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Inexorable

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At night, Eddie dreams. He dreams of the wide blue of the horizon, the open expanse of the sky. He dreams of freedom. When he wakes up in the early hours of dawn, rumpled from sleep and turns to see his wife, grief stabs him in the chest, loss for something he has never experienced; he feels caged, tethers of responsibility tie him down and drag him further and further beneath the surface until he cannot breathe from the sheer weight atop him. He gets up on those days, but just barely.

It's not that Eddie's different. He isn't, just an average dockworker living an average life. He's from good, hardy Italian stock, a man if there ever was one. No one can accuse Eddie Carbone of being different, he's made sure of that. So what if he dreams of rough hands and tanned skin over corded muscle at night? No one needs to know about that. No one needs to know that as a kid he used to stare longingly at Freddie Astaire and not Marlene Deitrich, at Louis and not the pretty Beatrice. No one needs to know that he still does that now.

Eddie doesn't try to think about it, but sometimes, sometimes he can't help it. Cock in hand, he'll try (and he does try so very hard) to think about that pin-up girl with the warm red curls and the softness of her body but invariably his mind will stray. Like a compass pointing north, the images will change to one's of rough, blunt edged desire hazing out the features of anonymous strong bodies. Eddie finds it deeply ironic that the North Pole of a compass points towards magnetic south, the opposite of what it should be. He thinks it is a little bit like him. He can't find it in himself to laugh.

He hasn't told Beatrice, but he wonders at times if she knows. She wouldn't understand even if she did, Eddie knows that, she'd try to cure him, look at him with those pitiful brown and be unbearably kind as though he was dying, Eddie can't deal with that. He knows it’s wrong but god damn it, he's tried for years to fix it and it's never going to go away. No point in hoping otherwise.

When the submarines first arrive he thinks he's found a kindred spirit. Rodolpho has that look about him, doe-eyed and sort of pretty, a body that's meant to be bent over and fucked. At least Eddie has the decency to hide it under deep layers of fragile masculinity and showmanship. Marco, on the other hand, is more his kind. Something about the rigid set of his jaw, the width of his hands, the broadness of his back, sets Eddie alight with a flame he can barely repress. It figures that his luck would have him fall for the one who was most likely to rebuff his advances.

It's later, he learns that Rodolpho isn't quite what he seems. He has taken a passing interest in Catherine that kids like him are wont to take, a girl Eddie's helped raise since she could barely lift her head. It makes Eddie's skin crawl. It's not just a feeling of deep, overwhelming paternal protectiveness but something deeper and more insidious — jealousy. How is it that this chorus girl of a boy isn't the way he is? If there is some semblance of fairness in the world, he must be, Eddie refuses to believe otherwise. He hates Rodolpho with a quiet intensity. He hates it even more when Catherine smiles at him, she deserves better than an opportunistic, illegal, effeminate boy. He knows something isn't right about him, he's just not quite sure what.

He realises later that it's because Rodolpho has never once said he loves Catherine, never once gushed about her like a smitten young man. He's never rude to her or cold, but Eddie can tell that he's using her. It feels inexpressibly satisfying to punch him.

Marco, however, doesn't take kindly to this. If Eddie feels fiercely defensive of Catherine then he knows Marco feels the same for his younger brother. Eddie recalls faintly that their father died when Marco was barely a teenager and he'd had to shoulder the burden of providing for his family since then. Eddie's can't help but admire him. Eddie can't help but want him.

Marco stares down at him, challenges him, threatens him. And Eddie knows he can't lift that chair, he's not as strong as he used to be and even if he was he's not the beast of burden that Marco is. Almost effortlessly, Marco picks up that old chair where Eddie had rocked an infant Catherine to sleep so long ago (had it really been seventeen years?). Eddie can see the muscles in his shoulder and arms tense and bunch beneath the thin fabric of his shirt. His gaze lingers on Marco's barrel chest and it's hard to be so thoroughly emasculated but so very liberating. Eddie doesn't want to be strong anymore. He wants to touch Marco.

