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Love Is Ǝvil

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He shut the car door. Room 101, oddly fitting. All of this was rather new to him. Not that he hadn't had many one-night stands before, he was a pro at them. It also wasn't the first time - well, not the very first time at least - he had this kind of one-night stand, just … He didn't feel comfortable doing this. It felt wrong to drive to a motel like this, to sneak in one of the rooms and … to do it with another man.

A shiver ran down his spine.

Come on, Marshall, he told himself, don't get coy now.

In the window of 101 was light already. The guy was early. Or was he late? Didn't matter, it's not like he owed that guy anything.

Marshall's hand shook slightly, when he put it on the door handle. He murmured a curse under his breath. He clenched his fist a couple of times, to make the shaking go away. Maybe it worked? He opened the door.

The room was half lit and seemed clean enough on the first look. The bed was still made. And the guy stood next to it, already opening the buttons of his dress shirt. Dress shirt? Marshall blinked. Why was this guy wearing a suit? This was a seedy motel and they were about to engage in some fast, meaningless sex. Probably not even good sex, if Marshall's experience was anything to go by. And since all he did was one-night stands, that was a pretty safe bet.

Marshall shrugged mentally. "Hey man", he said and took off his jacket.

"Hm", was the answer.

Not one for talking, eh? Probably for the best. Marshall didn't like people, who were noisy during sex. The wrong kind of noisy. They usually ended up saying something wrong anyway. When he did this kind of meet up, he didn't really want to be recognized. And he really didn't want to be asked for an autograph, while his dick was inside another man's ass. Some people had no manners.

He took his shirt off, too, and started on his belt. The other guy was already down to his panties and Marshall couldn't help but look. Of course he had to, that was his sole reason for being here. 

The guy was small, even slightly smaller than Marshall, which was surprising. Usually he was the smallest in a room. Now with his suit off, he didn't look like a stuffy business person at all. The guy had broad shoulders and compact muscles. A couple of scars, a huge one across his hip. He obviously got into trouble quite often. The hands were also big for a guy his size. Marshall anticipated a strong grip, another shiver ran down his spine.

Marshall, you're way too into this. Get a grip on yourself, man.

He didn't care if people were gay or lesbian or trans or whatever. People could be who they wanted and people could have sex with whoever they wanted. But himself? There was strong resistance inside him. Understandably, he had a lot to lose if it ever came out. Every time he went out to a one-night stand like this, he raised the odds of it getting out. People loved gossip.

He intentionally ignored, that he always had this resistance. Even back in the day, when he hadn't had anything to lose and even his life had seemed worthless. Still, he had been fighting these … urges. Just biological urges. 

His eyes were still on the other man, the pale skin glowing in the half lit darkness. Muscles twitched invitingly and a tattoo smiled back from the shoulder blades. Marshall liked tattoos. The man's back was lean and his hips almost seemed fragile. A weird contrast to the well trained biceps. A feeling of familiarity welled up inside Marshall.

That ass was tight. He bit his lip. He would love to bite into those cheeks - and luckily, he would in just a couple of minutes.

He opened his belt fast, lost his pants. This wasn't a moment for patience. Just raw, sweaty sex, certainly fast and then he was out of here.

Marshall bit in the other man's navel. The muscles were hard and pronounced, just like he loved it. Just like he always had wished a body to be when he had been with a woman, back in the days … His dick was hard, itching to be inside this tasty ass. As he had thought: so worth biting into. His teeth marks would probably be there for a couple of days. A strange sense of pride washed over Marshall. This ass just needed teeth marks.

 He decided, the lube was enough now. With a condom on, he positioned himself between the other's legs, also with some scars and definitely not fitting for a ball gown. Where did all these scars come from? Sure, everyone had some, that was just life, but this seemed excessive. Marshall's hand ran down one of these legs, short and strong. He licked the inner thigh, sucking at the skin and feeling the muscles twitch beneath.

The tip of his penis knocked against the sweet, wet hole. "You okay?", he asked in a low voice. Some consideration for the other person should always be. At least Marshall tried. He had been much of an asshole most of his life, something he didn't want to be. Some people might be surprised to hear that.

"Hmm", and a nod.

Really not a big talker this guy. But his dick was just as hard and his moaning spoke for itself.

Marshall pushed in. He moaned and sighed. So hot and tight and just … awesome. It still fazed him how this could feel just great and erotic, but sex with a woman didn't. Wasn't it the same? Between the other's legs, squeezing into a tight, wet hole. Somehow this was different - and much, much better, even with a bad one-night stand.

The other guy rocked his hips, gripped the sheets and had a fine film of sweat on his well-defined body. He reached for his hard dick, some pre-cum on it.

At the same time, Marshall was reaching for it, too. Like in a romantic comedy where the two soon-to-be lovebirds were reaching for the same book or cup of coffee. Just this was a porn movie.

He smirked about this silly thought of his. Like usual, his brain was somewhere else. But nevertheless, he stroked the other man's penis. Not just to be considerate, but also because he really liked the feeling of a dick between his fingers.

In a sober moment, he would call himself crazy for a thought like this. He should like the tender curve of a female hip and the soft feeling of her breasts underneath his fingertips … But he didn't. He wanted to feel the hard flesh of a penis ready to burst in his hands and a low, husky voice moaning his name. Some muscles and sharp angles were like a cherry on top. 

His therapist said, there was nothing wrong with him. He just liked what he liked. Sometimes he believed her. Because you're a romantic and an idiot.

Currently he enjoyed, no, savored the moment. He pushed himself into this sweet hole, groaned, a rush in his body, lust coursing through his limbs. He had a tight grip on the other dick, stroking it, pumping it, loving the feeling of this hot hard piece of flesh in his hand.

He came. Panting he still stroked the other man, till he also came. Didn't take long. Then he collapsed onto the bed and relished this feeling of contentment, with a side of satisfaction. 

This had been better than he anticipated. Quickly he threw the condom away and found a more cushy position on the bed. Just a moment longer before he had to go.

When his breathing was normal again, he dared a quick look to the guy next to him. The face was a bit square, the jaw bone's had an edge and the nose small. Some shadows under his eyes, or was that just the dim light? The short black hair was a mess.

"Hm?" Marshall rolled onto his side to have a better look. There was a gadget behind the man's ear. A hearing aid? That explained his closed off nature. If you couldn't hear, talking probably wasn't much fun.

The guy opened his eyes and looked back.

Oops. He probably shouldn't stare. And he usually didn't! Not at some one-night stand he didn't care anything about. But also not at handicapped people, at least he hoped so. They were people, too, and being stared at was a really shitty feeling. He knew that from experience.

"Uhm … Are you deaf?", he asked and gestured to his ear. He rather faced a situation head on, even embarrassing ones.

The guy made a measured gesture. "Mostly." The voice was deep and full, a bass sound that vibrated through Marshall's nerves. His ears were too sensitive for this shit. The guy spoke in a strange accent, even though he only said one word. Probably, so Marshall assumed, because he couldn't hear himself well but also wouldn't know how it properly sounded like in the first place.

"Does that help, the thingy in your ear?"

"Bit", was the monosyllabic answer. 

Well, this wasn't going to be much of a conversation. Marshall didn't feel like prying about this. After all, just because there was something obvious about you, didn't mean, that was something to talk about. Also something he knew from experience. He got pretty pissed at people, when they couldn't come up with something else to talk about than how fucking famous he was. 

Fuck conversation, it's just a one-night stand, fag! Sometimes his brain was really stupid. He rolled back on his back. Just a couple more moments of relaxation, then he'd drive home. He closed his eyes again.

"More?", asked a deep voice right next to his ear. 

His ear tingled from the puff of air this small word caused. Marshall opened his eyes again and stared into small, dark eyes with shadows under them, a rogue strand of hair was caught on their lashes. "More?", he repeated. Well, he usually didn't do that. It usually wasn't good enough for that, so after he got his orgasm he just went. What else was there?

Now he shrugged. Then nodded. "Yeah, sounds good." It had been better than he thought initially. So why not make the most of it? 

The man already bit into his clavicle, a hand stroked Marshall's body. He really had strong hands with a firm grip. The skin was a little rough, not in a bad way.

Marshall's hand found its way into the black hair. It was short and spiky, but somehow it felt really warm to the touch. The other man just radiated warmth.

Then they kissed. 

They didn't kiss before. That wasn't always sexy, in Marshall's experience. Not every tongue felt good in your mouth, that's just the truth. 

But now they kissed. A hot jolt rushed through his loins. The thin lips felt good on his own and the tongue ravished his mouth. This was more than sexy. His breathing stumbled while they kissed, his arms held tight around the tattooed shoulders. His mind was unable to concentrate on anything else than their tongues intertwined with each other.

This time, they explored more of each other. Not just with those thrilling kisses. Their hands stroked and fondled each other's bodies, discovered how sensitive Marshall's neck was and scraped teasingly against the other man's butt cheeks. Their tongues licking and exploring their muscular bodies, biting into hard flesh and kissing apologetically but without any remorse. Their bodies always close together. All the senses were hot and their arousal was obvious.

The guy, whose name he still didn't know, licked his ear and bit into it. Marshall moaned breathlessly. His head let go of his thoughts. What was a name anyway? He needed nothing else than those hot lips on his earlobe.

Then the low voice whispered: "Make 'em wet." His accent made the command sound serious. Or was that just his nature? While speaking those words, he stuck two of his fingers between Marshall's lips. Not with force, but with determination.

And Marshall did as ordered.

When he was a kid, he'd had problems with authority and people telling him what to do. He still had a bad temper sometimes, if somebody told him what to do and he didn't like doing that. But he also knew that at times other people were right. Which usually made his anger worse. 

Why he now just did what was asked of him? 

It felt … right. 

The arms around him, the hands on his body, the hot skin touching his and the thin lips kissing him. There was a lot of tension in his limbs and mind, a sizzling anticipation of what was about to come. And how lustful everything was. So he dedicated his attention to those fingers and licked them, sucked at them, swallowing them as far into his throat as he could manage. He wanted to prove something, but he wasn't really sure what. How could he think now? He had a job to do: sucking these fingers. So he did and the taste of this man's skin would stay with him for days.

He sighed, when the fingers were pulled out of his mouth. But the short pang he felt, had no time to linger.

The man pushed one of those sweet, wet fingers into Marshall's ass.

"He-hey", he stuttered and propped himself up on an elbow. He didn't do that! He might be a little gay, but he wasn't that gay. "Pull it out."

Dark eyes looked at him. Even though he was deaf, Marshall was certain that the man had understood his objection. But he just grinned, and not in a comforting way.

Not that Marshall needed any comfort. He was a grown man, he didn't need comfort when he was fucking some other dude. He was perfectly fine doing that. Since when? You have panic attacks, homo. Well, not perfectly fine but fine enough. The pleasure it gave him was usually great at silencing the voices in his head that knew him better. The other way around though? An absolute no-go.

"Pull it out", he repeated. He could feel the finger inside him. How could he not? His muscle clenched around it. The heat was still soaring through his veins. He bit his lip, a habit he wasn't always aware of. A sign of nervousness and insecurity. But right now he was fully fucking aware of it and what he was nervous and unsure about: He might like this. He might be that kind of gay, too. Something he barely dared thinking about. There was this resistance again and angst like some lousy teenager too scared to kiss. He knew at some point he had to face this. You always had to.

But not now. He just wanted to fuck, have a good night for once and hopefully fall asleep in his bed later. Getting fucked in his own ass was not on the menu!

The dark eyes were still looking intensely at him, right down to his soul. That sounded corny. Think so? It's straight from a cheesy romance novel. Their black seemed to know no light. All of Marshall's shadows just disappeared inside them. Did these black holes for eyes already know, what Marshall was too afraid to admit to himself?

The two of them were still holding in place, unmoving and barely breathing, just looking into each other's eyes. Black against blue, a fierce battle. Marshall wasn't one to back down. He always fought. He had to or else he wouldn't have had much of a life in the first place. And he was determined to never lose. This time was no exception. He had a rule: his ass ain't gonna get fucked. This dumb suit would follow his rules or else he … 

Or else you what? Would he just get up and leave? Ending this with some sad masturbation at home? That seemed like too great a loss. These black eyes so close, knowing, maybe even caring … No, that was just arrogance. The thin lips showed only the slightest hint of a smile, but the provocation was palpable, as was his defeat.

With a snort Marshall finally broke. He didn't want to end this alone, just his hand for pleasure. This had been great sex so far, better than he had had in months. What was a little gay extra, if it felt this good? Let future Marshall deal with that. 

He kissed the other man again, dug his fingers into the black hair and pressed his body against his. Then, the finger moved deeper inside him and Marshall felt it. The finger got company and Marshall felt that, too. It felt a little weird, but not in a bad way, just in a new way. He heard himself pant and moan, as the fingers moved more. He didn't know if he liked it, but his body certainly did. The traitor!

Not for long, the fingers were replaced by the man's erection. Pushed hard and deep into Marshall. He screamed with pleasure and a hint of pain. That felt really big … Again his muscles clenched around it, he would have liked to think because his ass wanted to push this goddamn dick out like it should, but a shiver ran through his body, again telling him otherwise. His hips moved all on their own and towards the body above him and he moaned even more. The guy chuckled softly.

You're such a fag, Marshall.

Marshall gripped the sheets hard, but that didn't help. He wrapped his arms around the broad shoulders above him, that helped a little. His insides seemed to burn with lust and digging his nails into the man's back seemed to release some of that. Not enough of it. When was the last time he had been this overwhelmed? Another thing for future Marshall to figure out.

The wave of his orgasm broke over him. Broke was a particularly good word. He felt exhausted in the best of ways. His limbs were heavy and his breathing too, his heart beat itself right out of his chest. Just bliss. Something he didn't have much of in his life.

However, he also felt like crying. He had broken his rule and it hadn't been disgusting at all. He wasn't just a little gay because women were bitches no sane person could live with, he was totally gay. Fuck.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a smirk.

Chapter Text

He cursed under his breath as he put his clothes back on.

Now, he really was that gay … Marshall sighed at this thought. He knew, that wasn't really how these things went down. It's not like having had sex like this made him gay. His therapist had explained to him, you just were. It was one of those things you were born with, just a part of you. 

That didn't mean, he had to like it, though. And Marshall definitely didn't. Couldn't he have been normal in just one way? Was that too much to ask? Apparently. Nothing in his life ever went normal, why should this? 

But still. He had a mental image of himself, of what he wanted to be like. He wasn't always great at making it real, but he tried. Of course the most important aspect of that image was being a father. Most of the time he thought he did a pretty good job at this. Not perfect and he had failed a lot over the years, but all in all it seemed fine. At least his daughters loved him, he was mostly sure about that. That was all that counted.

Also, the image included what kind of man he wanted to be. A tough question for everyone, of course. Some words always came up: strong, reliable, decisive - masculine. The last one was really tricky. What did that mean, masculine? Not you, that's for sure! Generally, so he was very sure, that did not include liking the touch of another man's penis. Much less getting fucked with that other man's penis. Somehow that didn't seem like a very manly thing to do, even though only men were involved. Wasn't that a funny thing?

Didn't exactly bring him into a laughing mood just now. He closed the motel room door and scurried quickly to his car. Not something his butt appreciated right now, that traitor.

While he put his seat belt on, he said to Big Eight: "Let's go." 

His bodyguard started the motor and drove off the parking lot. Quietly the radio played some tunes. Nothing of interest and nothing Marshall cared to recognize. His mind was still very much in that motel room, in the arms of the man he didn't know the name of. In the app his nickname was Benriya, but that wasn't a real name. Maybe Benjamin? Somehow that guy didn't look like a Benjamin to him.

Why did he even care!

"Was long tonight", Big Eight said at a left turn.

Marshall shrugged. "So? Ain't like I need to care about school night or anything."

"True", Big Eight smiled slightly about the joke. He was not big on showing his emotions, something Marshall appreciated about him. 

After some more silence and a couple more traffic lights, Big Eight spoke again: "Can I ask you a personal question?"

Marshall had spent the drive so far staring out the window. Trying hard not to think about the last couple hours. But he could taste the man's fingers on his tongue. Which obviously wasn't a thought he wanted to have in front of other people. If only it was his face that heated up … You're such a horny little fag, it's disgusting, you know. Distraction welcome. "Hm? Sure? We're friends, that's personal already."

"Still, there are layers of personal."

"What's up? You're in some kind of trouble?"

Big Eight shook his head. "No, nothing like that." For a short moment, he looked over to Marshall. "Aren't you getting tired of nights like this?"

Marshall met the glance questioningly.

"I mean", Big Eight explained further, "I've been driving you to some motel room for a couple of years now. It's rare when I see a face twice. I know you have a lot on your plate and meeting new people ain't easy any way you slice it, but … Most people want something stable, with real affection. Right?"

"Probably. How would I know what most people want?" He didn't look at himself as a special person, but his life wasn't exactly regular. There probably were a couple of things that most people and him wanted differently.

"The question is, do you?"

Of course he did! He was a human after all, of course he wanted company. Real company. That was part of the human condition and usually a good one. He liked coming home to a loving hug and an understanding smile, maybe a kiss or two. Just having somebody around that he really liked was a good feeling all on its own. Could you sound more domestic? You wanna be housewife or what? Plus, spending time with friends was fun and a healthy relationship offered a lot in this regard.

But as an answer to Big Eight's question he shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, why not? But that usually doesn't turn out well. I don't have much luck with relationships."

"Did you try recently? You seem to meet … let's say different people now than you would've in the past. Maybe that'll make a difference."

Marshall shot a scrutinizing look at him. "I ain't meeting different people. It's all the same as it's always been." That was a lie, a big lie. Naturally he met different people than in the past, he was trying to be gay for crying out loud. Which you also suck at, just so you know. If he still was meeting women, then he wouldn't have much of a gay night out, would he? But he wasn't prepared to admit that yet or for anyone to know this. He should've seen it coming, that Big Eight figured it out. He drove him to these meet ups and his eyes worked fine, so it just had been a matter of time. Sometimes, Marshall felt really stupid.

"I see the people you meet and it's not exactly rocket science to figure out why you meet them."

"That's none of your business", Marshall snarled. Deliberately he turned to the window and watched the street lights pass by.

Big Eight looked him over, Marshall could feel his eyes moving across him. "You're right, it's not." A measured tone in his voice, calm and quiet, but firm. "Still, I think you should try. You're a caring person, as far as I know. It'll probably do you good to be in a relationship. Some people can be alone well, some people are better when they're with someone else."

Marshall grumbled. He knew that himself. And he also knew that he was one of the latter people. He liked having his friends around and he liked being in a relationship, at least as long as everything was fine. Having people around him made time more enjoyable and life seemed less hard. Being with people silenced some of the voices in his head, the thoughts he couldn't silence himself. Oh, you don't like me? Screw you! When he was all by himself for too long or worse shut himself off from everyone else, he just got depressed and miserable. He knew that!

"And", Big Eight continued, totally ignoring Marshall's grumbling, "If in the past you only had relationships with the wrong kind of people for you, well, how could've that worked out? Sometimes people don't match well and that has nothing to do with luck. But if you're trying some different people now, you probably should try this properly. Don't you think?"

"No, I don't", Marshall answered quickly. Too quick and wrong, too. His therapist would very much approve, if Marshall tried this properly. How else could you work on a problem seriously? And he had a problem, tons of them, but this was a big one. He knew that. He knew, he should try harder. Just having some quick fuck with someone's ass didn't do anything to solve his problems. He wasn't really trying to be gay here, because he really didn't want to be gay in the first place. Why would he try then?

Because you are.

Because denying himself made him unhappy, miserable, distraught, depressed … There was a long list of words. Because he hated himself. That led to another long list of words: more depression of course, but also anger, anxiety, addiction and those were just the fun words with A. If he wanted to lead a better life, he needed to work through this. His therapist only saw one kind of success: accepting that he was gay.

