Tangible Schizophrenia


Public Displays of Affection

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. Light bondage.
Pairing: Lehmann/Van Persie, 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: Song for this one is by Morcheeba.
Summary: Everybody’s still a little shaky.


“You look like—” sneeze “—like—” sneeze “—like…” Robin finally gave up on trying to outtalk his cold and instead held up the greenish, wet crumple of tissues in his hand.

Jens looked at it, then plucked it from Robin and threw it in the trash. He went into the bathroom with his tie loose around his neck, then came back out with it properly knotted and with a fresh box of tissues in hand. After giving that to Robin, he sat down on the side of the bed and started to put on his shoes and socks. “It’s superficial. Doesn’t affect my mobility.”

“Well, I can move fine too, so I don’t know why you get to go out looking like Frankenstein when I’m stuck here all day,” Robin muttered. He crawled over on one forearm, using his other hand to press his nose and try and stop its disgusting drip. “Jens, I’m not even running a fever.”

“Pity. If you were, I’d have a reason to ask Raúl for sedatives.” Socks on. Shoes on, but laces untied while Jens checked his buzzing PDA. He ignored the first time Robin hit his elbow and the second time, he just reached back without looking and made a frighteningly good one-handed attempt to bundle Robin into immobility in the sheets.

Robin twisted away and came up on Jens’ other side. He started to shove the sheets down to his waist, had to stop and sneeze again, and then finally wound himself around Jens’ left arm. There wasn’t any way he could be dislodged without his cooperation—or several broken bones, and Jens had spent half of last night cursing the month’s medical bills—and Jens was under orders not to put his left side under unreasonable strain for another week. “Not funny. Why the hell are you even going in? They offered you another three days of sick leave.”

Kahn suggested that,” Jens tersely replied. He shrugged hard but pointlessly, since Robin wasn’t about to stop digging his chin into Jens’ shoulder. “Go back to bed. You’re getting snot on me.”

“Charming, aren’t you.” In this position, Robin was right up against that long cut down Jens’ face. It’d healed enough to not need the butterfly strips anymore, but it still was at the ugly scabby stage. They said it wasn’t going to scar noticeably, but…he moved closer to peer at a white spot at one edge, and Jens shifted, and the tip of his nose accidentally bumped into it.

He backed off immediately, but not fast enough to avoid Jens’ vicious jerk away; Jens’ arm slammed back into Robin’s chest and sent him rolling into the center of the bed, shocked and winded. Then in more than a little pain when the effect of the blow caught up with him. Robin took a short breath, had to abandon it from the way the hurt suddenly sharpened, like a razor cutting into his breastbone. He swore and pressed his arm across himself, half-turning so he finished the roll and ended up facing the other way.

“I’ve got enough on my mind without adding you to it,” Jens abruptly said, low and harsh.

“Yeah. Don’t know whether it’s okay to leave your car parked out on the street yet,” Robin snapped back.

It was quiet for a few seconds. The pain in Robin’s chest slowly ebbed, but he still wasn’t all that interested in sitting back up, even when the bedsheets rustled behind him and a warm palm slid over his hip. “Robin, do you have any idea how many people you tried to get at that night? Right now I think there are more of them walking around planning how to kill you than me.”

“If I could go out, I could look at that.” A bit of cloth got into Robin’s mouth as he talked. He irritably spat it out, then twisted around to look at Jens. “I don’t know.”

Jens had been about to go on, probably add something about damage-control and legalities, but instead he frowned. “What?”

“I don’t—it’s not that clear in my head. Most of it. I don’t really…well, remember.” Which bothered Robin a lot more than he’d been wanting to admit, and which he now sort of wished he hadn’t brought up. He couldn’t figure it out and so he couldn’t even defend it…because of course Jens wasn’t going to like that. He’d just take it as another sign that Robin couldn’t learn control. “I thought you were dead.”

Robin shoved his face into the mattress while saying that, and left it there. He didn’t even want to see Jens’ expression at that, and—and anyway, he was still more than a little fucking angry that Ruud had gotten a call but that he hadn’t. Fine, he’d known from the beginning that Jens liked his gaming at the multilevel stage, but a little goddamn courtesy…if Jens hadn’t wanted him to go after whoever he’d gone after, there should’ve been a call. Jens should’ve known what he’d do—he sneezed. Right into those stupid imported luxury sheets with a zillion-whatever thread count.

He knew Jens was going to get up then, sighing. He just stayed put, his face smushed into his own fucking snot, till he heard Jens leave the room. Then he pushed himself up and deliberately wiped his face off on a dry patch of the sheet, and then he punched the bed. “Fuck. Fuck!”

That didn’t make him feel better. It just made him think about how absolutely useless he was right now, sitting around on his ass, and…he half-heartedly swore again as he laid back down. Robin closed his eyes.

Something soft and poofy hit his face. His eyes snapped open and he stared out at a light spring-green blank. Then he clawed the sheet off of himself and rolled over, blinking.

Jens jerked his chin at the wet spot Robin’s sneezing had made, which was glistening rather revoltingly. The other man had come back with his laptop on what looked like an honest-to-God breakfast tray, alongside two glasses of orange juice and his briefcase. “Robin, damn it, I go into work when people are trying to bomb me so my paycheck can—”

“Okay, okay, I’m changing the sheets,” Robin stammered, scrambling to do that. His shock got him halfway done before he had to stop again and just stare, because Jens appeared to be setting up some kind of portable office. “What are you doing?”

“I called in and said I’m working from home.” Jens tossed the tissue box at Robin, then ducked down to plug in the laptop’s power cord. He got back up, looked at Robin, then muttered nasty German things while he got a shirt and also threw that Robin’s way. “Working. So don’t even think about distracting me. You want to be able to go out again without there being a damn good chance you’ll end up in the local ICU within the first hour, then—”

Robin pulled on the shirt, changed the sheets and got the rest of the laptop’s cords connected while Jens was bitching. Then he slid over for the other man. The moment Jens’ ass touched the mattress, Robin was back over and leaning his head against Jens’ stomach, trying to read the laptop screen. “Okay, whatever makes you—”

He felt the sneeze coming and scrabbled for the box; Jens rolled his eyes and pressed a tissue into Robin’s hand just in time. Then he sat back and as he’d said, started working as if Robin wasn’t even there. But he was there.

