This fic is an alternate canon to the events in "Because of You" from the AAGS fics where Carlos had ended up with Chris instead of moving to San Fransciso single.
Carlos sticks his head out of the shower. "Did you say something?"
Chris pokes his head into the bathroom. "Your phone is ringing. And it's, um..." He suddenly looks guilty. "Never mind."
"Dude. What is it?" Carlos turns off the water. He'd mostly been finished anyway.
"It's a Costa Rica number." Chris seems to be staring anywhere but him, even though he normally loves watching a naked Carlos dry himself off and get dressed.
Carlos feels his blood run cold.
They sit together on the couch. Chris has him wrapped up in his arms while he stares at his phone and the notification of a voice message.
"You don't owe them anything," Chris says finally, after what feels like hours of silence. "You don't have to talk to them."
"I know, but..." Carlos trails off, the tears coming now, bringing with them the memories of that day, twelve and a half years ago, when he'd stood with Chris and Adam in front of his mother and brothers, and told them that he and Chris were a couple, and that he'd hoped she would understand. Twelve years since her eyes had filled with such hatred that his breath was taken away, and she had turned and grabbed his brothers and disappeared from his life. Twelve years since he had really given thought to any of his family, since neither Chris nor Adam had ever brought up the subject, knowing how much it had utterly destroyed him. Twelve years since he'd had to process his feelings and really think about what they were to him now, since he had his own life here with Chris and rarely saw his in-laws -- he was on good terms with them, of course, but it was a trip they only made on special occasions.
He really doesn't want to listen to the message now. He doesn't want to know what vile thing she has to say that would have caused her to reach out again after so long. He doesn't know how he'd tell her that he's married now, and that he's happy now, but that despite all of that, if he was really being honest, part of him thinks about them every day. He isn't sure why he does, either -- he knows he doesn't want them in his life anymore, after what they did, but he also thinks he never had that closure he wanted. He wants them to know he made it out okay, even if just to spite them, and even if he never speaks to them again afterward.
"I need to," Carlos says, wiping away the tears from his eyes. "At least, I should listen to the message, even if it's... bad."
"I'm right here," Chris says, holding him tighter, and Carlos nods.
"Can I put it on speaker?" He isn't sure Chris would understand any of the message anyway, given his lack of Spanish knowledge, but he doesn't think he could listen to it alone.
Chris nods. "Of course."
Carlos' fingers tremble as he taps the phone, finger hovering over the 'Play' button until he squeezes his eyes shut and forces himself to tap the screen.
Carlos? His mother's voice fills the room, and he isn't even aware of what that does to him until Chris is rubbing his back and he realizes he's shaking. He listens, tears falling and all of the emotions of the past 12 years catching up him at once as she starts, cold and detatched, telling him that his father just died and asking him if he was going to come to the funeral. He listens as something seems to break within her and she starts crying, telling him she misses him. He listens as she says she's proud of him for making it on his own. She doesn't apologize for her actions, or really even mention his coming out or Chris, he notes, but he thinks that her reaching out now is at least something.
He listens to it again when it's over, eyes closed and just revelling in the sound of her voice. No matter how much he hated what she had done to him, and no matter how much he wanted to be done with them, she was still his mother, and he still missed her.
He throws his phone to the side when it's done and sits back, letting Chris wrap him up in his arms again. Chris doesn't speak, of course, waiting for Carlos to start.
"My dad died," he says, finally.
"Oh." Chris doesn't sound like he really knows what to say. "I'm sorry."
"And my mom wants me to go home for the funeral."
He can feel Chris nod. "Do you want me to help you pack?"
"No." Carlos opens his eyes, feeling like it's the first thing he's really sure about. "I'm not going. I... I think I need some closure, but not like that. I don't think I could bear to see her again. At least, not yet."
"Okay." Chris kisses his head, gently. "Maybe talking on the phone? I'll be right here, and whenever it's too much, you can hang up."
Carlos nods, grabbing his phone again. He thinks briefly about doing it tomorrow, but he doesn't want to give himself a chance to chicken out.
He graps Chris' hand firmly in his before he dials the number.
He hangs up, closing his eyes and laying back on the couch, focusing on the feel of Chris' hand in his.
Nothing said had really been a surprise, he thinks, and he particularly wasn't surprised by the fact that both of them had been ignoring the elephant in the room. Instead, he'd told her that he wouldn't be at the funeral, but that he was doing well, and that he was happy. She had caught him up on Antonio's pending nuptials and his father's recent failing health. She still hadn't apologized, but he hadn't expected her to, and that made it all the easier for him to end the conversation by telling her he didn't want to talk to her again for the foreseeable future, but that he'd reach out if that changed.
She hadn't really understood, of course, starting on some plea that he hadn't heard as he'd pulled the phone away and hit the red button. But he feels... satisfied, now.
"I'm okay," he says, because he knows Chris wouldn't ask but would worry anyway. "I got my closure. She knows I'm doing well now despite her. And I told her I'd reach out again if I'm ever ready."
"That seems healthy," Chris says, his hand moving to Carlos' back and rubbing it.
"Yeah." He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself again. "I'm kind of... glad she called. I'd been intentionally avoiding thinking about this... about them... since it happened. I don't think I realized how much I needed this. I think I can finally start to... let them go."
He can tell Chris nods next to him, even without opening his eyes. Then a thought suddenly occurs to him, and his eyes fly open and he looks at the clock.
"Oh shit. Tonight was board games."
"It's fine." Chris smiles at him gently. "I texted Jake already. This was much more important."
"Dude... you never miss games. You still could have gone..."
"It's really fine. We play games many times a week. You're the most important thing to me."
Carlos turns to properly look at Chris, who's staring at him with love and affection, and his heart feels full at it. "I love you, Christopher."
Chris' smile grows larger. "I love you, too."
"Can we have sex?"
Chris laughs, standing and holding out his hand, and Carlos gladly takes it. "Always."
Title from 'I Don't Think About You' by Kelly Clarkson.
It was hard to hold on / Days and nights I thought I'd never make it at all / Couldn't make it at all / Now I stand tall / Feeling like my self again, no worries at all / Breathe / No one can stop me from living this moment for me-e-e-e-e / I found my heartbeat-e-e-e-eat / After all that I've been through / No I don't think about you