Again, he didn't want to be fucking gay.

"No? So, you're not really trying to change then?"

"Of course I'm trying to change." He didn't like the person he had become over the years and he tried to change that. But still, that didn't mean he had to become gay. He could be a better person and still be straight. Other people could do that, so he could do it, too. Your delusions know no bounds. Except for the fact, he wasn't straight. This night cemented that deep into his brain. He could still hear his own voice, screaming lustful with every thrust into his body.

"Well?", Big Eight asked expectantly. "If you try to change, then why not do it properly?"

Marshall growled low. "Shut up."

Chapter Text

The ceiling looked down on him disapprovingly.

Marshall flipped it off, then he rolled his eyes about himself. He was such an idiot.

He should've left the motel when he had had the chance. One orgasm was enough for one night, but no, he of course couldn't get his mouth full enough. As usual. Well, figuratively. At least that he hadn't done. 


Instantly, he had an image in his head, himself kneeling in front of that guy, his lips around the erection and his eyes closed with relish. Swallow that cum, fag.

"Oh god", he sighed, covering his face with his hands. His cheeks were too hot and so was his abdomen. Again, he heard his own voice moaning lustful.

He could still taste the guy, his tongue and his fingers. Oh fuck, how he had sucked those fingers ... So then, he had gotten his mouth full. Great, all gay boxes checked. Now what?

Marshall rolled on his side and pulled the blanket over his head. He hadn't felt this awful in a long time and he wasn't exactly thrilled to feel like shit again. If he could just disappear. He had thought he was over that. These nights out were making it worse. What was his therapist thinking? He would go out on stage and come out as gay, find a cute cottage in the country side and move there with his boyfriend and two tiny dogs? Fuck that! That ain't never gonna happen.

Next time he saw his therapist, he'd tell her to shut it. This gay thing wasn't working out and even if he'd be fine with being gay - which he absolutely wasn't - he couldn't live like this anyway. No reason to try what you couldn't have. He had enough other problems to work through.

Like, how he was crying right now. He didn't even know what he was crying over. This was just fucked up. Gay sex made you into wuss. Don't flatter yourself, you've always been a softie. He couldn't afford that. One more reason not to be gay. 

He still felt a tingling sensation where he absolutely shouldn't. He could still feel the thin lips moving on his, the other man's tongue licking his ear, the stranger's hands stroking all over his body ...

Marshall hated himself.

Chapter Text

"Look, Doc, this was a stupid idea", he said barely standing in the room. He closed the wooden door behind him and stepped to the couch. It was a two seater, light grey and a little coarsely meshed. Marshall actually liked this piece of furniture.

His therapist sat in a chair consistent with the couch, one leg crossed the other and her hands rested patiently in her lap. She had long brown hair with just a hint of curls. Obviously she dressed in business attire, a woman couldn't afford to be casual if she wanted to go places or be perceived as professional. As far as Marshall's experience went, she knew her stuff. She wasn't the first therapist he'd tried, but even though she was a woman he could actually talk to her. And she listened. He didn't feel the urge to boast about some stupid stuff and even if he was ashamed of his thoughts, she always took him seriously.

Now she looked at him curiously. "What stupid idea exactly?"

"The whole gay thing. Didn't work out. I'm done with it. Let's move on."

"You actually tried it?" She sounded surprised and disbelieving.

He nodded.

"How was it?", she asked. She never sounded pestering or annoyed or furious like all other women Marshall knew. Her voice was always calm, soothing even. Most of the time it didn't bother him when she asked him stuff. And she asked a lot.

Now he shifted uncomfortable in his seat. "Didn't work out, told you already."

"What didn't work out?" She always wanted to know the details, all the little details. "Did you not find a man to your liking? Or did you not get aroused? Or did your temper get the better of you and it ended in a fight? Or did he have a bad temper? Or did he ask for an autograph? I can imagine that might be more of a turn off for you."

"It is", he mumbled. Just because she was his therapist, didn't mean he rushed to the opportunity to tell her how he cried himself to sleep. And he very well knew that was exactly the situation he should tell her about. "But I found some guys that didn't", he explained. "That just didn't work out." He shrugged.

She looked him over and made some thoughtful humming noises. He was sure she knew he was lying, but her voice stayed even. No prejudice, no condescension, no anger, no wisecrack - just a normal question: "Does that mean, you're not homosexual?"

He flinched slightly at the sound of that word. "I'm done with it. Case closed." That didn't sound convincing. He really needed to work on his acting skills.

"It's a yes or no question."

He didn't answer. He just looked down to his shoes, they were black with red laces. He liked this color combination a lot. Its meaning could be scary or erotic or just stylish and it could switch between them in an instant. Right now it seemed to accuse him. He could hear her question - that word - echoing in his head.

"Those can be the toughest questions", she said and sounded like she understood exactly how hard this was. "Why don't you walk me through one of these encounters you had. You said you found some guys, right? Maybe there was one with whom it didn't work out the most."

He didn't say a word. Of course he knew which night he should tell her about, the one he could still taste in his mouth and still feel on his body. The night when he had cried. The night that could never repeat itself.

Suddenly his mouth was dry but he didn't dare to move and pick up the glass of water from the table. If he just sat here unmoving, his mouth wouldn't move either.

Well, that he should know better.

He met her eyes. She sat in her chair waiting, looking at him with kind expectation. That's what he liked about her, she never rushed him.

He took a sip from that glass of water. "There's this app", he started in a hushed voice. He decided to tell her about some other night. He'd done more than one of these hook-ups. If he told her about a one-night stand with godawful sex, she would understand that this couldn't work for him. "The profile wasn't all that special but the pic was nice. We agreed to meet at this motel. He was already half naked when I stepped in the room. He has a tattoo across his shoulder blades ..." Marshall bit his lip. That wasn't the one he wanted to tell. Of course his mouth had a mind of its own again. Traitor. Only once it could've just said what he wanted to say. Just once.

"Do you like tattoos?" she asked, interrupting his thoughts.

He looked up. "Yeah, I do."

A short nod, but no further question from her. She wanted him to continue with his story.

He sighed. Fine, then the story of that guy. The first round should be enough for his therapist to know, because the second was too embarrassing to tell. "Anyway, we got our clothes off and onto the bed and ... well, I had sex with him." He shrugged. What else was there to say? "Do you want details on how we had sex exactly?", he asked her almost defiantly. Only almost.

That raised a smile on her lips. "No, that's your private life, I don't need to know that. Just tell me this: Did you rush out of that motel room afterwards or did you want to stay with him just a little longer?"

He exhaled in defeat. "Kinda both."

"How so?"

"After the first time I felt good, you know. Relaxed. The cushion was surprisingly soft, too. I was ... content? He wasn't much of a talker, he's deaf, that's probably why, so ...", he shrugged again.

"Would you have liked to talk to him?"

"It was just a one-night stand", he tried to dodge the question. But he knew better. "I don't know. Perhaps? I think so."

She nodded briefly. "What happened next?"

Marshall felt his cheeks burn. "He wanted another round." He couldn't tell her about that. He couldn't tell anybody. Ever.

"I'm assuming, you agreed to it."

He didn't answer but his silence probably was answer enough.

"But after this second round you weren't relaxed anymore?"

He still didn't answer, just bit his lip. His cheeks burned like hell and so did his eyes. Don't cry! Don't cry! Don't cry! He had to convince her to let this go already. This was just making it worse, didn't she see? He couldn't be gay!

"Marshall, are you okay?"

No, he wasn't. He pinched the root of his nose, trying hard to hold back the tears. He still didn't know why this made him cry. He just hated it, all of it. "He broke my rule." His voiced cracked.

She leaned forward in her chair and asked with her soft voice: "What rule did he break?"

Marshall bit his lip even harder. How could he say that out loud? He didn't even want to think about it. Why was he like this? He felt so awful. It had felt so awesome. "He ... fucked me." His voice was barely audible. He shuddered under his own words.

She made another thoughtful noise. Her next words were chosen carefully. "Did he break that rule ... or did you break that rule with him?"

He buried his face in his hands. "I wanna do it again."

"And that is not a good thing?"

"Of course not!", he snapped at her.

She didn't even blink. "Why not? That is a totally normal thing to do between  consenting adults."

"I know that", he growled. "But it ain't for me, aight. I shouldn't - I can't do this!" He jumped from the couch and paced through the small office. He was still biting his lip and it hurt, so he bit even more.

"Why not?", she asked again.

"You know why!" He shot an evil look at her. "Stop askin' stupid questions."

She was as calm as ever. "That is my job, you know. They're designed to make you think about yourself. I know that it hurts sometimes, most of the time even, but it will be worth it in the end. I promise."

He snorted disgruntled. "Not if I lose everything!"

"Like what?"

A frustrated sound left his throat. These questions were annoying the hell out of him today. He didn't want to answer any of them. Not one! "My daughters, for starters. My brother, of course. My friends probably. My colleague's respect. My reputation. My career. My work. My fans. My goddamned life. Just fucking all of it!" He ran shaky hands over his face. Fuck, now he really was crying. Shit! You're such a pussy! No wonder you love dicks.

She pushed a tissue box into the middle of the table. "Did your daughters ever say anything to you? Something that indicated they would have such a strong homophobic viewpoint?"

"Shut your mouth!", he growled dangerously. "My daughters are good girls, the best. They would never do that."

She nodded in agreement. "Of course they wouldn't, you raised them right. They love you, because you are a good father. I don't think they care much about who you go out with. They want you to be happy, don't they?"

He frowned and looked at her with suspicion.

"From what you told me about them, they seem like kind-hearted and open-minded young women. They will understand."

He sat down on the couch again and took some of the tissues to dry his face. "Even if, I could never tell them. They already endure so much because of me, I don't need to add this to the list."

"By this, you mean, being homosexual."

"Stop saying that word!", he yelled at her.

She payed his outburst no mind. "What word would you prefer instead?"

He slumped into the couch cushions. "None of them."

"What word do you use when you're thinking about this? What would you use to describe yourself?"

He grumbled. "Not that one. And I'm not describing myself as anything. This ain't a thing, stop making it one."

"Judging by the bite on your lip, it has been a thing for a while. It might be a good idea to work through this before you mutilate yourself more seriously. This can be a frightening and hurting topic, but that's precisely what I'm here for." She gave him a consoling smile. "And just because you worked through this and found an answer, doesn't mean you have to go and tell everybody. This is, after all, your private life and nobody needs to know anything you don't want them to know."

He raised his eyebrows. "Isn't the point of this all to be all fine and good with stuff like this and come out of the closet and shit?"

"For most people, yes", she confirmed. "But not everybody is in a position to do so. There's still a lot of prejudice going around these days and at times, it's the smarter move to not say anything. Like you said, some people have a lot to lose."

"That's exactly my fucking point." Finally! He felt triumphant. He'd won this argument. He couldn't be gay and he wouldn't be. You already are and you love it. Case closed. "I have way too much to lose to do any of this shit. And I wouldn't do this to my girls, they got through all my antics and they deserve some fucking peace for once."

She shook her head. "So do you. You also deserve some peace of mind about who you are. Isn't that why you're here? Because you're hurting and this is the cure."

"Oh fuck that. What's that supposed to mean anyway?" He was confused by her last words. What exactly did she mean with cure? His stomach tightened. 

She looked him in the eye. Her expression was calm and serious and ... caring? Did she really care about him? He payed her enough money for these sessions, so she better did. 

"Why were you crying?" she asked.

"I didn't cry", he huffed. "Not for long at least, that don't count."

"Everything counts."

He eyed her back. She knew, he'd cried before, didn't she. How the fuck did she know? "How would I know? You're the therapist, you tell me. That's what I pay you for."

"You wouldn't learn much, if I just told you everything."

He rolled his eyes. "Am I in school again or what? Spit it."

She gave him another long look. Probably weighing her options: telling him even if that wasn't much of a lesson, or not telling him and dealing with his stubborn ass. As if he would engage with her lesson. He never had been a good student, he wouldn't start now.

"Tell me", she started, "if any of this rings a bell. Back in school the words homosexual, gay and faggot were just for abuse. Kids can be really mean. Probably said to you well before you knew they were true. Girls didn't appeal to you all that much and if the world would be fair, that wouldn't be a big deal. But it was. Maybe there was a boy in your grade that you liked and you told him. Maybe he liked you back, maybe he didn't. Maybe he beat you up because of this, maybe some other guys did. Possibly both. Either way, you decided to hide yourself. If you found a cute girlfriend, no one would doubt you. That relationship didn't go well, it was doomed to fail from the start, but you stayed with her anyway. As long as nobody found you out, it was worth the pain. Now you had a family, who could doubt your sexuality with that? Plus, you had a little daughter to care for, which meant your desires, your very self could disappear into that. There is no room to be selfish in a family and that makes denying yourself easy. In the end all this pain, panic and paranoia breaks a man and in an unstable life this has dangerous consequences. Self-loathing rarely has only one cause, though some weigh more heavily than others. Believing the insults and prejudices of your youth is the reason you're crying now. You thought, when you halfheartedly tried some meaningless sex, you could outsmart me and carry on with your lies as if nothing had happened. That backfired. In that night, in the arms of that man you felt the truth. You can't run away anymore." She looked at him intently, observing his reactions closely.

At first he didn't even want to listen to her. If he showed indifference, she had to stop at some point. When she realized she was on the wrong track, they could go back to business and talk about his addiction or whatever. But with each word Marshall's eyes widened. Her words were like punches. Regardless how soft she spoke or how quiet her voice was, she aimed at his core and it shattered underneath the pressure. She tore through his defenses. He wanted to be angry at her, to lash out and drown her words out with his own voice shouting, to punch back and with fists, too, if he had to. You fucking faggot. He was angry at himself.

Marshall clenched his teeth.

Somehow all energy had left his body. He was weak and felt like crying again. You're a gay piece of shit. Was he so obvious? How did she know all this? Did everybody know? He needed to hide it better. Nobody could know! He should've never went to that motel.

Marshall's hands shook, still holding the tissue he had used to wipe his tears away earlier. Now it seemed meaningless, because even more tears rolled down his face.

He was defeated. Every word was true and there was no denying it. This story sounded so sad. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You love dicks, you only have yourself to blame. How could he live like this?

He could not.


He raised his eyes. "Why?" His voice broke.

"There are no reasons."

Chapter Text

He stared into the fridge with disgust. His nose wrinkled up on the impulse and, finally, he exhaled audibly as he shut the door again. There was nothing here he wanted to eat. Well, he didn't want to eat at all but of course you had to at some point. If you found something you could bring down your pipe, that was.

He sat back at the kitchen table. A notepad lay open and had some notes scribbled on its page. He was chewing on the end of his pen, a bad habit of his. The words on the page didn't make much sense to him. Sure, he had written them down there but that didn't mean shit. It wasn't a rhyme, he was trying to figure out, that would've been so much easier. No, he was trying to figure out something very different, almost the opposite. At least, his therapist wanted him to figure it out. He knew he should, but he couldn't bring the words into focus, much less his thoughts.

His honest thoughts, she had pressed him.

He grumbled frustrated und ran his hand over his short hair. He should just ditch her and finde some other therapist. Or maybe just ditch the whole therapy thing altogether. He had been sober for more than two years now and even though he was back to work and back on stage, he didn't feel tempted, not for alcohol or weed and pills didn't enter his mind like that anymore. He still rapped about them, of course. What else was he gonna write about? But he was good. His addiction needed no therapy no more.

He had other problems, though. Obviously! He'd had a melt down in his therapist's office, for fuck's sake. He had cried himself to sleep the other night, not generally a sign of a healthy mind.

Her words still spun in his head. How did she know all this shit? He thought, he was pretty good at hiding it. It didn't take much effort anymore, he had a whole routine for this. The bad and public history of his relationship failures and the rather misogynistic lyrics of his songs actually helped. People generally didn't expect him to care for women, not in a fond or tender kind of way, so there was no need to pretend. They didn't even expect him to like the general idea of dating or relationships and he had no need to correct them. So how the fuck did she find out? Why had she brought that up in the first place? Way before he got into this whole motel situation, she had this crazy idea in her mind he might be gay. Why did she think that? Next time he saw her, he needed to ask. If it was so obvious, he needed to change something. Immediately.

He sighed deeply.

She was right, though. And he hated that. He also hated, that it was just as obviously a problem and he had to work through it. Couldn't he just forget about all this? No, fag, you love dick. Stop crying over it. Sometimes he hated his head.

His life shouldn't have so much hate in it. He shouldn't hate himself so much and he thought, he'd done better in the last couple of years. He wanted to do better! But some things never changed ...

"Dahad!", a high pitched whine pierced his ears and a hand waved in front of his face.

Marshall blinked a second and fixed his eyes on his daughter. Judging by her pouting she had stood there for a while already, too long a while for her. "What up, Hai-Hai?" A quick movement of his hands flipped the notepad over.

"Lainy doesn't wanna help me study. The biology exam's tomorrow and I need someone to test me on it."

Marshall smiled with pride. His kids were really smart and they studied hard, he was so glad they didn't take after him with their school work. He tousled her hair a little. "Sure, I can do that. Sit down."

She straightened her hair again and gave him an annoyed look. But she sat down and gave him the book with the colorful highlighters and sticky notes all over the place. He still didn't know, how she could learn like this. As long as it worked for her.

"Pages 231 through 258", she told him.

"Aight", he mumbled and looked for said pages. "Let's have a look. What subject you're on anyway?" He found the pages and read the headline: Developmental biology: reproduction and ontogeny. Great, exactly what he needed right now, more sex talk. 

"Don't panic, no human experiments involved", his daughter said reassuringly and smirked at the same time. She could be so cheeky, that she definitely took after him.

"Don't try me, you only turn red like a tomato again. There's still plenty we haven't talked about yet, you know. I got some experience with reproduction, my child."

She tilted her head. "That doesn't count. There's a time limit for these things and you, dear father, are way passed it. I had more dates this month than you had in the last couple of years."

He arched his eyebrows. "What?"

"You sure you don't revert back to a virgin after some time?" He saw her eyes twinkle with mischief. Oh, she so took after him sometimes and her big, innocent blue eyes did nothing to hide it.

He lowered the book again. "I go on dates, what do you think?" He was so stupid. Why did he fall for this? He had no reason to justify himself to his daughter and he sure as shit wasn't going to tell her about the dates he recently had had. "I just don't tell you girls, that's all. Or do I need your permission?"

"You do?", she asked surprised. "You never bring anyone home."

He shrugged. "Why would I?"

She tilted her head again and looked at him closely. "Don't you like any of them?" Not really a question and her tone was lurking, a little disbelieving. Maybe disapproving?

He shrugged again. "I'm not looking for something. It's better this way."

"You don't need to hold out because of us, you know that, right? We're big girls, we can deal with our dad having a girlfriend."

"Yeah, I know."

Hailie leaned forward in her chair, curiosity all over her face. "So, are you seeing someone? Is she nice? What does she do? Where did you guys meet? Does she live in the city? Does she have kids, too? When are you bringing her home?" Girls and gossip, the bane of humanity.

Marshall's phone beeped. Marshall's phone never beeped, he hated notifications, but now it did.

"Is that her?", Hailie asked and reached for his phone.

He was faster, luckily, and snatched his phone away from underneath her fingers. The display showed a notification from the dating app he used, there was a new message from Benriya: wanna cum tonite? 

Marshall's dick twitched. Instantly he had the guy's taste in his mouth and images flashed before his eyes of him sucking that guy's dick. Why was he imagining that of all things? Because you'll love it. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"It is her", his daughter realized and had a big fat grin on her face. "You actually have a girlfriend, how cute is that."

