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A Spotless Mind

Chapter Text

“Well, I will let you settle in. You will report to Station 5 and meet the team at 0800 tomorrow. Welcome to Stuttgart.”

“Thank you.” Marc shook hands with Werner Fuchs, the department head of his new unit. In a new city.

Marc walked out of the Polizeipräsidium building to the unseasonal sunny weather. Still 25 degrees in early September, that’s a nice surprise. He touched his shirt pocket in search of a pack of cigarettes, then changed his mind. Having made a promise to his parents that he would cut down on both smoking and drinking.

He had given them enough reasons for concern the last year. He thought of his mother’s painful plead, “you have to stop this destruction, Marc. If Bettina finds out...”

But she wouldn’t, Marc had made sure of that. Though he thought he had fooled his parents too, that he had hidden it well. No drinking before he started his work shifts, no drinking before he picked up his son from Bettina. He had made sure the time with his son and his work wouldn’t suffer. The rest of the time though, that belonged to Marc alone, if he wanted to numb himself with alcohol, he’s entitled to.

Until one Sunday morning his mother found him passed out drunk and covered in his own vomit at home. He could have died, choking on his own vomit if his face was 2cm closer. Instead he had gotten a cold which had turned into pneumonia. He was hospitalized for two days.

After that episode, Marc realised he couldn’t do this to his parents or to his son.

“If that... that man is so important to you...” his mother had said tearfully, “we... we won’t stop you.”

Marc had laughed at that, bitterly. His parents’ approval. What a joke. Couldn’t have come at a worse time, when it was the least worry on his mind. Completely worthless because Kay hadn’t stuck around to wait for this day or for Marc to get his head out of his arse.

Kay had left without a backward glance. Without a trace, too. Marc had later come to learn.

After barging into Kay’s apartment and found it completely empty, Marc had soon found out that Kay had not only moved out, he had also quitted his job. Marc had left messages on his mobile for days and a week later, a robotic voice had informed him that the number had been disconnected.

Having acknowledged the finality of Kay’s action, Marc had decided the best way to deal with it was through the bottle. That was so like Kay, Marc had drunkenly thought - showed up in his life out of nowhere, turned it upside down and then disappeared. Totally selfish and... unrepentant. Marc couldn’t shake the bitterness; old habits die hard.

Yet once sobered up, he would again remember he was the one who told Kay to leave. At times he felt frantic with longing, desperate to touch, to see him, and yet helpless to do anything, because it was over; he had finally pushed Kay away for good.

Transferring to Stuttgart state police had been Frank’s idea.

“Go to a big city, it’ll be easier. You can kick start your career again with a new team,” his best friend of 10 years had suggested. Easier for a gay cop was what he meant. Kay’s abrupt departure and the incident with Limpinski has led to whispers in the squad room. Marc didn’t come out, but he also didn’t care enough to deny.

It was honesty that didn’t require courage. After months of lies and self-denial, Marc has simply lost the energy. What was the point? He has already lost everything, hurt everyone. There’s something liberating about not giving a fuck. To lie, one would need to still care, and he didn’t.

To Marc, Stuttgart was as good as any other big city, and it’s so close to Ludwigsburg that Marc could still see his son. Right now, he just wanted to go somewhere where no one would demand answers from him. He had no answers to Bettina’s anguish, no answers to Frank’s bewilderment, and no answers to his parents’ disappointment.

A clean start. Wasn’t that what Kay had once asked him? Just take off, go somewhere and start over? Hey, Kay, looks like I’m finally taking your advice, Marc mused as he started his car.

******

“Our aim is to separate the visiting fans from the home fans... now Hamburg is not exactly VfB Stuttgart’s biggest rival, so I am not expecting too much trouble, but...”

Marc has already tuned out the briefing. Different city. Same shit. He thought.

Stuttgart was a much bigger football city than Ludwigsburg. First of all, the home team was in Bundesliga 1, so the stakes were higher, fans cared more, shouted more and unfortunately, also drank more. Years of guarding rival football fans in Riot-Police unit have made him become averse to the sport, even though he used to play in youth team in school.

This was Marc’s sixth week in Stuttgart and already the fourth home game. He swore the football team’s Mercedes-Benz arena has become his second home since he arrived.

“Hey, you are not a Stuttgart Kickers fan, are you?”

“Huh?” Marc’s thoughts broke, he turned to his new colleague... what’s his name? Leon?

“Are you a Kickers fan? Cos this unit is all ‘die Roten’!” Leon looked at him challengingly.

Marc knew VfB Stuttgart were called ‘die Roten’. He used to watch matches with Frank and other team members and get drunk together, all part of the policemen’s macho social calendar. But really, these days he couldn’t care less about football.

He shrugged, “my father supports Karlsruhe SC, that makes me a de facto Stuttgart supporter. Does that help?”

Leon (is that his name?) laughed, “Haha. Good enough, good enough.”

Marc shook his head. He went to a few obligatory drinks after work with colleagues since he arrived, careful not to get too carried away and slipped back into the drunken mess he had been in few months ago.

Stuttgart won 1:0 in the end, so home fans were happily leaving the stadium in an orderly fashion. Marc was directing the away fans to a separate exit when his squad lead called him.

“Borgmann, could you go over to the VIP boxes? There are a couple of drunken away fans went astray near there. Leon is there already.”

“Right away,” Marc answered. He quickened his pace and took the steps two at a time to the upper level, where the VIP box-seats located. He was searching for Leon’s blue uniform when he heard a familiar voice.

“That tackle hardly grazed his leg... pussy...” the voice was getting further away.

Kay? Marc’s heart stopped.

He halted abruptly and whipped his head around, trying to identify the direction of the voice, but he could only see a sea of better-dressed people coming out from the VIP boxes, slowly drifting towards the exit.

“Marc? Over here!” Leon signaled him to come over.

His heart still pounding, Marc took one last sweep of the crowd, then reluctantly hurried over to his colleague.

******

A year ago, Marc wouldn’t have thought he would be living in a one-bedroom apartment. Alone. In another city.

He had turned down the after-work drinks today and had ambitiously planned to do some unpacking this evening. Marc took a disgusting look at the unopened boxes still piled up in his living room and walked over to the fridge to get a bottle of beer instead. He should at least find the box that marked “kitchen”, so he could drink with a glass. Or maybe finally cook something to eat, the pizza and kebab alternate takeaway diet was getting tiresome. It’s just that he couldn’t muster any energy or interest to do any of that.

He wasn’t the kind of man who never did household chores or cooking, Bettina and he shared them quite equally. Marc liked domesticity, it’s in his DNA, something he’s always known. But then he also liked Kay. A lot. And everything that being with Kay entailed. That - that he didn’t know until the man turned up in his life.

Marc wiped the beer from the corner of his mouth with his shirt sleeves. Napkins. He mentally put it on his ever-growing shopping list. Staring at the beer bottle in his hand, he contemplated what it would be like to live with Kay. Does he like to cook? Is he a morning person? He thought of Kay’s barely furnished bachelor pad, the bed was the only furniture Marc had gotten acquainted with, during those precious hours he spent there.

The voice he heard at the football stadium the other day... Kay’s voice... how his heart nearly stopped, hearing that. But he just wanted it to be Kay, that’s all. Maybe he’s losing it.

“Go to Stuttgart and please go get laid. Man or woman, you know I don’t care, my friend, whatever floats your boat.” Frank’s parting advice. But Marc hasn’t yet taken that advice.

He took out his mobile and played the one and only video he had of Kay. A twelve seconds recording he had made one evening when he was late getting to Kay’s apartment. Kay had dozed off in bed, his blond head rested on the white bedsheet, long limbs tangled up in the gunmetal coloured duvet cover. Marc had lain down quietly next to him, holding the phone camera close to Kay’s face. He looked so beautiful, almost ethereal, that Marc couldn’t look away, it was only superseded by the blinding smile Kay gave him when he woke up.

Marc played it again, and again. Even with the sound off, he could still hear Kay’s groggy voice from the video, “hey... you’ve made it.”

He had intended to delete the video soon after, it was too dangerous to keep such thing on his phone. He’s glad he never did. With Kay gone, now it has become the only memento of their time together.

Chapter Text

One evening, while trying a different route to go to his usual supermarket, Marc stumbled upon a bar not far from his apartment, named “Der Dunkle Engel”. Wouldn’t Kay just love that name? Marc thought, amused.

The decor inside was all traditional dark wood and leather furniture, it’s a decent size bar, almost full at 8pm, two staff were serving drinks to the tables, but the bartender was nowhere to be seen. Marc sat himself down on one of the bar stools near the round corner, he’s checking out the framed black and white posters of jazz musicians on the wall, when he heard the familiar voice again.

“Sorry for the wait, what can I get you?”

Almost certain his own mind was playing tricks on him again, Marc slowly turned his head to the source of the voice and found himself face to face with Kay.

Kay Engel, all 5-foot-11 standing in front of him, his blond hair no longer a buzzcut, it’s longer in a stylish cut. He was wearing a plain white crew neck t-shirt, a dark grey bar towel draped on one shoulder. Clean shaven, he looked younger, fresh faced and... still stunningly handsome.

Marc opened his mouth, but nothing came out, he was too dumbfounded to speak; he just kept staring at Kay, heart pounding and eyes greedily roaming all over his face.

Raising a perfectly arch brow, Kay considered Marc for a couple of seconds, then he flashed Marc a sly smile, “I’ll come back in a minute.” And he turned away.

“Err... Kay!” Marc finally managed to get the name out just as Kay started to walk to the other end of the bar.

Kay turned to look at him again, he spoke to another girl working at the bar, pointing out another waiting customer to her before returning to Marc’s side. Smiling, he tilted his head a little and asked, “Do I know you?”

Huh?

“How do you know my name?” Kay asked again, still smiling. His voice curious and innocent, his expression open and without a trace of recognition.

W.T.F. What is Kay playing at?

Marc swallowed, “Kay... I... I didn’t know you’ve moved here.”

“Ok...” Kay’s brow furrowed, he seemed to be digesting what Marc just told him, “so you know me from before. When?”

What the actual fuck?

Speechless, Marc racked his brain trying to make sense... Is this some elaborate prank? He studied Kay’s face, taking note of those two tiny moles on the right side of his face, the ones that he had kissed over and over, in another life time. And apparently, he’s now in a twilight zone

But he hadn’t mistaken. The man standing in front of him was Kay.

Kay was still waiting for his answer. Marc saw nothing but earnest on Kay’s face, didn’t look like he was joking at all. He slowly exhaled, decided to play along for now.

“We were in the same police unit before you quitted?” Marc said tentatively.

“So, you are from Ludwigsburg?” Kay perked up, his eyes widened. Suddenly feeling self-conscious of the raised voice, he said in a hushed tone, “thank god, I’ve been wanting to talk to someone from there.” Paused. “Hey, do you mind sticking around til nine? We are a bit short-staffed tonight, so I have to work until... anyway, I want to talk to you,” face flushed, Kay said almost shyly, “if that’s ok. I know this must sound weird to you, but I promise I’ll explain.”

There’s that smile again. The same one he gave Marc earlier, the charming but polite one he reserved for strangers.

Marc could just nod. If possible, he was even more confused now.

“Scheiße...” Kay cursed quietly to himself, looking sheepish, he asked, “what’s your name?”

With gritty sand in his mouth, Marc fought to keep his voice steady, “Marc. Marc Borgmann”, he looked Kay right in the eye as he said it, still waiting for Kay to shout “gotcha” and tell him he’s just got punked.

But Kay just grinned, then he poured a tall glass of beer from the tap and put it in front of him. “Marc? this is on the house,” he cheerily announced.

Marc looked after Kay’s retreating back with mounting bewilderment.

This is definitely some alternate universe.

He spent the next hour watching Kay play the charming bartender. The place seemed to cater mostly regular customers, many of them have their own Stammtisch. And they all seemed to know Kay by name.

Not for the first time since he stepped into this bar, Marc felt like he was in a trance. Any minute now, I’d wake up and this was all a strange dream, he thought.

But for now, he allowed himself to stay in the dream. To look at Kay without fear of being discovered. From time to time, Kay would cast him a smiling glance, not the flirtatious ones he used to get, but Marc was grateful for them all the same. He asked Marc if he wanted another glass of beer.

Finally, after leaving some instructions to the person taking over the bar, Kay went over to his side, he bit his bottom lip like he couldn’t contain his excitement, “are you hungry?”

“Sure.” Marc muttered because his speaking ability had left him an hour ago.

Kay took him to a Thai restaurant next door. Again, every staff there seemed to know Kay by name.

“My canteen.” Kay told Marc before sitting down at a small table near the back of the restaurant, “they have the best green curry chicken in Stuttgart.”

Marc had never tried Thai green curry, curry-wurst was about the only curry he had ever eaten. He was never an adventurous eater, but he wasn’t about to protest.

They quickly ordered. Two green curry chicken with jasmine rice because the last thing on Marc’s mind was to study the menu.

Silence descended while they were waiting for the food. Kay touched the back of his neck, like he’s trying to broach an embarrassing subject. Marc noticed the slight curl of his hair around his neckline, he knew he’s staring again.

“I’m sorry about the confusion,” Kay began cautiously, “and for not remembering you or your name. You must think I’m a nut case,” he gave a nervous laugh. “The truth is I don’t remember a lot of things happened in the last year.”

He paused. Waiting for Marc’s reaction.

“What... what do you mean you don’t remember?” Marc stammered.

Kay picked on the table cloth’s embroidery pattern, “I was in a car accident six months ago... My body wasn’t badly injured, but I hurt my head and there was some swelling and bleeding in my brain, so they put me in an induced coma for a week... when I woke up, I couldn’t remember what happened.” His brow furrowed, “at first the doctors thought it’s temporary, which is common for this type of head injury... but weeks later, I still couldn’t remember. Then they told me it could be because of the drugs they used for the coma.... anyway, they don’t know for sure... and...” he took a deep breath, “I’ve lost like a whole year.”

“A year.” Marc parroted. Stupefied.

Kay nodded, “the last thing I remember was packing my travel bag at home, I was going to the training academy near Ludwigsburg. But they told me that was a year ago.”

Marc slowly digested what he just heard, he still couldn’t wrap his head around it. He considered Kay closely again, “you... you are not pulling my leg, you really don’t remember me?” His heart slowly breaking.

Or is this some sort of cruel punishment? Because I probably deserve it. He quietly thought.

Kay shook his head vigorously, “no, I’m not joking. I know it sounds... surreal. Believe me. I didn’t believe such thing actually happens in real life. Until it happened to me.” He shrugged defeatedly.

Marc did some maths in his head - a year plus 6 months, that’s 18 months ago... that’s about the time they first met in the academy. Kay has managed to forget his entire encounter with Marc.

“I don’t remember the training, or what happened afterwards... accordingly to my mother, I asked for a transfer to Ludwigsburg after the training, then few months later, I quitted my job and moved back to Stuttgart.” Kay continued, “what I don’t understand is, I don’t know anyone in Ludwigsburg, why would I want to transfer there?” He looked up at Marc.

Marc could feel the hot flush of embarrassment spread through his body, he wished there’s a hole to swallow him up.

Oblivious, Kay continued, “that’s why I’ve been wanting to talk to someone from the Ludwigsburg unit.” He chuckled a little, “easier said than done since I don’t know who is from Ludwigsburg.”

“But...” Marc didn’t know where to begin, “so you have no recollection for that period? At all?” he swallowed.

Their conversation was interrupted with the food arriving. Kay skillfully used the fork and spoon to mix the curry with the rice, while Marc looked on in bafflement. Fork and spoon? Which one he should hold with his right hand? He wondered.

“I guess there was no Thai curry on the Ludwigsburg police canteen menu then?” Kay winked. He swapped his plate with Marc’s, “you can just use the fork now.”

Marc stared at the plate of food Kay prepared for him, “you usually ordered schnitzel with fries in the canteen,” he couldn’t help to mention.

“I did?” Kay laughed, “I do like schnitzel, I haven’t forgotten about that,” he seemed to love hearing this tidbit. “Well, to answer your question. I do have some fleeting memories, fragmented images or certain sound... but it’s like watching some movie clips of your own life but you are detached from it, you know?”

No, Marc didn’t know. He didn’t understand how Kay could look at him like he’s never seen Marc before.

Picking his food with the fork, Marc asked uncertainly, “what do the doctors say, will the memory come back?”

Kay shrugged, “they don’t know. It could be permanent, or I might get some back eventually. Months, years later? It’s frustrating that no one can say for sure.” Meeting Marc’s eyes, he continued, “but for some reason, you feel familiar to me,” he quirked his lips, “I can’t explain it.”

Marc held his gaze, for the first time tonight, he saw a glimmer of hope.

Kay looked away first, his face flushed under the warm light and hot food. “So, I’ve checked my mobile earlier and I couldn’t find your name on my contact list.” He told Marc, “I guess we weren’t friends when we worked in the same unit?”

It took Marc a few seconds to feel the impact of this detail Kay just causally threw out. What it meant. That Kay had deliberately deleted Marc from his contact list. That he had decided he never wanted to see Marc again. Eyes burning, Marc had to look down at his lap so Kay wouldn’t see the tears threatening to spill out. He quietly let the new hurt washed over him.

He managed to shake his head with all the willpower he could muster. No, we weren’t friends because I wouldn’t even acknowledge you as a friend to others. He thought bleakly.

Interpreting Marc’s silence as something else, Kay said quickly, “I’m sorry to have dragged you here for my sob story, it’s just that you are the first person I met who knew me from that ‘lost period’...” he did an air-quote. “Enough about me. Why are you here? In Stuttgart, I mean.”

The change of subject was a lifesaver for Marc, he cleared his throat, “I recently got transferred to the anti-riot unit here.”

Kay nodded, his face nothing but sincerity, “in that case, welcome to Stuttgart. And I guess I should say ‘nice seeing you again’.”

Chapter Text

The ironic thing was, now Marc was back on Kay’s contact list. They had exchanged phone numbers after the meal.

Marc woke up the next day, not sure if he had dreamed up the entire evening. But a quick check on his own mobile with Kay’s new number told him otherwise. Through the onslaught of the amnesia shock, Marc didn’t have time to digest the fact that Kay also nearly died, and Marc wouldn’t even know.

I could have lost him forever.

They didn’t make plan to meet up again, but Kay had said he would like to know more about his time in Ludwigsburg - if Marc knew any. Knowing Kay was just a stone throw away, Marc knew he wouldn’t be able to stay away.

At the same time, the significance of the period of Kay’s amnesia wasn’t lost on Marc. It was as if Kay’s brain had handpicked who and what to forget. Talk about subconsciousness. It was an act of self-preservation, to forget a painful period and the person who inflicted the pain.

"And what about us?" Kay had asked him that day.

The day when Marc had chosen self-preservation over Kay. When Marc thought about it now, he was sickened by how much he had taken Kay for granted, the obscene arrogance that Kay would be there waiting for his return.

Serves me right that Kay now doesn’t even remember me.

Convinced that if Kay remembered the past, he would want nothing to do with Marc, if he didn’t remember and Marc pretended to be a friend now, it would be so wrong that Marc wasn’t sure if he could forgive himself.

He managed to stay away from “Der Dunkle Engel” for a week.

The minute he walked into the bar again on Friday evening, Kay greeted him with a wide smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes. Unable to help himself, Marc smiled back, something warm and sweet blooming inside him. Marc reckoned he could work on forgiving himself if that’s what he would see every time.

“I thought I dreamed you up the other day.” Kay quipped.

Marc chuckled, “I hope I didn’t dream up those free beer.”

Kay snorted playfully, “is that what you’re after? That’s easy.” He smoothly poured a tall glass of beer from the tap and put it in front of Marc.

Marc wished he could say “it’s you that I’m after” but of course he knew better. He dug into his jeans pocket and took out some euros, “I’m only kidding. You can’t keep giving me free beer.”

Kay waved it away, “Doch. You can pay if I’m not around.”

“Is this your bar?” Marc had meant to ask last time.

“My uncle’s. He passed away last year and left it to me.” Kay’s face darkened, “of course I forgot about that too... it was very upsetting when they had to tell me that again.”

Marc didn’t know what to say. He had never asked about Kay’s family before, didn’t want to get too involved, didn’t want Kay to ask about his either.

He just nodded, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Thanks. He was the closest I had for a father. Anyway, my mother said that’s the reason I quitted the police force, so I can take over the bar. Though I really don’t remember making that decision...” he looked at Marc, “did I tell anyone in the unit why I quit?”

The question, so abrupt and slicing, unsteadied Marc’s feet. Why did I come here? Why did I think I can handle it? Marc thought. How could I answer this question without spilling out deliberate lies?

Seconds stretched. Upon Kay’s puzzling face, Marc decided to stick to some facts. He cleared his throat, “actually, you didn’t tell anyone why. But you had an altercation with a colleague... he’s a homophobic prick. We thought... we thought you quitted because of that.” Marc quietly exhaled. Shit. This is hard.

“Scheiße... I knew something must have happened.” Kay frowned, “so... I was out? Everyone in the unit knows I’m... gay.” His tone made it neither a question nor a statement.

Marc could only nod, his felt his heart was about to jump out of his body.

“Ha.” Kay chuckled quietly, shaking his head, “out in a police unit, guess I was either braver or stupider than I remember.” Then he seemed to be contemplating on something, he looked at Marc thoughtfully for a few seconds, his blue eyes searching Marc’s face.

Just when Marc was about to ask him what’s the matter, someone at the other end called out Kay’s name.

“Oh. Excuse me.” Kay said to Marc at once, already moving away. Marc glanced over just in time to see Kay hugging a dark blond-haired man, who looked to be in his mid or late-thirties. He ruffled Kay’s hair affectionately, Marc also didn’t miss the man’s arm resting on Kay’s shoulders as they talked. There’re some commotions going on in the nearby tables, some patrons were openly staring at the man and murmuring.

It didn’t take Marc long to recognise the man. Michael Herrmann. VfB Stuttgart’s director of sport. Or was it director of football? A saviour in many fans’ eyes as he helped the team avoid relegation last season. He was also the highest profile ex-football player to have ever come out as gay. Few years ago, after he retired from his playing career.

A lightbulb moment followed, suddenly it all made sense. When Marc thought he had heard Kay’s voice at the match the other day. It hadn’t been his wishful thinking, Kay had been at the match, in the VIP box, because of Herrmann... Marc looked over to the two men still standing close together, deep in conversation.

Marc tried to reign in the sudden surge of emotion, a dull pain began to spread through him, he couldn’t even name what it was. Jealousy? Ridiculous because Herrmann did not even act like a boyfriend. And, Kay... he’s not mine, he tried to remind himself. And yet, just seeing Kay giving smiles to someone else, the closeness and familiarity between them... Marc wanted that for himself.

When Kay moved away to get Herrmann a drink, a couple of customers asked Herrmann for selfies and he politely obliged. Marc took the chance to get up to leave.

He lit up a cigarette outside the bar, trying to decide if he should go to another bar or just go home to drink... then he remembered, in an effort to cut down on drinking, he had stopped stocking hard liquor at home.

“Hey Marc!”

Marc turned and found Kay had followed him outside. “Leaving already?” Kay asked.

He had no right to feel so happy. “Sorry, I saw you were busy,” he muttered, He could feel his face warming up. After a beat. “I have an early shift tomorrow,” he lied.

“Oh.” Kay said. Marc saw a hint of disappointment on Kay’s face and his stomach dropped.

Fuck it. “Err... do you still go running?” Marc blurted out without thinking.

Kay looked surprised.

Shit. “I remember you were good at it...” he spluttered, “when we worked together. I’m just wondering if you know any good route you can recommend around here.”

“Oh right.” Kay brightened, “yes, I still run. In fact, I run every Sunday morning, you should come along if you have time. I can show you the routes.”

This is such a bad idea. Marc thought.

“Sure, sounds good.” Marc answered.

“Good! I’ll text you.” Then Kay gave him a hug that ended way too quickly for Marc’s liking, “It’s good to see you again.”

******

“Come on! Keep it up! Pussy...” Kay teased him and ran further ahead.

Hearing that, Marc nearly tripped over his own feet. Talk about déjà vu.

He’s been of two minds about going running with Kay. Part of him hoped this would jog Kay’s memories. So he would remember me, remember us. Part of him dreaded the same thing. But so far it didn’t seem to have any effect on Kay. To him, he was just going running with a new friend.

Marc was hyperaware of every single time Kay touched him, accidental or not. He longed for them, even though he knew there was nothing behind these touches, they were not a prelude to intimacy, but natural friendliness.

They slowed down to have a break after 5km. His head cleared, his lung full of fresh air, despite his nerves, Marc was enjoying the run and the easy company of Kay. This has never changed, even near the end when he was struggling to keep his two worlds from colliding, whenever he’s alone with Kay, he has always had this sense of peace and ease.

He glanced over at Kay, who’s lifting his black t-shirt and wiping the sweats away with a towel. Marc stared at the line of Kay’s back, with its gentle slopes of the lightest bronze, like he'd been dipped in a beam of golden sun, and promptly lost his train of thought.

When Marc finally managed to steer his eyes away, he caught Kay looking at him with that smirk that he used to know so well. Shit.

Flustered, Marc got up from the big boulder he’s been leaning on and said, “shall we do another 5km?”

Kay looked like he’s trying to suppress a smile, “you’re on.”

Marc’s running has improved a lot over the last year. Left to his own devices, it has become his main activity outside work, even though the route in Ludwigsburg carried too many memories. He had switched to a new route at some point but had soon gone back to the old one. Not ready to give up the memories yet, not ready to forget Kay.

They had come to a clearing near the edge of the forest. “You are good. Most of my friends can’t keep up with me.” Kay told Marc when they have finished the 2nd leg, totally unaware that he was the one who taught Marc.

Marc shook his head, “I’ve seen you run. You are going easy on me today which I don’t appreciate,” he said with mock aggression, but secretly, he’s happy that Kay had deliberately let him keep up.

“Oh yeah? I am not back to my best yet after the accident, but you may have your wish next time.” Kay raised his eyebrows. Marc could see some of Kay’s old cockiness was back.

Next time. Yes, there will be a next time. Marc mused merrily, temporarily forgetting that he’s now technically being with Kay under false pretense.

He took out a cigarette and looked over at Kay who was adjusting his shoelaces.

“Do you want one?” gesturing to the cigarette. Kay declined with a wave of his hand. “Thanks. But I haven’t got much taste for it after the accident,” he shrugged, “the doctor says this type of amnesia can cause personality change in some people, I guess it just changed my appetite.”

Marc couldn’t imagine Kay not smoking, he commented without thinking, “and you used to smoke pot!”

Kay flicked up a quick glance at him. Cocked his head, a curious searching light in his eyes, he said slowly, “I have to say... for someone who was just a colleague, you sure know a lot about me.” But there was no accusation in those blue eyes, just curiosity and mild amusement.

Marc was quietly relieved that Kay probably just thought Marc had a crush on him from way back. He tried to sound nonchalant, “you were new to the team, so you were in the spotlight from day one.”

Kay nodded. Marc wasn’t sure if he’s buying this excuse. “How about Frank Richter and Britt Rebmann? Were they in our team too? They are the names I don’t recognise on my phone.”

“Frank is the team lead, Britt is a team member... everyone thought you two were going out.” Marc couldn’t help it.

“What?” Kay quietly exclaimed. There’s genuine surprise on his face, “but why?... I don’t like women.” Realising how that might sound, he quickly added, “I mean not THAT way,” he deadpanned.

He started pacing around, like he’s trying to solve a riddle, “it must have been a misunderstanding. I mean I didn’t broadcast my sexuality when I was in the unit in Stuttgart, but I’ve never tried to hide...” he dropped his voice low, “oh wow.”

Looking at Marc, he asked, “so what happened? How come I was out?”

Marc suddenly realised he has painted himself into a corner, he hedged, “didn’t you tell me the doctor says you should try to remember things on your own, not being fed by others?”

Kay pursed his lips, “I know. But it’s frustrating not knowing... things seem off balance and there are feelings I can’t explain. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing a big chunk of myself,” he said glumly, eyes downcast.

He looked so lost, Marc couldn’t bear it. If this came back to bite him later...

“You got caught in a gay club during a police drug raid.” Marc said, he took a drag from his cigarette, tried to keep his hand steady. Even now that incident still sent a searing pain through him; how jealous and incensed he had been when he heard the news.

Kay looked up at Marc in an instant, “that’s it? I was out cos I was seen in a gay bar?” he said incredulously. Raking a hand through his hair, “well, that sounds like me. I do like clubbing. Hope at least I’ve scored before I was caught.” He laughed a little, completely oblivious to Marc’s distress.

Turning his head away from Kay’s sight, Marc swallowed. His mind jumped to the image of Kay in current time, dancing with other men under loud techno music, jovially enjoying life, his spotless mind free of Marc and turmoil.

Chapter Text

“Tell me more about this new friend.”

Kay picked on the non-existent loose thread on his hoodie, considering how to explain to Dr Schmidt, his therapist, about Marc.

The talk therapy sessions were recommended to him after the accident, to help him manage the memory loss and any distress it might cause. At first Kay went along mainly to appease his mother, but after a while, he started getting used to unload his worries to Dr Schmidt, rather than to his mother.

“He intrigues me,” he finally settled on that after a few seconds.

“Because he’s an ex-colleague from the Ludwigsburg missing puzzle?” Dr Schmidt prompted.

“That and also his behaviour... he’s sort of hot and cold,” Kay couldn’t help rolling his eyes, “now I sound like a high school girl.”

“That’s ok. So he’s sending you confusing signals and that bothers you?”

Kay noticed that Marc has started coming to the bar regularly, maybe two or three times a week. He’s always alone and would sit at the corner by the bar, chat with Kay for a while if he’s tending the bar that evening, nurse one beer and then leave. And for more than a month now, when Marc didn’t have work shift on Sunday, he’d join Kay for a long run.

But instead of getting to know Marc better, Kay has been distracted by all the confusing signals. Those open stares Marc gave him when he thought Kay wasn’t looking, those were not for a colleague, not even a friend, those looks... they were painfully intimate. But that seemed to be all Marc did, snuck stealthy, sidelong glances at Kay. Other times, he held himself so rigid, like he’s afraid Kay would get the wrong idea.

Kay nodded reluctantly, tried to hide his embarrassment with a quick laugh, “No, it doesn't bother me exactly, I am just curious, that’s all. I mean we barely know each other, well... at least I barely know him.” The first time they spoke, when Marc was tongue-tied, staring at him open-mouth? Kay had almost dismissed him as just another guy looking for one-night-stand or more.

“And I am almost certain that he’s holding something back. But since I have no memory of it, I have no clue where to start even if I want to ask. Even the things that he told me, it felt like it happened to someone else,” He added.

Dr Schmidt just nodded, like what Kay experiencing was completely normal. “We’ve covered this before, it’s always better to remember things on your own. Other people’s version is not your memory. Let’s pull back a little, what does being with Marc feel to you? Does he remind you of anything? It could be a sound, a smell?”

Kay blushed, suddenly remembering those strange dreams he’s been having lately. Dreams that involved Marc Borgmann and himself in compromising position. Dreams felt so real that he could almost feel Marc’s tongue sweeping the inside of his mouth, Marc’s blunt fingers touching him... shit. He’s attracted to Marc, he wanted to sleep with Marc. He’s definitely not sharing this with Dr Schmidt.

“He feels familiar to me. I like spending time with him. And he’s easy to talk to, like we’ve known each other for a long time. I’m surprised we weren’t friends back then.”

“So he brings out good feelings?”

Kay nodded again, “even though he seems sad to me sometimes... he mentioned he just broke up with his girlfriend, they have a son together. Maybe he misses his family.” Marc had told him this last Sunday. He remembered Marc studying him intently as he talked about his son, about how he only got to see him every other weekend, like he’s trying to gauge Kay’s reaction. It was a surprise, Kay would admit, this whole time, he had thought Marc was gay.

Or bi. Whatever, not my problem. Liar. Arguing with himself.

“Have you considered going back to Ludwigsburg with Marc? Maybe a familiar face and surrounding at the same time would help.”

Kay had thought about that too, maybe Marc had some ideas where I used to frequent. And perhaps I could meet some other colleagues...

“Maybe. Yeah.” Kay said with a non-committal shrug. He didn’t know why he wasn’t keener on this idea. He could have gone there himself months ago if he really wanted to. Call it intuition, he had an inkling that Ludwigsburg was bad news.

