coaxing but nothing he says is a question or a request.
“I’ll be back.”
He’s back a moment later, oil in hand as he sits on his plush sofa again. He pauses for a moment, his brain only now registering what’s a about to happen and where, and how he’ll probably never be able to have visitors over without thinking about this.
“I’m back,” he says into the phone.
“Next time,” Francisco says, smooth, “you better be ready when you call.”
Carlos sucks in a sharp breath. “Yes.”
“Good. What’s next?”
“I—” he says, licking his lips, “I’d get naked.”
“All the way?”
He considers this. The curtains and windows are flung open. It’s the almost summer and closing them would make his apartment stuffy and unbearable.
“No,” he answers. “From the waist down.”
There’s silence on other end of the line before Carlos realizes he’s supposed to be getting naked, from the waist down.
“Ready?” Francisco asks.
“Pour some oil onto your left palm.”
“But—I’m right handed.”
Francisco makes a noise, and Carlos tries to imagine his face. It’s a little exasperated, mostly just fond. “You think I don’t know that?”
“O—okay,” Carlos says, pouring a little oil on his left hand.
“Touch yourself,” Francisco says, voice steady as though he’s talking about the weather.
Carlos cups himself with his left hand, is thrown off by it. Jerking off is usually fast and instinctive for him. But it’s as if he can’t remember quite how.
“How does it feel?” Francisco asks.
“Odd. Not used to it like this.”
“Hmm, I can imagine.”
The words are out of Carlos’ mouth before he can think better of it, “Are you imagining me?”
“Yeah,” Francisco answers honestly, not missing a beat. “What are you thinking about?”
“You,” Carlos says, since they’re in the spirit of honesty.
“Do you remember last month, after the party?”
It’d be impossible for him not to remember. Francisco had followed him with his eyes all night, a neutral expression on his face that only meant he wasn’t very pleased. Carlos hadn’t been very pleased either, not with his parents trying to pawn him off to this and that heiress. Not with the way Elisa had found a permanent place by Francisco’s arm, much less with how she looked at him.
But they had come back to Carlos’ together, a little drunk on champagne.
“Yeah,” Carlos answers, voice tight as he works his hand over his dick at the memory. “Yeah, I remember.”
“Before you fucked me,” Francisco says, in that way he has to be blunt when it counts the most, making Carlos whine under his breath. “You remember how I touched you?”
Carlos remembers. They had kissed against the wall next to his door, as though there had been no time to move further inside. Then Francisco found his way inside Carlos’ trousers, and Carlos thought he’d come right there and there.
“You told me to wait,” Carlos says now, his voice shivery. He thinks about Francisco’s touch, pumping his cock faster. “Told me to wait and then I could fuck you.”
“You waited. You were very good.”
“Oh, fuck,” Carlos groans, and he’s so close.
“You felt even better, in me,” Francisco says in his devastatingly low and steady voice.
It’s all it takes to push Carlos over; all it takes to have him coming all over his own hand, heaving ragged breaths.
They don’t speak, not before Carlos’ breathing has settled into something akin to normal.
Then, Francisco says, “Better now?”
“Yeah,” Carlos sighs.
“A little, but I can wait for you.”
“Thank you for the offer,” Francisco replies. “But we have an early meeting tomorrow.”
“After the meeting?” Carlos asks, trying to remember the last time Francisco agreed to come back to his place.
He doesn’t think it was after that party, but maybe it is. Maybe it really has been that long.
“We’ll see,” Francisco replies. “Get some sleep, Carlos.”
“I—” he starts, but stops. He has more than one way to finish that sentence, but he isn’t sure he can bring himself to pick any. “I—” love you, miss you, want you, need you. In the end, he says, “Thanks.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
Tomorrow doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen the day after, or the day after that, and suddenly the week’s gone, and all they’ve seen of each other is what everyone else sees at the company. It makes him hear the clock ticking, closer and closer to their expiration date.
He knows this thing they have, it isn’t forever. It isn’t meant to last, it wasn’t even meant to happen. And yet he continues to find letting go increasingly hard. He finds himself latching onto this thing without handle bars, heart beating fast because he just can’t bear it, not even the mere thought of letting go.
