Safety Net

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.

Friday December 18, 2009

"Oh. I got your mom this artesanal wood cutting board. Is that okay?" He drops a plate in front of Adam and kisses the top of Nick's head before fetching the other two.

"Dude. You don't have to get my parents anything."

"They're putting me up for two weeks, chico, and they probably bought me presents again. I'm not going to not get them anything. I still need to find something for your dad." He sets the other two plates down and sits next to Nick, squeezing his hand on the table.

"She does like cutting boards."

"I kind of figured, given how much bread she was baking the last time I was there."

"She was in her bread-making phase then. She's moved on to canning now."

"Oh. I was hoping she could teach me some tricks. The loaves I've tried always come out a little deflated."

"I'm sure she still remembers, dude. And if you really want to get my dad something, I'd recommend some gardening stuff, like a hat or gloves or maybe those stakes you can label."

"Thanks, chico." He thinks of a little shop in the Ferry Building that has some handmade gardening gadgets.

"You two are going to Adam's for the holidays?" Nick seems surprised by this, and he realizes the two of them haven't talked about their families yet.

"Yeah. The Prewitts are graciously putting me up this year."

"Dude. You know you're always welcome anywhere I am."

"Yeah, yeah, chico. Eat your beans."

"This is kale."

"They're both plants, so they're the same thing."

Nick chuckles, and starts eating, but he seems a little bothered by the conversation, and Carlos isn't sure he wants to understand why.

They lie in bed after sex, Nick snuggled up against his side, his hand tracing shapes on Carlos' chest.

"That was really nice."

"Hm? Oh. Yeah. You were really... good."

Carlos blushes, but shakes his head, deciding he can't avoid this conversation. "Okay, dude. What's wrong?"

Nick sighs. "It's... not something that you did. Whatever's bothering me is not your fault. It's fine."

"Dude. If it's bothering you, let's talk about it."

Nick sighs again. "You don't have to answer anything you don't want to, but um... are you not out to your family?"

Carlos stills at that, the memory of his mother's reaction still scarred into his mind.

Nick seems to misinterpret his reaction, and kisses his chest. "It's fine. Really. Everyone should come out in their own time."

"No. I..." He searches for the right words, but he finds it's still painful to discuss. He'd never even talked about it with Adam, instead putting on a brave face and being dismissive of the whole thing after it happened. And Adam, for his part, has never pried.

"I just..." Nick sighs again. "This isn't fair to you, so please don't take it as any sort of request or... anything. But it's always been important to me that I have some sort of relationship with my boyfriend's parents. That they know about me. That I'm not some... dirty secret or something."

"Dude. You're not." Carlos tries to catch his gaze, but Nick is staring at his hand on Carlos' chest.

"I know. I know I'm not. It's just... it's stupid."

"No. It's not stupid. It's important to you, and it's a reasonable thing to ask, so it's not stupid."

"But I never want you to come out for me, or on my behalf. That's a great way to create resentment. So just... sorry. We really don't have to talk about this."

"No, dude. That's not it." He squeezes his eyes shut, trying again to find the right words. "My parents... know I'm gay."

When he opens his eyes again, Nick is looking up at him, looking curious but also afraid. "Oh. Then..."

"And they cut me out of their lives. I haven't spoken to them since then."

Nick's eyes grow wide, suddenly apologetic and full of regret. "Oh my... god. Babe. I'm... I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to..."

"No. We should have had this conversation a long time ago. Well, maybe not a long time ago, but just... before now."

Nick's arm moves to his side and holds him tighter. "We don't have to talk about this. It seems really painful for you to even think about."

"It is, but I... I haven't talked about this before. Not even with Adam. And I think I kind of need to, if you're willing to listen."

"Always." Nick kisses his shoulder and finds his hand.

"Okay, um. So growing up, the few um... bits of exposure I had to... homosexuality was always in the context of it being wrong, or a sin, or something you didn't talk about. The one time it affected my family was when one of my brothers' friends came out. My mother forbade us from seeing him again, and dragged us all to church to um... repent and clear away the uncleanliness. And she made sure everyone that could hear knew what a disgrace he was... how much he was going to burn in hell for what he did."

