|Sex and Candy
Author: Guede Mazaka
“Timo’s still on my couch,” Michael sighed, pouring himself and Torsten coffee. He pushed Torsten’s mug across the counter before adding sugar to his own. “I think he talked Lukas into sneaking into his and Phil’s place and getting enough clothes for a week.”
“Well, what does Phil say?”
A quick taste told Michael the break-room coffee was getting stale. He made a face into his mug, but when he thought about how long it’d take to buy a fresh bag…he just added another sugar packet. And extra cream. He’d been to university; he’d drunk worse during his all-nighters. Even though the definition of an all-nighter was crashing after the exam and not remembering a damn thing from the night before, he knew he’d survived worse. “I don’t know. I can’t get him to say anything. The first time, he just asked if Timo was staying with me, and every time after that he…just…looks at me. You know.”
“So ask him when you’re working on the computer and you have a reason not to look directly at him,” Torsten said. He twitched once when David breezed through to stick a snack in the fridge, but otherwise he seemed to have gone in a deep, calm, java-sipping trance.
“But he leaves!” Michael wished coffee had that effect on him. The moment it started to wake him up, he couldn’t help but start thinking about all the things that had to get done…and now about the depressed sound tech moping around his and Leo’s flat. Timo’s stubble was starting to look as if it were gaining sentience.
Torsten squeezed his eyes shut. “Micha. It’s Lahmi. He’s small. Make him not leave.”
“But then I have to…look at him,” Michael finished. It sounded lame. It was lame. And it wasn’t his fault that Philipp possessed the deadliest pair of puppy-eyes this side of Japanese animé. It’d been rumored that even Jens avoided them whenever possible. “Look, a little help here would be appreciated. Timo’s miserable and Leo’s sympathetic, but he’s getting tired of never being able to have his boyfriend over. Which I think is a valid complaint.”
“Why can’t he?”
“Because it makes Timo more depressed, and then he locks himself in the bathroom with a laptop and he’s really hard to get out. And we need to use the bathroom.” Michael was surprised to see that half his coffee was already gone. He frowned at his cup, then gave up on the mystery and just poured himself more to take back to his office. “Can’t you at least talk to Phil? Trick him or something into talking about what happened?”
Torsten finally opened his eyes, looking more than a little annoyed. Not exactly with Michael, though. “Well, I can try. But it’s hard for me to get free time right now…you know, the only reason I’m not calling Van Persie to blast Metallica at him every hour on the hour is because somebody’s got to watch Lehmann’s back. Lehmann goes out of town and it’s bad, but if he ended up in the hospital for even a few days? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Yeah…” Of course, Michael was glad Jens was still alive for other reasons as well, but that one did sort of stick out. “I’ll work on Timo some more. Lunch?”
“Probably not. I have too many medical bills to deal with,” Torsten sighed. He stopped to grab Michael by the front of the shirt and delivered a good, tongue-filled kiss the way anybody else might’ve nodded bye, and then he was off towards the lift.
Michael blinked and Bastian promptly appeared with a panicky expression on his face, and then Michael wished he could walk off, too. But somebody had to keep order on the floor, and he did seem to be the only one around. Damn.
* * *
Deco ground his teeth around a mouthful of bedsheets and squeezed his eyes shut as his climax tore through him like a tsunami through a paper-walled house. He was lying full-length on the bed, but even so, he still had a moment of panic when he thought he was falling uncontrollably through the air.
By the time his sense of balance had reconnected with reality, his hands had been untied. He pulled them down and unsteadily pushed up on his elbows to assess the state of his wrists: he’d have wear longer sleeves this week. And…and damn it, that mangled thing hanging from the headboard was his tie. That’d been imported Italian silk, and priced accordingly.
“…you hear from Ireland yet? No? Do I have to send someone…” Quick steps paced towards the right side of the bed, then faded back towards the bathroom. Ludo sighed and gestured theatrically to the ceiling about his disappointment. “No, no, I understand that life is unfathomably complicated and full of unexpected twists, but still, when I send for an inquiry I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable to…”
Deco felt more than a little annoyed himself as he untangled his tie from the metal curlicues; it wasn’t remotely usable, but he wasn’t stupid enough to leave personal items behind. Then he tried to move and his whole lower body vehemently protested. Plus a good percentage of his upper body, which suddenly decided that it was absolutely exhausted when there was nearly a whole day of work left. “I hear Lehmann’s coming back to the office today.”
“Is he? Thank God. I was starting to think he’d turned into a hermit and there’s a severe lack of proper opp—” Whoever was on the other end of the line said something Ludovic really didn’t like and he switched to chilly-sounding French. The hand-motions got more dramatic. He turned near the bathroom door and one elbow actually swung out enough to bang that open a half-meter. “Where’s my shirt?”
Ludo hadn’t been looking at Deco, but…Deco bemusedly started to say it was tossed over the chair, only to be interrupted by two of Giuly’s endless supply of lithe young Frenchmen rushing in. One helped Ludo into a linen shirt so crisp apples could’ve been peeled against its folds, the other handled the tie, and it all happened without Ludovic being in the slightest inconvenienced from screaming an odd mixture of French and Spanish invective into the phone.
Deco’s bemusement soured quite a bit as he painfully cleaned himself up with some tissues and retrieved his own clothing. He shook at his trousers, then grimaced. He’d have to go home and change before…he pulled his PDA out of his pocket and made a face when he saw how many messages he had waiting for him. “And I’ll be busy arranging Cristiano’s move into his new place for the next week, so if you want anything, you’d better ask now.”
Absently buttoning up his shirt one-handed, Ludo ignored him. His two wardrobe-boys shot Deco disbelieving looks tinged with contempt. Then they sprang into action as Ludo angrily hurled his cell at the wall; it was intercepted before it ever got there. Ludo did some intercepting himself as he pulled the boy who didn’t have anything to leap for aside for a deep kiss. Cue moan and shiver, which left Ludovic grinning a little wider than he usually was.
“Want anything? I want a lot of things,” Ludo drawled. He stroked his fingers through the other man’s curls, then along the man’s jaw and down his front, pulling away just before he hit the groin. “I want a good breakfast. I want to eat it off Gaël’s belly. I want my fucking Irish contacts to tell me where the fuck Roy Keane is so I can have a couple of words about why his one-time associates wanted me dead.”
Deco rolled his eyes as he limped into his trousers. He got off the bed to pull them all the way up, but something twinged and he stumbled, then had to grab hastily for the bedside table to keep from falling over. “If there’s not anything, I have to get back to my real job now.”
Ludovic patted a puppy-eyed Gaël on the cheek, then sent him and the other one off before turning towards the bed. “Did the money transfer not go through?”
