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“Marc, it’s not easy for me...” 

 

Marc felt that gentle touch on his shoulder, his heart ached at the hint of sadness in Kay’s voice.  He turned around and pulled Kay into his arms, who grabbed onto Marc tightly, resting his head on Marc’s shoulder.  Marc murmured, “Kay...” he tried to offer small comfort.  A promise he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep was on the tip of his tongue, he swallowed it and said instead, “I know, baby, I know.”  Stroking Kay’s short and spiky blond hair with his fingers, until he felt the tension slowly drained out of Kay.  

 

But when Kay looked up again, his lips were split and bright red blood started pouring out...

 

No!

 

Marc’s body jerked and he woke up.

 

“Marc...?” Bettina asked in a groggy voice. “What’s wrong, honey?” Her forehead furrowed, she reached out to touch his face.  “You are all sweaty.”  She said with worry in her voice.  

 

Marc blinked away the image.  

 

It’s just a dream.  

 

Except it also wasn’t a dream.  Not the split lip part.  

 

Marc rubbed his face, his heart still pounding.  It was too real, he could... his could almost smell Kay in his arms, that familiar scent of clean sweat and citrus soap.  But of course, it was just a dream; because in reality, Marc had reacted the exact opposite to the dream.  

 

“You feeling ok?” Bettina put her hand on his forehead. He knew he needed to reassure her, before she asked more questions.  But for the life of him he couldn’t utter one word, that spot of red blood still blurring his vision.  

 

He shook his head and took a deep breath, mentally counted to three before he turned to Bettina with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.  “Just a silly dream.  We shouldn’t have watched that horror movie last night.” The lie came so easily now, Marc sometimes wondered what kind of a horrible man he has become.

 

Bettina chuckled and shook her head, “I told you so. You are always a wuss when it comes to gory movies.” She said with indulgent affection, her face tender and glowing under the faint yellow light from the bedside lamp.  “Don’t worry, I’m here to keep you safe.” Bettina cooed playfully.  Marc gave her an embarrassed smile, he pulled the duvet up to cover his hands, which were still shaking.   

 

He knew Bettina’s suspicions have eased up since the birth of their son, partly because the grinding demand of looking after a newborn robbed them both of the energy for anything else, partly because Marc has almost completely stopped meeting up with Kay.

 

And after that argument and that punch... Marc had no idea where he stood with Kay.  Is it over? Do I want it to be over?  Or is Kay just mad at me?  “It’s just a one-off with you, Kay”... Marc shuddered.  He had to shut down that train of thought. 

 

Last weekend, Marc had been dreading how Kay would react on Monday when they were both on duty again.  Would Kay make a scene in front of everyone?  That had always been a threat at the back of Marc’s mind, that Kay could flip a switch and end Marc’s world.

As it turned out, his worry was needless; his planned avoidance was embarrassingly redundant.  Truth was, he hasn’t seen Kay for over a week; since that day.  Not even at the police station because Kay hasn’t shown up at work either.

 

******

 

“Where’s your lover boy, Britt? Haven’t seen him for awhile.” Limpinski bumped his shoulder against Britt’s, who instinctively took a step back.  

 

Everyone in the unit knew Limpinski was into Britt; everyone knew it was unrequited and one-sided.  Marc would usually come to Britt’s rescue when Limpinski stepped over the line or being creepier than his usual creepy self.  But this time, he’s almost glad Limpinski has asked the question that he’s been dying to ask.  

 

“What lover-boy? Kay?  He’s not my anything and I don’t know where he is.” Britt answered almost defensively, irritation clear in her tone.

 

Marc knew Kay had stopped the half-hearted pretending with Britt ever since they have gotten together, but still, he hoped Britt might know something he didn’t.

 

“Engel is on personal leave.  Family matter.” Frank walked into the locker room just in time to provide the answer.

 

“So he wasn’t raised by a pack of wolves after all?” Limpinski sneered.  

 

Frank narrowed his eyes, “be kind. Gregor.  I heard it’s family grievance.  Eiden said he had to go to London.  Don’t know when he will be back yet, so sign up for extra shifts if you can.  That goes for all of you.” He addressed the whole room.

 

For some reason, during this onslaught of information, the first thought that came to Marc’s mind was: no wonder he feels so faraway, he’s not even in the country.  As if his brain could sense their physical distance.

 

His second thought was: so Kay isn’t avoiding me.

 

London?  Kay has family in London? Marc didn’t know.  Of course you didn’t know.  When did you ever ask him anything personal?  You are too scared to know more about him.  What do you really know about him? 

 

I know that I want him; I know that I think about him all the goddamn time; I know that is ruining my life; I know that I have to stop! That much I know! Marc felt obligated to answer himself.  Silently shouting at himself.

 

The urge to call Kay was strong.  But thin-skinned and easily provoked, Marc was a master of self-denial.  He was also a firm believer of will-power. If he just kept himself busy, turned his focus on the people and issues right in front of him, he could ignore that itchiness, that niggle at the back of his mind.  Out of sight, out of mind.

 

So what if he sleepwalked through his routines?  Lunch gathering with Frank and Claudia, dinner at his parents place next door, bathing his newborn son, taking care of that annoying paint stain on the carpet.  Anything.  Anything to take his mind off Kay.  

 

Like a functioning alcoholic, Marc was able to fool everyone around him.  It was when he’s completely alone that he dreaded the most.  The few minutes under the shower, when he closed his eyes under a cascade of warm water, that Kay would come to him in his mind, unrestrained...

 

Kay’s soft skin, flexing muscles, and his unmistakably hard male body pressed so intimately against Marc’s own turned the flame inside him into a wildfire. Kay never let Marc forget he’s making love to a man.  The physical side of gay sex never ceased to surprise Marc, the wantonness, the reckless abandon.  Kay shoved his hand between Marc’s legs, fondled his rapidly hardening cock between his fingers.  He whispered against Marc’s lips, “I want you to fuck me.”  

 

This wildfire, once ignited, Marc was hapless to put a stop to it, not until it burned him whole...

Chapter Text

That tattoo looked so familiar.

 

Kay knew he’s staring, but he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off the round tattoo on the side of the guy’s arm.

 

That green and red tattoo, like a flaming pizza...

 

“What is this sign?” Kay leisurely drew circles with his finger around the tattoo on Marc’s back, “it looks like a pizza on fire.” He said almost in wonder.

 

Marc chuckled into the pillow, he turned to lie on his back, pulled Kay in for a kiss. “Teenage pizza mistake.” He deadpanned.

 

“Margherita pizza?” Kay offered.

 

“Nee... Quattro Formaggi.” Marc played along.

 

“Please I’d like a ‘Quattro Formaggi’ tattoo on my back” Kay mimicked Marc’s voice.

 

“Fuck you.” Marc swore softly, his eyes smiling.  He tackled Kay over, got on top of him and started tickling his sides.  Kay squealed with laughter, “hey, careful not to crush me like a pizza.”

 

“Hi there.”  

 

Started; Kay only just realised the British version Mr Quattro-Formaggi-tattoo was suddenly standing in front of him.

 

Close-up, the tattoo looked nothing like Marc’s.  The colours were all wrong.  Kay directed his eyes to the guy’s face, who was looking at Kay like he’s the most interesting thing he’s seen today.

 

Kay sat up straighter. He returned a wan smile, “hi.”

 

Undeterred; Mr Quattro-Formaggi-tattoo sat down on the stool next to him.  There were only a few patrons drinking inside this pub.  Kay noticed the Brits like to take their drinks outside, even when there are plenty of room indoor.  Even when the weather is bad.

 

“I can’t help but notice that you were looking at me...” Mr tattoo smirked.  He’s wearing a military green tank top and black jeans.  Dark chestnut brown hair tamed by gel and a pair of hooded blue eyes.  Maybe it wasn’t his tattoo that made Kay thought of Marc after all. He had an English accent that was easy for Kay to understand, unlike other British accents.  Unlike Markus’ relatives. He sounded... educated, perhaps?  

 

Kay lowered his eyes, “Erm, yeah.  Sorry.  I was just looking at your tattoo.”

 

He glanced at his own tattoo self consciously, “oh yeah?  It’s a Chinese fire wheel.  Ancient weapon.” 

 

Pretty sure Marc’s tattoo isn’t anything remotely Chinese.  Kay thought to himself with a small smile.

 

Mr Chinese-fire-wheel-tattoo seemed to think the smile was for him, he moved closer.

 

“Gosh. I love your accent.  Swedish?”

 

This time Kay’s smile was genuine.  He shook his head, “no, you’ll be disappointed. German.”

 

The guy hid his surprise well. “Mate, there’s nothing disappointing about you.” His tone laced with innuendoes.  “I’m Kevin.” He extended his hand.

 

Kay turned to face him directly and shook his hand. “Kay.”

 

“Now that’s a pretty name.”

 

Shrugging, Kay said, “it’s a fairly common first name in Germany,” he quirked his mouth, “... and in Sweden.” 

 

“A-ha!” Kevin playfully exclaimed.  They both laughed.  

 

Kay could feel Kevin’s steady gaze on him, he held it for a few seconds, felt the familiar stir of attraction.  Not a spark, more like a low humming electric current.  Kevin was a good looking guy with a very nice smile.  He’s fairly fit under that tank top but not professionally trained like Kay... or Marc. 

 

At a causal glance, Kevin resembled Marc on certain angles.  They were of similar height, same hair colour, Kevin’s was a bit more curled.  Similar hooded blue eyes but Marc had higher cheekbones.  There was something fun and relaxing about Kevin, he knew how to put people at ease.  In that department, definitely unlike Marc.  Kay could sense the next question coming. 

 

“So, what brings you to London, Germanic Kai?”

 

Bingo.

 

Kay thought of making up some superficial lies, but changed his mind.  He didn’t need to spare anyone’s feelings here.

 

“Funeral.”  Actually, funerals.  But Kevin didn’t need to know the exact number.

 

Kevin’s brows rose but showed no sign of discomfort.  He nodded sympathetically.  “Sorry to hear that.” Brits are good at handling such things, Kay had this impression since he arrived London 10 days ago.  Everyone seemed to know what to say in a professional and yet, empathetic way.  The police, the funeral home and the lawyers, who they called solicitors here.

 

“Thank you.” Kay simply nodded.  

 

“You’ve come to the right place.  My mother is Irish, pub is where they deal with post funeral blues.” 

 

“Sounds like a sensible tradition.” Kay quipped.  He was pretty sure this pub in the middle of SoHo didn’t get much business from Irish funerals. 

 

Kevin chuckled softly, perhaps relieved that Kay didn’t appear to be in a mourning mood. He watched Kay quietly, then asked, “may I buy you a pint of my favourite brew on tap?  I am sure it’s actually German.” His eyes dropped to Kay’s mouth.

 

So it began.  The universal opening line for one-night-stand courtship.  Kay thought.  

 

He knew it would probably do him well to get laid.  People always want to have sex after funeral, right?  He was sure he had read that somewhere.  Not to mention, it would be a good first step to take Marc off his mind.  

 

Marc, who said he’s not gay; who told Kay to leave him alone.  Marc, who hit him in the face.  Kay licked his lips subconsciously, the blood’s metallic taste still lingered in his mind.  

 

Marc, who hadn’t so much as sending him a text to ask if he’s ok the last two weeks.  

 

It was almost comical to receive a text message of condolences from Frank instead yesterday: >>Sorry for your loss.  The team miss you but take as much time as you need<<

 

Kay was certain no one in the team missed him.  Not even Britt, who was still smarting from Kay’s ambiguous brush-off.  Not Marc either, who was probably sleeping peacefully next to his girlfriend right this moment.

 

“It was just a one-off with you, so leave me alone, Kay.”

 

Good to know that I’ve progressed from being the abandoned son to a straight guy’s “slip-up”.  Kay allowed himself to mire in self-pity for a minute.

 

After all, he was the one who had chased after Marc.  Got himself transferred to a town where he didn’t know anyone else.  Pining for a straight guy; he’s a walking gay cliché.   And how long had they been together?  It wasn’t like they were in love.  Certainly not Marc.  He was looking for sex, something new, and he got it from Kay, that’s all.  

 

Kay looked at Kevin again.  Considering his offer.  His eyes drifted to Kevin’s tattoo again.  

 

If he were going to fuck other guys to get Marc out of his system, he should at least pick someone who didn’t remind him of Marc.

 

“Thanks.  But I have to go.  Maybe I’ll buy you one next time.” Kay delivered the well-used excuse as he got up.  

 

Kevin hastily got up too.  He looked slightly startled.  Not used to hearing “No”, probably.  But he’s also too well-mannered to get upset at a visitor who was in town to attend a funeral.  

 

“It was nice meeting you.  Take care.” Kay offered his hand.

 

“Kay, wait.” Kevin grabbed his wrist, then released it.  Then he quickly scribbled something on a napkin and shoved it into Kay’s hand. “Next time?” He grinned.

 

Kay smiled and closed his fist with the napkin inside.

 

He only had a vague idea where he was.  London was a lot bigger than Ludwigsburg and crowded and full of maze-like streets.  Markus, his half brother, reminded him a few times that London black cab fare was daylight robbery, so he should try to catch the tube before the last train if he could.   

 

Lighting up a cigarette, Kay started walking towards Tottenham Court Road station, where he remembered he could get the Northern Line tube to his father and stepmother’s house in Belsize Park.  

 

His late father and stepmother.

 

Not that Kay and his mother were left in financial ruin when his father left, but it was nothing like this Victorian townhouse in one of London’s most affluent areas.  Kay never wanted to know anything about his father’s new life and the other family.  Markus had mentioned in passing where they went on holidays and the private school he attended, so Kay had some idea that they had money.  Most likely from Markus’ mother’s family.  

 

That frantic phone call from Markus two weeks ago, came at the same weekend after his argument with Marc.  At first Kay couldn’t make out what his brother was saying.  “You need to come over now.  Komm jetzt!  Bitte! Kay, bitte! Ich kann nicht... They are both dead...” He was sobbing and babbling in a mix of English and German. 

 

Markus’ parents had died in a car accident the previous night, his father was also Kay’s.  The father Kay hadn’t spoken to for more than a decade.  

 

Kay stood in front of tube map at the station to check which direction he should take.  Next to the map, a young busker with a guitar was singing Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”.   

 

It was the same song playing on the car radio when his father told 16-year-old Kay that he's divorcing his mother and moving to England to live with his other family.

 

Kay dug out a few coins from his jeans pocket and put them on the busker’s guitar bag on the floor.   

Chapter Text

Marc heard him before he saw him.

 

“Thanks.” 

“Yes, it was very sudden.” 

“I’m doing ok.  Thanks for asking.”

 

Marc stopped just around the corner, behind a row of lockers.  He clenched and unclenched his fists, his hands felt clammy.  He’s been on edge since yesterday when Eiden informed the unit that Kay was coming back to work, so there would be a revised shift schedule. 

 

Frank tapped his shoulder from behind just when Marc was about to mentally count to three.

 

“What are you standing here for?” Frank asked.  Too loudly, for Marc’s liking.  

 

Marc had no choice but to get out from hiding.  Britt and a couple of colleagues were surrounding Kay.  When Marc looked up, he saw Kay looking directly at him.

 

He had lost some weight, not very noticeable, probably only Marc would notice. His cheeks slightly hollowed, not haggard, but he looked like he hasn’t been resting properly.  His split lip has healed... Marc desperately wanted to say something to Kay... to offer some... but what?  What could he possibly say now?  He hadn’t even texted Kay for nearly three weeks.  Hadn’t offered him any comfort, not even as a friend, or as a colleague.

 

Frank had told Marc that Kay’s father had been killed in a multiple-vehicle collision accident, his stepmother also died.  It was a major incident in the UK.  Marc read about it online afterwards.  Thinking of Kay, imagining him dealing with the sudden tragedy all by himself.  He wondered how close Kay was with his father, he had never heard him mention anything about his father.  

 

“Hey, welcome back.” was all Marc managed to deliver.

 

“Thanks.” Kay nodded politely but said nothing further.  They looked at each other for a couple of seconds, Kay’s clear blue eyes offered no clue what he’s really thinking.  Marc cleared his throat and tore his eyes away.  

 

“Come on, guys.  Squad room now.” Frank announced.

 

******

 

At first, Marc thought nothing of it.  Of course there would be awkwardness between them, they had parted ways... awkwardly.  No, scratch that.  Angrily. If Marc was honest.  He hasn’t forgotten the argument, the hurtful words he used, the punch he threw.  He had expected Kay to be angry with him - he’s been expecting it.  Those two weeks when Kay was away, he was almost looking forward to it.  

 

Because anything from Kay, even anger, was better than this.

 

Better than Kay Engel treating him like he was just just “one of the guys” in the unit .  Like they hadn’t been kissing, doing unspeakable things on every inch of each other’s body for months. 

 

Until that moment, Marc hadn’t known how much it’d hurt to be at the receiving end of Kay’s aloof indifference.

 

“Hey.  How is it going?” Kay casually said when they bumped into each other in the locker room on a Monday morning.   Marc could tell his eyes and his mind were elsewhere, that it was a meaningless greeting that didn’t require answer.  Delivered in that auto-pilot way that sometimes Marc used to make small talks with other colleagues.  It was the first time Kay used such tone to talk to him... like Marc was... a nobody to him.  

 

It stung. Marc stood perfectly still, his confusion quickly turned into frustration, then anger.  Ok, so this is how Kay wants to play it?  He thought.  His fists clenched uneasily.  He wanted to say something ironic or cutting.  

 

But Frank interjected before he could think of any good retort.  

 

“Actually a few of us had a barbecue lunch at my house yesterday.  You should join us next time.  You look embarrassingly pale for this weather, Engel!” 

 

Kay quirked his lips. “Yeah, maybe.”  He threw a quick glance at Marc.  For a fraction of a second, Marc thought he saw some genuine emotion on Kay’s face, but it’s gone before Marc could figure out what it was.  Sadness?  Hurt?  Resignation?

 

“Yeah, I could really use some proper food after all the English crap I ate.” Kay said, turning his attention back to Frank.  Got a laugh from the rest of the unit.  Then he closed the door of his locker and left without a backward glance.

 

No, Kay wasn’t avoiding Marc.  Apparently Marc wasn’t significant enough for Kay to give a shit.  Didn’t matter that Marc thought about Kay every day, incessantly, in fact.  To Kay, Marc had made his choice and Kay seemed to have accepted it; have left Marc alone.  As Marc had asked for. 

 

Which is a good thing, isn’t it?  Marc tried to reason with himself.  Maybe now he could put this madness, this ridiculous infatuation (over a man!) out of his system.  

 

I’m not gay.  I don’t want to be gay.  I can’t be gay.

 

Marc kept repeating this mantra in his mind.  It would have worked if he didn’t find himself still hyper-aware of Kay’s every movement.  

 

The next two weeks were more of the same.  By then, it was more than a month since Marc has last slept with Kay.  

 

It was almost surreal how easily his old life slipped back into place.  No more lies about doing night shifts; no more excuses to go running.  Marc began his full return to the safe domestic life he had before Kay showed up.

 

Bettina never questioned the change, took it for granted that Marc now turning down night shifts because of their newborn son, Jonas.  

 

Singletons in the unit would get assigned more evening shifts, while colleagues with family worked more day shifts, that was the usual order of things in the unit.  After the birth of their son, Marc found himself on different shifts from Kay on most days.  

 

In the past, they would discreetly arrange shift change and same day-offs, so they could meet up.  Now apart from unit briefings and practices, Marc hardly saw Kay at work.

 

This evening while walking to his car after work, he was startled to hear Kay’s voice.  He was talking on his phone, his voice amplified in the near empty underground car park.  

 

“Yeah, I’m leaving now.  What do you have in mind?”

 

Kay was talking in English.

 

“Fuck.  Not that again.”  Kay chuckled as he opened his car door.  “Shut up and wait for me.” Whoever it was on the other end of the line, that person managed put a genuine smile on Kay’s face, one that Marc hasn’t seen since Kay returned to work.

 

Putting his phone away, Kay got into his Jeep without seeing Marc.  

 

******

 

Marc stood in front of Kay’s apartment.  Digging into his jeans pocket, he took out the key but unsure if he should knock first, even though he knew Kay’s shift wouldn’t end for another hour.

 

He used to carefully carry the key from jeans to jeans.  He’d put it in his locker at the station when he’s in work uniform, but never left it anywhere in his house, just in case Bettina accidentally saw it.   

 

Marc turned the key over in his palm, remembering that late afternoon when Kay first gave him the key.  How he playfully closed his fist when Marc tried to take it.  How ridiculously happy Marc was at that moment.  He noticed he never offered to give the key back; and Kay hasn’t asked to have it back.

 

Taking a breath, he slotted the key in and turned the knob.

 

He could hear water splashing sound coming from the bathroom and little steam escaping from underneath the door.  Maybe he got it wrong, maybe Kay has finished his shift already.   

 

Marc walked over to the tiny living room/bedroom and sat down on the folded futon.  Kay’s apartment was sparsely furnished.  Now it looked clean but cluttered, there was a big black backpack on the floor, with clothes spilling over from it.  A green sleeping bag or quilt was hanging haphazardly on top of the coffee table.  Perhaps Kay hasn’t finished unpacking from his London trip yet.   

 

Marc had told himself that the reason he come over today was to apologize to Kay about the way he ended things.  And for that... punch.  That’s all.  He wasn’t looking to start things with Kay again.  That part had to end.

 

The bathroom door opened.

 

Marc looked up and saw a young man with a towel around his waist, staring at him. His eyes big as saucers.  He looked no more than 21 or 22 years old, like an university student.  His slender frame fit a student diet of ramen noodles.   With floppy dark brown hair tumbling over his forehead and deep set brown eyes, he’s good looking in a rent-boy-with-an-attitude way.  What the hell is this student doing in Kay’s apartment?

 

“Who the fuck are you?” 

 

English.  The guy was asking in English.  Like that phone call the other day...

 

Marc was momentarily paralyzed.  His heart started beating like a jackhammer.  No, no... this is not happening.  He willed himself to get up, then walked and stood in front of the young man.

 

Marc’s mouth was so dry it was hard to unstick the words. “I could ask you the same thing.  Who are you?” He finally squeezed out the words.  In German.

 

The young man’s lip curled in derision.  He answered back in fluent German with an accent, “I live here.  And I’m sure you don’t. So how did you get in?” 

 

Marc felt like he’s been slapped.  I live here.

 

Instead of answering the question, he asked, “where’s Kay?” 

 

Upon hearing Kay’s name, the young man’s expression relaxed a fraction.  He shrugged, “at work?” 

 

Then his eyes zeroed in on the key in Marc’s hand.  With a slow grin on his face, he looked Marc up and down, muttered to himself, “fucking Kay... I asked him if he’s seeing anyone, he said no. And ta-da! An ex-boyfriend with a key.” He shook his head and started to dry himself with the towel.

 

Marc turned away.  “I’m not...” he began to say.

 

The young man sneered, “not what?  Not his ex? Or not his boyfriend?” He turned and glared at Marc, completely naked. “Bet you are not now, mate.” Then he grabbed a pair of boxer-briefs and a tank top from the backpack and started to get dressed. 

 

Marc recognized that grey tank top, it was Kay’s.  

 

He turned his head away, more than irritated by the guy’s sheer arrogance and audacity.  How dare he? What does he know about me... Why is he wearing Kay’s clothes?  Marc gripped the key in his hand tightly until it hurt.  Walking backward, he said, “I should go.” 

 

Frowning, the young man looked at Marc directly, “you don’t want to wait for Kay?  He should be back soon.” He sounded puzzled, as if he hasn’t just mocked Marc mercilessly 10 seconds ago.

 

Marc would rather die than waiting for Kay to show up and seeing these two together.  He shook his head.  

 

“Suit yourself.” He shrugged before turning on the tv with the remote.

 

Chapter Text

“You don’t mind?” Marc suddenly asked. His hand lightly caressing along Kay’s flank, then the dip on his small back, all the way to his ass.  Something Marc liked to do after sex. This post-coital gentle intimacy, especially after a particularly energetic one.  Who knew Marc Borgmann was a romantic?

 

And today, the sex was intense.  Twice, in fact.  An observation Kay reluctantly acknowledged - that whenever Marc managed to stay away from Kay for more than a week, he always came back with a desperation and intensity that Kay didn’t know what to make of it.

 

“Mmmm? Mind what?” Kay turned to look at him. 

 

A flush creeped up on Marc’s face, he lowered his eyes and mumbled, “I mean, you don’t mind that I never... that you never, you know...” he looked up at Kay and raised his eyebrows suggestively.  

 

Kay snorted.  This was too cute.  He turned to lie on his back, hands behind his head. “I like getting fucked.  So no, I don’t mind.” Then he pulled Marc close for a kiss, warm and unhurried. “Especially with you.” 

 

That earned him another fierce and lingering kiss from Marc.  Maybe they didn’t see each other as often now, but Marc certainly made up for it when they did meet up.  

 

His liquid blue eyes bored into Kay’s, “so... what does it feel like?” He tried to sound nonchalant.  

 

Someone is getting curious.  Kay grinned. He thought for a second, licked his lips and said, “like everything else in the world slipped away except for that connection.”

 

Marc listened with a small smile on his face.  “Maybe someday...” he said.

 

“Whenever you are ready.” Kay reached up to touch the side of Marc’s face. “Yes, someday.”

 

 

“Yo!  Earth to Kay.” 

 

Kay blinked slowly, then the memory drifted away.  He turned around and saw Markus stood behind him in a pair of gym shorts and a grey tank top.  Kay’s tank top.  

 

He looked at Markus pointedly, “you need to go to the basement and do some of your own laundry.”

 

“I will.  Once I have collected enough euro coins.” Markus took the joint from Kay’s fingers and took a long drag. “Shit.” He started coughing.  “Tell me again how you can smoke weed and be a cop at the same time?” He asked.

 

“How did you end up a cop?”

“Ever heard of infiltrating the system?”

Marc smiled, “what? you’re an anarchist?” 

 

Kay shook the memory away again.

 

“Because I can.” Kay took the joint back. He studied Markus’ profile.  His half brother seemed to be back to his usual brash self, at least on surface.  That frantic phone call a month ago seemed another life time already. 

 

Kay had no idea how close Markus was to his parents.  The emails and texts they wrote to each other over years seldom mentioned their parents.  That had been deliberate from both of them.  They would talk about sports, music, schools, girls, boys, video games, but not a word about Engel Senior. 

 

Two months after his father had left for England, Kay got an email from a 12-year-old named Markus Engel, it only had three sentences: I just found out you’re my half brother.  I want you to know I fucking hate him too.  I will never forgive him.

 

But Markus had.  He had forgiven him in the end.  Unlike Kay.

 

Anyway, nobody, nobody gets over the death of their parents in a month, so Markus was not as okay as he looked.  He’s probably still in shock.  Kay thought.  

 

“Papa knew you’ve joined the police.” Markus suddenly said.  “I didn’t tell him.” He added defensively, flicked up a glance at Kay.  “I don’t know how he found out.  But he was surprised.  He thought you were going to become a pro athlete, a middle-distance runner.” 

 

Kay snorted, “shows how much he didn’t know about me.  I haven’t been in any competition for over 10 years.” 

 

“He also used to say: Kay is going to break a lot of girls’ heart.” Markus sniggered, “sure, the ladies’ hearts are broken, but not in the way he thought.”  He laughed so hard, it sounded like a choked sob.  

 

Kay watched his brother closely.  He was worried about him. But if Markus was not ready, all Kay could do was to be there for him.  

 

Kay shrugged, “I came out to my mother when I was 17. I probably would have told him too, if i thought it would upset him.  But I didn’t think he gave a shit about me or my mother.”

 

“You know that’s not true...” Markus said slowly.

 

Kay had a hand up, warding him off. “Don’t.  Markus.” Kay warned.

 

Pursing his lips, Markus ignored him. “Sure, he’s an arsehole who were two-timing our mothers... but...”

 

Kay leaned against the railing, took another drag from his joint and slowly exhaled.  “Having two families for years is not two-timing,” he said.  Looking at Markus right in the eye.

 

For that, Markus had no answer.  He knew Kay was right.  Then few seconds later, like he couldn’t help himself, he said, “I wish you had come out to Papa, you’d be surprised how supportive he would have been.  He’s not a bigot.  Maybe you two would have reconciled.  He talked about you all the time, you know?  And he was planning to come here for Chris...” 

 

“I don’t want to talk about him.” Kay cut in. His voice turning icy.  He watched Markus closely.  “I don’t mind that you love him.  I understand.  After all, he chose to live with you and your mother.  But you don’t need to try to make me feel better.  I don’t give a shit whether he cares about me or not.” Flicking the joint away, he pulled himself away from the balcony railing and walked back in.  

 

Kay could hear Markus’ footsteps behind him.  

 

He already regretted the outburst.  He liked Markus, none of the things happened was his fault.  

