Tangible Schizophrenia


Hip Hop Is Dead

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Violence.
Pairing: Kaká/Maldini, Fàbregas/Casillas/Raúl, Nesta/Ibrahimović, Ljungberg/H. Larsson
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: This is absolutely fiction and not real and I don’t know these people at all. Any resemblance to any real-life record company is completely accidental.
Notes: Titled after the song by Nas.
Summary: Milan is the new hot place to be, but the temperatures aren’t always comfy. And Cesc Fàbregas is always somebody you want on your side.


“Well, it’s a long drive from here to there and I just think…” Ricky trailed off.

Cesc looked blankly at the thing he’d just pulled out of his briefcase. Then he grinned. “Oh, don’t mind this. I had to do some babysitting the other night and I must’ve forgotten to take it out.”

He spun the headband between his fingers, then plopped it on his head and checked himself out in the window-glass across the room from him. One of the felt ears was flopped the wrong way and he poked it back, only for it to fall stubbornly awry again.

Ricky put a hand up that didn’t cover his smile at all. “Are those cat’s ears?”

“God, no. They’re lamb’s ears,” Cesc mock-scolded. He tried to keep his face stern, but now Ricky’s shoulders were silently shaking and the other man’s infectious grin just kept slipping out. So he figured why not and baa’ed at Ricky, and then had to scramble to get his feet out of the way as Ricky laughed so hard he lost his balance and nearly slid out of the chair.

The headband fell off while Cesc was giving the other man a hand up, but he popped Ricky back into his seat first and then bent down to get it. When he got up, Ricky had gone all serious again, holding his university paperwork between his fingers and staring at it with furrowed brow.

“You know, he’s a grown man. I’m pretty sure he can survive without you. Just be full-time and get it all done already,” Cesc said.

Ricky glanced at him, then went back to flipping through the papers. He chewed at his lip. “It’s…not…Cesc, I’m not his maid.”

“Exactly.” Cesc took a look at his own stack of work—late invoices from Cristiano’s tour that all had to be prepped for Frings—and promptly fiddled with his fingers. He really, really hated accounting. Not the math part, because usually there wasn’t a ton of math, but making out the scrawled notes and backtracking the bills and all that was a royal pain in the ass. Especially when half the damn things were in Russian, a language he didn’t know. “As the Americans say, stay in school. It’ll be better for your future.”

Instead of laughing, Ricky just frowned more. His glasses slipped down his nose and he pushed them back up almost roughly. “That’s what I’m worried about. I…well, Paolo’s been a little weird since Nesta vanished, and then we found out Nesta was all the way back in Rome in a hospital and now Paolo’s very quiet. And he won’t talk about it, really.”

For that matter, Ricky looked as if he were about to worry himself into an early grave; suddenly the lamb’s ears seemed a lot less funny. After stuffing them back into his briefcase, Cesc reluctantly picked up calculator and invoice. “Hey, you never did return my phone calls from then. I was really worried about you—I didn’t see you for a few days. What happened?”

Ricky squirmed. “It was complicated. I’m still not sure about everything.”

“Well, c’mon, tell me. Let me see if it fits any of the rumors—what? What’d I say? I’m sorry if I—”

“No, no, it’s okay. I mean, I know you follow the gossip,” Ricky said, voice neutral. He added a shrug, as if that was going to convince Cesc. “I just don’t…I don’t want this to get around. It’s private history.”

Cesc put down the calculator and reached over to grab Ricky’s arm. “Hey. Hey, I can keep a secret. And it’s okay if you don’t want to tell me about it, but I’m just saying, if it’d help to get an objective opinion…well, I’m here. And looking for an excuse not to do these.”

Ricky flashed him a smile, but it was wan and distracted compared to his usual lightheartedness. The other man looked back at his stuff and picked up a pen, so Cesc figured that that was it and reluctantly let go of Ricky’s arm. He still didn’t like the insinuations he was getting, but he knew better than to push the issue.

Right now, anyway. Actually, he was in the middle of plotting to drag Ricky out to a cartoon short-film fest Iker had tickets to—Raúl had to work that night—for more digging when Ricky suddenly cleared his throat.

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop. I’ve got a lot to do this week and Bobby’s got so much I think he might drop dead without any help.” The weak attempt at humor just made Ricky look more strained, and he seemed to realize it. He dropped his head and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Maybe it’s not complicated and I just don’t know enough…I ran into Nesta again, outside of work, and he told me why he and Paolo had broken up.”

“So…you two had a fight?—oh, man, Ricky, please tell me you told Paolo that that ass Nesta tried to fuck with you. I mean, pardon the language, but…eight years. I don’t know why he’d need to bring up something that old with you unless he was trying to split you up,” Cesc said, hauling himself around. He dug his heels into the carpet and walked himself over till he could poke at Ricky’s shoulder. “Yes?”

Ricky’s mouth twitched. He glanced down as he brought up his arms to rest the elbows on the table and then balanced his chin on top, idly scratching at his lips, but otherwise he stared straight ahead, looking far too…well, right now it was thoughtfulness that was far too comprehending, but Cesc could see the line stretching into the future to bitterness, and he didn’t like that.

“Paolo knew all along. He wanted Nesta to scare me away…I thought we’d gotten over that,” Ricky finally admitted. His voice was so soft Cesc had to lean nearly out of his chair to hear him. “I had a fight with Paolo—told him I wasn’t going away that easily, and I think I convinced him this time. But he’s not—I learned a lot about who he used to be, and he’s not that man now, but the two are so different—” Ricky paused and pressed his fingers to his lips, hard “—it’s so much harder for him to do that than I thought. I said I’d help him, but university’s going to take up so much of my week.”

Cesc opened his mouth. Then he closed it, and then he sat back a bit to look at his blurry reflection in the shiny table-top and try to think some. He’d learned a thing or two about keeping his temper and being careful with what he said from putting up with the brat, but this was in its own class. “Ricky…I don’t mean to be offensive and I’m probably not working on enough information here, but you’re not his guardian angel. And frankly, if he’s going to trick his ex into dumping you for him, I think he’s got some problems he needs to work out himself.”

“But no, that’s it. He does have things he wants to change, and he’s doing it for…for me.” A tinge of embarrassed red touched Ricky’s cheeks. Then he pushed at them with his hands, sliding his fingers back into his hair. “I’m—making him. And he is a grown man, but he’s changing his whole life and I don’t know, I don’t know if I’ve got the right but—but Cesc, when I say I love him, I mean I want him.”

