Charles watched, heart in his throat, as Emanuel leapt from the cliff. His form was perfect, his body knifing through the air as he plummeted to the pool of water below. A cry went up from the people around them, and Charles realized his arms were upraised too, his throat hoarse from screaming, although he could hear nothing over the roar of the waterfall.
Before Charles could blink, Emanuel was gone, disappearing beneath the churning water. Charles’ gut felt full of lead and his cheeks were wet. He closed his eyes, not sure if it was the roaring water or the pounding of his heart he felt surging through him.
Emanuel had been planning this for months, meticulously researching every aspect of it. When he announced to Charles that he was finally ready, Charles had calmly walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and heaved up the contents of his stomach.
He wasn’t ready. He could never be ready for something like this. And yet, there was no dissuading Emanuel. They hadn’t slept at all the night before, lying in each other’s arms and whispering to each other. Charles spoke until his voice was raw and nearly gone, yet he hadn’t said the one thing he wanted to.
Don’t do it.
Please, don’t leave me.
He wanted to scream them, but now … it was too late.
Of course, if it hadn’t been this it would have been something else. The disease had slowly been robbing Emanuel of his life. Charles would have lost him at some point, but he’d selfishly been hoping to have more time together. But Emanuel had refused to let himself wither away like most and had planned this mad journey and jump from the waterfall. The impact should break his neck. If not, the icy water would do the rest. Their friends and Emanuel’s family had come to support him, won over by the man’s quiet determination. But none of them loved Emanuel the way Charles did. No one would ever love Emanuel as fiercely.
Resolute, Charles opened his eyes, ready to leave the place where he’d unwillingly said goodbye to the man he loved. It was over.
His eyes dry now, Charles squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. He sputtered on the inhale as something—no, someone—broke the surface of the churning water. Unblinking, Charles stared.
Emanuel was nude as he stepped onto the shore, water sheeting off his muscles, his expression serene. Charles had heard the legend of course, but he’d never believed it. Never dreamed for a minute that the rumors and whispers could be true.
Directly in front of him now, Emanuel stared straight into Charles’ eyes. He couldn’t move, couldn’t even lift his arms to embrace the man he loved as the distance between them disappeared. Shock rendering him mute and motionless. Emanuel’s skin was warm, his body solid.
It was true then.
Only those who were willing and ready to die, were reborn.
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