“You’re a bastard. I can’t believe you didn’t call me,” Robin finally muttered. He stretched across to drop the used tissue into the wastebasket, then settled down with his head on Jens’ lap. His eyes were starting to close again, but out of tiredness and not frustration.

Jens briefly stopped typing. His hand came down and rested on Robin’s shoulder for a moment, then went back up. The typing resumed.

“Thank you for staying home,” Robin maybe might’ve added in a whisper. He was half-drowsing by that point, and he usually did only say that sort of thing in his dreams.

The hand came back and this time, it slid slowly down Robin’s arm till it reached the blankets. After pulling those up, it drifted over Robin’s temple before finally lifting.

* * *

“You said you were a business consultant,” Deco said. He sounded more than a little offended.

Since Fredrik was five minutes early, he delayed announcing himself and hung back to listen. He’d had just come from the courthouse downtown and he was going right back there after lunch, so he thought he could use a bit of good humor.

“I am.” Henrik wandered out into the hall. He had his suit-jacket slung over one shoulder and a literal paper trail as he read from a long print-out that dragged on the floor beside him. “‘Streamlining administration’ is a perfectly logical description for what I do. Look, that time I wasn’t there for you or anyone I think you know, so don’t worry about it.”

“I am not worrying about a thing,” Deco loftily declared. He’d spotted Fredrik by then and his expression was undergoing a very funny shift from irritated to emotionless. At least, an attempt at emotionlessness—he didn’t quite make it before Fredrik walked up. “Yes?”

Fredrik scanned the empty dining room, but didn’t see Giuly or anybody who looked like personal staff. “Oh, I’ve not got any messages for you…aren’t you supposed to be at the office, actually? I thought Cristiano was doing his haggling over the tour profits today.”

“Interesting thought, since he’s not contracted under you.” Pretty good really-what-do-you-know voice from Deco, except he had a very red bite-mark visible just above his collar and Fredrik pointedly stared at it so halfway through his retort, Deco realized. The other man was flustered enough to put up a hand to pull up his collar before he thought about how much worse that made it look. “I’ll leave you to your business—it’s all for the same end, after all.”

Deco cut his losses and walked off at that point, which was sensible because Fredrik sure as hell wasn’t hiding his amusement. His worry, on the other hand…something was weird about Deco and Giuly, but Jens still was letting Deco handle that one. And frankly, Fredrik wasn’t fond of Giuly, period.

“Did you call ahead? I think Ludo might have gone out for a few minutes. He’ll be back soon, but if you’re in a hurry…” Henrik shrugged as his fingers folded up the trailing sheets against the one he was reading. Speaking of unsettling, he still was throwing off a vibe that didn’t entirely agree with Fredrik. Something about how his eyes flicked to the bruises on Fredrik’s jaw that had been his fault.

“I did and he said to wait and I’d…hey, I think that’s mine,” Fredrik said, calling to a passing waiter. They promptly detoured and deposited a steaming plate of food and a bundle of silverware on the side-table by him. “So you know Deco? Worked with him before?”

Henrik’s lips twitched, as if he were trying very hard not to laugh. “No, I just got bored during a layover and bought him a drink in some hotel bar.”

Fredrik put down the forkful he’d been about to eat. “You fucked him? I thought you killed people.”

“That’s when I’m working.” A touch of aspersion seeped into Henrik’s voice. “And I’m not a killer.” He raised an eyebrow, forestalling Fredrik’s objection. “It’s part of the services I offer, yes, but…”

“‘Streamlining administration,’” Fredrik slowly repeated.

One shoulder nonchalantly tipped as Henrik went back to reading. After a moment, he casually pivoted to lean against the wall—which just happened to put him on the side of Fredrik that wasn’t blocked by the table. “Sometimes a coffee and a frank discussion works, and sometimes it’s more hands-on.”

His eyes flicked up to regard Fredrik over the top of his papers, steady and slightly questioning. And then Fredrik heard Giuly’s voice at the other end of the room and was thankful for the chance to grab his plate. “If that’s how you do it, I wonder how you keep work and non-work straight. It must be confusing as—”

“Not really. I just avoid conflicts of interest,” Henrik said. His eyebrows lifted again. “They’re usually easy enough to spot.”

That…seemed a little contradictory to the man’s other insinuations. And yet it didn’t put Fredrik anymore at ease. In the end he just picked up his plate and went by Larsson with a mumbled something for a farewell.

* * *

“Jens?” Thierry said again.

The other man raised a hand, but otherwise he continued to sit and stare at the far wall with a frown and a furrowed brow. Occasionally the muscle in his cheek would twitch, causing the long scab running down his face to pucker. He kept his hand up as well, though he did turn it so the cut-up and swollen knuckles were facing him; his fingers flexed once and were apparently still stiff with bruising because he winced.

Thierry looked down at his hands, fingers splayed flat against the briefcase he’d just shut. Then he took a deep breath and raised his head. “Jens, I understand why you didn’t let me know you were all right, but it wasn’t—pleasant. And I hope you wouldn’t put me through that again.”

“I’m sorry about that.” Jens gazed on for a moment, as if reality hadn’t just wobbled a bit. Then he slewed around in his chair to meet Thierry’s startled gaze. One side of his mouth turned up ironically. “I think I apologize to you often enough to not deserve that expression.”

“Yes, well—that’s over things of a lesser degree,” Thierry muttered. He shook his head, then let out a mirthless chuckle. “No, I know you’ll do it the next time, if the next time comes up. I’m just going to work very, very hard to make sure that the next time is a long way away, if there even is another one.”

For a moment Jens looked grateful, but then he slipped back into that odd reverie of his. He put his hand up and touched the side of his face, then grimaced. Then he caught Thierry’s reproving look and snorted, turning towards his computer. “I know. I’m leaving it be like the doctors said…Thierry, you know, I’ve gone through plenty of men and women and had more than a few drop me without warning, or…and I don’t think I ever was so damaged by it that I couldn’t go on.”

Oh…Robin. Of course. “How is he? Is that cold better? We would’ve gotten him to Raúl earlier if we’d—”

“My fault again,” Jens muttered. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Thierry, I think I might be rediscovering my conscience.”

Thierry blinked. Then he took his briefcase off his lap and settled back. “Jens, you never lost it in the first place. Yours just doesn’t, ah, follow conventional wisdom.”