“I don’t…” Cesc slowly started.

“I want him. I wanted to kick Nesta out of town because he still can get something out of Paolo that I’ve never seen, that I didn’t even know was in Paolo—I saw them talking too close and suddenly I understood why Lehmann might have a reputation for strangling people who try to take from him,” Ricky went on, the words rushing out. His fingers knotted in his hair and he looked both miserable and strangely relieved, like he’d been bottling this up since the beginning of time. “And I can do this…I can make Paolo tell somebody else to go. I—I owe it to him, to help him with this. Otherwise what kind of person am I?”

Cesc pursed his lips and leaned way back, trying to take in Ricky’s hunched form and figure out how the hell he’d missed this. Fucking Cristiano and his fucking two-faced assistant and his fucking double-agent agent. “…a normal person? Who gets jealous when the love of his life flirts with an ex? You know, the fact that Paolo told Nesta off for you is actually a good thing—it means he’s committing. But all that other stuff…Ricky, honestly, relax. Take a deep breath. Pick your classes and then have a proper dinner with Paolo, somewhere where you can’t bring work. Okay?”

He patted Ricky on the back, then started squeezing his shoulder when the other man didn’t immediately react. Eventually Ricky raised his head, looking somewhat more calm. He swiped at the corners of his eyes with his fingertips, then smiled ruefully at Cesc. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to just collapse on you. I just—maybe you’re right. With all this work I haven’t gotten a chance to see Paolo alone. With half-time I’d actually have less to do than right now.”

“Um,” Cesc stalled. The little spot between Ricky’s brows began to wrinkle and Cesc hastily pulled out his nice face. “If you say so. I haven’t been to classes in so long…”

Screw the invoices, he thought. He had another day before Frings started calling him up in the early hours of the morning with Judas Priest, and anyway, he could always sleep over at Raúl’s or Iker’s that night.

* * *

“Paolo?” Bobby leaned in the doorway, file under one arm and what smelled like a bulging bag of steaming Thai food dangling from the other. “Are you free right now?”

“More or less, though any more than a minute’s going to derail a few things. And possibly turn Thierry’s pad Thai gummy,” Paolo said. He stuck the contracts at which he’d been looking back into their folder, then capped the highlighter he’d been using. “What can I do for you?”

The other man didn’t react to the joke. He’d been cool towards Paolo for a while now, but the past few days had seen him turn downright icy. “It’s about what Nesta asked for. Lehmann is still extremely curious as to your reasons, but he’s arranged it. But he did say to tell you he’s not answerable for everyone in the world, and I don’t know what that means and I don’t plan on asking.”

“Noted.” To be honest, Paolo’s curiosity had been more than a little piqued as well, though he had told himself at the time and was telling himself now to leave it. He had no reasonable cause for pursuing further explanations, even if Sandro would ever be in a mood to provide any.

Bobby paused, then leaned forward, unruffled but not quite calm. “Paolo. Is there any particular reason why Kaká seems glued to your side lately, yet looks like someone burned down his church?”

Paolo had been half-expecting that, but it still stung. “No particular reason.” He caught the beginning of the change in Bobby’s expression and raised his hand. “There are many, and I do know each of them. Are you about to tell me to break it off with him?”

The three seconds before Bobby’s lips moved were agonizingly long. “No. And fortunately, I suppose from your point of view, he’ll be out of my care soon so then I won’t have a reason to step in.”

With careful deliberation, Bobby laid the file on Paolo’s desk, then put the bag down next to it. Then he grabbed the edge of the desk and pulled himself to his feet so he briefly loomed over Paolo. A moment later, he was gone.

He’d been taking lessons from Lehmann on the art of indirect intimidation, Paolo observed. Normally Bobby was more of a negotiator, willing to hear both sides—but then, he wouldn’t be the first to recognize Ricardo wasn’t the type who should be allowed to be compromised.

Paolo pressed two fingers to his left temple and stared down at his desk, then reached out to slip those same fingers beneath the files he’d been studying. He extracted a thinner, slightly lighter in color folder, then flipped it open and reread the injury list made at the time of Sandro’s arrival at the hospital. The top page was already curling and he smoothed it out with his hand. Then he started to reach for his phone, only to yank his hand away in disgust.

He didn’t need to call; Sandro knew him well enough to know the promise would be kept. Paolo shoved the folder back into the pile, then went back to work.

* * *

Some asshole tried to shoulder his way between Zlatan and a turquoise-leather-breasted girl, pinching Zlatan’s bandaged hand in between them. The splints shifted and in turn the bones were tweaked, and all in all, Zlatan didn’t much appreciate it. He elbowed back, the man tripped over somebody, and in about two seconds a brawl had broken out, with the girl now screaming at the participants for spilling her martini. Zlatan stopped to watch it and the asshole briefly broke free, slapping his hand vaguely in Zlatan’s direction and snarling.

“If you’d waited a second, I would’ve been through,” Zlatan told him. “Zlatan doesn’t do campy showgirls.”

It took a little more than a second for the girl to get that he was talking about her, but by then Zlatan was a quarter of the way across the dancefloor. He cradled his broken fingers against his chest, hoping to God he didn’t have to get them reset, and tried to make out the five-top he knew was seated in the VIP corner. Even with his height it was hard to see through the darkness and then the clouds of cigarette smoke that clung to the edges of the dancefloor, and—

--oh, fuck no. There were a zillion people of both sexes in this damn club with dark hair of that length, and anyway, this wasn’t Rome. This was Italy, but if there was anywhere more regionalized than the Balkans, at least as far as bureaucracy was concerned—a big neon-pink pouf moved into the way and Zlatan cursed, twisting towards it. He was probably making a fool of himself, and wasting some valuable time into the bargain, and now he was going to get a punch in his face for grabbing the lookalike’s shoulder and…and shit. “Fuck. You.”

The hourly laser show started overhead, colored lights suddenly cutting the intensity of the darkness in half. Alessandro stared blankly, but his hands latched onto Zlatan’s arm and side like he already knew. “Who are you here for?” he hissed.

His right hand dropped off Zlatan’s arm and Zlatan instantly pulled them snugly together, shoving his hand up the back of Alessandro’s suit-jacket to grab a fistful of the other man’s shirt. He felt Nesta’s snarl begin low in the throat, making it shake against his own neck, and laughed. “Don’t fucking shoot me yet. The song’s just started.”

