When Georgi gets home from Paris, he drops his luggage in the hall and takes a shower. He stands under the water for a long time, eyes closed and one hand braced against the tile.
As he's pulling his t-shirt on, he catches a glimpse of a suck mark on his chest, dark purple and larger than he thought it would be. It's tender when he brushes it with his fingers.
His hand hovers over the pendant coiled on his dresser. He flicks it open and looks at the photos inside. He thinks about all the work he needs to do for Nationals.
He puts it on.
It's four days before the phone calls start. It's late, Georgi's home, lying on his couch, feet up on the wall, half a minute from heading to bed. His phone rings and there's a moment when his heart seizes, because who calls this late if it's not bad news? He picks up the phone and it's Christophe.
The contact photo is the most unflattering one Georgi could find, scraped from some fan's Instagram. Christophe is halfway to a smile, eyes caught drooping and mouth a little blurred. It took a lot of searching.
Georgi holds the phone, his thumb over Christophe's face. Just before it goes to mail, he taps Accept. "Hello," he says, as formally as he can.
"Where are you?" Christophe says, not even bothering to greet him.
"Home." Georgi stares at his bookcase, all the books he's going to read, all the photos on the middle shelf. There's one of himself at his senior debut and he fixes his gaze on his own round hopeful face.
"I'm picturing you in a small apartment, old furniture you got from a relative, and dishes that don't match, because you spend all your money on super fancy tea," Christophe says.
"Too late at night for tea." Georgi doesn't wonder what Christophe's apartment looks like because he saw it in a magazine article. Elegant but not too stiff and Christophe lounging on the cream-coloured furniture in a red satin robe.
"If I were there," Christophe says, "what would you do?"
"Give you a drink and tell you to shut up."
"And after I shut up." And there's that voice, the one Georgi wakes up thinking about. "What would you do to me?"
Georgi's mouth fills with saliva. He swallows. Then he hangs up.
There's another call the next night, late again like Christophe knows Georgi will still be awake. Georgi is standing in his kitchen, pouring himself vodka even though he's training early in the morning. He drinks it off, coughs a little, and picks up the call.
"What would you do to me?" Christophe says, like there's been no gap in the conversation.
But there's been twenty-four hours for Georgi to think about it. About Christophe in his bed, spread out and naked. Flushed face, arched back, pleading voice. Taking Georgi's cock in his mouth, in his ass, anywhere Georgi wants to put it. So loud the neighbour bangs on the wall.
The worst part is Georgi knows that Christophe would. He wants to do something that will push Christophe, break his boundaries, like Christophe has been pushing Georgi. But he can't think of what that could be.
"I—" Georgi stops. He's whispered in a woman's ear in bed, words about her beauty and how it feels to touch her skin. But to stand at his kitchen counter and speak out loud about wanting to fuck Christophe until he screams. He pours another drink.
Christophe laughs, a deep-voiced chuckle that resonates even over the shitty cell connection. "If I were there, I'd open all the curtains so everyone could see inside. I'd stand back and watch you pull your shirt over your head. Then your trousers off. You want to strip right down but you're in front of the window and you're embarrassed.
"That's the scene. Do that now. Open the curtains and take your clothes off. Put me on speaker."
"Fuck you." Georgi drinks and warmth spreads through his chest. He doesn't open the curtains. He doesn't hang up.
"If that's the way you want it." There's a pause and what sounds like Christophe walking. "The curtains are still open."
Georgi takes his drink and sits down on his couch. He shifts the phone to his other ear. He looks at his free hand. Then he puts it on his dick. He's half-hard already. He has been from the moment he picked up the call.
"Are you going to participate in this at all?"
Georgi puts down the phone and pulls his shirt off over his head. He touches the pendant lying against his throat. He takes it off too, then picks up the phone again. "No," he says.
"You always wanted to before."
Georgi squeezes his dick. He wants to argue but he has no standing. "I never wanted to talk about it."
"Then listen," Christophe says. "The curtains are open and anyone can see in because it's dark. Your clothes are in a heap on the floor beside you but you're not naked yet. But I want you to be. I want everyone to see you."
Georgi closes his eyes and pictures himself there, standing in front of the window while Christophe watches him. He doesn't know why Christophe wants this but maybe that's why it's winding him up. "What about you?"
"I'm coming over to you," Christophe says. "I rub my thumb across your nipple and it's hard already. Because you want everyone to see you too."
Georgi wasn't going to do this but he can't think of a good reason why not. Why is this any different than rolling together on a hotel bed? So he rubs his thumb across his nipple and of course it is hard already. "Okay," he says and his voice sounds strange to him.
"I'm stroking your chest and arms," Christophe says. "Lightly, with my fingertips, hardly touching you."
Georgi runs his fingertips up his chest, the lightest touch he can manage, down his arm. He remembers Christophe's hands on him, so many times, all over his body. His cock swells and he's not even stroking it yet.
