This fic follows on Falling Into Place, and both contains spoilers for and will not make sense without that work. You should read that work first.
(This fic also includes characters from Lifeline, but is not spoilery for that work.)
Nick hits that spot inside him again and Carlos cries out. "Baby. I'm... I'm so..."
"Cum for me, babe." Nick thrusts again, hard, before claiming his lips, and then he's over the edge, vision swimming, and he's vaguely aware of the sound of his phone ringing as Nick finds completion inside him.
He shakes his head, trying to focus, as Nick breaks their kiss, a smirk on his face that seems entirely inappropriate for the current situation. "You gonna answer that?"
"You want... you want me to answer the phone while you're inside me?" Carlos feels more than a little incredulous at that, even as his mind can't focus on anything in his current blissed out state.
Nick just chuckles, and Carlos reaches out, fumbling on the night stand for his phone and bringing it up to where he can see it. He frowns at the number on the screen, trying to remember through the fog why the country code looks familiar. He thumbs the "accept" button and brings it up to his ear. "Hello?"
"Carlos?" He can feel his heart drop and blood freeze at the voice on the other end. "Carlito, mi hijo..."
He pulls the phone away from his ear, hitting the button to hang up as quickly as he can before he lets the phone fall somewhere next to him. He's shaking now, uncontrollably, and he's only vaguely aware of Nick pulling out of him, saying his name with worry in his voice.
"Babe? What's wrong? Carlos?"
Carlos squeezes his eyes shut, feeling like he's suffocating and the room is freezing despite his husband's warmth next to him. "It's..." He can't even say it.
"Shhh. It's okay."
"It's... it's my mom."
"I'm glad Drag Race is finally back on. It's been too long."
Nick chuckles as he positions himself against Carlos' chest, and Carlos wraps his arms around him. "It has. I can't wait to see if we root for different girls, this year."
"I'm sorry, but Denali was robbed, and you know it."
Nick kisses him before turning around to face the TV, and Carlos takes a bite of his candy bar as they wait for the show to start.
"Babe?" Nick's voice is quieter than usual. Cautious. Carlos doesn't like it.
"I think we need to talk about this."
Nick seems to hesitate, trying to decide if he should say the word. "Your mom."
Carlos can feel his blood freeze again, and he remembers back to a few days ago. She had called again, of course, and he'd picked up his phone and tried to throw it at the wall, and probably would have if Nick hadn't caught his hand, grabbed the phone out of it, and turned it off. He'd wanted to talk about it then, too, after Carlos had calmed down a bit, but Carlos hadn't been willing.
He should have known Nick wouldn't let it drop.
"Well, I don't." He hopes that comes across as reasonably final. She had left a voicemail that he'd deleted without listening to, and then blocked her number. That felt final enough for him.
"Babe..." Nick starts, and Carlos doesn't like the sound of that. "She's reaching out again. That's a good thing, right?"
"I said I don't want to talk about it." He's trying not to get angry, because the two of them have actually never done this before, but he still feels more than a slight annoyance that his husband is refusing to leave the situation alone.
"Fine," Nick says, his shoulders slumping, and it's so tinged with disappointment that it just makes things worse.
"Why is this so important to you, anyway? She hasn't talked to me in... twelve years. What makes you think that..." Carlos stops, realization dawning on him, thinking that his excellent memory might be a curse, this time. "You never let it go, did you?"
"What?" Nick says, and Carlos really wishes he could see his face at the moment.
"That conversation we had, twelve years ago. About my parents, and how upset you were that you would never get to meet them. You never let it go."
"Babe..." Nick's voice is apologetic, but the fact that he's not denying it is enough to set Carlos off.
He pushes Nick away, standing up, his head swimming. "What the fuck, Nick? Why would you..."
"I'm sorry!" Nick is looking desperate now, and Carlos tears his gaze away. "I didn't mean to upset you! I just thought that, maybe if she..."
"Shut up!" It should feel significant, and painful, somehow that this is the first time he's said that to him, but all he can feel at the moment is rage. "What the fuck, Nicholas?! You know... you know what they did to me!"
"Babe, please..." Nick stands, reaching out for him, but Carlos shakes his head. He needs to not be here right now.