“So now I’m growing conventional as I get old?” Then Jens provided his own contemptuous snort and leaned back, folding his hands over his chest. “Whatever it is, it’s got damned inconvenient timing. It—you know, most of the time I don’t remember that Robin’s fourteen years younger. And anyway when I first met him, he was the most unsettled…damn it.”

“You always said you prized loyalty over anything else,” Thierry said.

“There’s a difference between loyalty and blind faith, and you know that.” Jens idly tapped at his keyboard a few times, then irritably swiveled around to dig into one of his drawers. His voice faded in and out as his head bobbed at the level of the desk, but the wondering in it still came across fine. “If you have that kind of faith, where you’re willing to follow it after the object of it is gone…”

Thierry smiled while he could, and hastily hid it when Jens sat back up. “If he thinks you’re worth it, then I don’t really think discouraging him is an option.”

“But I don’t get it,” Jens snapped. He flicked a discomfited, exasperated look at Thierry before tellingly hauling himself around to attack the keyboard. “Another thing—I’ve lived with him for the better part of a year and he still doesn’t make complete sense to me.”

“Just try doing something nice for him.” It seemed like the talk was winding down, so Thierry grabbed his briefcase. He was meaning to leave it there, but…well, he did still have a little resentment left in him. And it wasn’t that often that he caught Jens on the flustered side. “Besides, you can’t be that rough till Raúl gives the okay on your side, so you’ll need a stopgap.”

Pause. “Thierry. I thought dating Robert Pirès was going to make you more relaxed, not—”

“See you after lunch,” Thierry said, happily making his get-away.

* * *

It was Premier, for God’s sake. Cattle-call night, with hopefuls galore ready to embarrass themselves and humanity, and Fredrik steeling himself with a glass of champagne because he was still doing penance for fucking around with Rio Ferdinand last month. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen or heard from Ferdinand since before the bombing, and that was a little odd.

Odder still was coming into the foyer of the VIP entrance and seeing Henrik standing there. The other man was just straightening up beside a large planter, and behind him Fredrik could glimpse something dark trailing over the ceramic edge.

A temporary lapse in the flow of the crowd meant they were pretty much alone in the area, with the bouncers drifting out to deal with something in the parking lot. And hard as he tried, Fredrik couldn’t see anybody else who could deal with it. He drained the rest of his glass, handed that to a waiter, and walked over. “How did you get in—”

Henrik’s hand jerked behind his back. Fredrik instinctively moved sideways, getting ready to dodge, but instead felt a hard grip seize his arm. He was still off-balance, shifting position, when Henrik yanked at him; he fell forward and his hand automatically went to Henrik’s shoulder. And the son of a bitch grabbed the back of his head and kissed him like the key to all mysteries was hidden in Fredrik’s throat and Henrik had gotten hired to fish it out.

They were too close for Fredrik’s legs to be useful for much more than knee-knocking, and anyway, Henrik kept making really disturbing chuckling noises in his throat whenever Fredrik did that. Fredrik swore, bit Larsson’s tongue to keep it from going farther in, and braced his weight behind the hand he had on Larsson’s shoulder. Then he shoved.

It…didn’t work. The same moment Fredrik pushed, Henrik tipped backward so all that happened was that Fredrik lost his balance and ran them up against the wall. And accidentally ground his own mouth into Larsson’s neck; the fingers digging into the back of Fredrik’s skull clenched, then pulled sharply down to haul encouragingly on Fredrik’s collar. Fredrik swore some more. Henrik snorted and craned around and sucked on Fredrik’s ear.

“…sirs? Sirs! Please—” Thank God for whoever else was there to have the sense to wedge something hard and rod-like between them.

Then they threw their weight on it and that wasn’t so great from Fredrik’s point of view, since he was the one who got sent flying back a few steps. He grabbed onto somebody’s arm, recognized the half-stifled curse as being in Odonkor’s voice, and straightened up.

“…been here for the past hour,” Henrik was saying. He absently patted and tugged at his rumpled clothing, which did look the part. Then he nodded and smiled at Fredrik. “Actually, I was trying to leave for the night.”

Fredrik opened his mouth to call Larsson a fucking liar and David stepped on his foot. The other man awkwardly stepped forward and gave the…the…there were two policemen and what had to be a plainclothes detective standing in the foyer. David gave them a deferential nod while simultaneously giving Fredrik a sharp elbow in the side. “Mr. Ljungberg is an FC employee and currently is on duty. Of course…”

Blah, blah, we’ll-cooperate-but-remember-we-have-fucking-good-lawyers. The cops still had Larsson go with them, but their body language and tones made it clear they were already rethinking it as a routine questioning. They took down Fredrik’s phone number, but they probably weren’t going to call him up for that possible statement. After all, they’d completely missed David surreptitiously grabbing whatever Larsson had been stuffing into the planter.

Which was a shame because he would’ve had fun with that, Fredrik thought as he stalked after David. “What the hell was that?”

“Orders from Jens. We’re helping Larsson. Didn’t you get that memo—I saw your email cc’ed on it?” David absently said. He was a bit distracted by a passing micro-mini and its accompanying neon-green fishnets. “I mean, it looked to me like you knew what to do.”

“I—” Sheer shock brought Fredrik to a screeching halt. He gaped after David…who didn’t notice because now he was flirting with green fish-nets. “I am not his goddamned alibi!”

David winced, then performed the difficult feat of making two goofy faces in two seconds without any bleed-over. The girl got the puppy-dog apologetic one and Fredrik got the exasperated one pleading for him to stop ruining the action. “Hey, I just know what the memo says. I wait for the second memo before I start guessing at details.”

Fredrik snarled and threw up his hands as he stalked away.

* * *

“I have toothmarks on my ear,” Freddie grumbled. “I swear to God, if he tries for the other one the next time I see him, I can’t be held responsible for what happens.”

“Your contract says you sure as hell can,” Robin snapped. Then he winced and ducked his head, giving Raúl a wounded look.

Unimpressed, Raúl clamped one hand on Robin’s shoulder and continued checking the fading bruises on the side of Robin’s face. Every time Robin tried to move, Raúl just dug in harder with his fingers. “You need to stop getting concussed.”

