Abraham showered and put on his softest old Levis and his blue socks, the ones advertised as The Softest Socks in the World. And a pale blue chambray shirt, untucked. He carried a little six-pack cooler with a couple of cold Shiner Bock longnecks. Santos was already sitting on the stone steps of the old mission, smoking a cigar.
The mission was a crumbling beauty with a trifecta of mission bells. Abraham thought it wasn't used as a Catholic church anymore, that it had been turned over to the National Park Service, but there were several late model cars and a couple of battered old pickups in the parking lot. The Tamale Mafia was already at work, making sure no one with even a speck of Latino blood went without Christmas tamales. He sat down next to Santos, opened up the cooler, and handed him a beer.
"You're welcome." He twisted his own top off, tossed it back into the cooler. The night air was cool and dark, rich with the noises of bats and birds. And Abraham could hear the sounds of people, kitchen noises, if he wasn't mistaken. "Is she already here?"
"Yeah. I think she's got the whole committee working. I told her we'd deliver the tamales on Christmas Eve, so the old folks could have them for supper if they want to eat before they go to Midnight Mass. How's your knee?"
Santos gestured with the cigar. "You want one?"
Abraham shook his head. "I was tempted to smoke earlier today. About when my brother told me about his mask-making club. I didn't know anything about ... this when we played ball this morning."
"Abraham..." Sweet-smelling smoke drifted against his cheek like a caress, like a kiss. "I'm looking for something, I guess. But whatever I'm looking for, I want you to be holding my hand when I find it. This isn't about us, baby."
Abraham felt his cheeks flush. He didn't know what to say, and was pretty sure his tongue wouldn't know how to form the words if he did know what to say. Something like, Then why wasn't I holding your hand at the mask-making club? They were sitting together in the cool dark, with a couple of beers and possibility between them. Possibility or trouble. This could go either way. How to proceed? Santos seemed to be going with the truth. An unusual, risky approach.
Abraham turned to look at him. Santos Socorro had eyes of the most melting dark brown, liquid soft and utterly sexy. His moustache drooped over his upper lip, and his dark hair fell across his forehead. Abraham reached out for his face and let his fingers trace the lines of his eyebrows, his nose, his cheek. And when his fingers stroked soft lips, Santos opened his mouth and pulled Abraham's fingers against his tongue.
Teeth, tongue, the silky skin inside the lip. Who knew there were so many nerve endings in the tips of his fingers? Abraham had been on simmer all day, and Santos had just turned up the heat.
"Santos, listen. I want to be the man you turn to when you get some wild hair and want to ... whatever." He gestured, sloshing beer on the toe of his shoe. "I don't know how to tell you that I won't ever turn away from you."
"I think you just told me, Abraham. You know something? Whenever I have a random, strange, and erotic thought at an unexpected time, it's always about you. About me and you."
The words dropped into his belly one by one, fat, hot raindrops sizzling against his skin.
The wonder of the body, of arousal, of sexual feeling. The fire of it, the heat, the fullness, like bittersweet chocolate. Like ... mole. Mole was the only food that Abraham had ever eaten that came close. And he'd never tasted mole that was as rich and spicy as the feeling that was filling his belly as Santos Socorro sucked his finger between his teeth and nipped down on the tip. "Santos. Why don't you tell me about the mask?"
Santos took Abraham's hand and put it on his thigh. "You want to see it?"
Santos reached for his gym bag and unzipped the top. The mask looked African, tribal, with a dark, harsh animal face, rough stripes in bright orange and red on black paper, dull yellow spots. The mouth and eyeholes were big, but not quite big enough.
"What's wrong?" Santos was looking at him, a funny little smile twisting his mouth.
"It's kind of scary. It looks like you can't kiss anyone if you're wearing it, you know, when..."
Santos considered him, then leaned forward, pulled Abraham toward him by a fist in his shirt. "You, you mean. How can I kiss you?"
Abraham felt like a fool for the two seconds before Santos pulled him close enough to reach for his mouth. Their moustaches were rough against each other. Abraham felt love like a flood of warm water in his belly.
"I know you're wondering if I've gone nuts, and I'm gonna sound like a nut. I mean, I'm not going around cruising for studs or anything with your brother, Abraham, and popping the mask on to do the nasty." He hesitated. "It's funny, it's dark in the mask, when I'm wearing it. Dark and safe and I can say anything. I can say the truth, without worrying about..."
