Dean leaned over the balcony of his suite, willing himself to be calm even as he fought the temptation to run back inside and drain that complementary bottle of wine in one go. But he closed his eyes and drank deep of the salty coastal air instead. The setting sun shone upon his face and its light illustrated the delicate veins behind his eyelids, flooding his world with gold. It was almost time, and he found himself resenting the sun for its leisurely descent almost as much as he wished it would linger on, so that the whole thing could be put off for just a while longer. Just so he could get his bearings.
He still couldn't believe this was happening. Giddiness and terror danced together in his gut.
He hadn't seen Jerry since sunrise—"bad luck before the main event, bubbe"—but he knew in his heart the kid had to be a bundle of nerves, too. And who wouldn't be?
Not for the first time Dean found himself musing distantly on the possibility that his partner might get cold feet after all, and felt an icy shiver of paranoia judder down his spine. But then again, they were on the other side of the world; Dean's ancestral homeland, granted, but a land still quite foreign to the both of them. Where the hell would he even go?
Dean ran a hand over his face. Shut up, you idiot, he chastised himself. You saw the look on that kid's face after you popped the question. He wants this just as much as you do. If not more.
He hadn't actually been able to go about proposing to Jerry in the traditional manner, but Dean figured that was just as well; everything about the arrangement—about the two of them—was wildly unorthodox by current standards, possibly even blasphemous by a spiritual metric, so discretion was paramount. He’d deal with any disapproval on the Almighty’s part later. But hell, you only lived once, right?
They'd been at a party back home when Dean finally worked up the nerve. All his attempts to herd Jer away from the crowd for somewhere more private proved fruitless, but if it didn't happen tonight he doubted it ever would.
Deftly, when he was sure no one was looking too close, Dean slipped the small box out of his pocket and handed it to Jer, who accepted it happily. Before he could ask any questions or screech out some affectionate wisecrack that would draw everyone’s attention, Dean leaned over to whisper in his ear: "If the answer is yes, wear it where I can see it. But I'll understand if you don't. No hard feelings."
Without pausing to gauge Jer's stunned expression he ducked his head and melted back into the nauseating crowd, making a beeline for the bathroom to either splash some cool water on his face or knock himself unconscious on the edge of the sink; he'd decide when he got there.
Had he lost his fucking mind?
When he'd rejoined the party Jerry was nowhere to be seen and his stomach lurched in devastated freefall, immediately convinced he'd scared the poor kid off and incinerated their partnership in one fell swoop. Dean had leaned back against the wall and was a second away from blowing the joint himself when he heard a familiar cackle and looked up. Jer was a few strides across the room, drinking and schmoozing like he hadn't a care in the world.
Real life slowed down as Dean watched him raise a glass of champagne to his lips, watched Jer's sleeve slide gently over the delicate wrist, where a very beautiful gold watch glinted gently in the light. A Beau Brummell it was, because it simply had to be for this occasion; a gem like to make Jer the envy of the other guests for the remainder of the evening. Beau Brummell. It was a private joke between the two of them, an absurd and beautiful one, for them and them alone. No one would ever know its true significance, nor be the wiser about the special engraving on the back. It boasted two simple words that carried the weight of years: years of affection, of longing, of feelings unspoken and as yet unspeakable.
Dean's heart soared and his breath came out in a rush, and Jer's eyes immediately found his across the room as if he'd heard it. His partner smiled, tears beading at the corners of his eyes, and reached over to stroke the timepiece reverently.
Yes, Paul, that gesture told him. I’d scream it from the rooftops a hundred times over if I could. But you knew that already, didn’t ya? Yet you still ran and hid like some kid with a schoolyard crush. Silly dago. How could I say no? How could my answer be anything else, when it’s you?
Dean nearly wept.
They simply couldn't wait. They eloped that same evening, packing their bags and catching the first flight out to Italy at Jer's insistence, where the maternal, sunbaked coast of the Mezzogiorno passed her fingers lovingly through their travel-mussed hair and embraced Dean's spirit like a prodigal son.
For many Italians brought up in the New World, returning to il paese vecchio was a coveted pilgrimage few rarely had the means to make. Dean counted himself lucky in that regard. There was something divine about the experience that threatened to overwhelm him, but he swallowed the lump in his throat and vowed to ruminate on it as soon as he had a moment to spare.
Jer of course wasted no time, and before the end of the second day had managed to track down a willing minister and a location so cloyingly, stupidly romantic it would've made Dean gag if virtually anyone else had suggested it.
And so, he was here.
The path to his nuptials was steep and especially treacherous in the fickle moonlight, little more than a narrow passage hewn from a hilly outcrop on the beach. But he braved the climb nonetheless, his ancestors and the sighing ocean following close behind him like an ethereal bridal procession as he picked his way carefully up the winding way.
Finally he came upon the tunnel Jer had instructed him to look for, which was a little too narrow for his liking and small enough that he would be forced to crouch, but blessedly brief for all that. He hesitated just outside the entrance, knowing that he now toed the threshold of the point of no return. Took a deep breath. Pressed on.
After moments or years he came upon it at last, la Spiaggia dell'Arco Magno, where the bloated moon beamed through the rocky arch, lighting a path on the clear blue water that led his eyes to where his partner—his groom—was waiting with their go-between on the tiny beach.
Jer was absolutely stunning, barefoot and comfortably clothed in loose white linen and khaki pants rolled up to the knees. They locked eyes as Dean descended upon the cove, and Dean would've been content to stay held in that gaze forever if bashfulness hadn't soon gotten the better of his Jer, who giggled and lowered his eyes demurely, those impossibly long lashes brushing his cheekbones. The moonlight limned his slender body in otherworldly blue, and for a moment Dean was almost convinced he was dreaming.
He stepped onto the beach, took his boy by the hand, and together they turned to the minister.
"This is forever," Dean remembered telling the papers once. They were back at the hotel now. Jerry’s skin was like silk under his hands. "Til death do us part." A pair of sandy khakis went sailing and joined two identical shirts in a puddle on the floor. If only I'd known then just how much those words would come to mean to me. Moonlight poured in through the balcony door, illuminating entwined figures moving together on the bed. How close I’d hold that promise in my heart. And for a man, of all things. Dean bent his head to press sucking kisses to Jerry’s swanlike neck. His husband groaned. Dull fingernails raked through his curls. But here I am. Jerry let his head fall back and Dean’s lips trailed lower still, tongue flicking out to taste him. Here I am. On the other side of the world, breathing in the salt and sea that gave birth to all my people. He lowered his groom gently down. Strong, adventurous hands tweaked sweet pink nipples, stroked a taut belly, explored sharp hips that jerked wantonly in response to his touch. Back at the beginning, with a beautiful boy beneath me, and he's all mine. And I’m happier than I've ever been in my life.
Finally Dean’s mouth closed around the heat of his groom’s desire, and the world in all its judgements and taboos and sadistic voyeurism fell away into the sighing roaring famished sea which gaveth and which taketh away and she gobbled it all whole and for hours, for years, for eternity they were left in peace and they were together and they were here, newborn gods at the dawn of creation, sealing the union that would birth the wide world anew.