The chill against Chris' skin felt weirdly pleasant as it took his mind off everything that had been swirling around in it for weeks. At first the drink had managed to obliterate the feelings and thoughts that tormented him but that had soon given way to it being the catalyst for the problems. He knew that the slippery slope got steeper beneath his feet every time he pressed the bottle to his lips but he felt utterly powerless to do anything about it. There was nothing left to fight for any more.
Shifting his body he laid so that more of his skin was in contact with the icy cold floor, pressing the palms of his hands flat to it and stroking the smooth slate with his fingertips, wondering how long it was since he'd felt something that pure and perfect against them. Pure and perfect like Matty.
Chris felt the corners of his mouth curl into a smile he didn't ask them to make. He remembered images and gentle words exchanged in that once lively and lovely kitchen, all memories burned onto his soul forever. He reached for the bottle that he knew was almost empty and upended the dregs into his mouth, desperate to make that final push over the edge so that he could take that smile away. He didn't want to smile any more, their home now tainted and haunted with their playful laughter as he could never share it again with the key player in the blissful daydreams.
In his other hand he took the coffee that had long since cooled and staled. Raising the cup to his lips he took a deep swig, the bite of the alcohol that laced it hit the raw flesh at the back of his throat making him cough and splutter before the warmth of the burn spilled down into stomach. Something had to make this pain go away, take away his regrets, his grief for what was gone. The headaches and bellyaches of the past few weeks had started to eat away at the pain but hadn't quite finished the job off. Every time Chris saw Matty it all just came flooding back and seeing him with Christian had quickly undone all the weeks of dumbing down and numbing out. It was suddenly as raw as hell and deep inside Chris knew it was over. He couldn't cope any more and the bottom of the bottle was the only friend he had left to turn to.
Deciding he needed another litre of something, anything, to carry on where the whisky had left off Chris braced himself against his heels and tried to force himself up by sliding his back against the kitchen cupboards. Arching his back into the manoeuvre he slid up, still clutching the cup and the bottle as if his life depended on them. With nothing more than a few inches to go he moved his foot to try and turn towards the worktop. Then everything went black.
The next thing Chris felt was his body being grabbed and pulled at, the coldness disappearing and melting into a warmth he never thought he'd feel again. The tingling in his skin was almost painful, as if he'd just come out of the cold air and straight into a hot bath. He screwed his eyes shut as tight as the little energy he had left would allow, not wanting to wake up cold and alone in his bed again to realise that the warmth was nothing more than a tormentingly lucid dream.
The pain intensified and Chris felt as if he was being crushed, the last scraps of breath being squeezed forcibly out of his lungs. In the distance he heard a voice, a familiar voice that came into his every slumbering moment and was now calling his name with all the love that it had ever done. It tore his ears and his soul to shreds as he longed to cry it back over and over again. In his mind he was torn between allowing himself to believe that it was real or trying to wake up from another nightmare to head the disappointment off at the pass. Chris was desperate not to spiral away into the darkness of his many regrets, feeling his heart break at the thought of waking up to that feeling again. He couldn't do it, wouldn't do it to himself.
The word "No." echoed in his mind and he tried to force it from his lips, not knowing whether or not he had the strength to speak. All he knew was that more voices had joined in the chorus and he still recognised only one. Curious as to who it was Chris tried to force open the lids of his dry eyes, damning how scared he was of what he might see. He begged fate there and then for it to not be another image of Matty and Christian so intimately linked together, knowing he would give anything, everything, rather than see that again.
Untwisting the lids of his eyes Chris took as deep a breath as he could manage and used the last of his determination to force them open. All he could see was a golden haze with blurred shapes moving around in front of them, nothing clear enough to distinguish. That was until he saw the silhouette in front of him that could only be of one person. The dark outline of the long hair that tumbled from the top of that head was unmistakeable. This time Chris knew the barest smile he'd ever managed was all his own doing. Beautiful Matty.