He looked up. "What?", his voice was thin. He cleared his throat. "No, I ain't."

"Oh yes, you do. It's written all over you face, dad."

Let's hope not!

"Don't you have an exam to study for?", he asked stiffly and opened her book again.

Chapter Text

Why was he here? Why did he come here? Why had he answered that fucking text? Why was heat pooling in the pit of his stomach? What the hell was he doing?

His forehead slumped on the steering wheel. He even drove himself here to avoid any more of Big Eight's thoughtful stares. One more stupid thing, didn't add much to this whole stupid situation. All of this felt kind of dirty. Marshall's dirty little secret.

There was already light in room 101, exactly like last time. But he was determined to hold up his rule tonight. There was no funny business going on here, just some quick release. 

Honestly, he didn't believe himself.

He hit the steering wheel and growled at himself. The door jerked open and he climbed out of his car. Another glance at the window, he saw the shadow of a man.

His dick twitched again. Another growl.

Marshall stepped into the motel room. Immediately his eyes stuck to the man's back, the tattooed shoulder blades, the hard muscles, the butt cheeks he wanted to sink his teeth into. Fuck. "Sup."

The man turned around, a short flick of his wrist indicated a greeting. Dark hair brushed his eyes, still shadows underneath them. His shirt and the blazer hung over the back of a chair.

Marshall took his jacket off. His sweater, too, which was pulled from his arms. A heated kiss on his lips and the man stood right in front of him, he could feel the warmth radiate from him. The stranger's fingers opened Marshall's belt, a strong grip pulled his pants down.

"Your name?", Marshall asked under his breath. He didn't need to know, a nameless one-night stand was exactly what this should be. Knowing the name of his dirty little secret just made it more real. He absolutely didn't need that. But he wanted it anyway.

The man looked at him questioningly.

"Your name", he repeated with more strength in his voice. As if that would help a deaf person.

The man grinned for a second. "Nicolas." The voice was low and husky, Marshall felt his ears heat up. The accent just made the sound more sexy.

A finger tapped against his chest. Was that the counter question? "Marshall", he answered. 

The other man repeated the two syllables of his name and his nerves tingled at the sound. 

Another heated kiss. He dug his nails into the man's - into Nicolas's back and he could feel the muscles at work. Faintly he remembered to step out of his pants as they moved to the bed. As Nicolas sat down, he pulled Marshall with him. Their kiss never breaking. He sighed with pleasure when their bodies connected, skin touching skin. His hands stroked over Nicolas's chest, scratched the pale skin, pinched the nipples.

Nicolas sighed quietly. His hands stroking the sides of Marshall's torso, down his back and pinched one of his ass cheeks.

A moan left Marshall's mouth and got sucked in between their lips. "Don't do that", he mumbled. He tried to prop himself up, his fingers dugging into Nicolas's chest for stabilization. But he couldn't break their kiss, his tongue just wouldn't leave the other's thin lips.

Nicolas nibbled at his lower lip, sucking it into his mouth. Marshall's moan got stuck in his throat and he just lay down on this warm, sexy body again. His fingers ran through the spikey, black hair.

Another squeeze of his ass cheek. Marshall broke from their kiss and sat up. He groaned low, Nicolas's hard-on rubbed against his ass now, delightully worse. "Stop that."

Nicolas cocked his eyebrows.

Marshall shook his head. 

Strong hands gripped his sides and threw him onto the bed. A surprised yelp as he hit the mattress with his back. Nicolas's hands ravished his body, touching him everywhere, scratching the skin, pinching his flesh. And Marshall twisted underneath him, stretched towards the unstoppable fingers. He moaned with pleasure, even more so when Nicolas kissed and licked and bit his way down his body. A low caw left his lips when Nicolas nibbled on his navel.

His head jerked up and his eyes searched for Nicolas's. But the man was sucking Marshall's dick and … A long moan and his head dropped back onto the pillow. Too hot, too good, too much.

Not enough.

He dug his hands into Nicolas's hair, wanting him to do more so badly. But the man stopped, rather he licked and bit and sucked on Marshall's thigh. His leg trembled underneath those lips. "Fuck", he panted and pulled Nicolas up. He needed these lips on his own. Their tongues danced with each other.

Nicolas's body lay down on his, their skin touched, their erections stroked each other. He moaned again and his hips moved on their own, wanted more of that prickling sensation. His legs closed around Nicolas's waist, pulling him in even more. Just more.

A pleasured sigh and his hips moved again as a hand scraped along his ass on its way down. A hot jolt rushed through his stomach. "Shit", he cursed, running a hand through his hair. This shouldn't feel … Another hot kiss, another hot touch of their hard dicks rubbing against each other. A craving spread through his body that he shouldn't endulge.

"Fine, whatever", he mumbled more to himself than to Nicolas, who was sucking at the nape of his neck - turns out, he loved that. Not just that. This time he rolled his hips on purpose, they both moaned. His hand reached down and tugged at Nicolas's hard-on, stroking it and loving the sensation this caused in his fingers. He could hardly let it go, but he needed to. So he slid the hard flesh down between them and Marshall groaned with pleasure as he felt the tip knocking against his hole. He bit his lips as he looked to the other man.

In Nicolas's eyes he saw amusement twinkle and he kissed him again, puzzlingly it was gentle and soft this time. His hands moved down Marshall's body again, teasing his flesh with pleasure. The path was hot but quick, fingers invaded his hole. Marshall groaned as an answer and his muscles trembled, moved towards the intruders. He cursed again.

The preparation didn't take long. Marshall liked to think, this was because Nicolas was too impatient and just wanted to get on with the fucking. Which he approved of. Their voices filled the room. His body convulsed as the dick slid inside him. Desire and lust were palpable.

The next moment, Marshall lay on his stomach and the friction of the warm sheets against his hard dick brought out another moan. Reminded him, that he should want more action there. But Nicolas pushed inside him again, gripping his hips hard. Marshall moved against him, pushed back, pushed up. He writhed underneath each thrust.

Another long, relishing groan as Nicolas reached for his dick.

He panted heavily and lay flat on his stomach on the bed. His fist loosened slowly around the sheets he had grabbed. They had so broken his rule again. Shit. And his ass was totally hooked. Fuck.

Next to him lay Nicolas, also heavily breathing. Some sweat glistened on his raising chest, his dog tags sprawled all over the muscles. He glanced over, their eyes met and Nicolas grinned again. His sexy, mean grin.

Marshall shoved their shoulders together. "Stop that", he mumbled. That grin sent shivers down his spine, not something he needed from a one-night stand. Well, two-night stand.


Does he ever say more than one word?, Marshall wondered. But he asked something different. "What's with the fancy getup?", he gestured towards the chairs with their clothes. It still puzzled him, why he would dress like that. Nicolas didn't seem like a suit, at least between the sheets he wasn't.

Nicolas's eyes followed the gesture. "Work", was the short answer.

Marshall sighed inaudibly. This guy, never heard of a conversation before or what? "What do you do?" A split second Marshall thought about Hailie and how he now would have an answer to her questions, but he quickly wiped her from his mind. His daughters weren't a thought he wanted to have in a sex ridden motel room.

"Security", Nicolas answered, again with just one word.

"Really? Must be somewhere special then." Most security guards he knew had a uniform or didn't dress special at all, except maybe for a t-shirt calling them out.

Nicolas shrugged. "Night club."

Technically that was two words. Were they getting somewhere conversation-wise? Why even talk to this guy? You got fucked, now get out. "In a suit? Must be a classy night club, eh."

Another shrug. Silence.

Marshall grumbled and closed his eyes. Fine, no talking then, see if he cared. He just wanted to be nice. No need to be a dick about it, he chided himself. He wasn't deaf, so what did he know about holding up a conversation like this. How much help was a hearing aid anyway? Was lip reading actually a thing? He didn't know, if Nicolas actually understood him in some way or just inferred well. If he had to guess every word, he wouldn't have fun with a conversation, either.

"And you?", asked the dark voice.

He looked up in surprise and his heart fluttered. Nicolas had interest in him? Fuck you, faggot, you're just a shitty booty call. "I'm a musician, a rapper actually."


He propped his head up with his hand. "Yes, quite so." He was less successful than he used to be back in the day, but it still dwarfed what most other rappers achieved. "I got my own record label and a radio station and shit like that. I even won an Oscar once." Why was he bragging here? As long as he did music, he didn't really care about these things. Money and fame were just tools, helpful and annoying, but they didn't mean shit as a personality.

Nicolas smirked. "No modesty. Show off."

He shoved Nicolas's shoulder again.

"A gay rapper. Didn't know they existed."

Yeah, neither did Marshall. "I ain't gay", he denied. His therapist could shove it up her ass, he wasn't figuring nothing out and nothing honest, neither. Stupid shit.

Nicolas looked at him skeptically, then he laughed. His bass vibrated through the air and tickled Marshall's senses. He felt his ears heat up again. He wanted to make a beat that sounded like this laugh.

"Your ass is gay, believe me." Nicolas's grin was mean and knowing.

"My ass is a fucking traitor." And so was his mouth, apparently. Marshall never shut up when he should. He knew he should but his mouth just talked on its own. It had gotten better since he was sober, not good enough, though.

"Your ass is hot."

Marshall just looked at him and for a moment these dark eyes transfixed him. He had to look away. His fingers were picking at the creases of the sheets. How did he feel sheepish at those words? You're a girl, that's how. It wasn't like no one had called him hot before. Celebrities got that even if it wasn't true. But he was sure, Nicolas meant it.

Nicolas rolled onto his side and propped himself on an elbow. "So, a big bad rapper like you, what you need an app for?"

"I should ask you the same thing." Didn't he want to talk? But now he got all defensive, that'll surely make things better. However, Marshall did like how Nicolas finally said more than one word per line. He liked his voice. Aw, is our little faggot falling in love? How cute. Let me puke! The accent got more noticeable this way as well, the syllables had a soft tone to them and there was more emphasize on the vowels than Marshall would've put there. Also a little monosonic. It must be weird to speak without hearing much - or any? - of it.

Nicolas leaned forward a little, looking at him closely and with the meanest grin in his eyes. "Let me guess, big bad rappers don't get boy-toys delivered, only bitches."

Maybe not talking had been the better option. This was worse than therapy and this guy liked teasing way too much. Although, Marshall might've said the same thing if their roles were reversed. Sometimes teasing was too much fun.

"Only drunk bitches and schemers, both's a bad fuck and a huge pain in the ass afterward."

"But you like huge things in your ass."

"No, I don't!", he said too loud. He snarled angrily and kicked him. "Fuck off!"

Nicolas's smirk didn't fade. He bend over, pulled Marshall closer and kissed him again.

Marshall shoved his shoulder again, but couldn't help it and returned the kiss. Their tongues intertwined once more. Nicolas's warmth enveloped him and he nestled into the strong arms. Right girl, get clingy, maybe homos like that. Their lips caressed each other, tender touches. No rush, they just savored the other's taste.

As if Marshall could forget.

Chapter Text

Once more he stared into his fridge and once more its insides disgusted him. He took a plain yogurt out and sat at the kitchen counter scowling. He only ate because life forced you to. Although he felt like dying was a good idea, of course he didn't really want to die. He had a family to care for and more music to write. So he ate begrudgingly.

This time he also had cried himself to sleep after he had come home. His eyes were still a little red around the edges. It was infuriating. He shouldn't have gone and he should've been more adamant about his rule. Regardless, he still heard Nicolas's laugh and his ears tingled with the memory.

"Morning dad." Hailie walked into the kitchen and fixed herself some breakfast. 

Whitney was close behind and just slumped down in her chair. She hated to rise early, hated it feverishly. The yawn was big. He felt sympathy for her, he'd had the same problems at her age. God, that sounded old.

"Mornin' girls", he answered and looked into his yogurt. Maybe a quarter, could be enough. So he stood up and put the yogurt back into the fridge. Then he poured some cereal for his youngest, she was still too much asleep to do it herself.

"Mornin'." A muffled sound from Lainy, she held her brush between her teeth and tried to tie her hair.

"You need help with that?", asked Marshall and sat down again, placed the bowl of cereal in front of Whitney. She actually took the spoon into her hand, that gave him some hope she would eat a little of her breakfast.

Lainy already enlisted Hailie's help. "Thanks dad, but no, I'm good."

"I can see that." Probably for the better. He raised three girls but he sucked at braiding hair. Like, that's fine but sometimes inconvenient. "So, are we ready for the exam today?"

Hailie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, dad, I know how reproduction works, thanks for asking." She said it on purpose like that, he knew. That were his genes shining through, the ones that made him talk whenever he shouldn't and made him rap words, people needed to protest against. He probably shouldn't feel proud about that, but his girl was clever and snarky, how could he not? They often shared some banter going back and forth, that was their special daughter-father-time.

But today he wasn't really in the mood. He wasn't in the mood for anything, except crawling back into bed and crying some more. Sissy! Man up or drown in cum. You'd love that, wouldn't you, slut. Maybe he should go on the treadmill again, before he headed to the studio? He had to get his head clear.

"What about you? How did your date go?" Hailie sat down next to him, smiling innocently as she ate her breakfast.

Lainy gave a surprised squeal. "You're dating? Since when?"

Even Whitney looked at him with open eyes. That woke her up fast.

He pinched the bridge of his nose. Sometimes, just sometimes he wished he had boys. They wouldn't care about his love life or his sorry excuse for one. But probably tease him even more. Pros and cons or some shit. "There ain't no dates."

"You told me yesterday, you're dating. She even texted you while we studied, remember?"

Why were his kids so quick? And nosy, so nosy. "I won't ever forget, princess, I promise. What I meant was, I occasionally go on dates ... every now and then."

"But you went out last night", his daughter pressed, "and you came home really late."

"How d'you know when I came home?", he asked with a tone of disbelief to his voice.

She tilted her head. "I live here?" This wasn't going well. How could he get them off track? If the past taught him anything, he wouldn't. His daughters were like bloodhounds, when they wanted something. And it seemed like they wanted to ruin his day today.

"You really had a date." Lainy realized and leaned over to him. She studied him closely. He almost felt like some rare insect they needed to preserve. "Did you two have a fight?"

"No, we didn't." Shit, wrong answer, he hurried to add, "And it wasn't a date. Can you guys just eat your breakfast, please."

Hailie deliberately bit into her sandwich. "So, you went out last night with someone but not on a date, and something bad happened between you two but not a fight. Seems like a lot of hassle for someone you don't really like."

"Why you think something bad happened?"

She shrugged. "We know you, dad."

Why was his love life so interesting anyway? First his therapist, then Big Eight, now his daughters, that's about half the people he interacted with frequently. That's a lot of people. "Seems like you don't. Nothing bad happened. And it wasn't a date. Is the interrogation over now?"

"But you went out with someone", Lainy repeated. "Come on, you can tell us when you like someone. No reason to be ashamed of having a girlfriend. We could help you, too. Your track record with women isn't too hot after all."

"Thanks for remindin' me."

Lainy shrugged. "You know what I mean." Of course he knew what she meant and she wasn't wrong. If he really would've wanted a girlfriend, he probably would've needed some help with that. Or any kind of romantic relationship, really.

"And it'd be nice, if you wouldn't have to be so lonely anymore", said Whitney between two spoons full of cereal.

That stung deep. He almost had a flashback to his therapist's office. Shit, now wasn't a good time to freak out. "Lonely? I ain't lonely! Why'd you think that? I just ... I -" He what? He had a lot of friends to hang with? Kinda true, but not the point. He didn't want a relationship anymore? Also kinda true but actually really wrong, and his daughters probably knew him better than to fall for a lie like that. He just had a string of nameless hook-ups so to hopefully fool himself into thinking he wasn't lonely? True and stupid, but he would never say that in front of his daughters. He got fucked by a man and that freaked him out so much, he cried himself to sleep? Very true but that was absolutely unutterable! "I'm fine, aight? I ain't lonely, just tired. Like you said, was late last night and I ain't gotten enough sleep. Happens. And I promise, if I date anyone nice, I'm gonna bring them. Just don't hold you breath on that."

His daughters shared a thoughtful look with each other. Great, they didn't believe one word. 

"Is everything okay?", Hailie asked and sounded serious, her perky tone totally gone. Even more great, they actually worried about him. That's not how this was supposed to go.

"I'm fine, I'm fine." That didn't even convince himself. He really needed acting classes one of these days. "You guys need to get ready for school. Come on, let's go." He stood up and shooed them out of the kitchen.

Chapter Text

He chewed the end of his pen again. The piece of paper on the table was crumbled, his small writing hard to read between the wrinkles and he had the urge to throw it again. Still wasn't a rhyme he was brooding over. If his daughters could tell something was wrong with him, he really, really needed to work that out. He didn't want them to worry about him, that's not what kids were supposed to do.

But where should he start? I got a suggestion: Why're you such a pussy? It wasn't like he wanted to be okay with this, because it wasn't. He just wanted it to go away.

"Sup? Already hard at work, hu." A brief touch on his shoulder, then Ryan strolled into his view. It still baffled him, how long Ryan and DeShaun had hold up their feud and he still didn't know what they had been fighting about. But he couldn't be more glad that they had squashed it before it had been too late. Especially since Marshall and Ryan vibed well with each other and in the last couple years their friendship really had gotten strong. Something his therapist was delighted by. She said, he had big trust issues and any close friend for him was a blessing. He couldn't really argue with that. Especially if that friend was Ryan.

Marshall sighed. "Not really. My therapist got me homework." It wasn't a secret among his friends that he got help for staying sober and working through his issues. Wasn't a secret that he had too many issues, either.

"Really?", he asked amused, "They can do that?"

Marshall gestured to the sorry piece of paper that made no sense to him. "Apparently. It's a bitch, though."

"Probably by design. If it was easy, you wouldn't shell out so much money for it."

True. But it was worth it, generally at least. Right now he wasn't so sure, but that was less about therapy and more about him and that he couldn't make himself engage with this whole thing. Your ass engages for you.

"And it works for you?" Ryan eyed him closely. Why did just about everyone these days stare at him like that? Had he porn showing on his face or what. You scream like one when there's a dick in your pussy. "I mean staying sober and shit, you …", a somewhat helpless shrug. "You don't seem different, more focused, but not different."

He crumbled the piece of paper up again and stuffed it in his jeans. Whatever his thoughts about this gay disaster was, Ryan didn't need to see. Marshall was just glad, they were friends again, he didn't need to throw a wrench into that - again. "It's not about being different, just … uhm, a better version of myself? Sounds corny, I know", he huffed before Ryan could say anything. "I can't be a dad if I'm spaced out … or dead, that's all."

"And that's what you need therapy for? You got your dad shit down to a T, you always have."

Now he looked at Ryan curiously. "Why you asking?" Just because his friends knew, didn't mean they talked about it. They all had their sack of problems and if they had one thing in common than being stubborn sons of bitches, who didn't like sharing their feelings.

Another somewhat helpless shrug. "Just askin'." Ryan answered his stare. "Just … Can't imagine talking about this stuff does anything. What good does it do to open old wounds? That'll just make it worse."

Marshall shook his head slightly. "Just because they're old doesn't mean they're closed. Getting high is just running away from things, that won't ever fix anything. But I need to fix this, if I don't want to screw their lives up even more, you know." Man, he actually sounded like his therapist.

"But you are sober and it doesn't seem like a lot of effort to you. You're fine, why still go to therapy?"

Fine, my ass. You're dreaming of cum dripping out of your holes and dicks flying around hard for the taking. That ain't fine, that's fucked up. Marshall grabbed his coke and took a long sip from it. His head was getting out of control. And he was right there with it, feeling heat in his stomach and seeing Nicolas's mean grin before his eyes. This was neither the time nor the place for gay sex fantasies, thank you very much. His hand held the can of coke too tight. "You got some rhymes for the beat I sent you?"

