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Georgi doesn't think much about it when Christophe sidles up behind him and puts his tongue to Georgi's ear. Maybe it's not quite like shaking hands, but it can't be that much more to Christophe; he's indiscriminate with his groping, more or less.

"I'm going to a party after the gala," Christophe says, leaning into Georgi's back. "You should come along."

"What kind of party?" This is a bit less usual but not too surprising, not really. They haven't been friends, exactly, but they've been skating the same events for years and fallen into the same groups, out to a club or drinking in someone's hotel room. "Get off me, it's almost my turn."

"A party," Christophe says. He squeezes Georgi's shoulders, then steps back. "Now skate your heart out." And he slaps Georgi's ass.

"Fuck off," Georgi says and heads down to the ice.

+

Georgi isn't going to go. He's tired and God knows what Christophe really wants. But he remembers Yakov yelling at him: There's artistic expression and then there's masochism! So he figures that it's time for some kind of change.

He does himself up – a perfect cat eye and a sheer cream linen shirt that takes twenty minutes to steam out – and meets Christophe in the lobby.

Christophe looks him up and down. "Not quite what I was expecting." And maybe there's a spark of actual surprise underneath his usual purr.

He's exactly what Georgi was expecting, hair precisely tousled and a too-tight green shirt that, based on far too many Instagram pics, he'll lose within half an hour of getting there. It's a nice shirt, though. "Did you call a car?" Georgi says.

+

Georgi presses his hands together and closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath, counts to three, and lets it go. There's another self for times like this and he slips into it like it's a costume.

"What are you waiting for?" Christophe says and pushes Georgi through the door into the venue.

Like Christophe promised, it's a party. The music rolls through Georgi's body in waves and there's a moment of struggle before his heartbeat changes to match it. Lights strobing. People dancing, people drinking. Mostly men, which is about what Georgi expected.

And they all seem to know Christophe. They swarm around him like bees on honeycomb, their hands on his body and their mouths against his ear, telling him things no one else can hear, pulling him onto the dance floor.

Christophe reaches back, like he's going to draw Georgi into the middle of it all, but Georgi slips through the crowd to the bar instead. He catches the bartender's eye and gets three shots, enough to start a buzz with, and downs them all. He closes his eyes and enjoys the burn in his throat and the warmth that runs through his chest.

Then he heads out to the dance floor, one eye on Christophe so he can keep his distance. Georgi's not here for a night out with friends. He's here to reset.

He moves to the music, alone at first. Then someone dances up on him and they grind together, the man's hands on Georgi's hips, syncing their moves in a way that's so hypnotising the only way Georgi knows that time is passing is when someone else joins or spins away. He lets his thoughts and his emotions flow away until it's just his body left, filling up with a relentless, driving energy.

There's Christophe dancing with a group that keeps changing, but he's always at the centre, hands on someone new. He looks over at Georgi and their eyes meet. Georgi turns and moves, putting distance between them and keeping Christophe out of his line of vision, so he can just dance.

When it's enough, Georgi leaves the floor. Back to the bar, another shot. He scans the room. At the end of the bar, there's a man, maybe twenty-two, twenty-three. Dark hair down to his shoulders. Sharp-featured face. And looking Georgi's way.

Probably some local celebrity, judging by the rest of the room, but that's not what Georgi cares about. He makes his way over and stands beside the man, looking into his lovely face without a word.

"You're beautiful," the man says. Georgi doesn't have much French, but enough to say he doesn't speak it, and then it's his hand on the man's face and his leg between the man's thighs, kissing against the wall beside the bar.

It's just what he needs, arousal pressing on him like the weight of water against his skin, slow and crushing. He strokes the man's face, just-shaved smooth, and it will be such a pleasure to have it rub against his belly and along his thighs.

The man runs his fingers down the hollow of Georgi's throat, then over his breastbone. He works a button open, then another, so he can slip his hand inside Georgi's shirt and stroke Georgi's chest, pluck at his nipple, touching him like Georgi would touch a woman's breast, kissing on the couch after a bottle of wine.

Georgi sighs into it and moves his hands over the man's back, his ass, still slowly, doing whatever his body tells him to do.

It's not often he's with a man at all. Just a handful since his teens, really. They're fun, good fun, but that's all; he doesn't emotionally attach to them like he does to women. Georgi likes being emotionally attached. And when he's in the process of becoming unattached from someone, tending to all the raw places where they grew together and then tore apart, he wants to feel that pain and honour it.

But sometimes he doesn't know when to let it go. So he's here to not think, to not feel, just to do. To change direction.

They're drawing some attention but Georgi doesn't care, can't care because he isn't thinking. He can wait a little longer before he takes this man by the wrist and pulls him off down the hallway to find a room or darker corner.