"Your skin is hot and you want to touch me, but I stop you."
"Why?" Georgi sees Christophe there in front of him and yes, fuck, he want to touch him. Wants to reciprocate, touch him everywhere, spread out on top of him. Georgi would bury his face in Christophe's armpit, he'd lick Christophe's nipples, first one, then the other, he's good at that, while Christophe groaned in the back of his throat. And he can't make himself say any of it.
"Not until you're naked," Christophe says. "When you're naked, I'll touch you."
"Just...do it," Georgi says.
"I mean it. Send me a photo."
"Fuck you," Georgi says. "You're just going to put it up somewhere."
"I won't. Here, wait."
There's a moment of silence and then Georgi's phone chimes.
Christophe is not naked in the photo but he has his dick out, hard and standing, with his fingers wrapped around it. It gives Georgi a jolt that he doesn't expect, a rush of desire, and it's all at once the worst thing that Christophe isn't here with him, here touching him.
"Well?" Christophe says.
Georgi doesn't answer but he slides out of his pants. Then his underwear. He picks up the phone. "You are such a bastard," he says and takes a picture.
He stares at it, thumb hovering over Send. It's fine for Christophe to see his body, he's seen it all, touched it all. But Georgi isn't sure he wants Christophe to see his face, because it's all right there, how much Georgi wants him right now.
He sends it anyway.
"Thank you," Christophe says. Georgi can't tell from his voice if he thinks it's hot. If Georgi is hot. If he sees what Georgi sees.
"I'm reaching out and touching your dick, just with the tips of my fingers, brushing it up and down, no pressure."
Georgi brushes his fingertips over his cock. It jerks, tingles spread out over his skin, he draws a rough breath.
"When you make that sound," Christophe says, "I really want to fuck you."
Georgi stops, only two of his fingers resting lightly on his cock. When he watches a video or thinks about Christophe bending over him, pulling him so they fit, he wants it. But when he's in bed at night, jacking it to help him sleep, he presses a finger up inside and he's not so sure.
"Has anyone fucked you before?" Christophe says, close in Georgi's ear. "Pegged by a girlfriend on your birthday?"
Georgi shivers. He keeps his apartment cool, it's healthier. And he's naked. "No," he says.
"You'll like it," Christophe says. "I think you'll like it. But right now, I'm only touching you, just barely. Your eyes are closed because it's too much for you. You're leaning up to make me touch you."
And Georgi is. He keeps the fingers on his dick feather-light but he can't help raising his hips. He can't help seeing Christophe in front of him.
"I could tease you all night," Christophe says. "I could take my hand away and watch you waiting for me to touch you, begging me."
"Fuck," Georgi says. It's like his whole body is being twisted, wringing him out. "I wouldn't beg."
"Oh? What would you do?"
Bear you back against the window, Georgi thinks. Suck you until you're marked all over. Make you jack us both while I kiss you to keep you quiet. "I'd make you touch me," he says, and wraps his hand around his cock, no more feather touches.
"I'd like that," Christophe says.
"Both together." Georgi stands up, phone in one hand, dick in the other, and stumbles his way into the bedroom.
"Okay," Christophe says. "I'll let you unzip me and get my cock out."
Georgi slicks up one-handed, spilling a dollop of lubricant on his sheets. He sits back against the headboard, hand tight around his dick but still unmoving. "Are you doing it?"
"I'm holding them together, two hands, stroking slowly while I watch your face."
"No," Georgi says. "Right now. Are you doing it?" There's a moment of silence and Georgi holds his breath.
"Yes," Christophe says. "I'm doing it. I'm touching my dick and I'm thinking about you."
Georgi sucks in air and moves his hand, no finesse, just sliding up and down, just jacking it and thinking about Christophe.
Christophe isn't talking now but Georgi can hear him breathing in his ear, rougher, faster. Georgi presses the phone closer, moves his hand to match.
He can't even see Christophe's face now, just feels him there: the heat of his skin, the smell of a hotel room where they've come three times already. The weight of his body pressing Georgi against the bed or the floor or the wall.
Christophe gasps in Georgi's ear and Georgi comes hard, thrusting his hips and nearly dropping the phone.
"Goodnight, Georgi," Christophe says and disconnects the call.
Georgi is out doing his roadwork when he notices the café. It's not on his usual route but he had to detour for some public works project and he's closer to the shopping district.
He's spent a lot of time at the café over the years, yes, with Anya, but with other girlfriends, with friends, with family.
He cuts over and stops in front. Not like he can stop for tea, but he pauses for a selfie, headphones still in and a serious look on his face. It takes three shots to get it right. He's going to upload it to Instagram but he just texts it to Christophe instead.
The tea is better but the coffee is okay.
As he's zipping his phone back into his pocket, he catches sight of one of the café servers through the window, a young man he's seen a few times before. Georgi has noticed before how good-looking he is but today he sees the long lines of his body and the way his mouth opens just a little when he's setting down a plate.