“No, it did. I’m just being realistic. I have other ob—”
A muffled bang came from the bathroom, which Deco had assumed was empty. Then its door swung open a little farther and a woman who was very lovely beneath the extreme dishevelment and utter exhaustion came staggering out in only a white towel. She unsteadily gave Ludo a satiated, grateful smile and a lingering press of lips on the cheek, which he accepted with a hum and a playful slap at her ass as she went on out into the hall.
“—obligations,” Deco finished, struggling to suppress his irritation. He yanked on his shirt, then started searching for his shoes and socks. “Like locating a discreet doctor.”
“Do you have something?” Ludo appeared to be dead serious. “No, tell me now and I probably won’t get mad, unless it’s something like AIDS, but if I have to find out on my own…”
Deco pursed his lips, then chose his words and tone carefully. “I’m sorry, but did you not just have your harem parading through here? I’m not worried about my sexual history.”
“I don’t fuck anybody whose background I haven’t had checked out,” Ludo said. He was smiling in that slight, infuriating way of his, knowing exactly how Deco would take his words. “As to the ‘harem’—I prefer ‘cherished associates’—I have other obligations as well.”
For that, Deco read ‘wants’ and accordingly annotated his Giuly-dictionary. At least the man’s way of speaking was…Deco snorted and sat back down on the bed to tie his laces, only to remember. And be reminded. And need to roll over on his side and breathe very slowly for a few minutes, which did not help his pride. “Do you have requests? If I’m going to be in a position to provide you with useful information, I can’t be lapping at your heels all the time.”
Ludo checked his tie and fussed with his hair in the mirror before picking up his phone…which one of the young men had considerately left on the dresser for him. “Oh, just be intelligent. Right now I imagine I’m on Jens’ back-burner, and frankly I’m still settling in. I’ve got too much cleaning in my own house to do for me to be looking at other people’s yet.”
A few choice retorts came to mind, but Deco ruthlessly killed them as he did up his laces. He made a note to look into some sort of painkiller, or maybe local anesthesia—he really couldn’t afford to be this inconvenienced, no matter how good the sex was. How the hell Ludovic managed to seem as if he were coming off a two-week vacation in a spa…never mind.
Though it was too late, because Ludo was already looking at Deco with one brow raised. “I am trying to get a head-start for when I can do that, however. Believe me, I don’t consider you a secondary project.”
“All evidence to the contrary,” accidentally slipped out of Deco’s mouth. He’d unthinkingly rocked his weight back onto his ass again, and it’d hurt like hell and he’d stopped concentrating on things like his stupid mouth in order to keep from showing it.
A very self-satisfied expression was visible before Ludo looked back at his phone, though his tone was all consideration. “Well, what do you want me to say? I appreciate you very much, Anderson, but I’ve got needs. And I appreciate your health too, so I’m trying to spare—”
The first thing out of Deco’s mouth was almost in Portuguese. He choked it down and got enough of a hold on himself to stand and to speak in Spanish instead. “You make me sound like I’m geriatric.” The walk over to the other man wasn’t easy, but Deco willed himself into at least making it a walk. “Or some green know-nothing who needs a lot of teaching,” he said more softly, leaning over Ludo. “Believe me, there’s no lesson you can teach me.”
Ludo turned his head slightly as Deco’s shadow fell over him, but his thumb didn’t pause as it continued to move over his phone. He sighed and bowed his head—and his hand shot back between Deco’s legs and pressed up. Hard. Deco swore as his knees buckled; he managed to keep himself composed enough to grab onto the dresser instead of onto Giuly, but other than that, he had to give up.
“I had no idea this was about lessons,” Ludo calmly said. He pivoted to face Deco and his hand slid further back, probing high between Deco’s legs. He and Deco were about at the same eye-level now, thanks to—Deco bit harder at his lip and dug his nails into the dresser top as the heel of Ludo’s hand pressed against his prick. “I’m just saying, Anderson: if you can’t keep up, it’s fine. I can see to myself.”
Then he gave Deco two quick kisses on each cheek and wandered out with a cheery whistle while Deco gratefully slumped onto the dresser. Footsteps instantly pattered up behind Ludo…had that precious pair been waiting outside the whole time? Listening?
Can’t keep up? Deco savagely thought. That bastard. That…goddamn it, Ludo had won the argument but he wasn’t going to win the war. There had to be an explanation…probably with a doctor’s signature on it. Deco would look into it.
When, he sighed as he remembered, he had the time. But first, returning Cesc’s calls.
* * *
“Why are we meeting here? It’s so far from the office…do you know how hard it is to get back quickly enough so that nobody notices?” Cesc complained. And very validly, he thought, but Robin just stared at his laptop like he hadn’t even noticed Cesc was there. “And in a bookstore? Seriously?”
When Cesc plopped down next to Robin on the couch and checked out the laptop, it wasn’t too interesting. Ljungberg and some other guy were walking in a parking garage, and as usual, Ljungberg seemed hacked off at something. The only notable thing was that Cesc didn’t recognize the other man: very good suit, bald or shaved head—shaved, probably; he looked young—and a long nose.
“Free wireless and good pastries.” There was a little bit of icing at the corner of Robin’s mouth that he absently rubbed off as he glanced at Cesc. “So how’s your new boss?”
“Deco? Okay. I don’t do as much stuff for him, since he’s just got Cristiano.” Cesc frowned, idly scanning the titles in the shelf in front of them. “Cristiano is trying to do a lot more, too. Half the time he’s calling me to go pull files for him, or to ask about what this fat-cat or that one is like or doesn’t like or whatever…who’s that?”
Robin smacked at Cesc’s hand, then cursed as Freddie and the other man walked off-screen. A bit of quick typing and they were back on. “Thought you didn’t like the brat. That’s Henrik Larsson.”
Cesc didn’t recognize the name at first. Then he did, and he…he moved around in his seat, kicking at the ground till Robin hissed at him to knock it off, they’d get thrown out. Which was exactly why they should’ve gone with coffeeshops.
“Was wondering whether you’d gotten filled in on the past week,” Robin snorted. The look he flicked at Cesc was slightly lofty with superior knowledge, but mostly considering. Then he turned back to the screen with a lazy roll of one shoulder. “Hey, sorry about your cousin. I could’ve told you Ruud’s an ass in his private life, too.”
“Yeah, well, I could’ve guessed you’d know about his worse side,” Cesc snapped back. He still hadn’t sorted through all of that, but he knew he really did feel regretful about it: regretful that he hadn’t noticed, that Ruud hadn’t gotten himself together. And also he was really, really angry at Ruud; he didn’t like José, but there was no way he’d wanted to see his cousin just…shattered like that. “José’s with relatives in Madrid, so that should be over now, anyway. I still can’t believe somebody would want to assassinate Ruud. I mean…”
Robin raised an eyebrow. “Like your uncle wouldn’t pay out for a Swedish hitman now? I overheard his call to Jens. Sounded like Jens was talking to a den of lions.”
