“I can’t believe we got away with that.”
“We didn’t get away with that… that’s why we had to run.”
Miguel cackled at this, straightening up and brushing his golden hair out of his eyes, “Alright, I can’t believe we escaped from that.”
Nodding in agreement, Tulio slid down the wall until he was seated on the floor, with Miguel sitting next to him not long after. A comfortable silence fell between them, broken only by the sound of the bustling marketplaces.
And something crying nearby…. Loudly.
“Don’t even think about it.”
At Tulio’s stern words, Miguel twisted around to face him, frowning at the warning glare Tulio was giving him.
Tulio’s glare only deepened, “Don’t even think about going to investigate…. It’s none of our business.”
“… It sounds like a baby though.”
“Then let the mama deal with it…” Closing his eyes, Tulio rested his head against the brick wall, angling his face to the sun, “…babies are messy, and I already have my hands full dealing with you.”
No reply… usually that sort of remark would at least produce an indignant sound.
A silent Miguel was always a sign of trouble.
This was only proven when he glanced over and realised that Miguel was gone.
“Oh, for pity’s sake!” he exclaimed, pushing himself to his feet and rushing in the direction that he’d originally heard the crying coming from, knowing that Miguel would be there.
His footsteps echoing on the cobblestone path, Tulio frowned as he spotted Miguel knelt beside a simple basket, lifting the hem of a blanket and wriggling his fingers at whatever was inside.
‘Please let it just be a kitten’ Tulio pleaded silently, ‘Please let it just be a kitten.’
“Tulio…” Miguel then whispered in delight, “… it’s a baby!”
Tulio shook his head, “Oh no…” he groaned, watching his lover coo at the baby, “… this isn’t happening!”
“What do you mean?”
Not answering, Tulio glanced around frantically, hoping that the baby’s mama would suddenly appear and make everything better. Miguel would hand the baby over, charm the mama (as he usually did with women), be a little down for a few days before everything would go back to normal.
But no woman ever appeared.
“We need to- we need to- “ Tulio couldn’t force the words out, slowly starting to panic. They couldn’t just hand the baby over to the local orphanage, not when there was a chance that the child would just be abandoned back on the streets due to a lack of food.
Times were hard, and even he wasn’t cruel enough to leave the child to that fate.
“He’s so cute!” Miguel squeaked, tickling the little feet that started to peek out of the blankets, “Tulio, look! Look at his little button nose!”
Tulio watched in dread as his partner lathered praise on the baby, pointing out different things and gently poking and prodding at it. As he went to tickle the little belly, Miguel’s eyes widened in delight and his jaw dropped in glee as the baby laughed, squirming beneath his touch.
Please don’t ask it.
“… can we keep him?”
Glancing down at the blonde-haired man, Tulio winced at the pleading look on his face.
“Please Tulio… can we keep him, please?”
“…. He’s very little.”
He needed to dissuade Miguel from this, they couldn’t do this. “W-we don’t have anything to take care of a baby! Baby stuff is expensive!”
“Maybe we can split up! You con people with your ‘lucky’ dice and I’ll play my mandolin. My singing voice isn’t that bad, so I might be able to make a few more coins. That old farm wife won’t mind us using some of her cow milk, you know she has a soft spot for me. I’ll even do most of the work if you want, sing to him, play with him, feed him, dress him, wash him- “
“- He’s not ours though Miguel!” Tulio snapped. How could they love a baby who wasn’t even theirs?
Miguel paused, a sad look flashing across his face before it was quickly replaced with determination, arms gently lifting the baby out of the blanket as he got to his feet, “I like the name Eugene… I remember one of the nuns used to read a book that had a hero called Eugene in it.”
He then turned his attention to Tulio and scowled at him, “He might not be yours… but he’s mine.”
And then he walked off.
When he finally made it back to their little house (and he really meant little…. Two rooms, one bedroom and a living area), Miguel was already sat on the bed, rocking the baby from side to side and refusing to look Tulio in the eye.
He looked so natural with a baby in his arms.
“Eugene’s a good name…” he finally managed to blurt out, forcing a smile onto his face, “… it’s… different.”
Miguel didn’t seem to care about the hesitant tone in Tulio’s voice, looking up at him and beaming, “You really think so?”
“Yeah it… suits him.” Slowly he made his way over to Miguel and kissed him on the forehead, “I think we have some old blankets? And a basket for him?”
He wasn’t going to win this argument… maybe Miguel will see how difficult it was to raise a kid and agree to give him to someone else.
Later on, after getting some milk, feeding the baby… and then arguing over what toys the baby would need, Tulio had his arms wrapped around Miguel as they lay in bed.
