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Habits

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Carlos likes his life.
It’s far from normal, but he likes it anyway.

Carlos likes his job, too, and especially likes his boss.

He likes making Vaas happy. It fills him with pride when his boss slaps him on the back and says “well done”, because he feels as if someone gives him credit enough.

Carlos still remembers the night when Vaas came dragging the little American boy to their camp. He remembers Vaas calling him, and the way his voice seemed warm and happy when he said “don’t let anyone hurt my boy”.

That made him happy too. Even today, he keeps babysitting Jason around, making sure he eats properly and giving him anything he wants, just like Vaas does.
Oh, but Carlos doesn’t show anyone how much he cares, just because it’s easier to pretend being always serious (he doesn’t talk much anyway) than having to deal with his friends teasing him about him being Vaas’s favorite.

He likes when they’re all hunched together next to the fire, crowding around Jason to hear stories about things that they’ll never see, and he likes to pretend that he doesn’t have chances of dying tomorrow. It feels like home.

Almost every night he stands guard at Vaas’s door. He knows he doesn’t have to, but he likes the pleased grin that his boss gives him when he sees Carlos sitting on the stairs, almost asleep and holding his AK-47 against his chest. Carlos doesn’t tell anyone about the muffled moans he hears sometimes.

x-x-x

When Vaas isn’t around, Jason clings to him, and Carlos doesn’t mind at all. He teaches the boy how to fight, and Jason is a ferocious little thing. Then he drags Jason to the lake on the back of the camp and throws him inside to wash himself. The other pirates laugh with him when Jason comes out of the water with a pout, dripping and shivering (Carlos dries him anyway and, just because Vaas wants, combs that stupid hair), and it feels pleasantly normal.

But Jason cares about them too. When they’re all nervous and restless, running around the camp, waiting for the Rakyat to attack (even with Citra’s death, they still try to break into Vaas’s base), Jason brings them food and make them eat “because you need to be strong”, he says. No one complains and, even if they don’t say it, Carlos sees their thankful eyes.

When the battle ends, Jason helps with the injured men too.

“I should put him in a nurse costume.” Vaas said one time, and Carlos laughed quietly with him while they looked at Jason running around trying to fix everyone, “He’s so pretty” Vaas added, and his gaze was warm and lovely.

Carlos cries when he loses one of his friends, because he isn’t emotionless how he likes everyone to think. Alone in his shack, muffling his sobs against his arm and pulling at his dark curls, waiting until his eyes aren’t so red anymore to go out again. Jason saw him one time, and Carlos was grateful for the soft words and tight hug.

One afternoon when Vaas was dealing with some captives and Jason was already asleep, Carlos sat with Nicolás and between beers and chatter, he ended drinking too much. In his drunken stupor, his mind absurdly compared them all to a big family, Vaas the father and Jason the mother (he frowned at himself because, duh, they’re drugged murderous pirates).

Every time Vaas calls him, Carlos instantly responds (not verbally, of course), and everyone teases him because, according to Felipe, he is like a well-trained hound. He doesn’t mind, and joke with them too. It feels like companionship.

x-x-x

Some days Carlos thinks he’s not gonna make it. Like that time they were tracking some Rakyat and he fell from a cliff and down the river. He broke his wrist and injured his leg badly. I’m dying, he thought while looking at his own blood running down the stream. Some hours later and he was dizzy from blood loss, but his friends came. They saved him, and Carlos has never been so happy to see Vaas and the American boy again.

x-x-x

When he’s gutting a boar, Jason often approaches him, and Carlos has to fight the smile that threatens to pass his lips. The boy is curious, and sits beside him, smiling and asking how was the hunt, or if he needs help. Carlos doesn’t need help, of course, but he let him do everything, just because Jason likes.
Vaas is always pleased, and when he’s around Jason, his smile is so genuine that Carlos can’t help but smile too. It feels like happiness.

x-x-x

He’s sitting around the bonfire with Nicolás and André when Vaas calls him. His voice seems different, and it makes everyone stand and look at the bright neon colors across the camp. Carlos calms them down, and goes alone.

He has to swallow his laughter when he opens to door to Vaas’s room.

His boss is tangled with Jason on the ground, they both just in their boxers, pushing each other and laughing. Jason pins Vaas’s wrists to the ground and sits on his stomach.

“Carlos, would you please slap Jason in the face?” Vaas asks, and his voice is breathy and happy.

Carlos knows his boss isn’t serious, so he just stands there, staring at them biting and clawing at each other. Jason leaves a bright red mark on Vaas’s neck that Carlos can see from the door. Vaas jumps at that and almost throws Jason off of him, but he seems to give up and goes limp, staring at the boy over him and smiling warmly, and Jason stares back, trying to catch his breath, and his eyes are bright with happiness.

Carlos doesn’t know why, but seeing them look at each other with such passion makes his skin tingle in a pleasant way.

He feels as if here is exactly where he wants to be. With his friends and his semblance of family.

Vaas and Jason shift so they can kiss each other, and Carlos stops denying his smile.

Yeah, he thinks, this is what people call love.