 

Kay turned around and was about to apologize when Markus said, “Um.  Actually I forgot to tell you.  Your ex was here earlier.”

 

Kay paused. “What? Who?” 

 

Markus rolled his eyes, “I didn’t get his name.  The one with the key?” 

 

“Marc was here?” The last few weeks felt like years to Kay.  At times, he wondered if this was it.  That he would never see Marc in his apartment again. That it was over before... before they really had a chance.

 

“Handsome, brown hair, blue eyes?  Kind of serious looking?”

 

Kay asked tentatively, not looking at Markus. “Did he say why he’s here?”  

 

“Came to see you?  What else?” Markus narrowed his eyes and added, “he looked like he was about to have a heart attack when he saw me.  Maybe he thought I was you new ‘boy-toy’” wiggling his eyebrows.  

 

“Eww... don’t talk nonsense.” Kay muttered, but he sounded distracted.  

 

Markus’s brow furrowed, he asked with slight concern, “he is your ex, right?  I mean, you said you aren’t going out with anyone at the moment.”

 

Kay massaged his temple, shaking his head. “Don’t worry.”

 

******

 

“Are you coming over tonight?” Kay asked over the phone, trying to hide the sulkiness in his voice.

 

“I can’t.” Marc replied in a hushed tone.  For all Kay knew, he could be answering this call inside a broom closet.  

 

Kay waited a beat. “Tomorrow then?”

 

“.... I don’t know.  Probably not.  Anyway, I can’t talk right now.”

 

“But it’s been…” Kay stopped before he could embarrass himself further. Anyway, what more was there to say?  To beg?

 

Kay watched the full moon just partially hidden in the thick cloud from his balcony.  It had been a near full moon too, that night.  

 

He put his mobile back in his jeans.  No, he’s not going to call Marc and ask why he came over today.  

 

After the funerals, Markus has been following Kay around like a stubborn puppy, refusing to speak to his mother’s family who had been estranged with them for years.  So Kay asked if he wanted to stay with him in Germany for a bit, at least until university start again.

 

Kay turned to look at his brother through the glass window, who was sitting crossed legs on the air mattress.  He was wearing headphones, head-banging to some German death metal music.  Like a child with his security blanket, that pair of headphones rarely left Markus’ ears since his parents’ death.  Kay had to ask him to leave them behind at the funeral, but other times, he’d let him be.  If listening to heavy metal music helped him deal with the aftermath, he’s welcome to it.  Better broken eardrums than a broken heart.

 

Kay turned back to the full moon.  He had a brother to look after now.  He’s done chasing after Marc Borgmann.

 

******

 

Marc’s baby finally gave Kay one advantage - now he and Marc were often assigned to different shifts.  They still trained together, saw each other in the canteen and squad room briefings, but never alone.  

 

Outside of work, Kay still ran on the same running trails and he had a time schedule that he has kept for years.  And he knew Marc knew it, which guaranteed Marc would avoid it.

 

It was another week after Marc’s unexpected visit, that they finally found themselves alone in the locker room one evening.  Everyone else seemed to have gone home.

 

Despite his deliberate effort to tune out all awareness of Marc, Kay noticed a surprised stillness behind him and instantly knew who it was.  When he turned around, he saw Marc standing behind him with a towel in hand.  And he was staring at Kay.  Marc’s mouth moved, but nothing came out.  Kay returned his gaze, his eyes challenging Marc to say something.  Anything.  His heart half expecting Marc to either kiss him or hit him.  

 

After a few seconds of absolute stillness, when Marc did neither, Kay dropped his gaze and continued to walk to his own locker.  

 

Why is it still so hard? Kay closed his eyes briefly before he put on his jacket and locked his locker again.  When he turned, Marc was still standing in the same position as before.

 

Kay walked past him to leave.

 

“Kay.” Marc grabbed his wrist.   

 

Kay stopped.  He looked down at Marc’s hand, then he looked up to meet Marc’s eyes with raised eyebrows.

 

Marc released his grip.  He glanced around once before he lowered his voice, “I’m sorry about your father.”

 

“You said that already.  It’s ok.  We weren’t close.” Kay answered matter-of-factly.

 

The short and curt reply seemed to have unsettled Marc, he looked like he’d rather be somewhere else.  Well, you and me both.  Kay thought.  They might not have been together for long, but Kay could still read Marc well enough.  He knew something else was on Marc’s mind, but he’s not going to pry it out of Marc’s mouth. 

 

He watched Marc struggled.  After a few seconds, Marc drew a long breath and finally said, “I went to your apartment last week... so... who’s your English friend?” There was a slight hitch in his voice on the word “friend”.

 

Kay was taken aback. Unbelievable. Marc is jealous.  But his treacherous heart also jumped, that tiny bit of hope reignited.  He quickly put that seed of fire out.

 

“He’s only half English, he’s my half brother.” Kay said without inflection. 

 

Marc’s eyes sharpened at that, the relief on his face was almost comical. “Oh yeah? I didn’t know you have a brother.” With a tentative smile on his face, he moved a little closer to Kay.  “Well, he seemed a little hostile to me.”

 

Kay snorted. “That sounds like Markus.”  Suddenly becoming aware of Marc’s closeness, Kay watched him warily.

 

The second surprise of the day came when Marc dropped his towel on the bench and drew Kay into his arms. Kay didn’t try to pull away, but he didn’t surrender either.

 

Marc’s gaze swept the room once again, then he said near Kay’s mouth, softly and apologetically. “I’m sorry about the other day... I didn’t mean to hit you.  I feel sick every time I think of it.”

 

Kay nodded quietly.  Still feeling bruised and guarded.  “What about what you said?  Did you mean it?” He asked.

 

Marc dropped his gaze.  He took a step back, shaking his head, but he wouldn’t answer.

 

Kay nodded again, more to himself.  “Then what do you think we’ve been doing?” Kay asked.  

 

But Marc stayed silent.  Nothing. 

 

Kay felt a funny dip in his chest. His heart sank.  Nothing has changed. 

 

He stepped closer to Marc, his face inches away from Marc’s, his voice icy. “And what about me, Marc? Huh? What do you think I’ve been doing with you?” He pushed Marc’s shoulder.  Don’t you get it? I love you! Kay wanted to shout. 

 

Marc turned his face away.  He shook his head again and said frustratingly, “I don’t know what you want from me! You know I can’t leave my wife and my son...” 

 

Kay narrowed his eyes, he tilted his head back in mockery. “Sorry, didn’t know you got married last week.  Congratulations.”

 

Dark red stained Marc’s cheekbones, but he ploughed on, “you know what I mean, they are my family.”

 

Family.  The magic word.  It was as if Marc has stuck a knife into the most vulnerable part of his body.  Kay had the sudden urge to laugh.  Marc sounded like his late-father when he tried to explain to young Kay why he needed to leave him and his mother, because he had another family in England.  Apparently, a more important one.  

 

Kay stared at Marc, wondering how he has gotten himself in this situation again.  He was angry.  Not at Marc, but at himself.  He thought he had learned his lesson during those two weeks in London, had seen clearly how hopeless the situation was; had decided to walk away while he still could.  Then all it took was one pleading look from Marc Borgmann and he thought, what? That Marc wanted to be with him? Would choose him over...

 

Kay veered his gaze away. “I don’t want anything from you, Marc,” he said calmly. Careful not to sound angry at all.  “Nothing.” He repeated.

 

Marc’s eyes widened, he looked like he’s been sucker-punched.

 

After a beat.  Kay announced it like it was an afterthought.  “By the way, I’m going to tell Britt that I’m gay. It’s the least I could do, as an apology to her.” He glanced at Marc.  “You probably want to keep your distance from me after that.”  Then he walked out of the locker room.

 

Chapter Text

“Mmmm... that smells good.  What is that?”  Marc pocketed his key as he walked into the studio apartment.

 

Kay was standing by the kitchen counter, cutting bell peppers, radish and other greens; there were two pieces of minute steak on the frying pan sizzling.

 

“Steak salad.” Kay turned his head to answer.  Marc wrapped his arms around him from behind, his head on Kay’s shoulder, peeking at the chopping board. 

 

“I didn’t know you can cook.” Marc grinned, his stomach made a growling sound at the same time.  They both laughed.  

 

With all these made up night shifts, Marc has been missing lots of dinner at home.  Kay wanted to eat out together, but Marc shot down the idea immediately, so he offered to feed Marc at home.

 

“It’s called survival skills.” Kay kissed Marc, lingering for a few seconds before returning to cutting .  Barefooted, he was wearing a soft grey t-shirt and a pair of black boxer-briefs, his hair still wet from shower.  A picture perfect of relaxed domesticity.  

 

Marc watched the back of Kay’s graceful neckline moved in the same rhythm as his chopping motion; how Kay managed to look sexy doing the most mundane task.  

 

Tightening his hold, Marc aligned his full body to Kay’s back; his mouth began to kiss the nape of Kay’s neck.  Putting down his knife, Kay turned and pressed his mouth against Marc’s, “thought you were hungry?” His blue eyes dancing.

 

Marc reached over to turn off the stove with one hand, his other hand reached inside Kay’s boxer-briefs.  He whispered in Kay’s ears, “we can eat the salad cold, right?”

 

Suddenly someone took the tong from his hand. “Whoa, the burgers are getting burned.” 

 

Frank flipped the burgers quickly on the grill. He frowned at Marc, “what are you daydreaming about?  We are all hungry over there.” 

 

Marc cleared his throat.  Relieved that he’s standing in front of the fire, saved him from explaining his flushed cheeks.  “Just want to make sure they are cooked through.”  He mumbled.

 

Bettina brought him a bottle of beer.  “That’s enough burgers already.  Come sit under the shades, you look sunburn.”  She smiled, touching his burning cheeks.  

 

This never ending summer.  Marc felt restless and feverish.  This hasn’t been an easy two weeks for him.  Kay went and did what he said he would do.  He apologized to Britt and told her he couldn’t go out with her because he’s gay.  He didn’t ask Britt to keep it as a secret for him.  Britt didn’t tell anyone in the unit, but by the end of that week, she has told one of her friends and the news found its way to the unit.    

 

Marc had been bracing for the news, his mood fluctuating, alternating between feelings of anger and haplessness; between cursing Kay for his stubbornness and missing him.

 

He took a sip of his beer, tried to cool down and enjoy the lunch.  Don’t think about him.  Don’t think about him.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me that Kay is gay?” Bettina suddenly asked.  “Huh?” Marc blinked; wondered if he had missed part of the conversation again.

 

“Right, you were roommates with Engel during training.  How could you not know?” Frank joined in.

 

Fucking hell.  Marc wiped the corner of his mouth with his wrist.  “So?  Why would he tell me?” He replied defensively.

 

“And you jogged with him.  All this time, you have no clue? You can be so oblivious.” Bettina teased.  

 

“You go running with Engel?” Frank asked.

 

“What is this? Interrogation?” Marc retorted.  “He gave me some pointers about running, that’s all.”

 

Frank nodded, easily bought the excuse.  “He’s good at that, I heard.  Eiden said Engel held some records in his school days.” 

 

“I think it’s good that the unit is more diverse.  Like a modern police force, even for a small city like ours.” Bettina nodded, delivering her verdict.

 

“Well, Britt agrees with you, apparently.  Poor girl has been mooning over him for months, now Kay is unattainable, suddenly she’s happy to be his best friend? I don’t understand women.” Frank shook his head, but he looked more amused than upset.

 

Marc stared at Frank.  He was the only person who knew about Frank and Britt’s affair a year ago.  It ended when Britt started asking Frank to leave Claudia - at least according to Frank.

 

“Aren’t you going to tell her some day?” He remembered that question from Kay, which Marc wouldn’t even dignify it with an answer.  Would I become like Frank one day?  That I would just casually talk about Kay’s relationship with other people, that it wouldn’t feel like someone stabbing my heart?

 

“Because now she knows his rejection has nothing to do with her personally.  That’s important for a woman.  I think it’s honorable that he told her the truth.”  Claudia offered her analysis.

 

“Geez.  Didn’t know Engel now has a Fanclub.” Frank chuckled.  “Though I have to say, he came out just in time.” 

 

Marc looked up at that.  “What are you talking about?” He asked warily.  

 

Frank bumped his shoulder.  “The Vels-Pol visit?  For the LGBT awareness training? Now Eiden assigned Kay as the liaison officer, so I don’t have to babysit them.  Honestly, I am not sure I’d be comfortable.” Frank stuck his tongue out.   

 

“Don’t be homophobic.” Claudia scolded softly.

 

“I’m not!” Frank protested.  “I like Engel.  And they’d be more comfortable dealing with one of their own.  Anyway, you should have seen the Vels-Pol Lieutenant, how happy he was when he saw Kay... Maybe they will put Kay on their posters.” Frank laughed, bumped Marc’s shoulder again.  “Right, Marc?” 

 

******

 

Marc used to play this number game in his mind.  He would divide a week into hours.  Out of the 168 hours in a week, he spent between 8 to 12 hours with Kay alone.  Going running or staying in Kay’s apartment two or three times a week, few hours every time.

 

Then he would deduct their working hours, 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  So he would know Kay spent about 40 hours a week at work, 12 hours with Marc, maybe 56 hours sleeping, so that left 60 hours - the hours that Marc had no idea what Kay was doing, where and who he was spending them with.  

 

Marc noticed a stack of true crime fictions in Kay’s apartment.  Sometimes he would imagine Kay reading his book in bed late morning on a Sunday, while he’s having brunch with Bettina and their friends.  Some evenings, he’d imagine Kay dancing in a club with his friends.  Friends that Marc would never meet.

 

The club’s low green lights and the vapour from the fog machine made it difficult for Marc to return to the spot where they had been standing.  When he finally got there, he saw a red haired guy talking to Kay.  

 

Kay’s elbows leaned against the bar counter, he was laughing at something the guy just said. Marc went to stand next to Kay and put his arm around him.  

 

“Hey.” A smiling and tipsy Kay gave him a hello-again light kiss on the lips, but Marc grabbed the back of his neck, deepened the kiss and kept it going.  There’s a hint of surprise in Kay’s hooded eyes, before he responded by pressing his body against Marc and licked the underside of his jaw.  Suddenly they were full on making out right by the bar.  Marc slipped his hands inside Kay’s sweat-soaked t-shirt, the contact of damp skin transported his mind back to 20 minutes ago when they took turn going down on each other in the small bathroom with dim red lights... Marc could feel himself getting hard again... 

 

When they finally drew apart, the redhead has wandered off to the dance floor.

 

Kay smirked with barely concealed amusement. “And this whole time, I thought you were shy.”

 

“What was so funny?” Marc asked while adjusting his jeans.

 

Kay shrugged, “he said he could prove he’s a real redhead.”

 

Marc rolled his eyes and made a gagging gesture with his finger.  Kay laughed, burying his face in the hollow of Marc’s neck, shoulders shaking.  Kay was an affectionate drunk, Marc discovered.  

 

He gazed into Marc’s eyes, his pupils still slightly dilated from the ecstasy they took earlier.  He whispered, “didn’t I tell you we’d have a good time tonight?”

 

Lieutenant Fuchs of the Vels-Pol was laughing.  It was a low, easy chuckle. He was in Eiden’s office talking to Kay, one arm leaning on a metal file cabinet, his shirt sleeves rolled up to casually show off a strong forearm.  His eyes keen, like Kay held his full attention; his lips quirked in an indulgent smile.

 

Fuchs lean towards Kay and said something close to Kay’s ears, like sharing a secret, and Kay reacted with a light chuckle.  He replied something, then Eiden laughed with them as well.  

 

Marc managed to turn his back just before the two got out of Eiden’s office and started to walk towards the exit.  As Kay’s lingering laughs slowly drifted away down the corridor, Marc blew out a sharp breath. It wasn’t that he minded. He shouldn’t even care. Great for Kay. It was great. Lieutenant Fuchs seemed like a great guy and this was a great opportunity for Kay. 

 

It isn’t jealousy.  He told himself. 

 

In some logical part of his brain, Marc knew he was reading too much into a nothing but friendly interaction between Fuchs and Kay.  He knew it was the lingering feelings he had for Kay that clouded his judgement. 

 

Except suddenly it dawned on Marc that, with Kay now out in the unit, sooner or later, he might have to watch Kay dating someone.  Maybe even another cop.  

 

And by now, they haven’t been together for 1,368 hours.

Chapter Text

“I have to go.”

 

Kay watched Marc go.  He took another drag from his cigarette and propped his arm up on the balcony railing.  

 

That look from Marc a minute ago - when Kay asked him, “aren’t you going to tell her some time?” That dismissive look, like Kay was making an unreasonable demand - that hurt.

 

Kay was not oblivious.  He knew Marc has started giving him the cold shoulder.  They were meeting up less and less; Kay always had to initiate it; the tension between them sometimes sharp as knife’s edge.  He could feel Marc slowly slipping away and he felt powerless to stop it.  

 

If it wasn’t for how Marc...

 

And that’s the fucked up part.  Marc might be giving Kay the cold shoulder and dismissive look, but those moments when they were in bed, when Marc forgot his other world, and the few moments after sex, before Marc remembered his other life, Kay knew.  He knew it in his heart that he wasn’t the only one in love.  

 

Problem was Marc didn’t want that.  He didn’t want to be in love with Kay.

 

 

“What’s wrong with you people?” Markus turned to Kay. “Are you allergic to subtitles or what? Who the hell made Spider-Man speak German?” He complained, walking backward with a box of half eaten popcorn in his arm.

 

Kay rolled his eyes, “that’s all they have here and we are not driving to Stuttgart just so you can listen to...”

 

“Oh, careful where... ouch!”

 

Markus turned around.  “Oh Shit! I’m sorry! I mean... Tut mir leid!” He grabbed the shoulders of the young woman behind, to steady her.  And promptly dropped the box he’s holding and sent the popcorn flying.

 

“Oops.  It’s ok.” the young woman brushed away the stray popcorn on her dress.  She looked at Markus’s stricken face, chuckled, “sorry about your popcorn.”

 

Markus rubbed the back of his neck, “it’s totally my fault.  I didn’t hurt your foot, I hope?”

 

She shook her head, still chuckling.  “Don’t worry.” Then she looked up and her eyes widened.

 

“Oh hey there.  Kay!” She waved.

 

Bettina.

 

Kay actually saw her before she did, but he was so shocked, he completely froze.  It took him a few seconds to get his legs moving again.  

 

“Hallo... Bettina?” Kay didn’t know why he felt the need to pretend he was unsure of her name, nor why she seemed so happy to see him

 

She nodded, smiling.  “Frank and Claudia are babysitting for us tonight, so Marc and I can have a date night.  Which movie did you two watch?” She asked.

 

“Spider-Man in German.  Ugh.  I don’t recommend it.” Markus couldn’t wait to chime in and express his grievance. 

 

“Markus...” Kay sighed.  He glanced around, wanted to leave before Marc came back from wherever he was.  

 

“I’m Markus, by the way.  Kay’s infamous English brother.” There’s no stopping this kid.

 

Bettina was charmed, however, she shook Markus’s hand and said, “Well, you speak very good German for an Englishman.  I didn’t know Kay has a brother, Marc didn’t... oh there he is.”

 

If Marc’s face got any paler, he could audition for Casper the ghost without the white sheet.  Kay thought.  He walked towards them like a prisoner on death row.  

 

“Kay.” Marc tilted his head in greeting.  

 

Kay just nodded and returned a muted “hey”.  

 

“Marc, have you met Kay’s brother before?” Bettina pulled Marc closer.  

 

Marc had no choice but to face Markus.  

 

“I don’t think so.” Markus jumped in. He shook Marc’s hand.  Then he pretended to squint his eyes and said, “but you look so familiar...” putting his finger on his lip, he said, “Yes! You look like one of Kay’s old boyfriends, he’s Dutch though and Kay said he hung like a... ouch, hey!” Kay punched his arm.  

 

“Behave.” Kay warned.  “I’m sorry. He has bad English humour.” He said, rubbing his forehead.  Not sure if the apology was directing to Marc or Bettina.  On second thought, he didn’t care.  He just needed to get out of here.

 

Face flushed, Marc stood there, his jaw squared, his body angled and tensed like he was ready for a punch.

 

You’re such a terrible liar, Marc Borgmann. 

 

Bettina, on the other hand, found it hilarious.  She was smiling wide, eyes crinkling.  Standing behind her, Marc put one hand on her shoulder, gently massaging between her neck and shoulder blade.  To soothe and to protect.  And she leaned into the touch effortlessly.

 

Kay remembered Marc did this exact same thing at the bowling alley, when Kay had first seen Marc with Bettina.  Another lifetime ago.  It’s one of those touches between long time lovers, they do it so often that it becomes second nature.  Marc probably didn’t even notice he was doing it.  Kay had to believe Marc didn’t do it deliberately to hurt him.  

 

But hurt it still did.

 

“Erm.  We should go.  Enjoy the movie.” Kay nodded and started pulling Markus away, who was now staring straight at Marc.  Any second now, it would turn into a sneer and god knows what would come out of his mouth.

 

“Oh wait.” Bettina touched Kay’s arm. “We are having a little party for Jonas this Sunday, I meant to ask Frank to invite the whole unit.  You should come.  And Markus, of course.”

 

Kay flinched.  But he recovered quickly and pasted a smile at on his face.

 

“Who’s Jonas?” Markus asked.

 

Bettina beamed. “Jonas is our son.  He’s almost two months old now.”

 

“Oh? How wonderful.” Markus said in a deliberate heavy English accent. His eyes throwing daggers at Marc.  

 

“Bettina, they are probably busy.” Marc began to say, he glanced at Kay with something close to panic?  Or sadness?  Maybe just fear.

 

“Sorry.  We can’t join you. Kay and I are going back to London this weekend.  Dead parents stuff, you know?” Markus replied.  Playfulness all gone now.

 

That startled Bettina. “Of course,  I’m so sorry.  I forgot you are dealing with... that’s very insensitive of me.” 

 

That’s enough.  Kay thought.

 

“Don’t worry.  Thank you for the invite.  Maybe next time.” Kay said diplomatically.  He took one last look at Marc and then touched Markus’ elbow, “Come on, we need to go.”

 

******

 

“Where would you choose, if you can live in anywhere you want?” Kay passed the joint to Marc.

 

Marc’s brow furrowed. “Never really thought about it.  Maybe a house near Schwarzwald (Black Forest)?  It’s really beautiful there.”  He studied the joint before he took a drag, “what about you?” 

 

“Iceland.”

 

Marc puffed out the smoke, laughed. “Really?  Why?”

 

“Seems like a cool place.  Quiet, free and majestic.” Kay said, almost dreamily.

 

“It’s also damn cold and has active volcanos.” Marc teased.

 

Kay lowered his lashes.  When he looked up again, he had a small smile on his face. “No one will bother us there.  We can run freely on those lava fields, black sand beaches...” he trailed off.  Then he pressed his mouth against Marc’s.  “And I know a thing or two about keeping us warm.” 

 

Marc moved away, colour rose in his cheeks.  “Are you crazy?  Not here.” He looked again to check if anyone else was around.  

 

Kay knew this part of the woods well, no one came here at this hour.  They would be able to hear if anyone was approaching from a distance.  And he also didn’t care if anyone saw them.

 

But Marc thought differently.

 

Kay didn’t answer.  He flicked his joint away and began to walk.  “Hey...” Marc grabbed his wrist.  “Don’t be like that.”

 

Kay met his eyes.  Finally, after a few seconds, he nodded and smiled.

 

 

“What the fuck, Kay?  What the actual fuck?” Markus said as soon as Kay has closed the door.

 

Flipping on the light switch, Kay shrugged out of his jacket slowly.  He looked at Markus in the eye, shaking his head.  “I’m sorry, Markus, but it’s none of your business.”

 

Markus threw his hands up. “The guy has a wife and a son.”

 

“A girlfriend.  She’s his girlfriend.” Kay corrected him calmly.

 

Markus looked like he’s about to explode.  “Excuse me for the technicality.  Do you even hear yourself?” 

 

Kay turned away.  He didn’t need Markus to lecture him.  He could name 100 reasons himself why Marc Borgmann was a bad idea... but what did it matter? He knew he had fallen in love with Marc by the time he gave him the key.  Jumping in with both feet, that’s how he has always been.  But he would survive. Make a mistake, dust off and start over.  He just had to give himself time.  He was not angry, he was disappointed; he was not happy, but he was stronger.

 

“Marc and I are not together anymore.  Will you calm down?”

 

But Markus wasn’t listening. He carried on, “and that fucking guy has the nerve to still come in with a key?  What the hell, Kay?”

 

Kay went to the kitchen and filled the electric kettle with water.  Markus has instilled tea drinking in him over the last few weeks.  He took out two mugs and two Yorkshire Gold teabags Markus had brought over from London. He crossed his arms and leaned against the kitchen counter, patiently waiting for the water to boil, for Markus to finish his rant.

 

“Do you ever look at the mirror?  You can have any guy you want.  I don’t understand why you’d want to be someone’s...” Markus paused abruptly.  He stared at Kay, suddenly lowered his voice and said slowly, “you do know how fucked up this is, right?  You, of all people, should know better.  This is some Shakespearean level of fucked-up, don’t you think?  After what our father did?”

 

Kay’s jaw moved.  He wasn’t going to dignify that with a response.  When he finally spoke, his voice was like a dip in glacier.  “Don’t try to psychoanalyse me, just because you took psychology 101 for half of a semester.  Marc has nothing to do with our father.” Kay raised his voice, “I’m fine.  It’s over between me and Marc.  And I’m ok with it.”

 

“No, you are not ok!  You are not fine!  You are far from ok.  We’ve just lost our father, for god’s sake.” Markus got up to Kay’s face, his eyes red and began to fill with unshed tears. “I know you miss him too.  Don’t lie to me!” He’s visibly shaking, his voice unsteady.  “And now this Marc... this fucking closet case.  I know you’re hurting.  I knew something was wrong when you were in London and it’s not just about papa’s death.” He blinked and those tears he’s been holding inside the past few weeks finally spilled over.

 

“Markus...” Kay drew his brother into his arms.   

 

“I can’t.  I can’t stand seeing you so sad.” More tears spilling out of his eyes.  He choked back a sob.  “It’s just the two of us now, Kay.  I am not letting some self-hating gay make you miserable.” He clung onto Kay.

 

“Ok, ok.  I know you are looking out for me.  It’s ok.  We will get past this.” Kay held his brother tighter, gently rubbing his back in soothing circles.  Letting Markus finally cried for both of them.  Only releasing him when he felt the tremor has subsided.  

 

“Tea?” He gave a his brother a kitchen towel to blow his nose.

 

Markus nodded, finally quiet down.

 

They sipped their tea in silence.  

 

Kay was thinking how strange it was that it took his failed affair with Marc to finally trigger Markus to grieve properly.  And secretly wondered if he has grieved properly himself...

 

“Come to London with me.” Markus said suddenly.  “I mean, move there for good.  What’s holding you here?”

Chapter Text

“How did you find out about this area?” Marc asked.

 

They were hiking and running on a nature trail in a woodland near Stuttgart today, kind of a hidden path. They had to hike on some narrow gravel ground to a higher point without signposts, before they got to a path wide enough for running, with an amazing view of the rest of the forest.

 

Kay watched Marc closely, had a mischievous smile on his face. “From an ex-boyfriend. It’s a great spot to make-out.”

 

“Oh...” Marc harrumphed, “right.” They never talked about their past relationships. For Marc, it’s simple, he has always had girlfriends since he was 12. Girls liked him. He didn’t even have to do much chasing. He lost his virginity to his girlfriend in Hauptschule when he’s 14. Then after his school days, it was just Bettina... until Kay.

 

Marc almost regretted asking the question. He didn’t want to know about Kay’s ex boyfriends, which he suspected, might be in a double-digit number. Or maybe Kay didn’t do relationships, only a series of causal hookups? Either way, he didn’t want to know.

 

Kay closed their distance. He bumped Marc’s shoulder and said, “I’m just fucking with you. My father used to take me here when I was a kid.”

 

Marc pushed him away playfully. Kay laughed. Then Marc pulled him back in for a kiss. He took a 360 degree look around and nodded, “yeah, not a bad spot to make-out.”

 

On their way back, they walked in a comfortable, companionable silence. Kay kept his hands tucked into his hoodie’s pockets, shoulder playfully bumping into Marc now and again; Marc taking revenge with a few back-heel kicks.

 

Marc took a deep breath of the spring air scented with moss and morning dew, then draped his arm across Kay’s shoulders. Kay leaned into the hold, warm and familiar. A feeling of calmness came over Marc. And a sense of freedom that Marc couldn’t ever recall experiencing.

 

It was perfect.

 

 

“Finally...” Bettina flopped down on the sofa next to Marc, covering her eyes with her hand. “He’s sleeping now. He certainly has a strong lung, our Jonas.” She chuckled. “Were you a big cry baby too?”

