John lay restless and awake, trying not to glance over at the digital clock on the nightstand to see how many hours he’d lost to his thoughts instead of to a decent night’s sleep. Beside him Fin snored softly, a familiar rumble surrounded by otherwise unfamiliar noises, the non-stop street sounds of this new neighborhood, their new home together.
Three weeks had passed since the two of them had moved in to this apartment, needing more room for cohabitation than could be provided by either of their former dwellings. It was an adjustment in many ways, sorting out whose things would go where, which collections deserved more space in the living room: John’s books or Fin’s video games. But yes, even the different street sounds at night were an adjustment for a lifelong city-dweller such as himself. Like how the garbage truck here came rattling and crashing by near three am on Tuesdays, for instance, not five on Thursdays. And on Fridays and Saturdays, the burst of noise as the bar on the corner closed at two am, and expelled drinkers poured out into the street swearing, laughing, and stumbling into honking taxi cabs.
Different sounds, neither better nor worse from his old place. Nor Fin’s former apartment, where John had been spending more nights than not until it was obvious it simply didn’t make sense for them to keep up with two separate rents. Moving in together was practical, it was logical, but it was still an adjustment, just like getting together in the first place had been, years before. Wearing this ring now, too, on his left hand, that would be an adjustment from this day forward. All of this was, and perhaps change simply took longer to adjust to as one grew older.
Even so, he shouldn’t be feeling so restless and preoccupied, John thought, not after what had been about as perfect a day a cranky, ancient bastard like himself could ask for.
The morning had begun leisurely at home over coffee and John shouting at the morning news while preparing a breakfast feast. Fin had, at first, wrinkled his nose in uncertainty at John’s carefully assembled bagels and lox decked out with chopped onions, capers and fresh cream cheese, but they’d proven well worth the long wait at Zabar’s the previous day. After all, John was retired now; he had nothing but time to spend on shopping for such indulgences. And grudgingly Fin had admitted they were an acceptable change of pace from a greasy egg and cheese sandwich from the coffee cart outside the precinct.
The day of their wedding should start out with a decent meal, shouldn’t it?
They’d dressed and taken the subway downtown, a proper pair of dapper gentlemen on their way to become legal spouses, perish the thought. Having completed the necessary paperwork earlier in the week, the ceremony had been a quick, simple, and entirely sufficient Friday afternoon affair, just the two of them with Liv present as witness. They’d asked her the night before, over drinks that had turned into an approximation of a rehearsal dinner. Pomp and circumstance were for the young and foolish; the jaded and cynical made due with several rounds of Irish whiskey for the house and Shepherd’s Pie to absorb the excess libations.
“Are you at least going on some kind of honeymoon?” she’d asked them after the fact, while taking a few photos (under much protest) of the newlyweds on the steps of City Hall.
“Some kind,” Fin had answered. “Put in for a few days off from today through next week.”
“Yeah, we’re thinking of spending an extended weekend in the Catskills,” Munch added, “as my people are wont to do.”
Back in their own, new neighborhood, they'd celebrated with dinner at a homey Puerto Rican restaurant, several rounds of drinks at that corner bar, and an enthusiastic round of serious fucking during which John had no doubt managed to give several of their neighbors a sleepless evening. And so the now Mister-and-Mister-Tutuola-Munch had collapsed into bed, a new chapter in their weary lives now ahead of them.
Fin had been the one to insist they get married, despite John’s regular protestations regarding his terrible track record when it came to matrimony. Why risk ruining a good thing? That had been his point of view. But Fin had eventually worn him down with entirely logical arguments about the legal benefits it would entitle them to as compared to simply shacking up—some of which were increasingly important to keep in mind while Fin was still employed in a risky profession, and neither of them were getting any younger.
Hell, John could barely remember what being young felt like any longer.
And that was at least part of what was keeping him awake.
He felt Fin move slightly beside him, noticed the change in the rhythm of his snores into less noisy breaths. “You awake?” John asked in a quiet voice, not wanting to rouse the other man if he was just shifting in his dreams.