The hand still on Zlatan’s side curled its fingers to gouge hard, but this close, Alessandro couldn’t do anything without hitting a bystander. The press of the other people dancing kept him from even getting a knee up, which to judge from his tone, he dearly wanted to do. “You arrogant shit. I got the flowers.”

“Like them? If you didn’t, not my fault. I let the florist figure out what to send.” Zlatan spun them around so he could see the five-top again. Somebody had left the table, but after some squinting, he decided it wasn’t a somebody he needed to care about. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you still be in the hospital?”

“Why?” Alessandro suddenly went malleable, his hand sliding to Zlatan’s hip. Then back. His mouth grazed the spot just in front of Zlatan’s ear every so often when he spoke. “The worst you did was fuck me.”

He was an utter, utter bastard. “My gun’s not there,” Zlatan muttered, amused in spite of himself. Then the back of his neck prickled; he ignored Alessandro trying to re-stiffen and scanned the rest of the room till he saw a strange vee in the crowd, a parting of people’s heads and uplifted arms as somebody forced through them. Heading for the five-top. “You here for the Fiat exec, too?”

The vee broke through the last line of people, spitting out a man wearing black gloves. Alessandro hissed something and gave Zlatan a hard shove backwards; Zlatan swore and plowed them forwards, trying to slam through to the clearer space around the tables.

“I’m not here to kill him—” Zlatan started.

The hitman pulled a gun; one of the exec’s bodyguards lifted his eyes long enough from a bouncy pair of tits to notice. He threw himself in front and took the first shot, then fell awkwardly across the table. His legs and arms were flailing too deliberately—he was wearing Kevlar, but that didn’t save him from the second shot to the head. That finally made everybody notice and they started heaving and screaming in the opposite direction.

Zlatan finally ripped Alessandro off and stumbled forward, falling to yank his gun free from his ankle holster. He let himself go into a roll till he came up against the edge of a dais, mostly upside-down. Didn’t matter too much: he got off the shot before the hitman had finished hauling the dead bodyguard out of the way to get off his. Bastard dropped, Zlatan started to get up, and then something red flashed at the edge of his vision.

He scrambled onto the dais and crashed into a table, flipping it up, but a searing pain had already torn through his shoulder. Another shot shattered the damn table—it would have to be glass—and the fragments rained down, leaving little cuts all over Zlatan’s face and unbandaged hand. He bit down on his lip and crawled through it till he could dive for a back hallway.

And he almost made it, but a bullet slammed into the floor a hair away from his knee and he instinctively flinched. That put him too far over and trapped in open space. Snarling, he jerked himself up on his knees and wrenched his gun towards the sniper—and got yanked backward.

“What the hell is going on?” Alessandro snapped. He was kneeling against the wall, shirt-tails hanging loose and a gun in his hand, which he was busy reloading. “I’m here to take Agnelli into protective custody. We got a warning he’d been targeted by Rossi.”

“You couldn’t tell me this instead of feeling me up?” Zlatan elbowed himself up, then twisted around to peer out. The dancefloor was pretty much empty, and it didn’t look like any non-involved people had gotten shot—at least, not so badly they couldn’t run. But…he picked up a loose bottle of champagne and swung it out, and as it soared over where he’d been shot, it suddenly burst. “Prosecutors get to carry guns now?”

Alessandro looked at him over said gun and Zlatan snorted, then wiggled the one he was holding. To which Alessandro snorted back. “I thought you were carrying out the assignment, when I saw you. You’re under arrest after the sniper’s taken out, by the way.”

“Just because I stuck you in a car trunk once…” Zlatan ripped at his sleeve and lashed the strips around his shoulder as best he could; he wasn’t aiming for mobility so much as keeping the blood off the ground. The splatters he’d left out there probably had mixed with too much alcohol to be useful, but just in case, he shot up a couple more rolling bottles.

One of them flamed up as it spilled out its contents and in a second their whole side of the club had caught fire. The smoke billowed towards the ceiling, slowly revealing a hair-thin red line that stretched all the way to—Zlatan ducked out, shot, and ducked back in as a body slowly toppled from an upper level.

He kicked out with a leg, then twisted around and up, gun first. Its barrel clacked hard against that of Alessandro’s gun.

“I told you, if you were in Italy again,” Alessandro said after a moment. His hand was unnaturally still.

“I missed you too,” Zlatan said. The flinch never made it past a change in Alessandro’s eyes, but that plus an exploding bottle out front was enough.

Zlatan ducked, rammed his hand into Alessandro’s belly to send the other man against the wall—his broken fingers screamed—and then leaped into the main room. He jumped the flames at the lowest point, then dropped into a fast roll to put out anything that might’ve caught a spark. Then he was up on his feet and running like mad.

He didn’t hear one shot come winging after him.

* * *

“You want me to what?” Robin flopped backward, stretching his arms out along the back of the booth and staring up at Cesc.

Cesc rolled his eyes and finished wriggling out of his suit-jacket, then sat down just as the waitress showed up with their food. “Nothing major. Just get him out of town for a few days. Unscheduled business trip or something.”

Robin still was staring at Cesc, though he’d pulled himself up a bit so the finger-shaped bruises around his wrists weren’t showing quite so much from his sleeves. He seemed to have forgotten he’d ordered dinner. “Fàbregas? First of all, anything unscheduled that gets Paolo Maldini out of town is major—the man is more conscientious about his schedule than anybody except Jens.”

“Really? He always seems pretty flexible to me,” Cesc mumbled. He was hungry, damn it; maybe Cristiano had Heinze to run him gourmet sushi now, but he still called up Cesc at the most random times to send messages to Deco. “In the coffee-room or Ricky’s damn office—oh, hi. Didn’t know you were here.”

Philippe shrugged and slid into the seat besides Robin, who pushed what Cesc had thought was his plate over to the other man. “Sorry. I went out to put more change in the meter. Am I interrupting something?”

A flicker of irritation passed over Robin’s face. “You’re too fucking quiet for your size.”

“Sorry,” Philippe said again. He placidly spooned up some of his vegetables. “By the way, I heard back from the morgue. It’s not there.”

“The…morgue.” Also, Philippe had a weird idea of what constituted dinner conversation, Cesc thought.

Robin did grin at that, sitting up to steal a bit from Philippe’s plate. “His girlfriend works in the lab there. I was trying to sneak in and ran into him, and you should’ve seen his face.”

