It's all my fault.
This whole fucking mess. Everything that has gone wrong with my life and a hell of a lot that used to be wrong with Feli's - and it's all down to me.
Lovino Vargas, fuck up extraordinaire.
I've got to be honest, my life hasn't turned out exactly how I imagined it would. I was a decent student in school, I was in trouble a lot yea, but I was okay. But then after Grandpa died I just stopped caring. I couldn't cope, nothing seemed to matter any more and I dropped out.
Sure, he left me and Feli enough money to get by for a couple of years and if I'd been anyone else I'm sure I'd have been able to get back on my feet. But...well, long story short, I got in with the wrong crowd and became too cocky, before I ended up losing it all in one stupid poker game. Not just my own savings, but Feli's money too.
If it wasn't for our uncle Francis we might have ended up on the street. But he saved us, took us in and gave us work at 'Monsieur Bonnefoy's Bar and Escort Service.' It isn't a dream job, but at least it's run respectably. The actual 'escort' part of it, despite what the names suggests, is really just someone paying for a date. Usually, for me it's a rich old widow, who needs a companion to go to a charity event or benefit so people don't ask her awkward questions.
Of course, wonderful, adorable Feli only ended up working here for a couple of weeks. When the police did one of their random checks to make sure everything was being ruin suitably (i.e legally) Feliciano got taken out on a date by an undercover cop, this stupid german muscle man named Ludwig.
When he got back, he wouldn't shut up about him, even when I told him he was probably just being nice, made him cry by telling him not to expect a call.
...A month later they were living together.
I was so embarrassed, by what I'd said and what I'd done, that I haven't seen him since. He kept calling and even turned up at the door once, but I lashed out. I'd worked here six months by then and hadn't realised that this was what my life was going to be. Back then I had dreams and hopes and this was only a transitional job until I found something better. He didn't realise it and maybe even I didn't realise it at the time. But I was jealous, horribly, horribly jealous.
So I lashed out at him, said things that still seem fresh when I think about them, things that I can't forgive myself for.
...It's been two years and I still haven't spoken to him, only now it's because I'm too ashamed to apologise.
Not that I didn't get my comeuppance. He's off with the love of his life and I'm...I'm still here. Also, with only one of us working, things have been tough. I haven't made any real money in months and I can't ask my uncle for any more, god knows how much I've already borrowed to stay on top of rent.
Finally, two weeks ago it all fell through, I missed my rent for what seemed like the hundredth time and now I'm sleeping here. In my uncle's bar, behind the vending machines.
Ain't life just a peach?
"Awh, Lovino, why do you look so down? You have a beautiful smile, you should show it more often."
A sickeningly cheerful voice rouses me from my thoughts. A voice I know could only belong to one person.
Antonio -fucking- Carriedo. Forgive me, 'the great and noble' Antonio Carriedo. The perpetually happy, singing, 'thinks he's a love expert just 'cause he once read something in a magazine' Antonio Carriedo.
Everyone loves him, and for some reason that just makes me hate him more.
"I don't need your fucking advice," I spew, inhaling deeply, "Now leave me alone."
"How can I, when you make that adorable grumpy face."
I can feel myself burning with anger as he continues on obliviously, "Just like a little red tom-"
"Don't. You. Dare."
"Tomato." He finishes the words with relish and a smile which I'm sure he thinks is simply dashing.
This can go on for hours, but I'm not in the mood. I found an old letter from Feli this morning, back when he was still trying to contact me. I can't deal with this shit, not today.
"I can't be fucked with this tonight, Antonio. Just, leave me alone okay." I say, bending down to rummage beneath the bar for my blanket.
Antonio frowns, "What do you need that for?"
"Don't you have a blanket at home?" He asks, clearing the last couple of drinks from one of the tables.
I raise an eyebrow and look at him pointedly.
"Wait a second, you're sleeping here? Are you mad?"
"Apparently we don't all make what you do." I gulp, remembering that he's good friends with Francis. "Look, I haven't managed to get any good business in a while. Just please don't tell my uncle. I don't want him to worry.
