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Tomás stirred his earl grey that Carl had made for him. He watched Carl in the garden, plucking the newest ripe strawberries and putting them into a cereal bowl. After diligently turning over every leaf and checking every flowering stem, Carl covered the plants with mesh domes to protect the soft budding fruit from heavy droplets bound to fall from a greying sky at any moment.  The young man’s brow was furrowed, lips set in concentration. Carl sat back on his legs to consider the plants; he made an adjustment and smiled slightly. He’d doubled the plot of strawberries this year and the pride over the thriving, lush plants was visible on his face.

Tomás felt a wave of fondness for Carl swell in his chest. He stopped stirring his tea. “Oh shit,” he muttered. “Oh no. I’m not falling in love with him. Nope. No. No. He’s a houseboy, Tomás. You’re not monogamous. You’re not even dating him. You fucked someone else last week! He’s a roommate who does the dishes and you fuck him sometimes. That’s all. So you stop that. You cannot fall in love with him.” Tomás made a ’that’s final’ sweeping hand motion parallel to his body.

He sipped his tea and enjoyed the rich bergamont flavor as it rolled over his tongue; somehow that extra drop or two of vanilla Carl put in there really made a difference. Outside, Carl picked up the bowl of strawberries and bowed his head to smell them and his smile widened. He got to his feet and with the bowl tucked under his arm, picked up the tools out in the yard. He brought them over to the covered porch, setting everything down on their cafe table. A dove landed under the bird feeder to check out the seed spilled by the chickadees earlier today. Carl waved at it.

Tomás groaned and put his hand to his face, letting it slide off his cheek. “Oh no. I think this is serious. Way to go. Tomás. Bravo. Good luck figuring this out.”

The first droplets fell, and within a few seconds the irregular pit-pat of wet polka dots became a curtain of rain with a soft thrumming sound. From their individual perspective, Tomás and Carl watched the fence and yard become dark with saturation. The leaves of the trees danced above them. The dove flew for cover. Carl glanced at his strawberry plants, and after a moment, came inside with the bowl on his hand. He saw Tomas’s face and his expression turned shy, as he realized he’d been watched.
“What is it, Sir?” Carl asked, bemused.
“Nothing,” Tomás said. “Been waiting for you so I can kiss you.”
“Oh I wouldn’t mind that.”
“You wouldn’t?”
“Nuh uh.”

Tomás stepped toward him and cupped Carl’s angular jaw against his palm. He bent slightly to meet his lips. They were so soft, it was almost unfair that every other man in his bed had to be compared to that. As Tomás enjoyed the pressure and warmth of Carl’s lips, the scent of fresh, wild strawberries in the bowl wafted up to fill his nose. The swell of fondness returned in his chest and there was a hint of a lump in his throat this time. Oh hell,” Tomás thought. “I’m in huge trouble.”
Captions are fictional.


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