******

By the time Kay got back to the bar after the session on a Monday night, it’s almost eight o’clock. Marc usually came in around this time, Kay checked his usual corner seat, but it’s empty. Sabine, one of the waitresses, pulled him aside behind the bar.

“Erm... some guy was looking for you earlier,” she explained, then dropped her voice low, “he’s wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, but I could tell he’s Andreas Kuhn.” Her face pinked like she’s feeling sorry for the guy’s poor disguise.

Kay slowly exhaled. This was so like Andreas, over confident and impulsive. Not the right qualities to have for someone who wants to be in the closet and plays in Bundesliga 1 at the same time. Kay thanked Sabine and debated with himself if he should ask Michael to have a chat with Andreas, he shouldn’t just show up here like this, that’s for sure.

By 10pm, Kay reckoned Marc wouldn’t come in tonight. He took advantage of a quieter period to fetch the inventory list he left in his car, tried to catch up on paperwork. Just as he unlocked his car, someone snuck up behind him, wrapped his arms around his waist and whispered, “Kay.”

Kay nearly jumped, he turned, “Christ. Andreas you scared the shit out of me.” He glared at the 6’4” mean defender of the Stuttgart football team, “what the hell are you doing here?”

“Where else can I see you when you won’t return my calls?” Andreas hissed. Obviously not pleased with Kay’s reaction.

Kay took a look around, no one else was here. They were at the bar’s own small parking lot at the back, next to an alley, the only other car parked here was Sabine’s.

“I thought we decided not to see each other anymore? You wanted to play pro football for another couple of years? Remember that conversation?” Kay reminded him.

“You mean you decided. I didn’t want to stop seeing you,” he said it like a petulant child, his hands moved up to Kay’s shoulders, forcing Kay to face him.

Kay raised both of his arms to get out of his hold, he took a step back, hands on hips. “You decided to stay in the closet, and I decided not to join you there, it’s a mutual decision.”

Andreas Kuhn, nicknamed “the mean panther” for his pace and ruthlessness on the pitch, was Stuttgart’s star centre-back. Kay had met him three months ago through Michael and they started going out casually.

At that time, Kuhn was recovering from a possible career-ending injury and had been thinking about quitting football and coming out. But under pressure from his agent and club, he has since then changed his mind. And Kay didn’t blame him, he knew from Michael’s experience that it’s a grave decision for football player to come out. There were no openly gay football players actively playing in league one, period.

He wished Andreas all the best, but no thank you, he didn’t want to be in a serious relationship with someone who can’t be seen in public with him. No, not another closet case again. He thought.  His heart was familiar with that sentiment even though his brain carried no memory of it.

Shaking his head, Kuhn pleaded in a low voice, “all I ask is just one more year! I want to see this season through, my contract runs out, after that, I don’t care if no club wants me. I can do something else, like Michael.”

Kay softened his tone, “I think that’s a good plan. But I can’t be a part of that...” he touched Andreas’ shoulder, as friendly encouragement, but the footballer grabbed his hand right away, “we don’t have to hide all the time, I’m allowed to be seen with friends, don’t I?”

“It’s not just that, I told you I’m not in a good place to...” Kay began but before he could finish, Andreas started kissing him, holding the back of Kay’s head, he deepened the kiss with a hunger that screamed desperation. Closing his eyes, Kay let the kiss went on for a few more seconds before he gently put a hand on Andreas’ chest. They stared at each other, Kay could see the haplessness in Andreas’s eyes. He wished he could take away his pain, but he knew he’s not the answer to the footballer’s problem. He drew Andreas in for a hug, “you’ll be ok,” he whispered.

Clinging on to Kay, Andreas let out a quiet sob. Kay gently rubbed his back to comfort him, until Andreas suddenly pushed him away, “argh, shit...” And he turned his face away abruptly. Kay looked over his shoulder and saw Marc standing two feet away.

“Marc?”

Marc’s face was drained of colour, he looked shell-shocked.

Kay glanced back at Andreas, who has pulled down his cap and walked further away from the dimly lit street light. Kay took a step towards Marc.

Like a frightened rabbit, Marc stammered, “I’m sorry...” and began walking backward, then turned and ran away.

“Marc, wait!” Kay shouted as he watched Marc’s retreating back disappearing in pitch darkness.

******

Marc didn’t come to the bar at all that week. On Friday, Kay sent him an innocuous text, asking if he’s still on to join him for a run that Sunday but Marc never replied.

Kay waited at their usual meeting place in the woodland on Sunday morning, hoping to see Marc’s Golf show up. After 20 minutes, he decided to go running on his own. But after 5km, he gave up. Running usually cleared his head but it’s definitely not working today.

He didn’t know why Marc’s silence bothered him so much, he certainly didn’t like the way Marc ran away that night he saw him with Andreas. Things between them have been complicated, they were at a weird place between friends and... what? Kay couldn’t even put a name to it.

Maybe he’s just busy, maybe he went to see his son. Kay tried not to make everything about himself, one of the coping mechanisms Dr Schmidt had suggested. But couldn't Marc at least let me know? He thought. Now he almost wanted to smoke a cigarette again.

Fuck it.

Mind made up, he ran back to his car and drove straight to Marc’s apartment. He had only been there once, not the apartment itself, just downstairs while waiting for Marc to get a new pair of running shoes.

He saw the name “Borgmann” on one of the buzzers and pressed it a couple of times. No answer.

Luckily a young mother with a pram was coming out of building, so Kay held the door for her. Marc lived in a corner apartment on the 3rd floor, Kay was about to knock on the door when he noticed the door was left slightly ajar.

Alarmed, he started to push the door open, but felt something was blocking it at the other end.

“Marc? Are you there?” He pushed the door harder, it moved a few inches inward.

He could see a body lying on the floor by the door. “Shit... Marc!” But the body was not moving at all.

Using all his body strength, Kay pushed the door again, when he got enough room, he crouched down and shook Marc’s shoulder through the gap, “Marc! Wake up!”

Finally, he managed to carefully push Marc further into the hallway and get the door completely opened.

Once he got inside the apartment, he was assaulted by a strong whisky smell, there were at least two open bottles of whisky on the floor that he could see. He went to check on Marc and sent a little thank you when he saw Marc’s chest rising and falling.

He was passed out drunk.

Cradling Marc’s head on his lap, Kay kept gently patting his face, “hey, Marc..., wake up!” He tried to push him to sit upright.

“Come on, open your eyes...” Kay persisted.

After what felt like forever, Marc’s head rolled to one side, he tried to bat away Kay’s hand, and groaned, “argh...” When he tried to sit up, he immediately regretted it, holding his head.

“Headache?” Kay asked.

Marc finally opened his eyes, squinting, he stared at Kay like he couldn’t work out why he was in his apartment.

“Kay?” Marc reached out his hand but changed his mind. Leaning on his elbow, he tried to stand up, but slipped again and pushed Kay to the side of the door in the process.

“Ouch!” Kay yapped.

“I’m sorry... I’m so sorry” Marc choked.

Kay rubbed his bruise arm, “what? It’s ok. I’m fine.” He tried to get Marc sit up right again.

But Marc just shook his head, “no... I had it. You gave it to me and I just threw it away...”

What is Marc on about? he looked so inconsolable Kay was at a loss what to do.

“Alright. Enough of the crazy talk. You need to sober up.” He put Marc’s arm around his own shoulder and half carried Marc to the sofa. After he laid Marc down, he went to the kitchen to look for water and painkillers, he took some overripe bananas from the kitchen counter as well.

“Come on, have one bite of a banana and then two tablets. You’ll feel better in a couple of hours.” Kay coaxed.

Marc reluctantly sat up, he washed down the banana and the pills with a glass of water, and promptly laid back down. He looked terrible, his face was puffy, eyes red-rimmed, he looked like he’s been crying.

Kay stood up and looked away, his couldn’t stand seeing Marc like this, whatever caused it. He went to the bedroom to look for a blanket and saw a pile of unopened removal boxes next to the bed. How long has Marc been in Stuttgart? Three or four months?

When he went back to the living room, Marc had already fallen asleep again. Kay tip-toed around and carefully put the blanket on top of him.

He gazed at Marc’s handsome but haggard face and thought of those unopened boxes, he wondered what had driven Marc away from Ludwigsburg.

******

“Sabine? Yeah, I can’t come in yet. Could you please make sure Rudi finishes the inventory count? I...” Kay paused. He could hear groaning sounds coming from the living room.
“Yes, I should come in soon. Thanks. See you in a bit.” He finished the call and walked back to the living room.

Marc was sitting up on the sofa, gingerly stretching his arms. His eyes downcast. Kay didn’t know if he’s even aware of his presence.

“Hey. How are you feeling?” Kay asked hesitantly. Didn’t look like Marc’s mood has improved after the nap.

Marc flicked up a glance at Kay, his face flushed and there were sleep lines from sleeping on the cushion. “What are you doing here?” He asked with a groggy voice.

“You’re welcome. And good afternoon to you too,” Kay clipped.

At least Marc had the decency to look embarrassed. “How did you get in?” He asked, still not looking at Kay.

“Your door was unlocked. I found you lying behind the door. How much did you...”

“I asked why are you here?” Marc cut in, raising his voice.

Kay stared at him. He opened his mouth and was about to say something equally cutting but closed his mouth again. Taking a deep breath, he said quietly, “I waited for you in the woodland.”

For a second, Kay thought he saw Marc’s mouth quivered.

Then out of the blue, Marc asked, “Stuttgart has a game today, don’t you need to be there?” He sounded like it took him all his strength to spit out that question.

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you always watch the game in the family VIP box?”

Kay walked to stand in front of Marc, “are you serious?”

Marc stood up too, “I don’t know. Cos it looks like you are fucking half of the team?”

“Hang on a... WHAT?” Kay uttered, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

In a split second, his demeanor changed from confusion to aggression. “Christ. First of all, I’ll fuck whoever I like, get it?” He jabbed a finger at Marc, “and second of all, it’s none of your fucking business!”

Marc flinched, his whole body jerking backward, like he’s been slapped.

Kay could see the hurt in Marc’s eyes, could hear the jealousy in his tone. What the hell? Still brittle, but he softened his voice, “not that it concerns you, but I’m not sleeping with any of them! Michael is a family friend, he’s like a brother to me, so what you are suggesting is disgusting. And Andreas and I broke up before I even met you. Whatever you think you saw in the alley, you’re wrong.” Kay didn’t know why he’s explaining it to Marc. Goddamnit.

They just stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, the only sound in the room was their heavy breathing.

Finally, Marc plopped back down on the sofa and held his head with his hands.

Biting his lower lip, Kay sat down next to him, but careful to keep a distance, “what’s going on with you? You scared the shit out of me. I thought you had choked on your own vomit or something.”

Marc turned his head to look at him, “I’m sorry...” his voice filled with remorse, his eyes all red rimmed again. “Kay...” Marc whispered. Then he leaned in and pressed his lips on Kay’s.

It was just a featherlight kiss, but Kay could feel its warmth spread through his body, his lips tingling. He raised his hand to touch the side of Marc’s face. Marc looked down and began to pull away but Kay drew him in again, his forehead touching against Marc’s. They stayed like this for a long while, until Kay felt tension slowly drained out of Marc.

Studying Marc quietly, Kay said, “I think we need to talk.”

 

Chapter Text

“I think we need to talk” - Marc heard Kay said.  

 

In one stupid jealous rage, not only had Marc undone all the progress he had made staying sober, he had also lashed out at Kay again.  Just like old times.  When will I ever learn?  He thought uneasily.  And Kay was right, it’s none of his fucking business.

 

Shaking his head, Marc slowly exhaled, “I’m sorry.” He apologised again, “you’re absolutely right.  I have no right.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me...” he paused.

 

“Why don’t you tell me what this is all about?” Kay asked.  Not fooled by Marc’s apology.

 

Marc looked at Kay’s concerned face.  God, he missed him so much he felt a physical ache in his heart.  I can’t.  I can’t carry on like this.  

 

“I can’t carry on like this,” he said that out loud.  So frustrated he felt like pulling his hair out.  “How can you not remember?” He said, eyes pleading.  

 

Kay watched him closely. “Remember what?”

 

“This.” Marc pressed his mouth to Kay’s again.  This time, he didn’t stop at a light kiss, his hand went around to touch the nape of his neck, his tongue seeking entrance.  For a couple of fraught heartbeats, Kay remained perfectly still.  In fact, he was so still he might not have been breathing.  Then all of a sudden, he parted his lips, his tongue swept against Marc’s.  Marc couldn’t suppress the moan that escaped from his mouth, he grabbed the back of Kay’s head and kissed him with all the pent-up passion inside him ever since Kay has come back in his life.

 

When Kay finally pulled away, he looked flushed and breathless, his lips became rosy from the kissing.  Overwhelmed by a sudden pang of affection, Marc tried to lean in and kiss him again, but Kay stood up and took a step back.

 

Marc mourned the loss of his touch already.  

 

Kay’s blue eyes fixed on Marc, “so what are you telling me? You’re telling me that… that you and I…?” 

 

Marc nodded, “we were together.”

 

“Together.” Kay repeated, like he’s testing the sound of the word.  “You mean like...lovers?”

 

Marc nodded again.  His heart constricted at the hint of doubt in Kay’s voice. 

 

Kay had a small frown between his eyebrows, like he’s sorting out information.  Then came the bombshell.  “But what about your girlfriend?... I thought you two have a son.” Kay asked, his voice unsteady, like he’s dreading Marc’s answer already.

 

Here it came. 

 

Marc swallowed, unable to answer, afraid to answer.   But Kay could see it in his eyes already.  He shook his head, “No... I wouldn’t.”

 

Marc moved closer, tried to put his hands on his shoulders, but Kay took another step back. Marc felt the rejection like a body blow. 

 

“I wouldn’t. I don’t do that.” Kay repeated, stubborn-like.

 

“You think I’m lying?” Marc asked, incredulously.

 

“No...” Kay struggled, shaking his head.  He touched his lips, “when we kissed I could... I could almost sense a memory coming back.  But... I don’t understand.” He paused.  Looking confused, “I don’t date guys in the closet.  I hate that. Why do you think I broke up with Andreas?”

 

The mere mention of the footballer’s name still sent a stab of pain to Marc’s heart. 

 

“I guess that’s between you and Andreas Kuhn.” Marc said through gritted teeth. 

 

Maybe you don’t love him like the way you love me? You loved me, remember? Marc wanted to scream.  

 

Kay watched him warily, he said slowly, “so, you are saying that you had a girlfriend but I was sleeping with you anyway...” looking flummoxed, he asked, “And what about that colleague, Britt?  I was also pretending to date her at the same time? What kind of a horrible person was I?” He couldn’t stop the churlish tone in his voice, like he’s disgusted with himself.

 

Shit. No no no no...

 

“It wasn’t like that...” Marc panicked.  His mind racing, “for what it’s worth, I don’t think you were still with Britt when we got together...” Kay’s eyes honed in on him at that.  Marc knew he’s making it worse, he swallowed the lump in his throat, “please, Kay... I am not doing this right, that’s not how you should remember things.  I shouldn’t try to jog your memory like this. Let’s...”

 

“I should go.” Kay said quietly.  He had a determined expression on his face.  Then he started collecting his things. Marc took another step towards him, tried to catch his eyes, “Kay...” 

 

Kay picked up his jacket from the kitchen counter.  Slowing down, he finally turned his gaze back to Marc, “I... I like you, Marc,” he licked his lips, “but I need time to think... what you’ve just told me, the ‘Kay’ that you were describing...” he paused.  Searching for a way to explain, his face a picture of anguish.

 

Kay’s shoulders sagged as he said, “I don’t recognise that person.”

 

******

 

“What’s wrong with you? You look pale as a ghost!” Frank playfully punched Marc’s arm.

 

Marc was in Ludwigsburg this weekend.  He had just spent a whole day with his son, Bastian, in his parents’ house.  That would normally lift his mood, he loved being with his son.  The bi-weekly visit meant he’d always notice something new - another step taken, a new word learned, new toy obsession.  All these new discoveries filled Marc’s heart and day.  

 

But this week, all he did was imagining Kay playing with Bastian, wondering if Kay liked children.  He had never asked him that.  He was, of course, jumping way ahead of himself.  Fantasizing, really.  Even so, the quickest flash of hope went through Marc at the possibility of being with Kay again.  But then he remembered Kay wasn’t exactly thrilled when Marc told him the nature of their relationship.  And he shut that down before it spiraled out of control.

 

I don’t recognize that person.” Kay had said.  He didn’t accuse Marc of lying, but he wasn’t convinced that they had an affair.  More than an affair, Marc thought... it was not just an affair, he had finally admitted that.  After Kay had given up on him.

 

And now... his hope was hinged on a single sentence - “I like you, Marc.

 

“Ouch.. hey!” his thoughts broke as Frank punched his arm again.  He glared at his friend.

 

“Something wrong with your beer? Drink up. What’s the matter with you?” Frank frowned, “how’s the new team? Make any friends?”

 

Marc looked down at the barely touched beer bottle and said, “I saw Kay.”

 

Frank nearly choked on his beer, “Fuck! Really? Where?” 

 

“He now owns a bar near where I live.” He hadn’t told anyone about seeing Kay again until now. After that crazy drunken week, he needed to tell someone. 

 

“You don't say! And...?” Frank gestured Marc to continue, “have you guys made up?  Did you have to beg him for forgiveness?”

 

Apparently Frank thought Marc and Kay just had a harmless gay tiff and it was amusing stuff to him.  Sometimes Marc didn’t know what to think of Frank.  He’s open-minded and insensitive in equal measure.  He’s also the only friend he could rely on.

 

But wouldn’t it be grand?  If I could just say sorry and have Kay back?  

 

Marc shook his head, “he doesn’t remember me.” 

 

Frank stared at him, perplexed.  “What does that mean?”

 

Marc went on to tell Frank about Kay’s accident and amnesia, careful to leave out his jealous rage episode.  It still sounded unreal to his own ears as he retold it.  

 

After that disastrous Sunday morning, he hasn’t gone back to Kay’s bar.  He had sent Kay a thank you text and had gotten a short and courteous reply.  Marc worried they were going back to square one.  Awkward strangers again.

 

“Scheiße, that’s straight from some movie script.  Is he ok?  I mean, is it just memory loss?” As shocked as Frank might be, he’s not someone who would be speechless.

 

“Just memory loss... he’s fine physically.” More than fine, he’s as beautiful as I remember. Marc thought.  “I... I told him about us last week, he didn’t take it very well.  He had no memory of everything happened in Ludwigsburg.” Marc said sullenly.  

 

“Err... wait.  When did Kay have the accident again?” Frank asked.

 

“About 7 months ago now, I think.  Why?”

 

Frank frowned, “well... I didn’t tell you this, but Kay’s mother had a meeting with Eiden about... maybe 6 months ago?” 

 

“What?” Marc flicked up a quick glance at Frank, “why didn’t you tell me?”

 

Face flushed, Frank went on defensive, “Back then, you were a drunken mess half of the time, my friend!  You think I didn’t know?  I had to hide it from Claudia too, so it wouldn’t get back to Bettina.”  

 

Marc had nothing to say.  He was a mess and now he knew Frank must have secretly helped him to keep up appearances at work.

 

Frank gave a long-suffering huff, “Anyway, I didn’t make the connection until now, I thought his mother was just retrieving his belongings for him.  You remember the way he left, just disappeared one day?” After a beat, he added, “and you know what’s strange?  Eiden told me not to mention her visit to any unit members, especially you.” He lifted his eyebrow.  “Well, guess he wouldn’t mind me telling you now... since you’re not under him anymore...” Frank muttered to himself.

 

Marc has stopped listening half way back.  He thought Kay would have mentioned his mother’s visit - if Kay had known.  What’s going on?  Marc wondered.  

 

“But you don’t know why his mother wanted to see Eiden?” Marc asked.

 

“No idea.” Frank answered quickly, “and Eiden made it quite clear it’s none of my business.”

 

Marc hesitated, “should I go and ask Eiden...”

 

“Absolutely not!” Frank exclaimed.  “I still want to be promoted one day.” He looked at Marc sympathetically, “shit... alright.  maybe I can find out in a different way.  But I’m not making any promise, ok?”

 

Marc nodded gratefully.  That’s all he could ask for.

 

“You should be happy he doesn’t remember everything, you know?” Frank suddenly said, like he just had an epiphany.

 

“Why?” Marc said, just to humour him.

 

Frank narrowed his eyes, “Get real.  It’s better that he doesn’t remember all the shitty ways you’ve treated him before.” He put his finger on his lips, “you should go after him like you two have just met.  You are free to be with him now, so what’s stopping you?  At least you already know Kay finds you attractive, which remains a mystery to me.”  Back to his joking self.

 

“Fuck off, Frank.” Marc flipped him off with his finger.

 

Frank laughed, “By the way, you think Kay could get me a seat in the Stuttgart VIP box?”

 

******

 

Marc was definitely not taking relationship advice from Frank.  But he would admit Frank did have a point.  

 

That Marc should see this as a second chance, and this time he’s not going to mess up.  If Kay was not going to remember the past or his love for Marc, he would have to make Kay fall in love with him again.  

 

On the following Tuesday night, Marc went back to “Der Dunkle Engel” at the usual time.  He saw Kay tending the bar immediately.  Marc tipped his head and greeted Kay with a soft “hey”, he didn’t even realise how anxious he was until Kay returned a smile that untied all the knots in his stomach.

 

“Hey.” Kay walked over to his usual seat.  He had a five o’clock shadow on his face.  

 

“Growing your stubble back?” Marc pointed to his jawline.  Kay touched his face self consciously, “Maybe.  I forgot to shave yesterday.”

 

“I like it.” Marc said.  Carefully watching Kay’s reaction to his poor attempt at flirting.  He got a sly smile from Kay, which gave him just the right amount of encouragement.

 

When Kay put a glass of beer in front of him, Marc reached out to lightly touch his hand, “Kay?” 

 

Kay looked at him.

 

Marc cleared his throat, “are you free this Friday night?”  

 

Kay raised an eyebrow.  He studied Marc for a second, then said cautiously, “I can be.”

 

“I... Would you have dinner with me?” Marc hoped he’s not blushing, he definitely felt hot though.

 

Obviously not the question he was expecting, Kay blinked.  He looked away first and then back, “Marc, I told you I need time to...” 

 

“It’s not that.  I am not trying to pressure you.” Marc tried to catch Kay’s eyes, “We don’t have to talk about the past at all, if you don’t want to.  I’ve been thinking,” he said slowly. “I’d like to get to know you.  The you now. If you’ll let me.” 

 

Kay just stared at him. “Marc, I can’t promise I’ll...” 

 

But Marc stopped him, “No, I don’t expect anything from you. I’m not here to force you into spending time with me if that’s not what you want.” He looked Kay right in the eye, “so, do you want to have dinner with me?”

Chapter Text

“You seem jittery today.  Want to tell me what happened?”

 

Kay blinked.  Only just noticed that he’s been tapping his fingers on his lap.  I guess nothing escapes the doctor’s keen observation.  He looked at Dr Schmidt’s serene face.  How can she be so calm all the time? Maybe I should study psychology... he thought distractingly.  

 

Switched to picking on the invisible dry skin in his palm, Kay mumbled, “I don’t know what to think.”

 

“About?” She patiently prompted.

 

“About myself.” Kay exhaled slowly, feeling restless.  The doctor said nothing, waiting for him to carry on.

 

“I found out something about myself, something I did... during that fuck-up period that I don’t remember.” Kay eventually spat out in frustration.  “Apparently I was a home-wrecker. And I used woman to hide my gayness” He said with enough self-loathing to light a fire.

 

There was a hint of surprise in Dr Schmidt’s eyes behind her glasses.  “Where did you get this information from?” She asked.

 

“Marc.” Kay answered, pinching his palm again, “he told me... that we were involved when he had a girlfriend, the one he has a son with.”

 

“Do you believe him?”

 

“He has no reason to lie to me, does he?  And the way he reacts to my... Well, he acts like a jealous boyfriend.  Or ex... I don’t know.  None of this makes sense to me.  And where has he been this whole time if we were together?” Kay bumbled his thoughts out, in disorderly fashion.

 

“Ok. Let’s look at it one thing at a time.” Her hand rest lightly on his shoulder, to steady him.  “First of all, does it ring true to you?  Does it remind you of anything?”

  

Kay thought about the kiss.  How his own tongue seemed to know what felt good, the familiar way Marc nibbled his lower lip.  And the scent, whenever he’s close to Marc... it felt like coming home, like he belonged.

 

He reluctantly shrugged, “Just some vague sensations, nothing concrete.  Though I am almost certain that we were more than friends, how do I know if it’s real memory? Or just my mind making it up?” 

 

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell.” She conceded, “But usually real memory has a way of expanding and leading to associated memories.  Your mind could tell, it’s more about whether it wants to believe them.”

 

Kay frowned, “you think my mind is afraid to know the truth?”

 

“It’s kind of a self-preservation mechanism.  We all have it.  Sometimes our brain chooses to block something out because it was painful, it’s not a conscious decision.”

 

Kay nodded.  He could understand that, though he’d never considered himself to be someone who’d be afraid to deal with reality, no matter how bad.  

 

His father had left them when he was eight; he had come out to his mother when he’s 16; he had dealt with bigotry plenty and had always soldiered on.  Joining the police force was his big “fuck-you” to all the homophobic bullies in school, and he had enjoyed it; believed that he was good at his job - until he quitted, which he still wasn’t sure why.

 

“Real memory or not, I don’t like that version of myself.” Kay said dejectedly.  

 

“Why?”

 

Kay’s eyes widened like he thought it’s blatantly obvious. “Because it sounds like I had no principles, and I was... weak.  I have no patience with guys in the closet.  And it’s pretty low to mislead some woman just to... I don’t even know for what.”

 

“And being strong and principled is important to you?” 

 

She didn’t wait for Kay’s answer, putting down her notebook, the doctor said slowly, “You have a set of values that you hold firmly and you believe you’ve always had them.  But they could be a product of your experience.  We all learned from our mistakes, the bigger the mistake, the bigger the impact.”

 

Kay thought for a moment, then he laughed with an edge of bitterness, “So, you are saying that I just forgot I was a horrible person, even though I know better now?”

 

Dr Schmidt shook her head, “Horrible according to whom? You still don’t remember what actually happened, why you made those decisions - if - you’ve made those decisions.” She paused.

 

“Things are rarely black and white.” She continued and watched Kay closely, to make sure she got her point across. “Relationship has its casualties.  Did you ever think that you might be subconsciously punishing yourself, for your mistakes?” 

 

******

 

Kay had considered canceling the dinner with Marc.  Rudi came down with a bad cold so they were short-staffed tonight, but Sabine got a friend of hers to come over to serve tables, so she could tend the bar instead.

 

“Don’t cancel your date! Marc is cute.  I approve.” Sabine bumped her shoulder with Kay, which barely touched Kay’s arm with her 5’2” frame.

 

“It’s not a date.” Kay mumbled.

 

“Right.  Actually he comes in here every other day to see me.” She rolled her eyes.  “If that guy looks at you any longer, he’s going to burn a hole on your back.”

 

An image of Marc stealing glances at him flashed through Kay’s mind.  They were both wearing the blue boiler suit police uniform and they were standing outside, in a parking lot?  They were smoking... Kay tried to concentrate on that detail, tried to dig deeper... and the image was gone again.

 

He wasn’t just being nice when he told Marc that he liked him.  He knew he’s attracted to Marc, even before finding out about their past relationship.  Or maybe I gravitated towards him because of our history? Kay couldn’t decide.  At the same time, Marc also set off alarm bells in him.  Warning him to stay away.  

 

Stop being so melodramatic, it’s just dinner.  He told himself.  

 

Marc was definitely treating it as a date.  He took Kay to a restaurant called Weinstube Am Stadtgraben in the historical Bad Cannstatt area.  

 

Born and raised in Stuttgart, Kay knew this restaurant.  It’s the kind you take your date to.  

 

Kay’s fingers grazed the white linen tablecloth, he frowned, “have we ever eaten in a restaurant like this before?” There’s no mockery in his tone, he was genuinely curious.

 

Marc looked like he was caught off guard by the question.  “Humph... no, we didn’t go out much.” His said uneasily.

 

The joy of getting involved with a guy in the closet.  Kay thought.  He lowered his eyes.

 

“Kay... I... can we not talk about the past tonight?” Marc had a pinched expression on his face, “of course, I will tell you whatever you want to know, but I hope... I want us to get to know each other again.”

 

Kay nodded slowly.  He wasn’t sure he’s ready to find out more about himself so soon after that bombshell either.

 

Marc heaved a sigh of relief and smiled.  He looked a lot better tonight, the bags under his eyes and the puffiness from the heavy drinking were gone.  He smelled faintly of soap and hair product.   He’s wearing a loose fitting light blue linen shirt with sleeves rolled up just below elbow, looking refreshed and... happy.

 

He believed Marc.  This was definitely a new experience for them, Kay got zero sense of familiarity in this setting and he could tell Marc felt the same.  

 

What did they do when they were together back then?  Was it just sex? Kay was tempted to ask but decided to leave it for another day.  

 

He opened the menu and decided food would be a safe topic. “How did you find out about this place?”

 

Marc grinned, “a colleague recommended it.  I haven’t been dining out much since I moved here.”

 

Kay’s lips quirked, “no ethnic food here, you are safe.” 

 

Marc’s eyes twinkled, “I think Thai curry is growing on me.  I have even mastered the fork and spoon combo.”

 

They both went for the restaurant’s homemade Swabian dishes.  Vegetable Maultaschen for Kay and Roast onion in red wine Spätzle for Marc.

 

“I hope they are really homemade.  I miss home cooked food.” Marc confessed.  

 

Kay remembered the unopened boxes he had seen in Marc’s bedroom. “Do you cook much?” He asked.

 

Marc shrugged, “I can manage simple dishes.  It’s just that cooking for one seems too much of a hassle.   And takeaways are just around the corner.”

 

Kay wondered if Marc and that faceless girlfriend had been living like a married couple, but instead he just said, “I can relate to that.  Especially when you work irregular hours and live in the city.”

 

“So, how do you find bartending?  It’s a world apart from being a cop.”  Marc asked.  

 

“You’d think so, right?” Kay torn a small piece of bread and popped it in his mouth.  “Actually both jobs often have to deal with drunken people...” he stopped suddenly, remembering the incident in Marc’s apartment.  

 

Marc seemed to be having the same thought, but he said smoothly, “don’t worry, you won’t offend me.  I know I drink too much sometimes.  It doesn’t happen that often anymore,” he paused, “but it’s something I’m still... working on.”

 

Kay nodded curtly.  The real question he didn’t ask was whether he was the cause of the recent relapse, but that would involve talking about the past, so maybe not tonight.

 

“You should try the wine they pair with your Maultaschen.  I’m driving tonight, so I’m sticking to sparkling water.” Marc added, raising his glass of water.

 

They were both momentarily distracted when the food arrived.  The two well-known comfort food dishes were given some extra finesse.  

 

“My mother would say we pay extra €20 just for the presentation for something she can cook for €5.  But these look really interesting.” Kay picked up the small edible flowers on his plate.

 

“Is she a good cook?  Your mother.”

 

Kay made a face, “it’s a miracle I didn’t die from food poisoning with her cooking.”

 

Marc chuckled, “that bad, huh?” 

 

“She’s a painter.  Well, she’s a graphic designer by profession, but she’s always painting something, so I would often find paint traces in my food when I was a kid.  She’s kind of a free spirit, my mum.” Kay smiled fondly at the memory. 

 

Marc’s eyes went soft, “you are a free spirit too yourself.  I had never met anyone quite like you before.”

 

Kay didn’t know what to say.  Even though he had no memory of his time in Ludwigsburg, but he could imagine the small town must have been a challenge for him. 

 

“What about your parents?  Were they happy when you joined the police force?” Kay asked.

 

Marc snorted, “it’s almost a requirement.  My father was a retired police officer.  My grandfather was also one too.”

 

That meant his family was probably quite traditional and conservative.  Kay quietly filed this information away.  His heart suddenly felt heavier, he had an uneasy feeling that Marc’s parents probably wouldn’t like the fact that their only son is gay... probably wouldn’t like Kay either...

 

Wait.  Has Marc ever mentioned he’s an only son?  How do I know... Kay’s tried to catch that glimpse of an image of him and Marc talking in the woods, but it drifted away again.

