The first time it happened, Adam didn’t think much of it. Carlos passed him a pair of Chris’ shorts after dinner and asked him to return them to him, and muttered some excuse about having to meet up with Steve when Adam invited him back to the room with him.
Chris, of course, clammed up, and Adam forced him out of the closet, and he still feels bad about that entire conversation in retrospect. But it put the thought in his mind that something was off between the two of them.
The second time, after they saw a movie together, Adam caught Carlos staring at Chris over dinner with an expression he couldn’t identify. He opened his mouth to tease him, but somehow, the words stuck in his throat, perhaps digging up his suspicions from earlier.
Over the next few weeks, Carlos seemed to sporadically avoid Adam’s and Chris’ room, always making some excuse that Adam wouldn’t have thought twice about if he hadn’t already had concerns.
Funnily enough, those concerns had always been about Chris, and whether maybe Carlos had found out he was gay, and was uncomfortable around him as a result. Adam always wondered what he could possibly say to Carlos to assuage his preconceptions -- after all, he lived with the guy, and he ended up being a pretty cool roommate -- but instead he feels awkwardly caught in the middle of something he doesn’t understand, and isn’t sure how to broach the topic with Carlos.
As he stands with Chris now in that disgusting vomit-covered dining room watching Carlos storm off, these memories come flooding back, and he wonders for the first time if he’s misjudged the entire situation.
“Chris, you probably want to get lunch elsewhere. You really shouldn’t help with this mess, and it doesn’t look like this is going to be finished anytime soon.” Chris nods, and Adam stares at the door that Carlos had just rushed through. “And I should probably go chase down Carlos. Excuse me.”
He does so, and finds Carlos upstairs in his room, sitting on his bed and seemingly staring off into space. Adam sits beside him, slinging an arm over his shoulder in some attempt to be supportive, but instead just feeling more awkward as a result.
“...dude. Talk to me.”
Carlos shakes his head and stares at the wall. Adam sighs.
“Fine. Then I’m going to start off by saying that whatever this... whatever concerns you have, it’s not a thing, dude. Chris isn’t going to make some move on you just because he... just because he’s gay.”
Carlos makes a strange noise that Adam isn’t sure how to interpret, but doesn’t respond.
“I mean, I live with him, and he’s respectful. Whatever... whatever problem you have with gay guys, dude, it’s not cool to take that out on Chris.”
Carlos laughs then, and Adam’s pretty sure that’s not the reaction he expected.
“I, uh... I appreciate the thought, chico. But I’m not uncomfortable around Chris because he’s, uh...” Carlos trails off, the smile fading from his face, and he turns away. “Also I... I suspected, but I didn’t know for sure. So that’s... that’s good to know.”
Adam stares at the back of Carlos’ head, unsure how to respond. “Carlos. Dude. If you’re not uncomfortable around him, why have you been avoiding him?”
Steve appears in the doorway, looking authoritative despite what must be a massive hangover. “Okay, you two. You can flirt later. The dining room still needs to be cleaned.”
“Give us a minu...”
Carlos jumps off the bed, plastering a smile on his face, interrupting Adam. “Right. Sorry. We’ll get right on that.”
Steve nods and heads back down the hallway. Adam follows Carlos back downstairs, feeling more confused than ever.
A few hours later, the cleaning is done, and Carlos declares that he needs a shower after all of that. Adam follows him upstairs and stands in the doorway.
“Dude. Don’t think that you’re getting away without finishing our conversation.”
Carlos pulls off his shirt and stares at Adam.
“What do you want me to say, chico?”
“I want you to tell me what’s wrong.”
“My clothes smell like vomit and I need a shower.”
Carlos throws up his hands. “I don’t know. Maybe I am uncomfortable around him, okay? Maybe I’m worried about what I’ll do if...”
He stops, abruptly, and Adam stares at him. “Dude.”
Carlos leans against the wall, facing away from Adam. Adam stares at him, unsure of how to ask the next question.
“Dude. Do you... do you like him?”
Carlos shrugs, but the silence speaks volumes.
“Dude. I didn’t know y...”
“I’m gay, chico.” He turns to Adam and his eyes widen, seemingly in disbelief. “I can’t believe I just did that.”
Adam’s first reaction is to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but when Carlos looks hurt and turns away from him again, he feels like the world’s biggest asshole. He walks over, putting a hand on Carlos’ shoulder, cringing when he flinches at the touch.
“Dude. But you... you like women. You sleep with women. You... you can’t be gay.”
Carlos flinches again and shakes his head, but doesn’t respond. There’s awkward silence for a bit, and Adam lets his hand drop back to his side. Carlos sniffles and sighs. “I knew it. You hate me.”
His shock and guilt gives way to anger then, and he grabs Carlos’ shoulders, turning him toward him with perhaps more force than necessary.
