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The End Is the Beginning

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The End Is the Beginning

Things aren't easy; they're not perfect, but Francisco isn't going to complain. Sure. It's not easy to divide his time between Rio and Moscow, especially since his work is at such a critical stage, not to mention the cold of Russia, but he knows anything is better than going back to the time when Thomas was so far out of his reach, and all he felt was pain and confusion. No, no more of that.

Aside from all that, things are going great. Thomas's swimming has improved by leaps and bounds, and it's wonderful to watch him swim. Francisco knows it must not be easy on his little brother either. The Russian coaches have no mercy; hours and hours of practice leave Tom Tom exhausted for the most part of the day, but Thomas isn't the kind of man to complain. He has always been determined, and Francisco says nothing; he gives him a massage at the end of the day instead and watches his brother relax into the blankets.

There is another bonus to Thomas's intense practice: fantastic sex. Before the whole Olympic deal, their love making was amazing; the best Francisco had ever had, but here, sometimes things get purely physical, and he would be telling a great lie if he ever said he didn't enjoy it. Most of the time, Thomas is high on endorphins and their sex sessions turn into erotic wrestling matches that leave them both tired in an incredible way that he can't describe with words.
It's not all though. Sometimes, they like to take things slow; just to stare into each others' eyes and touch each others' bodies with fingertips. Times like these, Francisco wants to lay small kisses all over his little brother's body and tell him how much he loves him over and over until they're both breathless and raw with intense emotions. Times like these, Francisco feels like he's about to die from all the emotions he carries inside his heart.

Sometimes Francisco thinks about moving in Russia and working in a hospital in Moscow, but then he changes his mind. That would require him to learn Russian which he finds difficult, and he's not a man to endure cold for too long anyway. He belongs to the hot days in beaches, and so does Thomas. Their friends are not here, they're family isn't here. Staying here is temporary anyway. Six more months until the Olympics. He can cope with that, he's sure.

Francisco hears the door open and sits upright on the small sofa, placing Shakespeare's Sonnets and his glasses on the coffee table in front of him. Thomas is early today. It's not even seven yet. Something must be up.

"Francisco?" He hears Thomas asks as he walks – no - limbs into the small living room.

"What's happened, Tom Tom?" He walks to his younger brother and hugs him in greeting.

"I slipped and twisted my bloody ankle. Bloody wet tiles." Thomas grumbles as he sits on the sofa, discarding his gym bag and jacket next to it.

"Let me see." Francisco kneels in front of him and rests the injured ankle on his elevated thigh. He inspects the bandaged ankle for a minute or two before saying, "It doesn't look too bad, but I think you have to take it easy for a couple of days." He says as he kisses the twisted ankle and sits next to Thomas, wrapping his arm around his brother's broad shoulders.

"That's what Fyodor said. He looked ready to strangle me. I don't care though, I need some time off. I need some time with you, and now you can take care of your poor injured brother, right?" Thomas smiles, but Francisco only swallows in response. Thomas has a sixth sense about these things; he knows instantly something's wrong.

"What?" He asks, worried.

Francisco hesitates for a moment before replying, "The hospital called this morning. I have to go back to Rio tomorrow."

Thomas recovers fast, but Francisco sees the disappointment in his eyes. His younger brother has never been good at hiding his emotions. His eyes are too expressive for him to be able to hide anything.

"When will you leave?"

"In the afternoon. At least we can have lunch, huh?" His voice is bitter and Thomas notices. He strokes Francisco's cheek gently and gives him a small smile.

"You shouldn't put your work at jeopardy, Francisco." He says softly.

"I shouldn't put my personal life at jeopardy." Francisco says sullenly as he stands up and walks to the window. It's dark ad empty outside.

He's been feeling down since the call in the morning. This huge gap between his work and personal life is eating him alive, and there seems to be no possible way to bring the two any closer.

Thomas limbs toward him and rests a warm hand on his shoulder. "You look tired. You're overworking yourself. You know I can take care of myself here."

"Of course I do." Francisco sighs as he wraps his hand around Thomas's neck and brings their foreheads together. It's not about Thomas taking care of himself. It's more about Francisco and his inability to be separate from him, but he doesn't give voice to his thoughts, because he thinks then he has to talk about those two months of separation and how he was unable to cope with it without falling apart. After that he's tried hard to divide his time equally between Thomas and the hospital, but he hasn't always succeeded.