“Do you think we’re going to be good parents?” Miguel asked quietly, settling into Tulio’s embrace.
“You’re going to be fantastic.”
Tulio shrugged, not wanting to commit to the idea of being a parent just yet.
“Tulio….” Miguel pushed himself up on his elbows and frowned at his lover, “… you’ll be a good Papa too. We’re partners, we do everything together!”
Feeling a little over-whelmed with the praise that Miguel was giving him, Tulio gave him a soft smile. “Thanks Miguel.”
Reassured by this, Miguel settled back down… but not to sleep of course as he continued his happy chatter. “It’s going to be perfect now…” he whispered, “… you, me and Eugene.”
“…. We can teach him how to be the perfect little pickpocket.” Tulio mused, “Darting in and out of the crowds whilst we play dice with them…. We’d get twice as much in once day.”
“Or we can actually send him to school like any other kid?”
Glancing down at Miguel, Tulio winced at the disapproving look on the man’s face. “Or… or we can send him to school.”
Satisfied, Miguel hummed happily and snuggled in further, his eyes slipping shut as he started to drift off. For a few more seconds, Tulio glanced between the sleeping man and the sleeping baby in the basket, a million thoughts running through his mind.
What if he completely failed at this?
What if he turned out to be just like his own Papa?
What if Miguel decided he wanted nothing more to do with him, and took Eugene with him?
Groaning under his breath, Tulio desperately pushed those thoughts away and squeezed his eyes closed.
Maybe when he next woke up, this would all be nothing but a dream.
The soft sounds coming from the basket woke him up immediately.
Miguel didn’t even stir.
“Really?” Tulio groaned, “The baby was your idea?!”
Knowing that Miguel could sleep through everything, Tulio made the sacrifice and slowly pushed himself into a seated position.
The fussy sounds coming from the basket threatened to become a full-blown and angry cry, prompting Tulio to rush over. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Eugene didn’t need his cloth diaper changing… which probably meant that he was hungry.
Quickly, he prepared a bottle of milk and let the baby feed eagerly, watching as the milk disappeared and Eugene burped in delight.
However, when he tried to put the baby back into the basket, Eugene started fussing again.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Tulio found himself whining, gently rocking the baby from side to side, “I never asked for this, I never signed up to be a Papa.”
Eugene just gurgled, large brown eyes staring up at him as he watched the man talk.
The baby’s head fits quite easily in the palm of his hand, and Tulio found himself captivated by the attention Eugene was giving him…. He almost didn’t want to put him down.
So, he talked to the baby, keeping his voice at a low, comforting rumble. He talked about making loaded dice, Miguel and his dancing, what he would do when they struck big with the gold…. Everything and anything.
All this while, he couldn’t help but press tiny baby fingers to his mouth in little kisses, smirking as the baby giggled in delight.
He was utterly captivated, and he knew it…. The baby… Eugene was cooing and gurgling in all the right places. It was slightly reassuring to know that the baby might be another Miguel… someone who was kind, and who listened.
Coaxing Eugene into giving him a toothless smile and a giggle, Tulio know the smile would someday reflect Miguel’s… he could just sense it.
He knew perfectly well that his expression was… besotted when he glanced up to see Miguel smiling fondly at him.
“You should both really go back to sleep.” The blonde-haired man muttered softly, “Next thing I’ll know, you’ll both be up making plans and scheming until 3 in the morning!”
“Not until he’s old enough to run away,” Tulio dead-panned, causing Miguel to giggle.
In the end, Eugene really didn’t want to sleep in his own crib and the couple opt to settle in their bed, the baby cuddled safely in between them.
Chapter 2: Food Run
“We’re out of food.”
Tulio glanced over at Miguel, who was bouncing Eugene up and down, a concerned look on his face as he stared into the cupboard.
“What do you mean, we’re out of food?”
“I mean, we’re out of food.” Miguel sighed, “Do we still have some coins from yesterday?”
“No, because Eugene just ‘had to have that little wooden horse’, remember?”
Miguel winced sheepishly at this, thinking back to the day before when they’d made the mistake of passing the toy stall. Maybe he had been a bit pushy. “Then… we’re just going to have to split up.” He decided, “I’ll play music, and you should try and con some food with Eugene.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Tulio held up his hands and waved them slightly, indicating that Miguel should just stop, “Why do I have to take the baby?”
“…. Well, it’s really hard to move around the streets with a six-month-old… and he’s so cute!” Miguel held Eugene up in front of him, the pair of them seeming to make the exact same, wounded puppy look, “How can anyone say no to that face?!”