 

“Everything’s ok?” Marc looked concerned.

 

Kay was brought back to present, “Sure. Just thought of something.” 

 

Marc watched him carefully.  Kay could tell he was nervous and that he had been disappointed that Kay wasn’t more receptive about... about what they used to be.  Even though both of them were tiptoeing to find safe subjects to talk about, Kay found himself enjoying Marc’s company.  In fact, maybe a bit too much.  He secretly worried.

 

Kay gave him a reassuring smile and saw Marc’s posture relaxed visibly.  

 

“Kay?”

 

They both looked up to the sound.

 

Michael Herrmann was suddenly standing by their table, a restaurant staff was handing him a blazer. He said thank you and started putting it on.  “I didn’t know you are here tonight as well.  I’ve just finished dinner with a few lads from the team.” He pointed to the private party room at the other side of the restaurant.  

 

Kay stood up and they hugged.  “Celebrating something?” He asked.

 

Herrmann waved his hand, “we do this small group dinner thing regularly now, part of the team bonding exercise.  I won’t bore you with the theory behind it.” He told Kay, but his eyes already moved to Marc.

 

“Michael, this is Marc, we used to work in Ludwigsburg together.” Kay made the introduction, “Marc, this is...”

 

“Michael Herrmann.  Nice to meet you.” Marc smoothly finished the sentence for Kay, he stood up and shook hands with Herrmann.

 

“Same here.” Herrmann’s eyes sharpened, “Ludwigsburg, huh?” He looked between Marc and Kay.  

 

Kay nodded, “Marc is now part of the anti-riot unit in Stuttgart.”

 

“Oh yeah? You should definitely come to the game with Kay one of these days, bring your teammates too.  You guys have been a great help.” 

 

Marc smiled, “Thanks.  I’m sure the team would take up your offer when we aren’t on duty.”

 

“Great.  The club chairman would love that.” Herrmann then excused himself before gesturing Kay to follow him.  His hand rested lightly on Kay’s back, he told Kay in a low voice, “It’s ok.  I’ve talked to him.” 

 

Kay understood right away whom Michael was referring to, he glanced over to the group of footballers gathering near the front door, and saw Andreas Kuhn busily making a point of not looking at Kay.  He whispered a ‘thank you’ to Michael.

 

The footballers’ presence caused a bit of a stir with other diners, they were still signing autographs when Kay and Marc returned to their table to finish their meal.  

 

After a minute, Kay noticed Marc hadn’t touched his food and had a peculiar expression on his face.  

 

“Something’s the matter? Has your spätzle gone cold?” 

 

“Are you and Kuhn still friends?” Marc suddenly asked.

 

Kay wasn’t sure what prompted this.  He simply shrugged, “It’s up to him.”

 

“Christ.  He wouldn’t even look at you in public.” Marc hissed, his voice unsteady.

 

Kay had a feeling that Marc was not talking about Andreas Kuhn only.  He took a sip of his wine and answered calmly, “That’s why I can’t be with someone like that.  I don’t want to be anyone’s dirty little secret.”

 

Chapter Text

“You serious?  Cos you can’t joke about this.” Leon exclaimed.  Marc was afraid the man was going to kiss him.

 

“I’m not joking.  That home game in two weeks’ time, it will be Station 3 unit’s turn on duty, so we are free to go, if you are interested.” Marc laughed, taking a step back, in case Leon lunged at him in excitement.

 

“Interested? It’s the Bayern game!  On man, we are going to destroy them and I will be shouting from the VIP box!” 

 

Marc doubted that Stuttgart could destroy the league champions, but he wouldn’t mind seeing Leon losing his mind if that did happen.

 

“So how many of us can go?” His legs bouncing in excitement.

 

Marc touched the back of his neck, “there are eight seats allocated to us, but I will need two.” 

 

Leon smiled slyly, “plus one, eh?  Is it the same lucky lady you took to the restaurant I recommended?”

 

Clearing his throat, Marc told himself not to avoid Leon’s eyes, he nodded, “Erm.. yeah, Kay. He is the one who got us the tickets, Michael Herrmann is a family friend of his.” 

 

Marc saw Leon’s eyebrows rose in surprise at the male name and gender pronoun.  After a few seconds of awful silence, Leon said with a toothy grin, “Shit. It’s always the quiet ones.  Sarah at the front desk will be heartbroken.”

 

Marc returned the smile and asked with fake mockery, “Which one is Sarah?”

 

“The cute brunette.  And thank you for dropping out of the competition.” Leon rolled his eyes.  Then he went on to list out which teammates would have to beg him for tickets.

 

This is it.  I’ve done it.  Marc quietly exhaled.  Sure, it was just Leon, and he’s probably still high from the VIP-box-seat-carrot that Marc dangled in front of him, but Marc was quite certain there were more Leons than Limpinskis in his current unit.  Maybe for once, Frank got it right; being in a big city did make a difference.   A big contrast to how his old unit had reacted when Kay was out, and Marc had been part of that; part of that wall to exclude Kay.

 

Even if there were a few unfriendly faces at work, Marc wouldn’t care.  He didn’t do this for himself only, he wanted to be on the front foot, wanted to show Kay he’s not another Andreas Kuhn, or the old Marc that Kay didn’t remember. 

 

It was like a slap in his face, when he witnessed how Kuhn avoided Kay in public; the same guy who had kissed Kay like his life depended on it in the dark alley.  Marc was disgusted and ashamed, because that had been him, a year ago.

 

The dinner date had ended with a friendly light kiss on the lips from Kay, who confessed, “believe me, part of me really want to invite you upstairs,” he paused, then continued ruefully, “but I think it’s better if we keep it friendly... until... until I understand more.  But if that’s not what you have in mind, I’ll...”  Marc immediately closed the distance, he bumped his nose with Kay’s, “take as much time as you want.” 

 

They returned to their earlier routine; Marc would come into the bar few times a week and joined Kay for the weekly morning run when he’s not working.  Both were aware of the deepening closeness, that they have moved past the “just friends” phase, their touches and light kisses held promises for more, but not quite ready to take the leap.

 

Marc could tell Kay had a lot of questions about their past that he’s not asking; it bothered Marc sometimes.  He reckoned Kay was assuming that he was the one who had broken off with Marc, still blissfully unaware of all the pain Marc had hurled at him in those few months.  Still protected by the abstract idea of a failed affair with no solid memory.

 

If Marc felt like a fraud, he managed to convince himself that he’s trying his damnedest to make up for the past, that he would prove himself to Kay before the past caught up with him.

 

******

 

By the time the Stuttgart v Bayern Munich game rolled in, the whole unit knew the VIP box seat tickets came from Marc’s boyfriend.  Their squad lead called Marc in for a chat to reassure him of the department’s official policy, and told him to report to him if anyone caused him trouble.  

 

Didn’t his old unit say the same thing to Kay? Marc recognised lip service when he heard one.  But if any of them had a problem with him, so far they hadn’t let Marc know.

 

Marc and his colleagues were meeting Kay inside the VIP lounge, so he could show them to their seats.  They arrived 15 minutes before the kick off.  

 

Kay spotted Marc first, he waved and started coming over.  Leon whispered to Marc, “You dog, you have to pick the best looking one in the room, don’t you?”  

 

Marc flushed.  “If you ever want to be here again, shut up.” He warned Leon.  Being teased for having a handsome boyfriend was definitely a first for him, though he’s still working on the ‘boyfriend’ part.  Marc took in the sight of Kay, who looked effortlessly hot as usual, dressed in a pair of soft grey jeans and a red checkered shirt, his blond hair kept short and lightly mussed; Kay’s stubble has reappeared in recent weeks, he couldn’t help hoping that Kay did that for his benefit. 

 

Yes, I’m with the best looking man in the room. 

 

Kay said hi to everyone, he snuck a sidelong glance at Marc when he felt Marc’s hand lightly rested on his back, and leaned into the touch ever so slightly.  Marc made quick introduction, ignoring the fluttery feeling in his stomach.  He wanted to get it right.  

 

“Thanks again for inviting us,” Leon said, turning on his charm.  No doubt his first sleek attempt in securing future tickets.

 

Kay waved his hand, “I’m a guest of Michael’s as well, he’ll probably drop by later.  He has arranged beverages inside the box-seat area.  If you’re all ready, we should go.  Game’s about to start.”

 

The free beer announcement got an immediate cheerful response, as they moved from the air-conditioned lounge to the box-seat balcony.

 

“I can get used to this an amazing view.” Leon whistled.  

 

Marc rolled his eyes and said to Kay, “ignore him,” and decided he should sit between Kay and Leon.

 

The game opened with a bang, Stuttgart was awarded an early penalty kick at the 11th minute.  Their star striker converted it and Stuttgart led 1-0.  

 

As Bayern Munich started to hit back in force, the game turned into an offensive and defensive strategies exposition, but Stuttgart managed to hold off so far.  Five minutes before the end of first half, after a particularly heavy tackle on a Bayern Munich striker, Andreas Kuhn was given a yellow card; Bayern fans protesting it should be a straight red card.  Not happy with the decision, Kuhn tried to argue with the referee and had to be pulled away by his teammates.

 

“Come on!  It was a good tackle. It’s not even a yellow!” Leon shouted.  

 

“Shit.  Kuhn needs to calm down, if he gets sent off, we’re done.” another colleague of Marc said worryingly.  

 

Marc looked over at Kay.  “He’s always such a hot head.” Kay muttered, shaking his head. There was a strange note in his voice that Marc couldn’t quite decipher. His expression was equally unreadable.

 

An unpleasant image popped into Marc’s head.  Frowning, he asked quietly, “Has he ever hit...”

 

Kay whipped his head around and hissed, “what?  No!  Are you crazy?  I’d never allow that to happen, I’d bite his head off first.”

 

Relieved but Marc said nothing.  He looked down at the concrete floor, remembering that long-ago-punch he had landed on Kay.  The one that has never stopped haunting him.  

 

He was startled when he felt a hand on his lap, he raised his head and turned to look at Kay.  Licking his lips, Kay softened his tone, “you know I can take care of myself,” he quipped with a slow smile.  Marc returned the smile, he held the hand on his lap and kept it there.  

 

Kay raised his eyebrows, he glanced at Marc’s colleagues, whose eyes were still glued to the action on the pitch, before returning his gaze to Marc.  The “are you sure?” question was clearly in his eyes.  Marc answered by lacing their fingers together.

 

Michael Herrmann dropped by during the half time break, and it took an intervention from Marc to stop Leon and his colleagues from bombarding the poor man with more amateurish football strategies.  Herrmann was polite and good natured, but Marc didn’t miss the watchful look he directed at him.  As far as Marc’s concerned, Herrmann was pretty much Kay’s surrogate brother, and Marc was curious how he had become a family friend of the Engels.

 

The second half was tense but uneventful, neither team scored again.  Stuttgart gave everything they had to defend the narrow 1-0 lead and prevailed, causing a rare upset to the league champions.  

 

“It’s good that you guys are not on duty today.  I remember the Bayern away fans were handful when they lost,” Kay remarked as they made their way out.

 

“You were in riot police too?” Leon asked, clearly surprised.

 

Kay nodded, “Yeah, Marc and I used to work together.”

 

“Oh, did you?” Leon shot a questioning glance at Marc, but he pried no further.

 

His colleagues were all still in high spirits and wanted to have more celebratory drinks. Marc thought his head would explode if he heard more football talk, so he declined.

 

“Could you give me a lift?  I came here with Michael today and left my car at the bar.” Kay asked him after they said goodbye to everyone.

 

“Of course.” If it’s up to Marc, he’d wish today never ends.

 

Though Kay was quiet during the drive, it didn’t bother Marc at all.  Silence between them has always been a strange comfort to Marc. Kay was the only person in the world that Marc could just be himself, that he wasn’t playing some life role, the doted boyfriend, the good son, or the easy-going colleague. With Kay, Marc was Marc. 

 

They were stuck in the slow moving traffic created by exiting football fans.  Marc cast a glance at Kay’s profile and felt the familiar tug of attraction.  He settled his gaze contemplatively on the delicate joint of Kay’s wrist as he fiddled with the radio buttons.  He has always loved Kay’s long fingers, they looked almost out of place for a policeman. 

 

For a few moments, Marc was transported back to their training days, when everything about Kay had fascinated him.  Once he’d opened that floodgate, every tiny detail he’d noticed about Kay occupied his mind.  And now he knew all the intimate details without undressing Kay, he knew underneath this checkered shirt, there was no tattoos on his body; Marc used to tease Kay about being an unmarked canvas.  He also knew underneath these jeans, there’s a little birth mark on his right inner thigh...

 

A loud honk from the car behind his broke his train of thoughts.  Kay looked up at him with an arched eyebrow.  

 

“Scheiße,” Marc cursed quietly.   Better concentrated on the road and get both of them to the bar in one piece.

 

******

 

“Sorry about Leon.  He’s a motor-mouth and a super Stuttgart fan.” Marc squirmed as he turned off the car engine behind the bar. 

 

Kay sniggered, “He’s a riot, for sure.  But I like him.  Not sure if Michael would take any of his football advice though.” They shared a hearty laugh.  Kay didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get out of the car, so Marc waited.    Then Kay asked thoughtfully, “did I get along with everyone in the unit in Ludwigsburg?”

 

“Sure.” Marc answered easily, then reluctantly added, “not so much after you came out.” 

 

Kay didn’t say anything, he just nodded.  “Must have been difficult for you too.  Did... did they find out about us too?”

 

Marc felt a lump in his throat forming, he shook his head, “it was after you left, by that time, I didn’t really care.”

 

They were both silent after that statement.  Kay cleared his throat, in a chirpier tone, he said, “I think I’m getting some memories back.  Of our time together.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Marc’s heart skipped a beat.  His traitorous heart didn’t know whether to be happy or scared.

 

“I remember us running in the woods, talking, horsing around... kissing.” He had a small smile on his face, like he’s remembering something fondly.  “And sharing a joint.” He smirked.

 

Happy memories, Marc thought. 

 

“We were happy, weren’t we?  At least for as long as it lasted... I could feel that, in those memories.” Kay said ruefully.  He lowered his blue eyes under long, sweeping lashes, “today at the game, it’s your way of telling me that I’m not a secret?  Not like before.” He asked, the last point not really a question.

 

“I’m not making the same mistake twice.”  He reached across to Kay and gently rubbed his thumb on Kay’s lips, “I’ve missed you, so much.”

 

Kay parted his lips and leaned forward; Marc’s breath hitched before he brought his mouth on Kay’s.  Unlike the kiss they shared when Marc was trying to jog Kay’s memory, there was no hesitation, no confusion from Kay this time.  Their tongues slid against each other, hot and hungry as they took turns exploring each other’s mouths.  They kissed without reservation. Kissed like they haven’t been apart.

 

Kay knotted a hand in the front of Marc’s shirt, using the fabric as leverage, he pulled Marc close to him until there’s no space between them.  Marc could feel the car’s gear knob poking his thigh, but he couldn’t care less, he rucked up Kay’s shirt and touched the smooth skin underneath, his fingers gently pinched  and tweaked his nipples the way he knew Kay liked it.  His mouth moved down to lick and bite Kay’s jawline.  Kay tilted his head back to give him more access, his fingers digging into Marc’s hair, pulling the strands, as he tried to suppress a loud moan.

 

When Marc’s fingers reached down to open the fly of Kay’s jeans, he could feel his cock straining against the fabric.  Marc palmed it through the thin material of Kay’s boxer-brief, before he freed it and started pulling it, his thumb rubbing the head.  Kay dropped his head in the crook of Marc’s neck, biting his skin.  Marc gave his cock a squeeze which prompted a whimper from Kay.  He  increased the speed, while his mouth sought Kay’s again.  Not long after, he felt the breathless cry against his mouth as Kay came in his hand.

 

Resting his head against the seat, Kay closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath, looking flushed and contented.  When he opened his eyes again, there’s a glint in them.  He gave Marc a wet and quick kiss, “we need to rectify something.” Then he pried open Marc’s jeans and lowered his head onto Marc’s lap.

 

Holding the base of Marc’s already hard cock in one hand, in one swift move, he took Marc right to the back of his throat.  Marc bucked off the seat with a cry that cracked his voice.  All of a sudden, it was all fire and ice.  Marc could only hold on to the back of Kay’s head, as hit waves of pleasure crashed over him while a bone-deep shiver made him shudder.

 

It’s a miracle Marc didn’t come straight away, at the mere sight of Kay’s swollen, stretched mouth going down on him. The most obscene yet most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

 

He could taste himself in Kay’s mouth afterwards, as they switched to long, slow kisses.  That heavy anvil inside of him has been unchained and lifted, Marc felt light and boneless.

 

Kay rested his head on Marc’s shoulder, he chuckled, “we are like a pair of teenagers, making out in a car.”

 

“Leon will definitely make fun of my hickeys tomorrow.” Marc mused.  He didn’t mind one bit.  

 

They held each other quietly in the car, the distant traffic noise was the only sound around.  “I don’t remember our first time.” Kay said suddenly.  More regretful than frustrated.

 

Marc thought of that heady afternoon in the heavy rain... he kissed Kay’s temple, “We’ll make new memories.”

 

Chapter Text

“Mama!” Kay shouted before closing the front door.

 

He took two steps into the living room with tatami flooring before remembering he needed to take off his shoes.  He crouched down to take off his sneakers and changed into the house slippers his mother kept in the foyer sideboard.  

 

His mother had embraced the Japanese home decor after a trip to Kyoto two years ago.  Kay didn’t mind the straw flooring and no shoes indoor rule, but he stopped at sitting on the floor.

 

“Kay, no shoes!” His mother hollered from the kitchen.

 

Kay walked into the living room, which also acted as his mother’s studio, and saw a few giant oil-paintings on easels.  Finding a small paint-free open space among the dust covers on the floor, he put down his gym bag and continued onto the kitchen area.

 

“What are you cooking?  Goulash?” Kay asked, kissing his mother on the cheek.

 

“Yes, vegan goulash.” Ulrike Engel returned a light kiss, her hand briefly grazed Kay’s chin.  “Growing back your stubble?”

 

Kay gave a stiff nod, “uh-huh.”  He didn’t know why his face felt warm, it was not like his mother knew he’s been keeping a light stubble because Marc seemed to like it.

 

“Is it still goulash, if there’s no meat in it?” He poked a finger into the stew and sticked it in his mouth, “Hmmmm... not bad, smoked paprika?”

 

His mother batted away his hand, “yes, yes, not red paint.”

 

Kay giggled, “how can you tell? Everything in it is red.” He ducked before she could swat his head.

 

Escaping to the small dining area, he started preparing the table with cutlery and napkins.  The weekly dinner with his mother was something that Kay remembered even after the accident, it’s an arrangement they’ve kept for years since Kay moved out, except those few months when Kay was living in Ludwigsburg.  

 

“How was the Art fair?” Kay asked when Ulrike put down two bowls of stew on the table.  She had been away in Cologne the last few weeks for the annual Art fair. 

 

“It’s wonderful this year.  Lots of new discoveries. New materials too.” 

 

Kay has never heard his mother said a bad word about Art fair, or art in general, in any form.  He started cutting the homemade rye bread - she always made them a bit too hard, “did you show your portfolio to any galleries?”

 

“Kay.” Ulrike warned him in her stern mother’s voice.  

 

“Come on, you said you’ll try.” Kay halted the bread cutting.  His mother has been painting for as long as he could remember, but she never had the ambition to make a career out of it; happy just working as a freelance graphic designer.

 

“I said that to humour you.  My paintings are not good enough.  It’s a hobby.” 

 

Kay had heard the same thing for years, “Says who? Michael loves those Schwäbische landscape ones you did, he said you should sell a few to the football club.”

 

Ulrike chuckled, “I’d trust Michael for everything football, but art?  And you.  My star athlete son who’d rather pick up a pair of running shoes than paint brushes.  You are both biased.”

 

“Maybe you can put a few up in the bar, I bet people will buy them.” Kay persisted.

 

“Ha.” She snorted, “I can already imagine some guy buying my painting in the bar in order to get your phone number.” 

 

Kay made a face.  His mother’s Modus Operandi was to tease him whenever she wanted to avoid a subject.  

 

“Speaking of phone number.” Ulrike smoothly changed the topic, “I talked to Michael the other day, he said he saw you with a date in a fancy restaurant.” She said with a slight curl to her mouth that edged towards amusement.

 

Kay froze.  He hasn’t told his mother about Marc, he didn’t exactly know why.  His mother was never the prying kind, he had grown up knowing that nothing he did would faze her, because she would love him no matter what.  And that she trusted him to make the right decision.  But after the accident and the memory loss, there’s always a thin layer of concern in her voice when it came to Kay’s personal life.  

 

“Michael is too nosy,” Kay dipped the bread into the goulash, tried to delay the inevitable.  “But yeah, I’m... kind of seeing someone.”

 

“And......? Your suspense is killing me.  Not someone you met in the bar, I hope?” She quipped.

 

“Actually I did meet him in the bar, but it’s kind of funny,” Kay hesitated, “he’s from Ludwigsburg.  We used to work together, but of course I have no memory of that.” 

 

This time, it was Ulrike who froze, but she recovered quickly, “Really?  Same unit?  What’s his name?”

 

“Marc Borgmann.”

 

His mother nodded slowly, her eyes fixed on Kay, but her mind seemed somewhere else.  She said slowly, “that’s certainly interesting.  What is he doing here?”

 

“He got transferred to Stuttgart few months ago. And one day he just walked into the bar.” Kay could feel the smile forming at the corner of his mouth.

 

“Kay, don’t you think it’s a bit too soon after... after Andreas?” Her tone was nonchalant but her voice shook slightly.

 

Kay was surprised, this didn’t sound like something his mother would say.  Keeping it light, he joked, “since when do we have time-out period between boyfriends?” 

 

Then an idea popped into his head, “did I ever mention Marc to you before?  When I lived in Ludwigsburg?”  He didn’t want to tell his mother that he had been involved with Marc while he still had a girlfriend, it’s something he was still trying to reconcile with himself.  But he did wonder, if he might have said something to his mother back then.

 

“No.  You never mentioned him.” She answered quickly.

 

“Right...” he said uncertainly.

 

“Does seeing him remind you of anything?”

 

“Yeah.  Some.  Some memories of us spending time together have come back.  They are fragmented, a bit here and there, but they are real, I can even remember what I was thinking at that moment.” He grinned, “And Dr. Schmidt said it might be the beginning of a full recovery.”

 

Ulrike got up from her chair and wrapped her arms around her son, “that’s good news, Kay.” Kissing the side of his head, she said quietly, “a full recovery.”

 

******

 

“Does it still hurt?” Marc asked.  His finger gingerly touched the tiny scar on the side of Kay’s head, buried under the fine blond hair.

 

They were on the sofa in Marc’s living room, Kay was lying down with his head on Marc’s lap, fiddling with the remote to try to find a movie to watch on Netflix.  

 

“Not really.  I was lucky that the bleeding wasn’t very severe, they just performed a burr-hole surgery to release the pressure, and I was out of it for days after the surgery.” Kay recounted.  Though it was hard to feel lucky when he didn’t remember the accident, or what he was doing when it happened.

 

Marc kissed the scar lightly, “I wish I knew.”  His voice full of regret.

 

Me too.  Kay thought.  So many times he wanted to ask Marc why had they broken up but something inside stopped him.  Fear? Maybe Dr. Schmidt was right, maybe my brain doesn’t  want to face the truth.  

 

Kay hadn’t planned to sleep with Marc after that game, he had meant it when he said he needed more time, aka, keeping Marc at arm’s length, at least until he figured out more about the past.  

 

And then the way Marc had treated him at the game, in front of his colleagues; Kay knew it had been for him.  As it has often been, when it came to Marc, his impulsive side won out.  Marc just breached the distance that Kay had been keeping without so much of a warning.

 

Sex with Marc was... his brain might not remember, but his physical body begged to differ, it remembered Marc well. It wasn’t just the familiarity, it was all the insider knowledge of what felt good, how and where to touch, when to go faster, slower.  Things only lovers who had been intimated - many times - would know.

 

And suddenly, they were cuddling and watching movies on Marc’s sofa.

 

“How did Michael Herrmann become your family friend?” Marc asked.  Kay could tell it’s a question that’s been on his mind for awhile.  

 

“It’s sort of complicated... his agent when he was a teenager was my uncle’s partner.  Not business partner, but life... you know?” Kay looked at Marc meaningfully.  

 

Marc’s eyes widened.

 

“Yeah, so...” Kay continued, “Michael was around their house a lot.  I’ve known him since I was 10.  He knew he was gay even back then, but of course, football career came first, for both Michael and his agent.  They helped him keep it under-wrapped and all.” He sighed, “it was hard for my uncle, he didn’t want to be in the closet.  Anyway, Michael switched to a bigger agent when he hit the big league, by then, my uncle had broken up with the agent.  But Michael remains a friend to us.”  Kay finished with a shrug.

 

“So you see there’s gay history in the Engel family.” Kay joked.

 

Marc smiled, “Let me guess, you had a crush on Michael when you were a kid?” He tried to make it sound like a joke, but Kay noticed the slight hitch in his voice. 

 

Kay pulled Marc down to give him a kiss, “for the 100th time, I see Michael as a brother and nothing else.  He’s not even my type.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Marc teased, his mood visibly lightened.

 

“You have a pretty good idea of my type.” Kay got up from the sofa and dropped the remote to Marc, “why don’t you pick the movie, you green-eyed monster?  I’ll run downstairs to get a pizza,” he smirked.

 

When Kay walked back into the living room, Marc was not on the sofa. He found him in the kitchen.

 

“Marc?  Maybe we can try to watch Breaking Bad?  We can binge-...” 

 

Kay stopped mid-sentence as Marc turned around and his finger went up in the universal “hang on” gesture.  His other hand holding his mobile to his ear.

 

“What? No, nothing.  I just have a friend over. I can leave right away.”  Marc said into his mobile, hardly spared a glance to Kay.  “The Klinikum Ludwigsburg Clinic, right?  I’ll be there in an hour.”

 

Kay left the pizza on the kitchen counter and walked back out, he started collecting his jacket and the gym bag from their morning run, deduced from the small part of the conversation he heard, that Marc would be leaving.   He could still hear Marc talking but couldn’t make out the content, his mind trying hard not to focus on the “just a friend” comment.  

 

When Marc finally emerged from the kitchen, he looked distressed.  

 

“That was Bettina... I have to drive to Ludwigsburg now, my son is in the hospital.” He told Kay, but his eyes already looking for his car key.  

 

“Shit.” Kay said, alarmed.  “What happened?” He took a step closer to Marc.  He had no idea who was Bettina, but could take a guess she was the mother of Marc’s son.

 

“They don’t know yet.  He has a bad cold, but now they suspect it might be meningitis.” Marc moved around, already putting on his shoes.  

 

“I’ll leave with you.” Kay said and waited for him by the front door.  

 

Marc grabbed his wallet and car key, he looked he was about to kiss Kay but touched his shoulder instead, “I’m sorry.  I’ll call you later.”

 

“Of course.” 

 

******

 

What did you expect him to say?  ‘Yes, remember that guy I cheated on you with?  He’s in my apartment right now’?  Grow up.  His son is sick.  He has no time for your insecurity.

 

Kay’s mind drifted.  He has come back to the bar and locked himself in the back office to try to get some work done, to keep himself busy.   

 

Finally stopped pretending he was checking the bar’s inventory level on his laptop, Kay pushed back his chair, looked up to the ceiling and slowly exhaled.  That “just a friend” comment has darkened his mood; on his way to the bar, he had a sinking feeling that he couldn’t shake.  

 

These things take time.  Why would he tell his ex-girlfriend about you?  It has nothing to do with her, because they’ve broken up.  Or have they? Bettina.  Her name is Bettina.  

 

He knew he was being unreasonable and paranoid and all the things that he hated feeling, but her name sounded so familiar to Kay.  

 

Closing his eyes, he was suddenly assaulted by an image: he’s approaching Marc on a balcony, the sun is setting on the horizon.  Marc is smoking with his back to him.  He comes up to stand next to Marc and says, “aren’t you going to tell her sometime?”  Marc turns to look at him, he flicks off his cigarette, and replies dismissively, “I’ve got to go.”

 

Kay opened his eyes.  He knew instantly that it was real.  The raw feelings from that memory squeezed his heart like a vise.  

 

Marc and Bettina and their son.  The happy family.  

 

Kay squeezed his eyes shut again, he could feel a headache coming.  And really, apart from some fragmented memories, what did he know about Marc?  The fact was he barely knew the guy.  Congratulations on thinking with your dick again.  Kay laughed at himself, bitterly.  

Chapter Text

(Marc)

 

>>pick u up @bar tonite? 9?<<

 

>>sorry. hv to work til 1 tonite<<

 

>>ok. I’ll drop by after shift then<<

 

“Hey, Marc! Where are you going? Emergency briefing. NOW.” Leon hurried him.

 

Marc turned off his mobile and followed Leon to the squad room.

 

He knew something has changed. It wasn’t very obvious, just a little hesitation in his voice, a little distance; things you wouldn’t have noticed if you weren’t paying attention to Kay the way he did.

 

Bastian’s meningitis scare had turned out to be false alarm, but the poor thing still had a chest infection, so Marc had spent two days in Ludwigsburg to be close to his son. It was times like this that reminded Marc the impediment of being a divorced dad, even though he and Bettina never tied the knot, they might as well have, the way they had been living like a married couple.

 

His before-Kay-life, as he referred to it in his mind. How is it possible that you don’t even know you are unhappy with your life until someone bursts into your life and becomes something you cannot live without?

 

Marc had called Kay the next day to let him know he’d be staying in Ludwigsburg for a few more days, Kay had been fine on the phone, he was concerned and had asked about Bastian’s condition. It was when he got back to Stuttgart that he noticed Kay seemed to be quieter during their morning run; he has also stopped spending the night with Marc. Granted, they didn’t always spend the night together, especially when Marc had early morning shift. But Marc missed waking up with Kay, he loved that when he reached out, his fingers would touch his smooth back, that Kay’s blond hair would disturb his nostrils, it was a luxury he couldn’t dream of having in the past.

 

Now Kay was pulling away from him, and Marc couldn’t understand why.

 

He could ask Kay why, but communication has never been Marc’s strong suit, he’s conditioned to bottle up his feelings and brood when things didn’t go his way. He tried to retrace his steps and could only identify Bastian’s health scare to be the pivotal incident to Kay’s change. Maybe it reminded Kay of Marc’s other life - his family life, maybe suddenly it became too much for Kay, to be involved with someone with baggage, like Marc. Andreas Kuhn might be in the closet now, but he could offer Kay so much more if he stepped out of it...

 

“We don't know the scale of this protest yet. We know two major unions are going, they are likely to be peaceful, but the event can be hijacked by the activists from a radical branch of another union. So be prepared for hostile...”

 

Someone bumped his shoulder; It was Leon. Marc blinked. “Err. OK,” he said in auto-pilot.  

 

“What OK? They asked if you have been assigned the new anti-riot gear? Are you alright?” Leon looked at him uncertainly.

 

Marc nodded, “Yes, I got them.” He tried to return his attention to the briefing, only just realised that it’s already finished.

 

“Get a move on then!” Leon patted his back.

 

******

 

When it happened, Marc was literally blindsided.

 

A protestor was charging at him with some makeshift weapon, like a steel pipe, Marc reached for his baton on his utility belt but found nothing; the new gear had switched the items around. That two seconds delay caused him to look directly into the green lasers that strobed through the police line, some protestors have been using them to try to blind the riot-police unit on the ground and above in helicopters.

 

Losing his vision momentarily, Marc fell on the ground and was swarmed by a group of protestors. With his protective shield on top of him, he didn’t get crushed completely, but was on the receiving end of some vicious kicks on his side and his helmet fell off. And by the time Leon and other colleagues managed to pull him out and beat away the attackers, he had blood streaming down the side of his face. He got up and tried to rejoin his team to maintain the police line.

 

“Marc! Are you crazy? Move your ass to the ambulance over there. You are dripping blood from your head! Go!” Leon shouted, retreating with the team at the same time.

 

Marc staggered onto the ambulance, he collapsed just before a paramedic grabbed his arms.

 

******

 

(Kay)

 

Kay hated hospitals.