"Huh?" Ryan looked confused for a moment. "Smooth, Marsh, real smooth. You do that in therapy often?"

"Come on", he tried to sound as casual and indifferent as he could, "you don't really wanna hear me bitch about my problems. That's what I got my therapist for."

"Who either doesn't do a good job or you're more fucked up than I thought."

He felt the frown contort his whole face. "What's that supposed to mean?" His voice jumped an octave at the end. So much for casual and indifferent.

Ryan leaned on the table. "I mean, you've been in therapy for a couple years. Shouldn't you be healed by now? Everyone got problems, that's what friends are for. But therapy, that's like really fucked up shit, right, like people who wanna kill themselves or got PTSD or some heavy shit like that."

Two years wasn't that long, was it? "What do you care? You wanna be my therapist now?" He jumped out of his seat, ready to attack. The only defensive move he had. "You don't have your shit together even worse than I do! I ain't gonna take health advise from an alcoholic, best friend or no friend. You don't know shit, stop actin' so big. You wanna be my friend, great, shut up. Just because I'm sober, don't mean I got no problems no more. How you think this shit works? I don't take pills no more and suddenly my life's all rainbows and shit? Fuck off!" He wished it was that simple.

Ryan sat quiet for a second, a very long second. He was usually calmer than Marshall, his fuse not as short. "I am your friend", he replied. "That's why I don't like that you're still in therapy, that it's still this bad for you."

"Fuck off", he repeated but his tone came down to normal. Ryan's calm temper usually made him calmer, too. One of the many things he liked about his friend. Now he threw his hands in the air in frustration. "What you want from me?"

"An honest answer." Honesty again, that must be a plot or something. 

Why was everyone bashing on him lately? Because you have a face that begs to be punched. You got the face of a slut - and the pussy, too. This wasn't normal. He needed a vacation from himself. He groaned. "Fine, honest answer, whatever. I'm fine. That honest enough for you? I'm fine."

Ryan stared silently at him.

He sighed. "Aight … I'm mostly fine. It's just … It's complicated, you know. Being sober ain't a problem, ain't been a problem since the very beginning, but … I got other problems to fix. I mean, ain't like my life wasn't fucked up before I got into pills." He tried a weak smile, then shrugged. "It ain't bad … just complicated." It's pretty bad, little gay looking boy. He rubbed his neck, because he didn't know what else to do with his hands.

"True that. You're pretty much a magnet for drama."

They shared a smile.

"And yeah, I wrote some lines to your beat", Ryan finally answered his change of subject.

Chapter Text

"Hey guys, wanna go out tonight? There's a new club open." Denaun looked up from his phone to the rest of the guys, who sat around the studio.

Marshall was writing on his notepad. "Nah, I'm good." This time he was actually working on a song. He hummed the melody quietly, while he scribbled down the rhymes. He had started writing about a kiss and You got your dick hard fantasizing about the fucker kissing you like you're his girlfriend! and he was now filling in some lines on how to badly pick up a chick.

"You should get out of the house more often. Maybe pick up a girl or something", Denaun suggested. "It's a fine club, I tell ya."

"What are you, my mom?" He looked up at him. "I'm going out of the house plenty, thanks for asking."

"The studio doesn't count", Ryan interjected.

"Not what I meant." He arched his eyebrows as he saw the skeptical and surprised looks on his friends' faces. "Don't ya'll give me that look, too. Why is it so unbelievable that I might go out and, I don't know, mingle with people? Ya'll acting like I'm a hermit or some shit."

Ryan cleared his throat. "Well, you kinda are."

Marshall rolled his eyes. "Do I need your permission if I wanna get laid, or what now? It's bad enough that my daughters want me to bring home my girlfriend. Don't you guys even start with this shit."

"You have a girlfriend?", Denaun asked even more surprised. "Since when?"

"No, I don't." You wish! You're just a lame booty call, bitch. "That's the problem. Look, can we not talk about this? I already sense a headache comin'." He turned back to his notes and was silently mouthing the lines he had already written. 

"Even more reason to come to the club with us." Denaun insisted. "Come on, it's gonna be fun."

Marshall certainly didn't think so.

"He's right. How else you gonna find a girlfriend to show off to your kids?" He was almost sure, Ryan was joking.

He sighed. Couldn't they let it slide? Friends, almost as bad as his daughters. "I don't want a girlfriend. It's just sex, no need to get all chummy and shit." Also, Nicolas didn't seem to be the sociable type himself. Not that he wanted anything like that! Yeah, right, what's one more lie, fag.

"That's why you don't have a girl. They like guys with some basic social skills."

He snorted with a bitter tone. "That ain't the reason, believe me."

"What does that mean?", Ryan asked.

"Nothin'." He could feel Ryans eyes burn into his skull. He raised his eyes from his notepad and met the gaze. That he shouldn't have done. "My social skills are fine. I'm just not build for women." You comin' out? Shit! He had to play it off. "You know, I ain't havin' luck with 'em. It's easier this way." That was so bleak, it could actually work.

Ryan still looked at him. "One of those things your therapist is working on?"

"You have no idea."

"I still can't believe, you're clubbing without us." Denaun was one of those people, who actually liked going out, dancing in clubs and meeting new people. Marshall had no idea how anyone could like that, but here his friend was.

"I ain't. There's an app for that now." Did he needed to say that? He kind of felt like he was close on the edge of tripping over his own words. He almost did there already, it's gonna happen again. Bitches never shut up. He turned to his notepad again.

Denaun shook his head. "You're on a dating app? That's desperate."

"You don't know the half of it." Can his mouth shut up just for once! Think fast, defuse, defuse, defuse. "Then my fuckin' phone beeps and now Hailie thinks I have a girlfriend. You know, all hopeful and excited for me. Awful, I tell you. It's not like I can tell her, her dad's just in it for a quick fuck. I ain't teaching her that, no way."

"That sounds rough."

He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. Why were they still talking about this? How did they even get here? An invitation to a fun night out and somehow he ran off his mouth about his hook-ups, almost saying the truth. He didn't want to lie to his friends. You're lying to yourself, fag, that's worse. He had to get out of this situation. "Aight, fine. Let's go out tonight. Whatever, man." Pen in hand, he turned back to his notepad and didn't look his friends in the face again, not for hours.

Bastard. That was the name of the new club. When they entered, Marshall was a little surprised. The interior was lit by ambient light and had a classic design, colors muted but nice and relaxing. The music was laid back, melodic and didn't damage your ears. Hell, you could even understand people talking to you. There was a little stage and a singer in a tight dress sang into a microphone with a smooth voice. But Marshall was sure most men in here just stared at her huge breasts.

The six of them found a corner to sit down. The bench cushions were soft and easy to sink into. They really wanted their customers to feel comfortable.

"It's rather quiet in here", Marshall voiced his surprise. When Denaun had announced their night out, he had expected a hip hop club close to having a rave: loud, sweaty, breathless.

Denaun winked at him. "But the girls aren't."

What was that supposed to mean? Marshall decided, he didn't care. Maybe sitting here and having some fun with his friends wasn't a bad idea after all.

A young man in a suit came to them to take their orders. Marshall wanted a coke. Well, since he didn't drink anymore, that was about all that was left for him to drink. His eyes followed the young man back to the bar. You wanna cheat on your boo now? They'd spend like two nights with each other, they're weren't nobody's boo.

"So, which girl you wanna have? There's free choosing here", Denaun said and elbowed him in the side. "And they're all really fine. Haven't seen an ugly chick in here yet."

"Uh-huh", he mumbled and let his gaze scan the club. Denaun wasn't wrong, most women had tight dresses that highlighted their slim waists, perky breasts and firm butts. They swivelled their hips invitingly. This seemed like easy pickings.

It didn't take long until a couple of girls sat between the guys, smiling and flirting. A petite blonde caressed Marshall's thigh with her long, slim fingers. Her pouty lips smiled at him and her long lashes were a seductive frame for her honey brown eyes. She leaned forward to his ear, her perky chest pressing against his. "Wanna get out of here?" she asked.

How could he say no? There had to be reason he couldn't go with her. Something he could say, that was believable but not suspicious. You can't get it up, that's a good reason. But his friends knew he was up for some hook-ups and this was a pretty fine one. There wasn't much a guy could say to turn her down and not look suspicious. He sighed quietly. "Sure, let's get out of here."

She kissed his cheek. As she stood up, she took his hand and led him from the couch.

One of his friends whistled after them.

As they went through the night club, he laid an arm around her waist and she nestled up against his side. She gently nudged him in a direction, apparently she knew a place to go.

At the far end of the club there was a staircase. Against the handrail leaned a short man and Marshall's stomach fluttered. When they were close enough, he realized why. "Nicolas." He stopped dead in his tracks in front of him.

The girl looked up. "You two know each other?"

Nicolas eyed him closely, like he always did, and the sides of his mouth curled into a faint but mean smirk. A short nod.

This was the club Nicolas worked at? That explained his fancy outfit for a security guard. Everything else would look too much out of place in here. "You work here?" Stupid question. However, it was the first time he saw Nicolas fully clothed. He looked rather short in the suit, his muscles hidden underneath the black blazer. It didn't fit his expression at all. There was no elegance or class attached to the suit, the hard-bitten stare only highlighted that this was a job.

The girl walked up the first few steps, still holding Marshall's hand. But he didn't move.

Nicolas nodded his head in her direction, a short hand gesture too. Obviously an invitation for Marshall to go up with her. No, the hard look in his eyes turned it into an order.

Marshall swallowed hard. His feet climbed the stairs on their own and only the fact that he walked away made him break the stare eventually.

Then he was in a small room, alone with the girl. A big bed stood in the cozy light. The girl wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. She pressed her slim, curved body against his and whispered in his ear: "Let me scan your card and you make yourself comfortable on the bed." She kissed his neck.

He nodded his head and fumbled the card out of his pocket. The golden lines of the Bastard logo got caught in the dim light. She took the card and gave him another seductive smile. 

He let her deal with the paying process and went to the bed. The sheets were black with golden lines, a faintly floral pattern. He fell down on his back, arms outstretched and his eyes stared at the ceiling. This was Nicolas's club!

The petite blonde came back to him, tucked the card back into his pocket and used the proximity to stroke his thigh again, teasing his crotch. She kissed him again and her hands found her way under his t-shirt. It didn't take long until she grinded her hips into his.

The memory of Nicolas's stare made him hard. There's a blond bomb on your dick, fuckin' fag! He pulled her dress up, until he could grab her ass, tight and small. Nicolas's was hotter. He moaned quietly as her fingers massaged his dick, long, slim fingers that gently stroked him. Though, he wished for Nicolas's strong grip that sometimes almost hurt. "Harder", he sighed into her neck. The blonde hair was in the way.

She obliged and tightened her fingers around him, squeezing the hard flesh.

He groaned and dug his nails into her ass. Her skin was soft and smooth, no scars at all.

The condom was put on quickly and she started riding him. Her hips moved sensually, rocked in erotic circles and her breasts quivered in the same rhythm. Damn! Bury your face in these sweet hills, those are some A grade tits. As if he cared. He pushed her onto the bed, shoved her face first into the sheets and his dick back into her. He frame was small and delicate, the bumps of her spine showed. Not at all like Nicolas's back, who seemed like a rock, despite his small stature. He grabbed her butt cheeks again and pushed himself into her hard and fast.

He was missing something.

With a short tug he pulled her up, her back against his chest. Next to her ear he whispered: "Can you grab my ass?" He felt the heat of a blush on his face. You're such a damn fag, this pussy's too good for you. "Like, with force."

She laid her head back against his shoulder and kissed his neck. Then she reached back around him and squeezed hard. Her nails dug into his cheeks.

He groaned pleased. Much better.

After a couple more thrusts, he came. Not really satisfied. Then he sat back on the bed, discarding the condom and getting his pants back in order.

She did the same thing with her dress, still a warm smile on her face when she looked up at him. "Do you wanna go for a dance?"

"I don't dance." He turned to the door. "I find the way back myself." Then he left the room. The hall was dark, just a few points of light let you assume where the walls were. Some doors had a strip of light escaping underneath them. You really are an asshole. She was nothing but friendly to you. She's a hooker, it's not like she had much of a choice. She got her money, that's all the friendliness she could expect. He hurried down the corridor. Halfway down the stairs he slowed down his steps. 

Nicolas still stood at the feet of the stairs. He looked up, as Marshall came down. He shortly pointed with his chin upwards, the direction of the room.

Marshall came to a halt on the last step and looked down on him. He shrugged as an answer. The sex with Nicolas was better and he was pretty sure, Nicolas already knew that. His fingers trembled, he badly wanted to run his hands through that spiky black hair. To contain himself, he clenched his fists.

Nicolas gestured to his wristwatch and cocked an eyebrow.

"Get together later?", Marshall asked. Did he read that right? Or was it just him wishing too much. A prickling sensation filled his limbs at the idea. He nodded before he realized it. With a shrug he tried to play it more cool. "Why not. The guys usually take long before they call it a night."

Another short gesture of Nicolas's hands, Marshall interpreted as or wished them to be I'm coming by later. Sounded like a good plan to him. So Marshall went back to his friends.

"Hey, there he is", Von greeted him. 

Ryan gave him a grin. "Looks like his night's fun already."

As Marshall sat down, he fought down the smile. But good probably that his friends thought he smiled because of the hooker. That was wrong but tolerable. "Was aight", he mumbled and took a sip from his coke. He couldn't wait for the night to be over and for Nicolas to come by. A glance at his watch told him, that'll be a while.

Another glance at his watch. He should've asked when Nicolas got off, now he was waiting for an uncertain time called 'later'. Possibly he had to wait until the club closed. He was sick of waiting.

But his friends still had fun, especially with the girls and the booze. That took their mind off of time and so they had spent already more than four hours here.

A tap on his shoulder. Marshall broke his stare away from the coke and looked up. "Nicolas!" Finally! Again he had to fight the smile, that was growing on his lips.

Nicolas slipped next to him on the couch.

"You know this guy?", Ryan asked.

Marshall had a hard time not looking at Nicolas. He so badly wanted to run his fingers through that spiky warm hair. But he managed somehow and answered: "Uhm, yeah, he's a security guard here."

Without so much as a blink Nicolas took Marshall's glass and drank it empty. Marshall didn't mind, actually he barely noticed. But Ryan did, a brief frown was on his face.

"You finished work?", Marshall asked. Could they get out of here? He couldn't stand the prickling anticipation in his blood anymore, but he knew Nicolas's intense hands could remedy that. After they made it so sweetly worse.

But Nicolas shook his head.

Marshall sighed disappointed. Then he breathed in sharply, as he felt Nicolas's hand on his thigh. Not gently caressing but forcefully grabbing his leg. The hand stroked it's way to his crotch and kneaded his dick through the jeans, rough and hard. You're fantasizing again, homo! What's wrong with you? Marshall shifted in his seat. Wrong place, wrong time. Nervous he looked around his friends, but they didn't seem to notice. They barely payed any attention to Marshall at all.

Nicolas gave him a smirk. He had noticed. With a short wink, he called the waiter to the table. Some hand signs later the young man nodded: "Will be right here." Not long after he came back with a tray and two drinks. One was a clear liquid in a tall glas with ice cubes and a shard of lemon - put in front of Nicolas. The other drink was bright red with a slice of strawberry - put in front of Marshall.

"I didn't order that." He looked at Nicolas, who feigned uninvolvement and disinterest. What was that about? Marshall looked back to the waiter. "I don't drink."

The waiter smiled kindly. "No need to worry, sir, there's no alcohol in there. Just soda and juice." Then he left. Marshall was still slightly confused.

Nicolas briefly raised his glass to him and took a sip.

With a mental shrug, Marshall did the same. The drink wasn't as sweet as he had expected. A distinctly bitter taste was mixed between the flavors of cherry and strawberry. Actually, it wasn't too bad. "So, you're on break?" Why did he always ask stupid questions? Obviously Nicolas was on a break. If he would blow off his job for Marshall so easily, he probably would've done so back when they had met at the stairs. "Do you always take drinks with your guests?" Maybe he should take a class in how to make easy conversations with your fling, because this really wasn't. You sound like a jealous bitch and you have the drink of one, too. He knows you quite well already. This was terrible. Also, fling? Delete that.

"What's that?", asked Denaun and pointed to Marshall's drink.

Fuck, his friends were still here. "A cocktail, obviously." A fruit cocktail. Oh, the irony.

"Really?", the skeptical tone was plain.

Marshall shrugged with his shoulders. "So what? I got tired of coke." Fuck, they knew! He was busted, so fucking busted! What should he fucking do now? Calm the fuck down! It's a girly drink, not a penis necklace. Maybe his excuse was enough? Or he could say, Nicolas made a joke? But then he probably had to explain how they knew each other and why he was ordering him a drink. Way too risky. A diversion was needed. "Want a mouthful?", he offered to Denaun, holding out his glass.

"Nah, I'm good."

"Suit yourself." He took another sip as nonchalantly as he could.

Nicolas leaned back in his seat, putting an arm on the back rest. Marshall kind of felt like the girl at the movies, where the guy wasn't gutsy enough to actually put an arm around her shoulders. Told you! Which would be the worst idea ever right now! Marshall shuffled to the side a little, just in case. With the other hand Nicolas gestured something.

"What?" He didn't know sign language, Nicolas knew that. How would he anyway? Where did you go to learn that? … Not a bad thought. You have to be fucking kiddin' me! You wanna learn a new language for a fuckin' hook-up? That would make talking a lot easier. Bitch, please!

Nicolas rolled his eyes. "Fun?" Were they back to one word sentences?

"Here? Now? Sure, kinda." Marshall shrugged. "I mean, it's quite a relaxing ambience you got going on here. Not my style, but nice."

Nicolas cocked his head.

"I mean, you know, it's kinda classy and stuff. You're even wearing a suit. That ain't for me."

That smirk again. Damn. He shoved Nicolas's shoulder, because he didn't know what else to do. Or more precisely, what he actually wanted to do he really, really couldn't right now.

Before Marshall could answer anything, a woman stepped up to their table. It was the singer, still in her white dress that barely contained her breasts and revealed all of her cleavage. Long black hair fell onto her shoulders, smooth brown skin glowed in the ambient light and her blue eyes looked shy at Nicolas. While she spoke she moved her hands to sign as well. "I left my key … at the apartment. I'm sorry, I had to hurry and … I forgot. I'm really sorry."

Nicolas shook his head and with a stern expression he signed something back.

"I didn't mean to", she sighed. "It won't happen again. I promise!"

Nicolas reached into his pocket and gave her a key. He signed something again.

She nodded. "I won't. Thank you." She gave him a hug, her huge breast getting pressed against him. Then she left.

Marshall watched her walk away. "Who's that?" He turned to Nicolas: "You two live together?" Was she his girlfriend? If he had a girlfriend, why would he be on a dating app? Hooking up with guys nonetheless? Maybe he's as much a closeted case as you are? And she could sign, too.

Nicolas made a dismissive gesture.

"Damn, man, that's one fly chick. How did you pick her up?", Denaun asked curiously. "Or is she one of the Bastard's girls? That'd be awesome."

An angry stare hit Denaun and his smile faded. Nicolas glared at him with furious intent.

Appeasingly Denaun held up his hands. "Aight, aight, I ain't tapping her. I don't touch girlfriends, aight."

Well, that sealed the deal. They're an item and a serious one at that. A wave of disappointment and unhappiness crushed over Marshall. Maybe they're just siblings? Like in one of those stupid rom-coms you like so much. That was a stupid idea. They didn't look like siblings at all. She seems to be half black, he seems to be Asian. How would that work out? Adoption? Come on! He's just a stupid hook-up, what do you even fucking care? If Marshall knew.