“You’re not the solicitor around here. Unless we’re talking about—” Freddie abruptly cut himself off, looking a bit sheepish. He shot a guilty look at Jens, who was getting increasingly annoyed at his recklessness, but who still did Freddie the favor of pretending to have missed the whole thing. For one more time, at least. If Freddie didn’t start acting sensible soon…

Unfortunately, Robin didn’t do the same. “You weren’t just about to call me a gigolo, were you? Because I don’t think Jens would appreciate the comparison.”

Jens opened his mouth to remind them he was actually in the room. Raúl gave Robin a last prod that made the other man yelp, then turned towards the counter. He scribbled something down on a notepad, then tore half of the sheet off and handed it to Jens. Who started to read it, only to have to grab for the edge of the examining table when Raúl slid around to poke hard at his side. “Ow.”

“I told David when your scan can be done and he’ll figure out how it goes into your schedule,” Raúl said. He added a glower, as if Jens had ever missed an appointment with him. “You need at least one more before I’ll sign off on you.”

“Bill will go the usual—” Jens glanced down, then looked back up and Raúl had already walked out. The man did justify his wages, but God, was his attitude grating at times.

Robin shot an aggrieved look in the direction that Raúl had gone as he hopped off the table. “No cold now, right?”

“No, but you’re still working from home till further notice,” Jens said. He ignored the outraged noises—possibly there were words, but figuring that out would mean listening—from Robin and turned towards Freddie. “You can’t kill him.”

“Why not? He’s a professional assassin. It’s not like anybody’ll be sad to see him go,” Freddie muttered, slouching against the wall. He folded his arms over his chest and jacked up his chin, as if the acuteness of its angle might be more convincing. “We don’t even need him. Like you keep saying, we don’t kill people.”

Something tweaked one of Jens’ cut-up fingers hard; he instinctively shifted the file he’d been reading to the other hand and flipped around the tweaked hand to seize whatever had done it. Whereupon Robin did a pointed full-body nudge. “Raúl only tells me I should stop getting concussed when he thinks my head’s fine, so that’s not a problem. Stuck-up asshole that he is…like I can help getting concussed. It’s not like I’m the one doing it to me.”

Freddie flicked his eyes to Robin and opened his mouth.

Jens shoved the file up in front of Robin’s face and stepped so Freddie was looking at him, too. Of course hands immediately started banging at his back, but he managed to reach around and trap one of them. “I wish we didn’t, but we do if only to counter Deco. I know, I know…I’ve got reasons for letting Ludo have him, but I’m not idiot enough to trust in just that.”

“I figured that out when you asked Fàbregas if he’d be all right working with Deco for a while,” Freddie reluctantly said. He wasn’t about to drop the original subject, but he was interested enough to follow the tangent for a bit. “I always thought you liked Fàbregas.”

“He’s good. I’d rather not lose him,” Jens said. Robin had stopped beating at him and seemed to be listening, hands sliding down a little and uncurling so their palms were resting on the backs of Jens’ ribs. “Deco’s not that stupid either. He has a grudge against Cristiano, not us—he wouldn’t want to permanently jeopardize his FC connections and he won’t do anything that’d catch Cesc in the crossfire. But Cesc’ll catch anything Deco happens to let slip. Which he will; he’s human. But he’s clever, so I can’t count on that happening that often.”

Freddie thought that over before uncrossing his arms and pushing himself off the wall by his elbows. “But…Larsson works for Giuly.”

“I’d try asking him if he does before you say that.” Jens rolled his arm around to put the file back in front of himself and went back to skimming. “However, he definitely doesn’t work for us. I’ll suggest that he stop bothering you, but if he continues then we’ll have to go with making sure you and he just don’t cross paths. I’m sorry, Freddie, but I can’t fire him and I can’t really punish him.”

Robin’s nose bumped up Jens’ shoulder, then dragged sideways as the other man cocked his head. “What’s keeping him from taking a contract to kill you?”

“Right now? I think mostly pride…when I spoke to him, he seemed annoyed that he’d been double-booked for Van Nistelrooy and Giuly, so for the moment he’s not taking bids from anybody who currently might be interested in targeting us,” Jens shrugged. Then he frowned because he’d distinctly felt Robin’s fingertips gouge hard into his back before they’d abruptly dropped away.

“Fuck,” Freddie hissed. The intensity of it made Jens glance up at him, but Freddie had jerked his head aside. He stayed like that for a moment, then shrugged himself with studied nonchalance. “Well, it’s not like I can’t handle Larsson. It just…isn’t exactly the kind of shit I’m used to getting thrown at me.”

Robin’s hands slowly slipped back onto Jens’ back, and a moment later his head settled against the bottom of Jens’ nape. Jens paused, then closed the file and tossed it on the examination table. “Freddie, I think you are perfectly capable of dealing with Larsson as is, but if his approach gets worse, tell me. He’s only untouchable till he proves himself a lost cause in regards to our interests.”

“Will do.” Freddie hesitated, but in the end forewent whatever he’d been about to add. He just nodded and muttered something about digging Thierry out of Legal and went off.

Jens turned around, Robin’s fingers trailing grooves in his clothes because the other man didn’t lift his hands or back off. His head was down and he kept it that way as he leaned forward. He pressed his mouth and nose to Jens’ shoulder for a moment, then slowly tipped his head so his lips grazed along Jens’ jaw. They’d reached the corner of Jens’ mouth when Jens cupped his hands around either side of Robin’s jaw; the other man jerked his chin free of them, then pressed his mouth hard and quick to Jens’. Then he did it again, and a third time.

By then Jens thought he’d recognized this behavior and had gotten one hand behind Robin’s head. He used it to trap and hold the other man, and it only took a second for Robin to suddenly yield and slide his whole body against Jens, arm going up around Jens’ neck as his mouth opened up.

They were standing in Raúl’s house, Jens reluctantly reminded himself. So he only indulged for maybe ten seconds before pulling back.

“You can’t keep me indoors forever,” Robin whispered, quick and sharp. He rubbed his face against Jens’ jaw, the movement oddly needy compared to his tone. “Besides, plenty of people were going after me all the time when I was living in Amsterdam.”

“This isn’t exactly the first time somebody’s tried to permanently end my career either,” Jens dryly replied.