 

Those weeks he had spent in hospital after the accident, he felt like he could never wash away the   hospital smell, a mix of antiseptic, bleach and death.

 

Even though it’s well after midnight, the 3rd floor of the hospital was buzzing, with hospital staff, police officers and their families milling around. Kay had no idea how many police officers got injured tonight, the TV in the bar had the sports channel on.

 

When Marc didn’t show up at the bar tonight, he’d thought maybe Marc had changed his mind about dropping by. Things have been a little bit off between them lately, almost entirely due to Kay’s own doubt.

 

He knew sooner or later Marc would ask him what’s wrong, he wasn’t avoiding the question. He just… didn’t really have a good answer for it. I don’t like that you forgot I am more than a friend when your son might have contracted meningitis? That I was jealous that you were playing family with a woman named Bettina who might still be in love with you? No, it sounded petty and unreasonable. And Kay hated himself for even having these thoughts.

 

Then he got a call from Leon just before midnight.

 

He stopped in front of room 310. He could hear faint conversation coming from inside and recognized the sound of Marc’s chuckle. Through the window, he saw a blonde-haired older woman and a white-haired older man standing by Marc’s bedside. They must be Marc’s parents. Kay thought.

 

His hand hovered over the doorknob, hesitant to knock. If Marc is laughing, he’s probably fine, maybe I can come back tomorrow... He started to turn away.

 

“Oh, you’re here!”

 

Kay looked up and saw Leon jogged towards him from the nurse station.

 

“Where are you going? This is the room.” Leon grabbed his shoulder, he opened the door and practically pushed Kay into the room.

 

“Marc, look who I dragged in!” Leon cheerily announced.

 

Three pairs of eyes suddenly zoomed in on Kay.

 

“Hey.” Marc greeted him quietly. He thought he saw a hint of relief in Marc’ eyes, there’s also surprise... and tenderness in them. Yes, he’s definitely happy to see him, which in turn, made Kay feel guilty for making Marc worried.  

 

Marc licked his dry lips, “I was about to call you. How did you find out? Was it on the news?”

 

Kay shook his head, “No, I was working, I didn’t even know the protest has turned violent until Leon called me.” He darted a glance to Leon, who was probably thinking he’s scored some brownie points with Kay and Marc.

 

Unsure if he should move closer, Kay decided to stand at the end of the bed. Marc had a bandage on the side of his head, some black and blue bruises on his face, Kay could tell they would become swollen tomorrow. His hospital gown semi-opened showing more bandages on his shoulder and chest. He looked battered but alert and in good spirits. Kay secretly exhaled a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

 

For a few seconds, they just looked at each other. Kay looked away first, he fought the urge to walk closer to Marc, and sneaked a glance at Marc’s parents, who haven’t uttered a word since Kay got in.

 

Marc cleared his throat, “Erm. Kay... my mum and dad just got in from Ludwigsburg.” His face was flushed.

 

Do his parents know he’s gay? Kay wondered.

 

He considered going over to shake their hands, then thought it would look strange, not that it wasn’t already very strange, the way his parents just kept staring at him. So, he just nodded and gave them a polite smile, “Nice to meet you. I used to work with Marc in Ludwigsburg.” Assuming it’s safer to be an ex-colleague. He didn’t want to out Marc in front of his parents, if they had no idea.

 

If anything, his parents now acted even weirder, they looked at Kay like... like he was antagonizing them. What the hell? Kay tried to dig through his fragmented memories but came up with nothing. Eventually, they returned a curt nod to Kay, but looking at Marc with questions clearly in their eyes.

 

Marc’s eyes hardened, he seemed determined to ignore their scrutiny. Instead, he reached out his hand to Kay to gesture him to move closer.

 

Kay stalled for two seconds, then he moved to stand next to Marc. “Are you ok? You looked like you’ve been fighting in the UFC competition,” he attempted to keep it light. Marc stuck his tongue out, “Yes. one round and I’m down. Nee, I’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

 

Then Leon to the rescue, “You should have seen him trying get back up to maintain the police line. When he was dripping blood! Crazy bastard. The team worked well, we fought off the radical bunch soon after.” He relayed the incident with pride in his voice.

 

“I heard they are using lasers to try to blind the police now?” It was Marc’s dad. Kay remembered he’s a retired police officer.

 

“Yes, unfortunately. Dangerous stuff.” Leon shook his head.

 

“That’s how they got me, I was blinded for a second, and then they were all over me.” Marc said. His eyes looking at his dad and Leon, but his hand has stealthily reached for Kay’s and held it.

 

Kay looked down at their hands together by the side of the bed, his heart started to trip a little off beat. Just like during the Bayern game, but this time, he simply squeezed Marc’s hand in return. He still had no idea what the deal was between Marc and his parents, but if Marc wanted them to know about their relationship, he’s not going to complain.

 

Leon and Marc’s dad were still talking about police defense tactics, debating old school ones vs new ones with aid of new technology, when his mother cleared her voice to draw everyone’s attention. “Marc, Bettina had wanted to come tonight, but we both think Bastian shouldn’t be exposed to hospital germs. By the way, you still have her as your emergency contact.” She glanced at Kay as she mentioned the last part.

 

Marc’s jaw tightened, “No, don’t bring Bastian here, I’ll be out of here tomorrow. And I’ll update my contact details.” He replied curtly.   Rubbing his forehead, he added, “Dad? You two should go home, it’s very late. I will call you tomorrow after they discharge me.”

 

His mother looked like she wanted to say something but changed her mind. She leaned over and lightly patted Marc’s arm, “Alright. Get some sleep.” If she saw their entwined hands, she didn’t react to it.

 

“Right. I’m getting out of here too. You know you’ll really feel those bruises tomorrow.” Leon gave Marc a mock salute and closed the door.

 

Finally, just the two of them in the room.

 

Returning his gaze to Kay, Marc asked, “so, do you have time to give me a lift tomorrow?”

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

Marc has gotten ten days off sick leave for the injury. He was discharged from hospital the next day and resisted his mother’s request to recuperate at their house. He’d rather stay in Stuttgart with his painkillers and waited for Kay to play nurse for a few hours every day when he came around.

 

Kay has been... less distant these days after his visit at the hospital. Whatever doubt that had been bothering him before, he seemed to have gotten over some of it. Marc knew his parents’ reaction must have confused Kay.

 

He had no memory of meeting them, no memory of that awful afternoon at his old house. Marc felt his chest tightened just remembering what had happened that day. ‘You don’t understand. I love your son’, Kay had told his mother that day.

 

When Kay asked if his parents knew he’s bi, Marc just answered with a short “yes.”

 

“Because of me? They knew who I am?”

 

“You’ve met them once.”

 

“Oh.” Kay’s eyes widened. “I assume I didn’t make a good impression?” He tried to joke, but his voice cracked a bit.

 

That would be an understatement, Marc thought. But the last thing he wanted was for Kay to worry about his parents’ reaction, because Marc certainly didn’t care. And he had made it pretty clear to his parents over the phone, when he explained to them why Kay had behaved like he’d just met them for the first time. “He doesn’t remember. And do not give him any grief. I mean it.” He had warned them.

 

He cupped Kay’s face with both hands, “they know you are very important to me, and that’s all that matters.”

 

Kay slowly nodded, his gaze dropped to the floor, and a blush crept across his cheeks. A smile was beginning to form at the corner of his mouth and Marc knew he’s about to say something mischievous.

 

“Since we are talking about parents, my mum wants to meet you.”

 

“Really?” Marc’s mind instantly jumped to Kay’s mother’s meeting with Eiden after the accident.

 

Kay scratched the side of his neck, obviously embarrassed by his mother’s request, “Yeah. But honestly, feel free to say no. She usually has no interest to meet my boyfriends, I don’t know why all of a sudden she wants to.”

 

Ignoring the images of Kay’s various former boyfriends in his mind, Marc nodded, “Why not? About time I find out where does your anarchist spirit come from.”

 

“Ok.” Kay smirked, “But don’t say I didn't warn you. Be prepared to eat hard rye bread and vegan sausages.”

 

Chapter Text

“I know you went to the Bayern game with your new unit without me. You owe me two VIP box seats,” Frank greeted him with the accusation.

 

Marc couldn’t decide if he wanted to shake his head or roll his eyes more.  What’s with riot-police and football?  You’d think that dealing with drunken football fans would have put them off the game.  

 

“Michael Herrmann invited the Stuttgart unit, not you in Ludwigsburg.” 

 

“I’d ask Kay myself next time.” Frank threatened jokingly.  Marc glared at him, “Don’t. He doesn’t remember your ugly face.”

 

“Calm down. I was only joking.” He hit Marc’s shoulder playfully.  

 

“Hey!  Do you mind?  I’m still injured.” Marc hissed in mock protest, rubbing his shoulder.  The bruises on his face and body have mostly faded, they had looked worse than they were.  He made use of the two remaining off days to visit his son and family.  And to see old friends.

 

“Jeez... you’ve gone soft in the city.  Can’t deal with a few union workers?” Frank continued to rib him.

 

If there’s one thing he missed the most from his old life, it was these harmless banter with Frank.  The one good friend from the safe cookie-cutter life he had signed himself up for before.  Before Kay.  It had been hard, lying to Frank as well during those few months, leading a double life.  It had been almost as bad as deceiving Bettina.  

 

Those days of the four of them hanging out in bowling alley and garden barbecue were long gone, now Marc hardly saw Frank’s wife, Claudia, who didn’t want to join their “all boys club”.  

 

“How did you find out anyway?  About the Bayern game?” Marc hadn’t been stupid enough to tell Frank.

 

“Don’t you know by now there’s no secrets in Ludwigsburg?  Plus Claudia’s brother has season ticket.  He told Claudia he saw you with your team there.” 

 

Marc had almost forgotten how small their old circle was.  This morning when he’d picked up Bastian from Bettina, she had already heard from his mother that Marc was back with Kay.  She had tried to keep her expression blank, but Marc had seen the flash of hurt in her eyes when he’d admitted that it’s true.   

 

“Was he ‘the friend’ who was in your apartment when I called?” She’d taken a jibe at Marc.

 

At first Marc hadn’t understood, he didn’t remember much from that conversation except the part about his son being in hospital.  

 

“Yes, Kay was there.” He’d lowered his eyes, hating the helpless feeling.  There’s nothing he could do to ease her agony.  He knew they weren’t in love with each other anymore, but Bettina was still smarting from the pain of betrayal he caused.  

 

He was sorry for hurting her and sometimes, he even missed her, missed their life together; perhaps in another universe where Kay didn’t exist, he’d have stayed with her, living that content life, never knowing there was more.  That there’s happiness.  Between contentment and happiness, it’s no contest.   No, he’s not sorry for taking a second chance with Kay.

 

For a few seconds, they’d just looked at each other silently.  “Remember to bring him back before 6pm tonight.” She’d said finally and closed the door.

 

So yes, Marc wasn’t surprised Frank knew about the game.  

 

“By the way, the same grapevine also helped me find out that meeting you were asking, so thank you very much.” Frank clinked his beer bottle with Marc’s, who sat up straight upon the news.

 

“Really?  How did you manage that?” This would be good timing before meeting Kay’s mother.

 

“Remember Eiden’s assistant?  Brigitte?  The girl with the pixie haircut?” Frank said.  Upon Marc’s blank face, he sighed, “Anyway, she is in the same spinning class as Claudia.  Apparently Eiden has loose lips around her.”  Frank finished with a shrug.

 

Marc raised his eyebrows.  

 

“Hey, I’m not insinuating anything.  He’s still my boss.” Frank raised both arms in a defensive pose.  “Anyway, according to Brigitte, Kay’s mother asked Eiden about the incidents leading up to Kay’s resignation.  Something about giving background information to Kay’s therapist...”

 

Kay’s seeing a therapist? He never mentions that. Marc frowned.

 

Frank was still continuing, “... since by then Eiden has already unloaded Limpinski to another unit, he had no problem telling his mother about the altercation, even though Kay never pressed charges.  And...” He cleared his throat, “Eiden also told his mother those rumours about you and Kay.  So yeah, basically, Eiden gave you and Limpinski up.  My guess is he tried to make it look like it’s one or two bad apples, nothing to do with the department’s diversity policy.  No wonder he signed off your transfer request so quick!  Guilty conscience...”

 

Marc felt almost nauseating that his name had been lumped together with Limpinski, no doubt in Kay’s mother’s mind, they were both culprits to cause Kay to quit.

 

Frank pursed his lips, “shit.  I don’t envy you.  You have some serious ass-kissing to do, my friend.”

 

******

 

When he was with Bettina, Marc used to instinctively pull away and roll on his side after sex, but with Kay, he’s always closing the gap between them in bed, enfolding Kay from behind like a heat-seeking missile.

 

“Do we still have time for a run in the woods this morning?” He groggily asked Kay.  They were meeting Kay’s mother for lunch later.

 

Maybe his injury was a blessing in disguise after all.  Kay has begun to stay overnight again, at first, the excuse was to look after Marc, but it continued even after Marc has recovered.  They seemed to have turned a page, Marc reckoned.  Whatever that was bothering Kay, he never mentioned it.

 

“Can’t you hear the rain outside?  We can’t run in this weather.” Kay yawned, pulling the duvet over his head.

 

Marc perked up, he got under the duvet and snaked his arms around Kay’s waist, “How about some unconventional working out then, sleepyhead?” He said against Kay’s mouth.

 

Kay chuckled quietly, “I had plenty of that already last night.” he said, but he also pressed back, his back side deliciously rubbing against Marc’s cock.  Marc moaned as arousal shot clear through his body, down to his bare feet.

 

He began to nibble Kay’s earlobe, his hands moved down to cup Kay’s smooth firm ass, couldn’t resist to squeeze it gently.  He trailed kisses down Kay’s jawline, loving the scratchiness on his tongue from the blond stubble.  Marc loved morning sex with Kay, when Kay was all soft and sleepy and pliable in his hands.  He slowly insert a finger in Kay, to make sure there’s enough residue lube from last night inside, Kay’s body went taut at the touch, he let out a deep moan that made Marc’s cock jumped.  Marc blindly reached for condom and lube on the nightstand and torn it open with his teeth.  

 

Kay turned a little to watch him stretched the condom it over his cock, he licked his lips.  Marc groaned, “If you want me to last at all, you need to stop looking at me that way,” he pulled one of Kay’s hips up before he got behind him.  

 

“Hmmmm... Fuck,” Kay buried his head in the pillow to muffle his moan, as Marc began to press in and went as slowly as he could to give Kay time to adjust.  Kay exhaled as Marc finally bottomed out, buried to the hilt.  

 

“Oh god, Marc, move alrea...” Kay’s sentence morphed into a deep groan as Marc snapped his hips and fucked him slowly.  “Bossy,” Marc answered with another thrust, knowing he has hit that sweet spot as Kay cried in ecstasy.  “Faster,” Kay reached back to grab Marc’s thigh, “Harder.” He demanded.

 

Marc obliged and began to set a harder, stronger pace, as they moved together in sync.  The only sounds in the room, other than the slapping of skin on skin, were their soft grunts.  Marc covered Kay’s body with his, strained against him, careful not to crush him.  Kay lift his hips with every thrust, just as eager to receive as Marc was to give.  Marc gripped Kay’s hips to get a better angle as he continued to thrust in and out.  Kay braced himself with one hand to keep from hitting the headboard and used his other hand to roughly pull his own cock, but Marc batted away his hand and took over.  

 

“You’re mine, Kay Engel.  That includes everything”, Marc whispered against Kay’s ear and began to stroke his cock, leisurely first, then frantically as tension built.

 

And suddenly Marc could feel Kay’s body trembled and he came in Marc’s hand, burying his face in the tangled sheets, trying to stifle his whimpers. Marc knew he wasn’t far behind, he braced himself on Kay’s back as he came with a loud groan. 

 

“Scheiße,” Marc swore as he thrust in and out a few more times. “Fuck. Kay, I think the condom broke”. 

 

Kay just nodded, his face still buried among the pillows, “I know. I feel it.”

 

Marc carefully pulled out of Kay, still breathing hard. “I’m sorry, I would’ve never...” 

 

“Shh... it’s ok.  You’re not some one-night-stand stranger.” Kay turned to look at him, his fingers grazing Marc’s lips slowly, “I like it... I want to feel you without a latex barrier.” 

 

Marc dropped his head on the mattress, “Christ, Kay.  You’re going to be the death of me.  The way you talk.”

 

Kay laughed.  So happy and carefree.  And Marc knew he wanted to hear this sound every morning.  Every day.

 

“Move in with me?” He suddenly asked Kay.  

 

He’s a been mulling this idea the past two weeks, that he shouldn’t be afraid to take this step just because Kay didn’t remember their past - the good and bad parts.  His memory might come back tomorrow, or it might never come back; their lives shouldn’t be on hold because of that.  And Marc knew what he wanted.  He wanted a life with Kay and he wanted it to start today.

 

Kay remained perfectly still and didn’t say anything for a few seconds.  Then he lowered his lashes, seemed to be considering how to answer.  

 

Marc braced himself for the rejection.  

 

When Kay spoke again, there was a slight tremble in his voice, “what happen when Bettina calls here and I answer the phone?”

 

“What?” Marc puzzled.

 

Kay just stared at him, waiting for him to catch on.

 

Marc’s mind quickly ran through the conservation he had with Bettina... And finally.  Oh fuck.  He thought.  Now he realised why Bettina was referring to Kay as “a friend” the other day.  

 

“Shit.  Kay.  I didn’t mean it at all.” Marc said urgently.  He touched the side of Kay’s face, “I was losing my mind when she told me about Bastian.  I could have said I have a giraffe in my apartment without knowing it.”  

 

Kay looked away.  Marc felt his heart drumming against his chest.  Please, you can’t punish me for not thinking clearly.  

 

“This is definitely a different kind of post-coital talk,” Kay said slowly.  Marc’s stomach only began to uncoil when he saw the hint of smile at the corner of Kay’s mouth.  

 

Finally, Kay leaned over to kiss him, “I need to think about it,” he watched Marc closely, “I’m not saying no, ok? But I need a few days to think it over.” Then his eyes swept the bedroom, “Also you will have to do something about those boxes over there, if I was to move in.”

 

******

 

Marc decided a bouquet of flowers is a safer gift than a bottle of wine for Kay’s mother, as she sounded like a, erm, healthy-living person.  Kay waved his worry away, “She only cares whether you take off your shoes in her house or not.”  

 

After what Frank had revealed, Marc did not want to take any chances.  Shoes off, socks off if he had to.

 

“Mama!” Kay shouted while kicking off his shoes and changed into a pair of slippers, he passed a new pair to Marc, which looked like they were made out of... straw?  Bamboo?

 

Marc was still examining the slippers when a sandy blonde haired woman came to the foyer, “Kay, you don’t have to shout every time.” She kissed Kay on the cheek.

 

Ulrike Engel was... let’s just say now Marc knew where Kay got his good looks from.  They shared the same big almond shaped blue eyes, fine blond hair that looked like golden sand under the light and lips that were naturally rosy.  While Kay had a strong masculine square jawline, his mother’s was a delicate oval shape.  She tied the hair in a casual bun at the back, she had fine lines around her eyes and mouth, still slim in shape.  Marc knew she must have been a knock-out when she was younger.   

 

“You must be Marc.” Marc’s thoughts broke as Ulrike kissed him on his cheek.  

 

“Nice to meet you, Mrs Engel.” Marc returned the kiss and gave her the bouquet of flowers.

 

“Oh, thank you.  That’s lovely.” Ulrike took the flowers and laughed, “Ha.  Kay didn’t tell you? Engel is my maiden name, he got my family name.  His father and I were never married.  I don’t believe in institutional marriage contract.”

 

“Mama.  Too much information,” Kay rolled his eyes.

 

Ulrike kissed her son again, just to annoy Kay, “Alright, alright.” She turned back to Marc, “Anyway, call me Ulrike.  Kay is the only one allowed to make me feel old.”

 

They all moved into the living room, if one would call that a living room.  There was no TV.  Just a couple of easels with work in progress oil paintings on them.  Some were landscapes, one was just a painting of some fruit.  

 

The room smelled of turpentine and other oil solvent.  Marc felt like he has walked into an artist’s studio, messy but cozy.  He could almost see a very young Kay running riot in this house, knocking down paint brushes and palettes. 

 

“Let’s eat in the garden, the rain has finally stopped.” Ulrike led the way to the garden.

 

Kay bumped his shoulder, “why are you staring at my mum?  Imagining a female version of me?” he narrowed his eyes.

 

Marc’s mouth fell open, “what are you talking about?  I was just... your mum is very different from mine, that’s all.” 

 

“My mum is different from most people’s mum.” Kay smiled with pride in his eyes, “she’s the best.” 

 

“I bet she always let you do whatever you want.” Marc teased.  The truth was he’s still gauging and observing Ulrike Engel, he wanted to know if she has already formed her opinion about Marc.

It’s quite obvious that she never told Kay about her meeting with Eiden.

 

There were no hard rye bread or the vegan sausages that Kay’d warned, Ulrike made a big bowl of guacamole, with tortilla chips and black beans tostada.

 

Kay shot a glance at Marc, no doubt worried about him and ethnic food.  Marc gave him a reassuring smile.  Luckily, guacamole was something Bettina used to make.  

 

“I also have local beer if you don’t fancy the Mexican ones.” Ulrike offered.

 

“No, I’m good.  I like it.” Marc raised his bottle of Corona.  

 

“We are stocking this too now in the bar.  Also Thai beer and that Asahi dark beer you like?  Not selling a lot of them, but good to have them on the menu.” Kay told her mother.  

 

They briefly talked about the bar business.  Marc learnt that the bar was founded by Ulrike’s father, it was passed on to her brother, Tom, to manage, but Ulrike had 50% ownership.   When Tom passed away, Kay inherited his 50% and took over the management.  Not that being a barman was Kay’s childhood dream job, he had wanted to be a policeman; he’s been around his uncle and the bar long enough to learn the trade.

 

And I had indirectly messed up his police career too.  Marc thought to himself.  

 

Ulrike was friendly and warm, there’s not a trace of distrust in her demeanor; with the warm weather, beer and food in his stomach, Marc finally began to relax.  Maybe Eiden hadn't painted him as a villain in that meeting.  And he enjoyed watching Kay interact with Ulrike, that closeness between them, like “the two of them against the world”, that never existed for Marc and his mother.  

 

As a result, he was taken by surprise when it’s time to clear the table, Ulrike suddenly said, “Kay?  You promised to install the printer for me?  Go do that in my bedroom while I still remember.  Marc can help me with the dishes.”

 

Kay opened his mouth to object, but Marc interjected, “Sure, let’s do that,” and started picking up the plates on the table.  Kay threw a suspicious glance at his mother, who returned with a  mischievous smirk, not unlike her son’s.

 

Once they were alone in the kitchen, Ulrike turned on the kitchen tap, but she didn’t put any of the dishes in.  Her hands gripped the kitchen sink, she closed her eyes briefly, then turned to look at Marc.

 

“I know who you are.” She simply stated.  

 

Even though Marc has been bracing for this, when he finally heard it, so precise and economical in words, he didn’t have an answer for it.

 

“Kay never told me anything about you.  But I knew he moved to Ludwigsburg because of some guy he met in the academy.” She watched Marc closely.  Shaking her head, she continued, “that kid never listens to anyone.  He just does whatever he wants.” 

 

“I... we had a relationship, I was...” Marc took a deep breath, “I was cheating on my girlfriend with Kay.” There’s no sugar coating of this fact.

 

Ulrike nodded, “I gathered that much.” She sighed.   

 

She turned to face the window over the sink again.  She said in such a low voice that it almost got drowned out by the running tap, “He was heartbroken when he returned to Stuttgart.  I’ve never seen him so sad, not even when his dad left us.”

 

Marc’s chest tightened at that.  He knew.  He knew the hurt he had inflicted on Kay, on Bettina.  He lowered his head, “I was afraid... and a coward.” That’s all he could manage to say because what else could he say?  That he hurt himself just as much every time he hurt Kay? That there hasn’t been a day gone by that he didn’t regret his action?

 

Ulrike made no comment on that. She continued, “Then Tom passed away soon after, that hit him very hard.  You have to know, Tom was like a father to him.”

 

Marc swallowed the lump in his throat.

 

She exhaled slowly, “Anyway, I don’t know what I’m trying to achieve here, telling you this.  I’m not going to ask Kay to stop seeing you, not that he’ll ever listen.  The heart wants what it wants...” she shrugged.  

 

Then she looked at Marc intently and said slowly, almost word by word, “but I want you to be sure.  I want you to be absolutely certain that you want to be with Kay.  If there’s any doubt, any chance that you’ll get back with your girlfriend, I want you to stop this now.”

 

Marc almost jumped, he shook his head, “I’m not getting back with Bettina... I, I mean my ex-girlfriend,” he stammered.  “I love Kay.” He said, meeting Ulrike’s eyes. 

 

Ulrike smiled sadly and turned away, like she has heard such things from men all the time.  

 

When she looked at Marc again, pain was palpable in her eyes, “That car accident.  They found no mechanical fault with the car, there was also no signs of correction before it hit the concrete barrier.  You understand what I’m saying?” 

 

 

Chapter Text

(Kay)

 

“You’re awfully quiet today.”

 

Kay looked up at Dr Schmidt, then looked down at the floor again, “I almost cancelled this appointment today.”

 

As usual, the doctor waited for him to continue at his own pace.

 

“My thoughts were too jumbled to make sense. I thought it would be a waste of your time.” Kay finally said.

 

The unease feeling from the last few days still lingered. It didn’t make sense. Things were going well; Marc was... like he’s trying to win the perfect boyfriend award or something. He’s caring and attentive - in and out of bed. This was definitely more than just sex for both of them, and that should be great, right? Because Kay wasn’t looking for casual relationship, he’s done with that. Then why did he feel that Marc was almost… too nice? Annoyingly so. What’s wrong with me? Kay thought. Shouldn’t I be happy?

 

But he swore after the lunch with his mother, Marc has been treating him with kid gloves. And a couple of times, he even caught Marc staring at him with... what? Pity? Kay was too scared to call it that. Fuck that. Surely, he’s being paranoid again?

 

Of course, he had asked Marc what they had been talking about in the kitchen. “Don’t hit on my mum.” He tried to mask his nervousness as a joke, but he hadn’t felt like laughing. Marc had just smiled weakly and said they were talking his head injury. OK... that at least, would explain the seriousness on their faces when Kay saw them again, but he suspected there’s more to it.

 

“You are not wasting my time. Jumbled thoughts are probably something we should discuss. What do you think causes this restlessness?” Dr Schmidt’s soothing voice broke his inner monologue.

 

Instead of answering, Kay asked, “What would you do if you think someone is feeling sorry for you?”

 

“Well, is there a reason for that person to?”

 

“No,” Kay replied immediately and confidently. He raked a hand through his hair, “I mean, I know my mother was freaked out by the car accident. But apart from those holes in my memory, I’m fine. Most people would consider that very lucky. No one should feel sorry for me.”

 

Dr. Schmidt nodded, “While that’s true, for the people who care about us, who went through the trauma of almost losing someone they love, they might not feel so lucky.”

 

Kay considered this. But Marc hadn’t even been there, hadn’t even known when it happened, he couldn’t be traumatized by it. Unless his mother shared her worries with Marc... but what could his mother still worry about? This was so confusing, and frankly, irritating to Kay.

 

“I wish I could just tell both of them to stop worrying about me. And Michael too.” He said with a flicker of obstinacy.

 

“Can you think of any reason why they’d worry about you?”

 

Kay was silent for so long Dr Schmidt thought he’s not going to answer.

 

“You know what I’m afraid of?” He spoke without looking at her, rubbing his hands together, one of his nervous tics. “I’m afraid they are right. Maybe I did something that make them worry, I just don’t remember. Something stupid or irresponsible? Because I know me, I’m certainly capable of doing both.”

 

“Kay,” Dr Schmidt cut in, “What did we say about placing blame on yourself without full set of information?”

 

“Call it a healthy suspicion?” Kay smiled without mirth, “I’m the one who doesn’t remember, I’m the one in the dark after all...” his expression became serious, “sometimes I think I should just ask them to tell me what happened. I mean, between Marc, Michael and my mother? They’d have the full picture.”

 

Dr. Schmidt pushed her glasses up, “But that would be their versions, not yours.” She crossed her arms, “Problem with such information is that they are like ‘hearsay’, if you have no memory of them, you won’t be able to interpret the events in your own way and it can be dangerous.”

 

“But there must be some objective truth they can just tell me,” Kay argued, “like if they tell me I’ve eaten an apple, that’s an apple, not an orange. Even though I don’t remember it, it’s still true.”

 

“You are right. And I think they did tell you such facts already, like where you’ve been in that missing year,” she replied patiently, “But the important part is usually not what or where, but why. And that is usually not an objective fact and something only you would know.”

 

“Then I don’t know what I should do.” He slowly exhaled, frustrated.

 

“Why don’t you start by telling me what brought this on? Who do you think is feeling sorry for you?”

 

“Marc.” Kay sighed, “And he also asked me to move in with him.” His face turned red; he didn’t mean to mention that. “I’m sorry, you’re not my relationship agony aunt. It’s just that this talking therapy is still so weird to me.”

 

“Well, I promise I won’t charge you extra for that,” she smiled before getting serious again, “Moving in is a big step. You feel you’re ready?”

 

“Part of me want to… I think Marc is good for me. But what we have now works, so why rock the boat?” Some logical part of Kay acknowledged it was already too late for self-preservation, he knew he’s fallen for Marc, but he couldn’t let go of the life raft. Not until land was in sight.

 

The problem was the new Kay has just gotten to know Marc, the old Kay... he didn’t know what the old Kay had thought about Marc.

 

“At some point, you’ll have to trust yourself to take risk again.” She said it like it’s the most logical thing to do. “Your life carries on; you can’t suspend it to wait for the past to come back.”

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

He knew going to the club tonight was his idea, but Marc was already regretting it.

 

If he had to see one more smug-looking guy offer to buy Kay a drink, he’s going to plant his fist on someone’s face.

 

Kay, who was so used to this kind of attention, would simply smile and say “no, thanks” to such offer. Unfortunately, to some aggressive arseholes, this only translated into “try harder” and they refused to go away. Always the perfect diplomat, Kay would let them hang around, to make small talk.

 

That’s how Marc found himself staring down some 30-something suit-wearing guy who actually touched Kay’s shirt before delivering the corniest pick-up line, “I bet you look even better without it.”

 

Kay raised his eyebrows at that, his lips quirked, clearly amused. Luckily, he also smoothly stepped back just enough to evade his touch, otherwise, Marc would have to pull out his police badge.

 

“I bet you’d have better luck trying that line on someone else.” Marc told the suit guy, expressionless.

 

Somehow Marc must have been giving out his policeman vibe, because the guy took one look at him, another glance back at Kay, “message received,” he said with a smile. Obviously not offended and had the audacity to wink at Kay before he left.

 

Kay didn’t say anything, just sipping his cocktail drink, a daiquiri, but Marc could tell he’s trying to suppress his smirk behind the rim of the glass.

 

Haha. Not really funny. Marc thought. Then he remembered when he’d suggested that they go out tonight, how Kay’s face had lit up, if that meant he needed to manage his jealousy for a couple of hours, it’s worth it.

 

Kay leaned in and whispered, his tongue almost touching his ear, “You know that guy over there, your 4 o’clock? He has been looking at you since we arrived.”

 

Marc took a sip from his beer; he’s still abstaining from hard liquor since that drunken episode and glanced over. Sure enough, just like Kay said, a dark-haired guy in a denim shirt was staring at him. He gave Marc a suggestive smile. Not a subtle person then.

 

Marc returned his gaze to Kay, he pulled him close and said against his mouth, “fishing for compliments? You know how much I hate goatee.”

 

Kay threw his head back and laughed. Then he put down both of their drinks and pulled Marc onto the dance floor as some fast tempo techno music came on.

 

Marc has changed his mind, it has been a good idea, going to the club tonight. He needed it and he could see Kay needed it too. To forget about their doubts and worries for a night.

 

He would admit that the conversation with Ulrike has made him very nervous. In fact, nervous didn’t come close to describe how he felt. He was... shocked, shaken. And scared.

 

Never in a million years had he thought Kay would... he still couldn’t say that word. His mind didn’t want to go there at all. How does one make sense of such action from the person they care the most in the world? And Marc... he couldn’t shake the guilt that’s engulfing him. God, as if he didn’t feel bad enough already, and now...