Nicolas stood up from the couch. He tapped Marshall's shoulder again and winked.

"Later", he answered, but his enthusiasm was gone.

When Nicolas left their sight, Denaun asked: "Who was that?"

"A friend of Marshall's", Ryan answered. "Also a security guard here."

"You've been here before?", Denaun asked surprised. "Do I even know you anymore?"

Marshall shook his head. "No, I wasn't." Puzzled looks. "We met … at the gym?" That was believable, right? He worked out, Nicolas was a security guard and therefore had to be fit, too. Sound logic, except, you haven't worked out at the gym in months. Well, he had said it already, no use in taking it back now. He took another sip of his too red drink.

"He's … intense."

Marshall looked at Ryan honestly asking: "You think so?" He felt intense when Nicolas was around, but that wasn't the same thing. Or was it?

"He has a mean stare, that's for sure." Denaun rolled his shoulders. "That ain't a guy to fuck with. He's always this possessive with his girls?"

Marshall gave a shrug. "I don't know. He doesn't exactly talk much, you know, being deaf and all." Also, hooking up two times didn't give you much chance to tell your life's story. Usually there wasn't much interest in that anyway. "I didn't know he had a girl, so." Not that he should volunteer his interest in whether or not Nicolas had a girlfriend. Hopefully he's voice didn't sound as down as he felt at this moment. Another diversion was in order. "But in a place like this, there's probably not much else he can do, right."

"Guess so", Denaun gave in.

"But he can be pretty mean, whether it's about his girl or not", Marshall went on. "He likes teasing people a lot. I don't think, his stare was meant as evil as it looked." That's because you're in love with him, slut. "Just a warning, you know. I wouldn't want to fight him, though, like a serious fight or anything. He might be small, but he's pretty packed and full with scars, he must get into fights a lot. Pretty sure, he has a mean hook." You're rambling, fag, shut up! Marshall bit his lip.

"Right", Ryan said flatly.

Chapter Text

A beep, his phone had something to say. Lazily he blinked at it, the couch was too comfortable right now. He jerked up. There was a notification from the dating app, a message from Benriya - Nicolas! wanna cum tonite

That line again, really? Even in writing he wasn't much of a talker. He probably should be glad he even got so many words and not just some stupid emoji. Are that butterflies in your stomach, little gay looking boy? He was already on his way up the stairs and slipped into his bedroom. He couldn't go out in his couch sweats, he needed a real outfit. How about a nice dress with some cleavage? A little slutty, that's your look. First thing he chose were his sneakers: soft green with some gray accents. Casual and likeable, perfect. Black pants fit to everything, a gray shirt with a pattern of straight green lines across it. The image in the mirror said: Hi there, wanna hang out? Low-key, not overly sexy. You mean boring. It's a hook-up, get your tits out - or ass, that's what your both into. Involuntarily he looked at his butt. The jeans did a decent job there.

Sitting in his car, his fingers drummed against the steering wheel. Again, he was driving himself. He so could imagine Big Eight's look of reproach, if he had to drive him to another one-night stand. Three-night stand. Has he your head spinning so hard you can't even count to three anymore? Girl, you're gone. Not something he needed right now. It wasn't Big Eight's business how Marshall got laid, no interference needed.

As he saw the big red sign of the motel at the side of the road, his heart fluttered. Why was he so fucking nervous? Nicolas had a stupid girlfriend. Not, that he wanted anything to do with that anyway. Keep telling yourself that. This was a hook-up, just a fucking hook-up, only a pitiful hook-up.

There was light in room 101 like usual. Marshall closed the door of his car and once again his hand shook, when he reached for the door knob of the motel room. He clenched his teeth. This was ridiculous! You take the words right out of my fucking mouth, fag. How often had he done this now? This was nothing special.

He stepped into the room. The wooden panels and the red colors greeted him, and so did Nicolas's stare. He leaned against the small table, arms folded across the chest and he was still fully clothed. A black T-Shirt and camouflage pants. That was weird.

"Sup", Marshall greeted but didn't expect an answer. There was a heavy atmosphere in the room. Something was different and he didn't know what. Was he about to get some warning to not say nothing about their fling to the girlfriend? Not needed, he had no interest in ever seeing her again.

Nicolas cocked his head. His eyes examined Marshall closely, slowly going down along his body, piercing through the clothes. Somehow, he felt naked already. He shifted his stance. Finally the thin lips parted ever so slightly to let one syllable escape in that husky voice that made Marshall quiver. "Strip."

"What?", he asked confused. Why would he do that?

But Nicolas just kept staring at him intensely. 

"Uhm ... aight", he whispered. Any loud noise seemed like an assault in the tense air. He took his jacket off, pulled the shirt over his head and slipped out of his shoes. The pants slit down his legs and now he wasn't so sure to let his briefs go as well. A look at Nicolas made it crystal clear: they had to go. His fingers trembled slightly, as he pulled them down.

Well, he was absolutely naked. Not the first time in front of the other man but somehow different now. He felt ... awkward, uneasy ... vulnerable even. Not a feeling he relished in, nope. "Y-yo", he cleared his throat, "you wanna fuck now or what?"

The grin on Nicolas's lips was pure evil with a hint of pleasure.

Marshall had to swallow hard. "Know what, forget it." He grabbed for his pants to put them back on.

"Come 'ere." The tone didn't allow for any resistance. Marshall's legs moved on their own and took the two steps to stand in front of him.

With his index finger Nicolas pointed to the ground and Marshall sank to his knees. But his eyes stayed locked with Nicolas's harsh glare. What was going on? I know, you get your gay baptism. Hallelujah!

Nicolas slowly nodded, as if he had heard Marshall's thoughts. Hope to God he didn't! 

Marshall shook his head slightly. "No, I ain't doin' that." His voice barely more than a whisper. This was bad, really bad. Why couldn't he bring himself to move? He should get out of here, immediately.

It took so much effort to break his gaze away from the black eyes, that burned down his soul. But as he looked to what was in front of him, Nicolas's fly, a shiver ran through his body. Come on, faggot, that's what you've been dreaming about. Suck it, slut. There was still a tremble in his hands as he zipped the pants open and tugged them down just a bit to reveal Nicolas's underwear. He could feel the soft fabric under his fingertips and the warmth radiating from the flesh underneath. Why was Nicolas always so hot? He gently stroked the body, the fabric was so thin he could feel the coarse hair through it. His hands moved along the limp shaft.

Marshall bit his lip. He had to make it hard first, too? How was he supposed to do that? He took in a deep breath, Nicolas's scent was all over his nostrils. Concentration, that's what he needed right now. He had a dick himself, he had had sex with guys before and they all gotten hard, he had gotten plenty of blowjobs, too. He knew how this worked. Yeah, and don't forget your porn fantasies, you're a pro in them already. Concentration. Overthinking this wouldn't be of help. Just, no thoughts, no worries. Go with the flow, wasn't that a thing?

Another deep breath. His hand stroked over the cock with more purpose. The warmth prickled in his fingertips and rushed under his skin. He put more pressure into the touch and could actually feel the cock growing, getting hard under his hands. Because of his hands. Don't feel so fuckin' proud of yourself, that's what all dicks do when you touch them. Delight was biting Marshall's lip. He didn't want it to. Why was he so fucking weird? It should not turn him on to make another man's dick hard. That was just ... Gay? No shit, Sherlock. 

He looked up again, right into Nicolas's stare, the black eyes settled on Marshall. He swallowed hard again. He felt fucking helpless. He couldn't move, even though he should. He couldn't flip off this mean grin, even though he flipped off everyone else. He wasn't shouting in anger, even though that was his go to move for every situation. He just felt stranded, insecure, out of control. And his dick answered by getting hard.

Nicolas pointed down again. A sharp move of his finger.

Marshall released the other's cock from its tightening space of underwear. His fingertips stroked the length of it, his thumb kneaded the flesh along its underside. It was so hot in his hands and it made him hot, too. That was already bad enough. Okay, fine, he liked holding other men's dicks. Wasn't that gay enough? Couldn't it just stop here? He gripped harder and heard a low, pleasured sigh. Again, Marshall bit his lip in delight. Also again, he felt bad because of it, because he liked the sound he caused - and how he caused it. His heart fluttered once more. He wanted to hear that sound again, he wanted Nicolas to enjoy ... him? O honey, you gonna get your heart broken again. Ignoring his thoughts, Marshall lowered his lips on the cock standing in front of his face. A soft kiss first, nervousness shivered over his body. He had to do this right. Another deep breath. Then he licked alongside the cock, still stroking it with his fingers, kneading the hard flesh. The taste was ... Marshall liked it.

He licked more, sucked at the skin and got more bold with each new flick of his tongue, with each new moan coming from above. When he took the cock between his lips, sucking the tip into his mouth, Marshall didn't even pause anymore. He needed to do this right, no second guessing himself would help. He felt the rush of blood - his or Nicolas's? Regardless, it drove him further on. Getting his lips around the hard flesh, sucking it deep into his mouth. He could hardly breath, but that didn't matter. Nicolas's moaning and groaning filled his ears, telling him he was on the right track, that Nicolas liked what he was doing. Liked him.

Nicolas's strong hand petted his head. Then he pulled Marshall away as he came, spurting it out on Marshall's face.

He flinched. Panting hard, he looked up again.

"Good boy."

His ears tingled and his heart fluttered at the praise. What are you, a dog? Nicolas had liked the blowjob. ... He really just sucked a man off. He'd had a fucking dick in his mouth. And liked it! He was so wrong. He was so hard.

Nicolas petted Marshall's head again, then he zipped his pants back up. The sound of the zipper teared through the heavy air.

Marshall's body shivered. Suddenly, he felt cold and exposed. Gruff he wiped across his face, sticky cum on his fingers. He growled angrily about himself and stood up.

"Next time, don't leave."

He looked confused to Nicolas. "What?" He reached for his pants and put them on. His own hard-on could go fuck itself.

"Club. You left."

"That was a fuckin' week ago", he yelled at him. "What has that anything to do with now? That's no fucking reason to put me down like this!" As the words left his mouth, he felt eerily hollow inside. He ran his hand over his face again, this time in an effort to control the tears that burnt the insides of his eyes. They should just evaporate. He felt like shit, a worthless piece of shit. And he wasn't! Well, wouldn't say that exactly ... But he has no fucking right to degrade you! You ain't his toy to abuse, you're fucking mine! Another angry growl. "Fuck you!" He put his shirt back on and still felt bare.

"Look at the big bad rapper now." Nicolas's smirk was still there and still driving Marshall crazy. He had to fucking loose this grin, now! His fist connected with Nicolas's chin, before Marshall realized he threw the punch. Go bitch, take this motherfucker down! But he loved that he drew blood from the thin lips. That's what he called satisfaction.

Chapter Text

The ceiling looked down on him disapprovingly.

Marshall flipped it off. A sigh. He had a déjà-vu. His life sucked, hard. So do you, apparently. What the fuck was wrong with him? You're gay. Why the fuck did he do that? Because you're gay. What the fuck had just happened? Your gayness. Is that even a word? Why the fuck was this happening to him? Because you're gay! Is anyone fucking listening to me? The hell!

He burrowed the heels of his palms into his eyes. He wasn't going to cry himself to sleep over this. He wasn't! Not tonight! The deaf shit wasn't worth any of this. He was just another asshole, a one-night stand not worth remembering. Just one bad fling of so many, Marshall wouldn't remember him for long. There was no need to get all worked up over this. What was one more forgotten face? Didn't add much to the whole shitty pile at this point.

He was angry at himself for falling for this son of a bitch. Of course he knew, what it meant when your heart fluttered at someone's attention and why it had sunken when he had seen the girlfriend. He wasn't stupid, just stubborn. And it seemed like he also was still blue-eyed enough to fall for some random guy practically at first sight. You're a romantic girl, always looking for true love. It's sickeningly sweet. That was just dumb. He should know better by now. People didn't just like him, they always had some ulterior motives. He knew that, that's why he had trust issues. 

Apparently some people still fell through the cracks.

On top of that he had broken both of his rules for this shithead. And he had liked it ... He couldn't look at himself in the mirror anymore. Again. This was awful. How could he like something like this? Because you're gay. I sound like a broken record. That wasn't right. He should be with girls. It had worked just fine in the club the other night. That was horrible! Have pity on the poor hooker. It had worked just fine so far in his life. Yeah, ask Kim about that. She'll tell you a different story. Why did he need to change that now? Don't fix, what ain't broke. But you are! Look at yourself, man, you're crying again. Just get over it already. He pulled the sheets over his head.

This gay thing was over!

You're killing yourself.

Chapter Text

His voice was raw, but he was still screaming into the microphone. "Say I’m a sissy faggot, record it, play it back and put it on straight loop, you haters look like you ate a grape fruit to see me climbing back on that wagon, got my swagger back. I was dragging, hopped back on it, grab the reigns on that bastard and came back on 'em without remorse man. Man, of course, I’m a one-trick pony 'cause I’ll be screaming on these whores 'til I’m hoarse!" His heart was racing and his lungs hurt, but screaming his anger out, spewing savage words into the microphone was relief. Rather his anger was heard than his dejection felt.

"You're on fire today", Denaun nodded to the beat, replaying what Marshall just had recorded.

He drank from a bottle of water, not up for conversation today. His jaw hurt where Nicolas's had punched him back and rapping nonstop since early this morning didn't help. This was well deserved. For being this dumb to actually fall for this guy, to actually try to be gay, he deserved to be punished. Stupidity like this shouldn't be allowed to exist. Period.

Ryan asked: "What happened to your face?"

He just waved dismissively.

Ryan's prying eyes stayed and burned Marshall's bruise even more. He shortly stroked over his discolored jaw, as if this could make it invisible. Of course it couldn't. "Quit starin'", he grumbled.

The eyes didn't waver. A shiver ran down Marshall's spine. Those ink-black eyes always broke the truth out of him. They did so back in the day and they did so now. He bit his lip, he absolutely could not say the truth. Ryan couldn't know, that Marshall was like this. Not again. He already does, dumbass. He couldn't be disgusted with him, couldn't leave him. Not again.

"Fine, I got in a fight. Happy now?", Marshall said exasperated. You could've said, it's from boxing. That would have been the shorter conversation. Thinking his words over first wasn't his strong suit. Never had been. But how could he lie, if Ryan looked at him like this? Pussy.

"Really?", Ryan sounded genuinely surprised and exchanged a look with Denaun. "I thought you had better control over your temper now. With the therapy and all."

Marshall scowled. "Obviously, I don't." 

"Yeah, I noticed."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Ryan shrugged. "You're on edge lately."

"So what? Am I not allowed to be in a bad mood?" A frown grew on Marshall's face.

"That's not what I meant", Ryan shook his head. "Is something goin' on?"

"I'm fine!", Marshall huffed irritated.

Denaun spun in his chair to face the both of them. "Oh sure, everything's peachy. That's why you're screaming your lungs out. You're totally fine."

"Just shut it", he growled. You should've said the boxing thing, stupid. "You was just all hyped about me screaming. Don't go back on that now."

"I don't. The music's great, but ..."

Marshall growled low and stared at Denaun, he put a lot of effort into that mean glare.

Denaun held the stare. "But if that's on the expense of your well-being, then, well ... You were adamant about that not happening again. Just sayin'."

"Well, don't!", Marshall snapped at him.

Ryan cocked his head. "Perhaps your therapist should give you some more homework."

"I'm done with that." Marshall put his bottle of water down on the table and left the room. He needed fresh air. And fresh friends.

His fist hit the leather. The punching bag swung through the air. He hit it again. And again. And again. Rapidly hitting the bag, sharp noises came from the tormented leather. Dull pain spread through the bones of his fingers. Sweat dripped from his nose. Breath shallow, fast.

"If you rip that, you clean it up." A gruff voice, raspy and old.

Marshall stepped to the side and looked behind the swinging bag. "Coach", he greeted in a respectful tone. Everyone called the old owner Coach, even though he wasn't coaching anyone anymore. He wiped his forehead with his wrist, but that didn't do much. It was more a gesture of restlessness.

The old man looked him over, a sharp wit to his eyes. His body might be frail due to age, but his mind clearly wasn't. "I've seen many young men like you. Does beatin' up an ol' sack of sand help ya?"

Marshall sighed. Not again. Why did everybody want to share their crappy pieces of advice with him? Did he look that dumb? You're desperate, don't deny that. He wasn't denying anything! Right, little gay looking boy, you're all open and accepting, that's why you cry yourself to sleep. If he wanted to be talking about this, he would've gone to his therapist. "I'm fine. Just needed some work out."

"Never heard that before", the old man snorted with derision.

Marshall grabbed his towel and wiped some of the sweat from his face. "Sorry, I stayed too long. I better be going."

"No hurry. An old man like me hasn't got to be anywhere." He shuffled to one of the benches and beckoned Marshall to follow.

They sat on the bench, silence spread between them. First it was just a thin string of quiet, just their breathing audible. But it disappeared into the background, as the silence widened and engulfed their whole bodies. Not for long and the silence reached every corner of the small, dark lit room.

Marshall fidgeted with the corner of his towel. His mind was racing through his head, hard at work to not pause at anything in particular. Because everything would give him away. All his thoughts were too loud, they must've been like two-hundred decibel. A clamor of voices he didn't recognize anymore. You're gay, fag! - You're sick, no pill can fix that! - Bleed, bitch, bleed! - You're a liar! - You don't deserve love! - You're just bitchy because he wouldn't let you swallow his cum! - DeShaun is disgusted with you! - You're still dreaming about his dick in your pussy! - Ronnie wanted you dead! - You're a cheater, filthy slut! - Little gay looking boy! - Your daughters hate you! - Bleed, bitch, bleed! - You're ugly! - You're useless! - Psychos like you shouldn't have kids! - You have no right to rap! - You die alone! - No one loves you! - You're gay.

"I'm not fine." His voice was just a whisper. He could barely hear it over the shouting in his ears. But every syllable liftet some of the burden that weighed heavy on his heart. It somehow felt good to tell the truth, just once, even to someone he didn't know and wouldn't be able to help. He could breathe for once without the chains of his own mind strangling his throat. It was hard to admit anything about yourself, but he was not fine and he was tired of lying about it.

The gruffy, old voice cut through the noise of his thoughts like they were gelatin. "You don't have to be."

Marshall shook his head weakly.

The old coach went on: "No one's fine. We're all just trying to do our best every day and sometimes a punch in the gut knocks us out. But we stand back up again. That's all we can really do."

"I just want it to be over", he admitted in this low voice, that sounded so much like defeat. A feeling he hated. A feeling he felt too often.

The old man was silent again. He looked across the room, the tiny gym he owned and barely anyone used. It was too small and too hidden and too old for most people these days. That was exactly why Marshall liked it.

Then the old man spoke again: "There's only one way for it all to be over ... and that's not your choice to make."

Chapter Text

"You've been silently brooding for the last twenty minutes." His therapist spoke quietly, but it sounded harsh in the silence of the room.

Marshall looked up. "Sorry." His thumb still stroked his right wrist, stroked the tattooed words and the scars underneath like he had done for the past, well, twenty minutes.

She smiled kindly. "Do you want to fill me in on your thoughts? Perhaps you could use a different perspective on whatever it is that's troubling you today."

He sighed heavily. "It's the same thing that's always troubling me."

"I assumed as much. But it doesn't seem like your brooding gets you anywhere for now, maybe a fresh perspective can help. So, what exactly is troubling you?"

"I know your perspective." Not one he was keen on.

She continued to smile kindly at him.

Another heavy sigh. "I'm not fine", he admitted to her. Saying this now was different from the other night at the gym. Her he knew and more importantly she knew him. That made everything different. It felt even more like defeat.