It's almost a relief to see a pretty woman as he jogs away and he nearly runs into a street sign looking back over his shoulder at her.
Twenty minutes later Christophe texts him back: a shirtless pic in a locker room, one finger on his lower lip.
Georgi can't decide where to put his laptop. Which part of his space he's going to let Christophe into. If his storage room weren't full of old costumes and knitted sweaters from his aunts, he could just go in there and close the door.
In the end, he moves a table into his bedroom and sits on the edge of the bed, bedding pulled back. He feels stupid but he doesn't change out of his street clothes. He unhooks the pendant and puts it out of sight.
Maybe he'll back out. Not pick up the call or say his webcam doesn't work. But deep down he knows he's already decided. He peels the black tape off the camera and waits for Christophe to connect.
When the video feed comes on, Christophe is already naked. "Can you see everything?" Christophe spreads his whole body wide. He's smiling; he smiles a lot, Georgi remembers.
"I can see." There's picture-in-picture, a small window of Georgi's feed in the corner, and Georgi clicks through the menus to turn it off.
It doesn't look like Christophe is in his bedroom or living room. Instead of storage, Christophe probably has a special room for sex. Georgi wants to ask him to turn the camera and show him the whole space.
"I can see you too," Christophe says. "But not everything." He's clearly not embarrassed to be naked on a video feed so it's not surprising his cliché lines don't embarrass him either.
Georgi starts on his shirt, fingers stumbling on the first button. Maybe he would have felt less self-conscious naked after all. But watching Christophe watching him is working, twisting up the tension, and Georgi can hardly wait to touch himself.
"No, wait," Christophe says. He leans forward and looks Georgi directly in the eyes. "This is the scene. You're at the rink. Off the ice, sitting in the stands watching Victor fucking Nikiforov practise one of his fancy programs."
Georgi frowns and takes his hands away from his shirt. "That's not what I want to think about right now."
"Okay, try this. You get home from a trip," Christophe says. "You're tired. The flight was delayed. The plane was too cold. The taxi was too hot and now you're sweating. You're unlocking the door. You just want to drop your bag in the hall and your clothes on the floor and take a shower."
"When does this get sexy?" Georgi says. But he can feel everything Christophe says: the fatigue in his body, the travel grime on his skin. The sweat at his armpits and down his back. That might be real but he keeps himself from checking.
"When you get inside, I'm there, inside your apartment, naked and waiting for you."
And now it's sexy. Georgi feels a pull in his gut, in his groin. "Why are you there?"
"I've been there for days, all alone." Christophe runs a hand down his chest and kneads his nipple with the heel of his hand. "Naked the whole time."
Georgi should say something, but it's even harder now with Christophe right there and watching him. His mouth is dry and he wishes he had a glass of water.
"I take your wrist and pull you inside. I push you down on the couch. I straddle your lap." Christophe leans forward. "And that's where we are now."
Georgi imagines Christophe sitting astride him, naked thighs on Georgi's trousers, hands on Georgi's shoulders, heavy and close enough to kiss.
"Open your shirt," Christophe says. "I want to touch you."
Georgi undoes his buttons, moving slowly. He pulls his shirt open.
"I'm touching you with both hands," Christophe says. "Rolling your nipples between my fingers until you make me stop."
Georgi swallows his embarrassment and puts his hands on his chest, his fingers on his nipples, pulling at them until he can't stand the sensation any more.
"What are you doing to me?" Christophe says.
Pushing you down onto the couch, Georgi thinks. Lying on top of you, holding you there. My hands around your wrists. My belt buckle pressing into your belly. He can't say it. "I don't know." He spreads his hand over his forehead. "I don't know."
"You're a lot of work, you know that?"
"So are you." Georgi pulls his shirt off and drops it beside him on the bed. He wishes he could write what he wants to do. Harder to compose in English but easier than forcing the words out of his mouth.
"Close your eyes first," Christophe says. "But you have to tell me what you're doing."
Georgi closes his eyes. He's alone in the room. He's alone in the dark. This is the Christophe he imagines when he's getting himself off, he's not really there with Georgi. He takes a deep breath. "Roll you under me on the couch," he says and just the words are enough to cause a wave of desire. "Press you down and kiss you."
"There we go." Christophe's voice deepens and Georgi remembers Christophe's mouth on his ear, telling him so many things he wanted to do to Georgi. "I'm moving up against you, you're making me so hard, I want you to touch me. Are you going to touch me?"
"You touch me," Georgi says. In his mind, he dumps Christophe onto the floor and Christophe kneels up between his legs. "I'm sitting up, you touch me." He grabs his cock and rubs his thumb against the head, getting friction from the cloth between.
"I mouth your dick through your trousers," Christophe says. "You're completely hard and I'm sucking you, the fabric is wet from both sides now. And your eyes are closed so you don't know I'm touching myself too."