So Philippe had given Robin a ride back and that was what he was doing here. Stupid Robin, he’d probably figured Cesc was going to ask for something and was blocking him with a gigantic fuzzy-headed chunk of Switzerland. “Forensics? Cool. You pick up much from her?”

Philippe paused with his fork over the veggies. Then he moved it to the meat. “Well, you learn it’s sometimes very useful to pretend you’re deaf. For example, I have no idea what you two were talking about a moment ago and I’m sure the fact that Paolo Maldini owns property in Milan doesn’t mean anything.”

Cesc choked a bit on his food, then snapped his head up to stare. Robin did the same thing.

“Jens has been less than happy with Maldini for about two weeks now and I think for the good of his blood pressure…” Philippe shrugged.

“Yeah, he’s been ridiculously touchy. Even I’m getting fed up with it,” Robin said slowly, still regarding Philippe. He seemed both bemused and wary. “Okay, so that’s enough about motives. So great, he’s got property. That still doesn’t change the fact that Maldini’s one of the few people I’m explicitly banned from messing with, and I have no idea why.”

“Wow, we really have to have lunch sometime.” Cesc beamed innocently at the slightly panicked look he got from Philippe, then turned a serious face on Robin. “Oh, for God’s sake, then just be careful. Italian taxes are nuts—can’t you just do something with that? He can be there and back in like, three days.”

Eyebrow up, Robin folded his arms over his chest and looked skeptically back. “Yeah, I could, but what exactly am I getting out of this? There are other ways I could destress Jens, and they don’t carry the risk that he’ll put me in bed for a week.”

“Like you don’t like that,” Cesc muttered. He pretended not to notice the glare Robin promptly shot at him. “Okay, you want something? I’ll tell Thierry that Heinze’s been popping off at weird times—” which was true, though so far there hadn’t been anything else that was suspicious “—and talk him into having Freddie track the guy. That’s Ljungberg tied up and out of your way for at least a few days.”

After a bit of h’mming, Robin finally nodded. “All right. I’m curious about Heinze anyway—he keeps dropping out of sight. But Cesc, if this blows up? I’m taking you with me.”

“Yeah, whatever.” It shouldn’t, and even if it did, Cesc decided he’d be fine with that. His neutrality on Deco was starting to disappear, he didn’t like Cristiano, and he wasn’t sure when he’d get a chance to ask to be Thierry’s assistant, so if he lost his job now, it wasn’t too bad. He knew he could go home to Raúl—who could tell Lehmann off—and Iker, and at least Ricky would’ve had some time to get his head straight.

And Ricky totally deserved that. He didn’t deserve to be jerked around more than he already had been either, but the way Cesc saw it, this would be outmaneuvering Maldini, who was due for it. There was a difference between letting people live their own lives and letting people fuck them up because of ignorance, and Cesc knew he had a better grasp of that than Ricky. Probably better than Maldini, too.

* * *

Fredrik reached behind himself, flapped his hand around, and touched the steering wheel. He got a good grip on it and pulled himself up, then straightened his tie. Licked his lips. “So you’re sure we’re good for the weekend? Because I’ll be really disappointed if I have to steal the security tapes again without getting anything out of it.”

Henrik blinked, breathed in, and with his exhale he released the white-knuckled grip he had on the door and the back of Fredrik’s seat. He slowly reached down to do up his fly. “As far as I know.”

“We still need to talk about Zlatan, once you’ve found him. God knows what Nesta might’ve told him,” Fredrik said. He rolled his tongue around his mouth to get the last of the traces, then swallowed. Then he unsnapped his seatbelt and twisted around to grab his briefcase from the backseat. “But it’s the end of the week, and…”

He paused, staring through the back windshield. Then Fredrik sat back down; Henrik stopped in the middle of trying to tuck his shirt back in to look quizzically at him.

“That car behind us, about two spaces from the nearest pillar? There’s somebody sitting in it and they’re slumped sideways,” Fredrik muttered.

Henrik took out his cell-phone and flipped it open, then turned it around and held it over his shoulder. There was a small click, and then he took it down to show the picture he’d just taken. “That’s not the car assigned to that spot. That…”

He stared at the photo for another moment, then shoved his phone into his pocket and got out of the car. By the time Fredrik had done the same, Henrik was already across the lot and edging up to the driver’s side of the strange car, sideways so he presented a smaller profile. He didn’t have a gun out yet, but his stance said he was thinking about it. Then he got up to the window and looked in…and in…and suddenly he was slamming his hand repeatedly against the glass.

Fredrik hurried up and got there just as the door opened a crack. Henrik yanked it open the rest of the way, then shoved himself inside so fast it looked like the car was eating him. “Freddie, there’s a medical kit in my trunk. Go get it.”

“Who is it?” Fuck, nearly two weeks and again they were going to get interrupted, and no, Fredrik didn’t feel guilty about thinking about that.

He tried to see who it was, but Henrik obscured everything except for one lanky arm that was dangling over the back of the front seat. Two of the fingers were taped up, Fredrik noted. He quickly moved to the other side of the car and looked in the window.

All he could see of the head Henrik was cradling was the tousled top of brown hair and a bit of nose sticking up. Then Henrik put the man’s head down—stretched out the guy went all the way up to the door on Fredrik’s side, and there was more of him cramped in the leg-space beneath the steering well—and Fredrik could see the features. The pallor definitely wasn’t a good sign.

Henrik ripped open the man’s collar and then continued tearing up to what looked like a gray pom-pom snarled to the man’s shoulder. He shredded that, then pressed the heel of his hand down on—he looked up and the flash of his eyes made Fredrik take a step back. Then Henrik leaned forward and hit something; the window slowly scrolled down.

“This is Zlatan. Now please go get that kit,” Henrik said flatly.

Fredrik went and got it. Then he wedged himself through the open window and helped Henrik stop up the slow trickle from the bullethole in Zlatan’s shoulder. Larsson worked quickly and efficiently, which wasn’t surprising, but the effort was enough to bring a sheen of sweat to his forehead, which was surprising. Then again, maybe this was why he seemed to get the importance of Fredrik’s other commitments.

Zlatan cracked open an eye at one point to swear weakly as Henrik felt him over for more injuries. “Henke. Hey. You’re welcome, by the way…saved you the trouble of beating up on me this time.”

You idiot was written all over Henrik’s face, but he just shook his head and straightened out Zlatan’s legs. “I can’t believe you drove. It would’ve been fine if you’d gotten it stitched first.”