Abraham waited, but Santos didn't say anymore. "Okay, I don't get it."
Santos was shaking his head. "My face," he gestured toward himself. "This face belongs to the cop, or the grandson, or the brother or the ballplayer. People look at me, they see what they want to see. My grandmother, she looks at me and sees all the things she wants me to be."
"She looks at you and she sees the faces of her great-grandchildren. She looks at me, and she sees the reason she doesn't have any great-grandchildren. I brought hot chocolate to try and lure the ladies over to our side."
"Our side? You mean your side. I'm not having a feud with my grandmother. This is between you and her."
Abraham ignored this.
"People depend on my face. That's the real mask, I think. But you don't do that, Abraham. The mask, when I'm wearing it, I feel free. Free like ... I don't know how to say it. Like I can still be anything. Like my life isn't set in stone. I'm myself, and myself is fluid, and open to change." He shrugged. "I don't know. I'm feeling weird. Grandma said the Holy Ghost has touched me. She sees a mark or something."
"The Holy Ghost has touched you? What a load of crap. Your grandmother is a real piece of work."
"Are you trying to get us cursed? Abraham, this used to be a convent. There're probably the ghosts of a hundred nuns listening in right this minute."
"Besides, I'm a cop. I think I'll take all the Holy Ghost I can get. Listen, I want to fool around. Let's slide into some dark little nook next to a statue of the BVM before we help make tamales. Ten minutes, that's all. I was an altar boy here. I know all the secret places."
"Are you going to wear the mask? Inside San Juan Capistrano while you're fooling around with your Jewish lover?"
Santos grinned, and his dark eyes were lit with laughter. "Yeah, baby."
"Fine. You're the one who's gonna have to go to confession. Poor Father Jessup."
Santos stood up and reached for his face. "Abraham, are you upset? Did I embarrass you in front of your brother?"
Abraham shook his head. "Sometimes I look at you, and I feel like you could burst into flames right in front of my eyes. You understand?"
Santos studied his face, and his eyes got darker. He pulled Abraham close. "Yeah, I get that. The first time with you, I thought your cock would burst into flames right in front of my eyes."
Abraham laughed, reached for him. "Flaming Cock. Now that would be some mask. Let's go find a nook."
Santos pulled him through passageways built of golden sandstone. The incense and melted candle wax smell could only have come from a Catholic church. There were fresh baskets of white lilies in front of the main altar, with its beautiful silver candelabra, but Santos pulled him past and down a narrow corridor to the left and into a small nook that contained a huge old painting of the young St. Sebastian, tied to a tree and full of arrows.
"All the altar boys know about this place," Santos said, pushing Abraham against the cold stone wall and moving his hands down his belly, opening the button at his waistband, sliding the zipper down. His mouth was busy, hot lips moving down Abraham's throat, and Abraham decided to just be still and quiet and see where this strange new Santos wanted to take them. He looked over his shoulder at the picture of St. Sebastian, felt Santos's warm hand slide down and wrap around his cock. The gorgeous young Italian in the painting was brutally roped to a tree, his arms stretched high over his head, triceps bulging obscenely. Various penis-shaped arrows were already piercing the young flesh, as leering brutal soldiers lifted their bows. Abraham's gaze dropped to the thatch of thick Italian hair between his legs and his mouth fell open. "Holy Shit! He's hung like a bull!"
Santos laughed against his throat, a tickle of heat that Abraham felt down into his balls. "Every Catholic boy who ever came through this place snuck in here to check his equipment against St. Sebastian. Nobody ever got close."
Abraham thought later it must have been Catholic incense poisoning that caused the sudden intense flush of erotic heat that filled his chest, caused him to push Santos hard against the wall, shove the mask into his hands and reach for the waistband of his trousers. Those cords slid down like silk, and he dropped to his knees, slipped Santos's massive straining cock into his mouth. Santos put the mask over his face, and the primitive beat of African drums entered the little nook. "St. Sebastian. You look just like that guy. I'm gonna tie you up when I get you home. See how you like the arrows piercing..." And Santos groaned and reached for his head, thrust that enormous cock down his throat.
Abraham could already taste the head of his cock, was working his tongue against the little slit, and neither one was in any way prepared for the elderly priest who came around the corner, spotted them, and let out a scream so high-pitched it could have cracked crystal. Abraham and Santos didn't move as the priest dropped unconscious at their feet.