Georgi opens his eyes. Christophe is fisting his own cock, slowly, looking so intently at Georgi that Georgi looks away. But he doesn't close his eyes again and in his peripheral vision he watches Christophe's hand move up and down.
"The whole time you've been gone, I've been thinking about you fucking me," Christophe says.
Georgi wonders if that's really true. But he can't care about that right now, because he's been thinking about it day and night.
"I've been ready for you for hours. And now I'm going to have you." Christophe reaches off-screen and holds up a dildo. "I thought this one looked about right for you."
It's bright blue, no cords or buttons that Georgi can see. Respectably sized. Does Christophe have a case full of these? Does he carefully compare all his lovers so he can match them?
Christophe grins. "You want to fuck me, right?"
Georgi's cock jerks under his hand and heat flushes his face and neck. "Yes," he says. It's all he can get out.
"Then take it out if you want it."
Georgi opens his trousers and pulls them down, slides his boxers down to his thighs, all without taking his eyes off Christophe. He fumbles besides him for the lubricant.
"You're looking good." Christophe raises himself in his seat. "I really have been ready for hours." He looks right at Georgi, reaches back and eases out a butt plug. "I was going to text you when I put it in but I didn't want to scare you off."
Georgi's mouth waters. He grabs his dick and squeezes it. It's too much. He's not even jacking it yet and his skin is almost crawling because this is so intense and he can't push his face into Christophe's shoulder and hide.
"I'm straddling your lap again." Christophe slicks up the dildo. "This can be tricky but we've both got the core strength." He half stands, crouches with one hand braced on the chair back. "And now you're going in me."
Georgi holds his breath as Christophe pushes the dildo up into his ass. He remembers pushing in there himself, too slowly for Christophe, and fucking Christophe, fucking him until he gasped out something Georgi couldn't understand and they collapsed together onto the bed.
And he wonders how it feels, being opened up so far with silicone or flesh. If he would shake like Christophe shakes.
Christophe's eyes are half-closed now. "We're moving together." He moves the dildo back, his thighs up, then together again, long thrusts.
Georgi strokes his dick, trying to keep the pace even though he really wants to speed up, to come soon and get this done before he can't stand it any more. He moves his hips in time with Christophe.
And his eyes are locked on Christophe, unable to look away.
He loses track of time. They're synced up, stroking, breathing, staring. Speeding up, panting together. Georgi is close, he's really close, but he's trying to hold back.
"I can't—" he says just as Christophe tells him: "Do it now." Georgi does it, his orgasm pressing on the underside of all his skin, not just his cock, too large for him to contain, and he breaks and comes, hard and messy and eyes screwed shut.
When he opens them, Christophe is sitting in the chair, rubbing the insides of his thighs. "You have too much stamina," he says. "Now watch me."
And Georgi watches Christophe get off, hands on his own thighs, and wishing he could get it up again right now.
When Georgi gets out of the shower, there's a text from Christophe. A cap from the video feed, Georgi's face. He knows his face twists when he comes. His lovers have always commented on it. But this is the clearest he's ever seen it: forehead creased, eyes squeezed closed, cheeks flushed. The corners of his mouth pulled down, like he's in terrible pain.
He wonders if Christophe is mocking him.
Best! Christophe sends and Georgi thinks probably not.
He sends the photo to his laptop before he deletes it from his phone.
Georgi says he's busy on Tuesday. Mostly he's tired. He's training hard and this is a lot of sex for him to have, even if right now he's the only one in the room.
But he logs into Skype anyhow, just in case Christophe is around. He's not and Georgi doesn't message him. Instead he watches the feed from the night before, keeping his hands off himself until he can't help it any more.
He checks Christophe's social media when he's done. Quiet night in the caption reads. Christophe on his cream couch in a red satin robe that barely covers him and his cat curled up on his thigh.
It has five hundred likes.
They Skype again on Wednesday. Georgi tells Christophe what to do, glancing at the notes he taped to his laptop, and pinching his own thigh whenever he gets stuck.
Christophe does everything he says, half grinning like Georgi is just so precious but when Christophe comes, it's not funny any more, and the way he throws his head back, like he wants Georgi to take him by the throat, pulls Georgi right after him.
But when Georgi falls asleep, he dreams about Anya riding him in the moonlight until he's lost and gasping.
In the morning, he changes the sheets.
The rest of his team have gone ahead to the Rostelecom Cup. Georgi spends his ice time working on jumps in a helmet and pads. He's got to get more of an edge before Nationals and he should really just stay home this weekend. Put in some extra time.
Christophe messages him, a locker room photo, down to his underwear, doing the splits on a bench. It's more funny than sexy and Georgi saves it to Christophe's contact info.
Then Georgi sits down in the stands and checks Anya's social media. He's not subscribed; she soft-blocked him long ago. But her profiles are public so Georgi can take in all the photos of Anya's smile and Anya's hair and Anya's fiancé.
He puts his hand to his chest and sighs.