He tried to reach an arm out but it wouldn't move, unaware that it was lashed in restraint to the stretcher that would soon take him to the ambulance. The words kept coming from the strange voices that were still no more familiar to him but it didn't matter. Matt was here. His Matt. Allowing his eyes to close again he thought of the love they'd had, a love that had somehow seen him through a lot of tough times. As the warmth swept over him again Chris recalled scattergun images and let them take him away to a happier place where, as he'd once told Matt, "You're the light in my day and the dark in my night. Hell, you're the bassist in my band, baby!"
The chapel was full of people and it was certainly a sight to behold. As Christian ushered himself to a row of seats towards the middle of the room he looked at the colourful array of outfits and characters that filled it. Every current star and past legend from their rosters had made the effort to attend and brought their partners and families who were seated in the many rows. Gentle instrumental music lilted through the air and the sun shone through the large windows, lighting up the floral displays that had been placed around the room.
He couldn't help but wonder why he'd been invited. After that fateful night he'd hardly spoken to Matt, knowing when he'd been abandoned alone in the house that he was nothing more than an afterthought to the relationship he'd been so glad to see disintegrate. Matt had left him a voicemail message saying that it had all been a mistake and that he'd never meant to fall into bed with him. He'd said that he was sorry if he'd given Christian the wrong idea but that there was never going to be anything between them and he was sorry if he'd made him think any different.
Having saved the message and played it over and over in reality and in his mind Christian was finally coming to terms with the fact that it was never going to be, especially not now. Fingering at the tie that felt like a tightening noose around his neck he played with the idea of getting up and leaving before anyone really noticed he was there. So many of his colleagues hadn't spoken to him since they'd seen him make a move for Matt that he often felt invisible to them. As he looked around the room he managed a half-grin as he considered his peers' high moral standards; the same ones that had made him a pariah. Here they all were parading their trophy wives and perfect kids who had no idea what double lives most of them lived on the road.
He knew that if any of the wives clocked the furtive and shifty glances that criss-crossed the room between there would be hell to pay. Jealous looks ruled the day as the muscular men stood with their arms around slender and immaculately presented women; trophy wives that had borne children they hardly knew but felt obliged to have to keep up the charade. The genuinely straight ones were rolling about on the floor, chasing the kids round to keep them amused in such a formal situation and had homely looking wives who had actual hips and mussed up hair. They were the genuinely beautiful women and mothers who dedicated themselves to keeping homes together while Daddy was out on the road most of the year. The rest of them were nothing but vacuous arm candy, thought Christian, and he knew that he'd never be that hypocritical about the way he chose to live his life, no matter what the cost in terms of friendship.
He scanned who was seated in the front rows of seats and he could pick out Jeff's crazy hair a mile off, even though it was scraped back into a relatively neat bun that hovered just above the collar of his jacket. Next to him he assumed was their dad, a khaki coloured cowboy hat perched on top of his head. The next faces he recognised were Chris' parents and siblings, faces he hadn't seen for a long, long time since he and Chris had tagged together, become friends and he'd been invited to their many and various family gatherings. Christian felt more than a little ashamed of his pursuit of Matt when he thought about the kindnesses shown to him by Chris' family and decided if he was going to speak to them it would be much later on and maybe after a significant quantity of alcohol.
Realising that he was still fingering the card that bore the details of the when and where of the service he looked it over before sliding it into his pocket. It appeared to him that everyone had observed the dress code and wore nothing black. He'd been a little peeved about that himself as he thought that his best colour but all churlish thoughts of fashion consciousness could be shelved for one day, even by some of the most narcissistic people on in the entertainment industry. He ran his hands down his trousered thighs, shedding the thin layer of perspiration that had formed on them, conscious of the fact that he was one of the only people that had attended alone. Alone because he still only wanted Matt but couldn't have him, would never have him.
As the music changed he realised that everyone was going back to their seats. An acoustic guitarist sat at the front of the chapel and had begun to play softly before starting to sing. It wasn't a song he recognised but the words struck a chord in his own heart, knowing that exactly why that song had been chosen.