"That's okay. No one can be fine all the time. Sometimes life just hurts and we feel weak and everything seems like it's going to be bad forever. That's normal. Don't force yourself to be something you aren't. When you're not fine, you're not fine. That's okay."

He shook his head slightly. "Maybe. Lately I've been ... ever since ... I mean", he took a deep breath. Just because he should be talking about this and he should get a grip on this, didn't mean saying these words out loud was easy. It very much wasn't. What did she always say, when he couldn't get the words out? Start small and work through to the big things. "You remember the guy I told you about? With the tattoo on his shoulder blades?"

She nodded silently, not to interrupt his story.

"Then you remember, that he broke my rule ... or I let him break it, I don't know. Whatever. That night, I ... I cried myself to sleep. And I have been ever since." He bit his lip. "And last week, he broke another rule ... and ... and ... It takes everything I have to not write him back and see him again." Even though he was angry at Nicolas and that asshole should go to hell, he still felt a hot rush in his blood whenever he thought back to the few nights they've had. Getting ordered into a blowjob really turns you, hu. You kinky, girl! He shouldn't want that son of a bitch. Didn't he deserve better? "What's wrong with me?"

"There's nothing wrong with you", she said with her soft voice. "You like what you like. If you like to be with another man, then why would that be wrong? As far as I know, you don't really believe the homophobic rhetoric your lyrics sometimes reproduce. Or do you?"

He shook his head. "No, I don't. It doesn't matter what people like in bed or whatever. Either you're a good person or you're not, who you like doesn't matter for that. It's just ... I don't know ... It's different, when it's me?"

"Why would it be different when it's you?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. It just feels different."

"How does it feel to you?", she pressed.

"I ..." How could he say that? Just say it: you're calling yourself a girl in your head, a slut, fag, bitch, homo and you looove sucking dick. He didn't want to put it into words, to make it even more real. It's already pretty real. Ask your ass, it's still pining for that sweet dick of your boo. Even if she was a therapist and trained in understanding sick people like him, this was just too much. "It's ... Like, it's not something I would - I should do, you know. I shouldn't do stuff like this, I shouldn't be like this. That's not ... that's not who I should be."

"Who should you be then?"

"A good man?", he suggested.

She tilted her head slightly, looking at him questioningly. "And being homosexual is going against that? Is it going against being good or against being a man?"

"Kinda both, I think."

She nodded thoughtfully. "How is being homosexual a bad thing? It might not be the predominant way to form a partnership, but unusual is not the same thing as bad. Right? Your life took a couple of unusual turns throughout the years, but that doesn't mean all of it was bad."

He weighed his head. "But a whole lot of it." Then he sighed. "I know, I know. I shouldn't be complaining. My life's all peachy and great."

"Well, if it was, you probably wouldn't be sitting here, hm?", one of her small jokes. "Every life has components to it we don't like. You are the only person who can truly say, if your life is peachy or not. And whether or not those unusual turns are at fault or not. But sometimes we focus too much on the bad side of things and forget all the good that happened too. Humans are wired like this and it can take a lot of effort to break through it."

His brain was especially good at picking out the bad stuff. "Hm, it's not all bad ... Like, I got to meet Dre, we're even friends, that's pretty awesome. And I can make music and support my family with that, that's more than a lot of musicians or rappers can say. Even if it's gotten out of hand sometimes."

She nodded encouragingly. "That's what I thought. Things might've been unusual at times, but whether they turn out good or bad is a different story and has more to do with us and how we act. So, why would being homosexual interfere with you being a good person?"

He shrugged.

"Well, what does being a good person mean to you?", she started suggesting. "I know you want to be a good father, so that's probably a big part of it. You once said, you would lose your daughters if they knew and you wouldn't want them to suffer because of this. Why would being homosexual make you a bad father?"

He shrugged again. "Ain't that obvious? I ain't much of a role model if I want to fuck another man's ass, am I?"

"That's my question for you. Why would that be a bad role model?" She looked at him curiously.

"Because that's not how things work. Guys don't fuck guys. Or get fucked, that's even worse. As a man I should be into girls, that's were it's at. That's normal. I want my daughters to have normal lives. I mean, I totally destroyed the relationship with Kim, I know that. They never had a normal, calm and easy family life. And that's my fault. Nothing was ever normal with me, I want them to do better. How can I show them a better life, when I'm this abnormal? I shouldn't like how some guy's dick feels in my hands. That should be disgusting to me, but it ain't, I like it. I don't know why, I just do." He shrugged his shoulders unsure with himself. "And I ... I like the rest, too. That's what's so unsettling about all of this. I really liked it, when we broke my rules. I shouldn't, I really shouldn't like it. But I do. I want to do it again. I don't even know many girls who like giving blowjobs. But I do, of course, I of all people do. Nothing can ever be normal with me. If you could see what's in my head, you'd be disgusted, believe me. I can't get him out of my head, how his dick tasted and the splash on my face. I even jerk off to that. How weird is that? Something's seriously wrong with me here, Doc. I just want to be normal and for my kids to have normal, happy lives. That's not too much ask."

Her smile was soft. "That's a perfectly reasonable wish to have for your family. We all want our loved ones to be happy." She leaned forward an inch. "But put that aside for a moment. There is a different, very important question you need to answer. Why do you think any of this would not be normal? If you like certain sex acts, then you like them. That's all what that means. Why do you think of that as wrong?"

"Oh God, I just said that out loud, didn't I?" He pulled a pillow over his too hot face. How embarrassing was this? Fuck!

Her gentle smile didn't waver. "It's fine. I'm here to listen to you, especially to the things you don't want to say. So, why would it be wrong if you happen to like those things? People like all sorts of things. And you said it yourself just a moment ago: It doesn't matter what you like, either you're a good person or you're not. That's all that matters."

He peeked past the pillow. "Perverts aren't good people." Obviously.

"It always changes, what is considered a perversion. Once it was considered perverted and wrong if women experienced or, God forbid, wanted sexual pleasure. Today our society accepts that women are people, too", she explained calmly. "Homosexual desires are still debated and more controversial these days, but the needle is slowly moving in the direction of acceptance. It's not purely a perversion anymore, but more a difference, something unusual, something not everybody understands, but it's not inherently evil anymore."

"Tell that to my brain", he mumbled.

She smiled warm. "I'm trying to."

He answered with a small smile of his own. "Right, almost forgot."

"Does your brain have any snarky remarks so far?", she asked.

He scoffed. "It always does."

"Want to share some?", she offered.

Marshall still hugged the pillow. Somehow that was really comforting, who would've thought. "Not really? It got nothing nice to say."

"To be honest, that's what I expect. But it sometimes helps to share, that can take the pressure off. It's kind of my business model, you know."

He eyed her for a moment. "You don't need a pillow, you need a dick in your ass, slut, better two and one in each hand. That's the dream, ain't it, fag? Let cum rain down hard!"

She looked at him doubtfully. "That's harsh."

Chapter Text

Marshall watched the window of the motel room. Only a small light was on, barely enough to shine through the thick curtains. At least it was in the back of the parking lot this time. He was leaning against his car, biting his lip and stroking his tattooed wrist. Even though it was too dark to read, the words seemed to glow: Slit Me.

He shouldn't do this. Don't be a bitch, you want it, hard. I know you do. Maybe he could give this whole gay thing another try. His therapist was right, the times were changing on this, slowly but some. Why couldn't he? Because you're a pussy. He had to try his best. Once, he had wanted to die because of this. He couldn't have that again, he had a family to care for.

He took a deep breath and pushed himself off the car. With slow steps he reached the door and his hand trembled slightly, when he turned the door knob. "Hey", he said quietly into the room. It looked exactly like all the other rooms.

"Hey", the blonde smirked, "almost thought you bailed on me." He was tall, at least eight inches taller than Marshall and with a lean body underneath the tight, sleeveless shirt. There was a tattoo covering his left arm.

Marshall didn't respond the smile and admitted: "Well, almost did. This ain't ... I don't know." He shrugged. There was no reason to dwell on his insecurities. He needed to move past them, not drown in them even more.

The blonde, his nickname in the app was Striker, cocked his head. "Your first time here?"

"Might as well be." Marshall took his jacket off. "Look, I ain't here to spill my life story. Just, let's get on with it. You wanna fuck or what?"

Striker smiled thinly. "Sure, let's get on with it." He grabbed Marshall's arm and pulled him in close. A tongue licked across Marshall's cheek, a piercing scratched over his skin.

"What the hell?", he shoved the blonde away and wiped over his face. "What was that for?"

Striker scoffed. "Don't be a bitch." He pushed hard against Marshall's chest and shoved him onto the bed. One hand he pinned down on the sheets.

Marshall tried to free his arm. "Son of a bitch, get off me!" This got off to a bad start, a very bad start. This was exactly why he warned his daughters not to meet with people from the internet. You never know what crazy asshole you gonna get. Looked like he got the jackpot.

The blonde wrapped his fingers around Marshall's throat. "Now, now, you wanted to fuck. Let's fuck. No backsies."

"Fuck you!", Marshall growled. "Let go of me, asshole!" His free hand grabbed for the wrist on his throat, tried to pull it away. No luck, the tanned hand was like a bench vise. His breathing grew stertorously.

Striker stopped pinning his wrist down, instead he used that hand to lift Marshall's shirt up. Exposing his skin to the cold air and the wicked stare. "Not bad, you take care of yourself", he said jokingly.

Marshall wanted to hurl another Fuck you! at the guy, but his throat wasn't working anymore. He could barely breath, let alone speak. Fear froze in the pit of his stomach. His nails scratched at the hand around his neck, that was slowly squeezing the life out of him.

What irony! Because he didn't want to dwell on his suicidal tendencies, he now was getting murdered. Fuck this!

Striker bend down to him and once more licked across Marshall's cheek. "What you like more: getting your ass fucked or your mouth? You choose. I don't care either way, I'm a nice guy like that."

Marshall squirmed underneath the blonde.

"Mouth it is", Striker decided and his thumb reached up to stroke over Marshall's lips. "This pout of yours is really inviting, you know that? The pic doesn't do it justice."

Great, a chatty asshole on top of it all. 

The hand on his throat crept higher, clasped around his jaw and forced it open. A gargled sound escaped him. The blonde stuck his pierced tongue into his mouth. Marshall gagged. Then he bit down, hard.

Striker recoiled. "The fuck, you bit me!" He spit on the floor and frowned. "Fuck, you bit me bloody." His grip loosened in irritation. 

Marshall shuffled back on the bed. With all the force he could muster, he kicked against Striker's chest. Gasping for air. "Fuck you." More a wheeze than an insult. He stumbled around the bed and reached for his jacket. He needed to get out of here.

Strikers hand snapped around his und pulled him close again. "What're you doin'?"

"Getting out of here, asshole", he growled and struggled to free his hand.

Striker bared his teeth. "You wanted to fuck, let's fuck. Be good and open your mouth wide." A mean, disturbing grin showed his teeth.

Marshall spit in Striker's face. "Piss off!" With his free hand he punched the blonde hard. The next second, he grabbed his jacket and ran through the door. His car seemed too far away and his key seemed too jammed in his pocket. 

When he sat in his car, only the familiar and safe click of the door locks allowed for a pause and to catch his breath. His hands gripped the steering wheel tight. "Fuck", he mumbled, "fuck, fuck, fuck.."

Chapter Text

The motor was running smoothly. The head lights illuminated the street in front. His heart was pounding loudly in his chest. Still he could feel the rough grip around his throat and the pierced tongue on his cheek. A cold shiver ran through his body.

He didn't watch his steps as he walked away from his car. His feet led him to the door, unerring on their way. They knew where he needed to go, even though his mind was somewhere else or actually, his mind was nowhere.

The doorbell rang.

Commotion behind the door. Finally, it opened and a teenage boy stood in the door frame. "Dad, it's for you!", he called back into the house.

"You know, you don't open the door this late." Ryan appeared in his field of view "Marshall?" Late, he said? What time was it? Marshall looked at his watch, but his eyes couldn't focus on the delicate details of the watch face.

A strong arm was put around his shoulders, a soft pull into the house. "Trenton, turn the car off." Ryan led him into the kitchen and Marshall fell on the chair more than he sat down. He buried his face in his hands.

How the fuck did he end up in a situation like this? Probably something like this had been bound to happen. A matter of statistics. Somebody had to be the butt end of the joke and tonight this was him. Usually that was him. Why him? How was he so fucking bad at this? He always picked the wrong people to be with. Even for a stupid, shitty hook-up he regularly picked the wrong people. Never this bad, though. This was just crazy! Did he look that much like a victim? He didn't really think so, not anymore at least. He wasn't a scrawny 16-year old anymore. That time was long gone and he had no desire to have it back. He had been beaten up enough in his life. He was a grown fucking man, for crying out loud. He turned 38 next week. Thirty-fucking-eight years old. And he worked out on most days. Why was he getting attacked? And how the hell did he almost not make it out of there!

A touch at his shoulder. Marshall flinched and looked up.

Ryan looked at him quizzically and slid a coke over to him. "You okay?"

"Do I look like I'm okay?", he huffed. He wrapped his hands around the cold can, interlocking his fingers so they wouldn't shake anymore. Didn't feel like it worked.

Ryan hesitated for a second. "Did something happen?"

Marshall let out a pained groan.

A warm hand rested on his wrist, a thumb gently stroked his skin. The tremble in his fingers stopped and a warm calm spread from where Ryan touched him. It didn't spread far, but it was there. Marshall's eyes rested on the dark skinned fingers on his wrist, slowly the fine lines of Ryan's tattoos came into focus. "I ... this guy ... he ... attacked me."

Ryan's hand still lay on his wrist, softly caressing with his thumb.

"He attacked me", Marshall repeated with more strength in his voice. His hand let go of the can and rather held on to Ryan's. 

A gentle squeeze. "Did he get anything?"

Marshall looked up. He withdrew his hand immediately and stood up. "I ... I should go. It's late. I ..." He turned to the door but a weak pull on his sleeve held him back.

"What's up with you?" Ryan looked at him confused.

Marshall bit his lip. "You know." He freed his arm. "You just don't care to remember." He had no headspace for their fucking pretense right now. Quickly he left the kitchen and hurried to the front door. 

"What? Marshall!", more confusion. Fast steps coming after him. Another pull on his sleeve, stronger this time. "Wait a minute. What are you talking about?"

Marshall stared at him. There was no way in hell he was saying that out loud.

Slowly understanding sank into Ryan's eyes. Marshall was pulled into a hug and his limbs stiffened for a second, but soon he leaned in. The warm calm he had felt on his wrist just a moment ago now spread throughout his body. A small sob seeped into Ryan's shirt.

"Of course I remember", he said softly into Marshall's ear. "Stay." He moved them to the couch in the living room. "Now, what happened?"

With a sigh Marshall sat down. "I just told you."

"Barely. You're not really talkative lately." He sat down next to him, shuffling into a position so he could look at Marshall directly. Look at him worried. "Which for you is weird."

Marshall looked down to his hands, they played with the zipper of his jacket. "There's not much I can say without ruining everything."

"You ain't ruining anything."

Marshall wasn't so sure about that. He rolled his shoulders under the uncomfortable stare and the growing silence, that he didn't want to bear. "I", he finally said, "I was at a motel, you know ... and that guy was just crazy. I ... You're so lucky you don't have to deal with this shit. Dating apps", he grumbled, "the worst."

Ryan kept silent, kept looking at him intently.

"I ..." What could he say? In actuality not much had happened. He freaked out over not much more than an unwanted kiss, admitting that he was too weak and too stupid. Even worse, he admitted what he was trying to do recently. He shouldn't have come here, but he didn't want to be alone, either. "I'm sorry."

"No", Ryan said resolutely. "Don't apologize. The guy was crazy, that's not on you." He was still eyeing him up and said in a low tone: "So, you're dating guys now?"

"No, I don't", Marshall promptly denied, then he sighed and conceded: "Yeah, kinda ... maybe, a little. Whatever."

"You don't sound so sure." Ryan smirked. "You need some anatomy lessons on what's what?"

He nudged him between the rips. "Shut up." His head fell on the back of the couch, the ceiling here was just as judgy as his own. "Okay fine, whatever. But I wouldn't exactly call it dating, though. That seems a bit much."

"Yeah, I remember. It's just sex, no reason to get chummy and shit. Ain't that how you put it?"

Marshall shrugged. "So? Sex ain't worth the hassle either, if you ask me."

"Then why're you doing it?", Ryan asked calmly.

Marshall looked at him skeptically. "What a stupid question is that?"

"I'm serious." Ryan answered his gaze. "If it's not worth the trouble to you and you're so hesitant about the whole thing, then why go through with it?"

Marshall let out a short puff. "Easy for you to say. You've been married, like, forever. Not everybody is as lucky as you."

Ryan cocked his head, a doubtful expression on his face. "And anonymous sex in some motel is a substitute for that? How's that working out?"

"I know", he sighed. He couldn't muster the energy to get angry right now. Being angry at truth didn't help anyway. It was just easier. "I know that, okay. I don't need a lecture from you. So, could you not."

"That's not how I meant it." He gently bumped his fist against Marshall's shoulder. "And you know that. I'm just a bit surprised you're actually going that route. Honestly, I didn't think you would do that."

Marshall frowned at him and growled low. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Don't give me that look", Ryan tried to defend himself. "You spend like, what, twenty years to make it work with Kim? That doesn't really say: I'm gay and I'm proud, does it?"

Marshall flinched as his friend said that out loud.

"See, that's more what I thought", Ryan continued. "And I'm pretty sure, whatever your therapist does with you, this ain't really what she meant."

"Well, this is all she gonna get." He was growing annoyed at their conversation. He really shouldn't have come here.

"But you're the one who suffers."

Marshall stood up sharply, but before he could say or do something, Ryan pulled him back down onto the couch. Marshall couldn't hide the pained tone in his voice as he spoke: "I don't." Ryan looked at him silently. He didn't need to say a word to make his point heard, it was loud and clear in Marshall's ears. In a hushed but accusing tone he added: "You don't."

"Me?", Ryan asked surprised. "Why would I?"

"You know", he insinuated. "You moved on, just like that. With a wife."

Ryan shook his head slightly, sympathetically. "That ain't the same thing. I ain't gay."

Marshall rolled his eyes. "Of course not. You just stumbled and fell dick first into me. How could I mix that up. Sorry, my bad."

"Don't be sarcastic." Again Ryan shoved Marshall's shoulder softly. "What happened, happened. But that doesn't mean I'm gay. It just means that ... well, I liked you." He shrugged. Marshall always had found it cute, when Ryan was acting shy. You sure you're just gay and not secretly a woman trapped in the wrong body? Normally, you wouldn't see that on him. "And it confused the hell out of me, believe me. But it probably was easier on me than on you." Ryan rubbed his neck nervously. "I love my wife and I very much love that she's an attractive woman. And at times I think another man's attractive, too. It makes movie night with my wife a lot easier, actually. You know, some people just ... they just have a seductive quality to them and you can't resist, but ..." Ryan looked at him, honesty filled his ink-black eyes. "What I mean is, I'm not gay because I liked you back then. There's more to these things than just one moment."

Marshall bit his lip and had to look away. He really was the weird one here. And it sounded like whatever they'd had back then, hadn't been the same for Ryan than it had been for him. He'd always known that. Still, not a good feeling to be hearing it now. "Okay, you ain't gay. Good for you."

"It's neither-"

"Wait a minute", Marshall interrupted him. "You told your wife?"

Ryan nodded, "Of course I did. She's-"

"Are you crazy!", Marshall interrupted him again and jumped back up from the couch. "You can't just go around and tell people that. I don't care if she's your wife or your Siamese twin brother or your fucking appendix. You have no right-"

"Calm down!", Ryan interrupted him. "I never said your name, aight? She doesn't know it was you, but she's gonna connect the dots if you yell some more. Sit down." He pulled him onto the couch again. "She's my wife, of course she knows what I like and don't like. That's what a relationship is."