"Then take care of yourself a bit! You worked so hard to get your degree, and now you're on the brink of losing it. You know I'll always be there for you, but you're job won't."

Always . . . such a tricky word. Mom always said she would always be there for them, and she was, until the day she wasn't.

Francisco sighs and nods his head in resignation. The fingers on his cheek are soothing.

"You have dark circles under your eyes. It doesn't look good on your gorgeous face." Thomas murmurs as he strokes Francisco's eyebrow and lightly kisses his lips. "I wish it didn't have to be like this. I wish . . . "Thomas breaks off and walks away, but Francisco knows him well enough to know what exactly he's thinking without him saying it.

"Don't even think about it, Thomas." Francisco says warningly.

"And why not?" Thomas asks, an edge to his voice. They rarely quarrel, but when they do, nobody backs down easily.

"You've worked so hard to get where you are now. You can't just throw it away for nothing!"

"It's not for nothing! It's for you! Don't you think you have double standards, Francisco? You give up your dreams for me, but I'm not allowed to do the same?"

"Of course you're not!"

"Why the hell not?!"

"Because I'm your big brother. That's why."

They don't quarrel often, but when they do, it usually ends like this. It's a given fact that older brothers hold power over the younger ones, and there's nothing to be done about it.

Francisco sighs and walks toward his younger brother and wraps his arms around him. "I'm sorry, Tom Tom. I didn't mean to upset you." Thomas hugs him back.

"Why don't we head out and try to make the most of the night?" Francisco suggests after dropping a few kisses on his brother's neck.

"No where far though. I don't fancy limping all over the icy city."

"Don't worry. I'll take care of you."

"I know you will."

They both smile brightly at each other and know that things are alright . . . at least for now.


The emergency room is busier than usual, but Francisco doesn't mind it. He likes to keep himself busy when he has too much to think about.

Sometimes when he goes to the lounge to rest a bit and drink a cup of coffee, he pictures Mom moving past the corridors with her white coat on and her warm smile on her beautiful face. God, he misses her so much. Maybe he should give Alexandre a call and see how Basta is doing. It would be nice to –

A hand on his shoulder startles him out of his thoughts. He turns around in his chair to see – Good God! – Thomas looking at him with a huge grin on his face, white teeth shining under the fluorescent light.

"Thomas!" He doesn't notice who embraces the other first, and, honestly, he doesn't care. What he does care about is that his beautiful baby brother is back in his arms after one agonizing month of separation . . . out of nowhere. "Thomas! What are you doing here?" He asks as he steps backward a little, but he keeps his hands on both sides of his brother's lovely face, afraid that if he lets go, Thomas might disappear. It feels too good to be true.

"It's Dad's birthday next week. I thought I'd surprise him, and you!" Thomas explains as he embraces Francisco one more time.

"You did surprise me. I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't heard from you for a couple of hours."

"Yeah, I went home first, but you weren't there. Figured you might be having a night shift here. Sorry if I interrupted your work."

"No, no, no, don't say that. Never say that." Francisco smiles and brings their foreheads together. God, it feels heavenly to feel his brother in the flesh again and not just an image on the screen.

"Doctor Alves, there is an – oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you had company."

They both break apart and turn their heads to the source of the voice. Thomas gives the girl a curious look.

"Thomas, this is Nurse Cunha. She's a good friend of mine. Yara, this is Thomas, my brother." Yara's eyes widen in surprise.

"Oh, Thomas! We've all heard so much about you! You're the champion swimmer in Russia." She exclaims as Thomas – ever the charming guy – steps forward and shakes her hand in a friendly manner. He has always been great at greeting people, especially if they were Francisco's friends.

"The champion is Francisco, saving people here every day." Thomas says as he turns his head and winks at his older brother. Francisco smiles and runs his hand through Thomas's golden curls. Yara stares at them with a curious smile on her face. If she notices the gold rings, she doesn't mention it. The ring has always been a source of gossip and curiosity in the hospital. Everybody always asks him if he really has someone, and if he does, who she is. Francisco never answers them directly. Though he never stops talking about Thomas and how perfect he really is. The rings have never been a problem before. They started wearing the rings right before Thomas went off to Russia and through a mutual agreement – well, not mutual really, more like through Francisco's insistence (Thomas didn't like the decision one bit), they don't wear the rings in Russia. Francisco is strictly against anything endangering Thomas's career. Francisco always figured they'd deal with people's gossip about them once Thomas came back to Brazil. Apparently, the time has finally come.