Tulio tried… oh God did he try. But he never managed it with Miguel, so it was definitely a lost cause against Eugene.
“He would be useful with those little old ladies…” Tulio stated, acting like it was his idea all along, “… they defend their stalls like soldiers. A baby is a fantastic weapon against old ladies.”
“So… you’ll take him with you?”
Sighing, Tulio reached out and took Eugene into his arms. “Fine… but if he starts crying, I’m finding you as fast as possible.”
“Love you too!”
“Two teddies… why would you need two teddies?”
Eugene stared up at him, a beaming grin on his face as he chewed on the eye of one of his toys, drool dribbling out of the side of his mouth ever so slightly.
“I don’t know how these ladies keep falling for your cuteness…” he mused, “… how is drool cute?”
Eugene just cooed.
“Yeah… I don’t know either.”
As he continued down the streets, he resisted the urge to groan when every old lady in the damn town seemed to flock towards them, wrinkled fingers reaching out to pinch at Eugene’s cheeks, cooing as the baby squirmed.
“Sorry kid…” Tulio whispered, slowly allowing one of the old ladies to pull Eugene out of his arms, “… you’ve got to make that sacrifice.”
With the old ladies and several other people preoccupied with Eugene, Tulio slipped past their stalls, slipping the occasional piece of fruit, veg and fish into his inside pockets whenever he could.
It wasn’t a lot, but it would keep him, and Miguel occupied for a few days whilst they earned enough coins to buy food legally. Eugene would just have to rely on the free milk that they got, no matter how much he loved mushed up apple.
And then he spotted the soldiers marching up the streets.
Quickly, and making his excuses to the old ladies who had been cooing over Eugene, he took his son back and almost raced away from the scene, picking up speed when he heard the soldiers call out for him.
“Lesson number one in being a con-man… thief… always make a quick getaway.” He muttered to Eugene, darting into a side alleyway and watching as the soldiers ran past them, “Lesson number two, anywhere can be a hiding place.”
Once he was sure that the danger had passed, he cautiously made his way out of the alleyway and raced home.
“I’m back!” Miguel practically danced into the living room, lute in hand as he made his way over to a giggling Eugene, placing the instrument on the ground, “Did you guys have fun?!”
“He did…” Tulio groaned, still face down on the bed, “… He’s going to be quite the ladies’ man when he gets older.”
“He’ll take after me then!” Miguel lifted Eugene into his arms and started twirling around, “I think over half of those coins are from the lovely young women of this city!”
Tulio knew it was stupid of him to feel jealous… him and Miguel and been partners for years, and lovers for not much shorter… Miguel had shown no interest in cheating on him
But there was still that little bit of doubt.
“Well next time you can take the baby, and I’ll flirt with all the women.”
Instantly, Tulio knew he’d gone just a little too far.
“So… Did you get any food?” Miguel’s voice was low, subdued… instantly falling back to a time where he was expecting a beating for speaking out of turn or too loudly, “I- I mean, me and Eugene can head out into the market and get some if we need to.”
“No, it’s okay…” Slowly, Tulio pushed himself into a seated position, forcing a smile onto his face, “… I’m just being silly.”
“…. So, you’re just being you?”
Miguel’s tone was light again, and Tulip felt like a weight had been lifted from his heart, lifting up an arm and allowing Miguel and Eugene to snuggle up next to him.
“You’re the silly one, remember Miguel?”
“I’m also the one who’s going to lie here and watch you cook tea.” Rolling over, he beamed at Tulio, “I’ve been on my feet all day.”
“And I haven’t?”
When Miguel just smiled at him, Tulio rolled his eyes, leaned over to kiss the man on the forehead.
“Only for you….” He muttered, “… only for you.”
Chapter 3: Arguments
Tulio and Miguel beamed as the sailors reluctantly handed over their last few coins, popping them in the hat that Eugene was ‘protecting’.
“Good game guys!” Tulio smirked, “Better luck next time!”
The sailors probably wouldn’t have left so quickly if they knew about the dice.
“Finally!” Miguel exclaimed, as he lifted Eugene up with one arm and the cap full of money with the other, “We might have enough to get him a new bed now.”
“Why bother? He’ll just end up in ours.”
Miguel just chuckled, titling his head away as Eugene grabbed at his hair, “Still, I think- hey!”
Stumbling slightly, only just managing to keep his grip on Eugene and the cap, Miguel glared at the two teens who’d pushed into him. Whilst he seemed willing to let it go, Tulio was not as calm.
