|Proper Usage of a Handle
Author: Guede Mazaka
“My tie’s bothering me,” Cesc mutters.
The volume of his voice changes and Philippe knows the other man’s trying to sneak away again. “It is not. You spent ten minutes doing it up and I spent another ten fixing it. It can’t possibly be--Cesc. Get back here. Now.”
Cesc grudgingly sidles back. “My shoes hurt.”
“I can’t feel my toes,” Denilson concurs, stiffly edging by them. If Philippe didn’t know any better, he would’ve guessed that while giving Denilson that long, suspiciously cuddly talk on the way over, Gilberto had glued Denilson’s hands in his pockets.
Actually, Philippe wishes he’d thought of that. He barely manages to slap Cesc’s hands away from an oil painting of somebody important in lots of lace and shiny silk. “Don’t touch that.”
“Ow,” Cesc pouts. He rubs at his hands and scoots away a few centimeters, face looking like an incipient thundercloud. Then he spots something glittery in the corner, right next to one of those strange guards in red coats topped with fuzzy hats that could fit two or three balls in them, easy. “Oh, what’s that?”
“That’s in a hallway we’re not allowed to go into,” Philippe promptly says, eying the rope stretched across it. He nervously checks the guard to see if they’ve been overheard, but the man is just staring straight ahead, not even blinking. Stone-like.
Cesc is staring, too. “Is he real? If we poked him—”
“Don’t even think about it. Cesc, we’re in Buckingham Palace. We’re about to see the Queen. Do you want us to get thrown out before that? I thought you were really excited about this.” Philippe is vaguely aware that he’s babbling and also about one step away from flat-out begging. He’s got no problem with babbling except when he resorts to it, because one, it’s not his preferred method of interaction and two, he just sucks at it. Cesc may win everybody over with half-incoherency, but charming Spanish bubbliness is one thing that didn’t translate well into Philippe’s composition. “Please don’t do anything.”
For that, he gets a very uncharmingly-scrunched face from Cesc. But then, thank God, Julio saunters by and, attracted by the prospect of ruffling possibilities, Cesc bounds after him. “Queen, big deal,” Cesc mutters. “Ashley Cole’s got Chelsea convinced we field a whole side of them. We’re one down since he left, but that’s still nothing special.”
Thank God again, but Julio’s French isn’t that good yet. He just grins at Cesc, obviously seeing the cute smile and not the devil behind it, and says something in Spanish about the amazing ceilings. Meanwhile, Philippe is busy trying not to laugh and hyperventilate at the same time. It makes his throat hurt and puts his ribs in too much danger, as he’s previously discovered.
“Ah, Phil. Enjoying things? This really is an amazing place—I can’t imagine living here. It must be like living on another world.” Thierry floats on by, in his element and perfectly at home no matter what he says, and completely misses Cesc giving up on getting Baps to lose his composure and moving on to Hleb and Rosický.
The three of them are all clustered around a window into the courtyard and as Philippe watches—as random photogs and reporters and staff wander past—Cesc reaches around Hleb and quickly nips at Tomáš’ arse. Tomáš jerks and hisses, then turns to glower at a very confused Aleks, and all Philippe can honestly think about is oh, my God, I saw that vase they’re standing by on that Sotheby’s program and it was worth--
He speedwalks over and grabs Cesc by the elbow; Tomáš and Aleks don’t seem to have heard him come up and the fright in their faces as they turn convinces Philippe that he doesn’t have to lecture them on…oh, right. Groping in front of the press is bad, too.
Not that Cesc seems to care. His sunny side, deceptive front that it is, is back and on full blast as he casually tucks his arm into Philippe’s, swinging in close so his other hand can sneak into Philippe’s pocket. “Heyyyyy, Phil…this is really boring. When do we get to see her? Another ten minutes? We’re just walking through these halls and—”
“No,” Philippe hisses. He yanks Cesc’s hand out of his trousers just before its nimble fingers would’ve found out which pant-leg he put on first this morning. He does, however, keep tight hold on Cesc’s arm as he tries to drag them towards Gilberto and Manuel up ahead. Gilberto just exudes this calming, Zen air and maybe it’ll…help. Or something. “It’s Buckingham Palace.”