Antonio frowns, he looks concerned. "I won't tell him. But please don't sleep here."
I snort, "Like I have a choice."
"Lovi..why don't you…" He trails off in thought, before putting the drinks down on the bar and holding out his hand. "Come stay with me."
"Me, stay with you…why?" I almost stutter.
He beams and I hate him for how warm it makes me feel.
Because I'm jealous of how handsome and fun you are? Because everyone likes you and nobody even talks to me? Because I've made it my personal mission in life to hate everything about you and anything that you come into contact with?
"I just…there better not be a catch." I want to accept so badly. If nothing else, it would be nice to sleep on a marginally padded surface and eat something that I didn't buy for fifty cents from the vending machine.
"No catch. You can even have the bed." I wish he'd stop being so nice. In a weird way, it makes me hate myself even more.
"Do you have food?" I ask tentatively.
"Plenty, or I can order in."
No wonder his eyes are so kind. I once heard a quote that said 'by fifty, everyone gets the face they deserve' – well if that's true then by middle age Antonio's going to look like Mother-fucking-Teresa.
I shift on my feet, I'm starting to feel just a little guilty. "No please, let me cook. It's the least I can do."
This at least is true. Of course I'm not as good as the Feli…but I can hold my own in the kitchen.
Antonio smiles so hard that I'm surprised his cheeks don't crack and he picks me up and squeezes me hard. I grumble, maybe this is how he stays so upbeat all the time, he drains other people's life energy through the use of alluring hugs. "Oh Lovino, that would be lovely! Just let me stop by the shops on the way home and pick up a few things." And without a moment's notice, he gathers his belongings and scampers out the door.
"Thank you." I whisper, as he leaves.
As it turns out, in Antonio's world 'a few things' means a whole fucking lot.
When he asked what I'd like to make and I vaguely said 'pasta' I think he took it as some sort of challenge.
He buys linguine, lasagne, and a GIANT tomato – which I think is meant to be some kind of cruel joke, and more cheeses then I've ever seen before and twenty different types of meat. Pretty much the ingredients to make any bowl of pasta you could possible imagine. Oh and wine, lots and lots of wine.
"Do you think I bought enough ingredients?" He asks worriedly and I don't think he's even being ironic.
"Yea, that should be fine."
I'm still a little worried about this whole setup. Some guys hear what I do for a job and get the wrong idea. This then alternates between them thinking I'll fuck them for money, or that I have Chlamydia, which is a good thing or bad thing depending on the guy. Mythological Chlamydia can be a potent weapon, if they're an asshole and I want them to piss off. Unfortunately, Antonio knows from word of mouth that my dick gets about as much action as Feli's brain cells, no it's the other thing I'm worried about.
I look at Antonio, humming whilst he takes in the shopping and vaguely wonder if I should help him. He doesn't look like the kind of guy that would pull a move on me and he might not even be gay…
"Singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain," Antonio continues to hum and does a little pirouette as he puts down the last bag.
Okay, so he's not straight. But he is nice. He probably has a boyfriend.
That heat stirs in me again, of course he has a fucking boyfriend. The perfect Antonio Carriedo must have a boyfriend. I bet he's even got nice hair and a big dick.
"Will your partner mind me staying here?" I pry, trying to sound nonchalant.
"Partner? Oh no Lovino, it is just me. Dinner for one, as they say." 'Wine for two', I think, looking at the empty bottles in the bags outside.' "Although I'm flattered," He continues, "That you think I'm attractive enough to date."
I fold my arms, "Grandpa always did say I had poor taste."
He just throws his head back in laughter, before fumbling in his pockets for keys and opening the door.
It's only now that I take the time to actually look at the house we're going into.
"Get out of here! This is where you live?"
It's fucking huge. HUGE. It's a modern building, but it has a slightly quirky, off the wall vibe, it's the kind of place you'd imagine a successful artist might live in. Three stories of white brick and balconies, strewn with flower baskets and huge glass windows, that must fill the place with light.