 

“Losing the memory of that year might be the best thing that has happened to him.” Kay’s mother had said.

 

Marc knew what she hadn’t said was, “Forgetting you is the best thing that has happened to Kay.” And Marc didn’t blame her.

 

There was no way to hide it, once this sat in his mind, his constant worry started bleeding into their lives, disrupting the relaxed intimacy between them. And finally, confused and justifiably irritated, Kay had just out right asked him what’s wrong yesterday.

 

“Why do I get the feeling you are constantly watching me? What’s going on?” He narrowed his eyes.

 

Faced with a direct question, Marc was out of glib answers and avoidance techniques. “Nothing,” he’d tried to hedge. But Kay wasn’t letting him off with that, he kept his relentless gaze on Marc.

 

Marc exhaled, he rubbed his forehead, “your mother was recounting the accident and I... I guess it never really sank in before how close I was to losing you forever. Before I have a chance to...” Marc couldn’t carry on. He swallowed. All of these were true. He only left out the guilt that’s been suffocating him. And he knew he would be the bearer of it, maybe forever. There was no way Marc would ever tell Kay this, if he never recovered this memory.

 

Kay’s eyes had gone soft, but he said firmly, “I’m fine. My mother already wouldn’t let me drive for a few months afterwards. You both need to relax. I can take care of myself.”

 

Marc welcomed a way out when he saw it, so he simply pulled Kay in for a hug and said, “I know you can. It’s just that it’s still too raw for me. I’ll get over it, I promise.” Then he moved his mouth closer to Kay’s ear, “maybe if you move in with me...”

 

“So you can drive me up the wall with your worries daily?” Kay smiled at him, but his eyes weren’t teasing anymore. “I have to be honest with you, as far as I can remember, I’ve never lived with anyone else except with my mother, so this could turn out to be a disaster you’d come to regret, and I...” Marc had kissed him before he’d finished his sentence.

 

Going to the club tonight was supposed to be a celebration and brief escape for Marc.

 

And it was all going well until Marc returned from the bathroom and found Andreas Kuhn towering over Kay near the bar.

 

“... What are you doing here? Are you alone?”

 

Marc heard Kay said to Kuhn in a hushed voice when he got closer.

 

“Why shouldn’t I? You don’t own this club. I livvvve here too...” he jabbed a finger at Kay, “... if I want to dance, I don’t neeeeed yours or Michael’s approval.” He hiccupped, slurring his words.

 

Jesus, this idiot is completely sloshed. Marc muttered to himself.   He rushed over to help Kay to steady Kuhn as he swayed back and forth. Kay tried to keep him upright with his shoulder.

 

“What’s going on?” Marc had to raise his voice; Kay couldn’t hear him under the loud music.

 

“He’s drunk as a skunk is what’s going on.” Kay shouted back, “can you help me move him over there? Before someone recognizes him” Kay gestured with his chin to an alcove on their left, an area with very little light.

 

They managed to half-carry, half-push Kuhn to that small alcove. The 6’4”, 200 plus lbs. defender was still arguing, “it’s my life, you can’t tell me what to do...” He hiccupped, advancing to Kay again, “you hear me, Kay? Kay?”

 

“Hey! Don’t!” Marc pushed Kuhn away when he tried to get in Kay’s face. Kuhn lost his footing and slid down to the floor with a thump.

 

Kay had a pained expression on his face, he turned to Marc, “He can’t be seen like this here. Can you watch him for a bit? I have to go outside and call Michael. He’ll know what to do.”

 

Marc nodded. Reluctantly.

 

“Thanks.” Kay gave him a quick kiss. He took out his mobile and walked quickly towards the exit.

 

If it’s up to Marc, he would happily just leave the tall idiot here. But apparently, Kay still saw him as a friend.   He’s just helping a friend. Marc thought. Except Kuhn also had a sexual relationship with Kay in the past, and no matter how brief it was, Marc couldn’t forget it. He didn’t have to wonder if Kay found Kuhn attractive, because the answer was yes.

 

Marc tried not to feed into the jealousy, that never worked out well for him. Kay was moving in with him, that’s what he should be focusing on.

 

The sudden silence from Kuhn seemed suspicious to Marc, he looked down at the Stuttgart footballer, who was now sitting unmoving on the floor. Marc glanced around, made sure no one was looking their way, then sat down next to Kuhn.

 

“He just doesn’t understand.” Kuhn suddenly said, sounding almost sober. “Kay never had to wonder if your teammates will shun you, not pass you the ball, refuse to take shower next to you. Or rival fans calling you faggot. He thinks it’s just a matter of choice.”

 

“I thought your plan is to quit football and come out? Not to have the cake and eat it?” Marc answered dryly.

 

Kuhn slowly turned to face Marc, like he only just realised someone else was talking. “I know you,” he squinted his eyes, “you were having dinner with Kay in that restaurant.”

 

Marc didn’t answer. So much for accusing Kuhn for not acknowledging Kay in public. Evidently, Kuhn hadn’t missed anything when it came to Kay.

 

“It’s not just about me... I’m a brand, I have people on my payroll, relying on my career. The club, my agent, I can’t just quit... you know?” Kuhn rambling on, “Kay just wouldn’t understand.”

 

Here we go again.

 

Marc couldn’t stand it anymore. “Come off it! Kay was in the police force; he was out in his unit. You think it was picnic for him? Do you know how much shit he got being out? You want to play football more than you want to be with Kay, that’s all. Don’t blame this on Kay.”

 

Kuhn’s jaw tightened, his face flushed from alcohol and a mix of shame and anger. But he kept his mouth shut.

 

Marc was relieved to see Kay’s quick approach from the entrance. “Hey. How is he?” He asked Marc, shivering a little. He had gone outside without his jacket.

 

“I’m juuuust fine.” Kuhn answered that himself. He’s still slurring his words a bit, but his mind seemed clearer.

 

Kay crouched down and said to Kuhn quietly, “Michael said Dieter and Karl will come give you a lift home. Is that OK? We will wait with you.” he looked to Marc, who shrugged.

 

Kuhn gave curt nod.

 

Knowing the cavaliers were coming, Kay relaxed a little. He sat down next to Marc and lightly bumped his shoulder, “Thank you. Michael will give me an earful if this gets out.”

 

Marc put his arm around Kay’s shoulder, wanted to warm him up, he didn’t care if this was difficult for Kuhn to see.

 

But Kuhn was just staring into space, unblinking. Marc saw a lot of his old self in Kuhn, he wasn’t oblivious to this ironic fact. At least in Kuhn’s case, the only one seemed to be hurting was himself. Marc suddenly felt sorry for the big guy, he knew how much it hurt to lose Kay, even though like Marc, it was his own choice.

 

That day when I returned the key to him. Marc’s heart ached at the memory. At the time, he had been too engrossed in his own misery, he hadn’t allowed himself to acknowledge how hurt Kay had looked. How he had killed the light in Kay’s blue eyes when he placed that key on the ledge. If he ever remembers that day again, will he be able to forgive me?

Chapter Text

“Maybe I should go to Ludwigsburg with you next weekend.” Kay said.

 

Marc halted his movement. They were in the middle of wind-down stretch routine after their Sunday morning run. Kay couldn’t tell if the sweats on Marc’s forehead were from the exercise.

 

“You mean like... to meet my parents?” Marc tried not to look squeamish.

 

“What? No.” Kay’s eyes widened. He’s not sure if he’s ready to face Marc’s parents again so soon, he has been wondering what the occasion had been when he met them in the past.

 

Kay laughed at the barely concealed relief on Marc’s face, “I just want to have a walk around. I think maybe it might jog my memory.”

 

Also, Dr Schmidt suggested it and I think it’s a good idea before we start living together. That was what Kay didn’t say. He knew he should tell Marc about his therapy sooner rather than later; he wouldn’t be happy if the case was reverse. It’s just that... it is one of the most private things he’s ever done in his life, speaking about his fears and worries without filter, he’s not sure if he’s ready to share that part with Marc yet.

 

“Do you want to meet anyone else while we are there? Maybe Frank?” Marc suggested, no traces of hesitation now.

 

“Frank was our squad lead?”

 

“Yes, he’s also a good friend of mine.”

 

Kay nodded absently, “Sure,” but his mind was somewhere else, “maybe I can see your son? Bastian? Would that be ok?” He asked uncertainly, a question mark in his eyes.

 

It took Marc a delayed second, but he grinned, “Of course, I’d love Bastian to meet you.”

 

“You sure that’s ok with... Bettina?” Every time Kay said her name out loud; his heart automatically did a flip-flop.

 

“Leave that with me.” Marc touched the side of Kay’s face, “he’s my son too and he should meet you.” He leaned in, his sun-warmed mouth pressed against Kay’s and lingered a little longer than necessary for a quick kiss.

 

******

 

Frank Richter was not what Kay had imagined. He was about to shake his hand when Frank gave him a bear hug and a strong pat on his back.

 

“Engel! Good to see you again.”

 

Kay glanced at Marc, who was glaring at Frank. It was so comical, Kay chuckled, “Good to see you again too.”

 

He studied Frank’s face, tried to find any familiarity, any thread of memory, but the fact was he didn’t remember Frank at all. Nothing.

 

Much like earlier when Marc was showing him around Ludwigsburg. The only time he got a jolt from the past was when they were in the woods, Marc told him that’s where they used to run together. As they walked along the running trail, an image of himself watching the pouring rain through the car windshield flashed through his mind. He was waiting? For Marc? He could almost feel the damp and taste the muddy earthy smell. Marc had turned to him and asked, “Do you remember anything?” There had been equal parts of expectation and concern in his eyes.

 

Frank seemed to be at least five years older than he and Marc, that would explain his seniority in the unit. They were in a bar in the town centre of Ludwigsburg, a deliberate choice to avoid Marc’s parents, Kay reckoned. Just like this morning when they had gone to pick up Bastian from Bettina’s house, Kay had been staying behind in the car, he had no idea if Marc had even mentioned him to Bettina. Does it really matter? Is there any point to rub it in Bettina’s face?

 

Kay had learned that Frank lived in the same private community as Marc’s old house with Bettina, also next door to Marc’s parents. A perfect little clan of their own. Kay couldn’t imagine what it was like, grew up in such close knitted nuclear family. Kay had his mother and his uncle, that’s all. But he wouldn’t trade his independence for anything.

 

Rationally, he knew that there was no way he would have socialised with Frank in the past, given Frank’s closeness with Marc’s parents and Bettina. He was beginning to think that he must have been a bit of a loner in the Ludwigsburg unit.

 

Did I have any friend at all? Was it just Marc? He had an uneasy feeling.

 

Frank was ordering drinks at the bar, when Marc turned to Kay and asked, “You OK?” Concerns in his eyes. Kay smiled, hoping it’s enough to deflect Marc’s questioning gaze, “I’m ok, just a bit overwhelmed.”

 

“You don’t recognise Frank, do you?”

 

Kay moved his head in negation.

 

“Well, Frank isn’t exactly very memorable.” Marc quipped, tried to keep Kay’s spirits up. “And be careful, he’s going to ask you for Stuttgart box-seats, he’s that shameless.” They both laughed at Frank’s expense.

 

Kay willed himself to relax. He didn’t know what to expect from this trip. Ludwigsburg seemed... foreign to him. If Marc and he had been seeing each other in secret, they couldn’t have spent much time together. Instead of recalling any memory, the place just gave him a sense of loneliness. There was no guarantee this would work, he shouldn’t expect a miracle.

 

Perhaps I should have asked Marc to take me to my apartment here...

 

Frank came back with their drinks. “To old friends and colleagues. Prost.” They clinked their glasses.

 

Just as Marc predicted, Frank started by asking him about his relationship with Michael Herrmann and the VIP passes. They talked a bit more about chances of Stuttgart winning anything this season and the Bundesliga in general. Kay could tell Marc was so bored his eyes were about to glaze over, he put a gentle stop on the football topic by offering Frank to come to the home game next month.

 

Marc rolled his eyes at Frank’s smug triumph. Kay could tell they were good friends by the easy banter and a great deal of ribbing they threw at each other. Marc was a bit different in Ludwigsburg. Not anything Kay could put his finger on, just that there’s more Marc-the-policeman here than in Stuttgart; or when he’s alone with Kay. He held himself straighter, though he had his arm behind Kay’s chair, he was careful to maintain a distance between them. Kay tried not to read too much into it, but he missed that relaxed ease between them.

 

“Marc said you own a bar in Stuttgart now? So, you’re done with the police force?” Frank asked.

 

Kay considered the question for a few seconds before he nodded, “Probably. I don’t remember it, but my mother said I resigned because I had to take over the bar from my late uncle.”

 

Frank sneaked a peek at Marc, who was quiet. Kay looked between them, he asked Frank quietly, “What did I tell you when I resigned?”

 

Frank rubbed the back of his neck, “the thing is... you didn’t tell me. You just didn’t show up one day and then few days later Eiden told me you left the force.” He winced.

 

“Eiden?”

 

“Eiden is our Captain.” Frank replied. He glanced at Marc again, who was looking at Kay with worry.

 

Even though he has recovered some memories, the days leading up to his departure from Ludwigsburg has always been the haziest part in Kay’s mind. He almost had no recollection of them. He had out of context flashbacks of events happened earlier and afterwards, of himself driving in his old Jeep going back home; fragments of talking to his uncle; talking to Michael. Michael was... consoling him? He couldn’t be sure.

 

The harder he tried to recall some images, some bits and pieces around those days, the darker the pit of the lost memory became. Shit, he could feel a headache coming.

 

Marc touched his shoulder, “Hey, it’s ok. Don’t force yourself if you don’t remember.”

 

Reflexively, Kay replied by stroking Marc’s hand in a reassuring manner. Marc pulled back just a fraction before correcting himself and kept his hand on Kay’s shoulder.

 

Frank was pretending to be looking somewhere else, while a flush climbed Marc’s neck, Kay couldn’t tell if his embarrassment was caused by the presence of Frank or Kay.

 

Not a big deal. Kay wasn’t so keen on PDA himself, and they were in a small town, it’s natural to be more discreet. The only thing it confirmed was that Marc must have been deeper in the closet than Kay had previously thought, because Frank, who was his best friend, clearly wasn’t used to seeing Marc like this.

 

They made the drive back to Stuttgart in quiet and companionable silence, Marc’s arm draped over the back of Kay’s seat, his fingers carding through Kay’s hair in leisure strokes.

 

“Remember you told me I was caught during a drug raid in a gay club?” Kay asked quietly, he could feel Marc’s body tensed up as soon as he heard the question.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“But you were not with me there? I was alone?”

 

“I don’t know if you were alone. But no, I wasn’t there.” Marc’s voice clipped.

 

Kay waited. He knew there was more.

 

Marc cleared his throat, “We had an argument...” he continued uneasily, his eyes still on the road. “And next thing I know, you got picked up in a gay club by our own unit.” Marc sounded like he’s rather be talking about the price of fish.

 

Did I cheat on Marc? Was that why we broke up? Kay thought. And what were we arguing about? Though he couldn’t recall any argument with Marc, but this kind of secrecy must have been taking its toll on their relationship. Kay wasn’t naïve to think that his past history with Marc was all sunny happiness. I had probably gotten fed up and left.

 

He was still sitting quietly with his thoughts when Marc’s hand reached over to touch his wrist, “Hey, you did nothing wrong. You have every right to go dancing, with or without me.”

 

******

 

“You know we are supposed to be clearing out your bedroom, so I can move my stuff here. Not trying on the new bedsheets?” Kay smiled down at Marc, who’s lying naked between his legs, his mouth lazily kissing the soft flesh on Kay’s inner thighs.

 

“But christening the new bed first was the right thing to do.” Marc answered by taking a swipe with his tongue on the tip of Kay’s cock.

 

“Don’t you start again...ohm...” Kay whimpered. His cock seemed to disagree, it started to get hard again.

 

Marc laughed, clearly enjoying it.

 

Kay playfully dislodged him with a flick of his leg, “I’m serious. We have a lot to do and we already wasted the whole morning in bed.”

 

“Alright. Alright.” Marc finally sat up in bed, but not before he drew Kay in for a kiss that went on much longer than intended. “Shit.” He cursed quietly, his forehead touching Kay’s, “I’m going be late for work every day.”

 

“Not yet. I’m not moving in until those ugly boxes over there are gone,” Kay gestured to the offending boxes at the corner of the bedroom. They are in the same tightly taped state as the first time he came to Marc’s apartment months ago.

 

“You’re worse than me, I also had two that I never unpacked in Ludwigsburg...” Kay paused. Out of nowhere, in his mind, he saw two removal boxes by a door entrance, fully taped and untouched; in a sunlit apartment with floor to ceiling windows...

 

But Marc was oblivious, “experts say if you haven’t used something for a year, you probably never going to need it.”

 

Kay blinked and the image was gone again.

 

“Maybe we should just throw them away.” Marc muttered to himself. He pulled his jeans up and reached out his hand to Kay, “Want to tackle the living room first? Let’s clear some shelves for you.”

 

They spent the next hour clearing out shelves and wardrobe space together. Marc didn’t move all his belongings to Stuttgart. When he and Bettina separated and sold their house, he stored some of his things in his parents’ house.

 

Kay has always thought Marc’s apartment looked like an Airbnb rental, it’s spacious, comfortable but non-personal, like the person living there was preparing to leave at short notice. Kay’s own studio apartment still had a few months left on its lease and he’s not giving it up yet.

 

Not yet. Not until... Kay thought that was the last safety net he owed it to himself to keep.

 

The ringing sound of Marc’s mobile broke his thoughts.

 

“Leon? Err... yes, it should be there. Shit. Wait. I think I left it in my locker.” Kay heard Marc said. “Right. I can come in. Give me 20 minutes.”

 

Marc put away his mobile, he looked slightly embarrassed, “I have to go to the station, I forgot to give Leon the report we spent an hour to write last night.”

 

Kay smiled, “I don’t miss doing police paperwork, that’s for sure.”

 

“A bunch of dinosaurs who couldn’t work a computer properly, they still want everything in hard copies,” Marc chuckled. He tucked a few hairs behind Kay’s ear, and they immediately slipped free again. “You can do whatever you want with those boxes that you hate so much. I don’t care. I just need you here.”

 

Kay snorted, “you were just waiting for a free cleaner like me all this time.”

 

Marc acted outraged but he didn’t deny it; he promised to bring back food and then he’s gone.  

 

Left alone in the apartment, Kay put on a pair of headphones, and began to carefully open the offending boxes with a cutter, in case there were delicate items in them. Marc didn’t even bother to label them; a clear sign of a man who has never lived alone. Kay shook his head. He has been living alone since he was 18, he’s learned to travel light and keep minimum possessions.

 

There were all sorts of things in those boxes. Clothes, towels, stationary, some old CDs, even a mini Statue of Liberty with a tasteless joke “I went inside this beautiful woman” sticker on the side. Heterosexual men have poor sense of humour, apparently. Kay was amused. This one is definitely going to the bin.

 

He continued to empty the boxes, dividing the content into a few piles for Marc to decide their fate. At the bottom of the last box, he found an old metal Clubmaster cigar box. He shook it and could hear there was no cigars inside, but some small object. He pried open the rusty box corner with effort, finally something dropped on the floor.

 

Kay picked it up.

 

It was a single key with a pale blue plastic key tag.

 

******

 

Whatever Kay had read about or imagined the way it would happen, he never expected it to be like this. He had thought it would be like stepping out from a thick fog, but instead, it’s a push and pull, like a sticky lock that needed oil, the key struggled to turn, but with enough wiggling, the gate finally opened.

 

He had no idea how long he’s been standing there motionless with the key in his hand, while his mind working overtime, flooding him with images, like a malfunction projector trapped in a loop, leaving him helpless to stop the onslaught.

 

He lost track of the time until the sound of a key turning and Marc’s voice from the living room slowly filtered through. “Kay? I got your favourite Thai takeaway.”

 

Marc halted his step by the entrance of the bedroom, he took one look at Kay. His brow furrowed, he began to ask, “What’s wrong…” before his eyes were drawn to the metal cigar box on the floor. There was, maybe a two-second delay, but he knew. Kay could tell Marc knew right away.

 

“Kay...”

 

But Kay didn’t hear Marc, he wasn’t even looking at him. His face reflected nothing but intense concentration, “I left this key on the kitchen counter for the landlord. How did you get it?” Kay asked, his voice surprisingly calm.

 

Marc tried to unclench his jaw, he closed his eyes, “I went back to your apartment. I didn’t know you’ve left,” he slowly exhaled, “I found the key on the counter and I... I took it.”

 

Kay just nodded, still not looking at Marc. “Like a memento.” He said it without inflection, like he’s making a comment about an event that didn’t concern him.

 

“Kay...” Marc took a step forward, reaching out his hand hesitantly, “Come on, let’s sit down and tell me what you have remembered.”

 

“No, I don’t want to sit down,” Kay suddenly snapped. “I want the truth. I remember...” his face pinched as he shut his eyes and took a deep breath, “I was in my apartment. I was in the balcony... then you came in.” Kay’s heart beat wildly in his chest, as the memory of that day came hurling back in vivid clarity.

 

“You came to return the key to me. You came to break up with me that day, didn’t you?”

 

Marc opened his mouth and closed it again. His eyes full of anguish. He didn’t answer, letting Kay’s deduction linger in the air as a confirmation.

 

“What else do you remember?” Marc finally managed to choke out the question.

 

Kay opened his palm again; he’s staring at the key like it was a loaded gun.

 

“Let’s see. In 24 hours, I was ostracized by my colleagues, your parents thought I was the devil; you asked me to leave your house, then I got ambushed by that homophobic prick.” He took a gulp of air, “And to top that, the next day, you came to my place and asked me to leave a second time.” Kay swallowed, “Is that the way you remember it too?” his voice cracked.

 

“Kay... please. We need to talk about this, if you just...” Marc took another step forward, he tried to touch his arm, but Kay shook him off angrily, “Do not touch me.” His voice low and dangerous.

 

Marc stopped abruptly, colour drained from his face.

 

Kay’s brows furrowed, trying to make sense of all these memories that have been flooding back to him, old feelings of anger and hurt washed over him. He walked around the room, getting further away from Marc. Then suddenly he looked up again, his eyes red and fixed directly at Marc, “and I told you I love you, didn’t I?” He suddenly laughed, “like a fool.” Shaking his head, “you knew but it means nothing to you anyway.”

 

Marc flinched, like Kay had just stuck a knife into his heart. “Of course it did!” he couldn’t help to shout. He grabbed Kay’s shoulders, forcing him to face him, “I loved you too, you know I did, I still do. I never stopped.”

 

But Kay wasn’t listening. He’s been transported back to that day; he could almost feel the throbbing pain from the bruises on his face and body. Though that was nothing compared to the pain inside when Marc left him alone with the key on the balcony.

 

He slowly shook off Marc’s hold on his shoulders, like he’s too tired to fight. Then he walked out of the bedroom.

 

Marc followed him to the living room, his face paled as he watched Kay putting on his jacket and stepping into his sneakers. He tried again, his voice unsteady, “Kay, please don’t leave like this. We need to talk. I know you’re hurting, but if you just...”

 

Kay paused tying his shoelaces. He flicked up a reluctant glance at Marc, before straightened up to face him.

 

“Then tell me. Did you come looking for me after things didn’t work out with Bettina?” Kay said it more like a challenge rather than a question, like he knew the answer already and knew he was right.

 

Marc could only look at Kay bleakly. Hapless and defeated.

 

“That’s what I thought.” Kay nodded. His eyes dull and emotionless.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Marc!”

 

Thump! Thump! Thump!

 

“Marc! Open the fucking door!”

 

Thump! Thump! Thump!

 

“Shuuuuut up...” Marc moaned softly, he gingerly opened his eyes, but had to close them again as the piercing sunlight hit dead in his eyes. Don’t I have curtains on those damn windows? He drunkenly thought.

 

Thump! Thump! Thump!

 

Damn it, here’s that banging sound again... Marc tried to listen, but the sound was all muffled. Oh right, cos I am covering my ears with the cushion. He giggled at his own silliness and threw the offending cushion away, which didn’t get very far as Marc realised he was still lying down on the floor.

 

“I’m calling the police if you don’t open this fucking door now!”

 

Huh? The sound from the outside the door seemed much louder now. He blinked a few times and decided to try to stand up, before whoever outside decided to break down the door.

 

“I’m coming....” he said to no one in particular.

 

A very angry looking Frank almost tripped and fell into the apartment when Marc swung open the door.

 

“I’m the police. No need to call them. Heehee.” Marc pointed a finger at Frank before he dissolved into a drunken fit of giggles again.

 

Frank grabbed his shoulders, “Jesus, how much did you drink?” He pushed Marc further into the apartment and kicked the door close with his foot.

 

Marc swatted Frank’s hand away, suddenly angry. “I’m fine! I can handle my drink. It’s only beer!” He said irritably. He hated it when they asked him how much he drank.

 

Frank ignored him and continued to manhandle him into a sitting position on the long sofa. “Sit down and don’t fucking move!” Then he walked to the kitchen area

 

“Do you have any juice at all?”

 

Marc rolled his head to the side; he closed his eyes. He just wanted to go back to sleep. If not sleep, a blackout would be welcomed too.

 

Frank came back with a large glass of orange juice. “Trust me, this is more effective than just water.”

 

Marc took the glass from him. “I’m not that drunk,” he insisted.

 

“Sure, sure. You know how long I’ve been banging on your door? Your neighbours were about to call the police before I told him I am one!” Frank shook his head, “Jesus, Marc. I thought you are done with this shit.”

 

Me too. Marc thought. Things were going so well... so well. I’ve never been happier.

 

He finished the glass of juice in one go. He really wasn’t that drunk this time; just drank a lot of beer last night on an empty stomach and then... fell asleep on the floor. He couldn’t remember when was the last time he ate... maybe the breakfast at the police station canteen yesterday. Marc welcomed workdays, when he had job duties and colleagues to keep his mind occupied. It’s like he’s back to square one, those days after Kay had left - the first time. Damn, that man keeps leaving me.

 

It’s been a week, but Kay still wasn’t taking his calls. He had gone over to the bar once but only Sabine was tending the bar. After a few excruciating minutes, she finally took pity on him and told him Kay was taking time off work for a week.

 

“He said he’s going to stay with Michael for a while,” she had said, looking uncomfortable. “Don’t tell him I told you this.”

 

Marc had completely forgotten the existence of that key. He remembered the shock of finding the empty apartment, cruelly stripped of any remembrances of Kay’s existence, except that key on the counter. Almost mocking Marc.

 

“Are you feeling any better now?”

 

Frank’s voice took him back to present time. “What the hell? You don’t even have the heating on?” Frank shook his head and went to search for the room temperature control unit.

 

Marc winced. Why did everything seem incredibly loud to him?

 

“Stop fussing!” Marc barked back at Frank. He held his head with his hands.

 

Frank finally sat down on the opposite armchair, he took a pitiful glance at Marc, exhaled slowly and said, “alright. Tell me what’s going on.”

 

Marc let the seconds stretched without showing any indication he has heard Frank. Then he turned his face towards the windows, finally remembered why there were no curtains on them. They had replaced them with Venetian blinds which Kay preferred a week ago. Changing fucking window dressing, trying to play house with Kay. What was I thinking? Marc let out a bitter laugh.

 

“I thought I’ve gotten away with it,” Marc smiled without mirth. “I thought if I just do everything right this time, he’d... he’d see that the past didn’t matter... that I really love him.” He turned to look at Frank, “you know?”

 

Frank grimaced; a flush began to creep across his cheeks. “Marc... you know I don’t really understand this thing between you and Engel. I can understand why you might want to sleep with him… but if it causes you this much pain and trouble, is it really worth it? I mean, you still like women, right?”

 

Marc was quiet. He knew Frank was no homophobe and he has been a good friend since Marc’s old world collapsed, but their friendship was all about burger-grilling-Sundays, beer drinking and football watching. Frank would never understand what Kay meant to him. Or why his best friend was in love with a man.

 

“Did you two have an argument or something?” Frank reluctantly asked, obviously still feeling out of place.

 

“His memory came back... or at least the part that makes him hate my guts has.”

 

“Shit.” Frank rubbed the back of his neck. “Actually, not just you. Engel got a lot of shit from the unit after the club raid. And then there’s also that pain in the ass Gregor.” He paused. “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you before when Gregor was harassing him. I guess I owe Engel an apology too.”

 

Marc nodded. Remembering Frank had scolded him to mind his own business when he asked Frank to report Limpinski. Everything was too late.

 

“Well, for what it’s worth. Engel can’t really hate you that much, considering he’s the one who called me to come check up on you.” Frank muttered.

 

Marc stared at Frank.

 

“Kay called you? When?” Suddenly he saw a slim glimpse of hope.

 

“Yesterday. He didn’t say why. Just said he’s worried you might be... that you might be drinking again.”

 

“Anything else? Did he...”

 

Frank shook his head, “Just that. He sounded... terse. But the fact that he called me instead of anyone from your new team means he doesn’t want your current boss to know whatever shit you’re dealing with now.” His face flushed, he cleared his throat, “it’s obvious that he still cares about you.”

 

“He’s decent like that.” Marc murmured. Though he could take little comfort in it. As a friend. Kay did the same for Kuhn after they broke up, maybe now I’m just another Andreas Kuhn.

 

“Marc, you have to give the guy some time to process this. I don’t know how it all went down back then, but I could guess it wasn’t pretty. And he has just relived that all over again.” Frank sighed.

 

Frank was right on this, of course.

 

Marc’s throat squeezed as he thought of Kay.   Mired in his own misery, he nearly forgot that Kay had to deal with the aftermath of rediscovering those painful memories. Does Kay remember the car accident as well? Marc’s heart jumped at the thought. At least Herrmann is with him.  

 

Marc slowly exhaled. He felt completely powerless.

 

******

 

“Hey Marc, you ok?” Leon shook his shoulder.

 

Marc looked up, “Sorry, what?”

 

“You’ve been working on your boots for 5 minutes now. Do you want to get lunch or what?” Leon snagged one of his boots, pretending to examine it. There’s concern in his eyes. Marc knew Leon had some inkling of something not right with Marc, but he hasn’t been prying. For that, Marc was grateful. He didn’t want to have another uncomfortable heart-to-heart after Frank.

 

Marc grabbed the boot back from him. “I’m fine. Let’s go eat.” He scowled.

 

“If you say so.” Leon shrugged.

 

Just before they reached the canteen, they overheard a rookie policeman talking to his teammate in the corridor. “...I am telling you, he’s probably sexually harassing his players... fucking fag...”

 

Leon stopped abruptly, turned and grabbed the front of the rookie’s uniform, “Hey! You watch your filthy mouth, who are you calling a fag, you little shit.”

 

“Whoa! Leon! What...” Marc got between them. The rookie widened his eyes, he stammered, “Shit, I don’t mean you guys. I meant Michael Herrmann.”

 

Both Leon and Marc stared at the rookie. Leon flicked the rookie’s forehead, “that faggot won the only league championship for Stuttgart in the last decade. And if it wasn’t for him, we’d have been relegated last year, you ignorant bigot. Why are you talking shit about Herrmann here?”

 

The rookie rubbed his forehead but obviously didn’t want to antagonize Leon, “we just saw him at the front desk. He’s looking for someone... or something.” He answered, not meeting Leon’s eyes.

 

“Don’t let me hear you use that ugly word again. I’ll fucking report you, you’ll be on traffic duty til you’re 30!” Leon scolded the rookie. Then he exchanged a look with Marc and they both started to walk to the front desk.

 

“Oh, there he is.” They heard Sarah from front desk exclaimed. “Borgmann, I am about to call you. This gentleman is looking for you.”

 

Marc jogged the final few feet, his heart sped up. “Hi Michael, everything’s ok?”

 

Michael Herrmann looked slightly startled by Marc’s question. “Hi Marc, sorry to show up like this, but I don’t have your mobile number...” looking at Marc’s anxious face, he quickly added, “Kay’s fine.”

 

Marc visibly relaxed, he thought his heart was about to jump out. “Hi Leon.” He heard Herrmann and Leon exchanged greetings and began to make small talk.

 

If Kay’s ok, then what’s Herrmann doing here?

 

“Erm, Marc. Is it a good time? Your captain said you have a 2-hour break before your next shift. Could you join me for a quick lunch?” Herrmann turned back to him.