At the end of the day, he bribes the caretaker with a bottle and she lets him stay on the ice after everyone else has gone. He planned to go through his long program but when he gets on the ice, he just skates.
He closes his eyes. He knows the rink well enough by feel. He remembers the outdoor rink in his home town. The cold air biting at his face and fingers. The pitted ice that caught at his blades. The banks of snow around the edges. And Georgi flying faster and faster, skating into the wind, around and around until his feet were numb.
When he gets home, he packs his bag for Moscow.
He's waiting at the gate when Christophe messages him.
I'll be in Moscow, Georgi replies.
Call instead. I'll stay up.
Georgi stares at his phone for a moment.
How are you?
I've got time now.
Georgi taps out:
That's not what I meant. But he deletes it.
The flight is boarding soon.
He puts his phone in his pocket. He goes to an electronics kiosk and buys a Bluetooth earpiece.
When he gets his phone out on the plane to turn it off, there's a dick pic on the screen.
Georgi doesn't make it to his hotel room until the skating is over for the day. He takes a picture of the room and sends it to Christophe. He's been in so many hotel rooms before and had sex in quite a few but they've never affected him like they do now.
He's almost expecting Christophe to be there before him, taking a shower or lounging on the bed with his phone.
Georgi shucks his clothes and gets into the bed. The room is chilly and he pulls the covers up for now. He drops the pendant into the night stand drawer.
He connects the earpiece and it takes longer than he expects to make it pair. It's probably crap.
He turns out the lights. Then he calls Christophe.
It's after one in the morning for Christophe but he answers right away. "The scene is you're waiting for me in your hotel room."
For a few crazy seconds, Georgi thinks Christophe might really knock on his door. But it's just Georgi alone in the dark, his phone a glowing rectangle on the bed beside him, and Christophe's voice coiling through his ear.
He still comes twice.
Georgi sleeps late but there are still hours before the free skates begin. He heads out to spend some time in Moscow.
As he steps out of the elevator, he runs into Anya.
A shock flashes through him and he freezes in the elevator doorway. The door bumps his arm.
"Did you follow me here?" she says. Her face is like the sun and if Georgi leans in a little, he'll be able to smell her, that warm sweet perfume she always wears.
I will always love you, he says but those are not the words that come out of his mouth. "You're not skating this weekend."
"Neither are you," she says. She shifts her shoulder bag and light glints off the ring on her hand.
"My team," he says. "I didn't know you'd be here." He doesn't know what else to say. He always swept her off her feet. He always bought her flowers and kissed her hair.
She looks at him like she doubts that very much and Georgi realizes that he'd never even considered she might be here in Moscow. He brings his hand up to touch his pendant.
He's left it in the drawer.
He steps aside so she can board the elevator. He watches the doors close while Anya rolls her eyes. He touches his lips with two fingers and sends the kiss after the rising elevator.
Then he walks out into the sunshine.
Georgi goes to Gorky Park. He likes bright places full of people. He's been neglecting his social media so he takes a bunch of selfies and sits in a café to apply the filters and captions.
Then he walks around for fun. It's a bright, crisp day, perfect for watching people and taking in the views.
He passes the outdoor rink and watches skaters struggle by, laughing when they fall, fortified with hats and scarves and mittens, holding hands so they can pull each other down.
He finds a quiet place to sit. And then he calls Christophe.
"I'm not going to send you a picture," Christophe says. "I have an avocado honey mask on."
"I'd like to see that," Georgi says. Then he takes a deep breath. "This is the scene."
"Oh?" Christophe sounds amused. "You're making progress."
"We're in the countryside, in a small town. It's a sunny winter day, cold but not biting."
"There could be biting."
"Just listen." Georgi closes his eyes to get it fixed in his mind. "There's snow on the ground. We're out walking, between a row of trees. I put my arm around your shoulders and you smile at me. When we come out of the avenue, there's a clearing. Snow banks around an open rink. There's a hockey net at one end and a few pucks lying on the ice."
"Any hockey players lying anywhere?" Christophe is teasing but he sounds puzzled. "You know, there were these two hockey players at the Sochi Olympics and we—"
"Christophe, shut up." Georgi wonders if this was a stupid idea. But he's going to push through. "The ice is empty. There's a bench and we sit down to lace up our skates. I have a flask of hot coffee and we take a drink to warm up."
"Not your fancy tea?"
"You like coffee." Georgi puts his hand down on the bench beside him, like Christophe is really there and Georgi can take his gloved hand. "And then we skate."
"And there's a warm-up shack where I pull you through the door and—"
"No!" Georgi says, so loudly that people look over at him. "No." He lowers his voice. "We just skate. Around and around. Together. Until we're too cold and the coffee runs out."
Christophe is silent for so long it's only the static on the line that lets Georgi know he hasn't hung up. "Then two hockey players drive up," Christophe says.
"Forget it," Georgi says and hangs up.