"So which one's your room," I ask as he finally manages to unlock the door. The place is much too big for one person and it's nice. Really nice. I'm surprised Antonio can even afford a single room.
"As I have already said Lovino, there is only me."
"But you're a busboy!" I try to stop gaping and fail, "How in hell do you afford to live in a place like this?"
Antonio laughs, "'Afford' is a strong word. It might be more appropriate to say that I am renting it…for free."
"Wait a second, you stole this house. How -?"
"I am sure Francis has mentioned our friend Gilbert. He works in real-estate. The owners of this house were so rich, they didn't bother to wait till it sold before they bought another one. So I'm um…looking after it, for a little while."
"And what are you going to do when someone does buy it? How are you going to live then?"
He smirks and for the first time he looks possibly devilish, the warm glow in his eyes turning into a mischievous twinkle. "I don't think it will go for quite a while. Gilbert will see to that."
"See to that?" My rage ebbs a little.
"Every time he's asked to show someone round the house, he makes sure something goes horribly wrong and does the worst pitch imaginable." Antonio shook his head in laughter, "There was quite a lot of interest for a while so we got Francis to write 'GET OUT!' on the wall in red paint. No one's gone near it since."
"You freeloader." I say, trying not to sound too impressed.
"Hey, I pay for the electricity," He said, sounding more smug than ashamed, "And it's a pretty cosy place, don't you think?"
I don't reply and so he adds.
"You know what Silvia Scoop says, 'home is where the heart is'."
Silvia Scoop is a journalist for the New York Times. Antonio's fucking obsessed with her.
"She did not come up with that." He shrugs. I scowl. "If you love this Silvia Scoop woman so much, why don't you marry her?" I stick my tongue out.
He smiles, but it only irritates me a little, "Would but I could Lovino," He places a hand to his heart, "But from what I hear, she's more into fiery Italians, than soft hearted Spaniards," He gives me a wink.
I resist the urge to smile and reply, "She's not my type."
"Blonde?" He asks with just a little too much interest.
"Birds of a feather flock together!" Antonio says with delight.
"Another Silvia original?"
"No, that's an old saying. William Turner I think." He replies roguishly and winks. "Honestly Lovino, I know how much you like the woman, but you need to stop trying to pretend everything you quote comes from her!"
I finally relinquish a laugh at the irony. "Do you need any help putting the shopping away?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
"Calm down Lovi, it's not your last meal!"
"It could be yours if you call me 'Lovi'," I manage to spit out between mouthfuls. Antonio couldn't decide what type of pasta he wanted, so in the end we decided to make in his words 'a little bit of everything' - which must translate roughly to "enough goddamn food to feed the third world.'
"I'm being serious, you're eating like a man possesed."
"I haven't eaten anything that didn't come out that vending machine for weeks." I put another mouthful of bolognaise in my mouth and moan. "This is so good, I might just have sex with it."
"Silvia Scoop always says that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Antonio responds laughing.
Over the course of the evening it has now become something of a running joke for Antonio to use old sayings and attribute them to that woman. Mind you, he really seems to like her stuff, he has like twenty of her magazines that he moved upstairs when I came in. His behavior is sort of weird, but I'm getting a free meal so I decide not to question it.
My thoughts are interrupted by a cough, "On a more serious note.." Inwardly I scoff, Antonio, serious? Ha. "...you really shouldn't be eating like that. It's not healthy."
I raise an eyebrow and gesture to the various ash trays that ornament the room.
He holds up his hands in defeat, a brief smile escaping onto his lips. "I'm just saying, you don't have to be living like this."
"I don't really have a choice." I pause to suck up a piece of spaghetti, "customers hate me. I get maybe one a week, two if I'm lucky...and nobody ever comes back."
"That's alright you just have a very, uh," I could see his brow crease as he struggled for the right words, 'colourful personality.'"
"You know what I mean. Look, I don't see why you don't stay with your brother or Francis, or at least borrow some money."
I shake my head, "It wouldn't be fair. I'm the one that fucked Feli's life up to begin with. Now it's perfect, I don't want to intrude."