"Anyway, I just came to say Doctor Barros wants to talk to you." She says, nods at them both and leaves the lounge.

"She's nice." Thomas says with a smile.

"She is." Francisco agrees and smiles back at his brother.

"I think you should go back to work."

"Yeah, and you should go home and rest a bit. I'll see you in three hours."

"Great." Thomas says and leans in to kiss him but changes his mind and moves away with a smile.

"See you home."

Francisco watches with a goofy smile as Thomas leaves the hospital. There is nothing greater than having his brother back home.


The moment Francisco walks in, there are hands all over him, pushing him into a wall, and the lips on his own feel wonderful. Francisco sighs as he runs his hands under Thomas's T-shirt to feel the strong muscles of his back. Nothing in this world feels as good as feeling his brother's smooth skin beneath his finger tips.

It takes minutes for them to break apart, and when they do, they don't let go of each other and hold on tightly instead.

"I missed you so much." Thomas whispers against his neck, his voice quivering the way it always does when he's aroused. Francisco takes in a shivering breath and runs his hands through the golden locks.

"I missed you too, my Adonis. I was counting the days to come back to you." Francisco whispers back as he kisses his brother's forehead. "The house feels empty without you."

Thomas smiles and Francisco realizes then how much he had missed it. He starts a slow but thorough kiss that makes his lips tingle and blood rush down to his groin. The fingers playing with the waistband of his boxer shorts aren't helping the matters at all, not that he minds. He moans then, grinds his hips into Thomas's and revels the rush of pleasure that makes his head spin.

"No amount of phone sex will ever feel as good as this." Thomas says as he takes his hand and leads Francisco to their bedroom, where Francisco refuses to sleep in when Thomas is not with him, but now his baby brother is here, their fingers intertwined as they move toward the bed, and Francisco can finally let go of the longing in his heart.

They shed their clothes in silence, never breaking eye contact as they move closer and begin to touch whatever skin they can find. Thomas makes him sit on the bed and kneels between his open knees as he strokes Francisco's thighs and smiles up at him.

"You have no idea how many nights I longed for you to be in my arms." Thomas says as he begins to kiss Francisco's chest, tongue darting out to play with a nipple every now and then.

"You should have called. We could do something about it." Francisco says as he plays with the golden curls that he loves more than anything else in the universe. A small moan leaves his parted lips every now and then.

"No, Francisco. You know how much I hate phone sex. It makes everything all the more painful, not being able to touch you. I rather wait."

Francisco laughs. "And we both know how terrible you are at waiting."

Thomas laughs with him. "It's true." He bends his head down then, and Francisco feels the hot breath on his erection. He takes a deep breath and leans back, his palms resting on the soft blanket.

In the beginning of their relationship, Francisco felt a bit awkward about blowjobs. He always thought there is something lewd about it, but from the very early on, Thomas established the fact that it was one of his favorite activity to do in – and occasionally – out of bed. Francisco knew his brother enough to be sure that when he set his mind on something, there was no changing his mind about it, and to be perfectly honest, he does enjoy it. He enjoys the teasing, the licking, the occasional kisses on his balls, the devilish looks Thomas gives him beneath his eyelashes as his head slowly bobs up and down.

And that is exactly what he is doing right now, head moving up and down as his right hand goes down to stroke himself skillfully. Francisco can feel Thomas smirk around him and doesn't know whether to laugh, moan or cry out. He somehow manages to do all three at once.

One of the problems he has with blowjobs is that there is no getting him off with slow movements. He always needs . . . extra force to get himself off, but that isn't something he is much willing to do to his brother, and Thomas very well knows that. That's why he raises his left hand, takes one of Francisco's hands in his own and rests it on the back of his neck, encouraging him to use a little bit of force.

Francisco can't resist the temptation. He puts a little pressure on the back of Thomas's neck, and his brother responds enthusiastically, sucking harder and moaning around his hard on, making Francisco close his eyes and clench the blanket tightly in his fist.