“Oh…Raúl’s a doctor. He wanted Ruud away from José, and after that he doesn’t care ‘cause he’s busy worrying about what’s wrong with José.” Cesc started to tuck one leg up, then remembered he was dressed for work. Damn…he settled for stretching his legs out in front of him, hoping that’d be more comfortable. “Swedish hitmen? They special or something?”
“Haven’t looked into it yet.” The sudden flatness of Robin’s voice was surprising. His lips briefly pressed together so tightly that they looked white instead of pink. Then he snorted at something on the screen: Freddie apparently throwing a fit because Larsson had brushed at his sleeve. “They do seem pretty horny.”
“…Ljungberg? But he—” Cesc paused and thought “—okay, I guess he’s good-looking. He’s so annoyed all the time it’s hard to tell. But whatever. Nobody’s as horny as my…”
Robin tilted his head. “Is this going to be the explanation for how you of all people missed everything?”
“It’s not like it was scheduled! I had the night off! I went out to a film series and when I come back, Raúl’s saying we practically fought a war, ‘Nando’s telling me he socked Ruud over José, and Sergio’s had a fucking orgy in my fucking apartment! If I’d known—”
“Sssssh!” Somebody with an official-looking nametag pinned to their shirt and a truly impressive scowl emerged from the shelves, glowered at Cesc, and seemed only minimally mollified when Cesc pulled out the apologetic face with the biggest puppy-eyes.
As soon as they were gone, Cesc rolled his eyes. This wasn’t a library. “If I’d known, you’d better believe I at least wouldn’t be having my place fumigated now. Ick.”
Snicker from Robin, which trailed off rather quickly for him. He continued to stare intently at the laptop screen.
“What are you testing out now? I thought you weren’t allowed to spy on FC employees,” Cesc cautiously asked. He kept an eye on Robin’s hands.
“Yeah, but I can’t help it if they hang out with the people I can check on,” Robin muttered. He tapped a few keys and the screen split, with the new half showing…Deco? Deco in his car—Cesc made a note to never take a ride from him—driving somewhere. “Larsson and Deco both go often to Giuly’s restaurant. So keep an ear out about anything to do with that. By the way, Cristiano told Deco yesterday that he wants his own personal assistant.”
Cesc bristled. No, he didn’t like Cristiano, but he still thought he’d been pretty damn hardworking.
“For stuff like getting coffee and remembering to ship out his laundry and bitching out his new cleaning staff. Do you want to handle all that?” Robin shot Cesc a bemused glance, knowing very well that Cesc had never done that kind of crap. He’d get Cristiano’s designer water for him in the studio, but once the other man wasn’t doing FC stuff, he was on his own. “So let me know if Deco does anything interesting.”
“Is Ljungberg working on that guy?” Cesc asked, hooking a thumb at the screen. He squinted at it, then grinned. “They so want to have sex.”
“Well, yeah, Larsson does.” As Robin spoke, the person in question quite deliberately edged Freddie into a wall. “It looks like Ljungberg believes in death before dishonor, though.”
Cesc watched for a few more seconds, then shook his head. “Nah. He wants it almost as much as the other guy does. I mean, look!”
“Freddie just took a swing at him. And now he’s…hmm, I wish I’d installed audio with this,” Robin replied. He drew a box around the two men with the cursor, then hit ‘enter’ so it went to a close-up view of the scuffle.
“Yeah, but that missed by a mile. Ljungberg didn’t really mean it, and…and look, now he’s shoving like a girl,” Cesc said. “I know, it got him out of there, but he doesn’t need to be breathing so hard just for that. He’s getting off on this, he so—”
Cesc’s cell went off. He jumped and almost fell head-first into Robin’s lap. Robin didn’t help with the hard elbowing and shoving at Cesc’s head, like Cesc wanted to go down there any more than Robin wanted him to. He finally managed to pull himself back up without hitting any danger areas—that clerk came back for more angry shushing—and flipped open his phone.
*Cesc?* Deco said. *Where are you? I just checked your office and it was empty.*
By now having a ready excuse was pure instinct to Cesc. “I’m double-checking tile samples in person. I don’t want them to be delivered and end up the wrong color.”
*Oh. Good.* Deco went from suspicious to faintly relieved in less than a second, which was only surprising if you’d never overheard Cristiano talking about the need for interior decorating to properly complement his complexion. *When you get back, I need you to do some research for me. You were looking into Ludovic Giuly for Ruud, right?*
“Yeah, a little. Mostly just checking Giuly’s old business ties to FC,” Cesc said, blinking. Beside him, Robin finally looked up from the laptop. “What do you need?”
Maybe Deco wasn’t stupid, but he still wasn’t perfect. *I’ll tell you when you come in.*
“Be there in fifteen.” Cesc shut off his phone. “Huh. Something’s up.”
“Yeah, well, make sure you give a heads-up right away when you find out,” Robin said. “I’ve got a lot of people to track now and Cristiano’s not topping the list. At least, when I’m ranking on actual threats to Lehmann. I know if you did the ranking, they’d probably be by—”
“—yeah, yeah, okay. Man, you’re cranky today. If you want Ljungberg and that guy to just get it on already, why don’t you stop watching and—”
Robin’s expression went from mildly irritated to maliciously thoughtful. He wrapped his hands around the sides of his laptop as if about to lift it and swung his leg down from the sofa, and Cesc decided it was time to go.
* * *
Fifteen? Deco thought it unlikely, even for Cesc, but the other man probably was on his way from…after a moment, Deco decided that he didn’t care what Cesc had been doing as long as the bathroom tiles being delivered in two days were the right color. Fàbregas had a gift for anticipating Cristiano snits, and Deco wasn’t going to look at it too closely.
He absently turned in his chair to reach for his planner, but a white-hot streak of pain originating deep and low in his belly stopped him. About a minute later Deco was just able to pry his hands off the chair-arms.
Giuly and…now that Deco had gotten some space and time to himself, he could see it for the baiting exercise that it was. And could tell that it didn’t matter; his pride still demanded something to level things out. It was irritating and inconvenient, and especially the second since now he had to work around that as well as Lehmann’s sudden, blatant distrust of him. Thierry’s action had been understandable; if Lehmann really had been dead, Thierry would’ve had to slim down their operations to something he could actually juggle. But for Lehmann to agree to using him as a go-between with Giuly…
Well, this should settle both parties, Deco thought. If it all went right.
* * *
Michael had to call in help. In order to get them out of the way, he warned Bastian and Lukas to stay away from his office because he had a bootleg advance copy of the latest Playstation football game—last time, he’d just told them to stay out of the men’s toilet and that had backfired badly. Then he found Lionel, who did all the actual thinking about how they were going to trap Timo in the bathroom for a talk.