Georgi pushes Christophe to the back of his mind, into the storeroom with the sweaters. He's almost late for the start of the ice dancing.
As much as Georgi likes competing, he loves being here to just watch. To feel the rise and change of emotion from program to program. He should be analysing, to see what he can use for himself. But fuck that. He just lets himself fall into each performance and be carried along.
When the men's programs start, he's not caught by Emil Nekola. Even at the worst of times, Georgi has never wished to be reborn without a heart.
But when Michele Crispino begins to skate, Georgi is drawn in. He's seen Michele skate many times but never with this easy emotion, with this poignant sense of loss. With his heart in his hands for everyone to see.
Georgi finds himself leaning in, as though he can get closer to Michele. It's like there's a cord that connects them and Georgi sends his heart back along it to Michele. I understand, I feel what you feel. His chest aches and a few tears start in his eyes. When Mila laughs at him, he just smiles.
After the free skates, Georgi goes along to the bar and ends up four drinks down, starting a fifth, and trying to explain all his feelings to Michele.
"Your skating moved me," he says.
"Thanks," Michele says but his eyes keep flicking over to his sister. She's laughing with Mila and Emil, something tangled up happening there that Georgi knows he's better off ignoring.
He has to make Michele understand. He puts his hand on Michele's arm. "I saw your heart," he says. "I felt the love you lost."
Michele looks at Georgi now. He doesn't quite smile but their eyes meet for a moment. "You could?"
"You have a great sadness." Georgi tightens his fingers. "Hold on to that. Don't push it away."
"I'm not sad." Michele looks down at Georgi's hand on his arm.
Georgi's chest aches again and a warmth rises through him. He wants to soothe Michele, tell him it will all be okay. He rubs his thumb along the fabric of Michele's shirt. "Just let yourself feel it."
There's a cluster of shot glasses between them on the table and Georgi pushes them with his other hand, looking for one that's not empty. "Face into the wind," he says. "And skate."
"Face into the wind." Michele picks up a glass and puts it back down. "I'll get us a round."
As he gets up, Georgi lets go slowly, his fingers dragging down over Michele's hand. Michele stands looking down at Georgi for a moment, then heads to the bar.
Georgi closes his eyes. The light and the noise and the faces feel far away right now, the other side of a window, and he's not sure if he's inside looking out or outside looking in.
His phone buzzes in his pocket and he pulls it out. Fucking Christophe, of course.
He opens the message before he remembers not to.
For inspiration. Photos, Christophe and another man, having sex. In the first, Christophe is deepthroating the man, hands splayed out over the man's naked hips. But he's looking right at the camera. Right at Georgi.
Georgi flicks through the rest, a weight settling in his gut, but aroused all the same. Are they all the same man? Christophe is playing to the camera in all of them, that shit-eating grin Georgi has seen so many times.
He wants to punch Christophe in the face, then fuck him through the wall. And he's going to have to leave, he has to get back to the hotel now.
Michele sets a drink down in front of him. "That's your drink, right?" he says. "I read it somewhere online."
Georgi picks up the glass. An intense sense memory floods over him: Christophe saying, Next time someone calls you Vodka Tonic, remember this. Just before he takes Georgi's dick into his mouth.
He stands and stumbles through the bar, pushing through the crowd, down the hallway to the toilets. He's still got the glass in his hand and he throws it as hard as he can. It shatters and splashes and Georgi punches the wall.
"That's not your drink?" Michele is standing at the hallway entrance, half in shadow.
Georgi stares at him. Michele isn't frowning. His face is open, surprised; behind that, sad and sweet. Georgi wills him to step closer. Come here, to me.
And Michele does, step by step, like the connecting cord is tightening. Just like Georgi's breath is tightening. And when Michele is just an arm away, Georgi steps in and kisses him.
Michele goes still but he doesn't pull away. He lets Georgi pluck at his mouth, put a hand onto his throat, kiss his face. Coil an arm around his waist until they're chest to chest, lips sliding together and Michele's hand clutching Georgi's shirt.
Michele can't really kiss, even at his age, and Georgi doesn't want to spend time teaching him. He's roiling inside, towering, growing too large for his skin. He steps back and holds out his hand.
Michele takes it. Georgi pulls him along, banging through a Staff Only door and pushing Michele up against it when they're through.
He kisses Michele again, doesn't care that it's bad, just wants to open him up, tip his head back until Georgi's saliva runs down his throat. Then he runs his hands down Michele's sides, hips, thighs, until he's crouching on the floor in front of him, hands to himself and looking up.
Michele stares. His mouth is open and Georgi can hear his ragged breathing.
Georgi stares back. It will be okay, he wants to say. But he doesn't. "Take it out if you want it," he says instead.
Michele clenches his hands into fists for a moment, then fumbles with his trousers.
