Abandoned lighthouse on Sakhalin Island, Russia.
ANGER 18: “I didn’t ask you to do that!”
Not hiring a moving company had seemed like a good idea at first. After all, they had more than enough time to move everything out of the Berlin apartment out on their own, considering they both had been facing retirement for a good few years now and had more free time that they knew what to do with.
But then, after they’d already stored all the bigger furniture they intended to keep and bring back to Munich into the back of a truck with the help of a few neighbours and had bid them all goodbye afterwards – because surely, with the help of an elevator, moving a few lamps, books and side tables downstairs couldn’t be that difficult – said elevator had broken down.
Which, to quote Thomas, was “ever so slightly inconvenient”.
Well, Manuel thought, as he finished up packing the last of the cardboard boxes as he stored the last handful of books into them, that was one way to put it.
He’d bought this place when he’d not even been thirty yet, hadn’t dated Thomas and real estate investments were still a good idea. Now, as he was approaching his mid-seventies faster than he would ever like to admit, looking after it was just a hassle to deal with, and they never really used it anymore anyway.
Sometime about ten years ago, constantly switching your living quarters – if only for a couple days a month – had lost its appeal. Maybe it had started when Manuel’s feet had started aching every morning when he got out of bed, or when Thomas started coughing every winter and blamed it on the dry air every time but they both suspected that it was probably something more permanent than that. Or maybe big city life just wasn’t for them anymore – Manuel didn’t really know. He didn’t really care, either, but in the end he’d just been glad when he’d finally made the decision to call a real estate agent and to sell it.
It would be a family of four buying it, she had informed them. Manuel was pleased with that. He’d always liked children, even though he and Thomas never had any of their own, and as his eyes flicked through the hallway, he imagined tiny little feet running around on the warm-toned wooden floorboards, climbing up on the window sills to peer down at the little park in the inner courtyard or trying to reach up to the kitchen counters to snoop in their parents’ pans.
Yeah, it would be a place well suited to a young family, he thought, only shaken out of his musings by a loud shuffle, causing him to lift his head.
Thomas had appeared in the doorframe, crouching down, picking up the last of the cardboard boxes. Frowning, Manuel realized that he must have already hauled the rest of them downstairs too when he hadn’t been paying attention.
“I didn’t ask you to do that.” He hated the annoyance in his own voice, but he knew that Thomas must be out of breath by now, that he shouldn’t have done all of this on his own–
His husband grinned one of his sparkling grins, one that still made him look like the young man Manuel had fallen in love with more than forty years ago. Thomas still had a youthful air to him, even with his salt-and-pepper hair, the crinkles by his eyes deep and the laughter lines by his mouth countless. Only when he looked closer, taking in his body that had once been lithe with lean muscle, and how almost fragile he seemed now, taking in his posture that was a little more bowed, was Manuel reminded that even Thomas hadn’t escaped the years unscathed.
“I’m fine, sweetheart, don’t worry.”
Thomas winked. His voice was raspier than it used to be, too, but Manuel loved it that way, the way it always felt like a tender caress in the mornings, how it reminded him that he’d been so lucky, being able to wake up with his head on Thomas’ chest for forty-three years now.
Yet, Manuel felt his eyebrows draw tighter together, something coiling in his stomach, pressing his lips tighter together. He didn’t say anything, but he wasn’t as foolish as to believe that Thomas hadn’t noticed.
His husband sighed, putting down the box with a tiny little groan, before crouching down, mustering Manuel intensely.
“I know you hate it when I don’t let you help.”
Manuel just barely suppressed a huff. They’d known each other for fifty years, and yet, in moments like this, it still a bit annoying, how easily Thomas was able to read him – even if it was not surprising in the least.
Thomas extended his hand, gently putting it on Manuel’s, thumbing over his knuckles and over the spots that had appeared on the back of his hand over the past few years.
“Babe, I saw you rub your knees half an hour ago. I don’t want you to hurt any more than necessary.”
God, Thomas. Sweet, considerate, amazing Thomas.