He got as far as having Timo walk in before the other man suddenly stopped and stared hard at Michael. “Wait a minute. Micha. I’ve seen you manually jacking a cable before—they don’t run through the toilet ceiling, they go along the—”
The door slammed hard enough to make Michael wince. Then he did that again when sounds of excited giggling and softer bangs around the edges of the door filtered in.
Timo stayed where he was, half-turned so his upper body was facing one way and his feet pointing another. His expression was one of dawning infuriation. “Micha?”
“Look, I know I said that you could stay for as long as you needed to, and I want to make it clear that I’m not withdrawing or changing that offer. I remember how you put me up when I first got here, and believe me, I haven’t forgotten it,” Michael hastily said. Even though he had several centimeters and a good deal of weight on the other man, the look in Timo’s eyes was enough to make him wary. “But…”
At first it looked like Timo was going to hit him, but then the other man’s shoulders slumped. Timo jammed his hands in his pockets and finished his turn so he was staring in the same direction as Michael. Then he let out a long sigh and slouched against the wall so precipitately that Michael took a step forward, thinking the other man was falling. “All right. I know I’ve been a jerk lately, so let’s have it.”
Michael…really wished he’d had somebody come in and help him with this. He put his hand in his pocket before he realized that no, he couldn’t call Torsten. He was a grown adult and he’d handled pop-star ODs and Italian gangsters and Robin on a rampage, and he could do this too, dammit. “No, no, Timo, I just want to…offer my help.”
Timo pushed his hands further into his jeans-pockets so his shoulders hunched up. When he raised his head, he almost looked as if he had no neck. “Micha? That’s really nice of you, but I’m okay. You don’t have to bother.”
“I’m fine! Really! Micha—”
“It is not fine!” Michael yelled, throwing up his hands. “You sleep about three hours a day and the circles under your eyes are so scary the secretaries are posting photos in online horror contests, and you won’t even be in the same room with Lahmi! You hid under my desk for an hour yesterday because he walked in before you could leave!”
Eyes wide, Timo tried to take a step back but ran into the problem of already being up against the wall. He accidentally pushed himself off it and lost his balance, and the resulting bout of flailing at least meant he took his hands out and stopped looking like an aggressively padlocked book. “Look, I know—”
“No. No, you don’t. Because you’ve been pretending you’re okay but you’re obviously not, and it’s not going to get any better till you actually face up to what happened and deal with it,” Michael added. He jabbed his finger at the other man. Then he stared down at his hand and wondered when he’d turned into his ex-headmistress aunt.
Timo stared at Michael, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. He did that for so long that Michael’s anger completely faded and a lot of uncomfortable nerves started to creep in, but he spoke before Michael actually offered an apology. “You’re right. This is getting ridiculous.”
Nodding, Michael suppressed his huge sigh of relief. Then he prayed really, really hard that that faint thump he’d heard was not Lionel trying to listen through the door. They were finally getting somewhere, and if it got screwed up…well, he couldn’t be held responsible for the consequences. It wasn’t in his job description. Though to be honest, neither was this, and—he told himself to stop. “So…what, er, did happen? When you went back?”
Blink. “Didn’t I tell you? I thought I told you.”
“You said he wouldn’t let you in, and then after that, every time I asked you, you locked yourself in the bathroom and did work,” Michael said.
After a moment, Timo produced a sour half-smile. “I’ve really been an ass…just like he said. Sorry, Micha. It just…there’s not really much to tell. I went back, Phil asked me if I’d come to apologize and I said no, but I wanted to talk. He said if I didn’t want to apologize, then how were we supposed to talk? And then it was just a lot of cursing.”
Michael took about a minute to realize he hadn’t actually replied, and that Timo was now looking at him oddly. “Sorry. I just…Phil curses?”
“On a really bad day, he fits in more swears per breath than Jens does when talking about Kahn,” Timo said, wry and indulgent. Then his mouth twisted and he went back to depressed. He hitched his shoulders against the wall. “What was wrong with that? He keeps saying there are two of us, and so I shouldn’t have to apologize right away just so I can talk to him. I wasn’t ruling it out; I just didn’t want to do it till I heard everything and could see where I was wrong.”
It really was a shame that Michael wasn’t angry anymore, because then he might’ve had a chance of picking up what was wrong with that. Because calm, he couldn’t really see anything. “What happened the first time? You never really told me about that either.”
Timo pursed his lips, then pinched the bridge of his nose. “I came home and Phil and Owen were in the kitchen, looking at something on the table. And they were standing really close and Owen put his hand on Phil’s shoulder, and—I kind of snapped. I yanked Phil into the hall and told him if he’s going to have an affair, he could at least put the chain on the door.”
On second thought, Michael could suddenly see Philipp’s point of view. “Ah…Timo, I’m just trying to be helpful here…but that’s going a little beyond just being an ass.”
“I was angry!” Timo threw up his hands. “Every time I turned around, they were talking, and…”
“But that doesn’t mean Phil’s already sleeping with him! I mean, don’t you have any faith in him?” Michael asked.
Timo glowered defiantly at him for a few moments. Then the other man scrunched his eyes shut and slid a little further down the wall. “I didn’t—actually—mean that part. I just…”
Was scared that Philipp would drop him that easily, and while Michael really couldn’t understand where that was coming from—as far as he could tell, Philipp was madly in love with Timo—he could at least get the feeling itself.
“I’m really fucked, aren’t I?” Timo finally said. He raised his head enough to look Michael in the eye. “Don’t lie, Micha. After all of this, I need a realistic perspective.”
Michael chewed on his lip. “You’re pretty deep in the shit.”
“Damn it!” Timo elbowed himself off the wall, spun around and punched where he’d been leaning. He stood there, staring at the spot, and then he slowly wrapped his other hand over his fist and bent over. “Fuck. That really hurts.”
“Yeah.” Michael was not thinking about how he knew that. “I don’t think it’s a total loss yet.”
The look Timo gave him epitomized disbelief. “According to what measuring stick?”
“I…well…don’t worry about that. What you need to think about is what you’re going to say to Phil. Because this’ll be your last chance, I think,” Michael said.
Thankfully, Timo appeared to take that to heart and lapsed into intense thought. Michael took the opportunity to sneak over to the door. He kept his back to it and snaked a hand behind himself to gently knock at it, and a moment later he heard it creak open.
“Torsten just called, but all he said was he’s gotta talk to you about Lahm,” Lionel hissed. “Also, a lot of shrieking just came from your office, so I think maybe you might wanna get over there and…stop Schweini and Poldi. If it’s not too late.”