Georgi wraps his fingers around Michele's cock, half hard and growing in his hand. The second one he's held and he should take some time to compare them but fuck everything right now. He opens his mouth and takes it in, and that's a first. See, Michele, you're not the only one. It's warm and heavy against his tongue, dark and sweaty tasting, a drop of liquid falling into his mouth. Michele groaning and banging one fist against the door.
It's better than Georgi thought it would be, hotter, making him hard too. His head is nearly spinning but he tries to remember how this was done to him: watch the teeth, sliding lips, what to do with his tongue? He braces himself with one hand on the door, the other on Michele's hip, to keep him from choking Georgi when he's getting close.
He sucks Michele off and Michele doesn't last long, not long enough for Georgi, even though his jaw is tired and his legs are cramping. He isn't ready and he takes the load in his mouth.
He wants to give it back to Michele and he stands to kiss him. But Michele's flushed face catches at him and he spits into a garbage can instead.
Then he leans his temple against Michele's, half an embrace while Michele fumbles his clothes back together. "I'm sorry," Georgi whispers. "Just skate into the wind."
He leaves Michele in the break room and goes back to the hotel.
Georgi's phone buzzes twice more on the way back but he leaves it in his pocket. When he gets to the room, he tosses it onto the bed and throws his overcoat onto a chair. He grabs a bottle from the minibar, any bottle, and drinks it down.
He stands in front of the mirror, looking into his face for something he recognizes.
The phone buzzes again. He picks it up and reads Christophe's messages.
Did you like the pictures?
It's getting late here.
Georgi squeezes the phone until his knuckles go white. Then he stabs out a message.
I didn't look at the pictures because I was busy going down on Michele Crispino in the back room of a bar.
He doesn't even hesitate before slamming his thumb down on Send.
He counts the seconds. After thirty with no response, he sends:
I'm you now. Are you happy? I'm you.
He drops the phone. Takes off his clothes and throws them on the floor. Picks them up to check all the pockets before he finds the earpiece.
Still no message.
Call or don't call, he sends.
It's up to you.
He opens the curtains wide. Then he stands, naked and dizzy, in the middle of the room and waits.
He's counting 299 when the phone rings.
"This is the scene," Christophe says.
"I'm in my hotel room," Georgi says. "I'm naked. The lights are on and the curtains are open."
"Really." Georgi makes himself step closer to the window. "I'm looking down at the street." He touches the glass with one hand.
"Show me." Christophe's voice is as chilly as the windowpane.
Georgi takes a photo and sends it over. He can see into the building across from him, more windows like his. In one, he can see a woman moving. "I'm waiting for you," he says.
And he is. Angry or not, the only thing Georgi wants right now is for Christophe to come through the door. They can fight it out or fuck it out, whichever, Georgi doesn't care.
"You really are." Christophe sounds surprised.
"I told you," Georgi says. "I'm still waiting."
For a few moments, Christophe just breathes in Georgi's ear. "The door opens," he says. "Don't turn around."
"I can see your reflection in the window."
"It's snowing outside and there's still snow on my coat."
"And your hair," Georgi says. "And your eyelashes." Melting into a single drop that falls like a tear when Christophe blinks.
"I come up behind you," Christophe says. "My chest to your back. Snow on your bare skin."
Georgi feels the pressure against his back, cold weight instead of warm. Fabric instead of skin.
"I take your wrists. I'm still wearing gloves. I push you up against the window. Hold you there."
Georgi steps up to the window. It's full length and he's too cautious to lean his whole weight against it but he presses into it, his chest, his thighs, his dick trapped against the glass. His arms spread out.
"It's cold," he says. "The glass is cold, your coat is still cold from outside." But inside he's burning.
"I'm grinding on you," Christophe says. "Pressing you harder."
Georgi is shivering now, the winter leaching through the window into him. He steps back. "I push you away. Turn to face you. Tell you to take off your coat."
"What if I don't?"
"Fucking take it off!" Georgi says. He want to break more glasses. He wants to slap Christophe's face. "I yank the collar and the top button tears away."
Georgi snatches up the empty bottle and hurls it across the room. It only bounces on the carpet. "Just—" He should hang up, he's so angry he can't find the words in English any more.
So he lets Christophe have it in Russian, how he's a fucking bastard and how Georgi really hates him right now and how also Georgi wants Christophe naked and in bed with him, letting Christophe do whatever he wants.
"I only got about half of that," Christophe says. "Maybe you can translate for me later. Okay, the coat is off."
"Everything," Georgi says. "Take everything off and you can do whatever you want."
"My god." Christophe sounds surprised. "What if I were really there?"
Georgi's breath catches in his throat and it's a few seconds before he can answer. It's a few seconds before he's really sure. "Yes," he says. "Even if you were here."
"Close the curtains," Christophe says, "while I get undressed."
Georgi throws the bedding back. He turns out the lights. But he leaves the curtains open, the glow of the city bright in the window.
"It's not what I'm going to do to you," Christophe says. "It's what I'm going to have you do to me."
Georgi shivers, half with cold, and pulls the duvet up over his feet. "What?"