"Ah, Thomas," he breathes out as he runs his hand through Thomas's hair and softly fists a few in his hand. He doesn't need to use words to say what he wants. Thomas knows him well enough to understand what every movement means. The younger brother sucks harder then, and uses his left hand to cup the balls, gently playing with the pubic hair.

"Oh, God," Francisco whimpers as he clenches the curls tighter. "Thomas, Thomas." Francisco says as he gets closer and closer to the edge, no other word coming to his mind, and he cums, waves of pleasure making him close his eyes and shiver for a few blissful moments. Thomas doesn't let go until he's soft and sensitive, and then Francisco lies down on the bed with his feet touching the floor, Thomas on top of him hard and wanting.

They kiss lazily for a few seconds, Francisco tasting himself on Thomas's full lips and small chin. Francisco rolls them over and begins to kiss his brother's sweaty neck and chest that tastes like salt and his own soap. This is his favorite part of sex, cherishing every part of Thomas's body with him lying under him moaning and squirming.

Francisco slowly moves his hand downward, feeling every quivering muscle before he takes Thomas in his hand, wet and slick. Thomas moans against his neck and runs his fingers against Francisco's back. Francisco can't help but smile at his Adonis's beautiful face with his eyes closed and lips parted as Francisco pumps him slowly, making sure Thomas's toes curl in pleasure.

Thomas raises one leg and plants his foot on the blanket, and Francisco can tell from the quivering and the quick breathing that he's close, though he doesn't want him to be. Francisco wants these moments to last forever, wants Thomas to feel the pleasure as much as he can, as long as he can, so Francisco can stare at that beautiful face and feel like the happiest man alive, but it couldn't be entirely fair to tease poor Tom Tom like that. He's already whimpering and repeating Francisco's name like a mantra, asking him to speed up, and Francisco does just that, and watches in amazement – it will never get old or tiresome for him – as Thomas bits his lower lip, grips the back of Francisco's neck, throws his head back and orgasms with a sound that is something between a moan and a sigh.

Francisco watches carefully without slowing his hand down, because, to him, this moment is the single most wonderful moment in his whole life, watching Thomas in bliss because of him. That is the whole purpose of his life captured in one short but stunning moment.

They lay down after that, with Thomas's hand resting on his chest, listening to his heart beat like he used to do when they were kids. There is no need to talk. Everything is in its rightful place when Thomas is in his arms.


"I think Dad liked the horse." Thomas says as he sits on the back of the sofa and rests his feet on the coffee table, a habit Rosa used to hate when she lived with them.

"Of course he did. Alexandre's in love with horses. Though I don't think it was particularly a safe birthday gift. He is getting old after all." Replies Francisco as he sits next to his brother and gives him a bottle of beer after taking asip from his own.

"Come on Francisco. Give him a break. He's alone. He could use a little bit of distraction. Anyway, it was so good to see everyone again. Especially Rosa and Ivan. It was a damn good party."

"Of course it was. Because You were there." Francisco says with a smile as he kisses Thomas's forehead. It is no mystery that the younger brother has always been the more charming of the two; the light of all parties that everybody wants to talk to, especially now that he has all the fantastic tales to tell from Russia. Francisco doesn't mind. He loves to watch people become star struck as they watch his brother speak. "Speaking of Ivan, I thought you were in contact with him." Francisco says as he stands up and moves to the kitchen isle, checking the calendar to see what he has to do tomorrow.

"Yeah, email and Skype, but you know it's not the same as talking to people face to face."

"Sure, your enmity with modern life is legendary." Francisco says without looking up, but he knows from the long awkward silence that follows that something is up. He waits for a moment or two before taking off his glasses and resting his elbows on the isle, waiting for Thomas to say what's on his mind. It takes a few minutes for Thomas to stand up and walk to him, leaning on the isle in front of him.

"Ivan knows about us, doesn't he?" Thomas asks. Francisco doesn't answer, and Thomas continues. "I know Rosa and Dad know, even though they never asked and I supposed they never will, but Ivan . . . it's different. I feel like he's always known. He wasn't surprised when he noticed the rings. He didn't ask a single question."

Francisco sighs and hesitates before answering. "Yes, he does know." He and Ivan have been friends for a long time now. They met back when Francisco had just started college and they became team mates, and they've been good friends seen. Back when Thomas decided to continue swimming professionally, Francisco knew he could trust him with Ivan, but his brother was right to suspect that there was more going on.