“I moved everything important from there to David’s office for the day, so it can’t be too…bad. I hope.” With desperately crossed fingers and all. “We’re almost done.”
“Okay, I think I can block people for a couple more minutes.” Lionel was audibly grinning. “Hey, you’re getting really good at this, you know. Between this and the strategic punching, you’re going to end up—”
Michael almost covered his face with his hand before he realized Timo could see him. And actually, the other man might have started to notice Michael had drifted off. “Don’t tell me, please. It’s probably better for my sanity.”
* * *
“—and so that means that a priori you can’t just—” Ricky was saying.
“Wait, wait, slow down. Too many legal terms,” Cesc muttered. He scribbled furiously to get down the last three things Ricky had just said, only to have his phone ring on him. The tip of his pencil snapped as, startled, he jammed it against his paper pad. “Shit. Hang on.”
Of course, Ricky apologized and swiped Cesc’s pencil from him to sharpen it while Cesc fielded another call about signing up for basic utilities from Cristiano. God, if putting up with another over-gelled simpering airhead was the price Cesc would pay for having somebody else do this crap for Ronaldo, he had absolutely no object—his PDA went off. Sighing, he dug that out too and scanned the message while wrapping up his talk with Cristiano. He’d only read the first line when he realized it wasn’t really one he should be checking when Ricky was around. Not that the other man would peek over his shoulder on purpose, but…
…somebody was looking out for Cesc today, because just then there was a knock on the door. Ricky told whoever it was to come in, and Paolo promptly did so. “Kaká? Do you know where Bobby is? He’s not answering his phone.”
Ricky blinked and surprisingly enough, did not blush. He did, however, run his tongue over his lower lip and absently rub at the side of his neck. “He’s busy talking to the security people at Van Nistelrooy’s apartment who talked to Ljungberg that night. He usually—”
“—turns his phone off when he’s doing an interview.” Paolo’s brow creased as his expression briefly mixed irritation and wry affection. “Never mind, I’ll catch him later.”
Maldini walked out with a little graceful flip of the hand for a farewell. Ricky stared oddly after him: slightly widened and distant eyes, nervous licking of the lips, unnaturally still body. And then Cesc got it. “Ricky! You had sex!” he gleefully crowed.
He knew he was right when the other man flailed like Cesc had thrown a live rat into his lap. When Ricky righted himself, he was a lot more red in the face. “What? I—what?”
“Oh, no, don’t worry. I didn’t know till Paolo walked in. It’s not like you’ve got a big fluorescent sign on you or anything,” Cesc reassured him. Still grinning. Even though personally Cesc wasn’t all that sure about Paolo, but hey, Ricky was pretty stuck on him and…and it had to have been good. Ricky wouldn’t be having such a hard time trying to look guilty if it hadn’t been. “Cool. So it’s pretty fun, isn’t it? Wish you’d done it earlier?”
Right now, about four or five reactions were fighting for control of Ricky’s expression and it was beginning to look painful. He shifted uncomfortably around and fidgeted with his tie and blushed more. “No. Earlier was before I met Paolo. And—but you knew right away.”
“Yeah, well, because he was right there. And I bet ‘cause it wasn’t long ago…first time you’ve seen him at work since?” Cesc nodded at Ricky’s panicked look. “Yeah, thought so.”
“How?” A tiny note of exasperation had actually crept into Ricky’s voice, so he must’ve been pretty annoyed.
“Before, you were always staring at him—” Cesc tried to imitate it, but judging from the look on Ricky’s face, it wasn’t working “—like you really wanted to go over to him but you were too nervous and wanted him to ask you to or something. Just now you were staring at him like he was a big piece of candy…chewy, maybe? Or hard so it’s lickable.”
For some reason, Ricky covered his face with his hand and sank down in his chair till nearly all of his legs were off the seat. “Cesc…”
“Hey, it’s okay! You two finally got around to the screwing. You’re totally allowed to perve on him. Actually, you could’ve started perving earlier, but you’re too nice,” Cesc said. He frowned when all the other man did was put his other hand over his face and groan. “All right, all right, I’ll stop embarrassing you. But seriously, good for you.”
It took nearly a minute for Ricky to just crack open his fingers. One brown eye peered out at Cesc, who put on his best friend-innocently-celebrating look. After a few more seconds, Ricky put his hands down on the chair arms and slowly dragged himself back up. He kept ducking his head, but that was still clearly a small, giddy smile on his face. “Thanks. I think.”
“No prob.” Cesc’s eyes drifted back to his notepad, and then to his PDA. “Um, do you mind if we take a quick break? I think my hand is cramping up.”
“Oh, no. Actually, I need to go ask Paolo something really quick,” Ricky said. He got almost all of it out without an embarrassed stutter. He also got out of his chair kind of fast.
Well, whatever. Nodding an okay, Cesc turned slightly to spare Ricky’s dignity a little and pretended to wring his hand. Once he heard the door close, he went back to reading the email. When he was sure it had everything in it and he didn’t need to ask for anything more, he ran it through a fun bit of software Robin had given him that’d obscure its sender and forwarded it on to Deco. Then just to be on the safe side, he permanently wiped it from his PDA.
Ricky still hadn’t returned, so Cesc checked the hall and found Philippe. He passed on the update to the other man to take back to Jens before going back to finish up with Ricky.
* * *
“Timo says he’ll apologize and do things properly and all that this time,” Michael said.
Torsten paused, then sighed and put one hand up to his forehead. “Well, great, but Philipp says he doesn’t want an apology.”
This didn’t seem right, even though logically it should’ve vastly simplified matters. “Okay. Is he going to talk to Timo?”
“He says no. He says he just wants to know if Timo loves him, and he’s miserable because everything points to that not being true,” Torsten replied, looking seriously pained.
“So…Timo wants to apologize, but Philipp doesn’t want to hear that because he doesn’t think Timo loves him. So Timo needs to tell Phil that, because he definitely does…only Phil doesn’t want to give him the chance? Do I have that right?”
“But it doesn’t make sense! They just need to talk to each other!”
“I know, Micha. I know.”
“This is why I like programming. The communication is so much more straightforward.”
“Well, if we ever get into this situation, I’ll promise I’ll get a program to make my apology pop up on the screen of your computer if you promise to read it. And vice versa.”
Michael laughed a little, but couldn’t muster up the energy to do more than that. He turned with his hands in his pockets and let himself fall back hard against the wall. “God. I…just…no, I can’t give up. Timo can’t keep sleeping on my couch. For his sake, and Phil’s sake, and Leo’s sake and my sake.”
“I did find out about Hargreaves,” Torsten said. His mouth was smiling, but in a slightly twisted way, and his eyes held a good deal of irony. “At least, what he’s told Phil. He’s given up for now on being manager for The Chels and gotten a job as the entertainment director for a music bar, and he’s got a crush on the bartender. He’s been asking Lahmi for dating advice.”