He buries his face in the man's neck, kissing up and down his throat and smelling the sharp fragrance of his cologne. Maybe Georgi won't wait much longer after all.

Then someone else touches his arm. Georgi turns his head to say "No, thank you, we're fine". And it's fucking Christophe.

He has an odd look on his face, not that Georgi has memorized a catalogue of the Looks of Christophe Giacometti, but it's not the leer Georgi would have expected to see. And his hand is still on Georgi's arm.

The man turns his head too and looks back and forth between them. "You want...?"

"No, thank you," Georgi says, in a voice that would be too loud if the music weren't even louder. He looks Christophe in the eye. "We're fine." He's trying not to kill the mood but the way the man glances back at him makes him think he's not succeeding.

"I wondered where you were," Christophe says. He smiles and it's suddenly very familiar again. Look Number One from the catalogue: smug grin that Christophe thinks is sexy.

Georgi yanks his arm away, which unfortunately also means removing it from the man's waist. He's going to say something withering that will take care of the Christophe problem. Which turns out to be: "Leave me alone!"

Christophe turns to the young man. "I'm so sorry," he says, in French, "but..."

And the man looks at Georgi, shrugs, and steps out of his arms.

Georgi tries to catch his wrist. "No," he says. "Wait." But it's too late, his fingers just grazing the man's sleeve, even with a half-step forward. The man is gone, into the crowd, out onto the dance floor.

"So, you're wel--" Christophe starts but Georgi whirls and cuts him off.

"Why did you do that?" Georgi's heart is throbbing out of time with the bass. He's waving his hands in Christophe's face. "We were just..."

Christophe's forehead creases. "You don't want to get with some random guy at a party."

"Clearly, I do." Georgi looks past Christophe, for someone else, anyone else at this point. He's still so worked up and he wants to ride it out, fast and breathless in a bathroom stall or the shadows of the alley.

"So you're not going to thank me?"

"Why did you even invite me?" Georgi looks back at Christophe, at his doubtful hazel eyes and the green shirt that he's still wearing.

"I thought you could use a night out." Christophe reaches for Georgi's shoulder.

Georgi steps back. "Then why don't you let me have one?"

Christophe opens his mouth, shuts it again. He looks at Georgi, the corners of his mouth turning down. "Fuck it," he says. "Let's have a drink."

Georgi is still angry, still longing for a body in his arms, but he lets Christophe get him a martini and stands beside him to drink it, leaning on the bar, shoulder to shoulder as people swirl around them.

Halfway through, Christophe hooks his arm around Georgi's shoulders. "Sorry," he says, close to Georgi's ear.

Georgi nods. He's relaxing a bit, half from the gin, half just — he doesn't know why. "It's a reset," he says. "To get over – to finish things."

"We can find you someone else." Christophe points across the room. "How about that one? Should I call him over?"

That one is nice, beautiful, hot, with legs that Georgi would love to have wrapped around his waist. But. "Anything either of us says now is going to sound like 'I'm looking for a guy to fuck my boyfriend while I watch'." He sets down his empty glass. "I'll go to a club."

"Or..."

"What or?" Georgi says, but he already knows. "I know you."

Christophe's arm is still around Georgi's shoulders but the feel of it changes, Christophe drawing Georgi closer and stroking his shoulder with his thumb. "I can be someone else."

"Can you?" Georgi says but his body is already responding, turning in, trying to raise his hand to touch Christophe. "This is such a bad idea."

"Why?" Christophe says. He steps back, his hand trailing down Georgi's back before it falls away. "Close your eyes, slowly, then open them again."

Georgi looks at Christophe's face. This is a look from so far down the catalogue, Georgi's never seen it before. But it seems real: interested, sincere. "I can't believe you're not already out of here with someone else," he says. And he closes his eyes.

When he opens them, Christophe is standing in front of him, hip cocked and looking Georgi up and down. Christophe says something in French and Georgi only catches a few words but that's better, the words don't matter.

A surge of arousal washes over him, a swift river pulling him along, and fuck trying not to drown. "I don't understand," he says, in English. Then it's his hand on Christophe's face and Christophe's arms around his waist, kissing up against the bar.

Christophe's hands — no, this hot blond stranger's hands, this man that Georgi has never seen before and will never see again – the man's hands are up the back of Georgi's shirt, running over his skin and pulling him closer. His scrape of beard rasping Georgi's face, his teeth pulling at Georgi's lower lip.

It's past time to take this slowly; Georgi is so ready now. He grabs the man's ass and presses up against him, so much power in the way he pushes his erection into the man's hip. See what I've got for you. What have you got for me?

They both pull back and stare at each other. It's harder to keep names out of his mind when he's looking into those eyes, so Georgi takes him – the man – by the hand and leads him back down a hallway, stumbling together, stopping to kiss and touch every few steps. They try two locked doors before they end up around a corner in a dim dead-end space with an empty catering cart and the muffled bass of the dance music echoing around them.