"He's known for a long time, Thomas."

"What do you mean a long time?"

"A couple of years."

"But we haven't been together for a couple of years. I mean, we've always been together, but we haven't been officially together for a couple of years. Only after . . . after Mom died."

This isn't something Francisco wants to talk about, but lying to his brother isn't something he remotely likes to do. So he sighs, takes one of Thomas's hands in both of his and begins. "Back when I met Ivan, we dated for a couple of times. You know he's great."

Thomas opens his mouth to say something but changes his mind and waits for his brother to continue.

"It didn't feel right. He was great, but I couldn't . . . so I told him the truth. I told him there was somebody else I loved. I never told him who, but he isn't dumb. He always saw how I looked at you. Months later, he asked me if it was you I loved, and I said yes."

Thomas nods his head but averts his eyes from his brother. He probably knows what Francisco means. They've always been so close together. Even though their sexual relationship is quite recent, it has never felt right to have someone between them.

"I never knew you dated guys."

The truth is there are many things Thomas doesn't know about their recent past. It's the curse of being five years older. Francisco has always felt like he had to face the harsh realities of life much sooner that his brother, and he never wanted Thomas to suffer the pains he occasionally went through, especially when it came to romantic life. Even when they were kids, Thomas threw spectacular tantrums when Francisco got close to someone who wasn't family, and Francisco learned how to protect his beloved brother from these things, a habit he still has.

Though he has to admit he sometimes feels jealous of Thomas. They've always been different. Thomas has always been sure of what he does, even though sometimes the paths he's chosen have been plain wrong, but he's a strong-minded, stubborn man, and if he wants something, he goes for it hundred percent with no regards to the consequences. Francisco isn't like that. Maybe because he's always felt like it's his duty to protect Thomas – a promise he made years ago which he intends to keep until the last day of his life – and so he has always had to experience many different paths; at some point in his youth, he decided Thomas didn't deserve to be tainted by his dirty love and made himself as distant from him as he possibly could – to the pain and dismay of both of them. A few times he tried to have relationships with a couple of girls and boys, all of which were doomed to fail. A few one night stands here and there. . . even the stupid decision of studying abroad when he was twenty, which Mom made sure he would never do . . . lovely Mom, as if she knew this was the life they were supposed to have. This was the life that would ensure both their happiness, although it might have pained her at times to admit to herself that her sons where in love with each other. All those experiences and decisions have always been hidden from Thomas. Not that it's been easy for Francisco, quite the contrary. But now those days are behind them and what matters is that now they're together and as happy as they can possibly be.

Thomas looks at him after a long time, a crooked smile on his lips. "I don't like the idea of you with anybody else; it drives me crazy."

Francisco smiles soothingly. "Don't worry, Tom Tom. I don't like the idea of being with anybody else but you."

"Sometimes I wish I could scream it to the whole world to know. This jealousy thing you're so fond of talking about is a painful thing."

"And something you never have to feel." Francisco kisses Thomas's forehead, a habit he had picked up back when they were kids. Thomas smiles and kisses his nose.

"Why don't we head down to the beach? It's been so long since we've taken long walks there in the middle of the night."

"Why, my little brother. That is a fantastic idea. I have just the perfect poem to recite for you."



It's their first time in London together. It's not exactly for vacation, but, somehow, it feels even better than one. The hotel he and Thomas are staying in – with the rest of the swimmers and divers – is big and comfortable. Fyodor didn't want Thomas, or any other athlete, to have any companies, but Thomas insisted for so long that he had no other option but to agree. Francisco is quite thankful for that. He wouldn't be able to stand home and watch Thomas compete on T.V. Honestly, he isn't sure which one of them is more nervous. It's not a bad kind of anxiety; more like a mixture excitement and disbelief that his little brother has made it so far. He's never felt this proud before. Sometimes, he wakes up in the middle of the night just to watch his brother sleep, heart swelling with pride and love. These are definitely the best days of his life.