 

When Marc didn’t answer. “Marc?” she opened her eyes again.

 

Marc was rubbing his forehead; he opened his eyes. “Sorry, what?”

 

“Are you ok?” She touched his cheeks.

 

Marc turned his face away. No, I’m not ok, I’m suffocating. But he nodded, sat up straight and forced out a smile. He looked at Bettina - her soft reddish-brown hair matted with sweat, tied in a casual bun at the back, her T shirt had a light-yellow stain in front; she smelled faintly of baby lotion. She looked exhausted, but happy. Taking care of Jonas was hard work, but she seemed to be thriving in it.

 

His guilt swelled up, churning like a paddle wheel in his stomach. Sure, he was doing his fair share of looking after Jonas, but he knew his heart was not in it. Not fully. Not like Bettina.  

 

Instead, he found himself spending most of his waking hours thinking of someone else; wondering what that person was doing.

 

Seeing Kay with his brother the other night... Of course he was petrified when he saw Markus. That kid could destroy him on the spot. Could rip his life apart in just one sentence. And Marc could tell he had considered it.

 

It has always been there. The terror of discovery would steal up on him in idle moments, usually amidst friends and family. The compulsion to imagine the worst kept him up at night.

 

And yet, paradoxically, the same terror also seemed to inspire a thrilling secret desire in Marc. For maybe just a nano second, when Markus was saying “but you look so familiar...”, Marc had almost wanted Markus to expose him; had wanted him to do the dirty work for Marc, to get it out in the open.

 

Because if Markus had done that, maybe Marc would be able to breathe again...

 

He felt Bettina’s soft hand on his shoulder. She has completely mistaken Marc’s moodiness for something else, the same thing that has been bothering her; wrongly identifying his struggle as a sign of their unity.

 

“I know it’s an adjustment, honey.” She spoke softly. “I was the one who told you moving in next door to your parents was a bad idea, remember? But it’s done.” She tried to catch his eyes, drawing him in for a hug. “We are together and we will get through this.”

 

Marc buried his face in her hair and inhaled deeply, imagining the scent of Kay’s citrus soap and clean sweat.

 

He could feel the house, the walls closing in on him.

 

******

 

“They better build a separate shower room for them.” Limpinski muttered.

 

“I’m sure no self-respecting gay man would want your ugly ass, so you’re safe.” Frank laughed at him.

 

Gay jokes and jibes in the locker room have doubled ever since Kay has come out - but never when Kay was in the room. Marc never reacted either way, he pretended he didn’t hear them, or he was busy. Laughter would abruptly stop as Kay entered the room, but if Kay was aware of them, he gave no signs of distress. Marc didn’t know how he did it, he just seemed to brush them aside.

 

Marc sat through the LGBT awareness training like everyone else at the station. Since it was compulsory, the reactions ranged from a bored “do I have to” to a resigned “let’s get it over with”.

 

Grudgingly though, Marc would admit Lieutenant Fuchs was a gifted public speaker, he kept the training session engaging and on point. Addressing concerns and cleverly deflecting idiotic disruptive questions. He seemed confident and intelligent, someone who’s comfortable in his own skin.

 

But isn’t it a bit unprofessional of him to date a colleague who’s technically his subordinate? Marc thought to himself. Not that he knew for sure nor was it any of his business. Kay has been acting as both communication officer and Fuchs’ assistant for these sessions, so he’s working closely with Fuchs the past week.

 

Too close, perhaps, if Marc had a say in it.   He found himself paying attention to every eye contact, every hand gesture Fuchs directed at Kay, taking note of Kay’s response to them. A glance that lingered, a shared joke, an approving nod... Marc decided Fuchs was not as professional as he first appeared to be.

 

Late at night, when he smoked alone on the patio, ready to unwind after he had debated with himself all day and thought he had come to a resolve. It was then, the worst images would invade his mind. He would imagine Kay in bed with Fuchs, the lieutenant’s muscular body tight as he fucked Kay, the way Kay would throw his head back, exposing that beautiful neckline of his. The way Kay would move as he came apart. The soft grunt Kay would utter when he climaxed. The vision was so sudden, so staggeringly real that Marc thought he could feel the acid churning in his stomach.

 

******

 

“Argh... scheiße...” Marc dropped down on the bench. He held his leg calf, tried to ease the sudden cramp. Only seemed to have made the pain worse.

 

“Oh no, you are doing it wrong. Let me...” Before he knew it, Kay was grabbing his foot, bending it in an upright angle, so the calf muscle was stretched tight. He then started to massage Marc’s calf area with his fingers in circular motions, after a few strokes, the pain started to ease.

 

Kay was naked except for the towel around his waist. He used his abdomen to support and keep Marc’s leg in place, he hovered above Marc, his face serious and concerned, massaging Marc’s leg with strength. Marc could smell the soap he used, something citrusy. Could feel Kay’s fine blond hair touching his skin. He was momentarily lost in his own thoughts, until the sensation of Kay’s taut muscle under his foot has overshadowed the cramp pain.

 

Marc’s face flushed bright red. He pulled his leg away abruptly. “It’s ok. It’s enough.” He mumbled, avoiding Kay’s eyes.

 

Kay didn’t say anything. He just stood there and watched Marc scrambled his belongings and left.

 

The next morning, Marc found a tube of muscle relaxing cream on his side of the table in the dorm room they shared.

 

 

Marc was surprised to hear the sound of faucet running. He thought he was the only person who hasn’t gone home, having lost track of time finishing up his report at the front desk.

 

Maybe Frank decided to wait for him, after all.

 

When he walked into the deserted bathroom, he found Kay standing in front of the wash basin, stuffing paper towels up his nose

 

“What the hell happened?”

 

“It’s nothing,” Kay tried to say. Marc knocked Kay’s hands away. He cupped Kay’s face with both hands, gently, light touches. And tilted Kay’s head, inspecting him for damage. His nose was bloody and his lower lip was split. There were some red marks on his left cheek.

 

“Who did this?” Marc couldn’t stop the tremor in his voice, he’s trying hard to contain the raging violent forces rebounding inside himself.  

 

When Kay didn’t say anything, Marc took an educated guess, something he’s been suspecting, fearing for a while. “Limpinski?”

 

Kay just looked at him. His silence was enough of a confirmation.

 

“That fucking homophobic arsehole. You need to report him.”

 

Kay grabbed more paper towel from the dispenser again. “You know how it works. It will only make it worse.” He said dejectedly. Dabbing the blood on his split lip, Kay’s eyes softened, “don’t worry, I can take care of myself.”

 

Marc swallowed. He wanted to go to Limpinski’s house and beat the shit out of him.

 

“He just threw a punch at me when I wasn’t looking. Trust me, I won’t let it happen again. He’s mad that Britt still would rather spend time with a gay man than with him. And I might have taunted him a little bit.” Kay tried to smile but winced when he pulled his split lip.

 

“Jesus, Kay...” Marc put his thumb on the red spot on Kay’s cheek, watched the colour blanch under the pressure of his touch. “Does it hurt?” He asked softly, couldn’t take his eyes off the ugly red marks.

 

Kay shrugged.

 

At the back of his brain, Marc was secretly counting the seconds before Kay would pull away from his touch; at the same time, he couldn’t stop thinking how good it felt to do this, to touch Kay again, even under such circumstances.

 

“Let me drive you to the hospital. You need to have an x-ray on your nose.” Marc said.

 

Kay’s gaze rested on him. Marc could tell he’s hesitant to accept the offer.

 

“Come on, you can’t drive like this.” Marc added, almost pleading. His fingers still touching Kay’s cheek.

 

Kay finally nodded.

 

******

 

“Is it broken?” Marc stood up as he saw Kay coming out of the doctor’s consultation room with a copy of his X-ray.

 

“Nee...” Kay smiled, seemed to be in a better mood. “But it still hurts like a motherfucker.” He touched the bridge of his nose gingerly.

 

“Pussy.” Marc said softly. He stole a glance at Kay, who wasn’t smiling anymore. He just looked at Marc thoughtfully.

 

Marc cleared his throat. He has been dreading to ask the next question while he was waiting for Kay. “Err... do you want me drive you home or... you want to call someone to pick you up?”

 

Please don’t say Fuchs.

 

Kay’s brow furrowed. He seemed to be surprised by the question. “It’s ok. I’ll take a taxi. I want to go back to the station to take my car.”

 

“I can take you back to the station.” Marc offered.

 

“I can take a taxi. It’s late...” Kay trailed off... “you should go home.” He looked at Marc directly.

 

“It’s no problem.”

 

Kay looked away, then back to Marc, “what are you doing, Marc?” His voice almost a whisper.

 

I miss you. I miss talking to you, I miss laughing with you... touching you,

 

The words were right on the tip of his tongue, but Marc couldn’t seem to push them out. Instead, the image of Bettina holding and cooing Jonas in her arms, floated in front of his eyes.

 

He swallowed, not meeting Kay’s eyes and decided to compromise. “I’m helping a friend.” He said instead.

 

Kay smiled without mirth. He shook his head. “Go home, Marc. I’m ok.”

Chapter Text

(Kay)

 

Kay let the call ring a few more times.  No answer.  He hung up.

 

He knew he shouldn’t.  They are probably having breakfast... in bed?  Do they do such thing?  In childish defiance, that image prompted Kay to pick up his mobile again.  He called Marc again.

 

This time it rang three times before it was answered.

 

“Hallo.” Marc’s slightly groggy morning voice greeted him.

 

“Hallo yourself... I miss you.” Kay jumped right into what he wanted to say.

 

Marc didn’t answer, but Kay could feel the smile on Marc’s face all the way over the phone line. 

 

“Hey... I can’t talk right now.” Marc said softly, in a hushed tone.  “I’ll call you later.” The same sweet tenderness that Marc has been showering him with, whenever they were alone.

 

 “Alright.  Later...” Kay replied equally softly and hung up.  He dropped the mobile on the bed and lied down next to it, imagining Marc thinking of him while he bit into his sunny side up fried egg and toast, with a small smile on his face.

 

Mission accomplished.

 

 

“Tell me you’ll at least think about it?  Please?  It will be a good new start for both of us, don’t you think?  You’ll love London, I know it for sure.” Markus stood by the door, pouting.

 

Kay nodded absently.  He’s still thinking about the letter.

 

“Aren’t you going to read that?” Markus gestured to the envelope Kay left on the table.  It contained a letter to Kay from his father, the solicitor has just given it to Kay after informing them the content of the will.  

 

Kay ran a hand through his short hair, “I’ll think about it - for both things, ok? That’s all I can promise you.”

 

Markus nodded.  He looked around the living room of the Victorian townhouse where he had lived in for most of his life, his hands deep in his hoodie’s pockets, pulling it down to his thighs.  “What should we do about the house?”

 

Kay looked up, like he was surprised by the question.  “Do whatever you want.  Live here, sell it, rent it out... I don’t care.” 

 

“It’s your house too.  Papa left half of it to you...” Markus started to say.

 

“I don’t want it.” Kay said.  He can take the money and buy his conscience in hell - was what he would like to say.  But looking at Markus’ hurt expression, he softened his tone, “I can’t think about that now, Markus.  And I really don’t care.  Do whatever you think is best for you.  I am all for it.” 

 

“I only want to live here if you move to London.” Markus replied.  

 

Kay came back to London with Markus on Friday to meet the estate executors and the solicitors.  This was their last weekend together.  University was starting next week, so Markus would move back to the halls of residence in Warwick to finish his final year at university.  He’s been relentless in his pursuit to get Kay to leave Germany.  Especially after finding out about Marc...

 

“Why would you want to stay in the same unit as him?  Isn’t that unbearable?” Markus stood in front of him. “His poor wife looks clueless! You should have a clean break from that married guy.  Go somewhere and start afresh. Why not London?”

 

That was Kay’s idea too. Not the London part,  but he knew daily contact with Marc at work wasn’t going to work.  It’s just too painful.  And Marc... he has been acting like he still wanted to be with me...shit. Kay shut down that dangerous idea right away.  

 

Anyway, his plan was to wait for another 6 to 8 months before he asked for another transfer, so it wouldn’t look too bad on his record.  Kay still wanted a career in the police force.

 

“Hey, remember we used to dream about opening a motorbike repair shop together?” Markus was still talking while Kay mired in his own thoughts.

 

Kay snorted.  He remembered that.  “I was 18 and you were 14.  We thought it’s the coolest business idea.” 

 

“I still think it’s pretty cool.  Though neither of us bother to learn how to ride one.” Markus snickered.  “But hey, just imagine all the gay bikers’ business coming our way if you are at the shop front.” 

 

Kay put Markus in a headlock and ruffled his hair, “that’s your business idea?  Using me as marketing bait?” 

 

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

They got to the station just in time.  

 

They had to catch the last train from Stuttgart back to Ludwigsburg.  The gay club they went to was in Stuttgart city, far away enough for Marc to feel safe to visit.  

 

“Hey.  Look at that.  A passport photo booth. I love these little kissing booths.” Kay was giggling, he was still tipsy from the booze and drugs at the club.  Marc was too himself, truth to be told.  But even when drunk, Marc was still more cautious than Kay, who’s now shoving Marc into the tiny photo booth and pulling the red velvet curtain close.  

 

Marc laughed while he dropped onto the unsteady round plastic stool inside.  “What are you doing?  We have to catch the train... oouuff...” he exclaimed when Kay sat on his lap on the stool. 

 

They were going to miss their train, but Marc didn’t mind.  He has never seen Kay so happy. “Hey, you aren’t exactly lightweight,” Marc chuckled.  Kay ignored his complaint by straddling him on the seat. 

 

“Always wanted to make out in a kissing booth...” Kay wrapped his arms around Marc’s neck, he started to nibble Marc’s neck, his tongue licking the soft skin just behind his earlobe; his hand slipping under Marc’s t-shirt, fingers tracing the treasure trail down to Marc’s belly.  Kay’s hand was cold from the night cool air outside but Marc felt he’s burning up quickly all of sudden, he grabbed hold of Kay’s hip and ass, barely able to keep both of them from falling off the unstable stool.

 

Kay paused the kissing and produced a few coins from his jeans’ pocket.  He threw a glance at Marc, his blue eyes dancing and smiling, then he inserted several coins into the slot.  They both giggled as the machine started moving the camera into position.

 

“Now let’s make out properly for the camera.” Kay whispered.  Then he gave Marc an open mouthed kiss while the camera snapping away...

 

 

 

They weren’t even supposed to be there.  

 

They were called out to help the local police to clear a group of squatters and drug addicts from an abandoned building soon to be rebuilt.  

 

When the local police realised the number of squatters were bigger than they had thought and the  situation started to get violent, they asked the anti-riot unit to assist.

 

It was supposed to be straight forward clean-up work, just going floor by floor, room by room to make sure everyone has moved out.  Easy task.  They didn’t even need the riot gear.  Marc thought they would be home by 5pm that day.

 

Afterwards, when asked about the incident, Marc didn’t remember much.  Just bits and pieces.  

 

Because for Marc, that whole day, that whole incident spun around one vision only - the image of Kay collapsed on a cold dirty concrete floor, with a hole on his chest and he was gasping for air  — Marc felt his whole life, his entire world has shrunk into that moment - the moment he thought Kay was going to die.  

 

It ripped up everything in Marc right down to the bone. 

 

The rest - before and afterwards - the bullet that hit Marc’s shoulder, his desperate “officer down officer down” call, the sound of other police officers running, shouting; the paramedics checking his wound, Frank pulling him off Kay’s injured body, Eiden rushing to the hospital, asking questions - all seemed hazy and insignificant in Marc’s mind.

 

After they’ve treated Marc’s injury, which turned out to be a bullet grazed wound only, he sat down on a chair in the hospital corridor.  Waiting.  Marc checked his watch, he had no idea how long Kay has been in surgery, he has lost track of time long ago today.

 

Marc had to wash his hands and face, but he could still see traces of the bloody hand print on his wrist when Kay grabbed his hand, his eyes wide, like he was taken by surprise, while he tried to say Marc’s name...

 

Marc’s vision blurred as he remembered that.  He raked a hand through his hair, inhaled deeply and slowly breathed out, trying desperately to hold back the tears.  

 

How did that happen?  He tried to think, tried to recall the conversation leading up to him working with Kay in pair:

 

“Limpinski, you go with Engel to the 6th floor, work your way down.  Marc, Britt and I can start from the basement.” Frank assigned.

 

“What? Why can’t I work the basement instead?  Engel can take his girl-pal to the 6th floor.” Limpinski argued.

 

Frank was about to give Limpinski a lecture, but Marc interjected, “I’ll go to the 6th floor with Kay.” 

 

Kay didn’t report Limpinski and had asked Marc not to tell Frank either, said he would handle it himself.  Marc had reluctantly agreed but there was no way he’s letting Limpinski partner with Kay.

 

He remembered Kay looking at him with a smile, a silent thank-you in his eyes.  

 

Then what?  Yes, they went up to the 6th floor swiftly and... for some reason, they decided to split up to search the rooms.  Marc went to the left, Kay took the right hand side.  Marc started calling out command “Police! You need to leave this building”.  He could hear Kay saying the same thing on the other side.  And then...

 

He heard Kay shouted “Stop!  Police!”... sounds of running... and then a loud, eardrum-shattering BANG!

 

Marc froze.  I fucking froze on the spot at the sound of that loud bang.  How long has it been before I fucking move my legs? Marc tried to remember.  Maybe 2 seconds, maybe 5?  

 

He rubbed his temple.  He remembered running to the other side of the building, to where Kay was supposed to be.  One, two, three, four... all empty rooms.  Scheiße! Where the hell is Kay?  He remembered shouting Kay’s name and getting no response.  He remembered getting frantic, that he was about to lose his mind.  And then finally the next room - a bright and dirty room, with pieces of concrete rubble all round, under a huge broken window, he finally found Kay - sitting in a pool of his own blood.  

 

He remembered rushing over and shouting into the police radio “officer down! officer down!”; he remembered covering and pressing Kay’s chest wound with his own hand; he remembered Kay looking at him, his face white as sheet and the sound of his laboured breathing pierced through Marc’s heart.  

 

He remembered Kay grabbing his wrist, his mouth moving but no sound came out.  But Marc knew, he knew Kay was calling his name before he closed his eyes.  

 

And Marc’s mind went blank after that.

 

Later, Frank would tell him what had happened.  That Kay had found a large stash of heroin in one of the rooms, that some punk kid hidden behind some concrete rubble had shot Kay, that when Marc got there, he was standing in front of Kay when the kid fired a second bullet.   The bullet only grazed his shoulder, but the punk kid thought he had killed two cops and freaked out, he dropped the gun and ran downstairs and was eventually caught by another team on the 3rd floor.

 

But at this moment, Marc couldn’t care less what had happened.  He just needed that door to the operating room to open; that a doctor would come out and tell him that Kay is ok.  

 

That Marc’s world hasn’t ended.

Chapter Text

“Here it is.” Kay opened his door and let Marc into his apartment.

 

Marc looked around and was immediately drawn to the floor to ceiling windows, leading to a large balcony overlooking the small city.

 

“Wow. Amazing view.” He whistled quietly.  

 

Marc opened the glass door and walked outside.  He wasn’t sure about this brutalist building when he saw it from the outside a minute ago.  The grey and stained concrete put him off,  it seemed too utilitarian and cold to Marc.  But now he could see why Kay would choose this place.  There’s something akin to freedom and honesty about this place, something uniquely Kay-like.

 

Kay followed him behind. “Yeah.  This is the reason I rent this place.  I love being able to walk outside even when I am 10 floors up.” He took a deep breath as if to demonstrate his point.

 

Marc turned and smiled.  He watched Kay tilting his head towards the late afternoon sun on the horizon, his whole face bathed in a ray of sunshine... in moments like this, it still caught him by surprise how beautiful Kay was.  And he’s mine.  Marc thought.  At least for the next two hours, before Marc needed to go home.  

 

He gently brushed Kay’s face with his knuckles. 

 

Kay watched him from under his lashes, looking uncharacteristically shy.  

 

They stayed like that for a few more seconds. Letting the sun shine on both of them. Safe from scrutiny and out in the open at the same time.

 

Then Kay took Marc’s hand and led him back to the room. He began to undress. 

 

Marc’s gaze rested on the exposed smooth skin.  “I can get used to coming here.” He said.

 

 

Kay opened his eyes.  Blinked.

 

He could hear people talking but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.  There were lot of machine beeping sounds around him, something was covering his mouth, like he’s in a spaceship.  It felt like something else was doing the inhaling and exhaling for him.  His shoulder and arm hurt, it felt... bulky.  Must be the bandages.   And he felt constrained, like he could barely move his limbs.  But he could feel pain.  That’s good, right?  

 

He moved his head to the right.  Someone was touching his forearm.  

 

“Engel.  Are you awake?  Let me get the doctor...”  Is it Frank?  No, it’s Eiden.  

 

He left and then a couple of seconds later, he’s back.  Eiden was frowning, he looked concerned.  “We couldn’t get hold of your mother yet, her address is in Austria?  but we’ve notified your brother in the UK...” he said.  “Don’t worry, just rest for now.”

 

Kay tried to say something, to tell Eiden not to worry about him.  And he wanted... he needed to ask Eiden about someone but before he could utter a sound, his eyelids were closing again.  

 

Maybe if I could just rest for a few more minutes...

 

******

 

The next time he opened his eyes, he could tell he’s in a different room.  It seemed brighter, there were less beeping sounds around.  And thank god, he seemed to be breathing on his own.   There were a group of people around him, talking.  He recognized Frank’s voice.  Kay squinted his eyes, if Frank is here, maybe Marc...

 

“Hey, Kay.  Welcome back to earth.” It’s Britt.  She looked like she wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.

 

“Hey...” Kay greeted her.  His voice was still hoarse from whatever tube they stuck down his throat before.  He tried to unstick his tongue, the unpleasant cotton ball feeling in his mouth.  

 

“Frank, is Marc al...” he began to say.

 

Frank rushed to his bedside right away, blocking the view of everyone else. He spoke before Kay could finish his question. “I finally spoke to your mother, she’s in Innsbruck this week.  Since you are out of ICU, I told her I’ll update her your status.  Do you want her to come here?”

 

Kay shook his head in negation. He was sure his mother must have been worried sick, but he didn’t want her to make a journey all the way from Austria.  Maybe he could call her later.  If he was able to speak coherently.  First he wanted to ask Frank about Marc.  Frank had a funny look on his face... call it instinct, but Kay swallowed what he wanted to say. 

 

“Your brother was supposed to fly in today, but there’s a on-going pilot strike in Heathrow, so he got stuck there.  I’ve been keeping him updated as well.” Frank talked so fast like he couldn’t wait to reassure Kay. 

 

“Thanks.” Kay said, “I’ll call him and my mother today.”

 

Frank nodded, but he’s still frowning. “You need someone to take care of you even after they discharge you, you know?  You had a major surgery.  Anyway, the doctor will come in soon to tell you everything you need to know.”

 

There were plenty of cards and flowers in the room, he saw a fruit basket with a “get well soon” card signed by Lieutenant Fuchs and his partner.  

 

“How long have I been in the hospital?” He asked Frank.

 

“Three days.  You were in the ICU for two days.” Frank touched the back of his neck. “You accidentally busted the largest heroin stash Ludwigsburg has ever seen.  So don’t worry about debriefing.  Eiden is too busy taking credit.”

 

Everyone in the room murmured and assented to that.  A couple of colleagues were saying something to him, but Kay’s mind was still a little bit muddled.  He nodded slowly to them, assuming they were merely well wishes.  

 

Finally Frank ordered everyone to go back to the station if their shift was to start soon. Or to go home.  

 

“Get some rest, Kay.  You gave everyone quite a scare.” Britt kissed his cheek, she’s on the verge of tears again. “Eiden wants to see you, but I will tell him to come back tomorrow, ok?”

 

Kay nodded gratefully.  He wasn’t sure if he’s in good enough condition to give Eiden a clear account of what had happened.  The last thing he remembered was... Marc’s face.  He looked... he’s never seen Marc look so scared.

 

After everyone has left, Frank walked back near Kay’s bed.  He looked away first, then said quickly without facing Kay, “Marc is fine, if you are wondering.  He got shot too.” 

 

Kay’s heart did a little lurch.  

 

“He was lucky.  The kid was so freaked out he managed to shoot you, he couldn’t aim shit the second time.  The bullet barely grazed his arm, they patched him up in the hospital the same night.” Frank explained.  He’s still avoiding eye contact with Kay, clearing his throat, he added, “so, don’t worry about Marc.  Just concentrate on getting better yourself, ok?”  He said in a harsh tone, like he’s finishing a chore he didn’t want to do.

 

Kay held his breath.  He stared at Frank’s profile.  He knew about them.  Kay was almost sure of it.

 

Then without another word, Frank left the room.

 

******

 

“I’m starving.  Let’s order a pizza.” Kay said.  He was lying on Marc’s chest, his fingers drumming his stomach.

 

Marc grinned, grabbing Kay’s fingers to stop his drumming.  “Sure.  What’s your pizza style?”

 

“Italian thin crust, cheese only. And you?”

 

Marc smiled but he didn’t answer.

 

Kay turned and looked up at him. “Why are you smiling?” 

 

“That’s how I like my pizza too.”

 

Kay smiled slowly.  “Oh yeah?  Want to marry me, soulmate?”  

 

“Fuck you.” Marc laughed.

 

“Well... that you already did.” Kay smirked.  “There are plenty of other advantages, we can share socks, under-wears... the possibilities are endless.” 

 

“Shut up.” Marc threw a pillow at Kay and barked out laughing.

 

 

 

When Kay opened his eyes again, this time it was dark.  At least the room was.  Dark and quiet. There was only a dimly lit LED tube lamp on the side of a wall, illuminating the floor below.  

 

“What time is it?” Kay mumbled the question to no one.

 

“It’s one o’clock at night.” Someone in the dark answered. 

 

Marc.

 

Kay turned his eyes to the direction of the voice, he cautiously called out, “Marc?”

 

Sound of a chair scraping the floor echoed in the room.  Then Marc was standing next to the bed.

 

“What are you doing here?” 

 

He looked down and then back at Kay. “They said you were almost fully awake today. I didn’t want you here alone.” 

 

Kay nodded.  He still felt like he’s been run over by a train, the pain medication was wearing off.  Or maybe not, because looking at Marc now, he’s feeling strangely giddy, like he’s on drugs.

 

Marc looked pale and tired, there were some dark shadows under his eyes.  His denim shirt was wrinkled from sleeping in the chair; his hair sticking up in different angles.   

 

“You look like you came straight from a 24 hours shift,” Kay teased with affection. 

 

Marc smiled, that chiseled, handsome face a mix of gentleness and sadness. He shook his head. “I’m tired but not from work.  I’m not back on duty yet.  But I’ve been doing debriefing with Eiden all day. I’m okay, though.” 

 

Kay’s gaze rested on his shoulder, there’s a bit a bandage exposed under his shirt collar.  “You got shot too, didn’t you?”

 

“Just a graze wound.” Marc shrugged. 

 

“You dodged that second bullet for me...” Kay said quietly.  He remembered the sound of that second bullet after Frank told him Marc has gotten shot.  “The kid was going to finish me off.”

 

Marc grimaced, like he was in pain. “It was just luck.  I didn’t even see the kid or his gun.  I just found you sitting on the floor... there’s so much blood.”  He shook his head.

 

“Christ.  Marc, you could’ve died.  That bullet could have...” Kay’s voice hitched.  He couldn’t finish the sentence; he hasn’t allowed himself to imagine that scenario.

 

Marc just watched him closely. He shook his head again. “I... I wasn’t thinking.” That’s all he said, but the unsaid words were clear in his eyes.  

 

Kay returned his gaze.  They both let the unsaid words quietly sink in. 

 

“Want to lie down in bed for a bit?” Kay heard himself offering, without thinking - I must be still under the influence of some crazy drugs. 

 

“What?” Marc asked softly, looking stunned.  

 

Doped up or not, Kay didn’t want to take back the offer.  Maybe he would regret it tomorrow; maybe Marc would freak out tomorrow.  But tonight, at this moment, he just wanted to be close to Marc.  Kay moved carefully to free up the side with no tubes or wires hanging and pulling the blanket back. 

 

Marc turned to look at the closed door, eyeing it a moment before taking off his denim shirt and dropped it on the chair.  Leaving his undershirt on, he wordlessly climbed onto the bed and stretched out on his side next to Kay. 

 

“Come closer,” Kay said, pulling out another pillow underneath his arm. Marc put his head on the extra pillow, careful not to press against Kay’s bandages.  He reached out his hand and rubbing his thumb against Kay’s stubble. 

 

“You need a shave.”

 

Instead of answering, Kay let his eyes roamed all over Marc’s face, felt like he hasn’t had a good look at him for a long time.  He touched Marc’s hair, combing it with his fingers through the thick, deep brown curls.  It has always been a luxury to Kay, even when they were still together, to lie down quietly like this together.  

