|The Fight Song
Author: Guede Mazaka
Somebody was slouched in the front seat of Jens’ car. Their head was barely above the bottom of the window, and most of that was blocked out by the arm they had lying along there. Which was sleeved in brown, scuffed-looking leather.
Jens paused in the doorway and pretended to check his cell-phone for messages while he glanced around himself. The whole front of the talent agency was all glass windows, but nobody inside seemed to be paying attention to him. Probably they’d already gone to discussing just how many nutty demands they could make for their clients—God, he hated dealing with agency-managed acts—before the label kicked them out in favor of fresh, naïve singers.
He had five new voicemails and three text messages. Sighing, Jens slipped his cell back in his pocket and headed down to the street. To be honest, he was about ready to cut loose these assholes just for not giving him a parking space in their lot and making him use the street—bullshit that they didn’t have room; they just wanted to flex their muscles. Which they wouldn’t have any more after he got done with them.
Robin turned his head a little to watch Jens cross in front of the car, but otherwise didn’t move. Even after Jens had gotten in the car and was starting up the engine.
“What are you doing here?” Jens asked. “I thought I said avoid showing…what the hell have you been doing?”
A nasty-looking gash curved around Robin’s right eyebrow, like someone wearing a ring had punched him. It was fresh enough for the scab to still look bright red and moist. Jens reached over to have a closer look and Robin batted his hand away with a snarl, then a wince—the other man yanked his right hand close to his chest. He made an aborted attempt to curl away, then let Jens take up his wrist and pull him over for a look at that, mouth curled into a sour, sullen sneer.
Three of his knuckles were busted and scabbed over, and his index and third finger were oddly bent at their bases. Not broken, Jens thought, but he didn’t have a chance to determine exactly what was wrong before Robin jerked his hand free. He pushed himself up against the door, looking at Jens like Jens had been the one to do it to him. “What the hell have you been doing? You know, people are going to start wondering why you’re sitting here with the car running.”
Jens thought that over, then put the car into drive and went around the block into an alleyway. It was between a clothes boutique and a restaurant, so he probably couldn’t park there for long, but he wasn’t doing this while he couldn’t take his hands off the wheel. He turned off the ignition. “Are you injured anywhere else?”
“Wondering how much more money you’ll have to pour into your investment?” Robin wasn’t trying to get Jens’ back up; he was just trying to hurt Jens. That was the difference in his voice. And his eyes, when he slanted them sideways at Jens. Then the corner of his mouth twitched back, that little movement loaded with bitterness, and he turned away to look out the window. The next time he spoke, he’d flattened out his voice to a monotone. “You know the guy who’s the lender for the guy who does contracts for the Ferrari ads here? He turned down your offer.”
Really. Really. Really—the world faded back in, and Robin was just glancing back at Jens without his expression having anything but cool annoyance in it, so apparently Jens hadn’t lost it enough to actually do anything. “Oh.”
“Oh.” The word slashed itself out of Robin’s mouth. His face stayed composed, but a moment later he violently kicked at the bottom of the dashboard so hard that the whole car shook. Then he fell back in the seat, flinching some more, and glowered out of the windshield. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a couple days off. Medical leave.”
“Fine.” Jens turned back to the wheel and started up the car. He looked back to see Robin predictably staring at him like he was insane; the other man had started to twist towards the door and had one hand on the door-handle. So Jens yanked the car into reverse so fast it fishtailed as he straightened out on the street. “I’m taking you to—”
Robin threw up his hand, exhaling sharply. The effect was slightly ruined by the fact that he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and had to grab for the strap above the door a second later. “God, it’s not that bad. I don’t want to listen to you bitching about the fucking doctor’s bill’s another fucking ti—”
“Either you can sit down and put on a seatbelt so I don’t get pulled over and cited and start complaining about that, or I can knock you out for the whole way,” Jens snapped.
With a snarl, Robin violently yanked himself up straight in his seat and for a moment, Jens thought he actually was going to make a lunge. But then he paused, an oddly resigned, unhappy look going over his face.
He angrily jerked the seatbelt down into the buckle, then sank back in the seat and basically sulked the rest of the way to Raúl’s. A few times Jens thought about asking him what the fuck was wrong with him, but the pros of getting it taken care of now so Raúl didn’t pick up on anything were vastly outweighed by the likelihood of him resolving it by throwing Robin out of the car. He needed some time to calm down and let his coldblooded planning mode kick in.