He heads for the door, jerking it open and slamming it behind him, without another word.
That was stupid, he thinks as he walks down the street, having calmed down a bit and not really sure where he is after having walked in his blind rage down streets and across intersections against the light, in front of cars that screeched to a stop and laid on their horns in a way that should have worried him but that only made him angrier.
He looks around, wondering why the neighborhood looked familiar, as he tries to think of what he could do without his phone, his wallet, or his keys, and shivers from his lack of a coat.
Adam's at work, but I can't exactly go in and ask for him.
He turns a corner and realizes suddenly why things seem familiar when he finds himself staring at Cass and Emma's apartment building. He'd never been inside, but he and Adam and Nick had walked them home once after a group outing to the park.
He hesitates, wondering if he really could bother them at the moment, but deciding he didn't really have another option. He wasn't about to head home yet, his anger at Nick still fresh in his mind.
He heads up to the front doors, hoping that there's some sort of call box. He's in luck, and he thumbs through the list of names until he comes across a "Davis, Ca..." and presses the call button. The box buzzes to life, and rings, and after a few moments, Cass' voice comes through the box. "Hello?"
"Hey, sorry. It's Carlos."
"Carlos!" She sounds surprised to see him, and he isn't sure why that would surprise him given both the unexpected visit and the time. "Oh! Hi."
"Sorry. It's late, but I just... I didn't know what to do, and thought that..."
"Are you okay? What's wrong?" Her voice is full of concern now.
"I'm fine. Well, I'm not fine. But I just..."
"Stay there. I'm coming right down." The call ends, and he stares at the box until he can hear the first of the two sets of doors open next to him.
"Carlos?" Cass pushes the second door open and stands in front of him. He must look as much a mess as he feels, at the moment, because she immediately looks worried about him. "Oh my god, what happened?"
Carlos shakes his head. "It's a long story. But um... I locked myself out, and don't have my wallet, or my phone, and I... found myself here. Could you maybe... call Adam for me?"
"I can call Nick," she says, pulling out her phone.
"No!" The volume of his voice startles both of them, and she just stares at him.
"Or I can call Adam, but he's at work right now, so he's not going to get it until he finishes."
Carlos nods, trying to get his breathing under control again after his outburst. "That's fine. I can... go find a park to sit in or something. At least the weather's nice."
"You can come up," Cass says, instead. "If you want to. You're not wearing a coat, and it's not exactly warm out, so you shouldn't sit in a park."
"I don't have a mask." It's an automatic response, still.
Cass just smiles at him. "Since when have we needed masks around each other?"
"Right." He sighs. "Sorry. Just... old habits die hard, or something."
She smiles at him and pats his arm, and he follows her into the building and up the elevator into an apartment that smells pleasantly like fresh-brewed coffee. The smell is soothing, even if he'd never really liked the stuff.
"Eddy!" Emma's sitting at a desk in front of a laptop, holding a cup of coffee and holding out her fist toward him as he walks through the door. He's not really in the mood for 'Eddy' at the moment, but he reminds himself that she means well, and he half-heartedly returns the fistbump. "What a surprise!"
"Carlos locked himself out," Cass says, leading Carlos toward the couch, where he gratefully sits, and he appreciates that Cass shut down the Eddy thing.
"Oh. I assume you called Nick for him already?"
Cass looks at him, and he sighs. "We... had a fight. And I kind of... stormed out."
It hits him now that this is the first time they've really fought, their past disagreements over little things that they always talked through and resolved and that only made them stronger afterward. The first time one of them had left. The first time he thinks he'd felt truly angry at Nick.
He hates that his par... those people are doing this to him, again. And he thinks he hates them even more than he thought he did, before.
"I'm sorry," Cass says, sitting next to him and looking upset on his behalf. "Can we do anything?"
"We've never... fought before." He's crying now, the anger having given way to regret. He thinks Nick truly had meant well. "I... it was stupid."
Cass' hand finds his back and rubs it reassuringly. "Hey. It wasn't stupid. I'm sure whatever happened, you had every right to be upset."