 

“I had a few rotten weeks.” Kay let out a shaky sigh.  Rotten months, actually. 

 

Marc kissed the side of his head, he continued to rub Kay’s jawline with his thumb. “I know, baby, I know.”

 

The endearment was new.  Kay noticed.  But it’s late, it could be just a slip of tongue from Marc. Or maybe I misheard it. Kay’s tired brain gave up the analysis, but his body snuggled closer to Marc.

 

“Comfortable?” Marc moved up his hand to brush his hair.  

 

Kay nodded and closed his eyes again.  Before he drifted back to sleep, the last thing he remembered was the sensation of Marc’s fingers holding his under the blanket.

 

When he woke up the next morning, Marc was gone.

Chapter Text

Marc heard the lock turning and got up from the futon.

 

Kay raised his eyebrows in surprise, then he gave Marc a wide smile. “So, the key works.” He happily noted.  Marc didn’t tell him he’d be coming tonight; Marc hadn’t planned to come here tonight...

 

Marc nodded.  The key has been burning a hole in his jeans ever since he got it.  What it symbolised, what it promised...

 

Kay walked up to him and they kissed, warmly, unhurriedly; Marc felt everything in him unclench and relax. He kissed Kay again, his fingers brushing the blond hair at the back, drawing him closer.  Kay was pliable in his arms, letting Marc take the lead as he nibbled Kay’s lower lip lightly, then soothed it again with another kiss.  

 

Paused.  Marc touched his forehead against Kay’s, his eyes were closed when he confessed, “I’ve been wanting to do this since I saw you standing in that uniform this morning.”

 

“What? The blue boiler-suit?” Kay smirked.  He bit his bottom lip, “is that what turns you on?” He pressed against Marc, walked him back further into the room.

 

That was not exactly what Marc meant… but now that Kay mentioned it… the back of Marc’s legs hit the futon mattress, his face went beetroot red.  

 

Kay playfully pushed Marc down onto the mattress.  “You know I have a spare one here.  I can put it on again, if you want...”

 

 

“Hey Marc... hey. Wait up.”  Frank chased after Marc.

 

Marc reluctantly turned.  He was hoping to leave the hospital without any colleague spotting him.

 

“Didn’t you hear me calling you?” Frank scolded.

 

“What?  Sorry, I didn’t hear you.  I have to go home to change and then get back to the station.” Marc played innocent.

 

Frank said nothing. He looked at him pointedly.  “How long have you been here?  Since last night?” He sighed.  Rubbing his temple and lowered his voice. “Jesus Christ, Marc, you need to be more discreet than this.”

 

Marc stared at his oldest friend.  

 

Frank grabbed his shoulder. “Come on, let’s grab some coffee.  I need to talk to you.”

 

Marc got out under Frank’s hold. He took a step back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  I have to go home.”

 

“Marc Borgmann.  You will come with me now.  10 minutes.  You owe me that much, buddy.” Frank raised his voice and began manhandling him.

 

They ended up in a small cafe opposite the hospital.  Frank checked there were no other cops around before they sat down at a table at the back.

 

Marc stayed silent the whole way there, he decided he wouldn’t volunteer anything, not until he found out what Frank knew, or what Frank thought he knew.  But he couldn’t stop his heart jumping in his throat.  

 

Frank pushed the cup of coffee towards Marc.  “Drink this.  You look like shit.”

 

Marc picked up the cup and took a sip.  Then pushed the cup away in defiance.

 

“What the hell, Frank?”

 

“How long has this been going on?”

 

They talked at the same time.

 

Marc’s jaw moved.  

 

“Yesterday Claudia told me Bettina finds it weird that you’re taking Kay’s injury so hard.” Frank narrowed his eyes. “And you know she’s not the only one wondering about that. You are playing with fire, Marc.”

 

Marc looked away to the window.  “I was with him that day.  You weren’t the one finding him in a pool of blood...” He argued.

 

“Don’t try to fucking fool me,” Frank hissed.  “You were wild... you... you were a complete wreck when I saw you!  Crying and covering Kay with your body... like he’s... shit...” Frank struggled to find the right words. “It’s lucky only me and the paramedics saw you and I finally pulled you off him.” He looked directly at Marc, “you didn’t even know you got shot yourself, did you?”

 

Marc sat still.  He didn’t remember that.  He had no memory of what happened after Kay closed his eyes and lost consciousness.  The moment he thought Kay had died... If Kay dies, I can’t... Marc couldn’t go there.

 

He knew Frank and the paramedics were the first to arrive, but he had no recollection of it.  It wasn’t until they arrived at the hospital that he started to acknowledge his surroundings again. Has he accidentally outed himself, his relationship with Kay?  Who else knew?  

 

This curve ball that Frank suddenly threw at him, one he was utterly unprepared for.  That fear, the one that’s been sitting in his stomach for months resurfaced, he tried to keep it down. 

“It’s not what you think...” Marc started to say, the trusted self-denial so readily available at tip of his tongue.  Then he remembered holding Kay’s hands this morning until dawn; remembered how he finally could breathe again when he felt Kay’s steady breath gently blowing on his face.

 

Marc paused.  Then started again.  “We are not together anymore.” he finally said.  He knew there’s no point denying it, at least not to Frank.

 

Even though Frank was obviously expecting this, when Marc confirmed it, it still rendered him speechless for a second.  “Jesus... I didn’t know.” He opened his palms.  “I didn’t know you like... but you know I don’t care about that, right? You’re still my friend.  The problem here is...”

 

“I’m not gay.”

 

Frank’s eyes widened.  He snorted, “what? So, it’s just Kay?” He said it like he thought that was complete bullshit.  

 

And for some reason, that made Marc angry.  “It’s really none of your business.” He said.

 

“It’s my business when you lied to Bettina about doing night shifts when you weren’t even there!”

Frank retorted.  He pointed a finger at Marc, said, “couple of months ago, Bettina asked me why you were doing so many extra night shifts.  I covered that for you. I lied for you, Marc.  So, it is my business.”

 

Marc paled.  That shut him up right away.  He knew Bettina had suspected something was wrong even before Jonas was born.  She had gone so far as asking Marc about Kay, which he’d dodged with the ‘help him with running’ half-truth.  He didn’t know she’d gone behind his back to ask Frank...

 

Shaking his head, Frank continued, “this whole time, I thought you were having a fling with some woman on the side.  Like I did with Britt? I was waiting for you to come clean and tell me... then that day...” he trailed. “When I saw you with Kay.  I added two and two together.”

 

Marc rubbed his face with both hands.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t know you were covering for me.” He said quietly.  How deluded has he been?  He thought he was so clever that he fooled everyone.  

 

“But you don’t have to, not anymore.  It’s over.  Kay broke it off after he came back from London.” Marc heard himself say as his mind went back to this morning again – Kay, safe and sound in that bed.  “I just... I just need to know he’s ok, that’s all.”

 

Frank sighed.  He watched him closely.  “Are you sure?  Doesn’t look like you are over him at all.”

 

 

******

 

 

Marc closed his locker quietly, careful not to wake up his roommate.  He sure likes his sleep, Marc thought, glancing at Engel’s sleeping form.

 

Kay - they are on first name basis now after last night.  Bonded through sharing a joint and roughhousing in the pool after hours.  He was already asleep when Kay finally came back from the pool.  

 

Marc couldn’t stop a smile forming as he remembered the all the rule-breaking shenanigans Kay got him into within just a couple of hours.  He haven’t had so much fun since... maybe forever.

 

“Where are you going?” 

 

Marc turned and saw Kay yawning and pulling back his duvet; the t-shirt he slept in has ridden up during the night, exposing a tight and flat stomach.  

 

Marc looked away.  “I’m going running in the woods.” He answered.

 

Kay perked up. “Oh yeah?  Can I join you?” Already getting up.  “I can show you some tricks.” He smiled, his light blue eyes challenging Marc.  “You are too tense and you have no technique.”

 

Marc huffed.  “It’s jogging.  What technique?” He pretended to be offended, but the butterflies in his stomach was saying something else.  Something he didn’t understand.

 

Kay stood in front of Marc, his hand scratching his stomach.  “Give me 5 minutes to get ready.  I promise I will change your life.” He smirked.

 

 

 

Kay seemed to have a lot of visitors.  

 

Marc hovered outside Kay’s room, watching Lieutenant Fuchs saying goodbye to Kay and exiting the room.  Fuchs was in his full uniform, like he’s going to some ceremony.  

 

After the little pep talk and under Frank’s watchful eyes, Marc had stayed away from the hospital for two days.  He knew Markus has arrived from London, so Kay wouldn’t be alone.  And Eiden has also been there most days, with his never-ending debriefing.  

 

The drug bust was going to earn Marc and Kay a Commendation Certificate from the Baden-Wüttemberg state police, something he shamelessly exploited to appease Bettina and his family, as an excuse to come to hospital.

 

“Marc?” 

 

Kay spotted him by the door, his eyebrow arched slightly - he looked alert and in a good mood.  He was recovering well, but the fear from that first night still seared in Marc’s mind. The massive blood loss meant Kay’s condition had been touch and go after the surgery.  Waiting outside the ICU that night, that desperate helpless feeling - Marc never wanted to experience that again. 

 

“Hey...” Marc cleared his throat and stuck his head into the room.  Relieved to find that Markus was not in the room.

 

Kay gave him a tentative smile.  They haven’t seen each other since that morning, when Kay let him sleep in his bed.  Suddenly Marc wasn’t sure where he stood with Kay again... wasn’t sure where he wanted to stand either.  With Frank’s warning still fresh in his mind, constantly picking a fight with his desire to see, to touch Kay.  

 

Marc walked up to the bedside. 

 

Kay’s gaze lingered on Marc’s face for awhile before he looked down. “I wanted to tell you the other night, but I was too doped up, I forgot...” he said.  “I think Frank knows about us.” Stealing a glance at Marc before he finished.

 

Marc stared at him.  “What did he say to you?” He asked slowly.  

 

Kay shook his head. “Nothing.  It’s the way he said it when I asked about you.” 

 

Marc breathed out, “I know.  He told me that.” 

 

“He did?”

 

“Yeah.  Turns out he’s been lying for me for months about those non existent night shifts.  He thought I was sleeping with some woman, until we both got shot that day.” Marc gave a shaky laugh without mirth.

 

Kay batted his eyelashes. “Guess I can pass as a woman on a good day.” He attempted to joke.  His hand reaching out to touch Marc’s wrist. 

 

Marc turned his wrist to hold Kay’s hand in his, gently rubbing Kay’s palm with his thumb - funny - he didn’t remember wanting to hold Kay’s hand before, now he couldn’t get enough of it.  

 

Marc grinned, “please, your stubble would give you away.”

 

“Minor details.” Kay retorted.  His voice was so soft it felt more like a caress than a rebuke. Marc smiled up at him, treasuring this small moment of togetherness.   He made a sound of bittersweet amusement.

 

Kay frowned, he looked concerned.  “Are you worried?  That Frank knows?” He was perhaps waiting for Marc to freak out?  To lash out?

 

Am I worried?  Marc wondered.  The honest truth was he surprised himself by how little he cared.  It would have been different few months ago... but now... what does it matter?  He knew Frank wouldn’t tell.  Plus there’s nothing to tell.  Not anymore, right?  

 

Marc looked down at their joint hands. “I don’t want you to worry about that.” He watched Kay.  “Just concentrate on getting better, ok?”

 

******

 

Markus was holding two large bags of Erdnuss puffs and two cans of coca cola when he walked back into the room.

 

“Are these for Kay or for yourself?” Marc frowned.

 

He glared at Marc and ignored his question.  “Where’s Kay?”

 

Marc stood up from the chair, walked over to take the snacks from Markus’ arms.  “He’s having a chest scan on the 3rd floor.” 

 

Markus sat down on the other chair, opened one bag of Erdnuss puffs and proceeded to eat them, two pieces at a time.  

 

Marc glanced at him.  Decided to let him be.

 

Then out of nowhere, Markus said, “Kay said you saved his life, so I’m not going to give you a hard time.”

 

“Good to know.” Marc said sardonically.  “We were both lucky.” He added.

 

“Right.  So lucky that you two encountered probably the only gun in this small town...” 

 

“When there’re criminals, there are guns and danger.  That’s part of police work.” Marc replied patiently.

 

“I don’t want Kay to be a cop.  Papa wanted him to be a pro athlete.” Markus muttered.  He stuffed more puffs into his mouth. 

 

That Marc didn’t know.  Kay has been tight-lipped about his father.  He softened his eyes. “I am sorry about your father.”

 

Markus made a sound of acknowledgement but said nothing further.

 

They both sat there quietly.  Marc reckoned now would be a good time to leave, so he got up.

 

“So, what’s your deal?  You just sleep with guys from time to time?  Like scratching an itch?” Markus asked curiously, like he really wanted to know.

 

“Can you keep your voice down?” Marc eyed the open door.

 

“Fuck you!  I’m not the one sneaking around behind my wife.” Markus raised his voice.

 

Marc clenched and unclenched his fists.  He took a deep breath and quietly exhaled.  “Markus.  I know we started off on the wrong foot.  And I know you don’t like me.  I understand.  But your brother and I are still friends and he... he is very important to me.”

 

“Huh.  Friends.” Markus snorted.  “After what our father did to him, Kay deserves to be with someone who’d put him first.  He had had enough of coming second in someone’s life.  Don’t you get it?”

 

Chapter Text

“Hallo?”  Kay answered hesitantly to the unknown number.

 

“Hallo, Kay?  It’s Bettina.  How are you?”

 

“...... I’m... well.  Thank you.  How are you?” 

 

Sounds of light laughter from the other end of the phone line. “I’m very well.  I am sorry to call you out of the blue, but I would like to invite you personally to our party this Sunday.  To celebrate Marc’s... and of course, yours... commendation award.  Nothing too fancy, just families and friends at our house.  You are very welcome to bring your brother with you.”

 

Kay stared at his mobile for a second, wanted to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. “Hallo?” Bettina said again.

 

Kay quickly put the mobile back close to his ears.  “Sorry... erm. Markus has gone back to England but thank you for the invite.”

 

“Oh.  Bring anyone you like then.” Bettina cheerily replied. 

 

Anyone?  Whatever the hell she meant?

 

“Frank said you will be back on duty in two weeks.  It would be nice to have a little gathering with the team before you go back to work, right?” Bettina eagerly added.

 

Kay massaged his temple.  This sounded like a disaster in the making, but he didn’t know how to turn her down. “Right.  Ok.  That sounds good.  Thank you.”

 

“Prima!”

 

“Erm.  Should I bring anything?” 

 

“No no no.  You are the vip guest.  Just bring yourself and plus one if you feel like it.”

 

There she goes again about bringing someone.  What is she on about?

 

It took Kay another minute to finally figure it out.  Someone, probably Frank, must have told her about the the date Lieutenant Fuchs’ partner has set him up with.  

 

Junior doctor Alex Neuer.  

 

Kay had met him at a dinner party at Fuchs’ house last week.  They both only found out they were being set up that night.

 

“You know how it is.  The happy couple always want everyone around them coupling up as well.” Dr Neuer shrugged, smiling.  

 

Kay nodded but no, actually he didn’t understand.  Fuchs and his partner’s content, monogamous and bourgeois world was so different from Kay’s, he felt like a tourist around them.  At least Neuer seemed like a down-to-earth guy and they both had a good chuckle about this ill-fated match-making.

 

Neuer has just come out of a long term relationship, he made it clear to Kay that he’s not in the market for a new relationship yet.  “No strings attached only for me for the immediate future.” He said.

 

Half a year ago, Kay would have laughed it off but still taken up the sex offer.  He liked sex.  So why not sex with a good looking doctor?  But now... sex was no longer just sex.  He wanted something else with it.  Something only a certain someone seemed to be able to give him; but that certain someone belonged to someone else.

 

“I’m not looking for anything at the moment.” Kay had no intention to play games.

 

That piqued Neuer’s interest. “Getting over someone?” 

 

Kay smiled without mirth.  “I’m working on it.”

 

“I thought sex with random stranger is usually one of the tricks?”

 

Kay chuckled, answered, “I wish.”  That’s as gentle as a rejection can be.

 

Neuer looked contemplative at that.  “I understand.  Sex is a strange thing.  Sometimes I think we overestimate our ability to treat it as a single act of relief; that it can be devoid of any feelings.”

 

“Was that what happened with your last relationship?”

 

“Kind of.” Neuer nodded.  “I belatedly found out how uncool I was about open relationships.”

 

That was never Kay’s kind of thing.  Why even pretend to be in a relationship when you still want to sleep with other people?  Then he thought of Marc... 

 

Maybe I underestimate how much people desire a steady home life, some socially prescribed life plans, something I will never understand.  Kay mused.

 

Those tender moments between them in the hospital, they didn’t change anything.  Marc was still the dutiful son, boyfriend and father to his family; Kay was still the outsider.  

 

But it’s ok.  Es geht alles vorbei (This too shall pass).  Kay thought.  He’s used to not getting what he wanted.  

 

At least now Kay knew it wasn’t one-sided, that Marc really cared about him.  Loved him, even.  In some twisted logic, Kay knew Marc would take a bullet for him even if he wouldn’t leave Bettina for him.  And that’s something, right?  

 

And Marc now had this notion that they could become friends - friends who liked to hold hands when they were alone.  Kay smiled bitterly when he thought of that.  It would never work.  Not for him.  He needed more; more than Marc was willing to give.

 

So, Kay’s plan hasn’t changed.  He’s going to wait out the next few months and then ask for a transfer.  And there’s always London...

 

The young doctor nodded.  “Anyway, if you ever need a pair of ears, I’m here.”

 

******

 

He’s going to leave a mark there, Kay acknowledged this hazily as Marc continued to suck the tender skin just below his earlobe, where his stubble ended.  

 

They have already fucked an hour ago.   Marc has showered and was supposed to leave soon.  Kay didn’t remember how they ended up making out in bed again.  He closed his eyes as Marc slipped both hands under Kay’s tank top and ran them in long strokes over his ribs and stomach, then proceeded to pull down Kay’s boxer-brief.  

 

Kay opened his eyes again, his eyebrow arched.  “I want you to ride me.” Marc said.  No longer the unsure straight guy who followed Kay’s lead in bed, Marc now knew what he wanted and he’s used to getting it.

 

Kay climbed onto Marc, he’s still tender and slippery inside from an hour ago.  The head of Marc’s cock slipped in easily, he thrust up into him at once, Kay gasped and protested softly. “Sorry, I can’t help it.” Marc soothed him with a caress on his hip.  Kay smiled down at him and began to move.

 

Marc took off Kay’s tank top in one pull, his hands back on Kay’s thighs and spread them wider. Kay planted both hands on Marc’s chest and moved in a faster pace.  

 

“Kay...please...” Marc squeezed his eyes tight, fingers digging into Kay’s hips.

 

“Hey, I’m doing all the hard work here.” Kay teased while he moved up and came back down a few more times.

 

Marc opened his eyes, a fierce expression on his face.  “I’ll show you hard work.” Before the sentence was finished, Kay found himself flat on his back.  Droplets of water landed on Kay’s face, from sweat or the shower earlier, Kay couldn’t tell and didn’t care, as Marc fucked into him hard.  

 

Kay let out a moan from the force and intensity.  With one leg on Marc’s shoulder and the other one cradled by his arm, he stroked his own cock.  It wouldn’t be long now.  

 

Marc’s spine became rigid, he shouted a low grunt as he came and collapsed on top of Kay.  Sweaty and sticky, Kay wrapped both of his legs around Marc’s waist, his cock trapped between their chests.  Marc moved and the friction was all it needed for Kay to come.

 

Their panting the only sound in the quiet twilight.

 

“Shit.  I have to take a shower again...” Marc murmured after a few seconds.

 

Kay laughed.  

 

 

Marc’s house looked like the coziest open prison in the world.  Kay thought as he studied the tasteful garden furniture, the burnt orange sunshade.  The well-tended shrubbery serving as borders for a safe haven/prison to its inhabitants. 

 

He could imagine Marc grilling burgers and frankfurters, while Bettina pouring lemonades into designer tall glasses.  Picture perfect.

 

How could I ever compete with this?

 

Kay stood next to Neuer as Bettina, Claudia, Frank and Marc’s parents listened with interest to his ER stories.  Neuer has just completed three years of resident training at a hospital.  

 

Kay didn’t tell Neuer about Marc, had just asked him if he’s interested to come to a party with him, to lend some emotional support.  “I heard there will be booze, good food and plenty of cop-talk.” Kay told him.  But the doctor had seen right through him. “Why, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  You know I am perfect for the rent-a-boyfriend gig.  Everyone loves a doctor.” 

 

“We are lucky that we have a good pediatric clinic close-by.  There were a couple of panic moments for clueless new parents like us.” Bettina said.

 

Neuer agreed. “Anxious parents and drunken accidents, they account for 80% of the ER activities here.  It was crazier when I was working in Stuttgart.  Overdosed, knife, gun-shot wounds... you name it.”

 

“So you were part of the team that looked after Marc and Engel?”  That was Marc’s father. Kay learned that he’s a retired policeman.

 

“No.  That’s the trauma unit.  I met Kay well after he became the local hero.” Neuer patted Kay’s back in a playful manner.  Kay rolled his eyes.  “If you’d call getting shot like a damn rookie an act of heroism.  Marc was the one who saved the day.”

 

Marc’s father grunted. “That’s probably the most action Ludwigsburg has ever seen in 10 years.  Punk kids with guns.  Just you two’s rotten luck.” He said, pride in his voice nonetheless.

 

Kay had thought about the incident plenty while he was in the hospital.  It could have been so much worse.  He shook his head.  “True is... I froze.  Because the kid looked so young.”

 

“Fucking kids these days.” Frank muttered, “pardon my language.” He looked at Kay, “you did well.  The team is proud of you two.”

 

Neuer nodded with understanding, he gave Kay a reassuring squeeze behind his neck.  

 

Kay glanced over and saw Marc staring at them.

 

******

 

Kay opened the bathroom door and found Marc standing outside of it.  Their eyes met.

 

Marc put his hand on the door handle.  “You have a minute?”  Kay nodded slowly, he backtracked into the bathroom.  Marc walked in and locked the door again.

 

They stood in the middle of the room.  Neither saying a word.

 

At the back of his mind, Kay recalled that time when he was in the bathroom with Marc in the bowling alley.  When he first found out Marc was not available...

 

“so sieht aus (so now you know)” Marc had told him that.

 

And now...

 

Kay was secretly counting the seconds.  If he didn’t come out in the few minutes, Neuer or Frank, who has been watchful, would start looking for him.  He leaned against the wash basin counter, waiting for Marc.

 

“So how serious is this thing with Neuer?  How come you never mentioned him?” Marc finally asked.

 

“Marc...” 

 

“I just want to know, that’s all.” Marc lifted one of his shoulders.

 

Plenty of of responses went through Kay’s mind: You can’t keep doing this to me/You are being unfair/Why can’t you just say it?  

 

But looking at Marc’s anguish face and his poor attempt to act nonchalant, all he wanted to do was to draw Marc into his arms.  

 

God, the pair of us.

 

Kay hugged himself with crossed arms.  He shook his head.  “I’m not sleeping with him.  He’s just a friend.” He glanced at Marc and said, “I just thought... I thought it will be easier if I come with him today, so Bettina won’t get... or Frank.  Shit... actually, I don’t know what I was trying to achieve.” Kay took a shuddery breath. “Let’s forget about it, ok?”

 

“Kay... please.” Marc grabbed his wrist, didn’t even try to pretend now.

 

Kay looked at the closed door.  They needed to get out of here undetected.  And soon.

 

He touched Marc’s face with the back of his hand.  “It’s ok, Marc.  I am not mad.” And dropped his hand. 

 

Kay opened the door, stuck his head out to have a peek.  He turned back to Marc, said quietly, “you know we can’t keep doing this.”  

 

Then he left and closed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

(Marc)

 

Marc stiffened.  

 

“What’s wrong?” Bettina asked.  She continued to kiss him, her hand gently rubbing his stomach, getting close to his boxer’s waistband.  Her intention clear as day.

 

He turned, his face flushed, “.. are you sure this is ok?  Didn’t the doctor say you should wait six weeks after giving birth?”

 

“Don’t be silly.  There’s no definite timeframe for that.” Bettina chuckled. She kissed the side of his head, whispered in his ears, “plus I’ve really missed you.”

 

Marc smiled shyly and returned the kiss.  His arm wrapped around her shoulders, the other around her waist, to draw her closer.  Bettina purred, tilting her head back to allow him better access.  He reached for the buttons on her nightdress...

 

Marc closed his eyes, willing himself to ignore the voice in his head: it’s off.  It’s too soft, too fragile, too bony... it’s not the right smell... 

 

“Argh...” Kay groaned, his hand reached behind to grab hold of Marc’s ass, pushing his body back hard against Marc’s.

 

Marc’s body jerked and he opened his eyes.  Bettina was on top of him.  Looking down at him with slight concern. “Are you coming down with something?  You look sweaty.” She brushed his hair back.

 

Marc shook his head, forced out a smile.  “The room is too warm, that’s all.” He pulled her down for a long kiss, his hand gently rubbing her postpartum baby-bump.  A mix of guilt and tenderness filled his heart.  He vowed quietly to himself that he would do better, be a better partner to her, that it’s not too late... 

 

 

“I think Claudia has a little crush on Dr Neuer.” Bettina smiled.  She looked at Marc through the reflection on the bathroom mirror, while wiping her face with cotton pads.  “I’m happy for Kay.”

 

“You’ve only met the guy for a few hours.” Marc said.  Sticking the toothbrush into his mouth again.

 

“Why, are you feeling intimidated because he’s a doctor?  Male ego.” Bettina chuckled. “He’s quite a catch.”

 

Spitting out the foam, Marc said, “Kay is not serious about him.” 

 

Bettina turned to look at him, her brow furrowed.  “How do you know?  Did Kay say something to you?”

 

Marc stilled.  Keep your mouth shut. He shrugged. 

 

Bettina resumed putting night cream on her face. “I just think it’s good that he has someone.  He seemed so lonely here.  All by himself, you know?” 

 

Marc turned his face to the side, swallowed.  He closed his eyes and counted to three. 

 

“You know we can’t keep doing this.”

 

Suddenly he couldn’t breathe.  

 

Marc got up from sitting on the edge of the bathtub. He said in haste, “I’m going for a smoke outside.” 

 

Bettina wrinkled her nose. “You literally have just brushed your teeth!” 

 

“I’ll brush again.” Marc replied without a backward glance and left the bathroom.

 

He rushed to the living room, opened the sliding door quickly and stood on the porch in his thin t-shirt.  Shivering in the cool breeze of the night, he took a few shaky breaths and slowly exhaled.  His heart beating too fast.  Tears gathering but not falling.  Stuck somewhere.

 

******

 

(Kay)

 

His father’s letter was finally out of the sealed envelope, the single sheet of paper was carefully folded and propped up against the table lamp, in a lonely corner of the bedside table.

  

“...in the end, I found out I couldn’t make everyone happy, so I made a choice. It was not wrong; it was not right and it was not good, but one I had to make. I only wish I had handled it better.  My greatest regret is that you got hurt.  If this letter comes to you before we speak to each other again, I want you to know that I’ve always loved you, proud of you.  You are always on my mind.  Please live well and be happy.”

 

Kay lay in bed, the faint light from the lamp casting a lone shadow on the wall.   His heart beating too fast. Tears gathering but not falling. Stuck somewhere.  

 

******

 

(Marc)

 

Marc must have paced a hundred miles of hospital linoleum before the door to the operation room opened and a doctor in scrubs appeared.  Eiden and Frank got to him first.  Marc felt like his two legs were not going to support him.  

 

It seemed the longest walk of Marc’s life even though it was only two doors down the corridor.

 

He got there just in time to hear the doctor told Eiden, “.... though successful, he has lost a lot of blood.  His heart stopped once during... we are optimistic... but tonight will be critical, if he could make it through... he will remain in the ICU... any family member here...” 

 

And Marc promptly collapsed on the bench next to them.

 

“Whoa, Marc.  Are you ok?” Frank caught his arm and helped him sit down.  

 

Marc put his head in his hands.  Barely managed to nod to answer Frank’s question.

 

“Maybe you should go home.  You were shot too, remember?” Frank touched his shoulder gingerly, like he’s afraid to startle him.

 

Without looking up, Marc shook his head.  “I want to stay here.”  

 

Frank watched him for a few seconds before he got up. “Ok. I’ll see if I can get us some food.”  And he left.

 

Then Marc’s mobile started ringing.  Bettina’s name flashing.

 

“Hallo.” Marc answered without looking.

 

“Marc?  Where are you?  Frank said you have a shallow wound but they patched you up hours ago...”

 

“They said... they don’t know if he’s going to make it through tonight...” he choked up.