“In…Italy? No,” Zlatan croaked. His eye rolled back and the pupil contracted when he saw Fredrik. “Oh, great, you brought your date. I’m going to pass out now and spare myself.”

“I love his manners.” Fredrik pulled himself out of the window and looked at his bloody hands. After a moment’s thought, he wiped them off on the back of his shirt, then picked his suit-jacket off the roof of the car and put it on. “He needs a surgeon. And a transfusion.”

Henrik emitted a sound that was somewhere between a frustrated groan and a sigh. “I know. Freddie…I trained him and brought him into this.”

He looked across the car at Fredrik. His eyes said he knew exactly what he was getting into and what he’d have to pay for it, and he was still silently begging. When to be honest, he could’ve shot Fredrik and made things a lot easier on himself, and they hadn’t even really started with each other yet.

“Fuck,” Fredrik said. He scuffed his foot against the ground and dug his knuckles into his hips. “Fuck, no wonder you ran off after him the moment he screwed up. Fuck--well, look, I can’t call our doctor. This is major surgery and—”

“—I’ll use Giuly’s. I’ve seen the man and he knows what he’s doing, and anyway I can pay Giuly back immediately. But I need to get rid of this car, and get Zlatan to Monaco.” Henrik stopped to wipe his hands off on something. He rubbed at his chin with the back of one hand, then looked at Fredrik again. “I’ll still owe Jens, too. You can tell him I cut a deal with Giuly for help. But…”

Fredrik stared at the ceiling. “I won’t mention he knows about Nesta. Yet. Jesus Christ, Italians. Why the hell won’t they go away?”

* * *

“You’re leaving town?” Ricardo stared up at Paolo. Then he put down his book and started to get up, only to have Paolo push him back by the shoulders.

“It’s a business trip, not an exile. The idiot handling my Milan property taxes screwed up and I have to appear in court to fix it.” Paolo plucked the book from the sofa cushion and dropped it back into Ricardo’s lap. “Nothing major, more of a pain than anything. I’m sorry I’ll be missing your last day of work, but I promise the moment I get back, a celebratory dinner will be the top of my priority list.”

He pecked Ricardo on the forehead, then started to move away. Then he stopped and looked down at the hands Ricardo had fisted in his sleeves. Ricardo let go, but only to wrap his right arm around Paolo’s back.

“Ricky,” Paolo said, head dipping. He hadn’t called Ricardo Kaká since that fight. “The water’s going to boil over.”

“You shouldn’t be cooking anyway. It’s my turn. I was just browsing these—I don’t have to start studying for another two months.” Ricardo tugged and Paolo swung close enough for him to get both arms around Paolo’s neck. They bumped noses and he had to move back and tilt his head, but then he could get in.

Paolo tried to say something and Ricardo kissed him through it, not hard but enough for Paolo’s mouth to stop moving. The other man breathed in through his nose, then suddenly pressed in, pushing Ricardo back into the sofa. The book tipped, then slipped between Ricardo’s knees when he tried to bump it to safety with one. His glasses rode up his nose and the left arm twisted so its end dug in behind his ear, but he ignored it till one lens got ground into his eye. Then he let go of Paolo and wedged the glasses off; Paolo laughed a little, slipping his hands beneath Ricardo’s arms, and tipped them over and sideways.

“Put them back on.” A nuzzle at Ricardo’s throat nearly made him drop the stupid things on the floor. Then Paolo leaned back on his elbows, slightly flushed and grinning. “Actually, don’t. You make me feel guilty enough about your age without them.”

Ricardo made a face at him and almost got caught with it still on when Paolo bent down again. He carded his fingers into the other man’s hair, then curved them to fit the skull as he chased Paolo’s tongue around his mouth, then back into Paolo’s. And then there came a sharp sizzle from the stove and they both started.

“Damn.” Paolo grabbed the back of the sofa and heaved himself up to see. “Well, nothing on fire yet.”

“I just was looking really forward to only having to work around one schedule,” Ricardo said quietly.

Paolo gave him a sharp look, then got back down so he could cradle Ricardo’s head in his hands. His fingertips traced light circles around Ricardo’s temples and down to his ears. “Ricky, you have an entire summer to distract me from work. I’m just going to Milan for a few days.”

“For the taxes?” It was about all Ricardo could voice, though he was kicking himself black and blue for suddenly losing his nerve.

“Oh,” Paolo said slowly, his eyebrows lowering a little. He smiled again, but this one was subdued almost to the point of somberness. “Sandro works in Rome.”

Ricardo let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding; the color of Paolo’s eyes shaded a little darker, and then the other man glanced away so Ricardo was looking at the hard twist to his mouth. And then Ricardo knew that for once that hadn’t been on Paolo’s mind—till he’d brought it up. He bit his lip. “I’m sorry.”

Paolo looked back at him, mouth straightening out. “Don’t do that. You don’t have any part of the fault.”

He pushed up Ricardo’s chin, then stroked the side of Ricardo’s face till the tight squirming feeling in Ricardo’s gut receded. “I…didn’t know you had a place in Milan still,” Ricardo finally said.

“It’s just a house that’s been in the family. I haven’t been there in forever; when I visit my parents I usually stay with them.” The tension around Paolo’s lips began to slacken, and his eyes started to lighten as well. “You’d like it, though. You should come see it—maybe later in the summer. I think Bobby would kill me if I got in the way of your work more than I already have.”

“I’d like that.” Ricardo tentatively smiled up at Paolo, who dipped to kiss him again before pulling away.

This time, Ricardo let him go. He tripped over the book as he got up and Ricardo bent down to scoop that up, then turned to watch Paolo walk back to the kitchen. The book had been pricy and at the very least its pages had been badly crumpled, but Ricardo didn’t look at it for a long while.

* * *

“This just came in, sir.” Alberto handed the manila envelope over, then dropped like a sack of potatoes into the nearest chair. His head was tipping back before Alessandro had even finished sitting down. Then he jerked up and rubbed at his eyes, looking a bit embarrassed.

Alessandro immediately undid the string and pulled open the flap. Inside the envelope, a stapled packet and two large photos were sliding around. “Go ahead and take a nap, Gila. Actually, weren’t you supposed to go home an hour ago?”