* * *
Raúl opened the door, looked at Robin, and then backed away to let them come in, sighing like a disappointed grandfather. “Rectum check?”
“No,” Jens and Robin both said, whereupon Raúl shot them a surprised look. As reliable as Raúl was when it came to maintaining doctor-patient confidentiality, he could use some work on his tact.
Robin rolled his eyes as he edged inside, slowly enough for Jens to lose patience and start shoving him from behind. Then Robin shook him off and went at a more normal speed, but he kept himself on the far side of the hallway.
“His head’s gashed—you can see that. His right hand needs to be taped up, and I think two of his fingers there were dislocated and he didn’t put them back in right,” Jens said. “I haven’t checked on the rest.”
“The rest is fine, thank you. I’m not helpless. I gave the bastard a black eye—this was all from his bodyguard,” Robin muttered, walking into the examining room. He reached for his coat like he was going to take it off, then stopped. Turned around and shoved the door shut.
Usually he didn’t give a damn, and then some. It took a while for Jens to realize Raúl was talking to him because he was busy staring at the door in surprise. “What?”
“I said, trouble on top of the papers?” Raúl arched his eyebrow at Jens’ puzzled look. He pushed past Jens and went back into the front hall, then returned a few moments later with the entertainment section of a major newspaper, which he handed to Jens.
A big color photo was on top, and when Jens saw it, he suddenly knew exactly why Robin was acting oddly. He bit down a curse and did some calculations in his head—the news would’ve hit the online gossip columns probably late last night. Robin had been asleep when Jens had come home, then had woken up for dinner and gone out afterwards to do what he did, so he would’ve seen it almost as soon as it’d gone up.
“You haven’t seen them yet?” Raúl asked.
“I had to drive out of town first thing in the morning. Goddamn it—this explains why my last appointment thought they could walk all over me.” Jens tossed the paper back at Raúl and turned on his heel. “Just—fix him, all right?”
It wasn’t entirely clear, but Raúl might’ve mumbled something about being really goddamn sick of hearing that. “Did you want me to try to keep him here?”
Not like he’d ever been able to before, so there wouldn’t be a point, aside from letting him add compensation for damage to his house to the bill. “No. I won’t be able to get back in time to pick him up.”
Raúl started to ask something else and Jens glanced over his shoulder, but apparently the other man had changed his mind because he’d already turned away. Beyond him, the door to the examining room was standing slightly ajar.
It crossed Jens’ mind to stay and explain himself, but he wasn’t sure why he needed to do any explaining. If Van Persie had any sense of normal social conventions—he didn’t even have to follow them as long as he knew what they were…but never mind, that wouldn’t be a productive line of thought.
* * *
When Jens rang him, Thierry was clearly listening with only half his attention at first. Then the ‘yes, oui, non, yes’ stopped and the line was so silent that Jens could hear Freddie chewing out some Marketing idiot in the background for misspelling the producers’ names on a CD insert.
*And what are you doing while I’m taking your meeting?* Thierry finally asked, sounding deceptively innocent.
Jens briefly considered lying, then remembered that his track record for successes with Thierry on that was unspeakably bad. And somehow Thierry always managed to make sure it came back to kick Jens in the ass in ways that Jens couldn’t yell at him for. “We didn’t get the Ferrari ad campaign, so I thought I’d drop in for a personal visit to show how deeply I care. Oh, and I had to file another medical bill, so Frings probably won’t be happy if you need him for something.”
Thierry knew enough background information to put things together. He h’mmed a little. *You know, I was just thinking that we need a lawyer regularly assigned to our team instead of just taking whoever’s free in Legal. What do you think? I could come over, make sure you’re actually eating at least for this night of the week, and we could talk about it.*
“I’ll consider it. Thanks, Thierry,” Jens said.
* * *
Parking lots usually had inconvenient security cameras. So did doorways and hallways. Curiously enough, a lot of toilets, even in public places, didn’t.
Jens still spent a moment casually looking for telltales before he decided it was fine and took up a stance by the urinals. Ever since he’d found Robin going through Ruud’s apartment for bugs, he’d taken an interest in learning all he could about them, and usually Robin was more than happy to talk about it. It was getting easy to tune out the somewhat braggish parts and zero in on the useful information.