“The way your foot’s been bouncing on the mattress, how the hell am I supposed to get any sleep?”
“Sorry.” It was a nervous twitch when insomnia struck which often led to his banishment to the sofa until morning, but Fin’s arm around his waist suggested that his partner (—no, husband, he had to remember that now—) wanted him to stay right where he was for the moment. “Been thinking.”
“No shit.” After a pause, “You ain’t regretting this already, are you?”
“Not by one iota,” John assured him. “But I have been pondering what lies ahead in our uncertain future upon this Earth, now that your stuck with my sorry ass legally. At least until I’m dead.”
“Chances are I could be gone before you. I still got, like, ten more years on the force before retirement. Lot of bad things could happen, between then and now. But I don’t like to think about that, you know? 'Sides...death doesn’t even frighten me. Seen too much of it, I guess. It just is. Part of life.”
“Such philosophical. So deep. Wow.”
“Never mind.” John sighed, letting his hand idly slip into Fin’s and marveling at the strange yet perfect way they seemed to fit together. “There’s only one thing I fear at this point in my life, and it’s not dying. It’s slowly forgetting who I am, losing my mind to senility or dementia.”
Fin snorted. “Like you have a mind to begin with.”
John ignored the rote teasing. “I mean it. Hell to me would not be spending eternity in some fantastical torture-scape as dreamed up by Hieronymus Bosch. Even if there is a lot in my life I sincerely would like to forget, Hell would be getting stuck in this body while who I am slips away, day by day. Forgetting how to tie my shoes, how to read or talk...forgetting you. I’ve seen it happen. Heard about some old friends from Baltimore recently...from their spouses, since they can't communicate on their own any longer. Some of the quickest minds you could ever know are now reduced to dribbling apple sauce down their chins while their kids celebrate if they can even momentarily remember any of their names.”
“And why you think something like that’s gonna happen to you?” Fin paused for a moment. “You got medical issues you haven’t told me about?”
The note of concern beneath Fin’s typical gruffness warmed John’s heart. “Nothing like that. I’m just thinking practically.” And uncle Andrew...and my father...
“You’re thinking like a hypochondriac, as usual.” Fin pressed his lips against the back of John’s neck, a soft kiss followed by a playful nibble that left his skin tingling. “So what’re you saying, you start going more crazy than usual, and...what? You want me to take a shovel to your skull and put us both out of your misery?”
“A bullet would do a cleaner job, don’t you think? Save the shovel for digging my grave. We both know some good places to dump a body where it’s not likely to ever be found.”
Fin rolled on top of John, and in the soft light coming into the room from the outside street lamps he could see the look of long-suffering disdain on the man’s face. “You know, you’re right, John. In fact, maybe I should just take care of things this weekend up in the Catskills. Preemptively blow your brains out and save us both any future worry.”
“An excellent plan! And more years for you to collect what’s left of my pension benefits. Whatever my exes can’t claim, at least.”
“Try to stop looking at the dark side of everything for once in your life. It might do your miserable disposition some good.”
“Can I keep looking at your dark side? Because I have to say it looks quite lovely in the fluorescent glow of the city’s midnight lights. Not to mention your ass, and that...”
Fin shut him up the best way he knew how, which was with a kiss that threatened to suck the air out of his lungs, his body pushing down on John with such weight that he couldn’t even attempt to catch another breath. And John loved every second of it.
“No more talking about dying tonight, all right?” Fin insisted, when he was satisfied he had John’s full attention.
“You have my word.” Talking could definitely take a back seat to what seemed on Fin’s agenda now that they were both awake, and a good fuck was always the best cure for insomnia that John knew.
But when it was over, when they both lay spent and sticky in the early morning hours, Fin rested his cheek against John’s forehead and said, “I will always take care of you. Whatever it takes. That’s a promise I don’t need no wedding vows to keep.”
“‘Likewise’? That’s the best you can do, wise ass? How romantic.”
“Since when did you give a shit about romance?”
“You’re right. Fuck you, John.”
“That’s more like it.”
Content, John closed his eyes and let the sounds of the ever-living-and-breathing city outside lull him to sleep at last.