“Yes, but Dr. Buffon showed up again, sir, and it took me a while to convince him that you’d been completely transferred to our own medical system. I think he’s upset you walked out on him again,” Alberto said. He yawned, then leaned forward with his elbows on his knees as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“He works at the biggest hospital in Rome—he can’t have that much time for chasing down errant patients. Anyway, if I can walk out of the ward, I don’t really need his services, do I?” The photos were both gory head-shots. At first Alessandro thought they were of the same person from different angles, but according to the accompanying prelim reports, it was a double homicide. A very precise double homicide, with uncannily exact modus operandi for both.

Definitely high-grade professional, then. But something still was ringing wrong in Alessandro’s head; he picked up the photos again, then dug around in his desk till he’d gotten the crime scene shots for the near-hit on the Fiat exec. Head-shots didn’t give a great idea of trajectory angles, but…temples versus foreheads. Then again, maybe the Milan killer had had more time, working in a private apartment as opposed to a nightclub.

“Yes, but billing was trying to say that since you didn’t sign out, there’s no real proof he treated you and they weren’t going to pay him.” Alberto slouched down till the back of his head was resting on the top of the chair. He made a gesture towards the floor—billing was the next level down—that expressively conveyed his feelings on the subject.

Alessandro paused again. Then he grimaced and shook his head; he already was thinking in terms of separate suspects. Zlatan may actually had been telling the truth about being there to protect the Fiat man, but he made no secret that his services were available to the highest bidder. There wasn’t any reason why he wouldn’t take the Milan job, and preferred shooting angles aside, the set-up was ridiculous enough to suit him: high-rise in a high-security building, with people coming and going in the halls from a party just three doors away. “Since you say ‘was trying,’ can I guess that they were squared away?”

“Well, Dr. Buffon got paid.” Uncomfortable pause. “Um, sir, I’m sorry but I had to promise billing we wouldn’t send in any more medical bills for the rest of the month.”

“Hmm, all right. I wasn’t planning another high-speed chase till next month anyway,” Alessandro shrugged. Then he looked up; Alberto was staring at him in terror. “Sorry, that was a joke. Seriously, thanks, Gila.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Alberto said, flopping in relief. He heaved a deep breath, then yawned again.

Alessandro stuffed the reports and photos back into the envelope, then slotted it in the stack with the other probable related deaths. Then he hit his mouse and waited for his screensaver to clear up. “Did the lab get back to us yet about Turin?”

“Yeah, but they said they couldn’t get a usable sample from anything. Too burnt. I did get some encouraging news from Stockholm, but they said they need a few more days to get back to us.”

For somebody that distinctive? How hard could it be to pull something out of their database—Alessandro forcibly curbed his temper. No good getting upset in his office.

“Tell them to send it to Milan,” Alessandro replied. They couldn’t fly in right away because there was a Champions League match, but they could get a red-eye the day after that.

Alberto coughed. Then he got up and leaned over the desk to see what Alessandro was doing. “Sir? I…don’t know if billing will approve a trip that quickly right now.”

“So I’ll go down tomorrow morning and talk to—”

“No!” Then Alberto cringed and blushed, but while still keeping the bulging eyes. He raised his hands palms-first towards Alessandro and made pushing motions with them while slowly backing towards the door. “No, that’s all right, actually I think there might still be one or two in late. I’ll go talk to them, just—send me the details on which flight we’re taking. I’ll get it through.”

Alessandro watched the other man scoot away with a mixture of bemusement and confusion; he couldn’t remember exactly what had caused that. Nothing bad had happened between him and billing since Totti had accidentally gotten a money transfer that had been meant for Alessandro and then spent it before the mistake was fixed…well, it wasn’t important.

Milan, he thought, and there was a tinge of sourness to it, for all that he’d known Paolo only as an expatriate. And then he shrugged that off as irrelevant as well, and went back to trying to track this Zlatan down.

* * *

Of all people, Giuly’s doctor turned out to be the Russian-sounding blond, who was actually Ukrainian and named Sheva. He’d always seemed like a laidback, random hanger-on to Fredrik, but with a surgical mask and gloves on, he actually looked menacing. His snarl wasn’t bad either, but unfortunately, Fredrik didn’t speak Italian.

Neither did Henrik, which was obviously becoming increasingly annoying to him as he held Zlatan’s feet up so they wouldn’t dangle over the table. “What?” he snapped.

Sheva pulled out one of the nasty steel things he’d shoved into Zlatan’s shoulder and waved it at Henrik, hissing like crazy all the while. Then he dropped the thing in a bowl of water, which instantly went crimson, and picked up a suture—the only thing Fredrik recognized from all the crap on the trays—with a pair of tweezers.

It was a little hard to tell behind the tinted lenses, but Thuram looked bored. “Sheva says he is sorry he didn’t order his new surgery equipped to handle giants, but he is trying his best and he’d appreciate it if you could stop jerking the—never mind, the giant is doing the jerking. His apologies to you and his worst wishes to—”

Zlatan damn near pulled the blood IV out of his other arm as he tried to prop himself up, snarling back in Italian. To which Sheva answered with a smack to Zlatan’s forehead, which knocked him off his arm and back down, and then Sheva did a lot of bloody fiddling around the bullethole. With more hissing.

“Your friend says he knows butchers who could do better plus have the time leftover to cut you a good roast. Sheva says shut the fuck up and lie down before he just amputates,” Thuram dutifully reported. Then something in the hall attracted his attention and he slipped past Fredrik to crack open the door for a look.

“Zlatan, stop it and let the man finish,” Henrik ordered in Swedish, tightening his grip on Zlatan’s ankles. Zlatan stilled. Then Henrik in English, to Thuram: “Why are there no painkillers?”

Thuram came back from the hall and asked for the question to be repeated. After it was relayed on, Sheva heaved a sigh and briefly looked heavenward. Then he plunged right back in with the sutures and the mumbling.

“Sheva says there are, but he’s low this week and anyway he already gave this freak of nature the biggest allowable dose. He gives him any more and with all the blood lost, your friend might drop straight into a coma. So suck it up. That was to your friend.” Thuram was definitely ironing out all the expression from his translation, if not the meaning. He paused as Zlatan spat out a reply, Sheva responded…about three back-and-forths later, Thuram took off his glasses to press a fingertip against the top of his nose. “Do I need to translate that?”

“How about a paraphrase?” Fredrik suggested. On the one hand, he did feel for Henrik. On the other, he was busy worrying about what Jens’ answer to his voicemail was going to be, and on the other…well, if Fredrik didn’t find scenarios like this funny, he’d never survive his job.

Thuram silently looked down his nose at Fredrik. “Insulting several generations of each other’s family,” he finally pronounced.