Manuel hated it, hated how sometimes now, more than ever, it was obvious that his husband was the younger of the two of them, that he had obtained less injuries during his active career. Hated how his feet and his knees gave him trouble every day, and how, apart from weekly physio sessions that only could only do so much to relieve the chronic pain, this was something he had to live with now. Hated how it restricted him, sometimes, how he wasn’t able to go hiking anymore, how he had to sometimes sit down when he took their dog for a walk.
In the end, he knew it couldn’t be helped, and he was thankful that Thomas was looking out for him; but still, it sometimes was a tough pill to swallow, that the ache in his legs would never fully fade anymore. But still, the warmth pooling in his stomach as Thomas looked at him so fondly managed to override the bitterness so effortlessly, and so, he bit his tongue, and instead allowed a smile taking over his features.
“Thanks, Thommy,” he mumbled, getting up with a repressed groan.
After sitting on them for half an hour, his knees felt even worse for wear. Begrudgingly, he once again silently admitted that his husband had been right, just like he’d always been, for all those years.
Thomas’ responding smile was as warm, and when he reached out, putting his hands on Manuel’s waist, pulling him closer, Manuel had no intentions to stop him. Thomas’ lips met his cheek, his beard scratching at Manuel’s skin in a way that was so comfortingly familiar, the same way his laughter was balm to his ears and his hands the anchor to his silly heart.
But it was only when they closed to doors of the van, Thomas getting behind the wheel, humming a song they’d heard on the radio earlier that day, slowly steering them out of town, that Manuel realized:
They might have been old, and grey, and their bodies were giving them grief, but throughout all of it, every bump, every hiccup, they’d always had each other.
And growing old with the love of your life, being just as besotted with each other, if not more, than when they’d shared their first kiss?
Yeah, that made Manuel feel like the luckiest man in the world.
BLISS 7: “Look at you… Goodness, you’re so cute.”
The first rays of the rising sun were seeping through the mint-coloured blinds, bathing the room in a warm, golden light. Barcelona mornings often had this quiet beauty to them, especially now, in summer, when Marc was usually awake before the rest of the city and everything was still silent, only disrupted by a few cars a few streets away, a cat meowing on a roof on the other side of the street or the bell of a bicycle chiming.
Usually, he’d slip out of bed now, feet cold on the wooden floors, and make himself a cup of coffee first thing, but today was different.
Today, Marc woke up to a head on his chest, soft snores sending tiny little tremours through his body, a heavy arm thrown across his stomach, and blond curls tickling his nose.
Bernd hadn’t planned to stay, originally, both of them were aware of that all too well. But somehow, things weren’t how they had been a few years before – they were older now, probably not wiser, and tired of the cat-and-mouse games of their youth. Or at least, Marc was.
So when Bernd had been ready to get out of bed once the afterglow had passed, to go to a hotel or straight back to the airport to catch a flight to London, or to do god knows what, Marc had reached out and taken his hand.
“Stay,” he had whispered, and surprisingly, that had been all it took.
He hadn’t been able to suppress a smile when Bernd had slipped back under the covers, almost grumpily, but yet not protesting when Marc had pulled him towards his body until Bernd’s back was flush against his chest. In fact, Bernd had just sighed, and it hadn’t been a conceding sigh but one that sounded relieved … almost happy.
And as pathetic as it might sound, that had been enough for Marc’s heart to flutter shyly and for something like hope to blossom in his heart.
Looking down at Bernd now, still asleep in his arms, Marc was still sleepy enough to not deny the thought, the confession that he would like him to stay there forever. Bernd looked boyish curled into him like this, younger than he’d ever seemed – probably, Marc thought, because when they had actually only been boys, Bernd had always looked at him with a face distorted by disgust and anger.
How foolish they had been.
Maybe, if they’d stopped clashing over their differences and their rivalry when they had been younger, maybe they could have seen how much they actually had in common a lot earlier.
Marc sighed, slowly lifting his hand, brushing one astray curl out of Bernd’s forehead. Marc liked when Bernd’s hair was this long, unstyled so it turned into perfect little ringlets instead of being gelled back and almost glued to his head. It made him look more like Marc’s lover instead of his former arch-nemesis. With a soft smile tugging at his lips, Marc let his fingertips ghost over Bernd’s cheekbone, thumbing over it, hesitating only shortly when Bernd blinked open his eyes, looking at him with a mix of confusion and strange wonder.