Marshall crossed his arms over his chest. "You better didn't. I don't need anyone to know." Already too many people knew.

"She wouldn't mind, though", Ryan suggested. "She actually was the one who encouraged me to look at this more honestly. Ain't like I'm enlightened enough to be casual about this by myself."

"About what? You like women. No problem with that."

Ryan nodded thoughtfully. "That's the difference between you and me."

"Yeah, rub some more salt in. Thanks a lot", he snarled.

He squeezed Marshall's shoulder lightly. "You're my friend. And as your friend I'm telling you: This can't go on. You're more miserable now than you've been in a long while and you regularly look mangled. We all worry about you. I can't know how hard this is on you, but you have to find a more sustainable way of dealing with this."

Marshall pulled his shoulder away. "You're overreacting."

Ryan stood up. "You gonna stay here tonight."

Chapter Text

He stared his phone down. His fingers held on to the pen, nervous to pick up the phone but forbidden to do so. Nicolas didn't deserve his attention and how much he thought about him. You mean, dream about him like a lovesick teenager. You write his name with a heart on the i? He was just an asshole, a sexy asshole, but still.

But still he thought about him and also, more and more he had to face the uncomfortable truth: He had broken his rules by choice, not force. That would be so easy to say. Just put the blame on someone else and he could go back to normal. But he wasn't. With Nicolas everything had felt good, the hands, the tongue, their bodies on top of each other. He wanted Nicolas to do it again. He wanted to kiss him again, to talk to him again, to break beneath his evil grin. For some reason, the memory of the powerlessness Nicolas caused thrilled him. Not to forget the memory of the cock inside his mouth. Nevertheless, Nicolas was an asshole. An asshole he liked somehow.

"Marshall?" A hand waved in front of his face. Ryan smirked in amusement. "I take that as a yes. Before you get totally lost in your daydream, you might wanna text that guy first."

"Hell no!" He shook his head determinately. "I ain't texting that son of bitch. Forget it."

"Why not?"

Marshall frowned. "I didn't ask for your help."

"I can count the fingers on your neck, that's pretty much begging for help." Ryan was visibly annoyed.

Involuntarily he put his hand on the marks his neck showed so well. It really looked mean. "I told you, I ain't doing that again. Promise."

Ryan snorted quietly. "Save it. You have a neck for getting into trouble. Quite literally. Anyway, if you really want to go this route, you need to do it right. And that is: Text the guy, that gets you all dreamy eyed, and start dating him for real. Not just hook-ups, actual dating." He passed the phone over to him.

"But he's an asshole. You said yourself, he's too intense. I ain't doing that."

Ryan thought that over for a moment. "The deaf guy from the club?"

Marshall nodded shortly.

"Then, that wasn't his girlfriend?"

Marshall shrugged. "I don't know. Didn't ask for his resume."

"Whatever. Text him, ask him out - properly", Ryan demanded.

Marshall took his phone into his hands. "Ask him out? To what? It's not like we could go to the movies or some shit. I just cause a stir and he can't hear the dialog anyway. Same goes for restaurants: I attract too much attention and he isn't a big talker anyway, or at least not with spoken language and I don't know sign language. How do you think this is supposed to work?"

"You figure that out together. He seemed to like you enough. He ordered you a fancy drink after all, that's pretty date-like already, don't you think?"

Marshall grumbled and opened the app. But he didn't type. "I can't do this."

Ryan took the phone out of his hands. "Well, then I'm gonna do it for you."

"Don't you fucking dare!" He took his phone back. "I can do this by myself, dickhead."

Ryan looked at him expectantly.

Marshall took a deep breath and stared at the blinking cursor. What should he type? He hadn't actually dated someone in … felt like never. On top of that, the last time they had seen each other, it had ended in a fistfight. Not a good basis for dating. Boxing? The gym he went to sometimes was small, nobody yet had bothered him there. Even if, boxing wasn't an obvious dating activity. He could be out with a friend just the same. Brilliant idea! He sent: up for some exercise?

"Isn't that a bit short?" Ryan had slid next to him and looked over his shoulder. "Also, doesn't sound like a date. Exercise? You have a weird concept of a fun night out."

"Hey, no peeking." He leaned away slightly, more to punctuate his words, less to actually hide the screen of his phone. "Boxing is fun. And judging by his muscles and all the scars he has, he likes to fight. This is perfect."

Ryan didn't seem convinced, but before he could interject some more, Marshall's phone beeped. "That's fast", Ryan noted.

Marshall read the message: really?   Again, only one word. "I swear, this guy", he grumbled and looked to Ryan. "See, he ain't a guy for dating and neither am I."

Ryan made a dismissive gesture. "Nobody would read that as a date. Go on, answer."

"It's gonna be a great date, you'll see." Marshall was still very pleased with his idea. So he typed: how does boxing sound? tomorrow, 5.30pm

Before either of the two could say anything, the answer came in: ok

"See, wasn't so hard, was it." Ryan smirked. "Now you actually have a date."

Marshall blinked unbelieving. "I hate you."

This was a bad idea. A date. A fucking date! He didn't do dates. This was a terrible idea. At a boxing ring of all places. This wouldn't work. Why did he think this was a good idea? Whatever had shit in his head needed to go in the ring with him, he wanted to beat it to a pulp. Take a mirror. I bet, Nicolas'll have fun watching you beat yourself up. This would end up in a disaster.

Marshall fumbled for his phone. He could write he was sick. He definitely felt sick, like this close to actually vomit all over the floor. Perhaps they could try this date-thing somewhen else, somewhere better.

A tap on his shoulder. Nicolas waved a hand for a second.

"Uhm … hi", Marshall responded. Shit, he sounded as nervous as he felt. This was worse than meeting some stranger in a random motel room. He picked at his t-shirt. They could've met for skiing, then he wouldn't feel so fucking exposed right now. Calm down. He already knows you naked, no reason to freak out. Shit, he was getting on his own nerves, wasn't that a great start?

Nicolas's hands pushed some air together.

What did that mean? Looked like he was smushing the sides of a small box. Marshall took the leap: "Yeah, it's a small box of a gym, but I like it this way." If he sounded like an idiot, then be it. You are an idiot.

Nicolas pointed to the boxing ring.

That was easy to decipher and Marshall nodded. "Let's. This time, I'ma send you to the ground."

There it was, that mean, provocative grin Nicolas wore so masterfully. Marshall knew, he had already lost.

He should be proven correct. He lost. Well, technically it was more like a draw. Nobody got knocked out, that would be stupid, and nobody went to the ground. But Marshall felt like he'd lost, because Nicolas hadn't put all his energy into the fight. Marshall hated it, when he was treated with kid gloves. He could take the consequences of his actions. Since when? You cry yourself to sleep because you can't. Did you already forget, faggot? Right now, his pride hurt more than the couple of bruises their fight had caused.

Really, did he look that fragile to Nicolas? Same with the crazy guy the other night. Did he somehow give off a vibe he'd be that weak? You kinda have a delicate face, you know, slim, with high cheek bones, alluring lips, bright blue eyes. What can I say? This was getting absurd!

Nicolas held out a bottle of water to him. Right, that was more important, getting some fluids back and his breathing under control. Then Nicolas signed something and the only gesture Marshall could recognize as a thing was when he put his fingertips against his mouth. That looked like eating.

So, Marshall nodded in agreement. "I could go for some food. Any ideas?"

Nicolas tipped against his temple. Seemed like he had an idea, well then, Marshall would see where this would be going.

They went to a Mongolian grill. Marshall didn't know Detroit had one of those, the more you knew. There was a table in the back of the restaurant they took over and the food was nice. Probably not his favorite, Marshall thought, but nevertheless good. 

One good thing about food: you had an excuse for not talking. What could he say anyway? It didn't seem right to just chat away meaninglessly, not if it was this hard to communicate at all. Nicolas clearly preferred to not speak out loud, why else would he use sign language with him, who just as clearly didn't know any. But what meaningful conversation was there to be had? What was meaningful anyway? Don't overthink it. He came to your stupid date, so he must like you for some mystery reason. Don't screw it up, girl. Maybe they could talk about their hobbies? As far as getting to know each other went, that was kind of meaningful. Well, did he even have a hobby? Would look stupid if he asked for Nicolas's and didn't have any of his own to offer. Hm, about boxing he already knew. What else did he do?

Nicolas clicked his fingers in front of Marshall's face, an amused smirk on his lips. He pointed at Marshall and then at his temple. Was he asking for Marshall's thoughts? 

Marshall shook his head. "Just bullshit." Especially bullshit he shouldn't space out over. He was here to spend time with Nicolas, not to get lost in his head. That he could have any day of the week. "The food's good." Lame! Agreed.

Nicolas touched the side of his neck and pointed at Marshall again.

Instantly he pressed his hand over the bruise. "Nothing", he replied. "Just a guy who couldn't take no for an answer."

Nicolas cocked his head.

"Don't give me that. You never ran into an asshole before? It's not a big deal." Practically nothing had happened anyway. No need to make a fuss about it. "I can take care of myself, you know." He was not weak, just so Nicolas knew.

Another smirk from Nicolas. Amicably? Couldn't be. "You box often?", he asked. Deep voice, a little breathy and this weird way of stretching the vowels just a little too much. 

Marshall's ears tingled. "Every so often", he answered. "Usually at home, though. I'm more into running and I like to play basketball, too." What was this, his first day of school? He had hated those rounds of introductions. And you never introduced yourself right. Hi, I'm Marshall and I'm gay. Wanna get a blowjob? That ain't hard to say. "What about you?"

"Sword fighting, Japanese style."

"Like in the movies? You know, samurai and anime and stuff like that? That's cool." Could he sound more superficial? If you start giggling next, I'm gonna leave. Period. That might be worth the risk. Come on, you'd be lonely without me.

Nicolas looked at him with obvious skepticism. 

Marshall shrugged and rather ate a big mouthful of his food. That seemed like the safer option right now. "My daughter watches some anime", he defended himself. Of course he couldn't just let it stand like this, he had to make it worse. That's your hobby. See, you do have those.

"Daughter?", Nicolas asked.

Uh-oh. You're scaring him off. Who wants to date an old man with three kids? He knew that! What was he supposed to do now? He wasn't gonna lie about his family. So he answered honestly: "Three, two nosy teenagers and a small one." Well, at least he got one real date in. Oh, now you care about dates? Silver linings and shit like that, right?

Nicolas looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "Do they know?"

Marshall sighed. "No, they don't. And I don't plan on telling them." Still this thoughtful look on Nicolas's face, wasn't as sexy as his mean grin. But Marshall wasn't about to let this judgmental stare stand. "What about your girlfriend, does she know you're on a date with me?" Offense was the best defense. And the fastest way to lose.

"Girlfriend?", Nicolas asked dumbfounded. "I don't have a girlfriend."

"The singer", he explained. "She even knows sign language."

Nicolas shook his head, but that smirk was back. "Jealous?"

"Of course not", he huffed. Of course yes. It wasn't like he wanted a relationship or some bullshit like that. Of course you do, you're a romantic girl, they always want a relationship and a wedding and bucket full of kids. He didn't really want to have this date, either. Their hook-ups had been totally fine. Oh come on, stand by yourself just once.

Nicolas looked at him silently. Mean smirk and knowing eyes. Eyes so black, they didn't even reflect the ceiling light. He leaned forward and snatched a piece of meat from Marshall's plate. "She's a hooker my roommate fixes up. And her signing isn't any good." He propped his chin up with one hand, his eyes never leaving Marshall's face. "So, we are dating now?"

Fuck. "No?" Could Nicolas discern tone of voice? Didn't matter. Judging by how hot his face felt, all visible cues were on high alert: embarrassment, bashfulness, dread, hope. Don't fuck this up, stupid! You're this close to an actual boyfriend. Your first real boyfriend. It's about fucking time! This was totally going the wrong way. He didn't know which one the right way was, but this was definitely wrong. Where was the whole in the ground, when you needed it? He was a grown man and his face had decided to act like it was twelve again and everything was cause to turn red like a fire truck. "Yes?", and his voice totally broke.

He cleared his throat. Fuck this, he was no pussy! That's debatable, homo. You certainly have one. "I mean …" What exactly did he mean? If only I knew, haven't figured that out yet. But I bet, his dick in your mouth would be a good start, would it not? Obviously, he didn't want to be gay. That was safe to say. Also just as obvious he liked Nicolas and judging by how his heart fluttered, he liked him a little too much already. Come on, you want to be his girlfriend. Just ask. What's the worst that can happen? That he said no, of course. That he laughed at him, of course. That he went to the press with it, of course. That the world exploded, of course. Ugh, don't be such a drama queen. Let me handle this. 

"You prick never heard of the three date rule? This is the fourth, we're officially a thing now. Deal with it." Marshall died a little.

Chapter Text

The front door shut close with a comforting, final thud. He leaned against the wooden panel. "Fuck!", a long, bewildered syllable. His heart was still beating too fast and his hands still shook nervously. He couldn't believe this.

The foyer was inhabited by the shadows of his home. The stairs wound their way upward, dark holes where doors should be, a small strip of light stuck in the chandelier high up. An all familiar sight, but unreal now. How was this his life?

His feet moved on their own, into the kitchen. Good choice. He could use a drink. Something that calmed his nerves. A coke wasn't good enough, but it would need to do. There was light in the kitchen and his daughters sat around the table eating their dinner. Bad choice. Abort! Abort!

"Hey Dad", they greeted. "You look excited, something good happened?"

He didn't know about good, but something definitely happened. You're welcome, by the way. He could've managed on his own. "Same old, same old." As he looked into the fridge, again nothing seemed appealing. A bottle of red pop caught his eye, there was a strawberry on the label. With his drink he sat down next to his girls.

"That's mine", Whitney complained immediately. That he should've guessed.

He looked at the label deliberately. "Doesn't say Whitney on it, so it's mine now." Sweet, that it was, teeth eatingly sweet.

Hailie smiled innocently. "Shouldn't you still be out? Tonight's date night, isn't it?" Not at all an innocent question. How did she know? Did she read his calendar or what? 

Well, he had told them he'd be late, so they wouldn't wait for dinner. But that didn't automatically mean he had a date. There were tons of reasons for him to miss dinner. Nope, there actually aren't. You had an actual date tonight and I was on fire! I totally crushed it. "Didn't take as long as I thought. Happens", he dodged around the real answer.

"Good things don't take long", she replied, still with that innocent smile. He would not be fooled.

Marshall shrugged his shoulders. "Apparently." Okay fine, he was excited. How could he not? Nicolas had given him his phone number. No stupid dating app required anymore. That was freaking amazing. You, my little gay looking boy, officially have a boyfriend now. Congrats. But stay safe, don't get knocked up yet. This pop was too sweet. He went back to the fridge and to his surprise he found a bottle of tonic water. Who drank that around here? Lucky for him. The mix tasted much better. He leaned against the countertop.

"Don't you wanna share the good news with us?", Lainy asked.

Did he look like the sharing type? Actually ... Shut up, just once! He could feel the big smile on his face, he knew how he looked, thank you very much. It just wouldn't go away. "There ain't much to say. Was a good meeting with some breakthrough."

"Dad", Hailie scolded him sternly. Since when did she get to use that tone with him? Had he dropped his parenting in the last couple of weeks because of this mess? He needed to pick up the slack around here.

"Don't dad me." Very parental of him. "How was your biology exam? Your grade must be in by now."

She winked dismissively. "I aced it, duh. But the real question is: How well exactly did your date go?" She watched him closely. "I mean, are you gonna bring her home any time soon or what?"

"What do you care so much?"

"Because you're our dad", Lainy answered instead. "You're all up in our dating lives, too. It's because you love us. And so do we. It's annoying but that's how it is."

That was downright heartwarming. "What do you guys want?"

Theatrically Hailie grabbed her chest. "Dad, you don't think we could use your affection for us for some evil deed. We are good girls, we would never."

"But", Lainy interjected with a sly smile, "if you just can't help yourself but think we're too cute to resist, I want to make a suggestion. How about I and my dear little sisters, who I just can't live without, arrange a, let's call it an intimate get-together this weekend here. Just a couple of our friends come over, maybe we do a little karaoke. Nothing big, just a bit of fun. And you, dear father, could take the whole weekend off for your mystery girlfriend and spend some quality time with her. It's your birthday after all, you deserve some grown-up fun. How's that sound like? It's a great idea, isn't it."

That raised all the warning bells. His father senses jumped in immediately. This sounded like a terrible idea. His girls alone in the house, throwing a party? "Nope. No way. Forget it. Not in a million years."

"Dahad", three voices whined high pitched. They needed a license for that. Why couldn't girls have a change of voice, too? They're not wrong, though. Now that you have a fucking boyfriend, spend some quality time with him. But not if it meant his three teenage daughters would throw a party, for a whole weekend. He knew how that would turn out. Don't be so uptight. Treat your family to some fun. He wasn't uptight, it was called responsible. Same difference, old fart.

"You can whine all you want, I won't change my mind." Not for the whining of his daughters and sure as shit not for the whining in his head.

"Dahad, that's not fair." More whining. They wouldn't win.

Chapter Text

Of course they won. They always won over him. He sighed internally, while he was still talking to Ryan. "… only a couple friends - this is not a party. Be strict. No too loud music, no alcohol or whatever shit they come up with and they go to bed on time. Whitney's only eight and she's not going to a party, not even her sisters'. And if anything goes wrong, call me. Even in the middle of the night, I don't care. I don't want-"

"Go, Marshall, just go." Ryan pushed him out of the door. "I have five kids myself, I can handle a weekend with yours. Enjoy your romantic trip and don't think about home, that's my birthday present to you. I got everything under control."

Marshall wanted to step back into his house. "But I have to-"

"You don't", Ryan interrupted him again. "Just go already." He stood in the door frame, unmoving and totally blocking the way.

Marshall sighed, out loud this time. "This is a bad idea."

"It's not and you know it. Now, go!", Ryan ordered and shoved him softly out the door.

Grumbling Marshall got into his car. He still thought, this was a bad idea. Sure, a whole weekend with Nicolas sounded good, exhilarating even but also terrifying. You chicken out already? Come on, fag, get at least one fuck in. Worse though, leaving his daughters alone while they threw a party. Just a few friends, he didn't believe them and they knew that. How Ryan got involved with this, was anyone's guess, Marshall had no clue. Let me try: You told him about their awesome idea and made sad puppy dog eyes so long until he made you say yes. You can't do anything on your own, pussy. Suddenly he acted as their babysitter and before Marshall knew, Nicolas had taken the weekend off and voilà, here he was on his way to three days of just the two of them.

His car stopped at Nicolas's address. In a small street a small house clung to the neighboring houses and all the colors were a shade of gray. The entrance receded into a niche, just a few steps were visible in the shadows. On the last step Nicolas sat. When he recognized Marshall's car, he came over. A short gray jacket, a black t-shirt underneath and his dog tags flashed in the sunlight for just a moment, cargo pants in a dark olive tone that were tucked into heavy boots. Somehow it seemed unlikely he would ever wear a suit.

They exchanged short nods for greetings as Nicolas sat down in the front seat. Some tunes were playing on the car stereo, a new artist Marshall was checking out. Not helpful now. Wouldn't be helpful either way, you always ramble on and on when you start about music. That won't make him hard. He would've liked to talk about it or just about music in general, after all music was a huge fucking deal in his life. So is his dick. Though not that huge fucking deal in comparison, but for your needy hole it'll be enough. But did deaf people enjoy music? Some must, since there always were a couple of people with the interpreter at his concerts. He always found that odd. If you couldn't hear anything, what good did music do for you? Lucky guy! How I wish I couldn't hear anything right now. You never shut up, bitch. Music was awesome and he appreciated that people liked his songs, of course, but … He couldn't visualize - or more audiolize - how that worked.