Henrik barked something in Swedish at Zlatan that Fredrik didn’t catch because his phone went off, but whatever it was, it made Zlatan slump back with a grimace on his face. Fredrik checked the ID, grimaced himself when he saw it was Jens, and gestured to get Henrik’s attention. After he made sure the other man knew what he was doing, he went out and down to the front to take the call. “Sorry about the lag-time. I’m at Giuly’s and I had to go outside.”

*It’s fine. Now what’s going on?* Jens took in the severely edited, coded version with only one interruption for more clarification. He didn’t give off the impression that he was going to explode, but frankly, that was just an even more ominous sign. *Oh. What does Giuly know about this friend of Larsson’s?*

“Giuly’s been out so we’ve been dealing with Thuram so far. The guy’s completely Larsson’s friend, not ours. I’m just there because I’m a jerk who wants to finish getting laid, like usual,” Fredrik replied. He spotted a car he knew Giuly used turning at the corner and slipped back into the shade of the front awning. “Jens, I want to hang around for a little longer. Giuly’s back now and he might as well get that he can’t turn Larsson against us, for all that we don’t officially employ him.”

A soft snort made its way down the line. *Giuly figured that out a while ago, I’d think. He prefers his own men anyway, but there are one or two things I could see him asking Larsson to do…well, stay. I do want to know more about Larsson and how he works, and who he associates with—I didn’t realize he had friends.*

That might’ve been a slip, Fredrik belatedly realized. He pressed his lips together and swallowed hard; he wasn’t used to keeping things from Jens and he didn’t like the way it felt. But Nesta was staying in Rome, and so far things had still worked out, so no harm done yet. “Neither did I.”

*Keep me updated. Oh, and Freddie—I need you back in the office tomorrow. Heinze’s acting very oddly and heading into parts of town where Fàbregas can’t keep tabs on him. Robin can’t track him either and I want to know what’s going on there. Ruud will be coming back eventually.*

“All right,” Fredrik said, and hung up. Then he kicked at a terracotta planter. “Shit.”

He went back inside, only to pass a still-grumbling Sheva in the hall. Fredrik turned to watch the other man, who was stripping gloves and mask and gown off as he went, stomp down towards the kitchen. Then he had to wait again as Thuram grumpily prowled past, and then he finally ducked back into the room.

“Lilian just said I’m meeting with Ludo in ten minutes.” Henrik had tossed his own face-mask and was washing off in the sink while Zlatan was sprawled out on the table, staring moodily up at the ceiling. Whatever else Sheva was, he was damn good at surgery. That had been fast.

Fredrik backed up till he was standing in the doorway and leaned against the frame. “I’d offer to drag him—” thumbed towards Zlatan “—back out to the car, but he didn’t seem to like the way I dropped his head on the stairs on the way in. So I’m going to stay.”

Zlatan snorted, then slowly levered himself into a sitting position. The effort drained what little color he had from his face, making the numerous tiny scabs all over that stand out starkly against his skin. He’d been neatened up a bit, but once Henrik got him home they’d probably still have to get out the first-aid kit again. “You’re the one Henke had with him when—”

“Nobody besides him knows you were involved in that, and it should stay that way,” Henrik quietly said, his lips barely moving. He dried his face and hands off with some leftover gauze. “How are your fingers?”

“I could go the rest of my life without getting another bone reset by that fuckhole.” Somewhat more subdued from Zlatan, who clearly got edgy whenever Henrik dropped the nice-guy act. He poked at his splinted fingers, then raised that hand to fold it as best he could over his shoulder. “Um, Henke…about that…”

Henrik looked at him, then waved a dismissive hand and glanced towards the door. A second later, some random young Frenchman opened it and asked Henrik to come down, which he did without a word to Zlatan.

After some looking around, Fredrik finally settled for leaning against the wall by the door. He kicked that shut with his heel, then took out his PDA for an email-check. Hopefully no major shit had hit the fan and he wasn’t about to feel even guiltier for bailing on Thierry for this.

“So…you work for the people who wanted—” Zlatan started.

Fredrik jerked up his head and glared. “What part of not talking about that don’t you get? You don’t even know the people who work here.”

“Are you saying something?” Zlatan glanced up at the ceiling lights, then frowned as he spotted the one that bulged a little oddly. So he wasn’t slow, but the jury was still out on his commonsense. “Great. What the hell kind of place is this? What has Henke been…never mind. So what can we talk about?”

“Who did your fingers?” Fredrik asked. Thankfully, nothing big was showing up on the emails. Yet.

There was a funny little noise from Zlatan, like he’d gotten something fuzzy stuck in his throat and was surprised about it. “Henke.”

When Fredrik looked up this time, the other man was watching him with a careful, steady gaze. It was a little weird at first thought, but Henrik was a very focused, practical person and on second thought, it was easy enough to come up with a few possible explanations.

“You never saw a picture?” Zlatan asked.

“No. I’ve barely seen Henke lately, let alone gotten to look at his photo albums. What about your shoulder?” Fredrik ran out of emails and pocketed the PDA, then looked around for something to do. His eyes fell on the hanging bag of blood and he walked over to give it a squeeze. And then Zlatan a bat on the hand when the other man yelped and reached for him. “Another fifteen minutes on this. You’re supposed to get at least another bag afterward, but we could do that at Henke’s. God knows where Giuly’s getting these anyway…you better hope it’s really human and not sheep.”

Zlatan stared. “You’re kidding, right?”

Apparently Henrik didn’t keep his friends any more up-to-date on his life here than he did people like Fredrik and Giuly on his friends. “You know what, just have dinner here sometime. Then say you’re going to compliment the chef and pop back into the kitchen before anybody’s ready, and then you’ll see for yourself.”

After a moment, Zlatan grinned and looked off to the side. He prodded at his shoulder a bit, winced hard, and then put his hands down on the edge of the table and began to ease himself off. “I like you.” He settled some weight on one foot, then put his other foot down. “You dump Henke and I’ll kill you, though.”

It did take a second for Fredrik to figure out why he was torn between smacking the man one and laughing. “You’re okay, aside from the attitude. So, your shoulder?”

Zlatan’s eyes flickered. He wasn’t as good a liar as Henrik was by a long shot, but he wasn’t exactly easy to read either. Or maybe it was just that his way of being emotional wasn’t what Fredrik was used to. “A bullet.”

Fredrik looked hard at him.