"Feli loves you, you know that," He replies gently, putting a hand on the arm that wasn't shovelling pasta, "he doesn't care about what happened before."
"Yea but I do." I feel tense talking about this, as if a band is tightening around my heart and my stomach. "And before you mention Francis, he has already given me a job and let me keep the job, even though I have proven to be no good at it."
Antonio seems to hesitate, looking away briefly before breathing heavily and finally speaking. "You could always stay here, at least till you get back up on your feet."
"Thanks, but I don't want to be in anyones debt."
"You wouldn't be. I can't cook."
I roll my eyes, I've seen his cupboard. It's full of all sorts of yummy things and besides I can tell when someone's taking pity on me. "Antonio, I'll be fine. Really."
He sighs and I relax. I don't know why I was so afraid, I mean I can't help but like Antonio even if I still slightly hate him for being so nice, just because it makes me realise just how shitty I am. I don't know what I'm so worried about.
"Then at least let me help you."
This piques my attention, "You help me? How?"
He stands and sweeps into a low bow. "My dear, Lovino."
Great. More of this dramatic shit.
"I shall teach you to become the best male escort to ever walk this earth!" Antonio rises, his eyes blazing and for just one moment the worry creeps back in. As much as he annoys me, I don't know why he bothers going to all this trouble. He's so godman handsome and just nice and I'm well...I'm me. A semi-homeless male escort, with no money and 'a colourful personality.'.
There's a moment of silence before I swallow what I'm feeling and force a burst of laughter. "Sorry Antonio, it's a nice thought but my dream in life really isn't to become the Leonardo Da Vinci of escorts."
"Hey no one is expecting a miracle," He snarks and my lips tug upwards into a smirk. "However, you could become extremely average and have enough to get a flat. Hey, you could even stay here rent-free. Then you'd only need to be barely-passable to split the gas bills."
"So my new dream in life is to become a 'barely-passable' male escort?"
"It's better than living off the vending machine."
I consider for a moment. "Then I guess I'm in."
"Okay, so instead of telling her that 'you don't like pussy, especially not wrinkly ones' you could have instead replied..."
"Sorry madam, but it is against company policy."
"Wonderful Lovi! You're learning already."
Antonio claps his hands together in glee and I smile.
I haven't had this much fun in so long. There's something about Antonio that just prys it out of me, he makes me want to talk and laugh. He keeps putting on all these stupid voices for the different people I'm supposed to be 'escorting,' and getting out all sorts of different wigs and hats. For once I don't hate him for being so charismatic, the way he treats me, talks to me...it almost makes me like myself.
He walks towards me, swaggering and pretending to chew gum.
"And what if they tried to kiss you?" He asks before getting into character, by putting on a fruity southern accent, "well howdy sugar lips, how about a kiss. A special deal for big daddy." He flexes his muscles and I nearly wet myself.
"Antonio...stop…" I manage to say between gasping breaths, "no one talks like that."
He freezes, turning to face me, trying to screw his face into a glare, "You ain't from around here are you boy? I don't know what fancy 'shmancy airs and graces they bin teachin' you in the city, but here you answer a man when he talks to you! Young folk getting too big for their britches, that's what it is, lucky for you, I l like a challenge..."
He grabs me by the hand and swings me back, so I can barely stand. There's a moment of silence where I expect Antonio to continue speaking.
But he doesn't. Instead he keeps hold of me, his arm around my waist, his hand holding gently onto mine.
"Antonio -" I look up at him. His face is red and he's panting, an easy smile on his lips. Our eyes meet and I feel myself freeze as his expression becomes softer. Slowly he pulls me upwards and I can feel my heart speed up and begin to beat in hard agitated lurches.
There's a long pause and slowly his lips meet mine. I freeze and he hesitates. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I've kissed before...that's an understatement, I've done everything before and with more than one person.
But I've never done anything with someone like Antonio. I'm not sure what it is about him, but it feels different. It terrifies me to be this close to him, I can feel my stomach clench and tears sting in my eyes.