"Oh my god."

"So I always knew it wouldn't go well. I, um... waited until graduation, after I had my job here lined up and an apartment lined up and my work visa lined up. I told her graduation morning, before breakfast. I wanted to ruin her day, and her weekend, and the trip, if it went badly. It was really... spiteful of me, I guess, but it was still more satisfying than it should have been."

"Honestly, that sounds like karma, to me."

"I guess. I just regret that I ruined my brothers' weekend too. One of them called me afterward, to apologize, and I was... stupid and forgot to give him a better means of contact than the phone in my room. So I don't know if they've tried to reach me since then. My parents definitely haven't, and I know they have my apartment info here."

"Babe. I'm so sorry that happened to you."

Carlos shakes his head and wipes his eyes. "It's not your fault."

"I know, but still..."

"But every time I think back, the only thing I can see is the look in her eyes. And the way she turned around, wordlessly, pulling my brothers along as they looked back at me. And I just..."

He's crying again, unable to continue, and Nick peppers kisses along his neck. "Shhh. It's okay."

It takes him a bit, the reassurance from his boyfriend's hands and lips soothing him until he's no longer shaking. "But, um... but the point I guess is that Adam is my family, now. I guess his parents are the closest I have to parents, and I haven't come out to them. I guess I just never thought about it, because it didn't seem like it would matter. But if it's important to you..."

Nick shakes his head. "No. I meant what I said earlier. Don't ever come out for me, or because of me."

"I know but... this still bothers you."

He means it as a question, but he thinks some part of him knows that it does. Nick's still now, seemingly lost in thought.

"It shouldn't," he says finally. "It's not fair to you for it to bother me."

"What bothers you?"

"We don't have to talk about this, Carlos. It's not fair to you."

"Is that we don't have to, or you don't want to?"

He sighs. "We don't have to. I've put my foot in my mouth enough already, tonight."

"I want to talk about it. Please."

"Okay. Um..." He seems to search for the right words. "I guess it just never crossed my mind before that I would be dating someone where I wouldn't know, or be a part of, his family's lives. And it's... going to take me a bit to get used to." He shakes his head. "And I hate that I just said that, because absolutely none of that is your fault, in any way."

His heart falls a bit at it anyway, but he tries to be reassuring. "Dude. I understand. If I could do something..."

"No. Don't be like that. This isn't a problem or anything on your end. This is me, and I just need to work through it for myself."

He doesn't like it, but he's not sure what he can do about it. "Okay. But if you have anything you want me to do, or say, or talk about..."

"Then I'll let you know."

He nods, and they're quiet for a bit, before Carlos feels a need to fill the silence. "So, um... I'm assuming this means you're out to your parents."

Nick nods against him. "Yeah. I told them early on in high school, when there was a guy I wanted to ask out. They took it well, like I always expected they would."

"That's good. Any siblings?"

"Oh. Yeah, I have an older brother. He has a wife." He pauses, as if thinking about something else. "Sorry, um... about my parents. I told them about you."


Nick shifts so he can look into his eyes. "Was that okay?"

"Why wouldn't that be okay?"

Nick moves closer to him again, kissing his shoulder. "I guess I assumed that you were out and everything, but now I'm worried that I... outed you, to them, somehow."

"Dude. You didn't. Everyone who matters knows." He kisses his head, deciding not to dwell on Adam's parents, but not sure he likes that that categorization includes his own parents. "And some people who don't matter, besides."

"Babe. They're your parents. Of course they matter."

"Well I..." He swallows, the words sticking. "Sorry. I think I actually can't keep talking about this, right now."

"No. I understand." Nick finds his hand and rubs reassurances into the back of it. "Thank you for... telling me all of this."

"What did you say about me?" That feels safer. "To your parents?"

He can feel Nick smile against him. "Just how happy you make me."

Carlos smiles at that, finally, and wraps his arms around Nick, holding him tightly, trying not to think about how he feels like he's once again disappointed someone important to him.