“It’s a painful memory that I don’t like to think about,” Zlatan offered, smiling again. Now his eyes were glittering like glass shards. He glanced up at that hidden camera, then shook his head like Fredrik was the one who needed a lesson in caution. “I’m deeply traumatized. I don’t think it’s medically sound for me to talk about it yet.”

“Yeah, okay.” But that was one question that was going to get asked again, Fredrik vowed. If he didn’t see Zlatan again, then to Henrik, and after today that man had better give a good answer to any question Fredrik had.


Bonus Scene:

Raúl cursed and stumbled back from the wall, holding his right eye. The load of laundry tumbled out of his arms and puddled all over the floor like a milk-spill.

Cesc hooked his arm over the back of the couch and pulled himself up on his knees. “Uncle? You all right?”

“What happened?” Iker shut his laptop and twisted around to look as well.

Raúl started to say something, but for some reason, he stopped with his mouth half-open once he’d raised his head. He just stared at them, his eyes narrowing and then widening again.

“What are those?” he finally asked.

“Oh! They’re animal headbands. I got them when I was watching Lionel’s cousins last night. I’ve got lamb’s ears, and Iker has the cat ears.” After a quick duck back to rummage around his briefcase, Cesc popped back up again. “I saved you the koala ones.”

Lots of rapid blinking from Raúl. His mouth twitched, too. He looked from Cesc to Iker, who suddenly ducked, red-faced, and tried to take his off—Cesc shoved his hand down—and then back to Cesc. Then he shook his head and scuffled his way through the dropped sheets to look at the fuzzy gray headband Cesc was holding out. “You should have fox ears.”

“Hmm?” Cesc pulled an innocent face. Then he dove forward, only to get grabbed as Raúl ducked under his arm and hauled him straight up. He yelped and twisted, but a moment later they were tumbling back on the couch and the back of his head was being kneed by Iker and…and okay, he was being kissed. He could take that.

“My computer! My reviews!” Iker squirmed away, which was temporarily okay because it gave Cesc the room to wind his arms and legs around Raúl. But he’d better be back in a second, or else—

--Raúl’s hand shimmied down Cesc’s trousers, startling him; usually it took a bit more making-out to distract the man from whatever he claimed was more important than sex. But then Raúl followed it up with a good long suck at Cesc’s lower lip and some serious yanking at their clothes, and Cesc was sufficiently weirded out to break off the kiss. “Um—you really like lambs that much?”

“No. You two look ridiculous.” A vaguely silly grin clashed with the hungry glint in Raúl’s eyes. He dipped to nuzzle at Cesc’s neck again, then rolled to reach out and do something that had Iker thumping to the ground beside the couch in a hurry. “But keep them on.”

Cesc swallowed hard. Didn’t help much with his suddenly dry mouth. “Okay.”

He leaned up for the kiss, then dropped back when he heard Iker shift. He wanted a good view because—oh, hell, yes. Watching the other two twirl tongues had to be one of the best ends to the day possible, and…and…

…and Raúl stopped. Pretty awkwardly, since he was half-in Iker’s mouth at the time, but he managed to get out with only a hazy look of disappointment on Iker’s side…so he could stare hard at Cesc. “Wait a minute. You waited till I came in instead of trying to jump me right away. What’s wrong? What are you plotting? Did you get something nasty from Leo’s cousins for Sergio?”

For a moment, Cesc really thought about bluffing. But then that little wrinkle appeared between Raúl’s eyebrows and he knew the other man wasn’t going to buy it, and he sighed for the lost chance. “No! Geez, he’s messed up enough between Gago and Miguel without my help. I’m—so I have a friend who’s having relationship problems and I want to help, but I don’t want to…well, get a José situation again, y’know?”

“Is this that one who showed up when you were sick? What was his name?” Iker folded his arms over the sofa-cushion, thinking hard. “The really pretty guy.”

“Kaká? Cesc, do you—” Raúl started, sounding alarmed. Then he paused and looked at Iker. “You’re just as pretty.”

Okay…Raúl was kind of in a weird mood, and Iker blushing never got boring or uncute. “No, look, I didn’t try to tell him what to do. I don’t even know what to tell him, the problem’s so…out there. I just…he seemed really knotted up and I mean, I know it’s hard to think about one thing when work and your family and all this other stuff keeps getting in the way. So I just…wanted to give him some breathing room. So he could think it out himself.”

“What’d you do?” Iker asked.

“Sent Paolo Maldini to Milan for a couple days. He’ll be back and I’m not gonna take Ricky clubbing or anything while he’s gone—but I’m not turning into Fernando, am I?” Cesc stared up at Raúl, holding on tight to the other man. “Ricky’s my friend, and I don’t want to screw that up. You know how depressed Fernando’s been over José.”

Raúl didn’t answer right away, but he wasn’t leaping away in horror, so Cesc presumed that meant he at least didn’t hate the idea. But he was concentrating so hard on Raúl’s response that when Iker spoke, Cesc jumped.

“Sorry. I just…well, the way I got it, Fernando gave José an ultimatum by accident. You didn’t, right?” Iker nodded back at Cesc’s shake of the head, then reached out to push up the lamb’s ears. “So it’s not the same situation or people. Other than that I don’t know, but you know, B-film marathon nights are really good for working out your thoughts. There’s a Pam Grier one coming up.”

After a moment, Cesc smiled appreciatively and wormed out an arm to wrap around Iker’s head. “Um…Ricky’s not really one for action films, but thanks.”

“I really wish you’d start asking me for my opinion before you do these things,” Raúl sighed. He bent down and kissed Cesc on the forehead while Cesc was still turning back to him in surprise, then moved to press his lips against the bridge of Cesc’s nose. “But no, I don’t think you’re making the mistake Fernando did. Yet.”

“Well, I’ve been warned,” Cesc said softly. He let his arm drop so he could get at that spot of Iker’s back that—Iker hummed low in his throat and climbed up so Cesc could get more of it. “I am so glad you both call me on it when I’m putting you off. Even if it’s really annoying.”

“So why do you still do it?” Raúl nuzzled at the side of Iker’s neck while his hand resumed its side into Cesc’s trousers. They were going to have to move to the floor pretty soon.

Cesc blinked. “With this cute face? How can I not?”

Both Raúl and Iker backed off to look at him. Then they looked at each other. And then they hauled Cesc to the floor, squirming and protesting—but not for long. Cesc contentedly gave himself up to them, his conscience clear.


More ::: Home