“Not…to say Phil’s an idiot, because he’s not,” Michael carefully said. “But…”
Torsten shrugged. “Don’t really know Hargreaves, so I don’t know. I could tap the gossip-mill about the bar, but that’d take a day at least. And anyway, Leo would be the better person to ask for that. But gut instinct…I haven’t been to that bar in a while, but I think they had a couple Germans on the staff. If Owen’s asking for language help, then I think it’s just that.”
“Okay.” Michael stared at the far wall. “Okay. This still leaves the problem of how to get Timo and Phil to—just--stop.”
“Micha, I hate to point this out, but…this kind of thing just doesn’t happen overnight,” Torsten sighed. He ran his hand through his hair, then had to spend a couple moments brushing it out of his eyes. It was getting long. “I’m not saying you can’t do anything, but you aren’t going to fix it today. This is going to take a while, if you want to do it properly.”
“I do,” Michael said after a moment. “They were so nice to me when I first came here, and didn’t have anybody, and…damn. Why won’t they just talk?”
Torsten rubbed at his nose and opened his mouth. Then his cell went off; he checked it, then exhaled irritably. “I’d explain how fear that things could get worse keeps people from trying anything that could make it better, but I’ve got David coming down for something. Listen, just leave Timo home tonight and come over—no, really, Micha. He’s an adult. Unless he’s suicidal, you don’t have to babysit him all the time. Sometimes you have to let him think it out himself, and start about relaxing yourself. You can work on getting them to talk tomorrow.”
Michael opened his mouth, then shook his head and smiled. “I don’t get how you can be so laidback all the time, but I’m definitely happy you are.”
“It’s the heavy metal I listen to. They say all the angry things for me, so I can concentrate on other things,” Torsten snorted.
“And they’ve got the really nice bass beat,” Michael blurted. He mentally grimaced, but felt a little better when he noticed how Torsten had gone all still.
Then Torsten looked up with sparkling eyes and a hint of a devil-grin. “Liked that, huh.”
“Ah.” Michael rubbed his neck and had to look at his shoes. “Yeah.”
“Come over and I’ll move the woofers under the mattress again,” Torsten offered. He gave Michael a clap on the arm, then let his fingers linger till he’d turned completely away.
He did know how to make things look a lot rosier. Though, Michael inwardly sighed, it still wasn’t any easier to actually do.
* * *
Deco read the email from Cesc a half-dozen times before he finally accepted that he wasn’t missing any of it. He sat down—carefully—on the couch in his brand-new apartment—Cristiano had moved, so Deco moved to the same building, no longer willing to bet on the other man’s inexperience—and did some hard thinking.
It was tempting to assume that Fàbregas just hadn’t come through, or that he was deliberately feeding bad information. But given Fàbregas’ track record, the first one wasn’t very likely. The second…well, Deco would’ve thought Cesc would’ve done a better job disguising the patent untruth. Because it was really just implausible that Giuly not only hadn’t been to a doctor in years, but he also wasn’t tapping any local pharmacists for regular supplies.
He could be sidestepping the prescription fraud and getting it all black-market. Fàbregas probably didn’t have as strong a contact network there. But even so, Deco knew enough about pharmaceuticals to expect Giuly misjudging the dosages at least once and needing a medical consultation. Because with Giuly’s level of stamina and quickness of recovery, he had to be on more than one drug to even out the side-effects.
Or it could be the one really, truly absurd explanation.
Maybe it was a hormonal issue. Deco started to make a mental note to look into that, only to have a knock at the door interrupt his thoughts. He rolled his eyes and got up making a disgusted face. Then he cleared it off before he fully opened the door; arguing with Cristiano or giving him any opportunity to argue would just prolong the agony that was him redecorating.
When Deco saw who was actually there, it suddenly occurred to him that he also needed to invest in a security system where the front line of defense was slightly more complicated than a peephole in the door. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Oh, I’m sure you have arrangements with the security here on videofeeds and so forth,” Ludo said. He casually elbowed his way in, paused to kick the door out of Deco’s hand, and then continued on. “Or if you don’t, I’m sure you’ll be getting around to it promptly.”
He stooped to check out a decorative vase Deco had, then moved on to stroke his hand along the back of the couch. His fingers splayed into a little dip in the cushion…left by Deco’s head, and as Deco realized that, Ludo glanced up. Deco stiffened against the electric shiver that reflexively went through him; Ludovic grinned close-lipped and turned to face him, both hands now kneading the couch top.
“That still doesn’t explain what you’re doing here. I’m beginning to think you want Jens to think I’m your mole,” Deco retorted. He put the locks on the door before deliberately walking past the other man, only stopping to scoop up his PDA.
By the time he got to the master bathroom, he’d deleted the incriminating email from his PDA and left that on the bed. He could hear Ludo strolling along behind him, but mostly ignored the other man in favor of trying to figure out in which box he’d packed his toiletries. In all honesty, he’d probably be in a vastly-improved state of mind and be better able to figure things out if he could just get the time to finish ordering his apartment. Environment reflected internal state.
While he was bending over a box, a hand none-too-gently felt up his backside. Deco hissed and flinched before he could help himself, grabbing onto the sides of the box to keep his balance. “That doesn’t help either,” he snapped.
“Hmm, no, I suppose not. You’re limping pretty badly, though I give you a thumbs-up for the heroic effort.” Ludovic now was prodding at Deco’s ass as if checking a piece of steak for doneness. “I thought you would’ve objected to the obviousness of that, but you seemed entirely of the opposite mind this morning.”
Deco found a bottle of aspirin, but for some reason the Novocaine cream was still evading him. He finally gave up and nudged the box aside with his toe, then began to stand up. Which drove Ludo’s finger between his buttocks and right into the sorest region; Deco reflexively slapped at the hand. Then frowned and stopped where he was when there was a click and a sudden slight pressure on his wrist. He turned his head and stared at the shiny silver cuff.
He had just enough time to see Ludo’s grin before the world spun forcefully. When it’d stopped, both his hands were cuffed behind his back and his knees had just hit the floor. Painfully. His angry query was interrupted by a hand planting itself against the back of his head and shoving him down and forward. He struggled as much as he could, snarling and swearing at Ludo to explain what he was doing, till a thin line of pressure—hair-fine width, about as long as his thumb—along the top of his trousers suddenly resulted in the sound of tearing cloth and a cold sensation on his skin. Then he held himself very still as the razor continued cutting down the middle seam, its tip going close enough to catch a few hairs.
“I didn’t realize I’d been so hard on you,” Ludo casually said. “I feel bad, I have to say. I really pride myself on looking after my things and taking care of them. Mind if I take a look?”