Ferrari’s main marketing person, and the one responsible for handing out lucrative advertising contracts, happened to have a betting problem on the side. Boxing. He’d had a relationship with one particular bookie for a while now to satisfy it, and for all the good it’d done him, he might as well have picked up a mistress. The outcome would’ve been the same, but at least he would’ve gotten sex out of it.
Well, either way it irritated the hell out of Jens to have to convince someone else before he could even talk to the marketing man. He checked his watch, then unzipped himself and took a piss while he was waiting.
He was just zipping back up when the bookie walked in; the man’s bodyguard held the door for him, then retreated back outside. A nasty bruise ringed the man’s left eye, and his lip looked like it would be painful for him to eat for the next few days. He shuffled up besides Jens and dropped his hands to the front of his trousers.
Jens walked over to the sink, quickly washed his hands and then passed behind the other man, giving him a hard chop to the back of the neck as he went. The bookie dropped with a loud thud and Jens continued on so when the bodyguard burst through the door, he was standing slightly behind the door. He stopped that from smashing into him with his hand, then kicked it shut.
There was a trashcan by him: one of those nondescript metal ones with a domed, detachable top. He jerked that off and swung it around so it covered his fist as he punched out, catching the bodyguard on the temple. The man looked like a retired athlete slowly going to seed—big arm and shoulder muscles, sagging belly—and he certainly was an amateur when it came to fighting. He didn’t go down at once, but the one chance he had to hit Jens, he telegraphed way beforehand so Jens easily ducked and hit him again in the solar plexus.
After Jens was sure he’d be down for a while, he went back over and dragged the bookie across the floor so they were both on their backs. He pulled up their shirts, pushed down their trousers, and then took off his belt. He wrapped one end of it around his hand, then experimentally swung it through the air.
* * *
Jens wasn’t stupid enough to whisper anything in either man’s ear once he was done. After he’d made himself presentable, he went out and attended a few more meetings. Later in the afternoon, he dropped by the bookie’s legitimate business—branch manager of a local bank, ironically enough—and asked to see the man about opening an account. Of course, the man wasn’t in, but Jens talked his secretary into patching him through to the hospital. He never actually had to talk about that, since the bookie wasn’t completely idiotic. He didn’t talk about any details either.
After that, he still had to put in a few hours in the office, though as the afternoon wore on, Jens found himself checking his watch increasingly often. By the time he managed to get out of there, he was so relieved that he completely forgot to track down Thierry and ask if the other man wanted a ride.
His eyes played an odd trick on him when he walked into the parking lot: he mistook a shadow for a person and stopped before he realized.
The apartment was dark when Jens got home. He snorted to himself, not expecting much more, but as he was closing the door, his stomach suddenly cramped. Not that badly, but it was a good thing Thierry was coming over—Jens wasn’t nearly as good a cook and he could use some decent food.
He walked towards the bedroom while taking off his coat and tie, then slung those over one arm while he unbuttoned his cuffs. Jens hung up the coat and tie on the to-dry-clean rack for the cleaning lady, then went to the bathroom door and pushed it open. Light blazed out at him, momentarily blinding him; he squeezed his eyes shut and backed off a few steps, counting to ten. Then he opened his eyes and squinted inside.
Robin stood in front of the sink, wearing track-pants and one of Jens’ dress shirts half-buttoned over him. He had been doing something to his hand, which was now neatly wrapped in white cotton. More bandage rolls and a tube of ointment were lying on the counter. “You’re later than your schedule said you would be.”
“I had to squeeze in an extra meeting last-minute.” A little bit perplexed, Jens finally pushed in behind the other man and lifted the toilet lid so he could relieve himself.
“Yeah. I got a phone call about five minutes later,” Robin said. He turned towards Jens, but ducked his head a little, still watching himself poke his hand-wrap. A half-incredulous, half-thrilled smile was playing around his mouth. “It took me forever to figure out what he was saying—sounded like somebody had knocked out all his teeth.”
Jens grimaced as he did up his fly. “That’d be stupid. Then he can’t dictate to his secretary and we still wouldn’t have a contract.”
“Well, it wasn’t stupid, and you do have a contract offer coming your way. Stolen right from under MU Records’ nose.” Robin grinned like a well-fed cat at his hand. Then he sobered up, flicking a look at Jens. “You still don’t look really happy.”
“If I had my way, I’d be the best because I can do things the best, not because I’m the best at tilting the playing field my way. That’s—that doesn’t prove what I want to prove.” Now Jens was getting melancholy. Thierry really needed to show up, and with wine so Jens had a good excuse for that. “But this is the real world, and I’m not such an idealist that I won’t fight back that way if I have to.”