 

“What?  Who?” 

 

And Marc let the mobile dropped on his lap.  

 

 

Marc remembered this route.  The one that Kay had playfully taunted him and said “it’s for advance level running, so not for you. Yet.”

 

Running was a refuge.  When he ran, he could breathe, could feel closer to Kay; sometimes he even forgot they were not together anymore, that Kay was just 10 steps ahead of him, showing off his skills.

 

This unpopulated part of the forest was mostly deserted, he has never run into any other runners, so he was surprised when he heard laboured breathing coming from the side of the path, near a dense woodland.

 

Marc slowed down and walked towards where he thought the sound came from.

 

He found someone leaning against a large tree trunk, his head down, wheezing.

 

He walked closer.  And stopped.  “Kay?” 

 

Kay looked up at him.  His face paled as white sheet, he wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.  

 

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” Marc put his hand on Kay’s back and began to rub it up and down.

 

Kay winced.  “I was planning on hiking only today, but then I thought maybe I could try to...”

 

“What? To run?” Marc scowled.  “They just patched a hole on your chest and you want to join the Olympic team again?” He wanted to sound stern and angry, but it came out like an indulgent whisper.

 

Kay shrugged.  He stood up straight and looking a bit embarrassed.  Marc watched him closely as colour slowly returning to his face, he brushed Kay’s sweaty hair back.  

 

“It’s ok. I’m fine.  Just out of breath for a second.” Kay tried to smile and began to turn away.  Marc yanked him back, running his hand over his chest and shoulder until he found the bullet wound, just inches from his heart.  He put his hand under Kay’s t-shirt, his fingers touched the just-healed scar, which was still red, lumpy and angry looking.

 

“Jesus... Kay...” Marc murmured, shaky with an emotion that has nothing to do with the cold morning breeze.

 

Kay’s face turned towards him. “You should go.  I just need to rest for a few more minutes, then I’ll walk back...”

 

“Shut up...” Marc interrupted and brought his mouth onto Kay’s.  

 

For a few fraught seconds, Kay just froze.  Not moving, not responding.  Marc thought time has stopped and the world was standing still.   Then Kay parted his lips slightly; Marc didn’t wait for another invitation, he thrust his tongue in.  

 

It was a merciless kiss. A brutal claiming, full of desperation and hunger, forcing Kay to surrender to his will, letting Kay know all the things he didn’t say, still couldn’t say.  Marc’s fingers grabbing the back of Kay’s neck, keeping him close, not letting him move even an inch away.  

 

Weeks and months of pent up passion poured out of Marc, he was dimly aware that he might be using too much force, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.  They broke apart to breathe for just half a second before Marc found his mouth again for a hard, sweet kiss.  A lover’s kiss.  Kay let out a low moan as Marc’s kiss traveled a slow, wet trail down his jaw… throat… collarbone…

 

Marc hid his face in the hollow of Kay’s neck, still gently kissing the soft skin there, not willing to part.  They slid down together to sit on the grass, leaning against the tree.  

 

Kay lazily rubbing the side of his face against Marc’s hair.  

 

“Still feeling tired?” Marc lifted his head and asked.  

 

Kay shook his head and shifted a little.

 

“Put your head on my shoulder and rest a bit.” Marc whispered.

 

“I’m not tired.”

 

“Put your head on my shoulder. Just for a minute.” Marc repeated.

 

There was a hint of unease in Kay’s eyes, but he obliged and rested his head against Marc’s shoulder.

 

They sat there stiffly and quietly for a moment or two; then Marc felt Kay shifted a little to get more comfortable, his warm breath blowing softly against Marc’s throat.

 

After another minute, Kay put his arm around Marc’s waist, and Marc put his arm around Kay’s shoulders.  With Kay’s heart beating fast and strong against his fingertips, Marc felt a buzz in his nervous system, and he felt safer, more alive than ever.  Like nothing in the world could touch him, as long as he could stay like this with Kay.

 

After another few minutes.

 

“We will find a way... I will find a...” Marc started to say.

 

“Don’t.” Kay shook his head.  “Don’t say it.” He lifted his head.  Marc met Kay’s steady gaze, his light blue eyes looking almost green in the shadows of the trees

 

Kay closed his eyes, leaned forward and kissed Marc.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

>>stop sending me pics of yr gay professors<<

 

>>which one?<<

 

>>all of them<<

 

>>prof Liam is not gay, but you can prob turn him. he’s hot<<

 

>>no<<

 

>>no he’s not hot?<<

 

>>just no<<

 

>>but he looks like mats hummels<<

 

>>go out with him yrself<<

 

>>thx i prefer the other side<<

 

>>sag niemals nie<< (Never say never)

 

>>don’t change subject<<

 

>>stay out of my sex life<<

 

>>will when u move here<<

 

>>i hv a job here<<

 

>>working w/ marc<<

 

>>....<<

 

>>can c u typing<<

 

>>don’t worry ok<<

 

>>shit. r u 2 fucking AGAIN???!!!!<<

 

Kay’s mobile started ringing.

 

 

Well-fucked and tired in the best sense, Kay sprawled on his bed, face down on the pillow as he listened to Marc returning from the bathroom. 

 

He turned to look at Marc when he felt a warm wet towel on his back.  

 

“You don’t have to do that.  I will take a shower later.” Kay murmured.

 

“I want to.” Marc simply said.  He lay down next to Kay, propped himself up on his elbow and threw the towel away with one hand to the general direction of the kitchen counter.   Then his hand returned to Kay’s back...

 

“I can’t smoke yet, but feel free to have one if you want.” Kay suggested.  That’s what Marc had always done before - he’d smoke a cigarette before leaving.

 

Marc shook his head.  “I’m ok.” Then he smiled, “good that you are listening to the doctor for once.  No pot either, ok?  Your lung is still healing, you shouldn’t...”

 

“Yes. Mama.” Kay teased.

 

Marc grabbed a pillow and pretended to smother him.

 

“Hey!” Kay protested.  He wriggled free and took his revenge with a kick to Marc’s calf.  “Hey, not fair! You know that’s my weakest point.” Marc shouted, but he’s laughing.

 

“Pussy with a weak calf” Kay chuckled at his own joke, then turned into a wheezy laugh. 

 

“Karma...” Marc couldn’t stop laughing.  Kay joined in while trying to catch his breath.

 

After a few moments, both finally quieted. 

 

“Hey, I think it’s full moon tonight.  If we turned off the light inside, we can see it through your window.” Marc suddenly said.  He reached over to turn off the table lamp.  The room was plunged into darkness except for the LED strip light under the kitchen cabinet and the full moon outside.

 

“It’s a Micromoon this year.” Marc said against Kay’s face. Even in this semi-darkness, Kay could see Marc had a goofy smile on his face, like it’s the first full moon he has ever seen. 

 

“What’s so micro about it?  It looks the same to me.”

 

“Micro as opposed to Supermoon.  A micromoon is when the moon is in the orbit farthest from earth.” Marc explained.

 

“Far away, so close.” Kay whispered.  He turned around to look at Marc.  “Didn’t know you are into astrology.”

 

“It’s not astrology, dumbass.” Marc laughed. “It’s astronomy.  And yes, it was my childhood dream to be an astronaut.”

 

“Really?” Kay was surprised.  He knew Marc liked to read science fictions but didn’t know it was considered a career choice.  “How old were you?  Why did you become a cop then?”

 

Marc locked his arms around Kay from behind, still looking at the full moon.  “I was 10.  Because we are in Germany?  Because I’m not good enough at school? Because my father is a cop?”

 

Kay nodded quietly.  This was exactly what he’d expect Marc to do - following a blueprint of life choices that his parents and society have planned for him; always eager to please, putting other people’s feelings before his own.  

 

Except me.  I wasn’t in the plan.  I was a spanner that was thrown into his life.

 

“What about you?  Markus told me you were going to be a pro athlete.”  

 

Kay absently rubbed Marc’s forearm on top of his chest.  He sighed, “it’s my father’s plan for me.”

 

Marc stilled.  He carefully asked, “do you want to talk about it?”

 

Kay shook his head slowly.  “Not particularly.”

 

“Ok.” Marc answered easily.  He kissed Kay’s hair and tightened his embrace.

 

Actually, what Kay wanted to talk about was why Marc was still here.  It was almost midnight.  Even if Marc was pretending to be doing a nightshift, he should be going home now.  But Kay wasn’t going to remind him.  

 

This time... it felt different.  Kay couldn’t pinpoint what exactly.  

 

It was little things like Marc would make eye-contact with him across the squad room, a hidden smile sent over dozens policemen’s heads; or that he would make sure Kay didn’t have to sit next to Limpinski in the armoured vehicle; would text Kay out of the blue like he couldn’t help himself.  Nothing intimate, just a hallo or a question or to share something funny.  

 

There was also an openness from Marc that wasn’t there last time.  Kay remembered last time, when driven by paranoia, Marc wouldn’t even acknowledge to others that they hangout outside of work; sometimes even pretended he didn’t particularly like Kay.  Maybe the shooting incident and commendations have given Marc an invisible armour, that he knew no one would bat an eye if they watch-out for for each other after what had happened. 

 

Kay himself was different too this time.  This time he didn’t have a destination; didn’t dream about running away with Marc to somewhere new and start over together.  He knew they were not going anywhere and this - this renewed affair between them, it carried an expiry date.  

 

******

 

This was the second time Bettina saw this key.  

 

First time was a week ago, she found it in the side pocket of Marc’s jacket while looking for the receipt for the baby car seat they’ve ordered.  She didn’t pay much attention to it, thinking it was a locker key or something work-related.

 

This time she was preparing to do laundry, she picked up Marc’s discarded jeans on the floor.  While clearing the pockets, a key dropped out.  

 

She looked at it closely.  Yes, it’s the same key.  This time, she studied it.

 

The size is too big for a locker.  Not a key for any padlock either.  Not for cabinet or cupboard.  Not for an internal door.  She brought out her own set of keys, just to confirm it wasn’t for Marc’s parents’ house next door.  But it is a key for a front door.  

 

There were dozens of valid reasons for Marc to have a front door key she didn’t recognise.  

 

A niggle at the back of her mind, a small fear that she wouldn’t acknowledge was telling her something else. 

 

The idea, so remote, so unthinkable, she couldn’t, wouldn’t fully formulate.  That it remained in abstract form.

 

 

Kay checked the time on his phone.  8pm.

 

Marc was already an hour and a half late. And there was no text message.  

 

Just like old times.  Kay sighed.  Suddenly the image of his old self smoking a joint in the balcony resurfaced.  Watching the pink orange sky to turn dark, while he waited for Marc to show up.  Sometimes a simple text would come hours later apologizing for not able to come; sometimes it was just silence and eye-contact avoidance from Marc the next day.  

 

Just when I thought it’s different this time.Kay laughed at himself.  Didn’t take Marc long at all to turn everything back to the way it used to be.  He went to the closet and picked out a pair of grey jeans and a black shirt.  He’s going out tonight. 

 

He was taking one last check at the bathroom mirror when he heard the front door lock turning.

 

“Sorry. I’m late...” Marc mumbled as he walked in.  He had a gym bag in his hand.

 

Kay stared at him.  

 

Marc kissed him on the lips, pulled back and only just noticed Kay’s clothes.  “You are going out?” A hint of worry in his voice.

 

But Kay ignored his question. “What are you doing?”

 

Marc blushed and smiled shyly.  He dropped his gym bag on the floor.  “Bettina is going to visit her grandparents with Jonas in Münster for a couple of days.  I thought... maybe I can stay with you here?” 

 

Kay was stunned.  He opened his mouth and closed it again.  

 

“I’m sorry I should have called first... I just found out when I got home and I had to drive them to the train station, that’s why I was late... is it...” 

 

Kay grabbed the back of Marc’s head and gave him a hard, sweet kiss.  He touched his forehead against Marc’s, still couldn’t find the words.  Opposing thoughts warring in his mind.  He was scared; this bold gesture from Marc, delivered in such causal, almost mindless manner, like it’s the most natural thing; when the last thing Kay wanted was to be hopeful again.   But he also couldn’t stop the fluttery in his stomach... the kind of happiness that could break his heart one day.

 

Oblivious to Kay’s internal turmoil, Marc rubbed Kay’s face with his thumb. “Why are you all dressed up?  You want to go out?” He asked.

 

Kay shook his head.  

 

“We can go out to eat, if you want.  I haven’t eaten anything all day except those soggy pasta at the canteen...” Marc was still talking, but Kay shut him up with another kiss, tender and lingering.  Marc wrapped his arms around him, his mouth quirked into a slow smile.  The roughness of Kay’s stubble rubbing against Marc’s clean shaven jaw, eyelashes flickering against each other, noses rubbing against each other.  The rest of the world slipped away as they stayed in this cocoon.  

 

And Kay knew it’s going to hurt 100 times worse when it ends this time.

 

Chapter Text

Someone is playing heavy bass next door.  Marc groggily thought.  Why are the neighbours playing music so loud in the morning?  Wait... his neighbours are his parents and they wouldn’t... he opened his eyes.  For a second, he forgot where he was. 

 

Then he saw the back of a graceful neckline and a wall of toned muscles in front of him.  And remembered - he’s in Kay’s apartment, sleeping in his bed, waking up with him for the first time.

 

“Hmmm...” Kay stirred next to him.  He blindly reached out to the side table and turned off the heavy bass music - it was his mobile alarm music.

 

Kay turned to him. “Hey...” He cleared his throat.  Kay’s leg lazily rubbing Marc’s under the duvet, sending a thrill through Marc down to his toe; his stubble looked golden under a ray of morning sun streaming through the window; his hooded eyes only half opened, a hint of smile playing on his lips.  He looked so... Marc was no poet, but several embarrassingly sappy adjectives went through his mind.  He felt a tug of attraction, powerful as high tide, swept over him, like a spell has been cast on him. 

 

How could something as mundane as waking up in the morning make him feel so happy, just because he is doing it with Kay?  It is as unfair as it is almost ridiculous.  I’m a grown man, I am not supposed to feel giddy like this.  Marc quietly thought. He had never experienced anything like this with anyone.  Not with the girl who he shared his first sexual experience with; not even with Bettina.  

 

And he thought he’s been in love before... Love? Marc’s heart stuttered, he closed down the train of thought before it got out of control...

 

He brushed the short blond hair behind Kay’s ears.  “That’s some music to wake up to.” 

 

******

 

“Marc, join me for lunch?  Outside, I mean.”

 

Frank grabbed Marc’s shoulder outside the squad room.  “What is it?” was on the tip of Marc’s tongue, but he took one look at Frank and knew he didn’t just want to have lunch with him.  

 

He flicked a quick glance at Kay, who was talking to Britt in the hallway.  Marc nodded to Frank and followed him out of the police building.

 

Of course he knew he’s been avoiding Frank.  It’s not that he wanted to lie to his best friend, he just didn’t know what to say to him.  There was no good reason to get back with Kay, not one that Frank would understand anyway.  

 

They bought two Mettwurst sandwiches from a food truck and walked to the track field next to the station to eat.  Marc remembered he and Frank used to bring a case of beer here to get drunk and shoot the breeze at night.  They haven‘t hung out like that since Bettina got pregnant; maybe since he had convinced himself to accept a loan from his parents to buy the semi-detached house next to them.  Now whenever he saw Frank outside of work, it was always four of them, they did everything together.  Two couples double-dating.  

 

“Where are you staying these days?” Frank asked.

 

Marc took a bite of his sandwich, considering his answer.

 

Frank didn’t wait for his answer. “Claudia went over to your place last night, wanted to give you some leftover Bäckeoffe.  She said it was all dark and no one answered the door.” His tone was slightly strained.

 

Marc looked down, said, “if I tell you I am not with Kay, would you believe me?”

 

“So you ARE staying with Kay.”

 

Marc nodded, turning away.

 

Frank just stared at him.  His sandwich still unopened in his hand.  He shook his head. “What happened to ‘don’t worry, we are not together anymore’?”

 

“It’s complicated.” 

 

“Uh-Huh.” Frank snorted.  “I thought Kay’s going out with that good looking doctor. What did you do?”

 

“They aren’t going out! Kay was just doing it to...” Marc stopped.  Suddenly feeling self-conscious of how he sounded.

 

Frank didn’t say anything.  He opened the wrapper of his sandwich, took a bite and chewed slowly.  

 

“You were shooting daggers at the guy the whole time that afternoon.  Anyone paying any attention could tell you were jealous.  Did Bettina say anything?”

 

Marc’s face flushed.  He mumbled. “Not really.”  He looked at his half eaten sandwich, he lost his appetite already.

 

Frank continued eating.  He swallowed and wiped the corner of his mouth.  “You want my advice?”

 

Not really.  Marc thought but he knew Frank was going to tell him anyway.

 

“I know you think I don’t understand.” Frank said.  “But an affair is an affair, it doesn’t matter if you’re fucking a woman or a man.  You are cheating on your girlfriend.  The mother of your child who did nothing wrong.” He watched Marc closely. “And if you are not planning to leave her, then you are leading Kay on as well.  He broke up with you, didn’t he?  Why don’t you just let him be?”

 

Marc turned away.  He had the sudden urge to laugh.  Because god knows he had tried.  God knows he had tried to stop thinking about Kay day and night.  But how could Frank understand this, when Marc himself didn’t?  

 

But he answered instead, “What?  Like you did with Britt?”

 

Frank shook his head. “Not the same thing.  I will always be happy for Britt if she finds a nice guy who treats her right, even when we were together.  You can’t even stand Lieutenant Fuchs standing too close to Kay.”

 

Marc snapped his head up.  

 

“Yeah, I thought it was odd, now it makes total sense.” Frank answered the unasked question.  

 

There was nothing Marc could say to that, so he didn’t.

 

Frank cleared his throat, softened his voice, “Marc, you are my best friend, I’ll always watch out for you.  But Bettina is my friend too, so I’m drawing the line here.  I won’t tell her, but I can’t lie for you if she asks again.  Claudia will kill me.  You understand?”

 

Marc nodded slowly, his heart hammering.  

 

They both fell silent after that.  Then suddenly, Marc asked, “did you ever feel that your life is not what you thought it would be? That you feel trapped and suffocated? And the only way out might destroy your entire world?”

 

Frank got up, gathered all the rubbish and threw them into the bin before he finally answered, “only you can free yourself. There’s no magic bullet, somebody is going to get hurt.”

 

 

******

 

Bettina had once read a novel about a female detective who used her intuition to solve cases, making decisions with her gut feelings.  Even though the story was engaging, Bettina never believed the premise of the story, she thought we simply know things sooner than we consciously realise we do; that sometimes we know the answer but can’t tell even ourselves why we know.

 

Like she couldn’t explain why that day, the second time she saw that key, she decided to make a copy of it before she put it back in Marc’s jeans; or why two weeks later, she’s standing in front of Kay Engel’s apartment with a copy of the key in her hand.

 

Getting Kay’s address was easy.  Frank kept an address book of every unit member in their house and all she needed was to tell Claudia that she wanted to send everyone a thank you note for attending the party.

 

This sequence of seemingly measured actions was in fact orchestrated by her subconscious mind.  Bettina had seen the dots, but they were scattered and whenever she tried to connect them, her conscious mind would reject it - it can’t be. I know him. It’s something else - her conscious mind laughing it off.

 

She picked a time to go there knowing both Marc and Kay would be at work.  Conflicting thoughts, fear and relief went through her mind as she inserted the key.

 

Her heart jumped when the lock turned effortlessly. 

 

She walked in.  Taking in the studio apartment.  She was impressed with the floor to ceiling large windows and the roomy balcony outside.  

 

Inside, it’s tidier than most single guys’ apartments, but that appeared to be the only difference.  It’s sparsely furnished.  A simple but well equipped kitchen, a red boxing punch bag leaned against a  sofa-bed, a tv set, a lonely large world map haphazardly taped on the wall, a bedside table with a reading lamp. 

 

It’s so ordinary that Bettina finally exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding.  What was she expecting exactly?  Nude male statues and posters?  Pink wallpaper? She quietly scolded herself for even thinking of such stereotypes. 

 

She did a 360-degree walkthrough in the small living room/bedroom, careful not to disturb anything. There was no picture frames of Kay, his family, or anyone else.  It seemed odd to Bettina, but then again, she didn’t really know the guy.

 

Frank did mention Kay only knew Marc in Ludwigsburg.  He has probably given Marc a spare key as back-up. 

 

Yes, that’s it.

 

With relief and certainty in her mind, then came the guilt.  She didn’t want to become the kind of woman who monitor their partner’s text messages and call logs.  

 

She took one last sweep with her eyes, getting ready to leave.  It was purely by accident that she was standing next to the bedside table and noticed a stack of books on it.

 

On top of the pile was a German edition of “Death in the City of Light” by David King.  But it was not the book title that caught her eye; it was the bookmark that was sticking out of the book.  

 

She picked up the book, slowly pulled out the bookmark.  It was a strip of photos, the kind you take in a photo-booth for passport.  

 

It was four small photos of Marc and Kay together.  They both looked intoxicated and... happy.  Kay had his arms around Marc’s neck, they were laughing, kissing and touching each other in full colour.

 

The last photo, slightly bent on the edge from frequent use, showed a sweaty, elated Marc cupping Kay’s face with his hand, like a prelude to a kiss.  His eyes gazing at Kay with such unabashed affection Bettina thought she was looking at a different person.

 

She had no idea how long she has been holding the strip of photos in her hand, until she finally got over her shock and put it back inside the book; she even tidied up the stack of books.  

 

Then she left the apartment.  Her heart in pieces, as her conscious mind finally caught up with her subconscious one.

 

 

 

Marc knew he was cutting it close.  Bettina was due back later this afternoon and he had to pick them up from the train station. 

 

But today was the last day he could spend a whole day with Kay.  Marc really wanted to take Kay to this spot that he found while he was hiking near Stuttgart, not far from that childhood scenic route Kay had once shown him.

 

“So you’ve been coming here by yourself?” Kay asked.  He was walking in quicker pace and showed no sign of breathing difficulties. They were hiking only today, Marc still insisted Kay shouldn’t overdo his cardio activities.  

 

“A couple of times, yeah.” Marc replied.  “I love it here.” He admitted, face flushed.  What he didn’t say was this place reminded him of Kay, that’s why he came here.

 

 Kay threw him a knowing glance but kept quiet.  

 

They walked in companionable silence for another half an hour, until Marc led them to a narrow path diverted from the main route.  “We are almost there.” Marc said.

 

“I don’t think I’ve been to this part of the forest.  Not even with my father and he knew this area well.” Kay commented while looking around at the undisturbed woodland. 

 

“Was your father a runner too?” Marc asked.

 

Kay halted.  He hesitated before he shook his head and said, “no, but he enjoyed outdoor activities and encouraged me to run when I first showed interest.”

 

“But you stopped competing after you left school?”

 

“I lost interest when my father moved to England.  What’s the point?  Medals are for parents.” Kay answered without inflection.  

 

Marc nodded but didn’t push further.  They continued to walk in silence.

 

“You know you can tell me things, right? Anything.” Marc suddenly said.  When Kay didn’t answer, he shrugged and added. “Or not.”

 

Kay turned, his hands cupping both sides of Marc’s face. “I know.” He kissed Marc on the lips and said solemnly, “thank you.”

 

Marc smiled.  Then he grabbed Kay’s hand and led him to another narrow path. “Come on, we’re here.” 

 

The path became more uneven and wet, the air humid.  Kay could hear sound of a water source.  Before long, they reached a rocky area with a small creek running through it.  

 

“There.” Marc pointed to the left.

 

They stepped onto slippery pebbles, nearly lost their balance a couple of times, water sipping into their shoes.  “You know you could have warned me not to wear sneakers today.” Kay chuckled.  

 

“Pussy. Can’t handle a bit of water?” Marc retorted but his hand was still holding Kay’s.

 

They reached a small cave on the other side of the creek.  Both of them had to duck their heads to walk inside.  It smelled of moss and rotten wood at first, but after 30 steps or so, the ground under their feet became soft and sandy, sunlight streaming through from the opening at the top.

 

“Shit... Marc...” Kay whispered.  He walked a few steps forward.

 

Dozens, maybe even hundreds of colourful butterflies flying around them.  They didn’t seem to mind Marc and Kay’s presence at all.

 

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” Marc walked to join him.  “I found it by accident last time. I’ve been wanting to show it to you.” He said.  Loving the fact that he managed to render Kay speechless; the surprise on Kay’s face.

 

It has never crossed Marc’s mind to share this with Bettina.  In his mind, the forest, like running, was forever bound together with the memories of Kay.   And for a few months, memories were all he could hold on to.

 

“I didn’t know there’s a butterfly cave in this area.” Kay said in wonder.  He put his hand out and a butterfly in purple and yellow came to rest on the back of his hand. 

 

He turned to look at Marc with a bright smile.

 

Yes. It is worth it.  Marc thought.

 

Chapter Text

“Love you too, bye.” Marc said softly and closed his mobile phone.

 

“Hey!” Someone tapped his shoulder.  

 

He turned and saw Kay behind him, he had a playful smile on his face.  Marc suddenly became keenly aware of the simple body heat Kay radiated just by standing close to him.   He returned a smile.

 

After hanging out with Kay in the academy for two weeks, Marc now recognized Kay’s trademark smirk and knew he’s about to say something mischievous.

 

“Want to skip Brandt’s class and go running?” Kay suggested.

 

“You mean skip class and smoke weed in the woods with you.” Marc rolled his eyes.

 

Kay laughed. “Well, sure, if that’s you want.”

 

Marc gave him a pointed look.  Kay returned with raised eyebrows and a minuscule lift of his shoulder, his eyes sparkling. “Come on.  You know you want to.”

 

Finally Marc blew out a sigh and nodded.

 

Satisfied.  Kay kicked the back of Marc’s calf and jogged ahead. “Let’s go, before Brandt sees us.”

 

Marc quickened his steps to join him.

 

“Who were you talking to just now?  Why so serious?” Kay asked.

 

Marc paused.  He had no idea why he felt the need to lie, but he hesitated for a second, then mumbled, “Just my mother.”

 

 

(Marc)

 

Looking back, Marc was sure that some psychologists would say he has subconsciously wanted to be caught.  That he had started misplacing the key, leaving it vulnerable for Bettina to find; that he subconsciously wanted to come out, he just didn’t have the guts to say it out loud himself.  

 

Except this narrative didn’t fit how Marc felt when he returned home from hiking that afternoon and found Bettina sitting in their living room, watching tv.

 

 He was completely blindsided.

 

“Bettina... did you take an earlier train?” Marc slowed his walk.  Suddenly conscious of the gym bag in his hand.  

 

Shit. Shit. Shit.

 

Bettina slowly turned her head.  She had her comfy loungewear top on, like she’s been home all day already.  

 

“Yes, I was here since noon.  Took the earliest train.” She replied, showing no emotion until her eyes zoomed in onto the gym bag.  Marc thought he saw her mouth quivered slightly.

 

Marc dropped the bag on the floor outside the living room and walked inside.

 

“Did you have a good trip?” He asked. Tried his damnedest to keep his voice steady, while his heart started hammering.

 

She stared at him, then veered off again.  Not saying anything at first.

 

When her gaze finally returned to him, she asked instead, “did you have a good time?” Her voice colder than Alaska winter.

 

Marc flinched.  In a split second, he felt blood rushing to his ears.

 

She shook her head.  She got up from the sofa and stood in front of Marc.  She had to tilt her head up a little to look him in the eye.

 

“You couldn’t wait, could you?” She smiled coldly. “Did you pack your bag right away and fled to his apartment after you saw us off at the station?”

 

Marc didn’t have to play dumb and ask “who?” He had no idea how she found out but he knew it’s over.  Bettina knew.

 

 “Bettina, listen...” he touched her arm. 

 

“Don’t say another word.”  She shook him off angrily.  “Don’t feed me another lie.  Don’t treat me like a fool like you did for god knows how long.” 

 

Marc swallowed what he was about to say.  

 

He moved gingerly like he has suddenly aged 30 years in the last minute and sat down on the sofa opposite Bettina.  He looked down at his hands, hands that had held Kay’s face when they kissed goodbye just an hour ago.

 

“I’m sorry...” he said.

 

Bettina didn’t react at all to the apology.  She sat up straighter, her face flushed even though she was still keeping her voice steady. “Are you gay?”

 

Marc shook his head immediately but almost at the same instance, he said, “I don’t know.”  

 

Bettina snorted.  She turned away again and asked, “have there been others?  Other men that I don’t know?  HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?” Her voice pitched high and her tone became desperate at the last question.

 

Marc snapped up and shoot his head vigorously.  “What?  No!  No one else...” he said almost defeatedly, “just Kay.”  

 

She stared at him again.

 

Marc rubbed his hands together.  “I don’t know how it happened...” 

 

In his mind, that was still the honest truth.  

 

“We stopped after Jonas was born, I knew... we both knew...” he trailed off, looking at her pleadingly, “but you must know that I love you.”