“You’re no fun.” The pout returns. With a vengeance, as if last night the ghosts of the men of the Spanish Armada told Cesc to go forth and wreak havoc among the English. Which is not that applicable to Arsenal to be honest, and damn it, Cesc’s snuggling. “Phiiiiiil…don’t you remember the time you dragged me to the British Museum? This is like, ten times better, and we’ve never—”
Oh, God. “No. We’re having tea.”
“We could have some cream, too,” Cesc says, just a touch of aspersion in his voice. Just a touch. Thickly layered over with coy invitation.
At this point, Philippe decides he needs help, but the only one in sight is Theo and Theo’s hunched over as if a suit of armor will drop on him if he looks too tall, so Philippe doubts he’ll be much use. He wonders who the hell decided they had to come to the Palace anyway. In the middle of a tough season and why couldn’t they just have had an extra practice, Cesc’s always quieter after them and usually a good blowjob will take him down to normal levels of—“Cesc!”
“Quiet!” Cesc turns up his face to Philippe, all serious concern. His hand keeps trying to work its way into Philippe’s waistband. “Do you want us to get caught?”
“No. No, I don’t want us to get caught and the best way to do that is to not start at all,” Philippe says strongly, pulling Cesc’s hand away again. “So stop. You have to be polite, and polite is not having sex in public places.”
“Technically,” says an amused voice behind them, “This part is a private residence.”
Jens strolls along, more behind Cesc than Philippe, doing that thing where he just sort of looms. Personally Philippe thinks that’s more effective for creating a disruptive influence than rumbling around back like an incipient volcanic eruption that might kill everybody, but not like he’s going to tell Jens that. He’s just going to be grateful that the other man’s broad enough to shield them from Arsène, who he only now sees is rapidly coming up behind them.
“Oh, good. So it’s okay.” Cesc twitches his shoulders in a kind of bugger-off motion, but he’s noticeably dampened. He once confessed to Philippe that though the man’s nice enough and obviously has some amazing bendability, he’s still not sure where he is with Jens. “I thought you were up front.”
“Freddie’s late—he lost his shoe on the bus or something, and then he took a wrong turn catching up so I’m going back to get him,” Jens says. He looks at Philippe, looks at Cesc, and then his expression subtly changes. “Aleks was asking for you. He’s still up front.”
Cesc rocks back on his heels a little, then tries squaring his shoulders, but he’s tipping his head back to look at Jens farther than he ever does with Philippe, and Jens and Philippe are about the same height. “What did he want?”
“Why don’t you go and ask him?” Jens pleasantly suggests.
Philippe blinks. Jens stares. After a second of defiance, Cesc sort of scrunches and scoots off while Jens ambles up to take his place beside Philippe.
“He should get up there without causing any disasters.” Jens watches Cesc’s frequent worried looks back as if they were a nature special, mildly interesting without really concerning him. “Stop thinking about running after him. He’s almost twenty. He does know how to behave.”
“If he does fuck up, Titi says I have permission to eat him,” Jens calmly adds. “Gilberto agrees.”
But that just makes me more scared, Philippe wants to say. And he would’ve said if not distracted by realizing they’re rather drifting off into a side-hall themselves. “He’s just nervous and he’s trying to pretend he’s not.”
“Well, it’s understandable. A shame, considering then he can’t really take in all of this because he’s so bothered, and this really is magnificent.” Jens gazes up at the ceiling.
So does Philippe, and while he’s doing that, Jens puts a hand on his chest and shoves. He curses, stumbles, and then they’re in some ornate little room with an ornate sink digging its curlicues into his arse, and Jens already has Philippe’s trousers half-down around his hips. An hour of ironing last night, Philippe frantically thinks, and he grabs at his waistband and Jens wraps big callused fingers around his prick, hand almost swallowing it even though Cesc looked impressed enough the first time they did it and then Jens starts to pull at Philippe’s cock and maybe it was swallowed. Taken in by an inexorable force that now drags along the rest of Philippe, world spinning around his head till the gilt and rich wood blur into a warm, soothing honey-amber. He slumps against the sink, breath stuck in his throat, and the more he doesn’t breathe the more lightheaded he gets till finally, with an immense effort, he forces one out and it all clumsily collapses back into place.