Instead of laughing or doing anything that might have signaled an appreciation for the humor, Robin jerked his head down so the bridge of his nose jabbed into Jens’ neck. He leaned harder. “So that’s why you’re so calm. You honestly look at the whole thing as somebody trying to fuck up your job.”

Jens grimaced and pulled at the back of Robin’s neck, trying to get the other man to look up at him. Robin fought him on that, and finally he had to shove two fingers beneath Robin’s chin to force it up. He stared at Robin’s furious, frightened eyes…and swore a couple times inside. Thierry made it sound so easy—well, Jens hadn’t even considered this being in the realm of possibility, so he hadn’t even thought about what it’d be like, never mind planned about how to deal with it.

“You’re not going to stay in forever. And I can’t keep working from home, and you can’t come with me everywhere either. I know that. I also know there’s a lot about life that I can’t change. But what I can change, I’d rather not miss a chance to do so,” Jens said. In the beginning he had to push at the underside of Robin’s chin every few words to keep the other man meeting his eyes, but by the end Robin was staring of his own accord. “A couple more days, Robin.”

Something happened to Robin’s face. For a moment, it looked like the whole thing, skin and bones and all, was about to crumple like paper. But Robin shivered instead, blinking hard so his eyelashes glittered wetly, and then nodded quietly. He raised his chin without needing any push this time, asking himself, and after a second Jens did kiss him another time before making them leave. Even though according to the bill, Raúl had started adding that into the ‘maintenance fee.’

* * *

“I’ll be done in a second,” Henrik said without turning. He continued to pick over the very impressive selection of guns laid out on the long table in front of him. Occasionally he’d pluck one up and check the action on its trigger, feel its balance and weight and all that.

Fredrik didn’t waste any time worrying for his safety; they were in an upstairs private room at Monaco, but there was a window that opened onto the street and anyway, Fredrik doubted that Ludo would allow a shooting at his headquarters. “Take your time.”

Instead Henrik turned smoothly around, blinking like he hadn’t expected Fredrik. “Giuly’s downstairs.”

“Yeah, I already talked to your boss,” Fredrik deliberately said. He raised an eyebrow at Henrik’s slight stiffening. “He’s really laying out the red carpet, isn’t he?”

Larsson eyed Fredrik a bit more detachedly than he’d done the handful of other times they’d met. Then he shrugged and started walking towards Fredrik. He didn’t answer Fredrik’s question about where he was going, but instead just slung one hand in his trouser-pocket and used the other one to push Fredrik out the door. And down the stairs, and out of the restaurant.

Once they were out of the narrow hallway and Fredrik had space, he quickly put a car between them. “Don’t touch me unless I ask you to.”

Henrik pursed his lips, then shook his head. “I didn’t realize you were so sensitive. And honestly, I also thought you’d know better than to talk out of turn indoors.”

What…oh. Oh…and Fredrik spent so much time dealing with Robin’s crap that remembering about that should’ve been second nature by now. Speaking of…he dug his cell-phone out of his pocket and unlocked his car, then tossed it in. He hadn’t really been paying too much attention to what Robin had been doing, aside from horning in on the talk he’d been trying to have with Jens, and he hadn’t had time to check over his phone yet. “Well, I’m tired right now. Because I’ve just spent hours fighting rumors that I hooked up with some guy who got arrested at Premier. My reputation and career both heartily thank you for that.”

“I’m sorry,” was Henrik’s odd response. And with the eye-widening and slight slump of the shoulders, he might actually have meant it. “I’m still learning about the dynamics of your field. Didn’t realize word-of-mouth was that fast.”

Fredrik blinked. He’d gotten teasing, all right, but in actual fact, it hadn’t been that big of a splash. Criminal hook-ups were about par for personal assistants.

“Can I buy you a coffee and make it up to you?” And there was that unsettling look of Henrik’s, right on cue. It was as if he’d sized up Fredrik and found the measurements to fit…something that Fredrik didn’t really want to think about.

“And this is going to help my reputation how?” Fredrik snapped back.

Henrik shoved his other hand in his pocket. He also had a really disconcerting way of shifting from poised threat to harmless suit without seeming to expend any effort. “I think there are some very easy ways that we could deal with that complication this time. And I’d also like to explain a few things to you, like this impression that you have of me and Giuly.”

Thierry and Robert were bogged down in fending off potential lawsuits and criminal suits to the point that Maldini had given in and allowed himself to be temporarily assigned to help with that. The whole rest of the day, Thierry had had Fredrik running all over seeing to normal signing-agent business so Thierry would be free for that. And…and…and Thierry wasn’t calling with something Fredrik needed to do. And Fredrik had somehow managed to clear his to-do list early today, thanks to the push that talk with Jens had given him. And MU was actually obeying the ceasefire, and he’d also heard that Rio Ferdinand was in fact out of town for personal business.

Of course, there was always the fact that Fredrik wasn’t really comfortable around Larsson and didn’t like things that made him uncomfortable. But there was him having nothing else to do and this possibly being a way to help Jens and…and okay, he was bored and Larsson wasn’t boring, whatever else he was.

“You get however long it takes me to drink one cup,” Fredrik finally said.

Henrik smiled, showing his teeth plus a flicker of pink behind them.

* * *

“This is…nice,” Robin drawled, fiddling with his tie.

Jens stopped checking his watch long enough to smack Robin’s hands down, fix the man’s tie-knot, and straighten out a wrinkle in Robin’s shirt while he was at it. Then he went back to glaring at his watch. “Stand still or you’re be riding home in the trunk.”

Robin made a ridiculous little whistle of annoyance. “Who the hell are we waiting—”

“Don’t curse,” Jens snapped. He jerked his head up and looked to the left, and no, his old instincts hadn’t failed him. They were coming up the walk, right on the dot of when they said they’d come. “Speak German if you absolutely have to speak. Otherwise, don’t.”

“What, will it kill them? They don’t look that old,” Robin snorted. He wandered over for a look, then shot Jens an exasperated look when Jens pulled him back. “What—oh. Oh…is that that bitch director and her husband? The one that—”

Jens couldn’t step on Robin’s toes because that would scuff the other man’s shoes. So he stepped forward, nodded twice, and spoke loudly. “Mother, Father, this is Robin van Persie.”

Robin shut up.

Jens’ mother stopped right in her tracks, even though several people were walking up to the restaurant’s front doors behind her and his father. Jens moved, and covertly hauled a wide-eyed, shocked Robin with him, but she didn’t and neither did his father.