“Carlos. Don’t you dare say that. Don’t you dare think that.” Carlos looks at him, terrified, and Adam relaxes his grip, feeling guilty again. “You’re like a brother to me, Carlos. I love you. I’m not going to suddenly change my mind about everything just because you... because you’re gay.”
Carlos’ crying then, and Adam holds him against him until the tears give way to sniffling and Carlos pulls away, wiping his nose on his bare arm.
“Seriously though, let’s talk about this.”
Carlos sits on his bed, staring at his hands, and Adam sits next to him.
“I’ve... I’ve known since forever. But I just never...” He shrugs and Adam puts a hand on his shoulder again.
“Sorry. I’m just having a hard time understanding. But I promise I’ll support you, dude. In... in whatever. What can I do?”
“I don’t even know if he likes me. Like that, I mean.”
Adam contemplates the thought for a bit. Looking back now, he starts to see certain events in a different light, and wonders if Chris is just as confused about the entire thing as Carlos seems to be.
“I... I don’t know, dude. But you two seem to get along well. So maybe?”
Carlos wipes his nose on his bedsheet, and Adam fights the urge to tell him to launder the sheets afterward.
“You could ask him.”
Carlos laughs, a choked laugh that sticks in his throat, and wipes his nose again. “Right. ‘Hey, Chris. I like you, and found out that you’re... that you... that you’re interested in...’”
“Close your door when you’re ripping off each others’ clothes, faggots. Nobody wants to see that shit.” Robert, walking by in the hallway, pulls the door shut with more force than necessary, and Carlos jumps.
“I can’t do this, chico.”
“Well, let’s... let’s start at the beginning then. Tell me about... tell me about you.”
Carlos does, telling Adam about the first time he realized he was into guys, and his constant fear while growing up that his parents would find out, and how he tried for the longest time to fix himself through prayer, and when that didn’t work, he turned to sex instead, figuring he could maybe sleep his way to being straight.
“And I guess that was... sustainable at least. Until Chris, somehow, made me question all these things all over again. Damn him.”
“Well, I don’t know. If it means you’re going to be more honest with yourself, that seems like a good thing.”
“Yeah, and I’m going to hell and I’m going to burn forever because of this... stupid... thing.”
“Just leave me alone, chico.”
“I’m not going anywhere, dude. We’re...”
Carlos shakes his head, jumping off the bed and looking surprisingly unsteady on his feet. “Please, chico. I just... I just need to be alone right now. We’ll talk tomorrow, I promise.”
Adam eyes him suspiciously, but eventually relents, leaving Carlos to his shower and returning to his own room to distract himself with homework. Finding himself unable to focus, he instead resigns himself to an unproductive evening.
Chris returns a while later, and Adam almost asks him about Carlos, but stops himself, unable to find the right words.
He doesn’t sleep well that night.
Carlos keeps his promise and he and Adam talk after classes. Carlos seems to be a lot calmer than the previous day.
“I just... I guess I just want to know if I have a chance with him, you know? But it’s terrifying.”
“I don’t know how to help you, dude.”
“Can you.... can you find out?”
“Dude. I don’t know if I...”
“Please, chico? I just... I’m scared, and I feel like I should tell him, but if he turns me down, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.”
“People turn down other people all the time, dude.”
“That... really does not make me feel any better, chico.”
Adam sighs. “Fine. I’ll... I’ll see what I can do.”
Adam sits at his desk, staring at the wall, trying to figure out how to broach the subject, when Chris walks into the room. All of his rehearsed lines go out the window when he notices Chris’ expression.
“You look... sad about something.”
Chris shrugs, dropping his backpack by his desk. “Jake asked me out today and I turned him down.”
A million thoughts fly through his head, and he stares into Chris’ eyes. “Why? Just not... interested in him in that way?”
Chris shrugs, and Adam quickly excuses himself.
“That doesn’t mean anything, chico.”
“Okay. I know I’m not imagining things though. The more I look back at the two of you, when you spend time together, the more it’s obvious that there’s something there. I know you’ve felt that way too. And then he turns down Jake.”
“That still doesn’t mean anything.”
“Dude. I don’t know what else to do, short of outright asking him. But then that’d be outing you, and I really think that’s a conversation you need to have with him for yourself.”
“No. Carlos, I’ll support you however I can, but that’s something you have to do for yourself.”
Carlos stares at his hands again, sighing. “Fine, chico. I’ll... I’ll talk to him.”
Carlos looks at him, horrified. “Dude. Tomorrow?”
“There’s no reason to wait. You’re just going to either talk yourself out of it, or you’re going to keep killing yourself over not knowing.”
Carlos doesn’t respond for a while, and Adam’s almost wondering if he’d even heard him, before he reluctantly nods., still seemingly unsure
“Fine, chico. Tomorrow.”