The breakup was a long time in the making. Nevertheless, the end happened so fast, Seth didn't know it occurred until it was over.
After all, they had just made love, and it had been one of those achingly sweet ones where their bodies weren't using each other as much as merging together, their movements soft and slow, as if time would remember this union, as if everything depended on it.
They no longer mapped each other's bodies. They knew the routes by heart, and still, Seth took his time tracing his way along Lars's skin, as if his subconscious knew this would be the last time to savor such a sight or feel the rough hairs on Lars's leg and the reciprocal softness on his inner thigh; the last time he'd smell the musky earthiness of Lars's desire and share the dark, welcoming entrance, such privacy, great secrets on display.
And afterward, that sweet embrace, kisses shared like whispers between them, and then a quiet descended, the comfort of familiarity and safety like a balm soothing the stresses of the workday, the world outside.
“Are you packed for tomorrow?” was all he had asked.
Lars stiffened beside him. He stared up at the ceiling. “I'm not coming with you.”
Seth stared up at the ceiling as well. Stains from the hotel room above seemed to sink through the floorboards, creating a muddied brown Rorschach print across the off-yellow paint.
“You said you would.” Seth hated the hurt in his voice and cleared his throat. “It will be fun.”
“I'm not stopping you,” Lars said. His hands had withdrawn from Seth's body. “I just can't come along.”
“You said...” Seth swallowed, tried to find a new approach. “It's our chance to get away from it all. Remember? We discussed this. Whistler is beautiful. The skiing is world-class. You'd love it, and the B and B is really charming.”
“The B and B is another thing,” Lars said. His voice was cold now, lawyerlike. Even naked, he had a suit and tie on. “I don't mind celebrating Hanukkah with you, but this is an orthodox B and B, kosher and...what do you call it when they observe the Sabbath?”
,” Seth said.
“I don't think it's fair to ask me to live up to those kind of expectations, especially for eight entire days.”
“The annoying part is just the Sabbath; that's the only time you can't turn on lights. And besides, my aunt and uncle have the whole place wired with timers. You won't even notice. The coffee is made automatically; the shower turns on every three hours. It's like magic!”
Seth knew he sounded desperate. But this had meant so much to him. More than he had even admitted to himself.
“Still. It's a lot to ask of a person.”
Seth felt the disappointment like a crushing weight, sitting on his chest, pushing his happiness outward. “We discussed everything. Hell, you bought those books about hiking Whistler--”
“It was a fantasy, baby, nothing more.” Lars cleared his throat. “It would look too suspicious if we both went on vacation at the same time, especially for a whole week right before Christmas. Everyone knows I'm not a Jew. Why would I be taking Hanukkah off?” Lars shook his head. “No way.”
Seth clenched his eyes shut, clenched his fists. He fought to muffle his pain.
But he was angry, too. Angry at Lars, and angry at himself for expecting him to change. Of course Lars wouldn't come with him. The risk was too great. Not only would it come out that the great Lars Varga of Finch and Varga Law Offices was actually friends with a mere paralegal, but that the two of them had been fucking each other for over a year.
“It's about time they know,” Seth reasoned, trying very hard to keep the desperation out of his voice.
Lars sat up in bed, creating a wall with his broad back. Even without seeing it, Seth knew Lars rubbed his face with his hand, stressed as usual.
“Not this way,” Lars said finally. “It's tacky.”
“So what is the not-tacky way?” Seth asked. He sat up as well, dislodging the sheet that covered his legs. “The best thing to do would be to tell people. Tell them we're lovers. Tell them we're going on vacation together.”
The finality of the word twisted in Seth's stomach. He felt sick as hurt rage pooled in his gut, crept up his throat. Lars would rather hurt him than risk his own social standing.
“You're so fucking selfish,” Seth said under his breath.
“What did you say?” Lars turned, and his eyes locked on Seth's flaccid cock, half-exposed. Arousal flickered in Lars's eyes.
But Seth wasn't going to let him get out of this argument like he usually did, swaying Seth by using his body as a distraction, both of them hungry enough that the carnal outweighed the emotional needs.
“You're selfish,” Seth repeated. He swallowed back the burn creeping up his throat. “You have no idea how insulting this is to me.”
Lars's expression softened. “Baby, this has nothing to do with you. I love you. You know that.”
“Not enough, apparently.”
“Christ, what do you want me to say?”
“I don't want you to say anything. I want you to come on vacation with me. That's all.”
Lars reached out as if unable to stop himself. His hand rested on Seth's inner thigh, possessive and calming.
“We went on vacation together only six months ago, remember?”
“Yeah. For a weekend,” Seth said, “in separate cars, leaving at separate times. And when Finch called to ask about the Murphy case, you lied and told him you were sick at home.”
“But we were together,” Lars pressed. His hand slid up Seth's thigh. “We spent two days alone.”
“Did you enjoy it?” Seth asked after a moment.
“Of course I did.”
“Then do this with me.” Seth reached out and tilted Lars's chin so that they stared at each other. Lars's eyes were so blue, so soft. “I don't want to go alone.”