Unfortunately, Francisco can't tell if Thomas if feeling the same. The last few days have been quite difficult on him physically, and he's a bit stressed out. Of course, Thomas has participated in international events before, but this is Olympics. The atmosphere is quite different. Though Francisco has a nagging feeling that these are not the reasons why Thomas has been edgy in the past few days, but Francisco knows him enough to know Thomas won't talk about what's bothering him until he's ready, and Francisco can do nothing but to wait patiently.

Francisco sits in the stands and watches his brother's last practice. One more day until the games begin and Francisco is certain Thomas will make it to the finals. He knows enough about swimming to see that Thomas is in great shape, which makes it all the more difficult to guess why he's been so upset in the past few days.

He stands up and greets his brother as he wraps the towel around Thomas's shoulders. "Good practice, ha?" Francisco asks and Thomas only nods in response, too breathless to be able to speak yet.

Andre, Thomas's friend and teammate walks toward them and Francisco shakes his hand in greeting. "Damn, the coach is going to kill us." Andre says as he grabs his shoulder and grimaces in pain.

"You know it's for your own good." Francisco answers, but Thomas looks too distracted to participate in the conversation. He points to the showers and disappears among the other swimmers without saying a word.

Andre walks closer, biting his lip. "Listen, ah . . ., is Thomas alright? I mean tomorrow's the big day and he shouldn't be . . . damn. Has he told you about Louis and the whole talk with the coach?"

Francisco shakes his head, concerned.

"He hasn't told me much either, but if you ask him, maybe he'll tell you. He has a high chance at winning a medal for God's sake. Talk to him, yeah?"

Francisco only nods his head. Andre nods back and heads for the showers, but then he hesitates and turns around. "Look, the swimmers are gathering around in the Hotel bar tonight. No strangers, just us. It would be nice if you guys showed up too." Andre doesn't wait for a reply as he heads to the showers. Francisco picks up Thomas's bag and goes outside to wait for him, but Thomas is already out, showered and drying his hair with his blue towel.

They walk silently back to their room. Francisco desperately wants to ask about the deal with Louis, but it doesn't feel like it's the right moment. So he stays silent as Thomas unlocks the door and they both walk inside.

Francisco gives his brother space for about an hour. He spends some time talking with Alexandre to see when he'll make it to London, then checks a couple of his emails to see if everything's fine, but there seems to be no sign of Thomas wanting to start any kinds of conversations. Apparently, Francisco has to start the conversation.

"Everything fine, Thomas?" Francisco asks as he makes room in the corner of the sofa where Thomas is lying down. He puts Thomas's feet in his lap and starts a slow massage. His brother closes his eyes and sinks deeper into the sofa.

"Just tired."

"Everything's fine with . . . Louis?"

Thomas suddenly sits upright, eyes wide in surprise. "Who told you about that?"

"What matters is what's wrong."

Thomas stands up and starts pacing the room which is very unlike him. It takes him a few minutes to say what's wrong. "A couple of days ago, he came to me and told me he knows about us. I didn't give a shit, because so what? I'm not ashamed of loving you, and I told him just that. The day after, Coach Lopez came to me, asked me if what Andre has told him is true. I said yes. Then he said he wants to replace me for the 100 meter breaststroke and backstroke. It seems like Andrew is the better swimmer."

"What did you say?" Francisco asks slowly, afraid of the answer.

"Nothing. No, Francisco. Don't give me that hurt look. I will never, never, hide my love. No matter what happens."

"What did your coach say?"

"Said if the tabloids find out, it'll be bad publicity, unless I deny it, which I won't."

Francisco stands up and walks to his brother. "Thomas, you know I'll always love y –"

"No, I don't." Thomas interrupts, and Francisco looks at him in disbelief.

"I don't believe that." Thomas continues as he turns his back to his brother, trying to hide his pain, but Francisco sees it anyway.

For the first time in his life, he doesn't know how to say to his brother. He just can't believe what he's heard. "Why would you say that?" He asks in a whisper.

"Why?" Thomas turns around to look at him. "Okay, tell me this; who's Brianna?"

Francisco raises his eyebrows, his heart sinking.

"A friend. How . . . how do you know about her?"

"A couple of days ago, you were taking a shower. I answered your phone. She told me . . she said she used to be your girlfriend." Thomas's voice breaks at the last word, but he doesn't break the eye contact.

"It's not true."

"Why would she lie?"

"She didn't lie exactly. It's . . .It's an old story Tom Tom. Let it go." Francisco takes a step to his brother but Thomas raises a hand.