In the end, none of this matters.
It’s early in the afternoon when Francisco walks into his office and closes the door behind him. Taking the seat across Carlos’ desk, he starts, “Your sister, she wants us to get married.”
Carlos snorts, loud and open, a laugh that ripples through him as the image crosses his mind, Francisco and him. Then he catches Francisco’s eyes, the thin line of his mouth.
“Oh,” Carlos says, his laugh dying quickly in his chest. “You and her.”
“What—” Carlos starts slowly, “what did you say?”
“That I wanted time,” Francisco replies, meeting his eyes. “To think about it.”
Carlos’ heart hammers against his ribcage. He can feel his world shaking under his feet, has the distinct feeling he’s standing at the edge of a cliff, everything about to change with the slightest breeze.
“And have you?” he asks. “Thought about it?”
“She asked me a week ago.”
“So you’ve already decided,” Carlos concludes, because while Francisco is not one to make rash decisions, he also isn’t one to avoid making them forever.
And then it hits him. The carefully closed door, why Francisco is talking to him and not his sister. He’s made his choice, and it isn’t Carlos.
“I see,” Carlos says, pushing back his chair, because suddenly there isn’t enough air, and he has to leave, he has to get out, or he’ll choke. He’ll just drown in this tightness in his chest.
“Carlos,” Francisco starts, taking his hand.
The tightness, the pain, they rise in his throat like bile, and a single glance at their hands has him choking.
“Carlos?” Francisco asks. “Carlos, look at me.”
It takes all Carlos has to look away. He isn’t used to saying no to Francisco, but he has to. He has to or else he’ll say something he’ll regret.
“I’m okay,” he lies. “I just—I left something at—at home.”
“Carlos, please, can we just—talk about it?”
“It’s fine,” he says, swallowing hard. “This is—it’s good. You’ll be a real member of the family now.”
Francisco lets him go at that, and Carlos wastes no time getting out of there. Out onto the streets, he starts heading nowhere slowly, alone.
The engagement is announced two weeks later. Carlos and Francisco haven’t spoken since that afternoon in the office. Francisco has his charm and his ways to make multiple attempts at getting him alone, but Carlos has years of experience avoiding conversations he has no interest in. He wins out in the end, and by the time the engagement is announced, the only thing that’s transpired between the two of them are the pleasantries they’re forced to exchange.
Carlos doesn’t look. He misses the expression on his sister’s face when she tells the room the happy news. He misses Francisco’s, though he feels his eyes on him the entire time. He doesn’t look, because it’s easier this way. It’ll get easier this way. And he isn’t wrong.
It takes a while, but Francisco stops looking for him, he stops trying to find Carlos everywhere he goes and starts making his own way. Now that he’s about to be a son-in-law, Carlos’ father has no scruples treating Francisco like a son; like his favorite son, the son who understands what they are doing. The son who knows why and how and when and what.
It isn’t bitterness what Carlos feels when he sees them together. At first, it’s a pointier feeling that finds a space between his ribs, settling in like knife. It’s his father’s disappointment mixed in with his own and the tightness in his chest that refuses to let go.
But it gets easier, with time, as all things must. He tells himself he’d rather see his sister happy, settled with a good man, than with someone he doesn’t know at all. He tells himself he’d rather have this; this incomplete, shared version of Francisco, than not have him at all. After all, when all is said and done, he’d rather have a brother than no one at all.
Months later, he throws Francisco a stag party. It’s nothing like the loud, exuberant events he’s been known to host. Instead, it’s a quiet evening with the best whiskey and cigars. There’s a live band at the venue, and any man worth knowing in Madrid has been invited. He makes rounds, introduces people and makes sure everyone knows Francisco’s name.
He feels Francisco’s eyes on him the entire night. Feels them when they’re in opposite corners of the room, and when they’re standing next to each other as Carlos makes his best imitation of his father, charming people and getting them on his side.
It only stops when Francisco clinks glasses with the men to smile and acknowledge the new acquaintance. It’s a minute or two at the most, and then his eyes are back on Carlos, following him around the room. The worst part isn’t this. It isn’t the slight blush on Francisco’s cheeks, indicating he’s probably had a whiskey too many. The worst part is that minute or two, when Francisco isn’t looking. That minute or two when Carlos is acutely aware of the loss, like a hole carved in his chest. Because even though he’s tried, he still can’t forget.