 

Bettina laughed bitterly. “You have a funny way to show your love.” 

 

Marc felt a sharp stab in his heart when he saw the tears gathering in her eyes.  Frank is right, she did nothing wrong but loved me.  She doesn’t deserve this. 

 

Bettina sniffled, dabbing the corners of her eyes with her fingers.  “The last few days I kept asking myself - did I miss something?  Have I DONE something?” She looked at Marc and said vehemently, “you make me question everything we have, all the time we’ve been together.  Do you have any idea what it’s like?”

 

Marc closed his eyes.  Actually, he had a pretty good idea what it’s like.  Under different circumstances, if Marc wasn’t the one betraying her, they could have a discussion about being confused and questioning every relationship in their lives - because Marc felt the same way, he’s lost just like her.

 

But that’s not what she wanted to hear.  His struggles were his own now, they were no longer partners on this.

 

“My love for you is real, you must never question that.” Marc finally said.  He leaned forward, closer to her on the sofa.  “You’ve been nothing but good to me...”

 

“Then WHY?” Bettina exploded.  Her impassive mask slipping. “Is it because I’m boring?  You want something kinky in the bedroom?  Is that it? WHAT?” 

 

He went and crunched down in front of her, holding the two hands on her lap.  “No... it’s nothing you did or didn’t do.  I just... I’ve never...” Marc harrumphed, searching for words to describe the feelings he barely understood himself.

 

“You know what? Don’t answer me.  I don’t care.” She pulled her hands out of his hold, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand again.  She looked Marc in the eye, “but I need to know... are you two safe?  Have you been using protection?”

 

Marc winced.  He felt like the worst human being at that moment.  It had never even crossed his mind that he might be putting her and his family in such danger. He only knew wanted Kay, that he’s got to have him, nothing and no one else mattered when he was in that vortex of lust.

 

Of course they used condoms, but not always. Marc thought of the first time in the heavy rain... seemed like years ago, and all the other times when they have been... lost in their own world.

 

It was reckless and irresponsible.  

 

Marc looked at her helplessly, guilt palpable on his face.  Before he could say anything, Bettina slapped him across the face.

 

The smacking sound.  So sudden, so loud, shocked both of them to the core.

 

Marc touched his face, could feel the burn and shame spread through his body.

 

Bettina shook her head, the impassive mask back on. “I am going to stay with Frank and Claudia, I want you gone when I come back.”  

 

Then she got up and went into the bedroom.  Marc followed her inside and saw her picked up a travel bag that has already been packed on the bed.  

 

And suddenly he noticed what’s missing.

 

“Where’s Jonas?” Marc panicked.

 

Bettina flicked a pitiful glance at him. “I left him with my mother this week.”

 

His face blanched.  “No, no, no.... Bettina, no!” Marc cried.  His heart was about to jump out of his throat.  “Please. Don’t do this... I can’t lose you both.”  

 

He followed her to the front door.  He reached out his arm but stopped just before touching her.

 

Bettina turned.  Her hand on the door knob ready to leave, her eyes hard and determined. “I will do what I think is good for my son.” 

 

******

 

Bettina found herself quietly observing Marc.

 

He had his feet resting on the ottoman, he was holding a sleepy Jonas on his chest on the sofa; his chin touching the top of Jonas’ head, his hand gently rubbing his son’s back.  He was relaxed.  He looked... happy even.

 

The tv was on, set in low volume, his eyes were on it, but Bettina knew his attention wasn’t.  The barely there secret smile on his face - it was not for her. Not for his family.  It was because he was thinking of him.  

 

The certainty of it further fueled her quiet anger.

 

She had thrown away the copy of the key after she got home few days ago.  Couldn’t bear the sight of it for another second.  On her way home that day, she stopped on the road twice; parked the car on the side of the road to let the tears run freely.  

 

Now the tears have dried, the overwhelming humiliation and anger consumed her whole.  She had wanted to take Jonas and drive straight to her mother’s house, only stopped by the prospect of having to explain to her family the reason.  

 

Her mind drifted to the first time she met Kay.  With 20/20 hindsight, she could now understand the barely hidden shock on Kay’s face when he looked at her tummy that day.  He had no idea; she realised.

 

Marc had fooled them both.

 

 

 

(Kay)

 

 

Kay finished brushing his teeth.  He stared at the extra pink toothbrush in the white ceramic holder.  

 

“What the fuck is this?” Marc raised his eyebrows, holding up the plastic pink toothbrush.

 

Kay laughed. “That’s all I have at home.  It’s a freebie I got from British airways last time.  What?  You’re too butch to use a pink toothbrush?” 

 

“This is sexism, to give away pink toothbrushes.” Marc mumbled.  

 

“Well, you have no other choice, so be a big girl and brush your teeth.” Kay teased.

 

Marc had him in a headlock in the next second. “You’ll pay for this, Kay Engel.”

 

Kay shook away the recent memories and returned to the living room.  He was about to set the alarm on his mobile when he saw the text message - so this time there is a message.  Kay missed its initial arrival because he’d been too busy feeling sorry for himself.

 

>>sorry. can’t come. will tell u later<<

 

He stared at the text message in the dark, read it in his head over and over, like it’s a code that needed to be cracked.  

 

Marc hadn’t texted or called him for 3 days.

 

But there’s nothing else to it.  It’s the same dismissive texts he used to get from Marc when things had started to get difficult. It didn’t even require Kay’s reply. 

 

Marc was not at work the next day.

 

Kay debated with himself for a whole day before he finally gave in.  

 

“Frank, can I talk to you for a minute?” He caught up with Frank outside the jiu jitsu dojo, as he finished putting the equipment away.

 

Frank looked around once and nodded.  He ushered Kay to an empty room.

 

Kay steeled himself, feeling out of his depth for the first time in his life.  But before he could say anything, Frank beat him to it.

 

“Bettina is staying with us at the moment,” Frank said, his tone stern but his eyes were soft.  He wasn’t exactly offering sympathy, but it was clear that he wasn’t blaming Kay either.

 

Kay’s stomach dropped.  He had his suspicions... had known this was coming, had thought he was prepared for it, it didn’t lessen one bit how hard it hit him.

 

“Is Marc...” 

 

Frank sighed.  “He’s dealing with it.  There’re also his parents, you know.” He glanced at Kay. “It will be better if you don’t contact him for now.  He has enough on his plate.” He said, his eyes almost pleading.  On behalf of Marc?  

 

Kay nodded mutely.  What else can he say?

 

He knew Bettina was coming home, so he’d prepared to take a back seat in Marc’s life again.  He just hadn’t expected all hell broke loose in a single weekend.  

 

So the slow fall into abyss has begun, he could feel it in every fiber of his being.  The pain that he’s been expecting, as deep as the happiness he was experiencing just a week ago.  

 

Marc’s silence was as good as an answer.  Kay had experience of it, after all.  

 

Chapter Text

Marc looked around the bar.  It’s an hour’s drive away from Ludwigsburg, nobody they know would be here.  He finally relaxed a little bit.  He knew Kay wanted to get out of the apartment, even just for a few drinks in a bar.

 

“Do you want some Erdnuss flips to go with you beer?” 

 

“Huh?” Marc turned to face the bar and saw a decent-sized bowl of Erdnuss flips next to his mug of beer.  He looked up to the bartender who offered him the snack.

 

“It’s on the house.” She put both of her arms on the bar countertop and leaned closer to Marc.  Her long and silky blond hair tickling the forearm he rested on the bar.  

 

“Oh.” Marc returned a smile belatedly. “Thank you.” He picked up two and put them in his mouth, even though he never liked this snack.  

 

“You are not from around here, right? I’d have remembered you.” Her eyes fixed on Marc, her lips quirked into a flirty smile.  

 

Marc blushed.  It took him a second to nod and returned a smile.  He wasn’t sure if his heart rate increased because of the flattery or self-consciousness. He looked at her, noticed her curvy figure and milky complexion, like a porcelain doll.  A doll with colourful tattoos on her arms.  She looked confident and... very interested in Marc.

 

Pretty but not his type.  Which was a funny thought.  Since Kay... he didn’t really know what his type was anymore.  He tried to remember if he had a type before Kay, apart from the gender...

 

“I’m Karin.  If you are alone in town...” she began to say.

 

“Oh yes, he’s new in town and really needs a local guide.” 

 

Kay returned from wherever he parked the car.  He was saying that to the bartender, but his eyes were 100% focus on Marc.  

 

Marc glared at him and pulled out the stool next to him. “Sit down and order your drink.  What took you so long to park your car?”

 

Kay drawled, “oh you know, I met a pretty car-park attendant and lost track of time.”  Karin the bartender laughed at his joke.  Kay turned to her, turning on his charm.  “I’ll have a Becks, please.” 

 

She gave them a mock salute, said, “coming right up.” And left to fetch the beer.

 

Kay watched her retreating back for a second.  He asked Marc, “do you want to get her phone number?”

 

Marc huffed, “what for?”

 

Kay shrugged.  “I don’t know.  You were staring at her pretty intensely just 5 seconds ago.”

 

At first Marc was confused, then he narrowed his eyes, like a delayed reaction, he grinned; leaned towards Kay and whispered, “Are you jealous, Herr Kay Engel?”  

 

“Fuck off.” Kay cursed softly.  That brought a great guffaw from Marc.  Oh this is going to be fun, Marc thought.

 

 

 

Frank’s advice to Kay about not contacting Marc apparently only applied to him, because Marc called him two days later.

 

“She found out.  I don’t know how.”  Marc said.  He sounded resigned and dejected.

 

Does it really matter how she found out?  Kay thought.  He lay down on his bed, holding the mobile close to his ears.  Few months ago, he would have been happy about this development.  He would have asked Marc to take the opportunity to tell Bettina the whole truth, would have dreamt about starting a new life with Marc.  Here in Ludwigsburg if Marc could part ways with Bettina on good terms, or they could go somewhere else - to start over - together.  Anywhere.  He would have gone anywhere with Marc.

 

“I know.  Frank told me.” Kay nodded.  Then remembered Marc couldn’t see him.  “How are you holding up?”  He asked softly.

 

Marc exhaled slowly on the other side of the line.  “I’ve been better.” He gave a nervous laugh, completely devoid of mirth.  “Frank convinced her to get Jonas back from her mother’s place to stay with them, so at least I’ll be closer to him.” His voice slightly shaky.  

 

It must have been very distressing for him the past week.  Marc might not mention Bettina in front of Kay, but whenever he talked about his son, his whole face would go soft.  It would devastate Marc if Jonas was taken away from him.

 

Kay hesitated. “Surely, she can’t stop you from seeing your son? The law won’t allow it.” He commented carefully.

 

“I don’t want to get to that.  I... I can’t make the situation worse.  She’s hurting.”

 

That means you probably shouldn’t be seen with me.  Kay thought.  But he didn’t say anything.

 

“Kay...” Marc paused.  Kay could see him swallowing; could imagine his brows furrowed, like he always did when he’s about to do or say something he didn’t want to.  “I might not be able to see you for a while.  I need to sort this out with Bettina first.  And my parents... they are confused and angry... I don’t know what to say to them.”

 

How about the truth? Kay closed his eyes.  He tried to hide the lump in his throat, to keep his voice steady.  “I understand.” He managed to squeeze out.

 

They were both quiet for a few seconds.  Then Marc whispered, “I miss you.” His voice so low Kay almost thought he’d only imagined it. 

 

Kay finally let a single tear rolled down on his cheek.  “I miss you too.” He replied.

 

******

 

The weekend after Marc hit him, with a split lip and a bruised heart, Kay was half a bottle of vodka away to be completely wasted by 9pm, and he planned to go to a bar or a club to finish the job.

 

Then just before he left home, he got that frantic phone call from Markus.  

 

So he dropped everything and went to London.  

 

He drove to the Stuttgart airport directly.  There was no more direct flight to London that night, so he got on a flight to Reykjavik first, and from there a connecting flight to London in 3 hours.  

 

On the flight to Iceland’s capital, he remembered that conversation he’d had with Marc about their favourite places, thinking it’s just his destiny that he’s finally going to Iceland, without Marc; thinking maybe they were not meant to be together.

 

 

 

 

“Hey.  What are you doing here?”

 

Kay looked up and saw Dr Neuer standing in front of him in his white doctor coat.  He got up and they hugged.

 

“I’ve just done the final chest scan. Make sure they didn’t leave any surgical equipment inside me.” Kay joked, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes.  He felt tired and queasy, partly because of the liquid they asked him to drink for the contrast dye in order to do the CT scan, partly because he hasn’t been sleeping well since... well.

 

Neuer let out a hearty laugh but he also watched Kay closely, didn’t seem to have bought Kay’s pretend lighthearted mood.  “I have just finished my shift.  Let me buy you breakfast in the first class doctors’ lounge?  You came in with an empty stomach for the scan, right?”

 

Food in the doctors’ lounge was a lot better than the hospital food Kay had few months ago.  Marc has recently told him that he was on a diet of crisps and chocolate bars from the hospital’s vending machine for the first two nights after Kay’s surgery.  The memory was unreliable of course, but Kay swore he could feel Marc close to him the whole time, even when he was under sedation in ICU.

 

“You seemed to have recovered well.  I talked to your surgeon, he told me it was touch and go for a few hours.  Two of your colleagues spent the whole night here.” Neuer said.  They sat down in a corner booth.

 

“Drugs were my friend, I had no idea how close I was to hell. It scared a lot of people though.  I don’t think the local police have any death while on duty for decades.” 

 

Neuer took a big sip of his coffee, like he really needed it.  “Was Marc there too that night?  He must have been worried sick.”

 

Kay had never told Neuer who it was that he was trying to get over.

 

“Come on.” Neuer chuckled, “give me some credit.  I was sure he’s ready to poison me with his burgers if I kissed you at the party.”

 

Kay lifted one of his shoulders.  “Marc has never been a good liar.”

 

Neuer nodded, there’s something in his eyes.  Something close to understanding, or maybe just sympathy.  “Married man, huh?  Now why would a smart guy like you do that?” 

 

Kay didn’t have the answer.  

 

Before Marc, Kay wasn’t even interested in straight or closeted guys.   Too much trouble. They always took the easy way out when things got tough.  Chasing after Marc went against every instinct in Kay.  He didn’t remember when it went from harmless flirting with a skittish straight guy to thinking about him all the time.

 

“How’s your no-strings-attached dating plan going?” Kay decided to change the subject.

 

Surprisingly, colour creeped up on Neuer’s cheeks. “Actually... I’m... kind of attached now.” He shyly admitted.

 

“Oh.” Kay widened his eyes.  “That didn’t take you long.” He teased.  He’s happy for Neuer though.  Some people are meant to be in relationships, he had a feeling Neuer was one of them.  

 

Neuer brushed his hair back, “yeah... it kind of took me by surprise too.  He’s the brother of one of my patients.” He paused.  

 

“Yeah.” Kay sighed a little.  “It tends to come when you are least expected.” 

 

“What, love?  I am not sure I’d use the big word yet...” To hide his embarrassment, Neuer added playfully, “but you probably have to find someone else for your rent-a-boyfriend gig next time.” 

 

Kay stilled.  His eyes wouldn’t meet Neuer’s.

 

After a couple of seconds.  “Uh-oh.” Neuer slowly shook his head. “I really hope he’s worth it, Kay.”

 

Not trusting himself, Kay turned his face away before he answered. “He’s worth it.  I just don’t know if love is all we need.”

 

Chapter Text

Kay was playing with the pearl snap buttons on Marc’s denim shirt. He kept pulling them open and snapping them close again.  He knew it’s driving Marc crazy.  He really wanted to smoke a cigarette or better, a joint, but he hasn’t gotten the all clear from the doctors yet.  At least snapping buttons seemed to help to distract him.  

 

“What’s up with Lieutenant Fuchs? Are you guys very close?” Marc finally grabbed Kay’s hand on his shirt.  To stop his button-snapping.

 

Kay smiled faintly.  “He’s been living with his partner for 12 years, you know? That’s way before same sex marriage.”

 

“A model for gay cops.” Marc commented coolly.  Now that he knew Fuchs was not the competition, he didn’t seem to mind talking about him.

 

“Yeah. Pretty much.” They were lying on the sofa bed to watch “Star Trek - into the Darkness” on TV.  Marc’s choice.  Kay was not a sci fi fan, but he wanted to point out Zachary Quinto, the openly gay actor, to Marc.  

 

“They are as boring as they come.” Kay stuck his tongue out, smiling. “I shouldn’t say that.  They are very nice people. Both of them.  And his partner still wants to set me up with one of their friends.”

 

“Uh-huh. I bet he does.” Marc said sourly.  Dr Alex Neuer still not someone he would bring up.

 

Kay turned to Marc, “Fuchs was out in the force from way back, when he was still just a beat cop, it didn’t seem to hinder his career.” 

 

Marc pursed his lips, “he’s lucky.  He started out in... where?  Hamburg?  That’s like a different Germany. That’s a very liberal city.”

 

Maybe we should move there.  Kay wanted to say.  Then he quickly remembered that was not his plan, that he has learned his lesson.  Not this time.  So he kept quiet.

 

“Is this the gay actor you were talking about?” Marc suddenly said, pointing to the screen.

 

Kay nodded. Returning his attention to the tv screen.  “Yeah.  He plays Spock.”

 

“He doesn’t seem gay at all.” Marc commented.

 

 

(Kay)

 

“Hey Marc.  Welcome back. Trouble with the missus, I heard.”

 

“Shut up, Limpinski. I don’t have time for your bullshit.” Marc retorted.

 

That response seemed to be exactly what Limpinski was hoping for.  He laughed and said, “I’m just saying I didn’t know you had it in you to cheat on your girlfriend.  She must be real special, your other lady friend.”

 

Marc went and grabbed the front of Limpinski’s uniform.  

 

“Hey!  You two!” Frank got between them.  “Gregor, leave Marc alone.” He pushed Marc away.

 

Kay watched this unfold from the other side of the locker room.  He wanted nothing more than to go over there and punch Limpinski himself, but he knew Marc wouldn’t appreciate his help.  In fact, Marc would not like it at all.

 

The gossip among the unit members was that Bettina had kicked Marc out of their house - due to an alleged affair.  Everyone just assumed it was a woman.  Why wouldn’t they?  It was just easier for Marc to keep quiet, which Kay understood.  

 

But it also meant that Marc was not coming out anytime soon.  And despite warning himself hundreds of times before, Kay still felt disappointed.

 

They were still not seeing each other outside of work, though Marc has gone back to work after a few personal days off.  Kay had no idea what his living situation now was at home.  With Frank constantly by Marc’s side like a goddamn chaperone, he couldn’t even find a chance to talk to Marc.  

 

But Kay persisted.  

 

Feeling his gaze, Marc looked across to him.  He gave a small nod, misery still filled his eyes. Kay nodded back.  He hated this limbo state, hated this lack of control feeling - like waiting for a verdict which may never come.

 

The shift finished without further incident.  Marc spared him another look before he left with Frank.

 

******

 

Kay was opening his mailbox when he felt a prickle between his shoulder blades, he had a feeling he was being watched.  He pulled the post out and glanced around.  There were an older man and a woman standing by the intercom, next to the main entrance.

 

Kay nearly dropped his post.  It was Marc’s parents.

 

“Mr, Mrs Borgmann...” Kay walked slowly to them.  Judging by the severeness of their expressions, they were not here for friendly chat. 

 

Inge Borgmann pulled her red windbreaker tighter, she tilted her head up and asked, “is it true?  About you and Marc?”

 

Kay halted his step.  He glanced around, there was no one else around. His first instinct was to play dumb.  If they had to ask, it meant they didn’t hear that from Marc and Kay didn’t want to out him.  But if it was Bettina who told them...

 

“Nobody will tell us anything.  If we haven’t overheard Claudia and Frank the other day, we’ll still be in the dark why Bettina is keeping Jonas from us.” It was Marc’s father.

 

So they aren’t sure... Kay opened his mouth, but he lost his nerve.  Couldn’t say it.  Anyway, it was too late.  They seemed to have gotten their answer from his non-reaction.

 

“How could you?  We welcomed you to our home.  Marc saved your life!” Inge Borgmann pointing a finger at Kay, stepping closer.  Her husband touched her shoulder to stop her from advancing, while Kay took a step back.  

 

“Engel. You know I like you.” Wolfgang Borgmann tried to sound reasonable.  Looking Kay right in the eye, he added, “and we have no problem with gay people.  I think it’s great that the police force are welcoming people like you.  But you need to leave Marc alone.”  

 

People. Like. Me?

 

Kay shook his head.  “I think it’s better if you talk to Marc first...” He said.  He didn’t want to be rude, but he knew they were not in the mood to listen to reason.  

 

“They have a child.  A house together.  Do you know what that means?” 

 

Too well.  Kay thought bleakly.  “You don’t understand...” against his instinct, Kay replied.

 

“No! You don’t understand.  Marc is just confused.  He’s not choosing you over his son and his wife.  You’re only upsetting everyone with...” 

 

“I love your son.” Kay talked over her.  He hadn’t planned to say that, but there it was.  He said it.

 

Who knew the L word was the quickest way to shut everyone up?  For a second, all three of them were too stunned to speak.

 

“How can you say such nonsense in front of me?” Marc’s mother hissed, visibly recoiled in disgust.  So much for having no problem with gay people.  Kay thought.

 

“If there’s nothing else you want to ask me, I’d like to go home.” Kay kept his voice even, but he was getting mad.  He knew he needed to leave before he said something he’d regret.

 

When the Borgmanns didn’t say anything, Kay walked away and entered his building.

 

 

******

 

Marc watched as Kay got out of his Jeep.  Shortly followed by a lanky guy with wavy brown hair from the passenger seat side.  

 

Marc watched as Bettina jogged over to greet them.  Kay’s hand briefly touched the brown-haired guy’s shoulder as he made introductions.

 

Marc watched all this from a safe distance, he took a gulp from the bottle of beer in his hand; his eyes veered way.  Here they come, he thought.  Kay and his plus-one as mentioned by Bettina yesterday.

 

They can’t have been together long.  Kay has just gotten out of hospital for a month, he won’t even be back to work for another two weeks.  Marc thought, quietly counting.  He knew there was no plus-one while Kay was in the hospital.  He remembered Kay’s hand in his grasp under the hospital blankets, his steady heartbeat under Marc’s fingertips.  Signs of life that allowed Marc to go to sleep at night.  Where had this plus-one been when that happened?

 

He didn’t know what Kay was playing at now, but he didn’t like it.

 

Inside the house, Marc learned the plus-one’s name was Dr Alex Neuer.  He worked in the same hospital that Kay had been treated.  No, they didn’t meet there, they had met at a dinner party at Lieutenant Fuchs’ house.

 

Great.  How bourgeois.  And he knew Kay hated that shit.

 

A trickle of jealousy passed through Marc, then it started to drip, drip, drip.  He tried to find a way to contain this leak before anyone noticed.  He stepped out onto the patio.

 

In some small part of his brain that hasn’t been consumed by jealousy, he understood this jealousy stemmed from his insecurities.  And Marc felt insecure because he knew he was a taker.  He took and kept taking, hardly ever gave anything in return.  He wanted all of Kay but not sharing even 50% of himself.  

 

It was a rotten deal for Kay, and Marc knew it.  And in his heart, he has always known sooner or later Kay would wise up and leave.

 

 

(Marc)

 

 

“Are we going to talk?” Bettina finally asked impatiently, after silence had settled over the room. 

 

“I don’t know how,” Marc admitted. He didn’t know how many different ways he could say sorry in German.  He thought he had said all of them.  

 

He came home today to find Bettina sitting in their living room.  Her suitcase in their bedroom, Jonas and all the baby things were back in the house.  

 

He knew he should feel thankful, happy.  It’s a good sign.  Maybe he still had a chance to turn things back to... that’s where his mind got stuck.  Back to when?  Before Bettina found out?  Before he got back with Kay?  Before he met Kay? 

 

Marc was relieved that they were back, at least, physically.  But no, Marc was not getting any closer to resolve anything.

 

Bettina threw him a withering look.  She got up from the sofa and went to the drink cabinet.  Marc has never seen Bettina drink before dinner time.  And she has just started consuming alcohol again after she had stopped breastfeeding.  He watched as she poured two tumblers of whiskey.

 

“Ice?” She asked. Marc shook his head.   

 

She put two cubes in hers and passed the other tumbler to Marc.

 

“Today would have been our 5 years anniversary. Do you remember?  You asked me to move in with you.  And we decided this is the date we would celebrate.  The date for ‘ever after’, you told me.” She clinked her glass with his. “Prost.”

 

“Prost.” Marc answered back robotically.  He took a sip.  No, he didn’t remember. But he was reminded of it earlier.  Like any responsible man in a relationship, he set the date in his mobile phone’s calendar.  The alert message, woke him up this morning, like a mockingbird.

 

“My test results came back. I’m disease free. So that’s another cause to celebrate.” She announced. She took another mouthful from her drink and poured some more into her glass.  

 

Marc looked at her uneasily.  

 

She stared at her tumbler.  “Did you and Kay make fun of me behind my back?” She suddenly asked.  “Oh poor Bettina, she has no idea.  Clueless and dumb.  Is that how it went?”

 

“Of course not!” Marc said immediately, horrified by the suggestion.  “We would never... we didn’t  talk about...” 

 

“You didn’t talk about me at all, is that it?” Bettina laughed.  It was the answer she was looking for all along and Marc fell right into it.  “So I didn’t even get a honourable mention?” She tilted her head sideways, looking at Marc almost comically.

 

Marc avoided her gaze, turning his face away.  She was right.  He couldn’t speak for Kay, but he spared little thoughts on Bettina when he was with Kay.  

 

5 years.  What kind of heartless person threw away something like that in such a short time? The unfairness of it all was, 5 years of sharing life goals, of togetherness, cracked and crumbled like a house made out of matchsticks, the moment he let Kay into his life.

 

Marc had fought it hard.  He wanted to tell Bettina this - that he had fought to stay true to her, had tried to resist this want.

 

“I tried.” Marc said that out loud.  “I know it doesn’t mean anything to you, but I never wanted to hurt you.” 

 

Bettina shook her head.  “Frank told me you are not seeing Kay now, you think that’d help? That I would just forgive you?” She flicked him a glance, her face impassive.  “You’re right.  I am not interested in your struggles.  You chose to throw away what we have.”  She swirled the brown liquid in her glass, contemplating.  “What I want to know is - if I haven’t found out, would you have kept lying to me?  Cheating on me?  What exactly was your plan?”

 

“Aren’t you going to tell her some time?”

 

Kay’s long ago question echoed Bettina’s current one.   Marc rubbed his hands together.  Kay had known this couldn’t carry on.  He had told Marc so; had walked away when Marc wouldn’t listen.

 

“I didn’t want to hurt anyone.  Not you, not Jonas...” he took a deep breath. “I don’t want to hurt Kay either.  I can’t... I don’t want to leave him.” He paused, raised his gaze on her.  “And I ended up hurting everyone.”

 

“That’s the most truthful thing you’ve told me so far.” Bettina said.  

 

They both stayed quiet, letting her statement sunk in.

 

“I can’t carry on like this.” She said finally.  “We can figure out the rest later, I can’t see you and think straight.” She finished her drink and got up.  “I want you to move out.  Move next door to your parents... go stay with Kay, I don’t care.  I’m done.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Cold air washed over Kay’s bare abdomen and chest.  The guy had rucked up his tee-shirt with one hand and grabbing the back of his neck with the other.  His tongue seeking entry into Kay’s mouth.  Kay closed his eyes and obliged.  Stephen... yes, that’s his name, let out a low moan before he thrust his tongue in.  He kissed so hard, it was like he’s trying to suck the air out of Kay’s mouth.  Stephen’s touch felt hot, it counteracted the cool air landed on Kay’s exposed skin, giving him that melting feeling.  Like dipping into a hot bath after a cold day.

 

This is good, this feels good.  Kay tried to tell himself.  I don’t need Marc Borgmann to get off... I’ve lived 26 years of my life Marc-free and had plenty of sex before him.  

 

Father-less and Marc-free.  Losing two men in his life in the same week. Even for Kay, this must be a new record.

 

Kay’s eyes were still closed when Stephen broke off the kiss and whispered, “Jesus... you’re so hot.  Where have you been when I was 18?  I’m going to come in my trousers like a horny teenager if I don’t stop now.”

 

The self-assuring chanting in Kay’s head stopped.  He opened his eyes.  

 

Stephen was still talking, his hand still rubbing Kay’s abdomen in slow long strokes. “I am staying at my friend’s place in Berkeley Square, it’s just a 5 mins cab ride from here.  You... wanna get more comfortable?  I’m a bit too old for sex in the club washroom.” 

 

Why did he have to open his mouth and talk?  Kay cursed silently.  He stepped back a bit and shook his head.  