The cement is cold as they bump from wall to wall but Georgi is burning up and the man's skin is hot under his hands. He fumbles with the buttons and pulls that tight green shirt open, back, tangling the man's hands behind him and bending down to lick at his nipples, to slide his fingers through the hair on the man's chest.

The man sighs and moves into Georgi's touch, leaning back against the wall and showing his throat. Georgi kisses his neck, bites at the soft skin, runs his hands down the man's chest and belly, dipping his fingers just inside his waistband.

The man puts his mouth to Georgi's ear. "I want to..." he says, in French, and Georgi's not quite sure what the words are but right now anything is fine, anything he wants to do. He catches the man's head in his hands and kisses him, kisses him. "Yes," he says and waits for it to happen.

One more kiss and the man pulls back, freeing his arms from the shirt and tossing it onto the cart. He pushes Georgi back against the wall, licking at his mouth and unzipping his trousers. Then he looks Georgi in the eyes and holds him there, pinned just by that look, as he sinks to the floor and goes down on Georgi.

The first touch of the man's lips on Georgi's cock nearly undoes him. Tongue working the tip, fingers stroking back and cupping Georgi's balls. Georgi holds his breath, closes his eyes, tries to think about anything besides being here, in this draughty public hallway where so many other men have had their dicks sucked. Anything besides the mouth opening for him, taking him in so far, he can hardly keep from pushing his hips and fucking.

Georgi does rest one hand on the man's head, curling his fingers just a little into hair half-stiff with product, just to feel the momentum, another point of connection, as the pressure builds, inside, outside, crushing him.

And then it's too late. "I'm going to –" he gets out and then the dam breaks and he comes, caught in the torrent and carried along, fingers twisting tighter than he means to.

When he finally sucks in breath and opens his eyes, the man, the man, that's all, is wiping his mouth and Georgi doesn't know if he spat or swallowed.

Georgi holds out his hand and the man takes it, clasping each other's wrists, as he rises. Georgi pulls him close, trousers still open, face against his neck and holds on for a long breath, two breaths. Then he reaches down between them and and presses down on the man's cock, hard and reaching against his palm. "What do you want?" he says, but in Russian. "What do you want?"

The man kisses Georgi's temple, his cheek, the corner of his mouth, and he pushes up into Georgi's hand. He whispers in Georgi's ear and Georgi wants to know, so badly, what he's saying.

Georgi catches the man's hand and puts it on his thigh, sliding it around inside. "That's where I want you to put it," he says, still in Russian. And he's so sensitized right now, he's not sure he can take it but he wants it anyhow. "Quick, before someone finds us."

The man runs his tongue around the curve of Georgi's ear and squeezes Georgi's thigh. He leans back and holds up a condom, raising his eyebrows.

Georgi nods. He turns around, this is how he likes it. Drops his trousers to his knees and presses his legs together, braced against the wall with one hand and holding his dick out the way with the other.

There's a too-long chilly moment and then he's covered warm from behind, the man's arm around his chest and his hips up against Georgi's ass. Georgi raises himself on the balls of his feet to make it easier. And the man's cock slides through his thighs, nudging against his balls, then back again, rocking them both with the thrust of the man's hips and the panting of his breath in Georgi's ear.

Georgi stares at the cinder block in front of him while the man fucks his thighs and almost wishes he were being opened up instead, long and slow and nearly too much. The man rests his hand against the wall, next to Georgi's, so their fingers are touching, just barely, Georgi's pinky against the joint of the man's thumb.

And that cracks something open in Georgi, his heart or his bones, and his body shudders with a sob just as the man, the man, is coming hard against him, and they shake together, breath rushing out of them and tears on Georgi's face.

When the man pulls back, Georgi turns away. His thighs are still slick and he hopes the lubricant won't give him a rash, you never know what they use on these condoms. He has nothing to wipe them with, so he just pulls up his trousers, pulls himself together, and remembers just in time not to drag his sleeve across his eyes.

He keeps his back to the man. He feels a hand between his shoulder blades, heavy and warm, then hears the footsteps moving away, back to the party.

When he turns around, he's alone with the catering cart and the condom wrapper on the floor. He touches his phone but doesn't take it out. Instead, he counts to three hundred, staring at the cinder block, breathing deep to slow his heart.

When he gets back to the party, Christophe is on the the dance floor. Georgi sits on a bar stool and drinks water, flicks through his social feeds. He turns away when someone sits down next to him. He already has what he needs.

So he calls for a car. He's making his way to the door when Christophe slides through the crowd and over to him. Georgi looks at his face, just his face, not the suck mark that's just showing at Christophe's third undone button. He swallows down his awkwardness, because there's nothing to be awkward about. "I'm going back to the hotel."