I couldn't take it. I pushed him away.
"Lovi, are you okay? I didn't mean to -"
That was it, I was finally having my moment of clarity. I knew why I hated Antonio. Because for all his perfection, he just wasn't safe. He was too good for me, too good for anyone. If I let him kiss me…
I feel my chest tighten, it wouldn't mean anything to him. Or maybe it would, just not enough. Not as much as it would for me. I wanted him too badly. I mean really, what was the best that could come of this? He'd date me for a while and realise how fucking crazy I am. Maybe we wouldn't even date. Oh, how I long for him to touch me again, even now on the precipice of rejection, I want him to touch me. But if he did...I wouldn't be able to go back. And if he didn't want me, or worse if he only wanted me casually, only when he could hide me in his room, away from the prying eyes of others and separate from his hopes and dreams. After all, what else could he want from someone like me?
I'd done that all that before, but I couldn't do it with Antonio. There were so many things to like about Antonio and well, when he discovered he didn't like me…
It would break my heart.
"It's fine Antonio." No, it's not. Please don't hate me. "I'm just tired, I - I think I'm going to go to bed."
I turn and walk towards the couch.
"No, no, please, Lovino." Antonio's voice is soft, it lingers in the air, like the heat of a summer's day, so warm and so kind that I can't even bear to look at him. "I already said, you can sleep in my bed."
I'm about to object when he adds, with the careful hint of a smile, "Besides, there's more than one bedroom."
Antonio Carriedo, perfect smile, perfect personality, just perfect, perfect, perfect.
The next few days pass in a blur. I left early in the morning before Antonio was even awake, I wrote him a thank you note and cleaned the kitchen.
It was like I was never there.
Antonio didn't show up for his shift and I still can't decide if I'm more relieved or disappointed. I'll have to face him eventually. But that's fine. I can swallow what I feel, tell him I got up early to go out job hunting (aka, sobbing, drinking and binge eating). He won't question it and then that will be that.
I'm interrupted from my thoughts by Francis, who for all his talk of French design and labels, has always dressed far more similarly to HIM from the powerpuff girls than any fashion model I've ever seen.
Still, whatever he's wearing, it does seems to be working. I didn't even notice him at first, but a second glance upwards informs me of the presence of another man. Their hair is similar, but that's all they have in common. This guy is wearing a brown suit with a bowtie and small wire glasses that rest gingerly on his nose and I notice, that he has an almost panicked expression on his face. It's weird to see someone so normal, albeit a little timid - standing next to my uncle, who as I have already discussed, dresses like an androgynous crab-man.
Francis is talking in quick, flurried French, which has to mean he's trying to impress. This must be a new customer and well, if Francis is making this sort of effort then he's probably rich.
Despite myself, I take some of Antonio's 'advice' and try to be polite.
"Good evening." I nod my head at them.
Francis doesn't even bother to reply, or even notice the effort I've put into my greeting. Instead he walks forward and stares at me, a puzzled expression on his face.
"What is the matter, mon cher, why do you look so down?"
I feel my face get flustered. Antonio is one of his best friends, if he finds out what I did, what we did…
"What? I'm fine, what makes you say that?"
Francis raises a delicate eyebrow, "Well for one thing you're not in here raving at poor Antonio for being a 'bastardo'."
I try to smile, but it feels forced. I wonder if he'll notice.
"It's nothing." Francis gives me a skeptical look, but he doesn't push the matter. I quickly try to change the subject, "So, any work for me today?"
This seems to distract him and he raises his arms dramatically as he speaks, "It seems my dear friend Gilbert has run into a little trouble with his amoureux. He would like you to entertain him."
"Me? Why me?" Gilbert is Antonio's other best friend.
"Because me and Antonio have had enough of his and Roderich's constant fighting. He mutters something in french before continuing, "honestly, if I have to hear one more story about Roderich picking the seeds out of strawberries, or refusing to let Gibert watch 'Jerry Springer' I may have to embrace my culture and make use of the guillotine."