The only reason Deco’s trousers could still be called a single piece of clothing was because the strip of fabric beneath his belt was still intact. His teeth felt as if they’d ground themselves smooth from when the blade had been cutting just above his prick and balls—and the fabric instantly pulled apart, leaving a wide swath of his groin bare to the air. “I’m not a thing. I don’t…really see how objectifying me is supposed to be flattering.”
“Was I objectifying?” Deco didn’t have to lift his head from the tile to know Ludo was tilting his head, almost innocent in his bemusement. Of course, the fingers running over Deco’s buttocks and teasing between them so he shifted and bucked were purely carnal. “Sorry,” and Ludo’s breath was suddenly puffing against Deco’s ass, its slightly damp warmth and the stroking fingers making the cool air seem even cooler, “I thought I was appreciating.”
His breath heated up till his lips had to be almost—Deco tensed, then jerked and had to bite down on his tongue to keep from yelping as something cold and foamy abruptly fizzed on his skin from where his buttocks just began to divide all the way down to the back of his ball-sac. He belatedly realized Ludo’s hand was off his head, but then the razor was touching his skin and he didn’t dare do anything about that. He sucked in air, staring at the tile beneath his face: the miniscule pits beneath its clear top glaze grew to fantastic, shuddering sizes.
“I can’t see a damn thing, though. You’re hairy,” Ludo snorted. The heel of his right hand dug deep into Deco’s buttock as he used his fingers to pull it aside. He floated the tip of his little finger right on top of the asshole, setting off sparks of pain from the stretching his cock had given it earlier in the day. The razor scraped them into long, sharp aches, following the flat wrinkles that radiated outwards. Every two or three strokes, it’d go away and Deco could hear it being wiped on something. “This might take a while. Oh, and later you’ll probably want to rub in some moisturizer. Your shaving cream’s going to dry out your skin.”
Deco’s tongue was glued to the top of his mouth and vibrating every time he breathed because he was gasping through his mouth. His knees were spread so wide nearly all of his legs were on the floor, but they were still trembling—Ludo pushed his hand under one thigh and jacked it up to get at further forward, and that didn’t help. And he was lecturing Deco on skin-care like a smarmy cosmetics hawker while very possibly putting sensitive parts of Deco’s anatomy under serious threat, and already Deco thought his erection was going to kill him.
“But dermatology aside, I actually came to assure you that no matter my other interests, I do hold you in high regard. You have a very pivotal position seeing as you’ve got entrance to Lehmann’s operations without being subject to the same contractual gags as those directly employed under him.” Ludo’s thumb slipped into Deco’s ass without warning, nearly startling Deco into twisting his scrotum onto the razor-blade. It pushed in all the way, then pulled out to the knuckle. The razor delicately nicked at the inside of Deco’s thigh, raising a pinprick of hot pain. “In fact, you’re in an ideal position. As long as you guarantee a certain return, you can’t really be prosecuted for anything like breach of contract, can you?”
“I’m—also—locked in for several years to Cristiano,” Deco gritted out. A small pool of sweat had developed beneath his forehead and was making it hard not to let his head slip sideways. Another one was forming under his nose, and his chewed lip was stinging constantly from the salt in his perspiration. “And—have to—see to his best interests. Determined by him.”
The blade withdrew, but that didn’t bring any relief because now Deco had no idea where it was. He did dare enough to drag his left knee back to relieve some of the strain on his hip-joint, only to sink his teeth back into his lip when Ludovic’s thumb-pad pressed down inside Deco’s ass and the tip of Deco’s aching, swollen cock brushed the chilly tile. Then he nearly bit the whole damn thing off when Ludo decided to spin him around that thumb, and—
Deco watched the ceiling dance, feeling both sauna-drenched and absolutely frozen at the same time. And then more foam was sprayed around his cock, and he jerked up his head in panicked realization just as the razor—an old-fashioned straight blade—flashed down. His shoulders were going to dislocate themselves if he kept propping himself up, and actually it was more nerve-wracking to watch, but…he couldn’t put his head back down. “Holy Mary, Ludo—”
“I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but I don’t speak Portuguese. So when you’re getting upset like that, I have no idea what you’re saying. I just admire your big black eyes,” Ludo said with a white, white smile. It glinted like the blade pushing aside the foam to reveal bare, slightly pinkened skin. “But anyway, back to the subject at hand. You’re still relatively protected. Now me, I mess up once and I could be up for any number of things, and nobody is contractually obligated to contribute to my legal defense. Therefore I’m a little, I guess you could say, paranoid. I like to know exactly who I’m letting into my house.”
“We’ve talked about this already. I won’t do anything that’ll risk direct involvement but I’ll provide anything else,” Deco hastily replied. His intake of breath sounded like a strangled prayer as he watched the razor, freshly wiped, come back down dangerously near his cock. And then it went sideways, and his erection twitched at the same time that he damn near broke down and flat-out pleaded—but Ludo just ran the flat of the blade along Deco’s prick before going back to shaving. A relieved whine squeezed from between Deco’s lips. “If you’ve got an issue with our relationship that you’d like to discuss, it’d be much clearer for me if you just stated it.”
Ludovic’s hand wrapped around Deco’s cock at the same time that he looked up and met Deco’s gaze. He absently ran his thumb back and forth across the head of Deco’s prick; a dull ache began to spread through Deco’s jaw from his tightly-locked molars. His other hand rubbed and patted around between Deco’s legs with a towel—Deco’s nerves almost snapped before he glimpsed the razor on the floor—and that made things worse as the rough cotton scraped and tormented the sensitive, already-irritated skin. “Well, I’m not sure if there is an issue. Frankly, I’m confused myself. First you seem annoyed that I fuck other people, as if you’ve produced a reason why that should concern you, and then you’re concerned about my health?”
Deco…blanked out. Shit. He needed an explanation and he needed it now, and he also needed to come so badly but Ludo shifted his hand to squeeze the base of Deco’s prick and shit. It wasn’t happening.
“I was curious about your email. Like I said, I’m paranoid, and you did leave your PDA right on the couch.” Ludovic tsked, shaking his head. “Silly password, by the way.”
Fuck. And Deco’s cock said please and his mind struggled to function. It took too long—something of which he was always exquisitely conscious, but never more than now, was timing and he could feel the window for a reply closing. “Your recovery time’s too quick. I’m—I’ve never been out-fucked by somebody who wasn’t getting medical help.”
Ludo blinked. Arched disbelieving eyebrows. “That’s it? That—oh, wait, your pride. No, I suppose I can understand…” he bent down as he spoke; his teeth flashed in an amused grin “…but let me reassure you right now I am completely natural.”