"You know you make me feel so good
Like I never ever thought I could
You know you make me feel so strong
And now our laughter just goes on and on
So come on lay your hands on me
Cos close to you is where I really wanna be
And if it ever gets too much
I see your face and sense the grace
And feel the magic in our touch."
He turned to face the rear of the chapel and the doors swung open, the light of a bright summers' day highlighting the figures that came through it. Everyone stood and turned to face the oncoming slow moving procession of bodies, some tears already being shed and eyes dabbed frantically.
First through the doors were the two twin girls, dressed immaculately in white outfits and finished off with as many sparkles as the dressmaker had been able to adhere to them. The dresses glittered as if covered in diamond dust and they scattered the petals from their baskets all over the ground as they walked. Behind them the older boy, dressed in white jeans and a white button down shirt, looked every bit the miniature caricature of Chris who was following not far behind. For once though the sullen son's nonchalant and unimpressed expression was not one cut in the image of his father.
Next to pass through the throng of guests were the couple themselves. Arms linked they wore nothing like the matching outfits that the wedding planner had suggested. Matt wore a white suit with a white t-shirt underneath finished with some white New Rock boots that had diamanté metal panels wrapped around the back. It was no surprise that they'd been the 'something new' that Jeff had insisted on buying for him and Matt actually wearing on the day.
Chris was in something much more toned down and casual. The overwashed denim clung tightly to his legs and the white dress shirt hung open to halfway down his chest showing off the lightly tanned skin it only served to enhance. His favourite cowboy boots punctuated the outfit, scuffed and battered from years of wear, tear and hell raising. They were his something old.
It was noticeable that Chris was walking with a slight limp that interrupted the cocky swagger that even the walk down the aisle at his own wedding couldn't tame. He'd broken a few bones in the fall during what he now referred to as the 'Monumental Jericho Fuck Up Incident'. He knew that he'd never be the same in a lot of ways. The weeks after it when he'd been laid up in hospital drying out and crying out had been tough times. Matt had been there every minute that he could and not lose his job. They'd spent long hours talking about what had gone wrong and how they'd ended up in such a mess.
Matt had finally found the courage to admit that he was struggling with the weight of the responsibility he thought having the kids would be. Chris had reassured him honestly that he wasn't expecting Matt to be Superdad to three growing kids that weren't his from day one. In that short hour of conversation all the things they should've said on the first day they'd argued were born into the air. All the honesty they'd pledged to each other from the outset but struggled to express had now turned into a white knight on a charger, scooping them both up before anger and loneliness became all they had left.
As they stood there that day their hands were intertwined, knuckles white through fear and adrenaline. Both men repeated much agonised over vows, every word as heartfelt as they could manage to make it. Neither had delusions of the happy ever after; neither man possessing the required level of naivety to be so swallowed up in the much quested after dream. As they stared into each others' eyes that day a love was present that had burned like embers in the beginning but was now akin to a towering inferno. Both knew that the adage about not knowing what you've got till its gone was more than just a trite platitude. It was a trite truth.
In the silent moment in which their rings were exchanged they wove themselves even deeper into the rich fabric that lashed them together. The ties that bound them so tightly in the beginning had been wordlessly re-forged and cast to shore up a much professed and deeply felt love. And after all, as it said at the bottom of Christian's invitation only, what love has joined together, let no man put asunder.
A/N: So, this finishes the three. It was never meant to be two, let alone three stories/chapters. This just wouldn't leave me alone, I just couldn't leave it unfinished. I apologise that its wordy, prose-y, whatever you might wanna call it. It panders to the 'misty eyed', 'desperately believing in love that finds a way', 'emotional wreck' corner of my mind so I don't mind if its not everyone's cup of tea. As stated in the summary its essentially the third part to a Matticho trilogy consisting of Canadian Supreme, Little Lion Man and now this.
So, all reads and reviews appreciated as always and thanks for taking time for either/both :)