I can't really complain, I haven't exactly been the best employee. Still, I can't bear the thought of the almost inevitable conversation, Antonio works here for fucksake. He's bound to bring him up.
Noticing my frown, Francis adds soothingly, "Do not worry, mon ami, he only wants someone to come with him to an open house he's showing. You'll eat some free food and probably get a drink. He is a little… 'eccentric', but you grew up with Feliciano, so it's nothing you can't handle."
He smiles at me kindly.
Knowing I cannot refuse, I try to take my mind off this evening and incline my head towards the blonde standing next to Francis .
"Who is -"
"Who is taking out Matthew?"
He laughs a little as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"My dear child. Do you really think a beautiful creature such as Matthew here would ever have to pay for a date?" Matthew looks flustered and uncomfortable, but I notice him smile as Francis drapes an arm round his waist.
"You mean that -"
"Matthew is going out with me."
"So you're Lovino, right?"
"Yea, that's me."
I've never met Gilbert before, although I've heard a lot about him. He's my uncle and Antonio's best friend and the brother of Ludwig, the policeman that's dating my brother. I frown thinking about Feli, with that big German bastard.
I'm glad Gilbert looks nothing like him. Far from being uptight and orderly, Gilbert has an almost devilish look about him, especially for a guy working in real estate. His eyes are deep brown, almost red and his hair is white, strikingly so and messy, but I can't see signs of any hair-gel. Maybe he just sticks his tongue in a plug-socket each morning.
"Right," he says wringing his hands. "Before I take you into the house and work my real-estate magic, I have a couple of questions."
He's already paid, why's he bothering to ask me questions. I frown, Francis told me he was eccentric, I hope he's not going to try and give me fucking riddles or something.
"Question one, do you colour-code your underwear?"
I shake my head, and breath a sigh of relief. At least he didn't rhyme.
"Consider croquet a serious sport?"
"Uh…" I replied, trying to think back to that one scene in Alice in wonderland, where she has to play against the queen. From what I can remember it's pretty much just a posher version of golf. "No."
"Have you ever used designer toothpaste?" The disgust in his voice is palpable.
"What the fuck is designer toothpaste?"
"Correct!" Gilbert smiles briefly, before leading me towards the house. "
It's not actually as big as I'd imagined for the price. Gilbert quickly explains to me that this is a 'nice' area and so most of his likely customers were people with kids who were relocating to get into a good school district."
It was just as Francis had said it would be, an open house with some cheap hors d'oeuvres and lots of complaining.
"I mean he tells me off for everything. Drinking milk from the carton, watching cartoons... scratching my balls! Like he doesn't have them too, he has those urges, I know he does!"
I sighed, no wonder Francis and Antonio were so sick of this. I was doing my best to try and follow Antonio's advice and behave politely, but if complains to me one more time about not being able to watch 'Monster Truck Mayhem' or being forced to go to some 'stupid piano recital'...I'm going to tear my hair out.
"Maybe you could just scratch them in private?" I offer, hoping he might give me a moment's peace.
"It's my house. So what if he makes more money than me? I'm a grown man, I should be able to scratch my balls where I please."
He folds his arms and huffs. There aren't many people left at the open house, Gilbert having blanked them all for most of the evening in favor of telling me about how Roderich wastes his money on 'five different conditioners and moisturizers.'
"Alright all of you. Party's over, if you're interested in the house my card's on the desk." He shakes his head before turning to me, "Come on princess, I'd better take you home."
"Thank fuck." I mutter under my breath, just a little too loudly. I've behaved well all night and now this asshole is calling me princess? As if I'm the one who has spent the entire evening whining on like a little bitch.
"What was that?"
Gilbert said, turning around and walking towards me.
'Run Lovino, run! Embrace your heritage,' my brain is screaming at me. But I can't, my body is like a tongue on a frozen lamppost. I'm stuck.
For one moment he looks completely psychotic and I close my eyes, praying that he'll remember Francis is my uncle and only break one of my legs.
"So you do have a personality!"
Is that...laughter? Do I hear laughter?