Jens hums a little as he bumps Philippe aside and washes off his hands, flushes a wad of soiled tissues down the toilet. Philippe blinks a lot, feeling sweat trickle down beneath his collar and between his legs, and wonders what he’s supposed to be thinking about the toilet. Something…something about hoping not to clog it up like before he explained to Cesc where condoms were supposed to go afterwards?
“I don’t want to miss the tea,” Jens says, shooting him a warning look. “You don’t need a second round, do you?”
“Um.” Philippe slowly tugs at his trousers till they’re sort of done up. He almost walks out before Jens pulls him back, tucks in his shirt and does his belt-buckle, making fatherly little grunts of satisfaction. “Thanks.”
“Good.” Then Jens strolls back out, not even bothering to see if anyone’s around to spot two men coming out of the same bathroom, but nobody’s there. And strangely enough, Philippe feels as if he’d been expecting that anyway.
They don’t particularly hurry, but Jens either has a very good sense of direction or memorized the floor plan in advance—probably the latter; his temper often covers up all the prep-work he does—and so it isn’t long before they spot the others. Freddie ambles over along the way and engages Jens in what’s probably a very amusing story about antique chairs, but Philippe can see the reception line forming up and hurries to join it.
He doesn’t have time to catch up with Cesc till after that, when they’ve been served tea and are standing around in awkward-to-relaxed little groups, but even then Philippe doesn’t feel too concerned. The tea is good, and the boss is smiling so obviously nothing’s happened in between—
Cesc spots him right after and cuts off his banter with Tomáš to glare at Philippe. “After all you said, and then you go off with Lehmann. Don’t lie—I can totally see it in your face, Phil. I can’t believe you. I…what?”
Philippe gingerly puts his cup and saucer down on the nearest table, then reaches out and carefully turns the cup so the handle is between Cesc’s fingers. Cesc, Tomáš and Aleks look down at it. Then Tomáš and Aleks snigger together in German while Cesc, still looking down, flushes bright red.
“I know how to hold a cup,” he says. “And I gave my saucer to Theo. He didn’t have anywhere to put his tea-cakes and he didn’t want to get crumbs on anything.”
“Mmm.” Philippe picks his back up and moves around so he can watch Freddie steal sugarcubes for sucking on in front of a not-so-amused but very interested Jens without getting the photogs’ attention.
“I do. I was just so worried about you,” Cesc protests. His elbow is pointy and expertly thrown into Philippe’s ribs. “You were freaking out all the way here. Seriously, you get less worked up over Champions League games. It’s just the Queen, Phil.”
“True.” The tea’s almost disappeared from Philippe’s cup. He looks at it, then around the room. It seems like the business bit is over with, and probably only Thierry and Arsène have to talk to her. This whole standing thing really is a little awkward, and now his dress shoes are starting to pinch. “How are your feet? Do you want to go find a toilet and try to stuff your shoes with something to help that?”
Cesc’s eyebrows go up, then down so they slant towards his nose. He suspiciously narrows his eyes. “Is this a test? I know we’re not really supposed to sneak off and fuck. Even if you did.”
Tomáš is suddenly listening again.
“Does being in a palace really do something for you?” Philippe asks. He watches Cesc take it in, watches the way Cesc’s eyes widen and then go even darker, Cesc’s lips half-parting in surprise. So he hadn’t really been thinking; he’d just said it. “You look nice. I don’t know why you don’t like suits.”
Cesc frowns and squirms and pulls at his collar. “They’re uncomfortable.”
“You look good in them,” Philippe says. And looks.
Cesc squirms some more. “Phil.”
“Phil?” Tomáš says.
Philippe checks his watch: a good twenty minutes before they’re supposed to get back on the bus. “You owe me for Aleks and you and the time in Robin’s backseat,” he hisses, grabbing Cesc’s arm. Something splishes and Philippe looks down to see a spot of brown on Cesc’s white shirt-cuff. “Oh…you should rinse that out before it stains. Finish up your tea and then we can find a sink somewhere.”
Cesc tosses back the rest of his cup with unseemly haste. “Okay, done, let’s go. I need my tie fixed, too. Something’s wrong with it—I can feel it.”
And maybe royalty is special, but Cesc’s unique and if something’s bothering him, it really should be taken care of. That’s what teammates are for, after all.