 

“Of course.” Marc nodded slowly. He glanced at Leon and mouthed a quick sorry.

 

They walked to a small cafe a few minutes away from the police station. The whole time Marc was mentally preparing for a chat similar to the one he had with Kay’s mother. I bet they all hate my guts now.

 

“Sorry, I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while, but football takes over my life ten months a year. At least we have this two-week winter break in Bundesliga.” Herrmann and Marc sat down at a table near the back.  

 

They quickly ordered. Marc reckoned any remaining appetite he had was now gone. Though so far, Herrmann seemed cordial and relaxed.

 

“Kay is staying with me for the time being.” Herrmann said after the waiter had left them alone.

 

Marc simply nodded. “How is he? He won’t answer my calls.” There was no need for Marc to explain, of course Herrmann knew what had happened.

 

Herrmann sighed, “He’s fine. Considering. He has a lot to process.” He paused for a second. “It’s not just about his relationship with you.” Herrmann gave him a pointed look. “You have to understand, he also has to deal with Tom’s death all over again.”

 

Tom was Kay’s uncle. Marc remembered Ulrike said his death hit Kay pretty hard.

 

“Tom passed away just a few weeks after Kay moved back to Stuttgart. Pancreatic cancer. It happened so quickly, it’s over within a few months.” Herrmann’s face darkened, made no attempt to hide that it’s a painful subject for him as well. “Kay was taking it particularly hard because he didn’t know Tom was sick... and he blamed himself for moving to Ludwigsburg and not being there for Tom.”

 

“Because of me. He transferred to Ludwigsburg because of me.” Marc blurted out.

 

Herrmann gave him an understanding nod, “He told Tom he met someone during training. He was all secretive about it, but he also seemed… happy. Once Kay set his mind on something or someone, he’d try everything to get it. Tom and I were joking that the poor guy had no idea what’s coming,” his mouth quirked to a small smile with a hint of sadness.

 

Marc recalled those days in the training academy, the mix of confusing and exhilarating emotions that had consumed him. “I... I’ve never had feelings like this for any man. For anyone, really.” Marc’s face warmed. If he’s honest with himself, even now, he’s still surprised by how intense his feelings for Kay were. He even hoped that, in time, it would become less, if only for the sake of his own sanity.  

 

Marc felt strange talking about this with Herrmann, but who else would understand? Herrmann had been in the closet for a long time, he’d understand this better than anyone, perhaps better than Kay would.

 

He soldiered on, “At that time, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around changing something that’s been so completely unquestionable my whole life. If I admit being gay, I’d have to wonder if everything I ever knew was a lie or just half the truth of who I was. My relationship with my girlfriend, my parents, everyone around me. It’s a bridge I couldn’t cross. I just… couldn’t. The life I’d planned for myself did not have Kay in it.”

 

Herrmann grunted. “It took me a long time to just accept that I’m bi. And another few years before I could admit to myself that I wanted to spend my life with a man. I hurt some people along the way... old girlfriends, secret boyfriends,” he sighed. “I know what you went through, I even understand why you did what you did. But when it’s Kay who’s involved, it’s my business.” Herrmann lifted his eyebrow, eyes challenging him, “And now? You think you’re ready now?”

 

Marc answered with as much confidence as he could muster. “It took losing him for me to finally realise that. But yes, I’m ready.”

 

Herrmann nodded but was quiet for a few seconds. “Ulrike had been more concerned about him joining the Police than being gay. That’s the kind of environment he grew up in. Kay... he can’t imagine anyone not being true to themselves, sexuality or something else. So imagine how shocked we were when we learned about his affair with you. Eventually.” He gave Marc a meaningful look.

 

“I know it hadn’t been easy for Kay, with all the secrecy. He tried to tell me that, wanted me to face the truth; even though deep down I knew he’s right...” Marc pinched the bridge of his nose, “I kept fighting him, lashing out at him. I don’t know why I keep hurting the people I love.”

 

Herrmann stirred his coffee and seemed to be contemplating what Marc has just said. Eventually, he simply lifted his shoulders. “Who knows why we do the things we do?” He said in a melancholy tone.

 

“And now he regrets wasting the last few months of his uncle’s life with me.” Marc couldn’t help but feel that the world has come together to conspire against him.

 

Herrmann shook his head, “No one can force Kay to do anything he doesn’t want to. He knows that too. It was Tom’s decision to keep his illness from him, though it doesn’t stop Kay from blaming himself.”

 

Marc didn’t know what to say. He wished he could ease the pain for Kay, wished desperately he could be there for him. But what if he’s part of the pain?

 

Outside the cafe, Herrmann put on his winter gloves and scarf, he looked more like company executive than an ex-football player. He watched Marc closely before he said, “He goes running every morning now, from Neckarpark to Rosenstein Palace, it’s not far from my house.”

 

Chapter Text

Time now seemed different to Kay.  

 

He knew what year it was, what date and hour it was, but there’s a disconnect between the time and his emotions, the latter seemed to have stuck in that missing year.  Well, no longer “missing” because he’s been reliving every minute of it the past ten days.

 

What the fuck were you playing at yesterday?  Are you fucking insane?”

 

Marc’s resigned accusation seared through his heart.  Kay couldn’t turn it off.  Snippets like that from those forgotten memories now featured prominently in his mind. 

 

“And what about us?” 

 

Kay’s face burned as he recalled that.  God, I was pathetic. Never know when to quit. What a loser.  Those were his last words to Marc.  Would have been the last, if Marc Borgmann hasn’t shown up again, acting all friendly and vulnerable.

 

“I’m not gay, Kay. Got it? It was just a one-off with you. So stay away from me. Stay away from me, Kay.”

 

No, he’s not ready to see Marc again.  

 

It was the right decision to stay with Michael, who has been giving him space and privacy.  He knew Marc would be looking for him, so the bar and his own apartment were out of the question.  I need a week, at least a week.  

 

Marc’s messages never stopped.  At first they were minutes-long explanations, when Kay didn’t respond, they became gut-wrenching plaintive pleads, “Just call me back.  Please.”  When Marc started to sound like he’s had a drink or two, Kay called Frank.  And he stopped listening to messages on his mobile after the last one.

 

The morning after he walked out of Marc’s apartment, Kay sat alone in his own living room, surrounded by the ill-fated removal boxes he’d already packed; he began to sort through all the feelings coursing through his body. Anger, yes. Disappointment, yes.  But not a drop of surprise. That fact made his shoulders slump briefly in acceptance. He was not, in fact, surprised at all.  

 

He has been waiting to the other shoe to drop this whole time.  So he was right, his brain was afraid of the truth after all.

 

That was the same feeling he had had that day, when Marc returned the key to him.  Some part of him had died on that balcony.  By that evening, he had decided he was not going to shed another tear over it; hell, he was not going to waste another minute waiting.  He was done.  

 

The next day, he’d made two phone calls.  First one was to his landlord, forfeiting the advance and deposit payments in order to break his lease.  The second one to Michael, so he would have a place to stay when he moved back to Stuttgart.

 

Then he posted a letter of resignation to Eiden and left Ludwigsburg two days after that.  A week later, he changed his phone number and deleted Marc from his contact list.

 

******

 

Talking to Dr Schmidt with most of his memory back was different, Kay decided.  

 

First of all, the doctor no longer asked him if certain things remind him of something.  Second of all, he now noticed some of questions she had asked before were leading questions with prior knowledge.  

 

He had this unease feeling that everyone around him: his mother, Michael, Dr Schmidt... and Marc, they had been talking about him behind his back.  Looking at him like he was a ticking time bomb that they’ve been trying to defuse.  

 

The details of the actual accident was still unclear to Kay, but he remembered the events leading up to it.  And now he knew why everyone had been acting all cagey about it.  

 

“My mother never let me read the official report of the accident.  It’s because you all think I tried to kill myself, isn’t it? Is that why I had to see a therapist?” Kay went straight to the crux of the matter.

 

Dr Schmidt looked up from her notebook.  “For the record, I don’t believe you wanted to kill yourself.” She answered calmly and without hesitation.  “The report was inconclusive, the weather condition alone could well have caused the accident.  And after getting to know you, you don’t fit the profile for suicide attempt.”  She paused. “That said. We are all capable of doing things out of character at some point in our life.  You were in pain...”

 

“I WASN'T TRYING TO KILL MYSELF.” Kay cut in.   He got up from the chair and started pacing.

 

Ignoring the outburst, Dr Schmidt simply nodded, indicating him to continue.

 

Hands on hips, Kay sighed, “You are right,  I was upset.  Between what happened with Marc and Tom’s death, my life felt like... I just didn’t see the point, you know?” His eyes fixed at some point in the distance, “Everybody leaves at the end, so what’s the point?”

 

After a few seconds, he shook his head like he was trying to wake himself up. “Anyway, that night I went clubbing by myself.  Hoping to get laid and forget everything.” He shrugged, “even just for one night.  But instead of relaxing me, it just made me tired and depressed... so I left.” Marc Borgmann had to ruin that for me too, now I lost my taste for hookups.   

 

Dr Schmidt made no comments, just waiting for Kay to continue.  

 

“I am quite certain that I wasn’t drunk, just sleepy.” A picture of the road ahead through his car windshield began to form in his mind.  “It was wet and foggy, that night.  I remember I had to turn on the fog lights and drive slower than usual,  and even then, I could barely see what’s in front of me...” 

 

Kay tilted his head, his brow furrowed, “Then out of nowhere, I had this thought... that if I just let go of the steering wheel, let the car drift into the concrete barrier, then it’d be over.  No more pain. I can just let go.  I wondered who would miss me, except my mother and maybe Michael... I swear it was no more than five seconds, I never meant to... next thing I know, I was coming out of a coma in the hospital.”

 

They both took some time to absorb this.

 

“You were distracted by your own thoughts.” Dr Schmidt said.  She paused and waited for Kay to make eye contact with her.  “They were maudlin thoughts, but that’s ok.  You are allowed to have them.”

 

Kay blew out a breath.  He managed a shaky laugh, “I must have scared the hell out of everyone.”  He muttered to himself, “I bet Marc knows too, that would explain his strange behaviour.”

 

Dr Schmidt seemed to have been waiting for this opening.  “How’s Marc?  Are you still avoiding him?”

 

“I’m not avoiding him.” He lied.  Then he shook his head, “It’s just that I can’t see his face without wanting to tell him to go fuck himself.” He blushed, “Shit. Pardon my language...” he flicked a glance at Dr Schmidt, before he continued.  “Even though I know it’s not really fair to him, I can’t seem to stop my anger.”

 

“And what are you most angry about?” 

 

“How many hours do I have?” Kay joked without mirth.  

 

But he didn’t speak for a good 10-second.  “I don’t know... maybe it’s not so much him that I’m angry with, maybe it was me.  Because I let it happened.  It was all good if I was just his little secret on the side, but when things got difficult, he dropped me like I was nothing.  And I allowed him to do that to me.”

 

“You are right that we are responsible for how others treat us.” Dr Schmidt gave him an understanding nod.  “My impression is that you don’t seem to be the type to make any bones about who you are. I’m surprised you let him push you back into the closet.”

 

“Stupid things we do for love, eh?” Kay said quietly, with equal parts of sadness and sarcasm.

 

They were both quiet for a few seconds.  Then she said solemnly, “Sometimes we have to accept the limit of other people, even the people we love.  Maybe that was all he could give us at that point in his life.  Sometimes we just have to accept that and move on.”

 

“Like The Rolling Stones song?  You can’t always get what you want?” 

 

Dr Schmidt smiled, “Yes, like that.”  Then she’s serious again, “Do you wish you’ve never known him? Never met him?”

 

Kay was startled by the suggestion.  He lowered his lashes; his heart jolted just hearing that.  To have never met Marc - no, he couldn’t imagine that.  Despite everything, he still didn’t regret meeting Marc, being with him, even for that short period of time.  Twice, in fact.

 

He shook his head, suddenly couldn’t speak.

 

“You know you won’t stay in this state of emotion forever.  Right now it feels impossible to get over the hurt and the anger because it’s still raw. But it will slowly ebb away.  Then you might look at Marc differently.”

 

Maybe.  Kay thought.   The Marc 2.0 that I have fallen for.  But was that enough? Was time enough to heal, to rebuild the trust that might have been lost forever?

 

“When you trusted someone to hold something fragile and dear to you, but he dropped it and walked away… well, you don’t ask him to hold it ever again, do you?”  Kay asked.

 

******

 

He could hear another runner behind him was accelerating, closing in the distance between them.  Kay moved slightly to the right to give way, this running trail was not particularly wide.

 

“Hey.  Breathe evenly” 

 

Kay flinched, nearly lost his footing.  He grabbed a nearby tree in time for support. 

 

“Shit.  I didn’t mean to startle you.” Marc’s concerned face loomed close to him, his hand on Kay’s shoulder.  

 

Kay shook it off immediately, he glared at Marc, “what are you doing here?”

 

Unfazed, Marc simply lifted one of his shoulders, “Running.  What does it look like?”

 

“I’m going to kill Michael.” Kay muttered.  He barely glanced at Marc before he walked back to the center of the trail and took off running again.

 

Marc was still following behind him, few meters away.  

 

Kay tried to ignore him and carry on in his usual pace.  This running route was not for beginners, too many uphill and narrow paths.  Kay often found himself running alone.  Here he was hoping the five miles of solitude might help to clear his muddled mind, now the sound of Marc’s breathing and his running shoes hitting the paved surfaces were all he could think of.  

 

When the view of the Mercedes-Benz arena stadium was on the horizon, Kay gradually slowed down his pace and eventually stopped at a designated rest area on the hill side.  

 

A minute later, Marc joined him.  

 

The staring contest lasted less than 30-second.  Kay glanced away first.

 

Marc took a step forward.  his clenched fists tightened then relaxed again.  “You can’t avoid me forever.  We need to talk.”

 

Facing away from Marc, Kay said, “Is that right?  And we should do that according to your schedule?  Because you want to?”

 

Marc walked around to face Kay, he said wearily, “You know what’s not what I mean.” He raised his arm to touch him but changed his mind halfway, rubbing his own forehead instead, “Christ, Kay, we were about to live together!  How can you just turn it off like that?”

 

Kay turned and started to walk away, but Marc was quick to grab his shoulder. “Don’t walk away from me!  It’s been more than a week, can’t we just sit down like two adults?” 

 

Kay slid out from under his hold. He cried, “What the hell do you want from me, Marc?”  

 

His pain was too raw, too transparent. Marc just stared at him, momentarily forgot his own struggle. “Please,” he softened this tone. “Just talk to me.”

 

Kay closed his eyes briefly, blew out a breath.  “I don’t want to see you because I’m still at that stage when all I wanted was to forget about you.  I’m bound to say something I’d regret.”

 

Marc grimaced.  He looked drawn like he hadn’t been sleeping well, and was clearly exhausted from the run.  “But what about the past few months? Don’t they mean anything to you?” He couldn’t hold his tongue.  “You must know what I’ve been trying to show you...”

 

Kay’s gaze sharpened, “Show me what?  That you miss me now?  After your safe family life has crumbled?” He snorted, “You must think I’m the easiest lay you’ve ever had.  You curled your finger, and I’d come running.  Again.  How convenient for you, since I didn’t remember a fucking thing...” he stopped suddenly, clenched his jaw and kept his mouth shut before he could do further damage.  

 

Damn it, this is exactly why I’m not ready to see him.  Kay thought.  Already regretting the onslaught.

 

But Marc just took it without protest.  He turned away toward the hill side.  

 

“If I had told you everything from the beginning, I’d still be the terrible Marc that you can’t forgive; if I hadn’t come clean, then I was a manipulative liar.  So what was I supposed to do?” Marc laughed, “I just can’t win, can I?” he couldn’t stop the bitterness.

 

Kay was silent so long Marc didn’t know if he’d answer at all.  

 

“I’m not doing this to punish you.” Kay said quietly.

 

Marc made a sound intended to be a laugh. “Good to know.” 

 

Kay could see Marc was struggling for control, but at least he’s trying.  Suddenly Kay’s earlier anger drained out of him.  He decided they’ve exchanged enough verbal blows for one morning.  

 

They sat down on the bench, facing away from each other.

 

Then Marc’s watch started beeping.  He pressed a side button and said to Kay’s back, “I have to go.  My shift starts in two-hour.”

 

Kay acknowledged it with a minute tilt of his head.

 

After a beat,  Marc asked, “Is it ok if I run here when I can?”

 

Kay’s eyes met his, veered away.  He gave a curt nod. “Suit yourself.”

 

“I intend to,” Marc answered.

Chapter Text

Marc could sleep better now.

 

Being able to see Kay in the morning few times a week did wonders to his well-being.  He also knew that Kay has gone back to work in the bar, though he still seemed to be staying with Michael.  Marc welcomed the return to some form of normalcy, even if the future was still far from certain.

 

Kay was still keeping him at arm’s length, but he wasn’t emitting anger like before and a few times Marc caught him stealing glances at him with a pensive expression, like he’s trying figured out why Marc was still here.   

 

The grey sky and damp air this morning didn’t deter Marc, his shift didn’t start until 11am, and he knew Kay would be running, so he’s going.  

 

He caught up with Kay about a mile into his run.  Kay glanced at him as he ran past, Marc thought he saw Kay’s lips quirked.  Then they started to run almost side by side.  

 

It started with a few suspicious fat raindrops.  Gradually, more of them gathered to join their fallen brethren.  Marc pulled up his hood and saw Kay did the same a few steps ahead, both of them picked up their pace, though not quickly enough. Without warning, like a switch has been flipped, the rainfall turned into a torrent, drenching everything in its way within seconds. 

 

"What the hell?" Marc laughed, looking up at the sky. 

 

"Impromptu wet T-shirt contest," Kay said, laughter sputtered out.

 

They were both too old to jump in puddles, so they ran to the nearest rest stop with a small wooden gazebo to wait out the rain. They saw only two other runners, slapping splashes of water into the air as they passed, opting to continue rather than taking refuge. Marc looked up to the sky again and saw the clear blue sky on the horizon, he doubted this local downpour would last too long.

 

They waited quietly for a few minutes, squeezing what water they could from their clothing, watching sheets of rain soak the earth. Marc leaned against a wooden column and Kay joined him, the side of his arm flattened against Marc’s, even through layers of fabric, it warmed him all the way to his toe.  

 

It’s hard for Marc not to think of that other time when they were soaked under heavy rain in the woods, didn’t do much running that time... he glanced at Kay briefly, wondering if the other man was remembering it too.  

 

Their hands accidentally bumped against each other and Marc felt his fingers tingled, he wanted so much to turn and press his lips to Kay’s.

 

But instead he pushed his hands into his hoodie’s pockets, so he wouldn’t be tempted to do something stupid, like grab Kay’s hand.  

 

To distract himself, he asked, “Is it safe to stand under this wooden structure?”

 

Kay huffed, “Not if there’s lightning going on, but I guess we are safe today.”

 

“What should we do if there’s lightning then? Lying down flat on the road?”

 

Kay widened his eyes, “Only if you want to be struck by lightning! You need to minimise your contact with the ground, because it’s wet and conductive.” He chided him with barely concealed affection, “You are such an idiot sometimes.”

 

Marc rolled his eyes despite the warm flutter in his stomach that came from Kay’s slow, wry smile.   

 

Their gaze met and stayed briefly, then Kay’s face closed off again like he suddenly remembered he’s not supposed to be all chummy with Marc.

 

But it didn’t bother Marc, he has already gotten the Kay smile that he craved.  

 

This is not so bad.  Maybe we can at least be friends.  Marc quietly mused to himself.  He has always cherished this easy friendship he had with Kay, how he made Marc feel completely at ease, a lightness that no one else in the world was able to give him. 

 

Marc was almost relaxed enough to believe that bullshit. That all he would ever want from Kay would be friendship.  He knew there was no way he could live in the same city as Kay and watch him fall in love with someone else.  

 

******

 

This morning’s optimism barely lasted an hour into his shift.  

 

Marc has told their fitness instructor about his new running routine, in exchange for skipping some morning gym sessions, so he hasn’t seen Leon today until after the unit briefing.   

 

“Hey, Marc.” Leon caught up with him outside the squad room.

 

“Hey.  Can you believe that we have to protect that clown of a president?  Why is he even visiting Stuttgart?”  Marc shook his head.  Every unit member was talking about it since they got notified at the briefing.

 

“Yeah... yeah. Ridiculous.” Leon sounded distracted and he was looking at Marc with a strange expression.

 

Marc frowned, “what’s up?  Not feeling well?  You look a bit green, to be honest.”

 

Leon winced.   He looked down and then back to Marc again.  Finally he pulled Marc aside and into an empty interview room.

 

“What the hell are you...” Marc began.

 

“Are you and Kay still together?” Leon finished his question first, though he looked like he’d rather not have to.

 

Taken aback by it, Marc watched Leon closely.  “Why do you ask?”

 

“Just answer the question, Borgmann.”

 

Marc twisted his face, “We are on a break... Kay...” he paused.  Thinking it’s not his place to tell Leon about Kay’s recovery from amnesia.  “Why?” He asked.  A knot has already begun to form in his stomach.

 

“Scheiße.” Leon cursed in a hushed voice.  Refusing to meet Marc’s expectant gaze, he slowly took out his mobile, opened his twitter app and tapped a few times and then he showed a photo to Marc.

 

Marc grabbed the mobile right away, he stared at the small photo posted on a twitter account named “die roten Klatschen”.  The post had a headline -  Oh no, Kuhn, you didn’t.

 

It was a photo of Andreas Kuhn hugging a man.  No, not just a man, he’s hugging Kay.  It looked like they were standing on some sort of apartment balcony.  Marc could only see Kay’s back from the photo, but he knew it’s Kay, he would recognise his back from any angle.  

 

Apparently, so did Leon.  He grumbled incredulously, “What the hell, Marc? Andreas Kuhn stole your boyfriend?” 

 

Kay appeared to be laughing at something Kuhn just said in his ear.  Kuhn was smiling and looking at Kay indulgently. 

 

It’s not the sort of photo one could explain away as just two good friends horsing around.  It’s too intimate, Kuhn had both of his hands on Kay’s ass, tightly and possessively.  It left no doubt the kind of relationship between the two men.  And Kay... he also had both of his arms around Kuhn’s waist, leaving no space between them.  

 

They look...fuckin’ happy.  Marc thought bleakly.    

 

He felt the ground underneath him shift; his stomach did a hot twist, the tug of jealousy burned like acid.  He blindly shoved the mobile back to Leon like it has scalded his hand.  He walked unsteadily to the corner of the room and slid down to the floor, burying his head in his hands.

 

No no no.  How can he do that?  Three hours ago he was... Kay’s rain soaked smiling face from this morning flashed through Marc’s mind.  

 

“Marc?” Leon looked alarmed, “are you ok?  I didn’t mean to... shit.”  Leon started pacing back and forth.  “Bad enough that Kuhn dropped this bomb in the middle of the football season!  Why did he have to mess with your boyfriend?”

 

He circled back and crouched down to talk to Marc, “Do you want to go home?  I can make up an excuse to tell Captain Fuchs...”

 

“No!” Marc shouted through his fingers.  Then he started laughing, tears spilling and he couldn’t stop. “He fucked up my life already, he doesn’t get to fuck up my job too.”  He wiped his nose with his blue uniform sleeve and slowly got up.

 

“Let’s go.  We are late already.” Marc sniffed and cleared his throat, he opened the door and walked out before Leon.

 

Leon looked at him with concern but he followed Marc out without saying anything.

 

The news of Stuttgart’s star defender being out was all over the internet in an hour.  The traditional media picked it up soon after in their 24-hour news cycle.  

 

Marc stayed silent while his other teammates - more than half of them Stuttgart fans - throwing out all sort of theories, forming different opinions, though they were mostly worried about the effect it had on the current season.  The Stuttgart team was still recovering from a couple of bad seasons, after Michael Herrmann was appointed as Director of Football, they started climbing back to upper half of the league table; the team was hoping to make it into top 5 this time, so they can play in the Europa championship next season.

 

“Bloody Kuhn! Why can’t he keep it in his pants for a few more months?” 

 

“I read that actually everyone in the club knows.  It doesn’t change anything.”

 

“The hell it doesn’t!  The rival fans are going to have a field day in away games. How can the team concentrate from now on?”

 

“Are they still going to put him in the first team?” 

 

“They have to! He’s our only world class defender!  I don’t care if he sucks dick!  Err... sorry, no offense, Marc.”

 

“Shut up, you moron,” Leon scowled. 

 

Marc just shook his head.  “None taken,” he replied automatically, barely glanced at that teammate.  

 

The only saving grace was that apart from Leon, no one else from his unit seemed to recognise it was Kay in the photo, so Marc was spared further humiliation.

 

After enduring nearly 6 hours of football gossip at the police station, he stealthily made his escape after his shift, pretending he didn’t hear Leon calling his name as he walked quickly to his car.  

 

It was so tempting to start drinking straight away.  Every fibre of his being was urging him to open the bottle of whisky he bought three weeks ago.  After all, it was Marc’s go-to method to numb pain.  

 

In the end, it was his anger that made him resist the temptation.  Fuck Kay and his fake concern for my well-being, sending Frank to check up on me? He probably did that out of guilt, he was probably sleeping with Kuhn already when he made that call.  

 

Seething, Marc grabbed the bottle of whisky and poured its content down the kitchen sink.  

 

He took a shower to clear his head.  Defiantly decided to order a pizza and find something to watch on TV, like it’s just another work day evening. 

 

Only problem was, as soon as he turned on the TV, he saw Andreas Kuhn’s face on the giant screen.  Stuttgart football club was holding a press conference just before the evening news.

 

Marc couldn’t make himself to switch channel.  Finally, he put down the remote and watched Kuhn made his “coming out” statement.  Kuhn was wearing an expensive suit with a tie, like he’s going to court.  

 

He began by stating that even though he’s bisexual, at this point in his life, he decided he’s happier spending his life with a man.  Then he thank the club and his teammates’ support.  Pledged his loyalty to the club and fans and promised he would try his best to take the team to top 5.

 

When asked if he would have come out if the photo hadn’t been leaked, Kuhn said he has always planned to come out, the photo leak only hastened it.  “Secrecy breeds distrust.  I’ve already lost a few people I loved over it.  I’m not allowing it to ruin my life anymore.” He said.

 

Marc’s heart raced when a reporter asked for the identity of the other man in the photo, but Kuhn’s face darkened, “He’s not a public figure.  He’s someone I care about and I respect his privacy.  I hope you all do too.”

 

After that, the football club’s management took over.  Michael Herrmann reiterated the club’s full support to Kuhn and assured fans that everything would carry on as usual, including the home game against Wolfsburg this weekend.

 

Marc thought of Herrmann’s supportive words just two weeks ago, his earlier anger returned with a vengeance.  Herrmann must have known.  He knew Kay was getting back with Kuhn and he still encouraged Marc to... to what?  Fight for Kay?  As if Marc hasn’t been doing exactly that since he walked into “Der Dunkle Engel” that evening.  

 

And look what it had gotten him?  Marc suddenly felt very tired.  Inside and out.  

 

Why should I be the only one to fight for us? And is there even a point in fighting for someone who doesn’t want to love you?

Chapter Text

(Kay)

Kay got off the phone with Sabine.  He blew a small sigh of relief.

 

“Sabine said no reporter outside or inside the bar, guess I can go to work.” Kay told Michael... and Andreas Kuhn, who’s been sitting in Michael’s living room since 9 o’clock this morning.

 

“Kay, I’m sorry...” Kuhn began.

 

Kay waved his hand before he could finish, “It’s ok.  You’ve been apologizing for the last 2 hours.  You are giving me a headache.”  He walked to the other side of the living room.

 

“They will keep trying to identify the person on the photo,” Michael slowly exhaled. “Football gossip is worse than showbiz in Germany these days.  So, don’t let your guard down.  Let me know if anyone asks you any questions about Andy, ok?” He told Kay.

 

Then he turned to Kuhn, a pair of stern eyes bore into the defender’s face, “And you.  Don’t come to my house unannounced again.  Don’t go near Kay’s bar.  In fact, don’t go near Kay anywhere until this blows over.  Maybe some footballer will do us a favour and cheat on their wife or something.”  

 

Kuhn looked like he’s about to argue, he opened his mouth and closed it again; he glanced at Kay’s retreating back, then finally nodded.  

 

Kay knew Michael was still furious.  They have both been blindsided by this mess yesterday.  By the time Andreas Kuhn’s agent called Michael, the photo has already been circulating on the internet for more than an hour.  It’s all about damage control from then on.

 

“Am I still in the first team this weekend?” Kuhn asked in a small voice that sounded almost comical to his body size.

 

“You know that’s up to the coach.” Michael looked at him with a bit more sympathy for the first time this morning.  “The chairman meant it when we said we will stand by you.  If you can withstand the rival fans’ taunting and the media, we plan to offer you a new one-year contract.  You were planning to retire after that, is it still your plan?”

 

Kuhn glanced at Kay again.  

 

“Andy, don’t.” Michael said in a stern voice.  Shaking his head, “Don’t make this kind of decision for anyone else but yourself.”

 

“I know! I am not stupid.” Kuhn raised his voice, getting irritated.  

 

Michael raised his eyebrows, “that remains to be seen.  How the hell did the photo get out? And why didn’t I know about its existence?”  

 

“I didn’t either.  Jürgen paid them off few months ago without telling me, right about the time he convinced me not to come out, remember?”

 

“Bloody hell.  Jürgen should have known better than to trust blackmailers.”

 

Kuhn shrugged, “they asked me directly this time, I told them to fuck off.” He glanced at Kay again, “I thought they were bluffing.” 

 

“Why didn’t you mention this in the press conference yesterday?” Kay suddenly chimed in.  “Why didn’t you say they’ve been blackmailing you?” 

 

“Because we don’t want the public to think Andy is ashamed of being gay, it’s better if we don’t mention we’ve paid off anyone before.” Michael answered instead.

 

Kay frowned, “But... people would think the photo is new.”  Marc would think it’s new.  Kay thought desperately.  

 

“Kay... shit.” Michael knew right away what he wasn’t saying.  He sighed, “you need to talk to Marc.”

 

“Maybe he didn’t recognise it’s you” Kuhn tried to sound helpful.

 

The hell he didn’t. Kay thought.  He was almost certain that Marc has seen the picture, recognized Kay and thought it’s new.  He knew it because Marc didn’t show up for the morning run today.

 

Michael’s phone rang.  “It’s the press office. I need to take this.” He walked over to the kitchen.

 

Kuhn took the chance to move closer to Kay.  “Do you want me to talk to Marc?  I can explain it to him...”

 

Kay shook his head.  He snorted, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.  He’s not your biggest fan.”  Jesus, it never ends.  “Things are just getting better... I almost feel like maybe I... maybe I can get past... Shit.  I don’t know what to think anymore.” Kay said defeatedly.

 

Knowing Marc’s jealous streak, he knew it would take more than a simple explanation of the timeline of the photo.  Marc’s absence this morning spoke volume and he didn’t want to examine it too closely.  Not yet.    

 

Exhaling slowly, he turned to Kuhn and studied him quietly, “What about you?  How are you feeling?  This is a serious decision you made in just a few hours.”  

 

Kay remembered when Michael came out, even though it was after he has retired from playing and he only did it through an interview with a magazine, it was still hard.  Ex-teammates took offense being lied to for years, friends and fans disappointed and outraged; it was a time to find out who’s really on your side.

 

When Kay was being outed in Ludwigsburg, unfortunately, nearly all his colleagues failed, including Marc.  He had no support except the lip service from the department head.  

 

“I feel great, actually.” Kuhn had a small smile on his face, he looked relaxed and refreshed, “there’re a couple of dickheads in the team, but overall, they are supportive.  I don’t know if it will change when we lose games again, but right now, I feel free and almost invincible for the first time.”

 

“That’s really good, Andreas.” Kay said.  And he meant it.  

 

Kuhn took a look around to check Michael’s whereabout, then he put his hands on Kay’s, “you know seeing that photo reminds me of how good we were together.” His eyes searching for Kay’s, “we had a good time, didn’t we?”  

 

Kay met his gaze.  Yes, that short period of time, after he had just recovered from the accident, the simpler times when his mind was free of Marc and the guilt for Tom’s death; he did have a good time with Kuhn.  If Kuhn had come out like he had first planned, maybe they would have stayed together. 