Carlos shakes his head. Emma holds out a box of tissues, and he gratefully takes one, dabbing at his eyes. "I don't need to bore you with it."
"We're here to listen if you want to talk about it," Emma says, and Cass nods beside him in agreement.
"Um. My parents disowned me when I came out." It's as good a place to start as any, and it's easier to say 'parents' than explaining the whole situation first.
"Oh, Carlos." Cass seems more upset on his behalf than he would have expected. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. But, um... that was twelve years ago, and I hadn't spoken to them since. And then, this week, my mom called." He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to focus on his breathing and ignore the way that her voice had made him feel. "And I... freaked out."
"I think that's entirely understandable. You went through something extremely traumatic, and it probably brought those memories back." She thinks for a moment. "Did Nick not understand?"
Carlos inhales sharply, a laugh on his lips. "No. No, he... was so supportive. Or I... thought he was. Um. I think you know how stubborn Nick is."
Cass laughs, then looks guilty about laughing. "We have that in common. Yes, I've noticed."
"Family has always been important to Nick, and I didn't really understand why until our wedding. But when we were there, surrounded by his family and with none of my, uh... biological relatives there, I did. And I felt like I was... letting him down, somehow, but he told me he understood."
Cass' phone buzzes, and she pulls it out. Her smile turns to a frown, and Carlos figures it must be Nick.
"It's Nick," she says, confirming his thought. "Should I answer it?"
He thinks for a second. "You can let him know I'm here. I don't want him to worry. I just... don't want to see him right now."
She nods, accepting the call. "Hey, Nick." She listens for a bit, expression even. "Yeah, I know. He's here, but he doesn't want to see you, right now."
From the way Cass' lips twitch in a smile, Carlos knows that Nick is breathing a big sigh of relief, and despite everything, it makes him feel better. Cass listens for a bit longer before nodding and hanging up.
"Thanks," Carlos says, and Cass just smiles at him, softly.
"Of course. Any time, Carlos." She seems to think a bit before putting her arm around him, and he leans against her. That also seems to help, and he can feel the hysteria he's feeling about the current conversational topic start to subside. "We don't have to keep talking about this, of course, but please continue if you want to."
Carlos nods. "Yeah. Um... He said he understood, and didn't blame me, because what could I have done? But then when she called, I think he saw it as an... opportunity."
"That doesn't feel very fair to you," Emma says, and Cass shakes her head.
"It doesn't, but I think maybe he thought that you were wanting it too?" Cass' words surprise him, and he stares at her, not understanding. "Sorry, I just mean that... you said you felt bad that you couldn't give him that kind of, um... relationship, with your parents. Maybe he interpreted that to mean that you wanted that, too, and he thought this was a way to start down that road toward something you both wanted."
That does make sense, but he wants to be stubborn too, for the moment. "But he knows how I feel about them! Why would he think that I would ever want that? To forgive them?"
"I don't know what it's like to come out, or to be rejected like that, Carlos." Cass' hand stills on his back. "But, correct me if I'm wrong here, I don't think Nick really knows either. From what you've told me, and how casually he talks about his brother and parents and relatives, I think it never really occurred to him, before you, that it could ever have been a problem."
He thinks about that, realizing that that too makes sense. "No, I think you're right. When I first told him, it was in the context of, um... him thinking I hadn't come out. I don't think it crossed his mind that I could be out but still not have a relationship with them."
Cass nods. "So maybe he was thinking all this time that you weren't avoiding them out of hurt, or a desire to never talk to them again, but instead just couldn't find a way to start fixing it."
He shakes his head. "How are you so perceptive?"
Emma laughs. "There's a reason she's already been promoted twice and is up again this year. She's good, and not just with code."
Cass blushes. "I'm not trying to justify anything he said or did, Carlos, because it's clear that he really hurt you. I just want to try and... maybe think about why, because I think I would have done the same, under similar circumstances, and with similar misunderstandings."
Carlos nods, and they sit there, quietly, for a bit.
"Coffee?" Emma stands. "We have cupcakes from a shop that might be up to your exacting standards. We could put on some Walker and watch that episode with the stripteasing best friend."
Carlos laughs, feeling himself relax, and Cass pats his back. "If I wouldn't be, um... pulling you away from something important."
