(18 months later)
“This is perfect.” Marc said contently.
Kay smiled. “Yeah,” he simply answered before reeling in his line. He glanced at Marc’s profile. His thick brown hair windblown; he smelt of sea salt and wet leaves; his face pinkish and in the process of getting a tan. Sitting on the boat in cargo shorts and an old green t-shirt, his had a look of concentration on his face, like he’s listening to the fish below, see if they were taking his bait. His strong forearms holding the fishing pole like a professional angler.
He looked gorgeous under the sun. And happy.
They were holidaying in Mecklenburg Vorpommen lake district in northern Germany. A precious one-week holiday they had planned many times before but hadn’t been able to do it until now, because they were both workaholics. Last month Marc had passed his Lieutenant examination, so they decided to rearrange their works respectively and take the plunge.
“My father used to take me to camping and fishing trips around Neckar river, it’s not as well set up as here, but still plenty of variety around,” Marc reminiscing.
The Borgmann father and son bonding holidays. Kay imagined a teenage Marc with his serious face, listening to his father’s instructions, trying to do everything right at first try. Kay huffed a small laugh at that image.
“What?” Marc glanced at him with raised eyebrow.
“Nothing.” Kay gave him a smile.
“I didn’t know you are into fishing too,” Marc said.
“Not exactly, but I know how to fish...” Kay paused, debating with himself for a half a second before he said, “My father used to take me and my brother on fishing trips too, to those camping sites run by the church... until he found out I preferred to play kissing game with another boy rather than sitting on a boat.”
Marc’s hand was resting on his back before Kay finished his sentence.
“Fuck them. You don’t need people like them in your life.”
“Him and Jesus.” Kay deadpanned.
Marc chuckled, obviously relieved that Kay was able to crack jokes. “I’ll be your sinning partner,” he offered. They shared a brief kiss.
When they pulled away, Marc was smiling at him, his brown hair falling boyishly in his eyes. Kay felt something stir in his chest.
“This is worth getting up at dawn for, don’t you agree?” Marc enquired, knowing how much Kay liked to sleep in.
Only because I am doing it with you. Kay thought. “Definitely,” he said instead.
With the rising sun warming their backs, cool water at their fingertips. In the company of nature and each other only. Yeah, this is damn near perfect. Kay thought.
They took the few carp fish they caught to the market and asked the fishmongers to clean and fillet them properly; they also bought a few other ingredients before they headed back to their rental cabin.
Kay cooked most of their meals at home, it was a useful skill he picked up from living alone since he was 17, but this time Marc was in charge.
“I’ve seen my mother done it hundreds of times.”
“I have the burn relief ointment in my gym bag,” Kay said, peeking at the hot oil in the cast iron skillet.
“Have faith, baby. Have faith,” Marc drawled and began to dredge the carp fillets through flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs like he knew what he’s doing.
Marc jumped a foot off from the stove after dropping the first fillet into the skillet, oil splattering everywhere. He ran his fingers under the cold-water tap.
Kay laughed and went to get the ointment.
The weather was balmy that night, so they forwent watching the football game on TV and opted for sitting on the porch outside. Marc had a beer in his hand, slouching in the chair in his sweater and joggers. A picture of relaxation.
Kay wasn’t the biggest outdoor person. He enjoyed running in the woods, but his idea of entertainment usually involved dancing, loud music and sweating. Now sitting quietly on a deck chair, with the nearest neighbour five minutes’ walk away, he felt a sense of peace enveloping him like never before. He didn’t even miss smoking, another habit both of them were trying to do without.
Maybe we are getting old. Kay quietly thought. But it wasn’t an unpleasant thought. As long as they are getting old together.
Marc’s gentle voice shook him out of the reverie on ageing.
Kay looked at him. “Hmm?”
He’s up to something. Kay could tell by the colour rising on Marc’s cheeks, which was damn cute because he has already gotten a tan.
“What is it?” Kay cocked his head.
Marc’s hand reached into his joggers’ pocket. He took out a small box.
The box was too big for a ring. Kay blew a sigh of relief inwardly. They had briefly touched on that subject few months ago. Marc had subtlety enquired but Kay hadn’t wanted to consider that idea. They were together already; a paper and some government institution’s recognition wouldn’t add anything meaningful.
Kay stared at box, then back at Marc again.
Marc opened the box. It was a sliver bracelet with leather straps. Kay turned it over and saw the inscription of an infinity loop at the back, with the letter M and K on either side of the loop.
“I know you don’t want to think about getting married again, so this has nothing to do with that.” He watched Kay carefully, licking his lips like he’s nervous. “Two years ago today, I saw you on the train. Again. After all these years.” He paused for a moment, then proceeded to unclasp the bracelet and put it on Kay’s wrist, he leaned back to have a good look, seemed satisfied. His eyes back on Kay’s. “I think even on that day, deep down I knew. I knew we would find our way back together.”