“I know.” Lars reached out and stroked Seth's rough jawline.
“You have the time off requested already. Please.”
But Lars shook his head. “Don't.”
“Lars, I'm begging you--”
“Don't do that. God. Don't.” He pulled away.
“You are being cruel--”
being cruel?” Lars bristled. “Do you know what you're asking me to do?”
“You're a fucking partner, it's your
goddamn firm! No one is going to fire you because of who you're screwing!”
“Yeah, but I'll lose my clients. You know I love you. Isn't that enough?”
Seth stared at him.
A year ago, it had
been enough. Back then he hadn't cared how far in the closet his boss decided to stay. What mattered was the time they did spend together, the hotness of Lars's embrace, the desperation in his touch, always so grateful, so frantic, so excited. What mattered were those lazy Saturday mornings in bed, rough legs entangled, chest pressed against chest, their bodies becoming one, so that hours after Lars had slipped out the back and returned to his expensive home on the gated estate, Seth could taste him in his mouth, feel the tender stretch of his entry, smell Lars's hair on the pillow.
But what had been enough for Seth a year ago no longer satisfied him. He was tired of being Lars's dirty little secret. He hated averting his eyes at staff meetings and the coldness of Lars's approach in the office. Lars was so terrified that his partner and the associate attorneys at the firm would find out about their clandestine relationship that he was purposefully rude to Seth, snubbing him in hallways and curtly requesting changes to documents. And while he would apologize later, when they were alone, making it up to Seth by offering himself shamelessly, spreading his legs and begging Seth to fuck him, forgive him, nevertheless, all those minor insults throughout the days, every day, added up.
But the worst blow was when Lars decided to get a fake girlfriend.
He had assured Seth that there was nothing between them. Ella was an old-fashioned beard, and she knew it, Lars claimed. She was an old friend from high school, recently reacquainted, and she was also an attorney. Their friendship was nothing but.
Yet Seth had to sit there and watch Lars's arm casually slide around Ella's shoulder when she met him for lunch at the office. He saw Lars kiss her cheek affectionately whenever Adam Finch or the newest attorney, Steve Vale, watched.
And he'd pretty much taken enough of Lars's shit to last a lifetime.
Seth wrapped his arms around his knees. He gathered his words carefully and let them out slowly, knowing they were weapons, knowing the barbs could hurt.
“I have said nothing as you coldly ordered me out of your office,” he said. “As you kissed Ella and rubbed her back in front of me. As you turned away from me without a second glance.” Seth looked at Lars then. “And in return, I ask you to do this for me. For us. Come spend the holidays with me and my family, like you promised. One Hanukkah. That's all I'm asking.”
“For a whole week,” Lars noted.
“Yes. After an entire year of doing things your way, I'm asking for one week. You, me, and a mountain wilderness.” Seth tried smiling.
Lars ran his hand over his face once more. He frowned, and Seth knew then that he had lost, that Lars would never budge.
“I can't. I'm sorry I said I would. But Finch suspects something, and I don't want to fuel his speculations.”
The coldness that washed through Seth wasn't new. He'd felt it before, but the heaviness of it felt different. He realized it was final. Love had just frozen too many times within him, and now, like an icy branch, it snapped, dead.
Seth didn't want to be naked with this cold man any longer. He dressed silently. Lars reached out to embrace him, and Seth jerked away and angrily pulled up his slacks. His work shirt was tossed on the floor haphazardly. There was no way he was sneaking back to the office, clothes wrinkled, without suspicion.
“Baby, don't be mad at me,” Lars cooed.
Seth said nothing.
“Look, you're being unreasonable,” Lars said.
Seth buttoned his shirt and then searched for his socks and shoes.
Lars sat heavily on the edge of the bed. His naked body was a beautiful sight. His blond hair looked disheveled after their lovemaking, spikes wild and loose around his bright blue eyes.
Seth allowed himself one last glance at the long body that had given him so much pleasure, and then he turned away.
“Okay...look.” Lars's voice had a note of panic in it. “Maybe I can join you in a few days? I'll come for a night or two. I'll drive up separately, and then--”
“No.” Seth straightened and stared at him. “Fuck you.”
Lars's eyes narrowed. “What did you just say?”
“Fuck. You.” Seth found his tie and knotted it hastily. “I quit. I'm done. I'm so fucking tired of your excuses.”
“You quit? You mean the firm?” Lars's relief was palpable.
And Seth suddenly realized Lars wanted this all along. He wanted Seth out of Finch and Varga. It was too humiliating, Lars's being in love with a male assistant. And that relief in his voice was the absolute final straw.
“No. I want my job. I'm quitting you.”
Lars flinched. Seth hurriedly tied his shoes, because he knew he was going to puke any minute, and he wanted to get out of the hotel before he did so.
“Christ.” Lars stood. His hands were trembling.
Seth turned away. He couldn't look at him. “Have fun with Ella,” he said at the door. “Hope she enjoys being used as much as I did.”