“Jens, I thought we had an agreement about this,” she finally said.

“And with no advance warning for us,” his father added.

When this was over, Jens promised himself, he was going to get very drunk, fuck Robin senseless, and then call Thierry and tell him exactly how bad his advice had been. For the moment he put his hands in his pockets where he could clench them without that being seen. “Yes, but that was before people attempted to have me step on a pipe-bomb.”

Blink from both parents. His father took a step forward and looked more closely at Jens’ face. Then he put his hand on Jens’ left forearm and tugged; Jens reluctantly took that hand out of his pocket so the stitched cuts and half-healed scrapes could be seen.

“So that was the medical emergency you didn’t explain.” His mother had briefly watched his father’s examination, but then had returned to coolly regarding him. “I’m afraid I still don’t understand the connection.”

“The connection is that this time it was premeditated, considerably in advance of the actual event. Which somewhat changes my assessment of my life,” Jens said. His throat was a little dry, so he paused to swallow. “I have a very advanced and well-paying career and I like men. And I think I can say now with certainty that none of that’s going to change before I die.”

His father let go of his arm and moved back so he and Jens’ mother could exchange a long, communicative look. Beside Jens, Robin was unnaturally still in the way that meant he was dangerously near to imploding in a hugely destructive way. Jens didn’t look to check, but he knew Robin was staring at him and not at his parents.

Jens’ mother finally sighed, shaking her head in utter resignation. She turned back…Jens gritted his teeth…and moved up to peer into Robin’s face. Blinking, Jens absently shifted to accommodate her; Robin was still mostly frozen except that he’d turned to stare uncertainly back at her.

“He has good bone structure, so his looks will last. Your good taste at least carries over,” she pronounced. Then to Robin: “Where are you from?”

“Hol--holland,” Robin stuttered. “Rotterdam originally. I—I lived in Amsterdam most recently before moving here.”

She pursed her lips, then shrugged. “What’s the highest level of schooling you’ve achieved? Jens, I assume he can at least carry on a decent conversation despite his accent. Because this does not excuse you from family gatherings.”

“He’s a little thin,” Jens’ father observed. “Very narrow all over.”

Jens…went from stunned to relieved to his usual state of suppressed exasperation so quickly he needed a moment to adjust. Then he made himself not make annoyed faces at his father. “It’s not like he’ll be bearing children.”

Robin did a terrible job of choking down his near-squawk.

“No…well, thank God for your older brother, since I gave up on getting grandchildren from you years ago.” Jens’ mother tilted her head. “Frankly, I’m surprised he can bear you. Don’t you feed him?”

Jens felt his face twitch. He really hated that feeling…but they were his parents, so he restrained himself. “Robin’s perfectly capable of seeing to himself, as he can tell you over dinner. And speaking of, Mother, we do have a reservation waiting…”

“It is an excellent restaurant,” she allowed. She crooked her arm, his father took it, and together they strolled up to the doors.

They were perfectly capable of dealing with the maître’d, so Jens left them to it and faced Robin. Who was now alternating between gaping at the backs of Jen’s parents and soundlessly, frantically trying to say something to Jens. He jerked his finger a few times at Jens’ mother, which didn’t really help Jens understand, before finally giving himself a sharp shake. Then he took a deep breath, head down, and picked at his clothes a bit. On the exhale he slowly lifted his head.

“That—those were your parents,” Robin said. His eyes had to be hurting him by now, they’d been so wide for so long.

“They’re fairly wealthy and extremely shrewd, and in their territory only idiots challenge them,” Jens muttered, rubbing at his nose. He’d taken a couple aspirin in anticipation of the dinner, and they already seemed to be losing their potency. “If anything final happens to me, you can go to them and they’ll deal with everything. Including whatever happened to me. They…that went better than I thought it would. I thought it’d take some blackmailing and up to the entrée to get them to accept you.”

Robin worked his mouth soundlessly for a few more seconds, staring up at Jens. Then he barked out a grim kind of laugh, his head going down. The side of his mouth that Jens could see twisted up. “My God. Those were your parents. Well, this explains a lot about you…” he suddenly threw up his head, and his jaw was trembling even though his lips were pressed into a bloodless line “…Jens, if it comes to that, I’m not going to them. I—no, don’t look at me like that. Sorry, but you don’t get a say here.”

Jens started to snap back a response, but Robin just…looked at him, and this wasn’t even an argument. He swallowed down what he’d been about to say; his throat hurt for a moment before it relaxed.

A little bit of embarrassment crept into Robin’s face and he chewed at his lip. “Not that…I don’t appreciate this whole…oh, my God, did you just tell your parents you aren’t faking with women anymore? So you don’t have to take out those airheads anymore?”

“Not as often. I still have to do it for professional reasons,” Jens said. Actually, he hadn’t even thought about that corollary till now, but…that would be nice. Free up his schedule, lessen the amount of stupidity and farce with which he had to put up. “And you now have to go with me to family dinners.”

“Oh.” Robin briefly looked crestfallen. Then he shrugged and fell in line beside Jens as Jens started up the path. “Well, I just survived your parents. The rest of them can’t be that bad.”

“You’ve met my parents,” Jens corrected. “Wait till after we’ve eaten to talk about surviving.”

As they walked along, Robin gradually angled himself so he cut in till they were on the borderline of indecently close. His lips were twitching and Jens got the impression that if the very formally-dressed and statue-like doorman hadn’t come out just then, Robin would have had that obscenely large grin on his face. “So…we absolutely can’t sneak off? Because right now I’d really like to sit on your cock and let you do whatever you want for as long as—”

“You’d better keep your damn hands above the table, too,” Jens sighed.

* * *

Henrik dubiously eyed the whipped-cream, double-syrup-drizzled confection sitting on top of Fredrik’s coffee. “How do you know they even put your drink in under that?”

Fredrik was almost amused before he remembered that Larsson really annoyed him. Almost as much as Van Persie, actually. And it was even worse because the only booth left had been a corner one: it was spacious enough to leave a good twenty centimeters between them, but they were still sharing the same bench. “Where do you usually get your coffee? Of course they’re shorting customers—there’s no other reason they’d bother with all that extra fuss.”