Christophe glances away for a moment, then back at Georgi. "Can I share your ride?" He smiles and touches his hair.

"Sure." Georgi glances away too, out over the dance floor, over the knots of people around the edges, talking, making out. He's already done with it all, done with it for a long time.

They don't talk in the car. They don't talk in the lobby. But in the elevator, Christophe turns to Georgi. "If you're not sleepy, there's a gift from a sponsor I have to finish before I fly out."

Georgi stares at Christophe. He can't read him, he needs that catalogue to check this look. But there's no wink, no leer, not even that much smugness. And Georgi knows they should probably normalize things still, give the tension a little longer to disperse. So he nods.

"I'll bring it over," Christophe says and they step out on their floor.

When Georgi lets himself into his room, he wonders if he's made a mistake. If Christophe is making assumptions. If –

No if.

Georgi want to breathe the night air but the windows won't open. Instead, he turns down the heat and finds some glasses for whatever bottle Christophe is bringing. He looks at himself in the mirror, cleans a fleck of eyeliner from his cheek. And he answers the knock at his door.

It's a cake. An opera cake and a bottle of mineral water and Christophe in a t-shirt and glasses.

Georgi feels his shoulders drop as he relaxes. "I don't have a knife," he says and lets Christophe past him into the room.

They end up sitting on the bed, trying to pull off pieces of cake with their fingers but the layers won't break evenly. They rehash the weekend, everything but the party: the performances, the gossip, all the usual chat, licking their fingers and getting chocolate glaze on the sheets.

The cake is delicious and not too sweet. When they've had enough, Christophe leans back against the headboard, takes out his phone, and shows Georgi pictures of his cat. His cat. With such a soft look on his face, Georgi can't keep his eyes on the screen.

Is this really the same man – and it all floods in on Georgi, there's no stopping it now – who kissed him in public, hands up under his shirt, who sucked him off in a dark hallway? Who pushed his cock between Georgi's thighs and held on until they both were gasping?

Christophe looks up and they're caught together, unable to look away.

Georgi looks and looks and then leans in, all the way because Christophe isn't meeting him, and kisses Christophe once, just softly, on the mouth.

Christophe frowns. "I –" he says and stops. Surprised and confused, see catalogue entry thirty-seven.

But he doesn't move, either, not even to sit back, so Georgi leans in and kisses him again, hand on his face and a long press against his lips. He pulls back just enough to whisper, "Kiss me."

"This," Christophe says, his breath warm against Georgi's mouth, "is a very weird night." He puts down his phone and he leans in, finally, and they kiss slow and deep, fingers on each other's cheeks and Christophe's glasses twisting against Georgi's face.

Georgi takes them away and sets them on the bedside table. He takes Christophe's hand and kisses his wrist, where the pulse is beating. Then his palm, lingering, following the creases with his tongue, while he watches Christophe's face.

Christophe looks open, unguarded. He looks real. And beautiful. And happy. All of those things, in Georgi's room, on Georgi's bed.

Georgi pulls him down and they kiss again, still slowly, but with deep intent, touching each other deliberately and unstoppably. Christophe unbuttons Georgi's shirt and rubs his face along Georgi's chest and belly, half smooth, half scratch, while Georgi grabs at Christophe's shoulders, his head, because he doesn't want to stop kissing, not tonight.

Christophe pulls off his own shirt and tosses it away. Georgi touches the love bite, purple now, brushing the tips of his fingers over it again and again while Christophe looks down at him.

They're both so close to laughing, even though nothing is funny, Georgi can feel it, but he pulls Christophe down and they kiss instead, kiss until they're naked and sliding together, kiss until they're both hard and ready.

Kiss until they're face to face and jacking each other, Georgi's other arm pins and needles under Christophe's head. Kiss until they come, not quite together, warm and messy and in the worst possible place for a wet spot.

And then they do laugh and the night's not quite so weird any more.

"I'm going to shower," Georgi says and kisses Christophe's shoulder. "I won't be long." But when he's under the hot water, he stands longer than he should, still not quite ready to think but feeling the whole night in his bones, on his skin.

When he gets out, Christophe is already asleep. But when Georgi gets into the bed, Christophe curls around him, pulling him close just over the damp place on the sheets.

+

Georgi wakes up early with a head thick with fatigue and Christophe flopped half on top of him. He disengages gently and rolls out of bed to pack for his flight.

Christophe doesn't wake up and Georgi stands looking at him, wondering if he should touch his shoulder before he goes. But in the end Georgi leaves him there, drooling on the pillow with the sheets wound around his waist.

+

The next day, Georgi gets a text. A picture of Christophe's cat. And one word: "Hey".

Georgi touches the screen like he's stroking the cat on the top of its head. He smiles. And texts back: "Hey."