It’s late when the party finally starts winding down, closer to sunrise than he expected. He has arranged two chauffeurs for the ride back, one for himself and one for Francisco. Despite his own predictions, he doesn’t need a ride home. He’s stone cold sober and could drive himself no problem. Francisco, on the other hand, he’s a different story.
He’s been listing to his left side for the past hour, slurring his words. He’s gone almost completely silent, the way he used to do when Carlos first brought him into this world and Carlos was the only person he knew. He’s been doing better recently, and part of that has to be Elisa’s doing and pushing. He’s changed since their engagement, but then again, Carlos isn’t the same either.
The last guest is waiting for his car out the door when Carlos takes Francisco’s arm and drapes it around his shoulder. Francisco goes easily, leaning into Carlos’ right side as though this is what he’s been waiting for all night.
“Let’s take you home,” Carlos says, waving at the bar staff on their way out.
The first chauffeur has to get the door for them and help Francisco into the backseat. It’s clear he isn’t going to be much help with directions and there’s a good chance he’ll pass out before even getting to his place, so Carlos pays the second chauffeur to leave and climbs into the seat next to Francisco.
“We’ll be dropping him off first,” he tells the driver.
“No,” Francisco says. “No.” He’s looking at Carlos again. His eyes a little more focused than before. “Let’s go back to your place,” he says.
Despite his state, there’s intent in his words and in the way he takes Carlos’ hand.
He should say no. He should give the driver Francisco’s address and call it a night. Forget about the way Francisco stares and how that makes his breath catch; how it’s always made him feel, since the moment they met.
He gives the drive the address to his place.
It’s a pain getting Francisco up the stairs to his apartment. He hugs Carlos, tighter than he would in daylight, before stumbling on thin air. They nearly fall down, and so it goes, all the way up to Carlos’ floor.
The door is barely closed behind them when Francisco pins Carlos against it, thumbs digging so hard into his hips that it hurts. He’ll have bruises in the morning.
Francisco tastes like expensive whiskey and salt. He's always tasted like salt, deep down, and Carlos wonders if that’s because he grew up near the ocean.
“Bedroom,” Francisco says, breath hot.
He takes Carlos’ hand in his, leading the way to the bedroom in the dark, like he knows the place better than Carlos himself. He pushes Carlos onto the bed, kissing him as he fumbles with his tie and the buttons of his shirt.
Then Francisco’s hands are stroking Carlos’ thighs, up and down, fingernails scratching over the fabric of his trousers. He goes down, kneeling on the floor, fingernails scratching. Carlos has to sit up to see his face under the dim light of the lamp he left on.
“This is the last time,” Franciscos says, voice soft.
His eyes are a little glassy, and Carlos can’t tell if that’s because he’s been drinking or if it’s something else.
“I’m marrying your sister,” he continues, unbuckling Carlos’ belt. “I don’t—I can’t cheat on my wife.”
Carlos looks down at him, threading his finger’s through Francisco’s hair. The words are out of his mouth before he knows it.
“Then don’t marry her,” he whispers. “Don’t get married at all.”
Francisco stops. His pupils are blown and there’s something vulnerable there, something Carlos rarely sees. It used to scare him; it used to make him feel vulnerable and exposed, too. It doesn’t make him feel like that anymore, but he still doesn’t know what to do with it. He still doesn’t know what it means.
Instead, he forces himself to smile. He tilts Francisco’s head and smiles as best he can.
“I didn’t mean that,” he lies, swallowing hard. “You’ll marry Elisa,” he goes on, closing his eyes when they start to sting. “You’ll be part of our family.”
Francisco climbs on top of him, pushing his back onto the mattress as they kiss. They kiss, and Carlos wraps his legs around Francisco’s hips. They kiss before Francisco moves down Carlos’ neck to suck a bruise where it meets his shoulder. They kiss, and it’s all Carlos can do and feel. It’s all he’s able to let himself have, one last time.