 

Or maybe not.  Even now, Kay could not imagine not answering Marc, when he came calling. As long as Marc Borgmann still roamed this world, Kay wasn’t sure if he could ever let go.

 

“We did.” Kay nodded with a smile.  “And soon you’ll make someone very lucky and happy.”

 

Kuhn smirked.  He licked his lips, “Marc is an idiot if he let you go, I’d trade place with him in a heartbeat.” His gaze fell on Kay’s mouth.

 

 

Kay glanced away uncomfortably, “Marc and I... we have too much history.” he lowered his head.  And I’ve been pushing him away. “It’s not easy for him, when we met, he’s not even aware that he likes men...” he said.

 

Coming out was hard, even for Kay.  He wondered why he could be so understanding with Kuhn, but couldn’t do the same for Marc.  

 

He could hardly lecture Kuhn for choosing to stay in the closet; if Marc hadn’t broken up with him, Kay would have stayed in that suffocating closet in Ludwigsburg with him, until maybe his heart completely died.

 

But then, Marc hadn’t chosen him, he had chosen his family.  

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

Life in Ludwigsburg no longer felt like the comfort zone he once tried so hard to cling onto.

 

Marc never wanted to stand out.  He never wanted to be different.  For him, carrying around a vague sense of dissatisfaction, had been easier.  Because it’s just a fact of life, right? Easier than being different, easier than having to explain, or to disappoint.  He had been so used to it, he had convinced himself that he needed it, had built a wall around it.  

 

Then Kay simply came along, tapped a little chink in it and made it all crumble away like it was nothing.

 

<Do you have time to meet? We should talk>

 

Marc had read Kay’s text nearly four hours ago.  He had been ignoring it and put the mobile in his pocket.  It’s been burning a hole in it.  His mind drifted and kept returning to the text message the whole afternoon. 

 

Now he wants to talk. Marc thought bitterly.  

 

He wanted so much to stay angry with Kay, but if he’s honest with himself, he’s more heartbroken than angry.  Is that how Kay had felt before?  This betrayal, like a karma to Marc, flattened him completely.  But why shouldn’t Kay be with Kuhn?  What Marc could offer him that Kuhn couldn’t? Heartache?

 

“Hey Marc! Time to cut the cake.”

 

Frank bumped his shoulder to wake him out of his self pitying mood.  It was Claudia’s birthday, so they all got together in Frank’s house to celebrate, including Bettina.  Marc said yes because he wanted to get out of Stuttgart and to spend an extra afternoon with Bastian.  

 

“Marc, you are so quiet today. Your stomach ok? You hardly ate anything earlier.” Claudia asked with concern.

 

Marc pasted a smile on his face, “I’m good.  I had a big breakfast before the drive here.” He glanced at Bettina on the right, could see that his easy lie didn’t fool her.  But she didn’t call him out.

 

They were no longer close friends.  But when you’ve spent so many years with someone, had a child with said person, your lives so closely intertwined, you’d learn to find a way to be around each other.  

 

As everyone gathered around the table, Bastian’s tiny hand held on tightly to his mother’s blouse, while his other chubby arm reached out to try to get to the birthday cake.  Frank moved it out of reach just in time to prevent Bastian’s destruction of the cake.  Everyone laughed.  His evil plan spoiled, Bastian turned to his father for support, arms reaching.  Marc took him from Bettina and offered him consolation kisses.  

 

“That’s how you spoil a child.  Even he knows you’re a sucker.” Bettina made a tsk tsk sound, but her smile was wide.  Marc blushed, he knew he was spoiling Bastian, it’s hard not to when you only see your son every two weeks.  

 

Marc watched as Bettina wiped Bastian’s hands and face with a damp handkerchief, her face loving and gentle.  He could see an image of three of them in his mind, a picture perfect happy family.  

 

Not for the first time, his bruised heart longed for the easier option, wished he was still in love with her.  But instead, Kay Engel still occupied his mind day and night.  He hated how anguished and lost he felt and he couldn’t seem to find a way out.

 

After they’ve all finished the cake and the presents, Frank pulled him aside.  “Did I tell you that I got two VIP tickets for the game this weekend?” Frank whispered, careful not to mention where he has gotten them from.

 

Marc stared at him.  

 

Frank’s face warmed, “I guess he hadn’t forgotten what he promised.”

 

“Do whatever you want.” Marc said dismissively.  

 

Frank glared at him, he lowered his voice further, “I thought you two are jogging together again? You are not coming with me?”

 

And watch Kay cheer for Andreas Kuhn?  No, thank you.  Marc thought.  But he simply shook his head, “I’ll be working.”

 

Of course, Frank had heard of Andreas Kuhn’s coming out, but at least he hasn’t seen or he didn’t recognize Kay from the picture.  Marc definitely had no desire to fill him in. 

 

Frank looked like he wanted to say something more, when Marc’s mobile started ringing.  

 

Marc almost jumped.  He knew instantly that it’s Kay.  Under Frank’s scrutiny, he took out his mobile and quickly walked outside to the porch.

 

He stared at the caller ID and Kay’s picture, showing his profile in front of a ray of sunshine, one he’s taken when they first started the Sunday morning run.  Without warning, that familiar tug of attraction sprung up.  Pathetic.  He berated himself.  And pressed the button to take the call.

 

“Borgmann.”  He answered with his last name deliberately, like Kay was some stranger.

 

There was a second of silence from Kay’s end.  Then came Kay’s slightly puzzled voice, “Marc?”

 

Struggled to control his voice, Marc overcompensated it with a brash tone, “What do you want?”

 

Again, silence.  Then Kay asked quietly, “Do you want to meet tonight?”

 

Marc held his breath before slowly exhaled, he hardened his voice, “I’m in Ludwigsburg.” 

 

Marc knew that reply was like a slap in Kay’s face, but his vengeful delight lasted all of two seconds.  When Kay answered “Oh” in a small and strained voice, it sliced Marc’s heart.

 

They both fell silent for a few more seconds, then Kay seemed to have recovered, he said in a neutral tone, “Ok. Call me when you want to talk.” 

 

Marc had no idea why Kay’s calm voice infuriated him so much, he blurted out, “What is there to talk about?  If you want me to back off, don’t worry, I got the message loud and clear.”

 

This time Kay was silent for so long, Marc almost thought he has abandoned the phone.  Then Kay said in a low, unsteady voice, “I’m not sleeping with anyone else, you fucking asshole.”

 

Then he hung up on Marc.

 

Fucking hell.  Marc stared at the phone in his hand.  

 

******

 

(Kay)

 

Kay’s hand was shaking after he turned off his phone.  He managed to put the phone in the drawer of his bedside table before he threw it across the room.

 

Just ignore him and go to work.  He willed himself.

 

When he came out from his bedroom, he saw Michael making coffee in the kitchen, he made a beeline to the front door, tried to leave without being noticed.

 

But no such luck.  

 

“Kay?” Michael called and came out.  He took one look at Kay’s face, alarmed, he grabbed his arm.  “What happened?” 

 

“Nothing.  I’m late.  I need to go and release Sabine from the bar, she’s been working two shifts.”

 

“Hey, hey.  Not so fast.  What’s wrong?  Did you talk to Marc?” 

 

“Yes and no. He’s in Ludwigsburg.” Kay closed his eyes, he swore if Michael didn’t let him go in the next minute, he’s gonna start hitting something.

 

“And?” 

 

“And nothing.  He’s an asshole.” Kay spat out.

 

Michael’s eyes narrowed, “Whoa.  What did he say?”

 

“He thinks I’m sleeping with Andreas, what’s new?”

 

“Come on, that’s just a misunderstanding.  You can explain it to him.” 

 

Kay looked up to the ceiling, “but doesn’t it say something about us? That his first reaction is that I am cheating on him?” He swallowed, “Maybe that is the answer right there.”

 

Michael released Kay’s arm, he rubbed his forehead.  “I think he’s scared shitless of losing you, that’s why he lashed out first. “ Michael said slowly.  “He seemed stressed out of his mind when I talked to him, it wouldn’t take much to tip him over the edge and that photo is a giant bomb.”

 

Kay bit his lip, “well, he’s not helping himself.”

 

“You both need to swallow your pride and anger,  Sit down and talk.  I can tell the guy is crazy about you.” Michael looked at Kay, “And I know you still love him.  I’ve known you since you were ten, you were never a quitter.”

 

Kay snorted. “You obviously have never been to Ludwigsburg. It has the magical effect of breaking people’s spirit.”

 

Michael ignored Kay’s sarcastic remark. “Tom used to say that one can’t be afraid of getting hurt.  Loving someone always involves a leap of faith. And you know he’s right.”

 

Chapter Text

All the bravado of “I’m in Ludwigsburg” was just for show, Marc left Claudia’s birthday party before 6pm and drove back to Stuttgart by himself.  

 

After Kay had hung up on him, he’d lost all his energy, appetite and the anger that he’s been using to protect himself since he saw that photo.

 

Marc showered and crawled into bed, tired all the way to his bones. Maybe while he’s sleeping, someone else could sort out his problems, and he'd wake up to a Marc who had his life together, preferably with Kay sleeping next to him...

 

Marc liked being tangled up in bed together with Kay, feeling his warm, smooth skin next to his own. Liked to watch Kay sleep, liked to listen to him breathe.  He touched the bedsheet on the left side of his bed, the side that Kay liked to occupy.  The pillow no longer carried Kay’s scent, but he pressed his nose against it anyway.   

 

“I’m not sleeping with anyone else.” 

 

Last time Kay had said that, he had been trying to reassure Marc; this time Kay said it because he’s fed up with Marc.   He knew Kay wasn’t lying.  He had no need to.  If he was with Kuhn and wanted to punish Marc, he could have laughed in Marc’s face and walked away.  

 

That meant the photo was either a fake photoshop or it was an old photo.  Taken when Marc was hundred miles away from Kay, when it was none of Marc’s business.  Deep down in his traitorous heart he knew it wasn’t just because he thought Kay might be back with Kuhn, it was seeing the unbridled happiness and the intimacy between them.  He was seeing red before he could see reason.

 

Exhaling, Marc rolled onto his back, looking up at the ceiling, wondering how he managed to mess up so badly again.  So I lose my shit whenever Kay’s involved, what else is new?  

 

Except this time, he felt paralyzed.  The last few months since Kay had re-entered his life, it was one roller-coaster ride after another; Marc felt like he’s been jumping through hoops one after another, been kicked down along the way.  Granted, some of his misery were of his own making, but he had to wonder if he has reached his limit.  

 

Who does Kay think he is?  To come into my life and turn it so far upside down that I don’t even know which way is which anymore? Who is he to make me question the entirety of how I had lived my life before him?  

 

Marc dug out these old resentments like a security blanket whenever he tried to protect himself by focusing his umbrage on Kay instead.  Like Kay was the one to blame.

 

But his heart stuttered, almost tripped out of sync just at the mere thought of giving up and never seeing Kay again.  

 

And who is he to make me think that this might all be worth it?

 

******

 

In the end, Marc had changed his mind and decided to go to the Stuttgart home game with Frank.  If Kay ignored him, at least he’d know where he stood.  

 

“I thought you said you are on duty that day?” Frank had asked over the phone,

 

“No,” Marc had given a one word answer without further explanation.  And Frank let it go.

 

All morning Marc was mentally preparing himself for Kay’s reaction when they meet, he hadn’t expected to see the empty seats when they got to the VIP box.  No sign of Kay at all.

 

“Kay is not coming?” Frank asked, looking around as if Kay would be hiding under a chair.  

 

Marc was still too shocked to reply.  He didn’t know if Kay was avoiding him or Kuhn.  Or maybe both of us.  

 

Frank got over his curiosity quickly as the game started, while Marc sat down brooding.   Only when he heard the crowd cheering had he returned his sight to the football pitch, and saw Kuhn coming out of the tunnel with the rest of the team.  The star defender hasn’t lost his place in the first team, they even made him captain for this game as the team’s first captain was injured.  

 

A large amount of Wolfsburg fans were booing whenever Kuhn touched the ball, but it didn’t seem to affect Kuhn at all, he was in his usual clinical and ruthless self, stopping most of Wolfsburg’s attacks with skillful tackles, he’s in top form today.

 

0-0 at half time.  When Marc and Frank went inside the VIP lounge to get beers, he found Michael Herrmann talking to a group of men in suits.  Marc told Frank to go back to the box seats first and waited patiently for Michael to notice him.

 

Finally after 5 minutes, Michael spared him a hard stare, his face unreadable as he slowly walked towards Marc.  

 

“Kay is not here today.” Michael said without being asked.  

 

Marc just nodded.  “Is he...” he couldn’t finish the question,  He wanted to ask if Kay was okay, which seemed to be a perpetual question he had for Michael Herrmann every time they met.  Marc’s face flushed.

 

Herrmann shook his head.  “He’s moved back to his apartment, so he’s not even doing the morning run.” He gave Marc a pointed look.  “Listen, Andreas already caused enough troubles to keep my hands full this week, I don’t need you creating unnecessary drama with Kay.”

 

Marc’s jaw tightened.  

 

“That photo is months old, ok?  They are not together.  Although Andreas certainly wants to.” Michael paused, looking at Marc, hoping to get his message across.  He rubbed his forehand. “Kay doesn’t want me to meddle, so this is all I’m going to say - go talk to him.” 

 

The second half of the game was all Andreas Kuhn’s show.  With both of their first choice strikers injured, Stuttgart was forced to play more defensively today and allowed Wolfsburg to attack.  Kuhn has been organizing defense as team captain and centre-back, shouting and giving instructions to others on the pitch, it’s clear that he still commanded respect from his teammates.  

 

The booing from the rival fans never stopped, whenever Kuhn got the ball.  There was also a small number of home fans shouting obscenities at him when Kuhn did a throw-in near the corner flag.  Marc almost felt sorry for him, but at least Kuhn didn’t seem to mind them one bit.  

 

“Shit.  From your own fans too? That’s hard... poor guy.” Frank commented.  

 

Then one minute into injury time, Stuttgart got a corner kick, and quicker than lightning, Kuhn suddenly ran forward and jumped above two Wolfburg’s defenders to score a perfect header.  The whole stadium erupted.  

 

“Fuck!  Yes! Yes!” Frank got up from his seat, fist bumping.  “Oh man, he’s so good.  There’s not enough time for Wolfsburg to come back now!” 

 

Marc sat rooted to his seat.  Deaf to all the celebrations around him.  He could only hear what Michael just said, that Kuhn certainly wanted to restart things with Kay.  

 

Stuttgart held onto their 1-0 lead for the remaining few minutes and won the game.  There were lots of back slapping and hugging on the pitch.  Marc saw Kuhn’s elated face close-up on the big screen, and wondered if Kay was watching the same image from the tv in the bar.  Is he very proud of Kuhn?

 

As Kuhn was walking off the pitch with his teammates towards the stadium’s tunnel, a rival fan from the crowd threw an object and it landed on Kuhn’s head and bounced off to the ground.  Chaos followed, as security guards quickly ran over to restrain the offending fan.  Kuhn picked up the object from the pitch, which appeared to be a rubber pink dildo.  With cameras flashing all around him, Kuhn playfully kissed the dildo, with a wide and defiant smile, he threw it back into the crowd.

 

Frank was laughing, “Fuck.  Kuhn is so cool.  I mean, who dares to mess with him?  Gay or not?”

 

Marc grudgingly agreed.  No doubt the image of Andreas Kuhn kissing the pink dildo would become a meme on the internet in the next hour.  Kuhn couldn’t have handled his first game after coming-out better.  He has made himself hero of the day, with extra cool factor on top.  

 

This show of defiance from Kuhn, reminded Marc of his altercation with Limpinski.  How ironically, the loss of Kay had somehow liberated and emboldened him; he remembered the shocked and disgusted look on Limpinski’s face, when Marc had kissed him on the lips and asked if he’s jealous cos he got to sleep with Kay.  

 

He wondered if Kuhn was driven by the same adrenaline as he once had.  And whether, like Marc, it would peter out when reality returned.  

 

 

*******

 

Marc hadn’t set foot in “Der Dunkle Engel” for almost three weeks.  He looked at the exterior of the bar, remembering the day when he accidentally stumbled upon it.  How he had entered the bar a mildly depressed off duty policeman, and came out of it in a trance, with Kay walking next to him.

 

Sunday evenings were usually quieter, Marc hoped Kay would be available to talk.  He thought of that awful phone-call few days ago... taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open.

 

There were quite a few customers sitting by the bar, but Marc only saw Rudi tending it.  Then someone tapped his shoulder.

 

“Hey, Marc.” It was Sabine.

 

“Hey.  Erm... is Kay here tonight?”

 

“He’s in the back office.  Do you want me to tell him you’re here?”

 

To be honest, Marc was just relieved that Sabine wasn’t under some instructions to keep him away, so he nodded.

 

A minute later, he saw Kay came out from a door on the left side of the bar.  He had a dark grey tee shirt on and black jeans, his hair was messy like he’s been carding through it with his fingers.  Marc noticed the light dark circles under Kay’s eyes and knew he was probably responsible for them.

 

Their eyes met but neither of them spoke.  Then Kay gestured with his head and said, “do you want to talk inside?”

 

Marc nodded and followed Kay back inside.

 

He has never been inside the back office, turned out the door was leading to a flight of stairs to a spacious office on the 1st floor.  The room was dominated by a large antique writing desk in the middle and the walls lined with file cabinets and shelves with beer and wine samples.  

 

Kay closed the door and leaned his back on it.  

 

Marc turned around to look at him.  He realised he has come here tonight without really knowing what to say, he only knew that he needed to see Kay.  Looking at Kay’s tired and drawn face, Marc reckoned if Kay was having a good time with Kuhn, it wasn’t today.  His chest tightened, where hope and caution were starting a slapfight with each other.     

 

Kay seemed determined not to initiate conversation, he just stood there waiting, his eyes focused on some point beyond where Marc was standing.

 

Feeling out of place, Marc bided time by studying the office.  It’s hard to imagine Kay sitting behind an office desk in front of a computer, but apparently bar business involved a lot of paperwork too, judging by the amount of documents on his desk.  

 

There were a few photo frames on the shelves behind the desk.  Marc recognized a picture of Kay’s mother, Ulrike, when she’s about 20-something, holding a cute toddler with full head of blond hair in her arms.  Next to her was a chiseled face young man with chestnut brown hair, he had an infectious smile on his face that was almost a replica of Kay’s.  

 

“Is this your Uncle Tom?” Marc asked.

 

Kay nodded.  

 

“He had the same smile as yours.”  

 

Kay stared at Marc, his lips quirked. “He’s the only person I’ve told about you. About us.  He thought it was a terrible idea.”  Kay smiled quietly, remembering. “He said it’s the worst stereotype - pining for a straight guy.  But go for it anyway, because you only live once.”

 

“Kay...” Marc began.

 

But Kay cut him off. “Do you remember that day when you were in the hospital cos I broke your nose?”  He asked.

 

Of course Marc remembered.  He remembered clearly his mother’s face just before the door of the elevator closed, after she had caught him kissing Kay.  He remembered he had thought his whole world was coming to an end.

 

Marc nodded.  His brow furrowed. He didn’t know where Kay was going with this.

 

“It was one of the happiest moments of our time together.  For me, anyway.” He chuckled, but there’s no joy in his laughter.  “When you grabbed my wrist and we kissed in that hospital corridor.   I thought.... I thought ‘so this is it, we are going to be together’” Kay paused. “This is how wrongly I have misread everything.”

 

Marc walked closer to Kay, his hand tentatively reached out to touch Kay’s arm, half expecting Kay to shake him off, but instead, Kay stepped into his space.

 

“We weren’t right for each other.” Kay raised his hand to touch Marc’s face, “But I wanted you so much I refused to see that for a while. And when I finally acknowledged that, I was so in love with you I didn’t care.”

 

Suddenly Kay held both sides of Marc’s face and kissed him on the lips, his tongue seeking entrance.  Marc quickly responded by grabbing the back of Kay’s neck and they deepened the kiss.  Marc let out a low moan before he opened his mouth, the heady feeling of want strummed through his body; his senses immediately assaulted by a familiar sweep of Kay’s tongue inside his mouth.  He responded eagerly by sucking on Kay’s lower lip, pulled away a little and came back in full force again.  How he missed this.  Marc closed his eyes, wishing the kiss would never end, wishing that they didn’t need to live outside this kiss.

 

But it has ended.  Kay pulled slowly away, his hands suspended on both sides of Marc’s face for a second, then he dropped his arms and took two steps back.

 

“I still love you. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped.” Kay’s gaze focused at a point in the distance.  “Well, except for the period when I lost the memory of you,” he shrugged with a sad smile.

 

Marc’s stomach dropped, his heart started hammering, he didn’t like where this was going.  He wanted to find a way to stop this, to stop whatever Kay was going to to say.  Taking a step closer, he tried to catch Kay’s eyes, but Kay wouldn’t look at him.

 

“This history between us... it’s too toxic.” Kay continued, eyes still fixing at a point in the distance.  “Are you even happy here, Marc? There’s obviously no trust between us.  This... whatever it is that still holds us together.  Is it even worth salvaging?” 

 

Kay closed his eyes and bit his lower lip, like he’s summoning all his mental strength.  Then he said in a low voice, “Maybe it’s better for both of us...” his voice cracked a little, his gaze finally back on Marc’s.  

 

“Maybe we should both move on.”

 

Chapter Text

Kay forced himself to maintain eye contact with Marc as he said it.  He knew if he were to go through with this, he would need to survive this.  To look at Marc in the eye and say that they are better off without each other. 

 

“You don’t believe that.” Marc cried, shaking his head.  His voice sounded muffled to Kay as blood rushed to his ears, so tightly wound, he felt almost dizzy.

 

Kay looked away. A muscle in his jaw moved. His eyes rose to meet Marc’s. “I don’t?  How do you figure that?” He retorted in a shaky voice, still trying to keep his defence up.

 

Before he knew it, Marc was standing close in front of him, his hands on Kay’s shoulders, like he was about to shake some sense into Kay.

 

“You want to give up because you are afraid of getting hurt, isn’t it?” Marc said, but it wasn’t a question, it was a statement.  

 

“Well, guess what?  I’m scared too.” Marc said, almost stubborn-like.  “I haven’t stopped worrying about losing you since we met.  At first, I didn’t know how long you’d let me have you before you’d get fed up with all the secrecy...” he looked up to the ceiling, then shaking his head again. “Even after we broke up, I was scared I’d never see you again.  And the last few months, all I could think of was one day you would remember the past and you’d decide that I’m not worth it.” 

 

He paused.  “So yes.  I know about being scared.”

 

Kay stared at Marc, he was momentarily flummoxed.  He was expecting anger, even accusation from Marc, the usual arsenal dished out by Marc the few times that they had argued.  

 

But this raw honesty, he was unprepared for.  

 

“I just… I can’t be with you, not now.” Kay struggled, feeling almost hapless.  “To be with you means I have to forgive myself.  And I don’t think I’m there yet.  I don’t know if I ever could,” he said desperately.

 

The last thing Kay expected to feel was Marc’s hand rise to gently stroke his hair, and the compassion in the touch almost finished him. 

 

Damn you, Marc.  I have just made up my mind to do the right thing, even if it kills me.  Kay thought bitterly.  His eyes blurred with tears he wouldn’t shed.

 

Marc’s hand stilled, but stayed on Kay’s hair.  “There’s nothing to forgive yourself for.” he said at last. “You were the brave one.  You haven’t misread anything.  I did want to be with you.  So much.  I just wasn’t brave enough to admit it to myself, so I took the easy way out.  I thought I had to.”

 

Kay listened quietly, as he gazed out across Marc’s chest into the lamplit gloom.  He wanted to believe Marc.  He really did, but so many times before...

 

“You don’t think this is beyond repair?  What happened between us?  And what is the point of staying together when you don’t even trust me?” Kay choked out.

 

Marc resumed to stroke Kay’s hair. “You were right, I was an asshole the other day.  I wanted to hurt you because I was hurting.  But that was my insecurity talking.  I’m sorry for all the bullshit I’ve put you through.” 

 

Kay thought of the awful moment when Marc announced he’s in Ludwigsburg, the memory of that had reached out and grabbed him by the throat.  Yes, they could really hurt each other real bad when they set their mind to it.

 

Marc continued, “and trust is a two way street.  When are you going to tell me about your therapy sessions?” But his accusation had no heat in it.

 

Kay lifted his head.  “How did you...?”

 

“Your mother went to see Eiden after your accident, she said it was for your therapist.”

 

So that’s what they’ve been doing behind my back. Kay thought.  He filed it away in his mind, too tired at the moment to be annoyed.

 

“I planned to tell you when we move in together... before my memory came back.  Then everything fell apart... I guess I didn’t see the point.” Kay said honestly.  

 

“I want to be there for you, you have to know that, you have to give me the chance to.” Marc said with an edge of vexation.  “We fell in love with each other all over again even when you had no memory of me, didn’t we?  Then why can’t we start over together?” He sighed, “We can also deal with the past together.  You know, for all your stubborn resilience, sometimes you take things too much to heart.” 

 

As if answering Marc’s comment, Kay’s heart did a flip-flop.  

 

“It isn’t supposed to be so hard, is it?” Kay said.  Finally gave up resistance and pressed his head against Marc’s shoulder.  He felt tired to his bones. 

 

“Huh.” Marc snorted, his hand moved down to touch Kay’s back, “trust me, loving you is never easy.  But easier isn’t always better. Maybe that’s how we know we’ve made the right choice, even when it’s hard, even when it hurts.  If I had to make that choice again, I’d still choose us every time, for as long as you’d have me.”

 

Kay’s lashes lifted. He studied Marc gravely.  In his heart, he wanted to believe everything Marc has just said, everything that he once hoped for, but the hard fought resolve from the past few days also remained. 

 

“Shit.” Kay sniffed and wiped his nose a with his tee shirt, “this is the most I’ve ever heard you talk.” He made a weak attempt to joke but knew he didn’t do a convincing job..  

 

For a minute, lost in their own reflections, they stayed quiet in each other’s arms and just listen to their heartbeats counting the seconds.  

 

Finally, Marc held Kay closer, his expression tight, he said in a low voice, “don’t give up on us because you are afraid to get hurt.  That’s not who you are.  You are the most fearless person I’ve ever known.” He swallowed and took a shallow breath before he continued, “you know I’ll accept it if you really think you’d be happier with Kuhn.  It will hurt like hell, but I’ll be ok.  Eventually.”

 

Kay knew it must have cost Marc everything to say that out loud.

 

“I’m not with...”

 

“I know.” Marc quickly said, “I know you are not together.”  

 

He paused for a few seconds, seemed to be gathering his thoughts.  Then his fingers grazed the side of Kay’s face, he looked at Kay intently. “This is not an ultimatum.  But I will be at my parents’ place for Christmas next week.  When I come back... I hope you will let me know.”

 

******

 

Kay looked at the colourful and fun Christmas ornaments in Dr Schmidt’s office, they seemed out of place with the clinical, sleek black and grey decor of the room. 

 

Dr Schmidt barely looked up from her notebook, “my receptionist bought those.  I’m not much of a Christmas person.” 

 

Not a Christmas person, but a mind-reader, apparently.

 

“She said they might cheer up my patients.  I actually think they might depress them.” She made a rare joke.

 

Kay laughed a little, “they don’t depress me, but I’m not much of a Christmas person either.” 

 

His mother has always rejected religions in all forms.  Kay remembered when he was 7, he had once asked his mother to buy a Christmas tree because he had made some Christmas ornaments in art class and he wanted to hang them up.  Instead, Ulrike had gone to buy a large paper cardboard and told Kay to paint a Christmas tree on it.  They made a large cut-out tree and put the ornaments on it.  

 

That was Kay’s favourite Christmas tree.

 

Tomorrow would be Christmas Eve.  Kay knew Marc was already in Ludwigsburg with his parents, who still went to midnight mass and no doubt, followed the tradition of getting a real Christmas tree for their house.  They would also no doubt find Kay’s hippy upbringing very strange indeed...

 

“You missed last week’s session.  Has something happened?” Dr Schmidt finally closed her notebook and asked.

 

Where should Kay begin?  

 

He picked on the loose thread on the hem of his hoodie, a habit he couldn’t seem to shake.  He thought for a second and said, “I tried to break up with Marc and he convinced me not to.  Well, at least not yet.”

 

That definitely caught the doctor’s attention, but she didn’t ask how Kay has come to that decision.  “Do you still want to then?”

 

Isn’t that the question of the decade? Kay thought.

 

“He said I shouldn’t give up on us because I am afraid.” 

 

“And are you?  Are you afraid?”

 

Kay picked on his hoodie’s hem some more. “How can I not be?” 

 

Dr Schmidt nodded.  “Then what are you most afraid of? That it won’t work out?”

 

“What if he changes his mind?” Kay blurted out. 

 

“Like what? Going back to his old life?” She asked, her tone neutral.

 

“His family.  His perfect little middle class heterosexual life.  Everything he wanted before.” Kay spat them out of his mouth like they were poison.  Jesus, I sounded pathetic, Kay thought… But he pressed on regardless. “If he ever…” Kay took a deep breath, he couldn’t finish the sentence.  What would I do then? How could I recover from that? 

 

“And you are afraid you won’t be able to recover from that?” She said it as a statement.

 

Mind-reader, again.

 

Kay gave a curt nod, still feeling pathetic. 

 

“Huh.” She tilted her head a little, like she was surprised. “But you have already mentioned the keyword yourself there,” she pushed the bridge of her glasses up, “that it was what he wanted before.  Before you.”

 

Kay’s brows furrowed.  

 

“One of the problems in dealing with recovering memory is that it often overwhelms us, the enormity of it occupies our mind, making it difficult for us to see past it.”  She paused. “All these hurts, all these decisions that you and Marc had made, they were in the past.  They seem new to you because you have just reacquired the memory, so it feels like they just happened yesterday to you.  But in fact, you have both changed, even moved on.  You are no longer the person who is heartbroken, just as Marc isn’t the old Marc who dreams about a townhouse and 2.1 children.”

 

Kay’s eyes were careful and wary as he digested what Dr Schmidt just said.  Hope and caution still warring in his head.  

 

“Aren’t you supposed to let me talk to work that out? Not you giving me lectures?” Kay quipped.  He knew he was deflecting the real question that he didn’t ask.  Should I just forget about the past then?

 

“Well, it’s Christmas Eve tomorrow.  We are running out of time.” The good doctor joked, but her eyes were serious when she said, “it’s up to you to decide how much you want the past to dictate your life.  There’s no shame in giving up either, if you think that’s the right thing to do.  No matter what you decide to do, it will involve a leap of faith.  In yourself and in the people you love.”

 

“My Uncle Tom said the same thing before.  The leap of faith.  He had always been a romantic.” Kay said softly.  He really missed him.  

 

Dr Schmidt smiled, “he sounded like a wise person.”  Then she clasped her hands together, “Kay, this is your last recommended session.  You can continue to come see me if you want, but I think you’ve been doing very well.”

 

“Ready to release me back to the masses?” Kay smirked.  He’s going to miss her.  Who knows?  Maybe I will continue to see her... maybe I can get Marc to see Dr Schmidt, see what she can do about his jealousy...

 

That funny thought just popped into his mind out of nowhere.  Kay chuckled.

 

If I love someone, shouldn’t I have faith in that person?  Even when there’s risk, even when I am groping in the dark, there’s no other choice but to take a leap of faith.

 

******

 

Although Kay has nearly fully recovered his lost memory, driving in Ludwigsburg was still a challenge, plus he didn’t have the exact address.  Luckily, traffic was almost non-existent on Christmas Day.

 

He’s only been to Marc’s old house once - at that party for Bastian that led to the disastrous end.  But he was paying attention even back then, he remembered Marc said his parents lived right next door in a semi-detached house.  

 

He parked his car just outside the house and got out of the car.  He saw the name “Borgmann” on the mailbox outside and knew he’s found the correct house.

 

He pressed the door bell and waited.

 

He could hear some noises inside the house and checked his watch, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, he hoped they had finished lunch.  Kay and his mother didn’t celebrate Christmas, so to them, it was just another week.  He wasn’t sure how the Borgmanns celebrate theirs...

 

The door opened.  Kay recognized it was Marc’s father.