Marco knows, he thinks. At least, he hopes. He hopes that Marco knows and reciprocates. It is completely impossible but that little lingering flicker of hope does not die. He thinks he would be completely broken if it did, his body passionless. He closes his eyes most days, when he sees Marco loading and unloading like a man possessed, and hopes that when he opens them something will change. Nothing ever does. He is afraid that one day it will and he will have no idea what to do.

He's been drinking, he knows it's not good of him but he has to. He needs it. It's almost Christmas and it may be the last one he shares with his little girl. He knows that everyone thinks he wants her in ways that are unnatural and unpaternal. He is sickened that they'd think of that, because they're not far off, they just picked the wrong kind of not right. He drinks to forget. So when he sees Rodolpho and Catherine, flushed and untidy, he knows. He is incandescent with a dark fury that he cannot control. How dare he defile his daughter in his own home? When he kisses Catherine it is to rid her of Rodolpho's impurities, to tell her to find a kinder, better man who care for her more than motorcycles and passports. When he kisses Rodolpho, it is... different. It is the first time he has kissed a man and in some ways, it is glorious. The scratch of stubble against his jaw, the strength in his shoulder; it is intoxicating. It is impulsive, it is a futile demand to nature to transfer his feelings onto another. It does not work. It was never supposed to.

He didn't think, he didn't think Alfieri would think that of him. He doesn't know what to do. But then he does. He has to purge them both from his life. For not only himself but for his daughter (and she is, he raised and fed her, she's as close to his heart as any child he would have had of his own blood). It's with this feverish hope that he stumbles his way into the phone booth, heedless of Alfieri's pleas for him to stop and reconsider. He's saving his little Katy, he's an honourable man. He hopes.

In a daze, he fumbles for the required amount of change and his leaden fingers barely have the coordination to push the round metal coins in to the thin slot, they fall with a painfully loud and metallic clatter. The receiver of the phone is cold and feels heavier than it should be. He can feel his heart in his chest, loud and fast. It is not comforting.

"Operator speaking, how may I help you?" A crackling voice muffled by distance asks. She sounds young, a little bit like Catherine.

"Immigration bureau, please." Eddie answers, his voice steadier than he'd imagined it would be.

"Please hold." And he does, the pause solidifies his righteous anger. He knows he is right and then triumphantly, he turns his face up, to God, to the sky. He dares. He dares. He dares... He sees a silhouette on the street.

"This is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—"

It is Marco, the phones slips from his hand.

"—information division. What do you have to—”

He can no longer hear. His heart drowns out all sounds except its dull thud like sheets of cold rain slamming against a hard roof. Tumult.

“—Sir, we can't—"

Marco is walking, his strides long and purposeful. He forces open the door of the booth. Violence.

"—Is anyone there?"

The phone is pushed back into its receiver. They are alone. Silence.


 

Marco stares at him. His gaze is unwavering, fearless, strong. Eddie cannot bear to look up at him. He cannot bear to look down either.

Marco forces his chin upwards, calloused hands rubbing against Eddie's unshaven jaw. Eddie knows there is no point in resisting and allows his face to be tipped back.

Marco's face is a mess of chiaroscuro. The roughness of his features in haut-relief. He is the magnum opus of a forgotten great master. It makes him yearn for Italy.

Eddie has pushed his way back as much as possible so that the phone digs painfully into his spine. Yet the distance between them is infinitesimal, he doesn't know if he prefers it that way.

His fingers are bracketed against the two glass panes at his sides. It is unbearably cold now. The condensation of their breaths mingle between them and Eddie feels warm in a way that even the heat rolling off Marco would not warrant.

"What were you doing?" The faint lilt of Marco's homeland colours his speech. English makes him sound more rigid and stilted, robs him off emotion. Eddie has heard him speak Italian, rich and fluid, it dripped off his tongue like honey. He wishes he could understand more of it.

He is reminded of his father; a quiet, hardworking man. Eddie can barely recall his voice, it was deep and sonorous and bathed him in an enveloping feeling of safety. The man has been dead for the past twenty-five years.

"Answer me." Marco's voice is brittle with suppressed anger and jagged with hatred. Eddie cannot control the flinch that travels across his body. He does not want to, he wants the other man to see it.

"Answer me." Marco repeats, grabbing Eddie by the collar and lifting him closer. His lips are an eyelash's breadth from Marco's. He closes his eyes and kisses him.