“Airports, train stations, places like that,” Henrik replied, shrugging. He’d taken his plain black, without any additives…but he had ordered the most expensive brand the café stocked. He sipped at it once, rolling his shoulders, before settling back like he had something to say. “I’m an independent contractor. I have been for the past eighteen years, and it only works for that long if you have your own rules and stick to them.”

“‘Mercenary’ would be quicker to say.” No, Fredrik didn’t feel like being nice. He wasn’t the one trying to make a good impression.

Not that it seemed to affect Henrik any. He just drank his coffee; at least, the level in his cup slowly sank. His throat didn’t really move when he swallowed, which bothered Fredrik on a level he couldn’t quite identify. “I don’t have an explicit contract with Giuly. I have an oral understanding, and I did offer to negotiate a written one with him, but he refused. Which is his problem—I’ll honor a verbal agreement as long as no major conflicts arise from it, but written contracts are set in stone for me.”

Fredrik stared hard at the other man, but as far as he could tell, it was all meant seriously. Then again, it wasn’t like he was getting much of a read on Larsson period. Which was ridiculous—nobody could be that cool-blooded all the time. Thierry had a nervous fit every once in a while, and the fame of Jens’ roaring temper-snaps had far out-shadowed the fact that usually he was the most collected, prepared person in the room.

“What kind of agreement did you have with Keane?” he finally asked.

“Written. But it had nullifying clauses that took effect the moment he double-booked my assignment. I work very hard to keep faith with any promises I make, and I don’t really like it when people don’t reciprocate,” Henrik replied. He flicked Fredrik a slightly warmer look over his cup of coffee. “I suspect he didn’t read past the digest in the beginning.”

But it was still hard to read: was it supposed to be reassuring Fredrik that Larsson wasn’t interested in fucking him over, or was it supposed to be a threat? Either way, it set Fredrik’s teeth on edge. “I haven’t seen any such contract filed with us.”

“That’d be a little difficult to explain away if it ever came to light, wouldn’t it? Lehmann told me that he doesn’t exactly work in a secured environment.” Henrik put his cup down at that point. Very casually, but it didn’t seem like anything the man did was really without thought. “Are all your concerns about your employer?”

“And my friends. A little rule of thumb I’ve got is that if you fuck with them, I fuck with you,” Fredrik said, and fairly calmly, he thought. The whipped topping on his drink had partially dissolved into the hot coffee beneath and halved in height, but there was still enough for him to have to lick off the traces from his lips. He didn’t miss the way Henrik’s eyes moved. “Especially Jens. I owe him…” Fredrik realized he might be getting too obvious and jerked his head “…I owe him a lot, and that’s just to start with. You want to figure out my patch of the music world and you’d better learn about that first.”

Larsson apparently didn’t have an answer for that. He just watched Fredrik, steady and careful…but he seemed a little more engaged than usual. Like he was trying to find something and not just observing like a zoologist on a nature special.

Fredrik stretched out his legs and accidentally woke up a twinge in his back. He grimaced and put one forearm on the table-top, then pushed down on it till something popped in his spine. Which hurt, but afterward his muscles were blissfully relaxed. He slouched back down with a long sigh, idly looking around. Happened to notice the mound of cream on his coffee—God, some melted, some eaten and still he couldn’t see the actual coffee—and attempted to drink through it, only to feel the whipped cream frothing up his nose and getting on his cheeks. He put down the cup and pinched his nose, snorting out the stuff that had gotten into it. Then he wiped off his fingers on his napkin.

“You’ve got more on you,” Henrik dryly said.

Narrow-eyed, Fredrik lazily turned to look at him. “Where?”

Henrik paused. There was definite hesitation as the little wheels behind his eyes tried to crank out a quick assessment. Fredrik shrugged, swiped off the traces himself and looked at his finger. Then he leaned over and smeared the foamy crest he’d gathered over Henrik’s mouth. “You should really try this style before you knock—”

A hand flashed up and its fingers clamped around Fredrik’s wrist, hard enough to make the bones grind together. Eyes unblinking and looking squarely at Fredrik, Henrik opened his mouth and…and his tongue came out and it was actually long enough to touch itself as it coiled around Fredrik’s finger. And it could tighten, as if it had a spine of wire running through it. Fredrik couldn’t help catching his breath. He slid across the bench and dropped his other hand on top of Henrik’s thigh, pressing hard and high up near the hip, and—

--and the bell over the café’s front door rang shrilly. Fredrik gave Henrik’s leg a squeeze, Henrik’s cheek a snickering peck, and slid right over the other man into the aisle to face the approaching pair of cops. “Oh, I remember you…you wrote me that speeding ticket last month.”

The cop looked mildly disgusted. Which was explained when he added, “And last week I took you in for causing a public disturbance at the Corona, when you tried throwing a guy over the bar.”

His partner hissed at him to shut up, then nodded stiffly to Fredrik. “Freddie Ljungberg? We’d like to speak with you in regards to your whereabouts this morning.”

“All right, fine, I know how it goes. Can you just give me a second to deal with him?” Fredrik said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder. “He’s having trouble with the idea that a coffee equals the end of the fling.”

Both cops seemed to have a touch of homophobia; they reluctantly said okay and didn’t add anything else, but Fredrik saw the looks they gave each other. Going to the precinct again was going to be a pain and Thierry and Jens would be upset, but Fredrik definitely was going to have fun with them.

He pivoted back to find Larsson staring at him with a mixture of shock, admiration and exasperation, thus proving that the man had some humanity in him. Fredrik grinned. “I work under contract, too. And right now, you’re not included in mine.”

Henrik started to say something, but Fredrik turned around at that point and went over to the two cops. He wasn’t really that worried, since it wasn’t like Larsson was getting into trouble and Henrik had gone through all that explaining to show he wasn’t the kind of person to act on a whim. Larsson might even just take it with a grain of humor, since he did seem to have some sense of that.

Fredrik got to the door while thinking that, but there he had to turn then, and…well, he only needed to move a few more centimeters and he had to admit to being just plain curious. He looked.

Larsson was standing there, one hand in his pocket and the other holding his cup of coffee, spotless and elegantly nonchalant. And looking at Fredrik very thoughtfully.