“Hey!” he called after them, stopping them in their tracks, “Didn’t your mum teach you any manners? Saying sorry maybe?”
He had to admit, he resisted the urge to take a step back as the twins twisted around to glare at him. He wasn’t sure how old they were, but they already had twice the muscles he did.
“Sorry…” one of them sneered, as the other just smirked at them, “… didn’t mean to make the pretty boy cry.”
As Tulio growled and moved forwards, Miguel quickly grabbed his arm, holding him back as the twins cackled and walked away.
“I hate them…” Tulio muttered, only relaxing when they were out of sight, “… I hate those Stabbington brothers.”
“Weren’t we going to stop saying the word ‘hate’?” Miguel asked, silently gesturing at Eugene, “You know, just in case- “
“- alright, alright.” Tulio knew what Miguel was getting at. Eugene was starting to actually produce sounds that could be mistaken for words. Words like ‘hate’ were on the list that Miguel didn’t want Eugene saying, “I seriously dislike those Stabbington brothers, does that help?”
“…. Not really.”
Tulio rolled his eyes, already storming off back towards their home.
“It’s okay…” Miguel muttered to Eugene as he quickly rushed after the taller man, trying not to drop any of the coins, “… he’s annoyed at those two mean teenagers, not us, okay?”
It didn’t look like Eugene believed him.
The one-year-old was right to be worried.
“Why are you getting so angry about this!” Miguel exclaimed as Tulio paced the small room angrily, “They bumped into me, it’s not like they tried to take the coins or anything!”
“I’m not getting annoyed about that!”
“Then what are you- “
Tulio span around angrily, gesturing at Eugene, who was starting to whimper slightly in his cot, “Did you see how the people were looking at us?! How they were looking at you cooing over him!”
Taking a step back, Miguel couldn’t help but frown at the anger in his partner’s voice…. He was actually a little hurt.
“He’s my son, our son…. What’s wrong with me paying him a little bit of attention?”
“Because people start getting suspicious! They were suspicious before we got him, and now it looks like we have a kid together!”
“But…” Miguel frowned, “…. We do have a kid together…. He’s our kid.”
“No, at the moment, he’s the ticket to certain death!”
The harsh words caused Miguel to take a step back, glancing over at Eugene as the baby whimpered, tiny fists clenched in his blanket.
“No-one will find out…” he whispered, “… we can be careful and- “
“- and what Miguel?!” Tulio growled, “Open the doors to the guards when they come and arrest us for sodomy?!”
Eugene was starting to cry quietly as his parents continued to argue. At the sound, Miguel stopped, spinning around and immediately lifting the one-year-old into his arms.
“Tulio, stop.” He sighed wearily, “I’m going to the marketplace. You…. You just calm down okay.”
“Calm down? I am calm?!”
But Tulio’s words fell on deaf ears… because Miguel and Eugene were already out of the door, the door closing behind them.
He earned a lot of curious looks as he walked through the streets.
Miguel knew why that was… no smile, no cheery waves, no lute… it was very unlike him, hence the shock of the people on the streets.
Eugene also wasn’t himself, unusually subdued as he buried his face into Miguel’s chest.
“I know…” Miguel muttered soothingly to his son, “… he’s just stressed. You’re too young to understand what would happen if they ever found out about us, about me and Tulio, but it wouldn’t be good… you’d be sent away, living with the nuns or something.”
He couldn’t help but shudder as he remembered his own childhood, the sting of a ruler across the back of his hand.
“You wouldn’t like it…” he whispered, “…. Maybe Tulio’s right. Maybe I should tone it down a little.”
Eyes widening in shock, Miguel pulled Eugene away from his chest. “What did you say?”
Eugene beamed up at him, “Dada!”
“… You spoke!” Miguel whooped in glee, leaping to his feet and twirling around, smiling as Eugene giggled in delight, “I have to- “ he stopped, suddenly remembering where he was and who might be listening, “- I need to get home.”
And with that, he was gone.
As Miguel burst into the room, he completely missed Tulio’s dejected look, far too excited with his new news.
“He’s speaking!” he announced, “He’s speaking! Eugene, say it again, say it again!”
Tulio immediately brightened up, pushing himself to his feet and moving over to stand in front of his family. “Clever little boy…” he whispered, running long fingers through the dark brown hair, “… can you say Papa?”
“Very good…. but can you say Papa?”
“That’s it, almost there!”
Eugene frowned in concentration, “Pa-Pa…. Papa! Papa! Dada! Papa!”
Both Miguel and Tulio whooped in glee at this, praising Eugene eagerly as he beamed up at them.
The fight was forgotten.