I open my eyes, to find him smiling.
"Well thank the fucking heavens," He says, giving me a hard slap on the back, "You've been like a corpse the whole fucking night. Francis and Antonio said you were fiery, I was starting think I wasn't going to get my money's worth."
'Great.' I tried not to let it show on my face, but I find this a little bit hurtful, constantly being known as the temperamental nut-job that can't hold down a customer. The closest thing I've ever had to a compliment was when this one guy (I can't remember his name) told me with delight that I sure was 'a 'fire-cracker in the sack'...just moments before picking me up and shoving me, literally underneath the bed, because his girlfriend had come in early and he didn't want her to catch us.
I wish, just for once, that someone would treat me as more than just a couple of pissed off words and a scowl. I thought Francis...no, I'm not going to lie to myself. I desperately hope, that Antonio sees more than that. I felt so fucking happy in his arms and when he looked at me..the way that he looked at me...it was like I was precious to him.
It hurt, and it still hurts because he is still too fucking perfect and he could never love me...but perhaps he'll realise there's a more to me than just anger and pain.
I swallow my feelings and turn back towards Gilbert, who is looking at me expectantly, "I was a corpse? At least I didn't spent my entire night being a miserabili pezzi di merda," I speak in Italian, just in case he stops finding my 'fiery' personality so funny.
"What does that mean?"
He's still smiling so I think it should be safe to answer, and even if it's not, I'm not frozen anymore, I can always run.
"Miserable piece of shit."
He scowls but it doesn't seem to be at me. He's probably thinking about that Roderich guy, who to be fair to Gilbert, doesn't sound like the cheeriest motherfucker in the world.
Shaking his head, Gilbert turns his smile back on. "You know you're actually pretty funny. Like when Antonio first asked me to go out here with you -" He raises his hands to his mouth as he realises what he's just said. "Hang on I didn't mean that! I just, I was feeling sad about Roderich. I mean I love him, but he's just so demanding and..well, I wasn't thinking. It just came out -"
"How dare he! How fucking dare he!"
Gilbert continues to gush excuses but I'm not listening. I feel my heart constrict, I knew Antonio would never like me, but to do something like this? To think that I'm so pathetic, so repulsive that he has to beg someone to go out with me.
Without another word, I ignore Gilbert, grab my coat and run.
"You paid Gilbert to go out with me?"
I slam my hand against the door until it opens. Antonio's eyes are red and bloodshot and for a moment I almost relent...almost.
"I don't need you to feel sorry for me, Antonio, I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me." I can feel my eyes prickle and I swallow trying to hold in the tears. "And when you fucking kissed me, I didn't need you to do that either."
"Lovino, please let me explain -"
"No, Antonio. Let me explain. I am not your good-deed for the week, Antonio, I am not your pity fuck!"
I scream and the tears burst free. I can feel my body curl up and I want to run. I don't want to be here anymore, I want to go.
I don't want to have to look at him.
As I turn to walk back out the door, Antonio calls to me.
"You're not a pity-fuck Lovino! Just listen to me! Please?"
"Save it for someone who cares, Antonio."
I don't know why I'm saying any of this. Because I care, I care so much that I feel like I'm being ripped apart by fucking tendrils...because what I want to mean to Antonio, what I want him to feel...it doesn't matter. What I want is something that will never happen.
"Lovino, I'm in love with you!"
I freeze. I must have heard wrong, he couldn't have possibly said ...there's no way he could mean...me?
"I. Love. You. I have for a very long time."
"You fucking liar!"
I feel my body swing back towards him. How dare he tell me that he loves me, if he loved me then, then -
Then he would have told me. He would have made an effort. He wouldn't have just tried to kiss me when I was vulnerable, and he certainly wouldn't have set me up on a pity date with his friend.
"Lovino…" He grabs me by the shoulder and I want to scream.
No, I want to cry.
"Antonio please. Please don't lie to me." I beg.
For some reason, this seems to encourage him. He doesn't release his hold on me, but his back straightens and he replies very quietly, "Okay."
