in which Eduardo falls in love again

 Eduardo’s struck by the way the light glistens on Mark’s hair; it brings out an almost-red shade that flickers on and off with the imperceptible shifts of the light, with the clouds scudding across the sky. He leans back on his elbow and it strikes him as odd and wonderful all at once that he is quite content to just look at Mark, to just breathe him in and take him in whilst he’s asleep and unable to twist away, embarrassed, from Eduardo’s gaze like he would (of course) if he were awake (and he knows it’s a tired cliché, but sometimes Eduardo genuinely thinks he knows Mark better than Mark knows himself).

The warm hum of Mark’s skin as Eduardo drags his fingertips across it echoes through Eduardo’s hands, vibrates in his skin, and Eduardo is almost afraid as he presses his lips to Mark’s bare neck, an irrational fear rising in him for a long moment that he will feel something that Mark will not return. The moment rises, its significance in Eduardo’s mind flooding the room with a held-breath apprehension, and then Mark arches, his long body ruffling the sheets as he sighs, his lips parted as if silent words are trickling out onto the pillow, and with him Eduardo sighs too, an illogical smile tugging at his lips. It’s an instant, and yet it stretches out; everlasting as only a Sunday morning moment can be, somehow defying physics to make a single heartbeat last for minutes instead of seconds, and to Eduardo it seems that the light has become different too, perfecting flaws instead of illuminating them. The laws of science, breaking and softening in the sleepy curve of Mark’s neck (and gravity defied everywhere; there is not one single part of Eduardo that is not weightless).

It’s strange, that when Eduardo watches Mark sleep (and he means that in the least sinister way possible), the word that instantly springs to mind is grace, and it’s pretty evident that the word couldn’t justifiably be applied to Mark in real life, all lanky limbs and awkward apologies and too much silence for Eduardo’s liking. But now, here, Eduardo realises with surprise that he couldn’t possibly describe him as anything other than graceful, and he mesmerises himself easily with the movement of the long bones under Mark’s pale sun-dappled skin, and with the slow-flowing comforting rhythm of Mark’s heartbeat that – if Eduardo leans very close, close enough to be distracted by the curving too-red bow of Mark’s lip – he can hear thrumming under the skin, like a lullaby (let me fall asleep to you forever), like the ticking of a clock when you have nowhere to be.

Mark is utterly still now, and the air around him hovers with the warmth of human sleep and the peace of a body that feels, knows, that it is safe. Eduardo has a sudden urge to fit himself (as he knows he will fit perfectly) into the curve of Mark’s neck, to take Mark’s lips with his own and pull the words from them, but he contents himself with playing with the light on the curve of Mark’s shoulder and humming Mark’s name in his head, aligning it with Mark’s heartbeat, music to his ears. His eyes move in a familiar rhythm, exploring every nuance and twist of Mark, tracing the already well-traced angles of Mark’s face (and all of them, each and every single one, whisper i am vulnerable. take care of me. Yes, Eduardo says. Yes.)

The clouds part as if choreographed; light floods the room, illuminates everything (although the way it lands on Mark’s skin is something else entirely, something Eduardo has no words for). Call it Eduardo’s innate romanticism – a phrase Mark loves to use when he’s in a particularly condescending mood – but Eduardo is suddenly biting back the words that threaten to pour out of him (I love it when you fall asleep on my shoulder and the way your mouth moves when you’re explaining something and the stupid things you say when you’re drunk and the way you say “because” and the way you say my name) because this time, just for once, he wants Mark to hear them.

Mark shifts again in his sleep and for a second his face relaxes imperceptibly, as if some long-held piece of him is uncoiling at last, here with Eduardo in the room where time wanders and lingers in ways that are new to Eduardo but that, he thinks, he would like to get used to. The traffic is roaring below them, Eduardo knows, the city alive with traffic and people and energy; but the room is worlds away from the noise; is all caught up in a slow-breathing silence soft as Mark’s skin, like the dust motes that dangle, supersede science, caught in pure light by the window.