Then his mouth pressed against Deco’s balls, and Deco’s arms slipped and if that sudden burst of pain in his left shoulder wasn’t a dislocation, it’d be a miracle. And if it was, it could wait till Ludo wasn’t soothing the shave-burn all over Deco’s groin with his tongue and his lips and—Deco arched, crying out, as teeth were also applied. He didn’t have any breath left by the time two fingers were shoved into his ass, and when Ludo swallowed his cock he was just utterly thankful he’d blurted out the embarrassing part instead of the incriminating part.
* * *
“Robin?” The front door shut.
“Yoga room,” Robin absently called back. He heard Jens walk up to the doorway, pause, and then go on to the kitchen. Good, because he’d almost figured out the bug in the revamped software for Jens’ car, and he figured another half-hour would see it fixed. Then he could upload it, and any time somebody tried to attach anything under it, the alarms would go off. He really didn’t need to get yelled at for spreading his “junk” all over the place again.
Robin typed in the last of the changes, then hit ‘enter’ to start compiling the program. That was going to take overnight, if all went well—if it snagged again, he’d go tease Ljungberg to calm himself down. He started to get up. And stopped to put one hand back down and groan as a zillion little aches made themselves known. “Ow. I’ve been sitting here a while…”
“Nearly an hour,” Jens said. When Robin turned around, the other man was just crouching down to straighten out a pile of paper. “Now what?”
“Huh?” Confused, Robin slung back on his heels and stared at the other man. “What?”
Jens sighed and began stacking the paper. “Why are you sulking now?”
“I—what? I’m not sulking—I’m working. What’s with the bad mood? Kahn say something idiotic again?” Robin replied. “Thought you’d be happy I left you alone for once.”
Jens…was oddly quiet.
And Robin started to grin as he got it. He slid down onto his ass and grabbed Jens’ thigh, then slung one arm around the other man’s neck. “Oh. So you do like that.”
“It’s abnormal for you not to be crawling on me when I come home, and abnormal for you usually means lots of damage-control later,” Jens snorted. His hand cupped Robin’s ass and lifted it as Robin licked at his ear, and he finally abandoned the paper-shuffling for a proper kiss. Sucking on Robin’s lower lip, he tilted them over till Robin was lying on his back. “Deco’s starting to be annoying, but nothing much today, actually.”
“Hmm? What’s Giuly doing?” Robin asked, tipping back his head. He half-closed his eyes as Jens mouthed up and down his neck. “Larsson was messing with Freddie earlier, too.”
Jens paused, then shrugged. “Larsson’s a separate worry. And I think this one is, too—Deco had Cesc doing some research into Ludo’s medical history. Probably wondering if he can hijack Ludo’s supply line and get a handle on him that way. Which won’t work—the only drugs Ludo’s ever done are wine and the occasional cigarette. All that craziness is natural.”
“You know, I did wonder about that a few times when I first met you.” Robin snickered, then gasped as Jens’ fingers started to work at his fly. He pulled up his legs and hooked them around the other man, digging his nails into Jens’ shoulders. “You sure about Larsson? He and Giuly seem all buddy-buddy now, but he was supposed to get Ruud too.”
“I’m sure Larsson shouldn’t be considered in the same sentence as Ludo, not that he’s not a worry,” Jens said, a touch exasperated. Well, his plotting was so twisted that even now, Robin still couldn’t figure out all of it without some explanation, so he—he—he laved at that spot behind Robin’s jaw that made Robin save the annoyed retort for later. “Anyway, he’s a mercenary. The person I need to talk to is the one who hired him.”
Robin grimaced at the reminder. “Working on it. He might’ve been the one the bomb did kill, though, so that’s why it’s taking so long.”
For once, Jens didn’t follow up with a sharp comment, but instead slipped his hands up beneath Robin’s shirt and warmed them against Robin’s belly. “Well, Ruud’s in Madrid now and going to South America at the end of the week, so that should…Robin? Robin? What?”
Robin stared up at Jens. “Oh, shit. Cesc said Reyes went to stay with family in Madrid—why Madrid? You know Raúl’s from there!”
“Because I know the people there and I can tell them to make sure Ruud doesn’t end up dead before…goddamn it,” Jens swore, pushing himself off Robin. “Goddamn it, I spend too much fucking time worrying about Van Nistelrooy’s sex life.”
“Tell me about it. When it starts messing with our fucking…” Robin flapped a hand at Jens’ irritated expression; like that wasn’t important, too “…I’ll call Cesc and find out how long Reyes has been there. Goddamn it. He’s got relatives in the worst places.”
* * *
“I like sex,” Ludo said. His cock slipping out of Deco felt like an ice-cream scooper excavating Deco’s guts. Deco groaned, little more than an expensively-dressed rag-doll, and the other man laughed, rubbing at the inside of Deco’s right thigh. “I like it as often as possible. It keeps me relaxed, helps me think…of course I understand I like it more often than most, which is why I try not to give only one person all the burden of answering my needs.”
Deco somehow managed to roll over onto his side. His wrists had long since gone numb, but when the cuffs came off, they suddenly screamed back to life. He whimpered and brought them around front to cradle against his chest. “You are an obscenely cheerful little man.”
Ludovic pressed his knuckles up against Deco’s stretched, sore asshole and ground in. Then he leaned over and blocked Deco’s pained moan with a surprisingly soft kiss; Deco was startled enough to allow Ludo’s tongue into his mouth and of course Ludo took devastating advantage of that. “And your resilience just keeps intriguing me. You managed to last longer than anybody else I’ve tried, and you keep improving.”
No apparent physical vulnerabilities in Giuly, Deco thought. It was starting to make him wonder. But…he shifted, bit at his lip at all the aching and then cursed and spat out his lip, which was bleeding again. He felt beaten. He was beaten, frankly, and part of him liked that, and he let it show when he turned around to look blearily up at Ludo. “I don’t…sleep with people on a whim. No, what you say is practical, because…I can’t handle more of this…but I’m not anybody’s relief.”
For a long moment, Ludo looked thoughtfully back at him. Then the other man shrugged as he sat back and started to straighten his clothing. “Well, I sympathize but to be honest, I only recently met you. Prove that you’re capable of being more than a relief or a project, and I’ll think about repaying your effort.”
“It’d help if you told me what you need,” Deco said. “I’m efficient, not mind-reading.”
Ludo flicked a surprisingly cool look at him. Then the other man nodded thoughtfully. “As long as we’re on the subject of medicine…I have been looking into getting some staff. Not for me—for my associates. I plan to hold onto my foothold here, and that means a full operation. Unfortunately, I can’t move any of the doctors from my other offices.”
This was another baiting exercise, but much more nuanced and complex than in the morning. Though curiously enough, Deco didn’t need nearly as long to figure it out. Beaten…was relaxing, actually. Not so much pressure. Something to think about. “I might know of someone. Do you have anybody who speaks Russian?”