Antonio nods, "I - I'll tell you the truth. I'm not really a busboy... I'm a writer."
"Are you insane? Of course you're not a writer!"
"How do you think I afford this house?"
I'm so confused. Why is he saying these things? Is he trying to hurt me more?
"But I thought you said that Gilbert..?" I manage finally. I'm getting to the bottom of this. I'm done being fucked about by people who don't care about me.
He runs upstairs and grabs a magazine, "Look!" He says, pointing to a picture of a blonde woman. She's wearing a lot of makeup and beneath her picture is her name...Silvia Scoop.
"What are you showing me a picture of her for?" I ask, now really, really confused.
"That's me, Lovino. I'm a journalist and a damned good one."
Well that explains all those wigs.
"Why…?" I don't really know how to phrase what I want to ask.
He almost smiles. "Why the cross-dressing?"
"Have you ever heard of Alfred Jones?"
"The sports writer?"
"When he and his boyfriend Arthur came out, the paparazzi surrounded his house for weeks. For a popular sports writer that's is one thing, but I do most of my articles by going under-cover."
"So you're rich and talented and yet you still chose to work as a busboy."
"For free," He adds quietly.
"You work as a busboy, for free... because...because…"
Antonio looks at me and his gaze softens, "Because of you."
"It started as a favour to Francis, there have been a lot of scandals involving escorts and their clients and he thought his business would benefit from some good press." He smiles slightly before continuing, "And then I met you, and that changed everything. I didn't know how I could get you to love me, but I knew I had to. I couldn't go back to my life without you."
There was a pause. Antonio's beautiful eyes were filled with tears.
"So you have been working as a busboy for no pay, for two years just to get to know me and yet you never once actually plucked up the courage to tell me?!"
Antonio cradled his head in his arms, not daring to meet my eyes. "I'm so sorry. I'm a mess. It's just you're so perfect - "
I'm ashamed to say that I nearly burst out laughing.
"I just didn't know what I could say that would impress someone like you. You're so strong and so sure of who you are and - " He almost hesitates, "And so goddamn beautiful. I used to always think 'what do I have that I can offer someone like him?" Antonio's head drooped like a wilted flower and he sighed in resignation. " You can leave. I won't bother you again."
Tears start to leak from his eyes and I can barely believe it. Antonio is so wonderful, he is still the same kind handsome man that he has always been...how is it that he could ever feel like this?
Feel like me?
It's still a leap, still like standing on the edge of a building and waiting to jump over, still a nagging feeling that this must all be a practical joke and Antonio could never really want me.
But then I look into his eyes, his incredibly green, swollen, honest eyes... and I know I can face the fear. I can take the leap.
"Leave? Are you nuts? You beautiful-fucking-psycho, I've spent all this time thinking you were some type of god, and now... I mean, just look at you! You're a mess, a complete and utter disaster."
Antonio sniffs looking up at me, his eyes growing wide in disbelief, "You mean you're not going to leave? You should be so angry? What I did, what I've done...it's crazy."
"Don't you see, Antonio, that's why it's so magnificent! You have a middle aged female alter-ego, complete with matching wigs and you've practically stalked me…but it's okay because I bet my life away on a poker game and slept behind a vending machine! We're both so amazingly, inconceivably fucked up," I nearly cried with joy, "we're perfect for each other."
"So if I were to ask you out for dinner?" He asks, moving slowly closer.
I smile. "Well how can I say no. I mean, who else is gonna want to go out with a couple of freaks like us?"
"I can only speak for myself, but I have never wanted anyone else. Not since I met you."
"You don't know how impossible it feels for those words to be coming out of your mouth."
Antonio smirked against my lips, "perhaps I should put one of my wigs on, mi amor?"
His kiss is impossibly sweet.
"I was actually hoping that you might take a few things off…"
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
END OF PART 1
A small warning, part two will be a yaoi heavy smoothie of fluff and smut.
Feedback would be loved.
Dedicated to KKtheRipper for being such an awesome reviewer. So I hope you enjoyed it! :).