 

“Hi... Merry Christmas, Mr Borgmann...” Kay began.  Suddenly he wondered what drug did he take to decide to drive to Ludwigsburg today. “Is Marc here?” He finished softly, reminded himself to stand up straight and maintain eye contact.

 

Wolfgang Borgmann just stared at him.  He squinted like he’s questioning his eyesight and continued to assess Kay.  

 

Kay licked his lips and waited.  Finally his father called over his shoulder, “Marc!  Someone’s at the door for you.”

 

More sounds of footsteps.  Then Kay saw Marc hurried towards the foyer in a blue sweater and dark jeans, his steps slowed as he realised who was outside the door.

 

He ran the final few feet.  

 

“Kay?  What are you doing here?” He asked.  Almost in awe.  

 

Then he gave Kay a wide smile.

Chapter Text

Kay flicked a nervous glance at Marc’s father. 

 

Ignoring his father’s still stunned expression, Marc grabbed Kay’s shoulder and pulled him inside.  “Come in. You are letting the cold air in.” He scolded, but he couldn’t stop the smile in his voice. 

 

Wolfgang Borgmann shook his head, turned and walked back inside first. 

 

Kay’s raised his eyebrows.  He mouthed “I’m sorry”, then said in a hushed voice, “is it a bad time?  I wasn’t really thinking it through.” He grimaced.

 

Marc briefly touched Kay’s face, “you’ve just made my Christmas.”

 

Kay relaxed a fraction and began to take off his wool hat and heavy winter jacket and hang them in the hallway closet. 

 

Marc couldn’t take his eyes off Kay, he couldn’t believe he’s here in his parents’ house.  A minute ago, he was still putting on his best acting skills to act like he’s enjoying the festivities with his parents, while his heart and mind heavy with anxiety over what’s waiting for him back in Stuttgart. 

 

“Ready?” Marc arched his eyebrow.  Kay brushed his hair back and nodded.  He gave Marc a reassuring smile and followed Marc into the living room.

 

The Borgmann seniors both standing in the middle of the room, like they were waiting for a verdict in the courtroom.  Marc’s mother had Bastian in her arms, who was chewing a giant sugary cookie. 

 

They had just finished lunch an hour ago, Marc was thinking of making some mulled wine to get through the rest of the day before he had to take Bastian back to Bettina’s and drive home.

 

There were a few snowflakes on the tip of Kay’s lashes, Marc resisted the urge to reach out to get them off.   His cheeks were flushed, Marc wasn’t sure if it’s from the cold outside or he was uncomfortable, he still couldn’t believe Kay was here.  He cleared his throat, “Um.  Mama, Papa, you remember Kay.”

 

“Sorry to intrude your holiday like this,” Kay said.  He paused.  “I... I need to talk to Marc.”

 

“And your phone doesn’t work?” Marc’s mother quipped.  Her tone less sarcastic, more resigned.  “Mama...”  Marc flicked her a warning glance anyway. 

 

Kay chuckled good naturedly, he touched the back of his neck, “You are right.  I guess I should have tried that first.”  And just like that, he shrugged off the unfriendliness like it was nothing.  His gaze returned to Marc with a playful smile that unwind all the knots that had taken residence in Marc’s stomach the past few days.

 

Marc knew fully well how charming Kay could be if he set his mind to it, in fact, he was sure his parents would have loved him, if he wasn’t their son’s... oh well.

 

Inge Borgmann glared at Marc for a moment and resignation filtered through her expression.  “I’m taking Bastian to the bedroom for his nap.” She left without waiting for a response.

 

“Well, since you are here.  Might as well join us for some Glühwein.” Wolfgang said wearily.  “Marc, are you still making them?”

 

“Let me do it.” Kay volunteered.  “I’m the professional, after all.  Been making them for weeks.” He winked.  Marc laughed.  “Yes, Kay now owns a bar.” He explained to his father, but his eyes stayed on Kay.

 

“Oh yeah? What’s in your recipe?” His father seemed genuinely interested.

 

“Cheap sweet fruity red wine, orange, cinnamon sticks, honey, cloves and star anise, if you have any.” Kay answered.

 

Wolfgang huffed.  Like it was a silly question.  “We have all of them.  Go easy on the star anise. Marc’s mum thinks it’s an acquired taste.”

 

“That’s quite true.” Kay concurred.

 

“Come on, let me show you the kitchen.” Marc briefly touched Kay’s elbow, when what he really wanted to do was to grab Kay’s hand and run off together.

 

Once they were inside the kitchen, he wasted no time to kiss Kay on the lips, arms wound around his waist. 

 

“If you come all the way here to break up with me on Christmas Day, you’re going to traumatize me forever,” he murmured at the corner of Kay’s mouth.

 

When Marc pulled back, expecting to see a sly smile from Kay, but instead saw the seriousness in Kay’s eyes.  For one awful second, he thought maybe he got it wrong... But Kay bumped his nose against Marc’s. “I am sorry to show up here like this and made it awkward for your parents.  Seriously, maybe I’ve hit my head again.  I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea this morning.”

 

Marc kissed his nose, “if that makes you come find me, maybe you should hit it again, then move in with me.”

 

Kay put his arms around Marc’s neck, but there’s still a little hesitation in his eyes, “you still want to do that?”

 

“You have no idea how much,” and he leaned in to kiss Kay again.  Kay grabbed hold of the front of Marc’s sweater and pulled him closer.  Kay’s lips were cool from the wintry weather, he tasted precious and bittersweet, like their collective memories of the last few weeks.  Marc’s heart pounded hard, blood drumming away in his ears.  He kissed Kay with all the hunger inside of him.  Letting Kay feel the sorrow, yearning and relief, all at once.  

 

They would have stayed like this forever, had they not heard the faint Christmas tune coming from the living room.  Marc was sure his father was playing the same Christmas album since he was 5.

 

Kay slowly pulled away, wiped the corner of his mouth with his shirt sleeve, “I better get a move on, otherwise, your father will think I’m the slowest bartender in the world.”

 

>Ihr Kinderlein Kommet< was playing when Marc carried all the Glühwein mugs to the living room. 

 

“This again?  Bastian is not even here to hear it” Marc rolled his eyes.

 

“It’s Christmas, we sit around, celebrate with family and listen to Christmas songs.” Inge Borgmann said like she’s quoting it from the bible.  She was sitting on the edge of the long sofa.  She cast a sidelong glance to Kay, who stood awkwardly next to Marc.  

 

Marc gestured Kay to sit down with him on the 2-seater-sofa opposite his parents.  Their thighs were touching in the narrow seats, only just then, did the strangeness of the situation finally hit Marc - 18 months ago, his parents were warning Kay to stay away from their only son; today they were all sitting together to drink wine. 

 

 “I like this song, what is it called again?” Kay asked.

 

Three pairs of eyes on him immediately.

 

Wolfgang Borgmann made a sound, something between a laugh and a sigh.  “Are you sure you’re German?”

 

 Kay blushed, “I hear it all the time, but I never know the name...” he hesitated for a second, “we don’t really celebrate Christmas at home.”

 

Inge raised her eyebrows.  “Are you Jewish?” she asked without inflection.

 

Kay blinked.  He chuckled, shook his head, “no, just atheist.  I mean, my mother is.  I think I’m more agnostic.”

 

Inge Borgmann looked at him like he was speaking Greek.  “And your father?”

 

It wasn’t noticeable to anyone except Marc, but Kay flinched ever so slightly before answering, “he left us when I was 8, I haven’t seen him since. For all I know, he could be a Buddhist.” He shrugged.

 

Marc’s parents were both disconcerted by this revelation.  Judging by her softened eyes, Marc could tell this his mother was feeling sorry for Kay, though he’s not sure Kay would welcome the sentiment.

 

“That’s hard.  A boy needs a father figure.” She murmured.  Her tone full of sorrow.  Marc wasn’t sure if it’s for Kay or for him as well.

 

Kay shrugged again, “I have... had my uncle.” His voice wavered slightly.  Marc held his hand on the seat and squeezed.  Kay squeezed back without looking at Marc.

 

“Well, enough with the Spanish Inquisition.” Wolfgang Borgmann got up to change the record.  “Good job with the Glühwein, by the way.  Marc always made them too bitter.” He told Kay.

 

“What? It was mama’s recipe.” Marc protested.  And welcomed the change of subject.

 

“He probably forgot to trim the pith of the orange, that’s where the bitterness come from.” Kay suggested, his trademark smirk back on his face.

 

“My recipe has no pith in it.” Marc’s mother chimed in.

 

Marc rolled his eyes.  The fluttery feeling in his stomach overrode any concerns he’s been harbouring.  

 

 

******

 

“That’s Kay?” Bettina gestured with her head to the direction of Kay’s car, parked next to Marc’s.

 

Marc nodded uncomfortably.  He knew there’s no point lying or delaying the inevitable.  Bettina had the right to know who would be spending time with their son.

 

Bettina carefully took over a sleeping Bastian from Marc into her arms.  She smiled at her son, “it’s a miracle that he can still sleep with all the sugar your mother has been feeding him.”

 

Marc gently brushed Bastian’s hair, careful not to wake him. “We need to start brushing his baby teeth.” 

 

“So he remembers everything now?” Bettina suddenly asked, her voice sounded more curious than... Marc reckoned, hoped that she was just curious.  

 

“I think so.  I don’t really know how that works.” Marc said honestly.

 

Bettina watched Marc quietly for a few seconds.  Her eyes clear and kind, something close to understanding.

 

“Well, have a safe trip home.” Then she slowly closed the door.

 

******

 

Without prior agreement, Kay followed Marc’s car to drive back to Marc’s apartment that night.

 

Marc watched closely as Kay slowly walked into his apartment for the first time since that... that strange day, when Marc’s semi-rebuilt world collapsed in the matter of an hour.  

 

It was plain as day that Kay was having the same thought, he glanced around the apartment, as if he has just set foot in it for the first time.  Marc patiently waited for Kay to get his bearings, to let the memories washed over them both.

 

Kay finally turned around, he lifted his lashes and met Marc’s steady gaze.  

 

As Kay reached for him, Marc wrapped his arms around him, his hands smoothly moved down to Kay’s back, until he reached his hips, then he pulled him closer, pressed himself against him.  His arousal unashamedly poking against Kay’s groin through the soft fabric of his jeans.

 

Then Marc’s mouth found Kay’s, like turning a key, his tongue slipped inside without negotiation, like coming home.  He walked Kay back until his back hit the wall of his living room, his mouth never leaving Kay’s.  

 

“Oh god, Kay...” he muttered.  He couldn’t help it.  His hand slid beneath Kay’s flannel shirt and began to explore, to stroke the smooth stomach and back, anywhere he could reach.  If possible, Kay pressed even closer, he rubbed against Marc like a lazy cat, a soft moan escaped from his lips.

 

Marc’s hands moved down to palm Kay’s ass, while Kay’s fingers fumbled with the button and zipper of Marc’s jeans.  Finally getting them opened, Kay yanked the jeans down, taking Marc’s. boxer-brief as well in the process.   They both kicked off their shoes, shrugging out their clothes and jeans, so clumsy, they kept falling against each other.  Kay laughed.     

 

“I miss you. I miss talking with you. I miss laughing with you.” Marc murmured, he couldn’t seem to stop kissing him.  He pulled Kay back against him, leaving no space between them, his cock pressed painfully into Kay’s naked belly.  Kay wound his arms around his neck, Marc grabbed the underside of Kay’s left thigh, using his own leg as leverage, he backed Kay against the wall.

 

“Someone has been working out at the gym,” Kay laughed again, he wriggled into better position, hooking his left leg around Marc’s hip, as Marc hefted him higher. 

 

“I missed you,” Marc whispered against Kay’s face, he shifted so their cocks were rubbing against each other.  He loved the friction.  It felt amazing.  It felt Incredible.

 

They began to hump against each other, picking up the pace.  Marc rammed against Kay, so close he could breath him in.  Their hips rocking, slipping right into that old rhythm, like the last few weeks never happened, or even the last 18 months never happened, like they had never been apart.

 

Marc hitched Kay more comfortably against the wall, Kay threw his head back, banging it by accident.  “Ouch.” he muttered, but his eyes were smiling.  Marc continued to thrust against Kay, his forehead resting on Kay’s shoulder.  Kay bucked right back.  They rubbed and ground against each other in a desperate race for release.

 

Marc felt his balls began to tighten, he gave a loud groan as he thrust hard a few more times, Kay slammed into him in one final push.  Marc cried out as he started to come, he clutched Kay’s back as the tidal wave hit him, Kay followed a second later.  

 

Kay lowered his leg from Marc’s hold, he sagged forward, utterly spent.  Marc smoothed his back as they breathed harshly against each other’s ear.  Kay drew back and smiled at Marc.  His hair a sweaty mess.  He was the most beautiful thing Marc has ever seen.

 

When they could finally catch their breath again, brushing Kay’s hair back, Marc asked quietly, “What made you decide to be with me?”

 

Kay lowered his eyes.  “You,” he answered softly.  “Not just what you said last week, but what you’ve done more than a year ago.” He gently rubbed Marc’s wrist with his fingers before he continued, “I thought of how you broke up with me that day because you thought you’d be happier, safer... how I was trying to do the same.  Make the same mistake.” 

 

Marc nodded.  He laced their hands together. “You were my secret.  I thought if I buried it deep enough, kept it far away, I’d able to pretend it wasn’t there.”

 

Kay kissed Marc’s hand. “I think it’s time we become smarter.” 

 

Later that night, after finished brushing his teeth, Kay softly humming a pop tune while he casually put the toothbrush next to Marc’s in the plain white porcelain holder, sitting on top of the bathroom sink.  Marc knew years from now, he would still remember this sight.

Chapter Text

(Kay)

 

A soft “ding” sound interrupted his sleep, Kay ignored it and turned to his right in bed.  Then suddenly his eyes slit opened and met with Marc’s gaze. “Are you watching me sleep?” Kay mumbled. “Because that’s creepy.” 

 

Marc snorted.  “I’d be sleeping myself if your new BFF hasn’t been texting us all morning.” He gave Kay a pointed look.

 

Pulling the duvet over his head, Kay muttered, “it’s only 7am... Leon is getting out of control.  You need to talk to your guy.”

 

“My guy?  You two have been thick as thieves the past few weeks.” 

 

Kay opened his eyes again, he gave Marc a wry smile.  “Are you jealous of Leon now, Marc Borgmann?”

 

“Huh. Hardly.  You don’t know what you have got yourself into is all I’m saying.” 

 

Kay narrowed his eyes.  It’s true that he has struck up a friendship with Leon in recent weeks over their support for VfB Stuttgart.  Well, Kay supports, Leon loves the club.  And as the current league season coming to an end, Stuttgart needed to secure at least 1 point in the last match of the season to get to the 5th place and play the Europa League next season.  That was all Leon talked about last week.

 

And today was the last match day.  Kay, Marc, Leon and Frank were all going to watch it in the VIP box.

 

“Leon said you two have taken a paid holiday to go to the match this afternoon?” 

 

Marc nodded and sighed.  “There is no way Leon would miss this match.  And there is no way I’d let him go there unsupervised.” 

 

Kay laughed and checked his mobile on the bedside table.  “Oh, not my phone.  He texted you.” Then he reached across to grab Marc’s mobile, “let me deal with him.”

 

Marc chuckled and fell back down on bed just as Kay took a snap photo of him with his mobile.  

 

“I’m going to send it to Leon, so he’ll know he woke us up.” He started tapping on Marc’s phone, then came a “swoosh” sound as he sent the picture over.

 

“You’re overestimating his self-awareness... now he’d think you want to chat.” Marc put his arm over his eyes, shaking his head.

 

But Kay was distracted by something else on Marc’s phone.  “Erm... what is this?” He asked curiously.

 

“Huh?” Marc hoisted himself up on his elbow and moved closer to Kay.

 

Kay showed him the video he just found on Marc’s mobile’s photo roll, it was a video of himself waking up and looking directly at the camera.

 

“You don’t remember this?” Marc raised his eyebrows.  His hand touched the side of Kay’s face. “I was late getting to your apartment that night, because I had to stay behind after that incident in Poppenweiler?  When I let myself in, you were sleeping...” His eyes were soft with a hint of nostalgia.  

 

Kay shook his head slowly. Must be one of the small details that he never recovered.  The past few months since he has moved in with Marc, they both found it easier to talk openly about the past, without placing blame, without anger and regret.  

 

No, he didn’t remember that particular night, though he remembered plenty other lonely evenings waiting for Marc to come over and the mornings waking up alone in bed.  Kay shook off the memories. This was not the time for looking back. This was a new beginning.

 

“And you have this video on your mobile this whole time?” He frowned.  Surprised.  Because Marc had been so paranoid, he wouldn’t even tell people Kay was a friend.

 

“Uh-Huh.” Marc answered, looking slightly abashed.  “I couldn’t make myself to delete it, even though I was afraid Bettina would see it by accident.” He returned his gaze at Kay. “And after you left, it was the only way I could see your face.  We never had photo of each other, remember?  So yeah, I hold on to this video.”

 

They looked at each other quietly.  Then Kay whispered, “Come here...” and grabbed the back of Marc’s neck to draw him close for a feather light kiss on the lips.   He went on to kiss Marc on his eyelids, his nose, his jawline, like he’s mapping his face with kisses.  When his kisses reached Marc’s ears, he murmured, “maybe we should make a different kind of video.”

 

Marc barked out a laugh and rolled on top of Kay.

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

This is what happens when your boyfriend wants to support his ex through difficult times and the said ex is a shameless flirt.  Marc thought. 

 

Marc watched as Andreas Kuhn and Kay hugged each other hello. It’s probably just Marc’s imagination, but he thought the hug went on about 2 seconds too long.  They were inside the VIP lounge almost two hours before the match.  No one was there yet.  Kay wanted to wish Kuhn good luck before the press and the crowd got in.   

 

This was Andreas Kuhn’s last match.  Not just for this season, the last professional league match he would play.  He surprised everyone by turning down the 1-year contract Stuttgart has offered him, choosing to finish his playing career after today’s match.

 

Not that Andreas Kuhn would ever admit it, but Marc knew from his own experience that, being gay in an extreme macho working environment was hard.  After the adrenaline and the euphoria of new found freedom died down, the day-to-day grind, casual discrimination and locker room whispers became reality.  Marc could do it because this Stuttgart unit was already an improvement from Ludwigsburg, he could count on Leon and a few other colleagues.  And most importantly, he got to go home to Kay every night.

 

He couldn’t imagine doing it in such a high profile environment like the men’s pro football.  

 

Kuhn peeked over Kay’s shoulder. “Hi Marc,” he greeted.  Marc returned a reluctant smile.  

 

Marc has met Kuhn a few times over the last few months, as Kay and him stayed friends.  Kay believed Kuhn needed all the support he could have to get through these critical few months.  

Marc thought that’s Michael Herrmann’s job, but... what’s that thing people say?  Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?  

 

In fact, Kuhn and Marc have come to a sort of wary truce.  Marc reckoned he could get over the fact that Kuhn had slept with Kay in the past.  Just as long as Kuhn knew Kay was his, and if he ever tried something, Marc’d have his service pistol ready.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to play one more season?” Kay asked Kuhn.  Privately, Kay had told Marc he believed Kuhn has made the right choice, retiring from playing - “who needs the grief? It’s not his job to enlighten the media and football fans.”  So, Marc knew he was only asking on behalf of Michael.  VfB Stuttgart did not want to lose one of their only two world class players in the team.  Gay or straight.

 

“What?  So I can play in that Mickey Mouse Europa League next season? Nee. I’m done with that.” Kuhn dropped his voice, “tell Michael I’m doing him a favour.  There’re enough bad gay jokes in this club already.” 

 

Kay rolled his eyes.  “Ok.  Then good luck today.” He said solemnly.  

 

Kuhn nodded.  “Thanks.” He replied equally solemnly.  Then he flicked a glance to Marc before returning to Kay and said playfully, “You know I’m still free, but I won’t be for long... Michael said I should take a long holiday.  Go get laid.”

 

Kay threw his head back and laughed.  Marc found it less funny, he snorted, “you should take Michael’s advice.”

 

Kuhn directed a mischievous smile and a shrug to Marc. “Oh, well. It never hurts to ask.”

 

4 hours later, Andreas Kuhn proved he’s a man of his words.  

 

On his last football match for Stuttgart, he secured the single point they needed to book a place in Europa League next season.  The match finished 1:1.

 

Marc looked down from the VIP box to the emotional scenes on the pitch as the club and fans said farewell to their controversial star defender.  

 

“We need to buy that French defender from Lille next season, now that Kuhn is going.”

 

“Are you crazy?  Blow away €20m transfer fee on a defender?  We are not rich like Bayern.  We should buy a centre forward.  We are not scoring enough goals.”

 

“I bet for €100 now, the whole defence line would collapse if we don’t find a proper replacement for Kuhn. We are definitely buying a defender.”

 

“Oh yeah?  You wanna bet?  Game on!  I bet we are going to buy a forward.  We have decent defenders coming up from the academy.  Let’s not blow silly money away...”

 

“You want some 19 year-old to replace the “mean panther”?  And I’m the crazy one?...”

 

Kay whispered in Marc’s ear, “can you believe these two have just met today?” 

 

“Don’t start.  I’m beginning to think we’ve created a monster.  Two monsters, actually.” Marc glanced at Frank and Leon, his two old and new friends.  Almost a symbol of his old and new life merged into one.

 

Kay laughed heartily.  An irrepressible joy, with a hint of pride, sprung up inside of Marc, hearing that.   He put his arm around Kay’s shoulder and without any hesitation, like they did this every day, Kay kissed his cheek and rest his head on Marc’s shoulder.

 

“Eww... you two, get a room.” Frank said.  

 

“I know, right?  And I have to see this every week.” Leon chimed in, but both he and Frank were smiling.  

 

Marc smiled and raised a middle finger to them.

 

******

 

“We should go clubbing again”

 

“And watch everyone hitting on you? Don’t forget I’m still working on my jealousy”

 

“Not everyone.”

 

“Who wouldn’t want you?”

 

“Erm... guys who don’t like blonds?”

 

“Pfff.... everyone loves blonds”

 

“Oh yeah? So YOU like blonds? Is that why you were attracted to me in the first place? Because I’m blond?”

 

“You are an Idiot.” Marc laughed, but he didn’t deny it. 

 

“Now I remember what attracted me to you in the first place.”

 

“Uh-huh.  What? My brown hair?”

 

“Your smile.  Or your lack of smile.  You were always frowning.”

 

“And that’s attractive to you?”

 

Kay didn’t answer right away, his eyes dropped to Marc’s mouth.  “Oh yeah, because I wanted to make you smile.”

 

Chapter Text

One month after the car accident

 

 

Splash! Splash! Splash!

 

A group of young men just jumped into the pool.

 

Kay slowly swam to the other side to get away from the group.

 

Before long, the young men started horsing around.  Two of them near Kay started pushing each other’s head under the water.  Spluttering and laughing.  Having fun.

 

Kay looked on first with amusement.  Then out of nowhere there was a niggling at the back of his mind, he could feel a familiar image just barely out of reach.

 

“Come on...”

 

Kay suddenly heard in his mind.  He knew this voice.  He looked towards the pool entrance.  He could see the silhouette of a man, the man who turned and said that to Kay.

 

He was missing something; he could feel it.  He was missing someone.

 

 

******

 

4 years after last chapter

 

 

5 years ago, Marc wouldn’t have thought he would be living in a semi-detached house, with Kay.  In the suburb 20 minutes outside Stuttgart city.

 

It took some persuasion and sweet talks to get Kay to agree to leave the city.  Finally the suggestion of getting a dog sealed the deal.

 

“Always wanted to have a dog, but mother wouldn’t let me because of her studio.  Later I was always living alone, shouldn’t keep a dog when I was never home.” Kay reasoned while holding the German Shepherd puppy up by its two front legs, whose shiny button-like eyes looked back at Kay like he’s his saviour out of this cage in the shelter.

 

“Are you sure we should get a German Shepherd?” Marc asked doubtfully.  

 

“We are not getting those tiny dogs with a flat nose.  That’s animal cruelty.  Plus we are policemen, remember?  I mean, you are.” Kay stuck his tongue out.  “Are you a dog person?” He asked Marc belatedly.

 

Marc was struggling between rolling his eyes and smiling.  He looked at the puppy’s oversize paws on Kay’s knees, already imagining how big it was going to become.  

 

“I guess I’m a ‘Kay person’.” Marc sighed.  “Please tell me you’d train the dog.”

 

“We should name him ‘Rolf’.” Kay answered instead, holding the puppy in his arms, not willing to part with it.

 

It took Rolf only two months to become both Kay’s and Bastian’s new best friend.  Relegating Marc to be the party-pooper who complained about dog hair on the sofa.  

 

The new house’s location cut Marc’s travel time to Ludwigsburg by 30 minutes, the extra bedroom and Rolf’s presence made Bastian more eager to stay with them.

 

If someone had told him 5 years ago that he would one day host a house warming party with Kay, and all their friends and family would come, Marc would have punched that person in the nose and broken out in hives with stress.

 

But here they were now.  

 

Ulrike was away in Cologne with her artist friends for the Art Fair, but she has asked Michael to bring two of her paintings as gifts.  One large landscape painting of Stuttgart woodland for Marc and Kay’s new house, one small portrait of Bastian for Marc’s parents.  

 

“Mama says she’s sorry that she can’t meet you two this time, but hope you’d like the painting.” Kay said to Marc’s parents.

 

“Oh my.  Look at that.” Inge Borgmann exclaimed.  Digging out her glasses to have a better look at the painting.  “This is beautiful.  How did she get Bastian to sit still for this?” She was clearly amazed.

 

Kay scratched the back of his head, “I used to sit for her too when I was a child, she’d tell me stories to keep me distracted while she painted.  Guess it worked on Bastian too.”

 

She gently patted Kay’s arm, “tell your mother we really appreciate it.  We are going to hang it up at home tonight.” It was the first time Marc saw his mother touched Kay physically in any way.  

 

His parents’ more tolerant less acceptant attitude towards Kay had always been a sore spot for Marc; Kay acted like he didn’t care one way or the other, but Marc knew it was just his go-to defence mechanism.

 

Marc was still in this reflective mood when he heard Frank and Claudia say hello to a familiar voice.  Of course, Bettina was invited.

 

Even Kay, who was usually unflappable, found the scene in front of them surreal.  Bettina, heavily pregnant with the first child with her new husband, walking towards them with a large dish of homemade cherry strudel.  Like a role reverse déjà vu.

 

She said hello to Kay with a cool but polite expression, who smiled in return and quickly took over the dessert dish.  “Thank you.  I’d put it in the fridge first, we can heat it up after the barbecue.”  Kay promptly escaped to the kitchen and left Marc alone with her.  The bastard.

 

“Relax.  No one is making a scene.” Bettina said after few seconds of silence.  She seemed to be amused by Marc’s nervousness.  Looking around at the garden and the porch, she commented, “This looks quite similar to the house we used to live in before, isn’t it?”

 

Marc nodded.  Didn’t really know what to say.  “Guess they all build them like that now.” 

 

It would be a lie to say that he’s totally at ease and relaxed.  His guilt for what he had done to her was permanent, even if Bettina has forgiven him long time ago.

 

“Bastian seems to get along with Kay.” Bettina said matter of factly.  Not a praise, not an accusation either.

 

“Yeah, he’s good with kids, surprisingly.” Marc couldn’t help the smile in his voice.  One of the many new facts of Kay that Marc kept discovering over the last few years.  That Kay liked kids, liked dogs, liked to sing in the shower, liked Coen Brothers movies, liked Vietnamese sandwiches, suffered from terrible hay fever every June...

 

She nodded slowly, seemed to be considering something and making a decision.  She looked at Marc again, “Bastian wants to spend more time here, to play with the dog, I presume.  Since school holiday is coming and I’m due in a few weeks.  Maybe he can stay here few days a week in the summer?”

 

“Of course.” Marc managed to say after gotten over the surprise.  “Well, we can work out the schedule later.” She said.  Then off she went to chat with Claudia.

 

Marc went looking for Kay and saw him in deep conversation with his father and Leon in front of their brand new outdoor grill.  He slowly walked over to join them and heard Kay explaining American style barbecue.

 

“Basically they don’t use flame at all, just use heat and smoke to cook the meat, that’s why they have a cover on their grill.” Kay said.

 

“That’s not really grilled meat then, that’s smoked meat.” Leon raised his eyebrows. 

 

Kay shrugged, “You can say that.  But we are doing it the German way today.  Charcoal flame grill.”

 

“Nothing beats a Schwenker grill, if you ask me.  We have one at home.  We should try that next time, with real beechwood chips.  That’s real outdoor grilling.” Wolfgang Borgmann concluded and that settled the discussion.

 

Marc happily filed away his father’s subtle invitation in his mind.  He gave Kay a bottle of beer and put his arm around him, who leaned into his touch without a second thought.  “There’s only one master in the house when it comes to Schwenkbraten.” Marc pointed to his father. 

 

Michael, Frank and Leon stayed behind for the 2nd part of the party, to watch the Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur that night.  All of them were neutral  to both teams, so they decided a harmless €20 bet was in order to spice up the fun.

 

“Ok.  I am calling it now.  Liverpool 2 Tottenham 1.” Leon said, putting down €20 on the table.

 

“Yeah, me too.  Liverpool have a good season so far.  Plus Jürgen Klopp is their manager, I like the idea of a German manager winning.” Michael agreed.

 

“I’d go with Tottenham.  Claudia has relatives in north London.” Frank said, always liked being territorial.

 

Marc didn’t know much about either team, so he went with Tottenham, just to support Frank.

 

“I want Liverpool to win.” Kay declared. “Alisson looks so hot in that neon green jersey.” He sent a sly smile to Marc - knowing how much Marc hated the fact that he’s into good looking football players.  Marc rolled his eyes.  

 

Well, they could joke about it now, when Andreas Kuhn was nearly a distant memory.  

 

The ex-Stuttgart star defender has moved to Chicago two years ago, no doubt sowing his wild oats while teaching football players over there how to do a hard tackle without getting a yellow card.

 

The match was tense but uneventful, both teams were too nervous and cautious, it’s actually quite boring for neutral fans.  Even before half-time, Leon and Frank have finished off all the snacks.  Kay suggested they should have more guacamole and tortilla chips.  

 

“I’d go make some more.” Marc was about to get up.

 

Frank laughed, “you’re so whipped, my friend.” 

 

“Let’s ask Claudia about that, shall we?” Kay joked.  He got up instead. “I’d make it.”

 

Marc glared at Frank.  “Getting comfortable here already, aren’t you?” And dislodged Frank’s foot off the coffee table with a kick. 

 

But Frank didn’t react.  All three of them were glued to the screen suddenly as Tottenham tried another shot, but it was easily saved by Alisson.  

 

“Damn!”

 

“Not even close!”

 

Shaking his head, Marc went to join Kay in the kitchen instead.

 

“Scheiße!” Kay dropped the knife in his hand on the floor.  The blood spurted from his palm immediately made the cutting board crimson.  

 

Marc ran to him.  He grabbed Kay’s hand, “what the hell did you do?” 

 

“The damn avocado pit.”  

 

“Open your palm.  Let me check.” Marc grabbed a clean tea towel and pressed it down onto the cut wound.  “It’s not too deep.  Hold it tight.” He ordered.  Then he went to get the first-aid kit.  

 

Kay hissed as Marc dabbed the wound with alcohol-free wipe and dressed it with bandage.  “It’s only a shallow cut.  Pussy.” Marc mocked, couldn’t help dishing out their old endearment. 

 

“Maybe you need to kiss it to make it better.” Kay scoffed. He stuck his hand out, palm up.  His playful eyes challenging Marc, like a dare.

 

On impulse, Marc grabbed Kay’s outreaching hand, and sucked one of his fingers into his mouth instead, vastly enjoying the stunned expression on Kay’s face as he slowly released it.  Then he leaned in, his mouth hovered over Kay’s neck.  A soft moan emerged from Kay’s throat when Marc licked into its hollow.

 

“So, still think Alisson is hot?” Marc murmured.

 

Kay looked at him with his light blue eyes under long, sweeping lashes, a smile played about his lips.  “Ok.  You won.”

 

 

 

The End

FB18-AB34-4179-4-C37-B00-B-A56-C47487-B4-A

Of course, Liverpool won 2-0 in this final. Alisson holding the trophy.