 

Getting off with a stranger in a dark corner of a club in London was one thing; he couldn’t share a cab and go to some guy named Stephen’s friend’s house to have sex for hours and then do the breakfast or “I’d call a cab” routine.  

 

He’d have too much time to think about; too much time to remember; too much time to miss Marc during such process.

 

He looked at Stephen and said, “sorry, I don’t do that.” 

 

 

 

They knew.  Marc knew this fact right away.

 

The furtive glance from his parents when he walked into their house with his overnight bag; the first question they asked Marc was not “what happened” but “you need to ask Bettina for another chance.  Tell her you made a mistake.”

 

Marc stood in the hallway and considered turning away.  In the end, he decided to just ignore them.  He put his bag in his childhood bedroom and closed the door.  Sitting down on his bed, his hands were still shaking.  It’s over.  He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lower lip, to swallow the scream that has been building up in the middle of his stomach.  7 years, he had known Bettina.  5 years of living together.  Almost a quarter of his life, certainly most of his adult life he was with this woman.  Everything he was certain of, previously unquestionable, has just vanished.  

 

Through his bedroom window, he looked out to the luscious green grass and vibrant flowers in the garden.  Except for winter days, his mother never missed a day of gardening; his father mowed the lawn once a week for as long as Marc could remember; their pride and joy - their only son and their beautiful garden.  That’s what they had tried to instill into Marc - get a good job and keep a nice home.  And Marc never wanted to disappoint them.

 

Bettina had been wary about giving his parents a key to their home, it never even crossed Marc’s mind to question it.  “Knowing your mother, she’d probably walk right into our bedroom on Sunday mornings” she had joked. 

 

Kay would probably change the lock every 3 months just to prank his parents and to make fun of Marc. 

 

Kay would never have agreed to live next door to his parents.  

 

His parents would never have loaned the money to Marc to buy a house so he can live with his male lover.

 

Suddenly an image popped into Marc’s head - he and Kay carrying a large sofa into their new home, while his parents stood aside with absolute horror on their face.  

 

It was so absurd, so ludicrous that Marc barked out a laugh.  He fell back on his bed, his body curled up as he was convulsed with laughter.  

 

After half a minute, he finally quieted.  Wiping the tears from the corner of his eyes, Marc took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.  

 

He was scared and sad, some part of him was even heartbroken over the loss of Bettina, of what they had and would have had.  

 

But at least now I can breathe.  

 

“Marc. Come out and talk to us.” His mother knocked on his door.

 

His defiance lasted all of 30 seconds.  He got up and opened the door.  

 

“You can see Jonas anytime you want.  They have moved back to the house and Bettina won’t stop you.”  Marc announced that to his mother’s dumbfounded expression.

 

He walked past her and went to the living room.  His father was smoking by the fireplace.  He hasn’t seen him smoke for more than 10 years.  

 

The news about Jonas’ renewed proximity placated her a little bit.  She asked, softer this time. “But what about you?  What did Bettina say?” 

 

“We will figure out the rest later.” Marc repeated what Bettina had said.

 

“What the hell does that mean?” Inge Borgmann asked, getting agitated again.  

 

Marc tried to keep his voice even.  “It means we are separating.”

 

At that, his father turned to face him.  “Marc, what are you doing?” He put out the cigarette and went to join his wife.

 

“I cheated on her and she’s not going to forgive me.  Which part of it you don’t understand?”

 

“Then tell her you won’t do it again! Men stray... she will understand.  You are going to break up with the mother of your son over some... over a man?”  Wolfgang asked incredulously.

 

Marc was taken aback. If he wasn’t the subject of this discussion, he would have found this extremely amusing - his straight and arrow father talking about infidelity like it’s some rite of passage for men.

 

That only hardened Marc’s resolve.  He shook his head. “I am not leaving Kay.”

 

The horrified expression on his parents’ faces mirrored his imagined one earlier.

 

A few seconds of awkward silence later, his mother sat down on her armchair slowly.  “Marc, we didn’t raise you this way.” She sounded both distraught and flummoxed. 

 

Marc looked up to the ceiling, his hands on his hips. “What way?  What way did you raise me? Like you and Papa?  Bettina was right, you two are too interfering.”

 

“Don’t talk to your Mama like that!” Wolfgang’s voice boomed.

 

Marc looked at his father’s flushed face.  It took a lot to make Wolfgang Borgmann lose his temper.  Marc sat down opposite his mother and said dejectedly, “I’m sorry I disappointed both of you.”

 

“It’s not about disappointment...” Wolfgang began to say...

 

But Inge suddenly asked, “I don’t understand... have you always been this way?  Have we done something?”

 

“For god’s sake, Mama! You are not that backward... it’s not anything you did or didn’t do.  It has nothing to do with you.  It’s my life!”

 

“We didn’t know you were unhappy! We only want what’s best for you...”

 

“It’s not your fault.  It’s nobody’s fault.” Marc swallowed, he briefly closed his eyes. “I just... I think I just fell in love.”

 

Marc was almost as shocked as his parents with that statement.  Months and months of desire and lust, tears and fears, happiness he hadn’t known existed, feelings so intense he thought he would die from them.  Finally, he could admit to himself that he loves Kay.

 

Dinner that evening was saved by the presence of Jonas.  Bettina left him with them for the evening to have a girls night out with Claudia and their friends.  

 

“Pa... ba... ba...” Jonas was making noises while pointing at Marc.  For a minute, Inge seemed to have forgotten the day’s argument, she smiled indulgently at her grandson. “Listen, listen to that! he’s trying to say Papa.”  

 

Marc smiled back. “It’s just gibberish.”  He watched his mother.  Old habits die hard, he couldn’t help but added, “don’t worry, Mama.  I’ll work something out with Bettina, so we can raise Jonas together.”  Even though it’s a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep. 

 

His mother acknowledged this with a small nod. Marc reckoned that’s the most he could get from her tonight.

 

After dinner, he went out to the patio to smoke, the nearly identical landscaped garden reminded him once again of the life he’s just given up.  

 

“Mama would blame me if you take up smoking again.” Marc said to his father when he joined him outside.

 

Wolfgang snorted and flicked ash off his cigarette.  “She’s too scared to let go of Jonas to care about my health.” He looked at Marc. “You are breaking her heart.” His tone more resigned than accusing. 

 

Can’t be more than I broke Bettina’s.  Marc thought.  He’s smart enough to keep that to himself.

 

“You mean that?  What you said earlier?  About falling in love?” Wolfgang’s brows furrowed. As if the idea was so foreign that he needed to double check.

 

Marc couldn’t imagine repeating that to his father, so he just nodded.

 

“Engel said the same thing to your mother.”

 

Marc snapped his head up.  “What do you mean?  When did you talk to Kay?”

 

Wolfgang grunted.  “Last week.  Can you blame us? You were all lying to us.” 

 

Marc’s heart sped up.  Kay didn’t say anything about it to him, which was probably a bad sign.  “What did you say to him?”

 

“For fuck’s sake, Marc.  We didn’t give him a hard time, what kind of people do you think we are?  We just asked him if it’s true.” 

 

“Papa...”

 

“And that man just told us that he loves you.” Wolfgang shook his head. He stubbed out his cigarette on the side of a terracotta planter and said, “I don’t understand any of you anymore.”

 

 

******

 

 

“Bye.” Kay said briskly, leaning across to kiss Marc. 

 

Marc’s fingers brushed the back of Kay’s neck, his mouth was firm, his kiss said a thousand ‘miss you already’.  They had a good time in the forest today.  It’s not just about impressing Kay with the butterfly cave, it’s the simple pleasure of doing everyday things with Kay.  Waking up together, eating breakfast (coffee and butter on rye bread for Kay, tea and sunny side up fried eggs for Marc), taking a walk.  When he woke up this morning, Marc knew he’s going to miss waking up with Kay, maybe even more than the sex... the last few days have been a revelation.  

 

Kay let the kiss lingered.  A smile began to form at the corner of his mouth.  He swept Marc’s teeth one last time with his tongue and pulled away.  

 

“See you at work.” Kay squeezed Marc’s hand on the gear knob, then he opened the car door, getting out and going into his building.

 

Marc stayed in his seat, hands on the steering wheel.  He finally understood why people hate goodbyes.

 

 

 

Marc was under no illusion that it would be easy.  Bettina wasn’t going to make it easy for him, and that... he understood and thought he deserved whatever she decided to dish out.  

 

The calm mercy she had given him that day changed to hostility the next day, then anger the next, then silence again.  Marc would come home and find some of his belongings stuffed into a black bin bag and left on his parents’ doorstep.  

 

Maybe it was wise of him not to run off to Kay’s place when she claimed she didn’t care.

 

At least he could see Jonas during dinner time every night and that’s all he cared about at the moment.  

 

“I worried about Bettina.” Frank said to him when he gave Marc a lift home after work - Marc had given his car to Bettina to use for now.  “Claudia said she’s drinking a lot when they went out.”

 

Marc sighed. “Yeah, I noticed that too.  My mother is worried about Jonas... it’s a mess.”

 

“I’m sure she won’t neglect her son.” Frank gave Marc a reassuring nod. “Claudia is keeping an eye on both of them.  Just give her sometime.”

 

Marc nodded uneasily.  Between Bettina’s grievance and his parents’ bewilderment, work became Marc’s refuge.  And he couldn’t thank Frank and Claudia enough, they were the ones keeping the situation from imploding.

 

They were both quiet with their own thoughts for most of the journey.  Then just before Marc got out of the car, Frank suddenly asked, “Have you spoken to Kay?  You know he’s in London?”

 

His tone was causal, but Marc picked up something in his voice.  They didn’t talk about Kay much.  Marc knew Frank thought he was crazy to leave Bettina and he also suspected Frank wasn’t entirely comfortable with Marc’s... new found sexuality.  

 

He knew Frank didn’t ask just out of curiosity.  

 

Marc cleared his throat.  “I know.  He called me the night before his trip.  Said they found a buyer for his father’s house in London and he had to go there to sign things.”

 

Frank didn’t say anything first.  

 

“What?” Marc didn’t like the cold sinking feeling suddenly appeared in his stomach.

 

Frank wouldn’t look at him. “I was talking to Eiden about staffing issues...” he trailed off... “and he mentioned Kay submitted a request to transfer to Frankfurt.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Marc looked over to the empty seat.  The one Kay usually occupied.  He’s not in class again today.  It’s been, what?  Two or three days?  Yesterday during the roll-call, Marc had no idea where he got the urge to raise his hand and ask Brandt if Engel was still enrolled - drawing attention in class - something he has never done before.  

 

At least he found out Kay was still enrolled.  But why was it important to him? That’s a question Marc didn’t want to examine.

 

It’s unsettling because Kay has vanished after... after that silly kiss in the woods.  

 

“It was just a joke.” “Chill out.”  Kay had said.  

 

Marc could still remember the tingling feeling on his lips.  And Kay... leaning in so close that for the first time, Marc noticed the two tiny moles on right side of his face.  Shit.  Get it together.  He cursed himself and tried to sit up straighter, returning his attention to what Brandt was saying.

 

Maybe Kay thought I was upset about the kiss?  Maybe he thought I took it too seriously, that I’m not cool... chill, like him.  Marc worried.  

 

Kay Engel confused him.  That attitude and confidence.  Kay looked like someone who could take a punch and still leave as a winner.

 

And Marc found himself thinking about his roommate, maybe just a little bit too much.

 

It’s normal.  He reassured himself.  He didn’t have a lot of friends.  Maybe he’s just being a nerd, wanting to be with a cool new friend.

 

After lunch, he went out to the parking lot to smoke.  His mind was about to drift back to that “shotgun kiss” when someone behind him suddenly said. 

 

“Makes you impotent.  Don’t you ever read the package inserts?”

 

The next moment, Kay was standing next to him.  He patted Marc’s front pocket for the cigarette package.  Without asking for permission - something Marc noticed Kay seldom did - he took out a cigarette, grabbed Marc’s hand and used the lit cigarette to light up his. 

 

He watched Marc from under his lashes.  “Uh-uh. Vielen Dank.” 

 

Marc just stared at him.  A peculiar feeling spread through him, something akin to sitting at the peak of a roller coaster ride - waiting for the drop.  Excitement and fear fighting against each other.

 

And Marc knew he’s in trouble.

 

 

(Marc)

 

 

Marc tried hard to listen to the announcement for the next stop under a loud screeching sound as the underground train sped through another narrow tunnel.

 

“Next station, Belsize Park.” A female recorded voice with a clear English accent announced. 

 

Marc got out of the station to the damp and cloudy late autumn London weather, he zipped up his jacket and checked his phone for direction.  He knew it should be just a five minutes walk from the station.

 

The map led him to a quiet, tree lined residential area behind the main street.  Marc’s idea of London was still images of Big Ben and Trafalgar Square, he was surprised by the village vibe here.  Like he was in the countryside, even though the area was still considered as central London.  

 

He passed a pub on a street corner and saw people standing around and drinking pints of beer outside, and remembered Kay had shaken his head and said: “they have shit weather but they like to stand outside to drink.”

 

Finally, he found the street number he needed on a red door.  It’s a three-storey townhouse.  Marc was no expert, he couldn’t tell Victorian from Georgian style.  Something old, that’s for sure.

 

He pressed the ancient-looking door buzzer.

 

He could hear rapid footsteps from inside, then the door was pulled wide open.  

 

A blonde haired girl with a giant pink hairband was looking at Marc.  

 

“Entschuldigung... err.. excuse me.  Is Kay or Markus home?” Marc switched to English just in time.  

 

The girl was still staring at him when she yelled, “Markus! How many good looking German brothers do you have?”

 

“What the fuck, Emma?” Markus came running down the stairs.  His flipped the floppy hair on his forehead and squinted at Marc. “Shit.  You were not joking.  You really came.”

 

Marc shrugged.  He texted Markus for the address yesterday, before he bought the plane ticket.  And asked him not to tell his brother.  Markus never said if he would keep it quiet.  

 

Marc made the gesture to go inside.  Emma stepped aside and let him in.

 

“Is Kay here?” 

 

“He’s taking a walk on the heath.” Emma jumped in.

 

“Huh?” Marc was confused.  

 

“She meant Hampstead Heath... it’s the nearby park, woodland, whatever you called it in Germany.   Green open space.  He should be back any minute.” Markus clarified.

 

“We are about to have lunch, join us!  Why don’t you go sit down and wait for Kay?” That’s Emma again.  Marc guessed she must be Markus’ girlfriend.

 

They put Marc in a large room called “the drawing room”.  They both returned to wherever the kitchen was, bickering the whole time.  Marc heard Emma exclaimed, “oh my god.  They make such a cute couple.”

 

The drawing room didn’t have any drawings in it, but a large marble fireplace and end to end built-in bookshelves.  There were a lot of packing boxes around, looked like they were in the middle of emptying the house for the sale.

 

Marc sat down on a deep blue velvet sofa that looked at least twice as old as him.  The place was a world apart from Kay’s studio apartment in Ludwigsburg, Marc couldn’t imagine Kay living here.

 

But he never did.  This was not Kay’s childhood home.  Marc still didn’t have a full picture of what had happened between Kay and his father... and Markus’ family.  He hoped he would find out in due course, when Kay was ready.  

 

Marc had to believe he would have the time for that to happen, that was why he’s here.  If Kay really decided to move to Frankfurt... that’s why Marc needed to act right away.  It didn’t take him long to decide to come to London after Frank dropped that bombshell. 

 

He loves me.  He said that in front of my parents.  Marc’s mind kept going back to this throughout the whole journey.  It was what’s been keeping him sane.  

 

He heard the front door opened.  Then footsteps in the hallway.

 

“Markus?” Kay stuck his head in and he froze.  Surprise was clear on his face.  Good surprise. Because Kay flashed him a lopsided grin.

 

Marc stood up.  He studied Kay’s sweaty face, his running shorts and his grey hoodie.  

 

“Did the doctors say you can run?” Marc asked.  Breaking the silence.

 

Kay snorted and walked across the room to kiss him.  Marc deepened the kiss, his fingers getting into the sweat soaked hair, breathing in his clean sweat smell.  This is worth a hundred airfare. To be able to kiss him again.   Marc thought.  The forest smell on Kay was different, not like when they ran back home.  It smelled of grass, and a hint of... smoke?

 

“I got the all clear from my doctor, though he gave me a big ‘quit smoking’ speech.” Kay said after they pulled away, his arms still on Marc’s shoulders.  “What are you doing here? Is everything ok?” His eyes grew worried.

 

Marc looked at him quietly for a second or two.  Kay’s face was open and innocent, didn’t look like he was hiding anything.  Pulling the zipper on Kay’s hoodie, Marc drew him close for another kiss, just a quick one on the lips.  “I’ll tell you later.  I heard we are having lunch soon.” 

 

“Oh god.” Kay rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, Emma and her Indian curry dishes.  Stick to the naan bread and hummus only if you can’t eat spicy food.”  Then he took Marc’s travel bag. “Come on, let me show you my room upstairs...” he paused mid-sentence. “You are staying here, right?” 

 

Marc chuckled. “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss this deluxe Airbnb for the world.” Then he lowered his voice and said close to Kay’s ears, “and I would never miss a chance to sleep next to you.” 

 

 

******

 

(Kay)

 

Kay wouldn’t admit it to himself, but he had always been curious about his father’s life in London, after he left him and his mother.  When he was younger, he would look at street views on google maps and wonder if his father walked this street everyday, or if he bought his coffee from that cafe called Gail’s around the corner.

 

When he finally came to the townhouse for the funerals, he realised his father had always kept a room for him in the house.  Fully furnished and stayed empty all these years.  Waiting for his eldest son to speak to him again.

 

And Kay loved sitting in their back garden at night.  

 

“It’s amazing how many stars you can see on a clear night from here, and we are in the middle of London?.” Marc whistled lowly, looking up to the sky.

 

Kay smiled to himself.  He knew Marc would love this garden.  “Yeah, this area is on a hill side and surrounded by large green space.  Quite rare for a big city.”

 

They were alone in the house tonight, Markus and Emma have gone to her house in the nearby Hampstead.  “Please.  I don’t need to hear you banging my brother in the next room.” He had said, much to Marc’s discomfiture. 

 

They have been avoiding the elephant in the room since Marc arrived in the afternoon.  Kay knew something must have happened to make Marc to fly over here.  Marc Borgmann chasing after him.  This must be a first.  Kay mused.  Feeling unease and elated at the same time.

 

“So...” finally, Marc returned his gaze to Kay. “When are you going to tell me you are moving to Frankfurt?” He didn’t sound angry, more like he couldn’t understand.

 

Kay knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it under-wrapped for long.  When the request came through, Eiden would have to discuss it with Frank, their unit lead.

 

“I submitted that request almost three months ago, before we...” Kay trailed off.  He lowered his lashes, and said, “then when we got back together, I thought it’s only a matter of time that we would break up again, so I didn’t cancel the request.” He laughed nervously.  “It’s my backup plan.” He said quietly, “So I can go to some place new until I can forget about you.”

 

“Shit... Kay...” Marc whispered.  He got out of his chair and crouched down next to Kay’s.  He shook his head, “why would you think that? I... I told you I’ll find a way...”

 

“Would you have told Bettina the truth if I told you I’m leaving?  Like an ultimatum?”  Kay interrupted.  He shrugged. “I don’t want to go through that again.  I don’t want to wait for someone to make up his mind.  To choose me or not choose me.” 

 

Marc didn’t say anything at first.  His brow furrowed, like he’s trying to solve a puzzle.  

 

Just when Kay thought this might be the end of their discussion, he felt Marc’s hand on his.  When he looked up, Marc had a strange expression on his face.  

 

“You think I’m like your father.” Marc said with conviction.

 

He didn’t wait for Kay to answer, “I guess I deserved that.  For how I behaved in the past.” He nodded.  Taking a deep breath, he continued, “even this time, it was Bettina who took the first step - she forced me to face the truth.” 

 

Kay turned to look at him, his stomach dropped.  So much for not wanting to wait for someone else to decide. 

 

Marc tightened his hold on Kay’s hand.  “She made me realised that I am hurting everyone around me... but it’s not a matter of choice.  It’s not that I choose you over her.  That ship has sailed long ago because the truth is I can’t leave you, I want to be with you.”  

 

Marc let that statement hang in the air for a few seconds.

 

Then he leaned in, and his mouth covering Kay’s, rough but sweet, his tongue seeking Kay’s. His jeans covered knees dipping into the grass.  Kay opened willingly to that kiss, his heart hammering.  He’s still processing what Marc had just said.  I want to be with you. 

 

They parted reluctantly.  Marc stayed kneeling on the grass, didn’t seem to mind the mud and grass at all.  His gaze remained steady on Kay, like he’s savouring the moment, committing it to his memory.  

 

Then suddenly he threw his head back laughing, cupping one side of Kay’s face with his hand, he said, “I can’t believe instead of telling each other, both of us told my parents that we are in love.” 

 

******

 

Marc failed to suppress his laugh when the ancient floor boards creaked every time they pushed against each other in bed.  He stifled his laugh by kissing Kay harder.

 

Their bodies fit against each other like a perfect key made for a lock. Kay broke the kiss, drew back enough to touch his nose against Marc’s, then pressed their foreheads together. “Shut up.” Kay scolded softly, but laughed out loud himself.  Marc finally quieted, he leaned over Kay, got an arm under his chest to hold Kay flush against himself, then shoved hard into the tight heat.

 

The floor boards groaned loudly.

 

Afterwards, Kay listened to the sound of pine trees rippling in the wind outside, like a lullaby. He thought of earlier, when Marc murmured against his ears, “I love you” just before sleep claimed him.  

 

And Kay thought, so long as they were together, they were all right.

 

Chapter Text

Kay woke to the scent of fresh coffee and the sound of toaster ejecting toast.

 

He rubbed his eyes, looked over to the kitchen counter and saw Marc whistling and preparing breakfast.

 

“What are you doing? It’s Sunday. Come back to bed.” He pulled back the duvet, putting on his best come-hither look. This was their last day together before Bettina came home and Kay wanted to spend all the remaining hours with Marc in bed until he had to go.

 

But Marc wasn’t even looking at him. “Do you have a tray around?” He asked, searching the kitchen cabinets.

 

Kay gave up on his attempted flirting and snorted, “what tray? There’re exactly 2 feet distance between my bed and the kitchen.”

 

Marc improvised with the wooden chopping board and carried the mugs and pieces of toast to bed.

 

“Eat up. We need to go hiking.” He ordered.

 

Kay narrowed his eyes. “Where?”

 

Marc smiled. He bit into his toast, swallowed before he replied, “that’s for you to find out.”

 

Sitting up, Kay sipped his coffee, studying Marc’s uncharacteristic mischievous expression over the rim of the mug. He could tell he’s up to something.

 

Kay was still getting used to all the “new things” Marc started to do - like wooing him with surprises. His mind guiltily drifted to the “Polizei Frankfurt am Main” brochure in his side table drawer; the one he received in the post a week ago.

 

Kay put down the mug and drew Marc in for a kiss, his mouth was warm with a hint of Yorkshire Gold tea and milk. He gently rubbed Marc’s jawline with his fingers, it’s not as clean-shaven as usual because he’s been using Kay’s electric shaver at home.

 

Kay’s resolve kept wavering these days. At times, he thought this goodbye might just kill him.

  

(Marc)

 

Marc stared at the black sausages Markus put on his breakfast plate. “What’s that?” He frowned.

 

“Black Pudding. Scottish delicacies.”

 

“I thought Pudding means dessert here.”

 

“Just eat them. They are better than bratwurst!”

 

Kay observed this exchange silently, but Marc could tell he’s trying to hold back his smile. Finally, he got up, took Marc’s plate and put it in front of his brother. “Marc and I are having rye bread.”

 

“You two are no fun.” Markus mumbled and stuck his fork into the sausage.

 

“What the hell are these things?” Marc whispered.

 

“Their version of Blutwurst (blood sausage). They are actually quite tasty.” Kay explained.

 

“For breakfast?” Marc shuddered.

 

“A sausage is a sausage.” Markus deadpanned.

 

Kay gave a short laugh. And Marc smiled. He might not get along with Markus, but he admired his ability to make Kay laugh all the time.

 

Marc took a sip of his tea and relaxed into the lounge chair. They were eating in the house’s conservatory, a bit like having breakfast on their patio back home, but weather-proof. To Marc, it’s just a room surrounded by glass panels, but apparently, it’s an obsession here and would increase a property’s value by having one.

 

Marc’s jaw nearly dropped when he learned that the house had been sold for over 5 million pounds. The will’s executioners would put the proceeds into a trust for both Markus and Kay, even though Marc knew Kay still felt uneasy about the arrangement. Markus, of course, insisted Kay took it as it was his father’s wish.

 

Kay went to answer the door for the milk and newspaper delivery - something Markus kept forgetting to cancel.   As soon as Kay was out of sight, Markus put down his fork and asked Marc, “so, you’re really leaving your wife?”

 

Marc was used to Markus’s bluntness, he answered slowly, “she’s my girlfriend. But yes, we are separating.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Markus started cutting his black pudding again. “And what about your job? Are you ready to be gay in the police force?”

 

Marc grimaced.

 

“You know how much shit you’re going to get if both of you stay in the same unit? Is it even allowed?” Markus added.

 

“Are you trying to discourage me to be with your brother?”

 

Markus looked at him pointedly, brashness all gone. “I want you to know what you are doing before you promise Kay something you can’t deliver.”

 

******

 

Of course, Markus had a point. And Marc hasn’t decided what to do about that yet. The idea of coming out in the police unit still gave him cold shivers... but if that means I can stay close to Jonas and have Kay with me...

 

Marc saw Kay talking on his mobile when he walked into their bedroom. “Yes, I’ve heard of that. Let me check with Marc... I’ll call you later.”

 

“You have heard of what?” Marc asked as Kay turned to look at him.

 

“A restaurant called Michael Nadra. It’s in Primrose Hill, not far from here. Alex is in London; he wonders if we want to join him for dinner.”

 

Marc knew who Kay meant, but he played innocent. “Alex who?”

 

“Dr Alex Neuer.” Kay said. Deadpanned.

 

Marc snorted. “Why is he in London?”

 

Clearly the exact reaction Kay was expecting from him. “He’s here for a medical conference. We bought the plane tickets together in a two for one deal, happy now?” Kay teased and shook his head.

 

Marc huffed, didn’t find the joke amusing. “It’s kind of awkward, isn’t it?”

 

“Why would it be awkward? I didn’t even date him.” Kay’s brow furrowed. Then slowly, like he suddenly realized the real reason, watching Marc closely, he added, “Unless... you don’t want him to know we are together? Maybe you’re not ready to come out to strangers.” Kay nodded, more to himself. “It’s ok, we don’t have to meet up with him.”

 

No, no. Don’t even go there. Marc thought. He didn’t particularly want to have dinner with Dr Neuer, he could think of few things less comfortable than the three of them having dinner. The truth was if it’s up to him, he just wanted to spend every moment alone with Kay. But there was no way he’d allow Kay to think he wanted to hide their relationship.

 

“Are you kidding? Of course I want him to know we are together. In fact, it’s important that he knows. We should go.” Marc overrode Kay’s decision.

 

It wasn’t always easy to read Kay, he didn’t have a lot of tells, but Marc recognised all of them. He noticed Kay relaxed his shoulders for just a fraction, a faint boyish smile forming. And Marc knew any awkwardness at this dinner would be a fair price to pay.

 

Marc was relieved to find that the restaurant was not upscale. People were wearing jeans. Kay was looking handsome in a pale blue wool crewneck and light grey jeans. Marc held the door for him, and Kay flashed him a grin before he went in, no doubt figured out that Marc was a creature of habit. And only then, it daunted on Marc that, despite having Neuer as the third wheel, it was the first time he went to a proper restaurant with Kay as a couple.

 

Neuer was already there nursing a martini. He hugged Kay and whispered something in Kay’s ear before he extended a hand to Marc for a quick handshake.

 

“Marc, it’s a nice surprise. Not a planned visit, I take it?” Neuer asked.

 

Marc put his arm around Kay’s shoulders, he answered Neuer with his eyes staying on Kay. “Yes, kind of an emergency.”

 

Neuer looked from Marc to Kay. “I can see the crisis has been averted.” He smiled slowly as they seated themselves.

 

The food was good and perfectly prepared, but they all enjoyed the cocktails even more, so they declined the dessert menu and opted for more drinks after the meal.

 

Reluctantly, Marc started to warm up to Neuer, he was not aloof as he first appeared. And he had a dry sense of humour that disarmed people. Marc could see why Kay befriended him.

 

They were talking about the newly introduced privately owned EMS services in Ludwigsburg which Kay thought was a terrible idea. “Just wait until they start charging people for calling an ambulance.” He said. “These services should not be about profit.”

 

Marc has always known Kay was a leftie, that was part of what was so confusing about Kay Engel to him at the beginning. The pot smoking, class-skipping and the anarchist attitude, but still, Kay wanted to be a policeman.