Kay traced the silver with his finger, feeling the warmth of the leather and the cool of the silver metal on his wrist. Two contrasting sensations in harmony. His gaze flickered between Marc’s eyes and mouth, his breath misting in the night air.
“Come here,” he demanded softly.
Marc promptly obliged. The soft caress of Marc’s tongue against his lips set Kay alight; he moaned softly as he opened for him, deepening the kiss. Marc’s hand covered his wrist and the bracelet, stroking the leather and the skin underneath, like it’s a good luck charm.
“Forever starts here and now.” Kay said.
“Maybe we can go salmon fishing in Norway next time, I heard it’s a unique experience,” Marc suggested. They were sprawled on the sofa inside the cabin. Marc was wrapped up tight in Kay’s arms. Their sweats rapidly cooling under the night temperature, Kay pulled the wool blanket from the armrests to loosely cover their bodies.
“Have you been there?” He kissed the top of Marc’s head.
“My parents took me there when I was a toddler, I had no memory of it, but I’ve seen the photos, it’s beautiful,” he said dreamily. He looked well fucked and high on post-coital dopamine. His hair still damp and standing up in odd angles, his eyes bright and alive. Kay stroked lazy circles on Marc’s belly, ran his fingers through his hair.
It wasn’t something they do often - Kay topping Marc. Kay had his preference and Marc made no secret that he liked to fuck Kay’s brains out every chance he got. Sex between them was great. Spectacular, if Kay wanted to brag. They were comfortable with their roles. They switch things up every blue moon, when stars and moods aligned. And to Kay, there’s something special when Marc let him do that, to be inside of him. Kay knew Marc hadn’t done that with other men. “Never wanted to,” Marc had said. “Except with you, I want you to.”
It was like Kay was the only person in the world Marc would place his trust in. And to Kay, that’s even better than the sex itself.
“I know there are some great hiking trails too,” Marc was still talking about Norway, tried to make his holiday proposal more appealing to Kay.
Kay smiled. “I’ll go anywhere with you” was his answer.
Mats Hartmann’s phone-call came a month after they got back from their fishing holiday.
Marc insisted on driving; they rushed to the care home at 11pm. Mats, Sonja, their two sons, even Daniel, were there.
It’s heart-breaking. Death is an ugly business, no matter how one wants to dress it up. Klaus’ physical condition deteriorated rapidly in the last two weeks after a bout of pneumonia. He hadn’t been able to recognise anyone for months by then, but Marc knew it was important to Kay that he would be there with Klaus for the last moments.
Marc got to the funeral on time. His fingers dug into the flesh on his palm; he ordered himself to stop shifting his legs. He looked over and saw Kay sitting in the front row.
The front row for the family. The Hartmann family.
Kay had his arm around Sonja, who was sandwiched between Kay and Mats. Then Mats’ two sons were on the other side of Mats. Daniel was sitting on a row behind, in an expensive black suit with sunglasses on, conversing quietly with an older man with grey hair. Marc recognised that man, Thomas Kohler, he was Kay’s supervisor in the P.I. company, an old friend and business partner of Klaus.
Marc stared at the back of Daniel Hartmann’s head. Two years on, occasionally he still had murderous thoughts about him. At least Kay’s ‘insurance’ seemed to have kept him on a tight leash. As far as Marc knew, Kay hasn’t seen his ex-husband since they signed the divorce papers. In fact, Marc heard that Daniel would be moving to San Francisco permanently after Klaus’s funeral.
Kay turned around and spotted Marc. Even with ten rows between them, Marc could see the sadness in his eyes. Klaus’ death was far from sudden, but it still hit Kay very hard, he wasn’t eating enough, resting enough. Marc knew. Because he was there for Kay every night.
Mats Hartmann followed Kay’s line of sight; he raised his hand in a gesture of ‘come over’.
Marc hesitated for a half second before he walked over to the front.
“I am sorry for your loss,” he said to Mats and Sonja.
Mats nodded. It was the first time Marc saw him looking less than his usual imposing self. He looked tired; sorrow written on his face. He cleared his throat. “Hey Marc, thank you for coming. Why don’t you sit with Kay here?”
Kay was already taking his hand, so Marc sat down next to him. Sonja reached over and patted Marc’s knee as way of greeting; still sniffling, she couldn’t speak.
Marc had met Klaus a couple of times, when he had accompanied Kay to the care home to visit. Hartmann senior had no idea who Marc was; Kay had simply introduced him as a ‘detective friend’ and Klaus had instantly warmed up to him. It’s impossible not to like Klaus. And Marc liked the idea that Kay wanted him to know the person who’s important to him.
“You okay?” Marc asked softly. Kay’s eyes were dry, but red-rimmed.
He nodded; eyes downcast. “Just don’t want to say goodbye.”
Marc pulled him closer and kissed the side of his head. Thankful that he was able to be here for Kay. As if their thoughts were in sync, Kay leaned into the touch. “I am glad you are here,” he sighed.
Marc said, “I will be here for you. Always.”