“Morning,” Marc whispered, as if he could break the fragility of this morning if he spoke too loudly.
“‘rnin’” Bernd mumbled, burying his face in Marc’s chest again, obviously not willing to face reality yet. Marc chuckled at how much he looked like a drowsy kitten because of it, continuing his soft caresses, moving down to stroking Bernd’s shoulder, then to his side, his heart hammering against his chest when that caused Bernd to giggle in tiny little hiccups.
Marc hadn’t known he was this ticklish.
Goodness. “Look at you … You’re so cute.”
He hadn’t meant to say it out loud; almost regretted it when Bernd flinched, his face open, vulnerable, but his eyebrows drawn tight in a way that clearly meant that he was ready to get up and pull up his defences, should he need to. Marc had no intention to give him a reason. He sighed.
“I’m sorry. But – I meant it. You … this is perfect. I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you stayed.”
And just like that, he’d done what he should have done months, possibly years ago. He’d put his heart out on his sleeve, and offered it to Bernd to take.
For just one second, he feared that the slightly older goalie might take it as a possibility to crush it. But instead, Bernd reached up, engulfing Marc’s hand with his own. Both their palms were rough, the backs of their hands littered with tiny hands. Goalkeeper hands, so similar but yet so different in the individual stories they told.
“I wanted to stay. Thanks for …” Bernd hesitated, “thanks for letting me.”
Marc squeezed his hand, gently, tightening the arm he still had around Bernd’s waist as his lover’s hair was tinted golden by the sun, the air around them growing hotter with the second.
And already, he knew that, maybe for the first time, both of them would be ready to admit that they’d rather not have to say goodbye.
“the taste of faith”
okay, time to knock back a bottle of coca cola and get to writing AT LEAST one or two of my drabble requests
N E U L L E R
2. Who sighs and rests their head on their partner’s shoulder while the other pulls them closer?
This is a tricky question, right? Manu, 100%. And sure, he has to crouch in a bit of an awkward way, but it’s so, so worth it
4. How do they greet one another when they come home?
“Sweetheart, Im home” - Thomas. “Thommy, you there?” - Manu
11. Who laughs so hard that they make no sound and whose laugh can you hear from a mile away?
First one is Manu, SECOND ONE IS AGGRESSIVELY THOMAS!!!
14. They get looped into going to a party they don’t wanna go to, do they, A) Get out of it with a mediocre lie, (what is the lie) B) Go and decide to try and have a good time, C) Go and decide to start chaos or D) Go and steal some food?
They go and then Thomas decides to start chaos while Manu steals food (and alcohol. He also steals plenty of alcohol)
H E N D O L L A N A
4. How do they greet one another when they come home?
(God, Im terrible at answering number 4!!!!) I feel like Adz could be cheeky and go with a “Hey, Skipper, Im home!!”. While Hendo would be very plain and simple
8. Who continually tries to prank the other but fails each time?
Hendo. I know that as Captain he’s expected to be the responsible one, but he can be a little shit too. Besides, Adam is the one he gets to relax with. But unfortunately, he IS still the team’s Dad and therefore he just fails each time. But it’s all very endearing (and one day Trent will take pity on him and help him successfully pull off a prank)
10. Who gets the spider out of the house?
Jordan Brian Henderson. And he does it completely unfazed, while Adam shrieks in a corner (in this scenario, Adz is me, btw!)
12. Who is more likely to create an absolute disaster in the kitchen?
Adam…? I don’t think either of them is a great cook. But I feel like Hendo knows his limits and doesn’t try to make anything other than toast or cereal in there. Adam, on the other hand, can attempt to be creative and romantic from time to time and it ends up being completely chaotic.
The fact that the world views being straight and hetero couples as a default has really taken a toll how hetero love stories are told.
The fact that when a man and a woman smile each other already means they will be together in the next shot is lousy storytelling. This especially applies to cinema where good deal of filmmakers have started to think that they don’t need the build up a hetero relationship because it’s the Expected Outcome and thus Established Truth.
This is why even the simplest queer films are more engaging than the technically ‘better made’ straight ones. Queer films still have to convince the viewer that these two really desperately want to be together & their love is Pure & Real (which actually is an issue too but I won’t get into this now).
Story is in the process, not in the result.