Marco's mouth is surprisingly soft and malleable beneath his. It feels so much better than kissing Rodolpho. Eddie tries to lean closer, his hands moving from the glass walls to Marco's shoulders. He wants to devour him, leach away his heat, touch him. He is pushed away.

Eddie's eyes dart around to check if anyone saw them and the street is blessedly deserted. Marco looks confused, a flash of unmistakeable emotion passes through his eyes – fear. His dark brows draw together before his face grows hard with some realisation. He looks incensed now. Viciously angry in a way Eddie has never experienced.

"Are you disrespecting me? Sick man, doing to me what you did to my brother."

Eddie feels small, regret rises like bile in his throat. He's an animal, no self-control.

"No," he says quietly, "I ain't disrespecting you." His insides writhe in disgust with himself.

Marco doesn't seem to believe him, it's obvious he doesn't value Eddie's word. That hurts more than he'd imagined. He's still a good man, respectable, trustworthy. Isn't he? Isn't he?

"Tell me the truth." There is a finality in Marco's tone, Eddie knows he will not leave without a satisfactory answer.

Eddie throat is dry and his tongue feels heavy. Panic pulses like a drug through his system, stimulates where alcohol depresses. He balls his fist and tries to punch Marco, but he's slow and unfocused so Marco catches it in his palm and lowers it. His fingers press painfully into the fragile bones of his hand. It hurts. Eddie does not want him to let go.

"Tell me. Now."

Eddie cannot escape. Fear spirals through him before it is washed away by resignation and then, like an opiate, relief. He no longer has to make a decision, he has ceded control. His body droops, his spine relaxes. Freedom.

"I'm a flit, a fuckin' faggot. I ain't right." He feels unburdened, as though he'd been carrying a huge weight on his back and never noticed and suddenly, it was gone. He felt the giddy rush of sharing something he wasn't supposed to, of not caring.

Marco is frozen. Sanity pours itself back like bleach on to his brain, fear begins to coagulate in the pit of Eddie's stomach. He prays fervently that perhaps Marco did not understand. It is for naught.

Marco flinches away from him, his gaze heavy with disgust and turns to open the door. The coolness of the night is like a firm punch in the gut, the wind steals the heat from his cheeks and the air from his lungs. Eddie watches Marco walking, walking farther and farther away, his shoulders are hunched over his body as though to protect himself.

He realises later that Marco is scared.

He follows.

Compelled by some unknowable force Eddie runs. There is ice in his chest and concrete in his bones but he goes faster and faster. The clack of his shoes against the pavement, the rattle of his lungs, he is heedless. He is running.

He sees a shadow darker than night duck into an empty alleyway and he knows.

"Marco." Eddie calls as he slows to a stop, the high walls of tenement buildings reflect and distort his breathless voice. "Marco." Eddie wonders absurdly if the man will answer with a polo, hysterical laughter bubbles in his stomach. What is he doing?

Marco is huddled against the brick wall. He looks stricken, his eyes moonbright with barely repressed fear.

"What do you want?" Marco's voice is more plaintive than he intended. It has all the sublimated fear-to-rage of a cornered animal.

Eddie walks closer. "You." He leans up and kisses him.

Marco rears back, a drowning man from water, turns his face to the side, eyes downcast. "How did you know?" He asks, his accent is delightfully heavy.

I didn't, Eddie wants to whisper, I hoped, I hoped, I hoped. But they are not talking men, they do not say with words what can be done with actions. So Eddie drags his lips along the sensitive skin of his neck, drags his fingers through Marco's short, dark hair, drags Marco closer so that their bodies are inextricably intertwined and the cold does not reach them.

"Dios caro, I have a wife. I have a wife. I have children." Marco mumbles as he pulls Eddie towards him, looking pained but also painfully desperate.

"So do I. But we've gotta, just tonight — fuck — we gotta forget. We'll be good men in the mornin'. Come closer." He feels as if he'll die if he stops now. Please. Please. Please. Eddie wants to add but instead he shushes Marco with his mouth. This is perhaps the closest he will ever get to an unequivocally perfect moment. Eddie closes his eyes.