He stepped up beside Robin to wash his hands. The other man was turned away from him, but slowly twisted around so he was facing Jens. “Except you don’t enjoy it.”
Jens shrugged. He didn’t need to answer the obvious.
“So…what about the girl? Do I need to get my dirty socks out of the living room so I don’t offend her?” Robin asked. He was a lot calmer than earlier in the day, but his sarcasm hadn’t lost any bite.
Rolling his eyes, Jens knocked off the water with his wrist and then flipped his hands a few times before he dried them the rest of the way on a towel. It seemed like talking about this would be the same as surrendering a principle, but…whatever. He was too tired to think in abstracts. “Robin, I have a family. Who are proud of my success, but who’d really like me to have all the trappings.”
Fingers drummed on the counter. Robin seemed transfixed by the motion. “Like a wife?”
“I’m thirty-six. They can’t exactly marry me off. But in the interest of making family gatherings less painful, I take out a nice lady once in a while. I hope you’re not expecting me to post a correction or anything—frankly, I’d rather have the boys at work gossip about me and a woman behind my back than about me and you.” Which had been getting back to Jens and seriously testing his temper for the past week or so. “Also, you need to get your damn socks out of the living room because they’re disgusting and should be in the wash.”
A little laugh trickled out of Robin. He lifted his bandaged hand and rotated it a little, flexing his fingers, and then slowly reached out with it. He stopped when his fingertips grazed Jens’ side, and stood that way long enough for Jens to turn to ask what was the matter. Then Robin took a step forward, pushing up his hand so his palm was lying flat against Jens’ chest. He seemed to be staring at their feet now so his hair brushed up against Jens’ cheek: it was softish and damp from a recent shower.
Jens frowned, not quite sure where this was going and not particularly liking that. He still had the towel in his hands, and he’d started to reach around to drop that on the counter when Robin lifted his head. In jerky stages, and he turned it at the same time so his mouth hit Jens’ at an angle.
Robin just let his lips rest there for a moment. Then he moved, tipping his head so his mouth lifted off and his forehead pressed into Jens’. He inhaled sharply, then pushed forward again with parted lips. It wasn’t like his usual advances, which were aggressive and rough up till Jens finally reacted and took over. Even after Jens somewhat bemusedly returned the kiss, Robin kept pressing forward and easing off, turning it into more like a series of soft, quick kisses than one long one.
Jens finally wrapped one hand around the side of Robin’s jaw and throat, sliding his thumb beneath the man’s chin to hold that in place. He deliberately drew out the kiss, probing with his tongue, and Robin opened his mouth right away, turning his head into Jens’ hand and starting to moan low in his throat. His hand knotted in Jens’ shirt, but otherwise he still seemed perfectly happy with the rather sedate pace. And as slow as it was, it wasn’t boring. Actually, it was…Jens shifted a little closer so he could slide his tongue farther into Robin’s mouth…well, fucking his temper out through Robin had its attractions, but so did this—
“Er, Jens? Jens, are you home? The mail’s sitting in the hall, so I think you are…”
After a moment, Jens dropped his hand from Robin and mostly suppressed a sigh. He did need to eat.
Robin didn’t make any attempt not to groan in irritation and dropped his face into Jens’ shoulder. He still was holding onto Jens’ shirt. “If it wasn’t Thierry, I’d wipe out their banking records. But he’s here to cook dinner, isn’t he?”
“Bedroom,” Jens called back to Thierry. “I—we’ll be out in a moment.”
“Oh.” Vast quantities of amusement were packed into that one sound. “I’ll just be in the kitchen then, all right?”
“Dinner?” Jens asked.
With a shrug and a snort, Robin reluctantly pushed away from Jens. “You’re okay, but you don’t know how to make much, do you? It gets stale after a while.”
“Sometimes I don’t know—” Jens started to turn, then stopped. He touched the butterfly strips spanning the gash on Robin’s forehead, then decided not to finish that sentence.
“It’s okay. I wonder too, so that’s a good sign,” Robin said in a lofty, mocking tone. He danced back a few steps, then grinned over his shoulder as he walked out. “You can’t fuck me till he leaves. It wouldn’t be polite.”
“In that case, you’re going to earn your medical leave,” Jens muttered, going after him.