* * *

“I can’t believe you told your parents I’m your—your—” Robin paused with the door-keys in his hand, head cocked. Then he frowned up at Jens. “This doesn’t make me your wife, does it? Because if it does, your parents and I have to have a talk—”

“No.” Jens took the keys from Robin, unlocked the door, and went inside. He absently rubbed his other hand against his hip, then caught himself at it and irritably took his hand. “I can’t believe you tried to play footsie. While they were serving the sorbet. You could’ve gone for the wrong leg and that just would have been…I don’t even want to think about it. What’s wrong with you?”

Robin snickered and breezed in after Jens. He flipped off his suit-jacket and would’ve let it continue its spin onto the nearest chair if Jens hadn’t shot a glare at him. So instead Robin very pointedly folded it up and…left it on the chair instead of taking it to the closet. “Nothing you don’t like. And hey, you were the one feeling me up during coffee and beignets. Your own mother called you on it.”

“If there’d been any other way to guarantee that you were going to get through the entire dinner without making another sexual insinuation…” Muttering French curses, Jens rid himself of his suit-jacket, shoes and socks. He picked up the latter two from the floor, then…then set that all on a chair. And flopped down on the sofa. He was tired; he loved and respected his parents and they loved him, but since he’d moved out of their house dealing with them was like donating half his blood at one time.

Jens put his head back and closed his eyes. He heard Robin walking around—no shoes on him now either—and the door-locks engaging. Then a sudden weight on his thighs. One hand on his shoulder, and another pressed to his right pectoral. That one drifted idly about in a circle before beginning to tug at his tie-knot.

“Stick-pin,” Jens muttered.

Robin sighed and got that, and then picked out Jens’ cuff-links. “You know, you’re a very weird kind of bastard. You’ll stop fucking me because I haven’t done my laundry in a week, but then you go and do this sort of thing.”

His voice shook a little at the end. Jens opened his eyes, then slowly lowered his head. His gaze was only met for a moment before Robin dropped his chin and pretended that he couldn’t unbutton Jens’ shirt blind and with one hand tied up.

“I…” Robin’s eyebrows drew down and a furrow too deep for his age appeared between them; he slipped his hand inside of Jens’ shirt and traced his fingers tentatively along the muscle lines, as if he’d never seen them before “I know a lot of people who’d forgive me the laundry, but they couldn’t give a damn what’d happen to me when they’re in the shit. They’d just leave me out in it. I mean—fuck, if you die, I’m probably up for all the illegal stuff I’ve pulled for you.”

His tone had changed, going too sarcastic. Jens lifted his hand and drew one finger along Robin’s jaw; Robin’s eyes fluttered half-shut and he raised his chin, letting the caress continue down his throat. “You don’t actually care about that,” Jens said.

Robin shivered. Then his hands dug into Jens’ shoulder and chest and his eyes snapped open, so transparent it was like looking at his soul. Religion wasn’t a major influence in Jens’ life, but he really couldn’t compare it to anything else.

“No.” The twist of Robin’s mouth roughly approximated a smile, but it was too pained and too shaky—Robin had to keep sucking his lower lip under his teeth and chewing on it to maintain the curl. “No, and you weren’t thinking about that either for once. Otherwise you would’ve gone to some lawyer, drawn up some—some post-death directions for Thierry or whatever. So—how the hell could I just…walk off…if you ever…nobody else would ever do that for me.”

“Robin,” Jens started.

“Don’t—Jesus, fuck me. Fuck me.” Robin ducked and pressed his face into Jens’ neck, his hands suddenly mobile again. Mobile and frantic and rough, pulling at their clothes so he was out of his shirt and nearly out of his trousers by the time Jens managed to get hold of him.

Jens dragged them over and down, pinning Robin in place, but the other man continued to writhe and beg, digging his heels into Jens’ back with the fervor of the condemned. Even after he’d arched and cried out his climax, he still stared up at Jens with pleading eyes, asking desperately for something and…and he badly needed it, but he just wasn’t holding still or listening long enough. Hands and mouth, stroking and tasting his throat and his shoulder, his trembling lean stomach and his hips, but it still apparently wasn’t enough. And finally Jens had to resort to brute force—technically Raúl hadn’t passed him fit for it yet, but he was alive; he had time to heal.

He wrapped one of their ties around Robin’s wrists, lashed those behind Robin’s back so his hands were free to squeeze at Robin’s hips and waist, reminders that they weren’t going anywhere while he moved slow and deep in the other man. It wasn’t long before Robin was trying to urge him faster, but he ignored all of that and waited till Robin’s words stuttered off into incoherent groans and whimpers. And then he picked it up, and let himself go as well as the other man.

Once Jens could see colors besides white again, he reached under Robin and pulled out the knot. Then he started to haul himself up using the top of the couch, but Robin slung an arm around his neck and turned that into a multi-step procedure, thanks to the utter slackness of Robin’s body and the annoyance of the tie flapping from Robin’s wrist. Though once Jens was in a sitting position again, Robin curled beneath his arm and tiredly nuzzling at his jaw, he thought it’d been worth the trouble. Trouble and sore side and possibly a few ripped stitches in his hand, if that was what that was…

“I’ll probably get used to this eventually, like with all the other shit you manage to have following you around,” Robin suddenly said. His voice was soft and a bit halting at first, but it gradually strengthened. “But if you could wait a few months till the next time, I’d really appreciate it.”

“I’ll be sure to inform all my enemies,” Jens snorted. He got nipped at, but he was feeling so relaxed at the moment that he didn’t even tap at Robin’s head. “By the way, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t make it glaringly obvious that you’re back walking around the streets.”

Robin paused, then leaned back to look at Jens. He started to say something with a grin…but a cell-phone rang. And instead Robin’s expression clicked to exasperated quicker than David could pick up a secretary. “That’s yours.”

“Damn it.” Jens grudgingly hooked up his trousers, then dug out his phone. “It’s Freddie.”

“Motherfucking interfering son of a bitch,” Robin muttered. Then he looked innocently up at Jens. “Hmm? I was talking about Giuly.”

Rolling his eyes, Jens flipped open his phone. “That’s not any better, Rob—hello, Freddie? What’s—oh. Oh. Have you called Robert…he’s stuck in traffic. Well, keep up the stonewalling. If they get fresh with you I’ll see about a police misconduct charge…I’m at home but I’m leaving now. You can spend the next quarter-hour figuring out your justification for why I have to leave and come deal with yet another after-hours dispute involving you…”


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