"You're important, Carlos," Cass says, and he feels warm at it. "I've been meaning to watch that episode, anyway. I know it's been a year, but Em keeps wanting to talk about the show with me, and I keep not having time to catch up."
"Okay. Then... thanks." He sits up, and Emma fetches a cupcake that actually is really good, and the three of them watch an episode together.
Afterward, he stretches, and Emma grabs his plate. "Another?"
"Episode or cupcake?"
She smiles. "Either."
He shakes his head, feeling a lot calmer now. "Thanks, but I should head home. It's probably almost midnight by now, and I still need to get there."
"Only 11:30," Emma says, glancing at her laptop.
"Still. Can you... call Nick again? Let him know I'm leaving, since he'll need to let me into the building?"
Cass nods, patting his back again before dialing. Nick picks up almost immediately. "Hey. He's leaving soon, and doesn't have his keys, so he'll need you to let him in once he's home." She listens for a second, then looks over at Carlos, eyes twinkling, and Carlos realizes something as she hangs up.
"He's here, isn't he?"
Cass smiles, and nods. "You two really are good for each other, you know that? But sometimes people do the wrong things for the right reasons, even to someone they know and care about more than anything else in the world, and I know he's killing himself right now for it. Don't be so harsh on him, okay?"
"I know." He tries not to get teary again. "Thank you, for everything."
"What are friends for?" Cass pulls him into a hug, and he holds her more tightly than he maybe should.
"Bye, Eddy!" Emma says as he stands, and this time, he grins.
"Bye, Emmeline," he says as he walks toward the door. She makes a face at that, and Cass laughs.
He makes his way downstairs with trepidation, really not looking forward to the conversation he's sure will follow. Nick is standing outside, pacing, and his face seems to simultaneously light up and fall when he sees Carlos.
"I'm so sorry, babe," he says when Carlos opens the door, voice shaking, and starting for him but stopping and balling up his fists, instead.
"I know." Carlos isn't sure he wants to touch him, at the moment, and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "It's cold. Can we just..."
Nick holds out Carlos' coat, because of course he'd thought of that too, and Carlos accepts it gladly, letting their fingers brush as he does. That, at least, was something.
They start walking in silence, and Nick seems to be intentionally deferential to him in starting the conversation. He doesn't want to walk in silence, so he figures he needs to say something.
"You're right," he starts, and Nick looks up at him in surprise and starts to say something, but he shakes his head. "No. Just... listen for a bit, okay?"
"Okay," Nick says, and it should be frustrating, but instead it's just cute, and he thinks it means he's forgiven Nick already.
"You're right that we need to talk about it, but it's because I need you to understand me, and I don't want to leave any room for misunderstanding, this time." He watches as Nick nods in agreement, even though he thinks Nick would agree to anything at the moment. Still, he tells himself that Nick keeps his promises, and always has, and that makes him feel better. "My parents... aren't my parents anymore. I've buried them hundreds of times, big and small, over the past decade. I haven't spoken Spanish since I told them. I changed my name. I blocked her number. I fell in love with you." That one, somehow, feels like the most important one to him. "The love I once felt for them turned to hatred and, until tonight, a comfortable indifference. I need them to not have that emotional power over me again, and tonight, they did, and that made all of it come tumbling back." He squeezes his eyes shut, even though he knows he shouldn't while they're walking. "I saw that look in her eyes again, Nick. And it just about destroyed me, and look what it did to us."
"Babe. I... I didn't know."
You should have, Carlos thinks, but gives him that anyway, opening his eyes and holding his hand out to his side. Nick gladly takes it, intertwining their fingers, and Carlos feels a bit of contentment at it.
"My parents are Adam's parents, and your parents. And that's the only family I need. So I know this is important to you, Nick. And I know you want to get to know them. But this is something you can never have, and I really need you to understand that, or we... can't..." He trails off, not wanting to think about a world where he's separated from this man, and hating those people all over again for it.