Saturday December 19, 2009

Carlos waves at Adam's parents as they climb out of their car, parked haphazardly in front of the apartment building, flashers on.

"Hey. We just have these bags, so..."

Before he knows what's happening, he's wrapped up in Adam's mother's arms, who's holding him tightly and rubbing his back. "I'm so sorry, honey."

"Wha... what?" He glances over at Adam, who looks guilty, now. "About what?"

"Your family."

Oh. He hadn't expected to have this conversation twice in two days.

"It's okay. Thank you for... putting me up for a couple weeks."

She shakes her head and kisses his cheek. Adam's dad pats his shoulder as she lets him go.

"I didn't realize you told them, chico." It's more accusatory than he intends, and Adam flinches.

"It's my fault," Adam's mom says, instead. "I asked why you weren't going home, and whether I should call your parents to apologize for keeping you to ourselves again this year, and he said that wasn't an option. And I kept prying."

"Oh." He isn't sure he likes it, but still mostly just feels relief that he isn't going to have to worry about it anymore. "That... makes sense."

"We're so sorry."

"I'm gay." He needs to just put it out there, not sure what exactly Adam's told them.

They both just nod. "I know, but thank you for telling us."

"Adam and I aren't dating. He's straight." He needs to say that too, just in case there's any confusion. His mom laughs at that, and it makes him feel better.

"We know, honey. Although I think it's a bit of a shame. You two are crazy about each other."

"Mom!" Adam is blushing now.

"I, um... I have a boyfriend."

"Oh!" She seems genuinely excited by this. "Tell us all about him!"

"Maybe we should load the car, first. We're parked illegally." Carlos appreciates that Adam's dad is business first, much like Adam himself.

"Of course. Tell us about him on the car ride! How did the two of you meet?"

He picks up his bags and walks toward the open trunk. "Funny story, actually..."

"Carlos!" They've barely parked the car and he's barely opened the door when a redheaded woman appears next to it, pulling him into a hug as soon as he gets out. "It's so good to see you again."

He smiles, hugging her back. "Hi, Emily."

She releases him, circling around to the other side of the car, and as Adam makes an annoyed noise, he knows she's ruffling his hair.

Then she's back, looking at him softly. "I'm sorry."

"News travels fast."

"Sorry. Mom told me. I realized afterward maybe it wasn't our place to know."

He shakes his head. "No. I'm... glad. Really. And it saved me a lot of worrying and fretting, so I probably should actually thank her."

"Carlos has a boyfriend!" Adam's mom yells from the other side of the car, and he should be mortified, but instead it makes him happy in a way he didn't realize was possible. "And it's not Adam," she adds for good measure, and they both laugh at that, and he knows Adam is blushing.

"Congratulations." She doesn't pry for details like her mom did, even though he knows she wants to.

"Help me with the bags and I'll tell you about him."

"Oh, Carlos. It's beautiful! You didn't have to get us anything!" She's holding the cutting board like it's the most delicate thing she's ever seen, and his heart warms in his chest.

Screw waiting for Christmas. He needs to show these people, now, how thankful he is for everything.

Besides, he still has a week to buy them something else for the actual day.

Adam's dad picks up the copper watering can again, nodding in approval at it, and in agreement. "You really didn't have to, son."

He likes the way that sounds. "I just... saw those and thought of you." It's not quite a lie, even if he'd gone to the specific shops with the express purpose of finding something for them. "I'm glad you like them."

The doorbell rings, and Emily jumps up. "Dimitri's here!"

"And that's my cue to start dinner." She puts the cutting board down, carefully, as Emily runs toward the front door.

"Can I help?"

"I would love some help." She smiles at him. "Adam says you've been wanting bread tips. We can make some loaves together tomorrow, but tonight, I could use someone who knows their way around potatoes."

He nods, walking toward the kitchen with her. And as he looks back at Adam and his father sitting in the living room, talking, and at Emily and her boyfriend walking down the hallway, he realizes that he actually does have a family, after all. And, unlike his biological one, this is one where he feels like he truly fits. He smiles to himself and walks faster to catch up to her.

He can't wait to tell Nick.