"No, tell me."

"Fine!" Francisco raises his hands in desperation. "It goes back to when you first came here. I was lost. I was lonely. I was going out of my mind with your absence. I don't even know why I did what I did. I'm not proud of it. I just got to know her a bit. We went out a couple of times, and I realized I just can't love anybody but you."

"So, I should have been jealous after all!"

"No, Thomas. Please, Thomas, don't . . . don't make yourself sad over this. Don't mix this with what you have to do for your career."

But Thomas isn't listening. "Did you take her home?"

Francisco sighs and drops his head. "Yes, but –"

"Oh God," Tears fall from Thomas's eyes without warning, and Francisco feels a stabbing pain in his heart like he's never felt before. He wants to run to his brother and puts his arms around him so tightly that both won't be able to breathe, but he stays rooted to his place.

Thomas takes a deep breath and furiously rubs his face with the back of his hand. "I can't believe it. It feels like those days when I was in high school and you'd date someone and try to hide it from me, only worse, 'cuz at least we had no rings on then. Is that why you don't want them now? Because you still wanna wait to see if you can find someone better?

Francisco looks down the floor, tears of his own falling down on the carpet. He's not used to this kind of pain. He hears Thomas sigh before he speaks. "I'm sorry; I know it's not true. I know you love me and always, always, want what's best for me. You want to protect me, like you've always have, but don't you see? . . . I . . . ah, God. You want me to feel proud when I wear a medal around my neck. You want me to feel proud when I hang out with the best athletes in the world, but these things don't make me proud. You make me proud. Loving you makes me proud. I want the world to know how much I love you; how much you mean to me; how I can't, how I won't, leave without you, but you're taking it away from me because you think you have to protect me. Let me be the one to do the protecting for once. Let me protect the love that is rightfully ours."

Francisco looks at his brother through the tears in his eyes, everything blurred. He can't say anything; his chest hurts too much for him to be able to speak. Thomas takes another shuddering deep breath before walking out of their room.

He doesn't close the door as he walks out.


A couple of hours later, Francisco finds Thomas sitting in the bar with his friends with a drink in his hand, looking lonely and miserable. He stands at the doorway and just looks at him for a few minutes, remembering what he'd told him earlier today. Thomas is right after all. Francisco has been so concerned with protecting his brother, he's forgotten Thomas isn't a kid anymore.

He hesitates before walking in and going to the Brazilian swimmers' table. He can see Louis is also there. His brother looks up and sees him, his expression torn between happy and sad.

"Thomas," Francisco says as he rests hand on his shoulder. Everybody at the table stops talking just to look at them. No doubt all of them know have heard the rumors. Now they're all waiting to see if they're true. "Would you care to dance?"

Thomas gives him a smile and stands up fast, not caring about the eyebrows raised around him. He never gave a damn about what anybody thought.
Francisco has never liked dancing in public before. He's always viewed dancing as something extremely emotional, and he's not comfortable with sharing his emotions with others so easily, but tonight, he rests his hands on his brothers' shoulders and begins the slow dancing, never taking his eyes off his brother's eyes. Thomas looks back, and Francisco can easily say that he's relieved, happy that his brother's in his arms, and that's all Francisco wants; that's all he cares for.

The music is slow and romantic, and Francisco thinks it won't get any better than this as he stops the dance, takes a deep breath and kneels down on the floor. Thomas also stops to look at him in disbelief, as do the rest of the people in the bar. Francisco digs into his pockets to take out the rings that had been discarded in Thomas's closet for far too long. He takes Thomas's left hand in his own. "Thomas . . . will you be mine? No hiding, no shame, no secrets? Will you be mine?"

Thomas hesitates for a few moments before resting a hand under Francisco's chin and urging him to stand up. "I've always been yours; I've just been waiting for you to see that." He says and opens his palm so that Francisco gives him the other ring. He does and Thomas gently puts the ring on; Francisco does the same without breaking eye contact. It seems like the rest of the world has faded away. It's just him, his beloved brother and the feeling of his warm hand entwined in his. Tears fall from his baby brother's eyes, but Francisco can tell they're from relief and happiness, and he can't help but to smile back.

A few people start clapping and whistling, but Francisco doesn't look away. He never wants to look away from what matters the most again.