Nick's hand squeezes, and that's reassuring. "I crossed a line, and I know I did. And I'm sorry. So sorry, Carlos. I know how you feel about them, and I've seen that look in your eyes every time you talk about them, so I should have realized, a long time ago, and just been supportive. Instead I... did the opposite." He seems to think for a bit. "I know this is no excuse, but I'm bad at... letting go of things."
"You are." He doesn't mean it to be accusatory, but it's a little more bitter than he'd intended.
Nick just nods. "But, um... like it took the thought of losing my friendship with Wade for me to finally let him go, I think tonight I was afraid I'd lost you. I don't know how to express how broken I felt when you walked out the door. Babe, you... you're my life. You're everything to me. I would do anything, anything, to keep from losing you."
Carlos is crying now, despite himself, consciously choosing not to misinterpret Nick's words and taking the underlying message, instead. "I know."
Nick stops walking, looking at him, his other hand seemingly twitching with the need to comfort Carlos but not moving. "So I promise that I've let it go. For good, this time. I love you, and I don't know how I managed to let my... stupid desires get in the way of that."
"Your desires aren't stupid, baby." Carlos doesn't mean to use the term, but he takes the fact that it slips out as a good sign.
Nick's lips twitch upward. "In this case, they were. I love you. I love the relationship we have, and the relationship I have with Adam's parents, and the relationship you have with my family, and that's enough. That's more than enough. My life is so full of joy because of you that I should never need anything more in the world."
That does it, and he grabs Nick, kissing him. Nick makes a surprised sound before melting into him.
"I love you, too," Carlos says when they break, and Nick's smile reaches his eyes this time.
Nick's voice is cautious again, and Carlos can feel the tightness in his chest growing again at it. "What?"
Nick turns onto his side, facing Carlos in bed, but he doesn't dare look at him. "I know we agreed to drop this, but I have to confess something before we do. And I promise it's the last time I will ever bring them up."
Carlos nods, reluctantly, appreciating that Nick isn't saying 'parents' anymore. "Fine. What?"
He sees Nick bite his lip, and he isn't sure he likes that. "Um. Before I gave your phone back to you, after she called, I saw she'd left a message. And I knew you would probably just delete it, so I wanted to..."
"You listened to it." It should upset him again, and make him angry at the invasion of privacy, but somehow it just makes him happy that Nick knew him so well, and maybe had wanted to be ready to soften any blow that was coming for him.
"I know I shouldn't have." Nick sounds guilty, and remorseful. "But I just thought that maybe..."
"What did she say?" He forces the question out before he can overthink it and regret it, not sure if Nick would even be able to answer. He doesn't think Nick knew any Spanish, but he had never asked.
"Um. My Spanish is really not good, so I just picked up a couple important words, and I didn't want to listen more than a couple times because it felt increasingly skeevy, but um... I think your dad died, Carlos."
"Oh." He stops for a moment, processing his feelings. He feels only indifference, this time, and he takes that as a good sign. "Okay."
"Okay?" Nick sounds surprised, and he isn't sure why he would be given everything that happened today.
Carlos shakes his head, turning onto his side now to face Nick. "I told you. I buried them a long time ago. It doesn't make any difference to me that now it's starting to be literal. So yeah. Just... okay."
Nick nods, looking like he wants to say something else, but instead kissing Carlos gently. "I'm sorry I invaded your privacy."
Carlos lies back in bed and stares at the ceiling, reaching out for Nick's hand between them as he does the same. "You did, but I think I understand why. So you're forgiven. Just... let's never do this again. Any of it."
Nick noticibly relaxes at that. "Okay. That's... thank you. And yeah."
Carlos nods, thinking for a second. "Make love to me?" He turns to him again. "I know it's like 1 in the morning and you have a shift tomorrow, but I... I need to feel you."
Nick smiles, moving and gently cupping Carlos' cheek. "Definitely, babe."
And as Nick pours his apologies and regrets through his kisses and touches and thrusts, Carlos finally accepts that Nick really does understand, and that everything's going to be okay again.
Title from 'Because of You' by Kelly Clarkson.
Because of you / I never stray too far from the sidewalk / Because of you / I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt / Because of you / I try my hardest just to forget everything / Because of you / I don't know how to let anyone else in / Because of you I'm ashamed of my life because it's empty / Because of you / I am afraid