 

Kay was arguing with Neuer, who thought investment from private companies would improve the emergency services.

 

Marc stayed out of the debate and regarded Kay quietly. Kay turned to him for support, rolling his eyes, pretending to be exasperated. Marc tried to suppress his laugh, feeling a sudden rush of affection.

 

Then Kay’s mobile started ringing. He checked the caller’s name and got up. “I have to take it.”

 

Marc watched Kay’s retreating back as he went to take the call outside.

 

Neuer looked Marc for a few seconds before he said, “Bettina came to the hospital a few weeks after the party. Said she wanted me to be Jonas’ doctor.” But before Marc could respond, he waved his hand and continued, “I think it’s before she found about you and Kay.” He gave Marc a meaningful look. “I also think that was just an excuse, she was trying to find out more about me and Kay… In any case, I didn’t tell her anything about Kay. And I referred her to a friend of mine, who’s a better pediatrician.”

 

Marc felt a stab of guilt for the way he had been treating her. For the lies and deceits, for making her paranoid. He shook his head and exhaled. “Was I that obvious?” Nothing Bettina did surprise him anymore. “I guess secrets always have a way of coming out. She must have had her suspicions for a while.”

 

Neuer simply nodded. Marc was glad that he didn’t try to offer meaningless platitudes. Neuer is alright. He thought.

 

Kay returned to their table, he looked distracted and… distressed.

 

“Something’s wrong?” Marc already dreading the answer.

 

Kay rubbed the back of his neck, tried to sound more upbeat than his facial expression. “That was Eiden. He wanted both of us to see him the day we return.”

 

“You think he found out about us?”

 

“I can’t think of anything else he would want to see us both, unless they want to give us another commendation.” Kay tried to joke, but there’s no mirth in his laugh.

 

To his amazement Marc heard himself say, “I’ll quit the force if I have to.”

 

Neuer raised his eyebrows and wisely decided to keep quiet and leave the issue to them.  

 

Kay was staring at Marc in disbelief. “You are not quitting. You like your job!” He exclaimed. Then he lowered his voice and added, “as if your parents don’t hate me enough already, if you quit because of me…” he exhaled a shaky breath. “Anyway, it won’t come to that. They probably want to separate us into different units, which might not be such a terrible idea.”

 

Marc had thought of that too. Maybe in the same city but different units, he could live with that.

 

Finally, Neuer cleared his throat and suggested. “Don’t let anyone railroad you into anything. Talk to Fuchs. He might be able to offer some advice.”

 

Chapter Text

“So sieht aus” (so now you see)

 

Kay’s mind went back to what Marc had just told him in the bathroom earlier.  That was... a bummer, as his half-English brother Markus would say.  The whole time they were at the training academy, Marc had never once mentioned a girlfriend or that he’s going to be a father.  

 

“Kay? You alright there?” Britt bumped his shoulder, flicking her luscious long hair.  

 

He’s walking her home after that strange encounter at the bowling alley.  Kay was still pinching himself, digesting it.

 

“Not what you expected?” She asked.

 

“Huh?” How did she guess...?

 

Britt chuckled, but there’s an edge in her voice, “yeah... Frank, his wife, Marc and Bettina?  They are tight as fuck.  They do everything together, like a little clan.” She gave a shudder, displaying her disapproval.  “Can’t wait to settle down, get fat and get old together, all of them.” 

 

“The white-picket-fence dream.” Kay commented without inflection.

 

“Exactly!” Britt concurred enthusiastically.  “I’m afraid you have to get used to this little town mentality here.”

 

Kay nodded distractingly.  He played nonchalant and asked, “is Marc getting married then?”

 

Britt shrugged. “Not as far as I know.  They just bought a house together, that’s enough marriage for some people.”

 

Wife. Baby. House.  Fucking hell.  Kay thought.  He wanted to laugh.  At his own stupidity.  

 

They reached the entrance of her building.  

 

Britt smiled, she looked at Kay from under her lashes.  “Want to come up for a nightcap?” 

 

Kay returned a smile, using his most charming voice, he replied, “It’s late.  Maybe next time.”

 

If she was disappointed, she hid it well.  

 

Kay kissed her cheek. “Thank you for showing me around.” 

 

 

(Kay)

 

 

Kay worried about Eiden’s health.  He looked at Kay like he’s having either a stomach ache or... constipation.  

 

Eiden asked to meet him in his office early in the morning, an hour before the first shift of the day.  And he wanted to see Kay and Marc separately.

 

“Personally, I don’t engage in gossip.  And it’s none of our business who you date, even if it’s within the same unit.” He flicked up a glance.  Kay could feel a ‘but’ coming.  

 

“However, Borgmann’s currently home situation has certainly complicated it.  I don’t like this kind of talk in the unit.  It’s distracting.  And distraction is dangerous in our line of work.” Eiden sighed.  He still had that constipated look on his face.  

 

Kay winced as he waited for Eiden to continue.

 

“Technically, unit members need to inform supervisors if they are getting involved, as a courtesy. So, I need to ask you.  Is it true?”

 

But nobody said anything when they thought Britt and I were dating?  Kay thought but he kept it to himself.

 

“Yes. It is true.” He looked at Eiden directly, made sure he made eye contact with him.  

 

Eiden’s eyes widened.  Is he expecting me to deny it so he doesn’t have to deal with it? Or he’s genuinely surprised?

 

“Right...” Eiden began to say, his fingers started to flip through the stack of paper in front of him - Kay thought maybe it was to keep his hands occupied, so he wouldn’t strangle Kay.  

 

Eiden cleared his throat, and asked, “I assume you and Borgmann intend to continue with this... relationship?”

 

Kay simply nodded.  Fuchs’ advice was to listen to what Eiden has to say first and not to act defensively.

 

“Has this been going on for long?”  

 

Kay knew he didn’t need to answer this particular question, but he believed Eiden wasn’t plotting anything. In fact, he just looked... perplexed.

 

Kay shook his head.  “On and off.  But we got back together soon after... the shooting incident.” 

 

Eiden nodded slowly. “It was very obvious that Borgmann had tunnel vision when you got injured.” He said that more to himself.  Then he looked at Kay properly for the first time today.  “What about your transfer request to Frankfurt?”

 

This, he knew was coming.  Kay kept his hands behind his back and stood up straight.  “I have informed Frankfurt of my withdrawal of the request as of yesterday. There was no vacancy at their end yet, so they simply took me off the waiting list.”

 

Eiden seemed slightly relieved, he wouldn’t want to have to contact Frankfurt.  For a moment, they just let the Kay’s decision hang in the air.  

 

Kay mentally braced for the gritty part. 

 

Eiden moved around the paperwork on his desk some more, then he seemed to have made up his mind. 

 

“You and Borgmann are both very fine policemen, I don’t want to lose either of you.  But I doubt you two would enjoy working in the same unit after this comes out.  And I have to think about the team as a whole.” He exhaled a regretful sigh.  “Especially for Borgmann... I can imagine it will be tougher for him. Given... well, I know you must have spoken to Lieutenant Fuchs.” He looked up at Kay. “And he would tell you that we have no right to separate you two at work.  Not legally.  So I’m just going to ask you as a favour, if you’d consider it.  I know there’s an opening in the Stuttgart unit.”

 

Kay didn’t even wait for two seconds.  “Transfer me.  Marc stays.” He answered.

 

******

 

Why is this area called Soho?”

 

Kay shrugged.  “Who knows?  I only know this is the first Soho.  The one in New York came later.”

 

Marc looked around.  There were a few women patrons inside too, otherwise, 90% men here. His first time in a gay pub during day time.  They were both flying back to Germany tomorrow.  Kay, of course, wanted to show him regular gay life in a big city at every chance, like a custom-made sex education for Marc.

 

Marc smiled at that thought.  He has given up trying to label himself.  Gay, straight, bi, who the hell knows anymore?  He knew he had loved Bettina and it was real.  He also knew he loved Kay now and it was definitely very real. 

 

Kay was having a Guinness beer which he seemed to regret ordering; Marc ordered a local IPA.   He was beginning to enjoy himself - this mini holiday break with Kay in a foreign country - something as alien as life on Mars to Marc just six months ago.

 

“Germanic Kai!” 

 

Someone suddenly shouted behind them.

 

They both turned and Marc found a brown haired guy with an infectious smile behind them.  This guy... Marc was momentarily taken aback; he looked almost like an English version of Marc himself, except for that self-congratulatory smirk on his face.

 

“Kevin?” Kay stood up and went to shake hand with ‘Kevin’.

 

‘Kevin’ ignored the extended hand and hugged Kay. “Back in London? For a better reason this time, I hope?”

 

Kay laughed.  “You remember.”

 

Kevin grinned and looking at Kay just a bit too eagerly for Marc’s liking.  

 

They never talked about it and Marc never wanted to know.  He didn’t want to know if Kay had slept with any man while he was in London, when he thought Marc had broken up with him.  Marc knew he had no right.  He slept with Bettina plenty of times while he was also with Kay.  It was that rotten deal he locked Kay in before.

 

But face to face with someone who might have... Marc felt an annoying twist in his stomach.

 

“Umm, Kevin, this is Marc.  Marc? This is Kevin.  I met him right in this pub last time.” Kay made the quick introduction and put his hand on the small of Marc’s back, which instantly soothed his stomach pain. 

 

Kevin’s curious slow smile indicated he saw the similarities in Marc as well.  He looked from Marc to Kay and burst out laughing.  Then he said to Marc, “Kay must have been missing you badly when we met, he’s willing to tolerate my bad jokes just to look at a familiar face.” “Right?” He turned to Kay.

 

“You two don’t lookalike...” Kay retorted indignantly, but his face turned a shade redder.  Kevin only laughed harder.

 

Marc felt two different emotions coursing through his body.  Relief and a tug of regret.  He kissed the side of Kay’s head, answering Kevin but his eyes staying on Kay, “Well, now he has the real thing all the time.” 

 

Kay returned his gaze with such open affection, Marc knew right away that all the Kevins were never a problem.

 

 

 

Kay reached out, ran his thumb down the side of Marc’s face, and held it up, for inspection.  He rubbed away the little dirt under Marc’s chin.  “You missed this spot.”

 

Marc grabbed some tissue paper from the dispenser and cleaned up the spot Kay pointed out.  

 

“I thought we said...” Kay started to say.

 

But Marc was faster.  “I know what we said.  I didn’t plan to get into a fight with him, but he was talking shit about you.  About us.  Shit.  He even dragged Bettina into it.” he threw the tissue paper away forcefully.

 

Kay nodded.  He wasn’t there but he understood.  He would probably have reacted the same way, if not worse.  

 

They had agreed with Eiden to work on different shifts until Kay’s transfer to Stuttgart finalised in a month.  Kay thought it was a good compromise, Stuttgart was only under an hour away.  And more importantly, it would take the pressure off Marc if Kay wasn’t with him all the time.  

 

“Anyway, it wasn’t much of a fight.  Frank intervened and threw him out.” Marc said

 

“I know. He told me.” Kay bit his bottom lip. “Just a little tussle in the car park?” He joked. “Frank said you kissed Limpinski too, is that true?” 

 

Marc huffed, a cheeky smile on his face. “Yeah. That hurt him more than a punch.”

 

Kay would love to see Limpinski’s face at that moment.  

 

Marc held Kay’s hand and kissed it.  “All that it matters is that now Eiden plans to take him off our unit.  Blessing in disguise.” He got up from the kitchen counter stool.

 

“What about the others?”

 

Marc shrugged.  “Nobody says anything to my face. And I don’t care.” 

 

Kay believed him.  It wouldn’t be the end, for both of them.  There would be other Limpinskins in their line of work, they just had to deal with them as they come, as long as they stay together...

 

Marc has been staying in Kay’s apartment since they got back from London.  Going back and forth every day between his parents house to see Jonas and returning to Kay’s for the night.  Didn’t seem to mind the commute.  It’s amazing how much a constant presence helped to mend the trust between them.

 

Warm hands on Kay’s neck startled him and broke his train of thought, he half turned and found Marc standing behind him.  His fingers began to trace Kay’s collarbone, the lines of his throat, drifting lower, flat on Kay’s chest like a brand.  Hot and tight.  “Enough about that ugly mug.” Marc whispered.  “I’ve been missing you all day.”

 

Kay’s fingers curled around Marc’s hand on his neck, he twisted his body and pressed his mouth against Marc’s.  For a whole minute, it was all tongues and sloppy kisses.  Then Marc kissed along Kay’s neck, lingering to suckle and bite where the neck joined the shoulder, Kay figured he would get one hell of a hickey tomorrow.

 

“Kay.” Marc uttered his name low and breathy enough to send shivers down Kay’s spine.  “Yeah?” He replied, his heart began to pound. Marc’s fingers dug into Kay’s boxer-brief, his mouth continued its journey down to Kay’s chest, flicking a kiss on his nipples through the thin layer of his tank top.

 

“Oh fuck.” The curse escaped Kay’s mouth as Marc gave a gentle tug on his cock.  “Mmmmm.... Marc...” Kay moaned helplessly as Marc expertly pulled and rubbed the sensitive head, where pre-cum was quickly gathering.  He dropped his head on Marc’s shoulder, smothered another cry on it as Marc increased his speed.  

 

“Say my name again.” Marc licked and whispered the command in Kay’s ear.  

 

“Marc... oh god.” Kay obliged in an embarrassing whiny cry as Marc gave another pull on his foreskin and spread the pre-cum around the head of his cock.  

 

“Again.” Marc demanded.  His hand going frantic stroking Kay’s cock.  

 

A powerful shudder went through Kay, as he tried to ride out the onslaught of Marc’s hand.  He bit into Marc’s shoulder before he cried out, “Marc...”

 

“I’m here, baby.” Marc cooed.  He gave a few delicious pulls and licked the side of Kay’s face. “Come for me now, baby.” 

 

Kay’s body thrashed, went wild, but Marc held him tight.  “Argghhh... shit... Marc!”  Kay went rigid before he started to come in Marc’s hand.  Relentless and powerful.  

 

Kay was still panting, turning his head and wiping his sweats on Marc’s shoulder, when Marc pulled out his hand and started licking the cum on his fingers.  

 

Loved up and boneless, Kay watched Marc quietly, knowing this image would be seared in his mind until the day he died.  He gave Marc a fierce kiss, tasting himself on his tongue.  

 

And he thought, Marc has come a long way since that long ago afternoon in the woods... 

 

 

Chapter Text

“So, this is it.” Bettina opened her palm and showed Marc’s her copy of the house key.  The key to the house they used to own together.  Everything that she’s taking with her were now in the removal van.

 

“Right.  Ok...” Marc carefully took the key from her hand.  He still hasn’t looked at Bettina directly today.  Maybe it was a bad idea to ask him to help her move.  Marc was obviously uncomfortable, probably still feeling guilty - which he rightly should - she thought.

 

But she’s done caring about Marc’s feelings, she needed a pair of strong arms to lift things and for Marc to sort out stuff they used to share.

 

“Keep anything you want from the house.” Marc had said.

 

Of course he would say that.  Bettina believed he would have done anything to make her feel better.  Anything.  Except, of course, leaving Kay Engel.  

 

Not that Bettina would ever take Marc back.  

 

She knew Marc had flown to London to chase after Kay a month ago, probably the single most romantic thing Marc has ever done.  So, no, she has no interest to be a supporting act in their great love story.

 

Marc has also bought out her share of the house.  After much consideration, Bettina has decided to stay close to Frank and Claudia and bought a smaller house in the same area with the money.  Even though living so close to Marc’s parents was not her idea of fun, it’s a price worth paying for.  Not to mention, she knew Marc was moving out to live with Kay somewhere closer to Stuttgart.  

 

So, this is goodbye.

 

“Erm.  You don’t want to keep this?” Marc asked.  In his hand a picture frame with a photo of their holiday in Mallorca.  

 

“That was a fun holiday, no?  I remember you got sunburnt and couldn’t sleep on your back.” Marc said with a faint smile. His eyes, Bettina noticed, were pools of sadness.  She took the small solace that it must be hard for him too.

 

Bettina took the photo frame from him.  They looked so happy in the picture.  Sunglasses and cocktails with umbrellas; all smiles and tanned skin.  

 

Then she thought of that strip of photos she found in Kay’s apartment, the ones that started all these.  That look on Marc’s face.  The way he looked at Kay in those photos... she knew right then and there, that she had lost Marc already.

 

She took one last look of the living room.  Then she handed the photo frame back to Marc and shook her head.  “No, it’s ancient history to me.”

 

Time to move on.

 

 

Nearly two years later...

 

(Marc)

 

 

“I don’t know why you think this is fun.” Marc said.  He touched the purple-ish bruise under Kay’s jawline.

 

Kay winced.  “It’s part of the learning curve.  My legs need to move faster.” 

 

“You are a runner.  You are fast.” 

 

“Not reaction-fast, that’s a different skill set.” Kay demonstrated his point by throwing fake punch to the left side of Marc’s face.  Marc ducked away and flicked a finger on Kay’s forehead.  

 

“Ouch.” Kay whined but didn’t seem to mind.  He tilted his head and moved closer to Marc.  “Don’t worry. I’m still pretty, right?”

 

Marc snorted.  

 

Kay has taken up kickboxing few months ago and since then has been coming home with bruises occasionally.  It frightened Marc sometimes, the relentless, fearless way Kay handled himself, he did everything head first, always jumping in with both feet.

 

Much like the way they fell in love.

 

“What? Something on your mind?” Kay smiled slowly, getting even closer to Marc, to force him to look at him.

 

Marc turned away.  When Kay persisted, like he always did, Marc finally rolled his eyes and said, “you know people might think we are into some kinky stuff with you looking like this every couple of days.”

 

Now Kay’s slow smile started to turn into a smirk.  “Oh. Who would think that?  Or maybe you are interested in something kinky?” He put his arm around Marc’s shoulders and said in a lower voice, “you know I’m open to anything you want to try...”

 

Don’t I know it?  Marc quietly thought.  Nearly two years they’ve been together now - properly together, not sneaking around - they’ve tried everything... or everything that wouldn’t shock Marc too much.  Marc knew Kay has always been careful with that.

 

Marc decided to stay away from that subject for now.  “Don’t forget we have to go to Frank’s party next week, I hope it heals in time.  I don’t want to have an awkward conversation with anyone about that bruise.” 

 

That deflated Kay fast.  He pursed his lips. “Ugh.  How can I forget?  I’m so looking forward to be in the same room with your parents and Bettina.” 

 

Marc watched for the visual cues of Kay’s eyes, his mouth, to see if he’s saying that in jest or he’s really distressed about the party.  Kay could be unreadable when he wanted to.

 

His parents have been taking a tolerant approach to their son’s relationship with a man.  Civil but cool.  Marc had paid back the loan they gave him for the house - partly from selling the house, partly from Kay’s inheritance, which Kay insisted they used.

 

“People who say money doesn’t solve anything are usually people who never have to worry about money.” Kay had reasoned.  “I have the money and it would help us start a new life together, so who cares whether it’s mine or yours?  Maybe your parents would hate me a fraction less if they don’t lose money on top of of everything.”

 

So Marc used that money and they also bought a small place together somewhere between Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg, so both of them would be able to commute to work within half an hour.

 

Yes, it could have been worse.  Right now, Borgmann seniors would invite them together for meals, even though Kay was never warmly accepted. 

 

The few times Marc had tried to gauge how much it bothered him, Kay had just shrugged and said, “my father moved to London, then my mother remarried in Austria, I don’t really have much experience interacting with parents as an adult.  I don’t care what your parents think about me, as long as they don’t try to break us up.”

 

It bothered Marc, though he couldn’t seem to find a way to make it better.  He thought he had disappointed his parents enough, he didn’t want to force the issue too much.  

 

“You know if you want to go to Frank’s party on your own, that’s okay. I’ve got things I need to study for my exams anyway.” Kay suddenly offered.  He had an examination for a potential promotion coming up.

 

It was tempting.  Marc would admit it.  It was tempting to snatch an opportunity to get away, to enjoy an uncomplicated afternoon with friends and families, not having to worry about how everyone reacts to Kay’s presence... 

 

But no... Marc quietly observed Kay again.  Kay’s face was sincere, a look of understanding, but there was a little something lurking in his eyes.  Not hurt... but like... like Kay was preparing himself for the bad news, to be disappointed.  

 

No, Kay is his family.  He’s done with hiding Kay away to make his own life easier.

 

He kissed Kay’s lips. “No, I’m not letting you off so easily.  You are going to have to suffer with me.  But I promise I won’t leave you alone at the party, ok?  We will deal with any shit come our way, together.” Marc said solemnly.  He could see Kay struggling to stay stoic and knew he’d scored big-time.  

 

Kay lowered his lashes, tried to hide the small smile on his face before he went back to his joking self. “Well, I do have a good right hook punch to defend myself...”

 

******

 

“Breathe.”

 

Kay whispered in Marc’s ear, kissing the side of his face, while he pushed his lube coated finger inside Marc.  

 

Marc settled his chin on his folded arms in bed.  He tried to relax and breathe through his mouth like Kay told him to.  “Ahh....” Marc slowly exhaled through his mouth.  “It’s cold.”  His body gave a shudder as Kay’s finger went deeper. 

 

“Just the lube.  My hand is warm...” there’s smile in Kay’s voice.  

 

If Marc was being honest, one of the reasons he wanted to try it - wanted Kay to fuck him -  was because he thought Kay would like to.  He knew Kay liked it both ways with his... previous lovers. Not that Marc spent much time thinking about Kay with anyone else, past or present; he thought it was only fair that he offer Kay the chance to do that.  The other reason was... Marc wanted to know - the pleasure behind the blessed out look on Kay’s face when they made love... what was it like to give up control like that?  To trust someone to “invade” your body?

 

Marc held still again as Kay inserted a second finger in him and ever so slowly, Kay began to form scissors with his fingers, his other hand, making long strokes down Marc’s flank.  Soothing and pressuring at the same time.

 

 The stretch, it burned.  Marc reminded himself to breathe again.  The pain was there, but not overwhelmingly.  Marc welcomed it, it felt incredibly intimate.  Just when he was about to tell Kay that he’s ready for the real thing, he felt Kay curled one of his fingers and rubbed something inside.  And bang! Marc’s whole body jumped and shivered.  

 

“Oh.... fuuuuccck.” 

 

It’s lucky that he has put a pillow in front, so his head hit it instead of the headboard.  Marc swallowed and waited for the shivering to subside. 

 

That was... unexpected.

 

“That’s your sweet spot.” Kay murmured in his ear, he half hovered above Marc, eyes bright, enjoying whatever expression he saw on Marc’s face.

 

Marc half turned to kiss Kay.  Jesus.  And it was just his fingers, Marc thought; as another pleasurable tingle went through his body.  

 

Kay slowly removed his fingers and got behind Marc, he stroked Marc’s spine smoothly again.  

 

Marc couldn’t see what Kay was doing, but he could feel the patience and gentleness.  Hazily, he recalled the first time they fucked... in the pouring rain.  A mind-blowing experience for Marc, but now he wondered if he might have hurt Kay with his eagerness and inexperience... but Kay had seemed happy with...

 

“Oooooh...” Marc grunted.  Kay pushed into Marc, agonisingly slow, inch by inch. Marc slowly breathed out.

 

He felt stretched and something else.  Something full and floaty... and thankfully, he finally began to relax.   Kay’s arms holding Marc’s chest tightly as he gave another push.

 

They both held still for a second.  Kay kissed the side of Marc’s face. “You ok?” He asked.  He sounded short of breath, like he’s holding back.

 

But Marc didn’t want him to hold back, he wanted all of Kay.  Taking and giving.  “Move.” Marc’s own voice sounded raspy.  He tentatively pushed back against Kay, rocking into him.  

 

Kay let out a soft grunt and thrust back and began to settle into a steady rhythm.  “God... this feels incredible.” He murmured next to Marc’s ear.  

 

Marc no longer felt full, but instead all his senses were heightened.  He felt everything.  Could feel Kay everywhere; inside his body, outside his body.  That floaty feeling was back, like he’s flying.  He closed his eyes and reached down to touch himself, trying to match Kay’s strokes.  

 

Kay changed his angle and rolled fully on top of Marc’s back.  His arm holding Marc’s waist tight as he thrust more powerfully into Marc, hitting the spot that sent Marc wild every time.  

 

“I’m close, so close...” Kay breathily announced.  “Ahhh... Marc!”

 

Something about Kay saying his name when they made love always did something to Marc.  

 

Marc heard his name.  And all he needed was another pull, then he’s coming harder than ever.  Every time.

 

 

******

 

(Kay)

 

 

“I guess we are old news now.” Kay drawled.  Wiggling his eyebrows to Marc.

 

Marc shook his head and slid his arm around Kay’s shoulders, pulling him to Marc’s side, and Kay wrapped his arm around Marc’s waist in response. It felt good to stand like this, the heat of Marc’s body and the smell of the citrus soap from their home gave Kay a sense of solidarity.  

 

Kay still hung out with Britt from time to time, but Frank’s promotion party today was the first time he saw nearly everyone from his old unit.  Marc has kept his word and stayed by Kay’s side.  After the initial few awkward minutes and a few stares from old colleagues, no one batted an eye when Marc touched Kay on his shoulder or held his hand. 

 

Just when Kay was ready to relax, he looked up and dropped his hand on Marc’s waist.

 

“What?” Marc turned to him.  

 

“Your 4 o’clock, incoming.” Kay said through gritted teeth.

 

Marc followed Kay’s direction and looked ahead.  They both stood comically straight side by side as Bettina stepped into the garden.  A tall bookish looking guy was a step behind her.   

 

Frank had told them about Bettina’s boyfriend, he’s the newly appointed vice principal from the school where Bettina was teaching.  Sounded like they were quite serious.  Frank said marriage might be on the horizon.  If Kay needed anymore proof, Marc’s happily relief expression when he heard the news, showed whatever remaining affection Marc had for Bettina, it carried no romantic element.

 

Marc touched Kay’s elbow. “Come on, we should go say hi.”

 

Bettina looked nice.  She dressed in an elegant green summer dress and white sandals.  Kay hasn’t seen her for nearly two years.  They were careful not to cross path. Marc would pick up and drop off Jonas from Bettina’s house on his own.  Every Friday and Saturday, Marc got to be with his son.  Their life settled into a pattern built around this schedule.  They still go clubbing and drinking in bars sometimes, but Kay surprised himself by how quickly he adapted to the domesticity.  

 

Kay had no idea what Bettina thought of him, if she considered Kay as the main culprit for the demise of her relationship.  Kay harboured no resentment towards Bettina, he only wished... he only wished Marc was available when they met.  Every relationship has its casualties.  Kay could well have moved to Frankfurt if Marc hadn’t...

 

Bettina greeted them coolly, her eyes lingered on Kay’s face for a second, assessing him.  Then she turned to the tall guy next to her.  “Mats, you’ve met Marc already.  This is his boyfriend, Kay.” 

 

His boyfriend - to Kay, this still sounded surreal, coming out of Bettina’s mouth.

 

Kay put on his most charming smile. “Hi.  Nice to meet you.” 

 

He gave a small nod to Bettina and shook hands with Mats.

 

 

******

 

Kay took off his T-shirt and got into bed.  Even with the windows open, it’s still quite warm in the house.  Maybe they should consider installing an air-conditioner... what with global warming.

 

“Hey.  What are you thinking so hard there?” Marc embraced him from behind.  His chest touching Kay’s back, turning up the temperature in their bedroom even more.

 

Kay turned his head and kissed Marc on the lips.  “Air-conditioning.”  

 

Marc chuckled.  “I know how to make you sweat even if we have one.” 

 

“Promises.  Promises.” 

 

Marc snorted. He reached over and turned off the lamp. The darkness was instant and all encompassing. For a few moments they lay quietly, simply enjoying being together after a day of semi-scrutiny by pretty much everyone they knew.

 

“Today went ok, no?” Marc whispered in the dark, rubbing Kay’s leg with his under the summer blanket.

 

Kay grinned.  

 

“What’s so funny?”

 

“Huh?” 

 

“I can feel you smiling.” 

 

“Just thinking how different that Mats guy is from you.” 

 

Kay could tell Marc’s brow furrowed at that. “So?  Maybe she doesn’t have a type.”

 

“Yeah.  Maybe.  I’m happy for her.” Kay sighed.  It’s true.  He wanted Bettina to be happy.

 

“Me too.  It’s a load off my mind, I have to admit.  Mats seems decent.”

 

“Losing you must be hard for her, especially under such circumstances.” Kay turned around and watched Marc in the darkness.

 

Marc reached out to rub Kay’s stubble, like the way he did that night in the hospital. “Nearly losing you that time was the scariest moment of my life.” Marc confessed.

 

Kay cupped Marc’s hand on his face, his voice gentle and full of love. “Because things that matter are scary.”

 

 

 

The End