"If you really sucked off that wide-eyed innocent, you can go down on me too. And even if you didn't. So tell me what you're doing."
Georgi closes his eyes. The more his anger wanes, the harder the words are to get out. Any words: English, Russian, the Spanish he tried to teach himself so he could read Neruda. "Give me a minute."
"I'm naked," Christophe says. "I'm in front of you. And I'm waiting."
"Okay." Georgi wraps one hand around his dick. He rests the other on his thigh, then digs in his fingertips. He can do this. He wants to do this. "I walk you to the bed and sit you down. I'm —" he swallows "— on the floor, kneeling between your legs."
"I rub my thumb across your mouth," Christophe says. "Push it a little inside."
Georgi strokes his fingers across his lips, sucks two of them into his mouth. Licks the tips.
"Are you still there?"
Georgi moves his hand back to his leg and tries to focus. "I bend down and rub my cheek against the inside of your thigh. I'm holding your cock in one hand."
And Georgi remembers that, the warm weight of Christophe's cock, the smell of his skin. He knows what he wants to do, he's just got to say it. "You're halfway there. I lick across the head, then slide my mouth over it."
"Definitely hard now," Christophe says. "You've got your eyes closed but I want you to open them and look at me while you suck me."
"They're open," Georgi says, but they're not, not in the fantasy, not in reality. "I'm sucking you in. Using my tongue. Just...up and down. Hand on your hip. I don't know what else to say." Stroking the crease of Christophe's thigh, brushing his balls, taking his cock as deep as he can.
"I'm watching you," Christophe says. His breath is rough. He sounds like he must be close. "And you're watching me watching you."
"I can't look away," Georgi says and it's true. He's pinned down, locked in place. He doesn't know if that's good or if it's bad.
"Are you close?" Christophe says.
Georgi's hand is still around his dick but he's not jacking it. "I'm only touching you," he says. "Don't wait."
"Don't look away," Christophe says and gasps into Georgi's ear.
Georgi swallows, like Christophe is really coming down his throat. "I won't."
There's silence on the line for a few moments, just Christophe's breath, slowing down. "What about you?" he says, finally.
"You're up too late," Georgi says. "Just go to sleep." And he disconnects the call.
He puts his hands over his face and counts to thirty. Then he picks up his phone and orders flowers for Christophe, fifteen red roses, why not, because he'll think better of it when he's sober. He doesn't know what to put on the card. Not a line of verse. Not sorry, because they don't have any rules to break, so what's there to be sorry for?
In the end, he just taps in his name.
He turns off the phone and masturbates, thinking about all the things that Christophe has done to him, might do to him.
And then, because not every feeling can be relieved by orgasm, he cries.
Georgi doesn't turn his phone on in the morning. He's slept late and there's just time to shower and cram his things into his bag before he leaves the hotel. He drinks coffee at the airport because he needs the caffeine and bad coffee is better than bad tea.
He'd like to stay to see the gala but he can't justify missing Monday's training. And if he gets away, maybe the fucked-up feeling will stay in Moscow behind him. But it follows him home like a sad stray dog and he can't help letting it in the door.
When his apartment door closes behind him, he turns on his phone, finally, but the only message is from the hotel. He's left the pendant in his room.
I don't need it, he sends and it turns out to be true.
It's cold and he's tired but he goes for a run. Cooks himself dinner. Watches Netflix too late into the night. Checks his phone too many times.
Sleeps eventually. He doesn't get himself off first.
He trains in the morning, still woolly-headed and fucked-up. Face into the wind and skate, he tells himself. But he falls too many times and his phone is silent.
He goes alone to the café and orders a meal he doesn't eat and a glass of wine he shouldn't drink but does.
"You didn't like it?"
Georgi looks up, into the eyes of the server, the young man with the long legs and high cheekbones. "I wasn't hungry."
"Would you like to take it home with you?" The man's hand is on the edge of the plate, fingers close to Georgi's on the table. Long fingers, strong from carrying trays.
"No, thank you," Georgi says and pays his bill. He walks home, legs aching from the ice, blinking against the cold wind, his favourite sad song on repeat in his earphones.
There's a package outside his door, overnight delivery. When he opens it, it's full of sex toys, most of which are Bluetooth enabled. He sifts through them. There's a piece of paper in the bottom of the box and he pulls it out.
It's just a packing slip.
He stands for a moment, the paper crumpled in his fist. Call or don't call. But the heat is rising inside him, heart or groin, it doesn't seem to make any difference with Christophe.
He picks up his phone and sends:
Christophe's reply comes right away.
Georgi's chest loosens and he smiles. He picks up the box. On his way to the bedroom, he pulls the volume of Neruda from the bookcase. He reads his favourite lines, squinting at the pencil marks where he's glossed half the words.
He takes out his phone and taps them in. Hits Send. Then he puts the book back on the shelf and goes to take the tape off his laptop camera.