Lengthening shadows cast a dusky darkness across the porch as the sun neared the horizon, the heat of the day only slowly lessening. Chris watched the changing colours in the sky almost absently. Uncomfortably aware of his shirt sticking to his skin, he shifted slightly; although he hadn't lived in Canada for years now, he'd never fully adjusted to the heat of Florida or Georgia... or Texas.
He could feel the gaze of the man behind him and smiled a little, settling back into place against the broad chest, and waited. It had been his idea to come outside and watch the sunset, late into the night this time of year, and Chris suspected that part of his motivation had been the knowledge that a shower would immediately follow their return inside once the sun sank fully.
"Warm, papi?" Amusement and fondness coloured Eddie's voice, and Chris shook his head ruefully. The soft thump-thump of Eddie's heartbeat was just audible to him, with his ear close against the thin cotton of Eddie's t-shirt. Only the crickets and occasional sound of passing birds interrupted the quiet. The warm smell of ripened grass mingled with the soft scent of cologne, and Chris tilted his head back to meet sparkling brown eyes.
"You knew I would be." The answering smile crinkled little lines around Eddie's lips, lines that brought a quiet glow to Chris's heart. At one point, not that long ago, he would have sworn that he would never see that smile again.
Still-sharp memories flooded his mind, memories of emergency rooms and the sharp scent of antiseptics and the harsh flourescent lights and the sound of his own rough, muffled sobs mingling with the beeps of surrounding machines as he watched his lover lying in a cold, white bed. Blinking, pushing those memories away, Chris focused on the here and now, in El Paso, just after suppertime with Eddie's family. The sounds of laughter and affectionate teasing had helped chase those memories away earlier, and even now after they'd faded, after good-byes that had lasted almost longer than the meal, they helped again.
"Sí, you've caught me out. Would you like me to wash your back later?" Warm sensuality edged the teasing tone, and Chris shivered a little, suddenly looking forward to that shower more than he had a few minutes ago.
"Most definitely." Pressing a kiss to the arm wound around his shoulders, Chris looked back out across the field, the scattered trees now black silhouettes against brilliant scarlets and violets. Letting out a long, quiet breath, he let his mind empty of his thoughts and worries and cares, instead just watching as the brilliant swathes of colour grew, changed, merged, and slowly faded to midnight blue at the edges of the horizon.
"I love it here." The soft words slipped out before he knew he was going to speak. The silence that followed them made him slowly tense, wondering if he'd pushed too hard, too fast... It hadn't been that long since he'd been allowed to take Eddie out of the hospital, choosing to bring him here, home to his family and familiar surroundings, hoping they would help. They'd seemed to, but...
"I'm glad." Words as soft as his own, and he relaxed again, not turning to look up at his lover. He didn't need to. The slight tightening of the arm around him, the sincerity of the words, told him everything he needed to know. The moment was... quiet. Peaceful.
This was it, then. Bits of memory flashed through his mind: The first time they'd met at some backwater promotion, the instant bond between them; the friendship growing as they found themselves working together in Japan, slowly becoming something more, something deeper; their time at WCW, never as good as they'd hoped but always better than it might have been because they had each other. Darker memories, too, of Eddie staggering and screaming, raging incoherently; of sobs and curses; of too many hospital rooms visited, too many hospital beds sat vigil by...
Blinking, Chris drew in a long, deep breath. That was behind them. Maybe not forever—what was?—but for the foreseeable future. And now they were here, and they were happy, and he wasn't about to let this one perfect moment pass by unnoticed.
Pulling away from Eddie reluctantly, Chris turned on the bench to face him, lengthening shadows casting most of the porch in darkness. But Eddie's face was still visible, illuminated in the last ruddy glow of the sun, only a scarlet sliver at the horizon... and Chris could see the worry in the dark eyes.
"What's wrong, papi?" Eddie reached out, but Chris took his hand before he could be drawn close again, twining their fingers together. This was difficult for him, more difficult than he'd thought it would be. Whatever Eddie saw on his face must have reassured him, since he relaxed back against the bench, but Chris could still see a certain wariness lingering in his expression. His heart ached at the sight, knowing that his lover was still so caught up in his own guilt and anguish at the hurt he'd caused others that he was more vulnerable now than he'd ever been before. Maybe... maybe this would help.
"Nothing's wrong, Eddie," he said softly, soothingly. Forcing a slight smile to his lips, he leaned in closer, hoping that Eddie wouldn't misread the slight tremour in his fingers that he couldn't quite suppress. "Everything's right."
Eddie raised his eyebrows but returned the smile, and Chris took another breath.
"I just... I need to tell you..." Damn. Why was this so hard? He'd been living with the knowledge for so long, he couldn't remember when it hadn't been there. Maybe it was just the force of habit, of the years he'd spent keeping it from his lips, that was stopping him now.
There was concern in the brown eyes again, and Chris shook his head abruptly, suddenly impatient with himself.
"I love you, Eddie." Words he'd never spoken before. They tumbled out in a rush, far quieter than he'd intended, but the widening of Eddie's eyes told him that they'd been heard. The hand he was holding tightened on his own, and as he watched, he saw dark eyes blink sudden tears away.
"Chris..." Eddie's voice was soft. "Mi corazon... My strength." He drew in a sharp breath and then raised his free hand to Chris's face, drawing him closer. "Te amo, Chris, I love you. So much. So very much..."
The emotion suffusing the rich voice, even more than the words, brought tears to Chris's own eyes. They'd been together so long, had gone through so much... but this moment was worth all of it. Tilting his head, he pressed his lips to Eddie's, cutting off any further words. Instead, he poured his emotion out through his mouth, expressing it so much more eloquently than he ever could have with words.
When he finally drew back, just enough to look up at his lover, the expression on Eddie's face was indescribable... but the heat and passion and love in his eyes drew a small half-smile out of him, suddenly shy in the face of their honesty. Eddie's lips curved, and he shook his head.
"Papi, only you could be self-conscious right now. And I love you for it."
"I love you," Chris whispered in return, and tried his damnedest not to blush. Eddie's smile turned mischievous, understanding his too-often reserved nature, and he stood up, pulling Chris up with him.
"Didn't you mention a shower? Can't have you coming to bed all sweaty, after all," he said with a smirk, and Chris shivered again, not minding the heat at all at that moment.
Wrapping an arm around his lover's waist, he nodded gravely. "I believe I did. And you offered to wash my back."
"Sí. If you want me to," Eddie said, just as seriously.
Chris pretended to think about it for a long moment, his head cocked to one side, before nodding. "You're on." Eddie's smile broke free, and Chris added, "But only if you wash everywhere else, too."
Rich peals of laughter broke free, and the soft sounds of teasing faded away behind a closing door as they retreated to the comfort of the house. The shadows deepened on the porch, and the sun was gone, the heat of the day becoming the coolness of desert night.
~ finis ~