Was it insensitive to ask? Probably. Most definitely. He was a more tactful person than people gave his music credit for. He knew what not to say, but he usually decided that was exactly the reason to rap it anyways. Didn't mean he wanted to offend here, when he was actually trying to - whatever this was. A romantic weekend with your boyfriend. It feels as cheesy as it sounds. Stay with random fucks, fag, that's what you're good at. Well, good enough. Aren't homos supposed to be better at sex? You know, the whole 'we have the same equipment'-thing? Maybe he'll teach you?

For a moment he looked over to Nicolas, who was looking out the window and watching the houses go by and the streets blur together while they drove through the city. What an amazing start for their weekend.

Marshall sighed quietly. Even though he had bought a book about sign language Girl, you - they were officially dating now, so making an effort wasn't a bad thing, no need to judge! - it had been the first thing in his bag today, but half a week was not enough time to get anything useful out of it. You don't need much, slut. Just 'fuck me', that'll take care of all your needs. Maybe 'ass' and 'mouth', too, so you can specify. But I bet he's gonna fill all your holes without your instructions. You don't know what you're doing anyway. Plus, he highly doubted he would ever learn it to an adequate degree. It wasn't just learning new words, that he'll probably manage just fine. He learned new English words all the time, no problem. But they also put them in the wrong order sometimes. How were you supposed to understand anything, when the words were out of order? You need to get fucked in an order? Crazy fag. What, first mouth, then ass, then mouth again? That just baffled him.

Anyway, the book wasn't too helpful for their situation. The first lesson was on how to introduce yourself. Well, they had already done that. What next? Numbers. Really not helpful.

Should they drive to the lake in silence? That seemed wrong, too. They couldn't spend the whole weekend not talking. Of course you can! It's called fucking and it's supposed to be awesome. Not that you would know, slut, so many groupies but no fun. It's embarrassing. How much of a getaway would that be? If they wanted to get to know each other, some form of communication had to happen. Did Nicolas even want to get to know him? He seemed rather withdrawn most of the time. Can you blame him? He's stuck with a first time homo, that gets panic attacks after he gets fucked in the ass. He's gonna see that, bitch, you know that, right? After a whole weekend, he'd probably grow frustrated with their communication mismatch. It probably wouldn't make up for it, that Nicolas liked to tease and fuck him. Marshall wasn't good enough at sex for it to make a difference like this, about that he had no illusions. And teasing got old after a while. This was so fucked up. You wanted your first boyfriend to be handicapped, tough luck. Instead of getting your first real world gay experience with a normal guy, no, Mister Special Treatment needs to take on a charity case. If you weren't so picky and conceited and a freak, you would've found a nice, easy dick to suck. But

Marshall hit the steering wheel. "Shut up!" Goddammed it. Chewing everything over and over just made it worse. Like always.

A movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He looked over to Nicolas. He was tapping his fist to his chin, the thumb and pinky extended straight and he had a questioning frown on his face.

Whatever that meant, Marshall wouldn't care to answer. He was not explaining how fucked up his mind was. So he just shook his head. "Nevermind. It's nothing."

The smirk on the thin lips, he wanted to kiss so badly, had a sympathetic curl to it. He pointed at Marshall, then his temple and his hands seemed to cover an expanding ball. - What the hell did he do? Nicolas spoke out loud: "You think too much."

Of course, that's what it was. "Bad habit of mine." A short shrug. "I just … I don't know." He wanted their weekend to be great, that wasn't a crime.

Nicolas put his hand on Marshall's knee. A warm, prickling sensation arose from the touch. He couldn't help but glance at the hand for a second. The bass of Nicolas's voice raised his eyes again. "Relax. Just think about this as two guys having a fun weekend, that ain't too bad."

Shit. Was he so easy to read? You're not a sophisticated person, just too tangled up in yourself. He needed to get his cold demeanor back. Hahaha! "I know that, it was my idea after all."

"Your ideas always make you nervous?" Nicolas's hand still lay on his leg.

Marshall bit his lip. His ideas perhaps not, but that hand certainly did. "Shut up." He rubbed his ear a little to make the tingling go away. He hadn't found a way to make a beat like his voice, yet. The tone was hard to catch.

Nicolas cocked an eyebrow, then he took out a book from his bag and started reading. 

Somehow he felt a little disappointed now that Nicolas was actually shutting up. That wasn't what he wanted. The smirk, which crept to the edge of Nicolas's mouth, showed how very well aware of this the guy was. Of course he only read to tease him. Plus, he was somewhat surprised to see this at all, teasing or not. Nicolas didn't seem like the reading type. No need to panic! He doesn't seem to mind how foolish you are. Maybe he likes simple-minded people? Opposites attract and shit like that. Whyever, there certainly was attraction and he had an hour of driving ahead of him to ignore the hand on his leg.

The small house was hidden behind a couple of trees and thick copses. They were supposed to give a sense of privacy, but with the soft noise from the lake there was a certain atmosphere of aloneness Marshall liked. As if other humans didn't exist, at least not here. Sometimes that was exactly what you needed.

It also was exactly the kind of environment he needed, if he didn't want to get consumed by his paranoia. A whole weekend with another man at a motel? That just begged for trouble and publicity. On top of that, a motel wasn't really the place to be if you wanted your date to go well.

They got out of the car. Finally, Nicolas's hand had to leave his knee, but Marshall still felt the hot touch on his skin. He was expecting more, even hotter touches. He bit his lip in anticipating pleasure as he unlocked the front door.

As they entered, Nicolas looked around - so was he a bit curious about Marshall after all? - but there wasn't much to see. The house was furnished homey and it was an open floor plan, so you could pretty much see everything, but since he only came here occasionally it was mostly empty of personal belongings. He had been here earlier this week to stock up the fridge, but why bring anything personal here? It would only be missing from his actual home. For some reason though, Nicolas looking around, this mild curiosity of his created a lump in Marshall's throat.

Then Nicolas sat down on the couch in the living area. Seemed about right. Expectantly he looked to Marshall. A short wink told him to come as well.

So he did, but before he could actually sit down as intended, Nicolas grabbed his jacket and pulled him in close. Marshall fell right on top of him. The surprised yelp faded into the kiss. Lips hungry, tongues starving. A relieved sigh. Their last kiss had been five weeks ago. Way too fucking long! He pulled himself close to Nicolas, his arms wrapping around the broad shoulders, but tattoos still covered by the clothes. Soon. Nicolas's arms wrapped around Marshall's waist, their bodies pushed together. The kiss heated, breathless, but their tongues didn't leave each other, their lips didn't part. Rather they choked on each other than to leave their mouths.

Nicolas's hands stroked down his lower back to Marshall's ass and grabbed those cheeks hard. A teasing pinch.

A long moan escaped Marshall's throat. He jerked up. "Don't", he said in a low tone. His eyes scanned Nicolas's face for a reaction. He shook his head: "I … don't."

A moment of motionlessness. They just looked at each other. 

Marshall bit his lip. His hands dug into the black t-shirt, grazed the muscles underneath. Was he too complicated? You're needlessly complicated, fag. You want him to fuck you, so let him already! Would his inhibitions turn Nicolas off? They turn me off, that's for sure. How are you this bad at sex? Isn't practice supposed to make perfect? Whoever said that, never met a stupid horny slut like you. He couldn't brush them off. He wanted to, and at the same time, he didn't want to. He got off the couch.

Or so his plan. But Nicolas had something else in mind. He pushed Marshall on the couch and pressed their hips together. A delighted sigh. He bend down to Marshall's ear and kissed and nibbled on the earlobe. A warm shiver ran through his body. "Relax", the deep voice was directly in his ear. Marshall sighed again. "You think too much." Nicolas's hands pulled Marshall's shirt higher and stroked the exposed skin. The rough fingers pinched one of his nipples and Marshall bit his lips to stop the moan. "There's only you and me." Nicolas looked at him again, their noses almost touched. A soft kiss on his lips.

Marshall put his hands over his face. This was too much. This was different, so very different from his usual hook-ups, where nothing mattered. This mattered. They were not in some meaningless motel room and they were not meaningless to each other, not anymore. This was his home, an infrequent one, but his, nevertheless. And they had decided to be something, together. Maybe you should stop therapy, it turns you into a twelve-year old girl. Not sexy, believe me. Marshall didn't want to fuck this up, but he inevitably would. He always did. You're fucking it up right fucking now. Fucking faggot. Being this weird about relationships and sex was a fast track to fucking things up. Why anyway? It's just sex, who cares. You fucked plenty, bad but plenty, no reason to get weird about it now. But this wasn't an annoying groupie, he was his fucking boyfriend!

A pair of lips brushed his hands. Marshall peeked through between his fingers. Nicolas was still so close, kissing softly the back of his hands. "Relax", he repeated, a warm puff of air caressed Marshall's skin. The black eyes caught him peeking, they sucked in all sunlight.

This was exactly why he couldn't do any of this! He shirked off his responsibilities as a father to come here, to eventually get fucked by another man. So gross. He should be at home and spend time with his daughters, not giving them space to throw a fucking party. Don't give me flimsy excuses. You're pining for his hot, hard dick in your pussy, admit it already. He was a bad father, because he wanted to be here more than at home. That he should've told his therapist.

Nicolas sat up, but his hand was still on Marshall, slightly stroking his stomach. "Your pleasure is obvious, but so is your pain."

Marshall ran a hand over his face. "Oh God", he groaned. "This is terrible."

Silence. Only the soft touch around his navel.

He took his hands from his face and looked at Nicolas. There was only questions in his eyes. Marshall sighed and sat up as well. Lying down like that made him queazy. Sitting up now brought them way too close, though. Their legs entangled, their hips brushing each other again. Nicolas's hand moved from his navel to his back, holding him. Why was Nicolas so careful now? No teasing smirk or mean grin, that totally threw Marshall off.

He sighed again. He did that way too often recently. "I, uhm, I'm in therapy", he confessed.

Nicolas raised his eyebrows.

"For addiction", he added quickly, "I mean, drug addiction, uhm." Smooth, homo, real smooth. That has nothing to do with your gay panic, you know. He was getting there. He needed to start small and work through to the big things. "Anyway, that's all fine, don't worry, I'm good. Just … I don't know, it's complicated. Let's just say, the addiction didn't come out of nowhere and this is … uhm, new for me."

Nicolas nodded.

Marshall swallowed hard. Did he need to say more? His therapist always stretched how important communication was, in everything, with his daughters and his friends. He was really bad at this. Probably applied to a relationship, too. Even a brand new one? "I tried a normal relationship for almost twenty years, you know, with the same girl all the time. I even married her twice and … I screwed that up royally. Obviously. And I, uhm, just, this is kinda hard. I don't know." He shrugged helplessly. "I tried to best my therapist with the whole motel thing and that totally backfired, like, on all levels. I was trying to proof that I ain't like this and that I don't need some stupid relationship, those don't work anyway." He bit his lip.

Nicolas tilted his head. A slight hint of amusement colored the edges of his mouth.

Marshall scratched his neck. "What I'm trying to say is … I understand if you wanna leave. I can be a bit much, I know that."

Nicolas kissed him, not more than a quick touch of their lips. "Why would I wanna leave? We all have baggage."

"But", Marshall interjected, "that doesn't mean you need to deal with my shit. I can't even deal with my shit. I hate myself for liking you, how fucked up is that?" And now he hated himself for saying that out loud. Good one. Next, tell him how you cry yourself to sleep because you love his dick in your pussy. Fucking homo. That's gonna make him hard. How was he fucking things up this early this badly? They hadn't even been here five minutes and he was already telling Nicolas to break up with him. He should've just let his ass enjoy the squeeze, then they would be having sex right about now instead of this shit. And half an hour later you would cry in his arms. Sounds so much better, doesn't it.

Another light kiss. "You think too much."



Amazingly, Nicolas was still here. He sat on the couch and read his book. Casually. Like this was normal. Like they would do this every weekend, no big deal. Slowly he was stroking through Marshall's short hair. 

Just as casual, Marshall's head rested on Nicolas's leg. I need to puke! You're in a bad chick flick now? What's next, a sassy remark about his stupid book? He's gay, not a masochist.

He didn't feel casual at all! The music in his headphones didn't do much to distract him. If he moved his head to the side just an inch, there was Nicolas's crotch. In full view. Still covered with his cargo pants, but he knew it was there. And he knew what Nicolas really wanted to do right now, which involved what those pants covered. So should you! You're a guy, start acting like it. Getting all finicky about fucking. It's too late for that, you're no virgin no more and that's never coming back. Not that Marshall wouldn't want to, he did. Kind of. He couldn't think about anything else. But thinking a thing and doing a thing, that were two different things. You're so eloquent. They're just waiting to give you a Pulitzer, I bet. If he'd had an easy time with this whole fucked up mess, he wouldn't have this problem in the first place. You're in this mess 'cause you're a pussy and you're too afraid to admit that. Stand up for yourself just once. He had stood up for himself plenty over the years. You didn't get to be the artist of a fucking decade, if you didn't stand up for yourself. He had to. He still got people telling him, he had no place in hip-hop. What the fuck! Whoever got on a verse with him, he would fucking murder and they knew it. He was no coward! 

Just conflicted. Conflicted my ass. Our yours, that ain't conflicted at all. It's the same fucking ass! Marshall was looking up, but couldn't see anything else than the cover of Nicolas's book. This was getting nowhere. Your fault. You could've had that dick inside your holes by now, probably more than once. But you had to play the virgin princess, hadn't you. Which, by the way, ain't a role that suits you, slut. Not helping. He knew what he had done in the past. Well, mostly, probably. He was a bit hazy on the details, but the broad strokes he knew very well. He didn't need any reminders. On the contrary, he wanted his life to be better now than it had been in the past. Shouldn't that include being more scrutinizing about who he had sex with? Tell your neck that. Not his finest hour, true.

With a sound of desperation he sat up. Only mulling things over didn't do him any good. And it wouldn't actually count as spending time with Nicolas. You mean, getting fucked by Nicolas. You earn your money with words, use them correctly. "You wanna eat something?", he asked and unconsciously mimicked the hand movement that so obviously seemed to mean eating, putting his fingertips to his mouth as if to eat peanuts or something small.

Nicolas shrugged but closed his book. Enthusiasm looked differently.

But Marshall took it as a yes anyway and went into the kitchen. Footsteps followed him. He opened the fridge to get the food and heard a chair move, when he turned around Nicolas was sitting at the table. As he spread out the vegetables on the table he asked: "You allergic to anything?"

A small hand movement from Nicolas, not more. 

Didn't look like much of an objection, so it was probably fine. Right? Marshall picked up some more utensils, so they could actually prepare the food and sat down himself. He started on the onions. Don't you cry enough already lately? And so cliché, too. Be fucking original, homo. Since when had he to defend his cooking? His daughters never complained, then his own fucking mind could just shut it. He happened to like onions, that didn't mean anything.

"You cook."

Marshall looked up. "Yeah? I got three daughters, they have to eat something, don't they." What a question was that? He was human, he had to eat. Why wouldn't he be cooking?

Nicolas tilted his head a little. "Expected fast food."

"Nah", he wrinkled his nose in revulsion. "Had too much of that. And it ain't good for you, you know. They put all kinds of crap in there you shouldn't eat. Preservatives and enhancers and sweeteners and hormones and shit like that. That just screws up your body."

Nicolas smirked. "You're a health nut or what?"

"No, I ain't", he huffed. "I'm just trying to raise my kids healthy. They should know how to take care of themselves, that includes food. Also, it's kinda fun to cook as a family, you know … But it's not like I only eat organic food or shit like that, that's too much work. I still drink way too many soft drinks, too." He shrugged, then he pointed to the second knife on the table. "You wanna grab that and help me?"

Nicolas took the knife and one of the peppers. "You like being a father, huh."

Marshall wanted to turn back to his onion, but stopped in the middle of the movement. Shit, did he talk about his kids again? You shouldn't bore a date with talk about your kids, that was just bad on all levels, that much about dating he knew. A short shrug and he cut the onion again.

"That's a good thing", Nicolas added. "There are already too many assholes for fathers."

He looked up again. That sounded like experience. "And for mothers, too."

"I wouldn't know." Their eyes met for a long moment. "My father sold me when I was twelve."

Marshall blinked disbelieving. "The fuck, what?" How was that a thing? That had to be illegal; as if that ever deterred people. Who did something this cold? To their own child of all things. He would never understand how people could treat their own family like trash like this. "I'm sorry."

A short nod. "We all have baggage." Apparently they did. Was that a good thing?

"When my mother found me kissing another boy, she got crazy hysteric and stuffed me with so many pills, they had to pump my stomach out." It only had gone downhill from there.

"That's fucked up." Nicolas hissed and sucked on his index finger. 

Marshall watched him doubtfully. "Don't tell me, you cut yourself. You said, you do sword fighting."

Nicolas stuck his tongue out at him.

That brought a chuckle from Marshall. He stood up and fetched a band-aid from one of the drawers. "Let's see", he took Nicolas's hand in his own and dabbed a wettish dishtowel on it to clean the spit and blood away. "Doesn't look too bad." A small cut, not too deep, just like always fingertips bled too much. The band-aid was put on quickly. "See, already better now. Next time, be more careful, knifes are sharp." Idiot, he's over thirty, He knows that knifes are sharp. You need to keep your maternal instincts in check, seriously. He was just dealing with a wound, no big deal.

Nicolas looked at him with amusement.

Okay, maybe a small deal. Marshall let go of the fixed hand. "Well, I better do the rest myself." He sat down on his seat again and continued to cut the vegetables.

Head propped up on an arm, Nicolas watched him. The dark eyes rested on him, seeped into him and made his blood rush. He could feel the warm stare all over him, from his face, over his hands, to his chest where his heart beat too loud. Luckily, Nicolas couldn't hear it. There's one good thing about his deafness.

"What?", Marshall asked and raised his eyes. Yup, still looking at him and the intense stare made him shiver.

There was a warm smile gleaming in the corners of Nicolas's eyes. The shadows underneath seemed less than usual. "I like your honesty."

Baffled, Marshall looked at him, totally ignoring the preparation for their meal. "What?" His honesty? About what, that his mother was a crazy bitch? Not really news to anyone. That he loved his children? Shouldn't be news about any family. That he was an insecure fool? Not news to him either, but he tried his hardest to hide it. And recently he failed miserably at it. "I wouldn't call that honesty, it's more a lack of composure. Which I'm not really proud of", he admitted begrudgingly. He wanted to be in control of himself and that he wasn't made him angry at himself and that made him lose more control and - well, there's a cycle hard to break out of. Be real, you're emotional and sensitive and you take everything to heart - like the shy little girl that you are. Your deadpan expression is a charade and a bad one at that. Also, he was lying to a lot of people lately, trying to hide his rather dysfunctional attempt at being gay. That was the literal opposite of honesty. "Maybe you need to get your eyes checked."

A smirk. Marshall could feel, how fast he was falling for this fucking smirk. He loved it already. Stupid smirk. Stupid Nicolas. Even stupider Marshall. But Nicolas spoke in his soft bass: "You try to shield it, but your personality always shines through."

This did not sound like a compliment. Somewhat angered he said: "At least I have one. Your one single personality trait is an evil grin." So much for composure. You really need to chill, if you want to suck his dick later. He was chill, like an iceberg.

The smirk intensified. "You're adorable."

"The fuck? What's wrong with you!" He wasn't fucking adorable! Totally agree! You're pathetic, that's way different. His daughters in their beautiful bridesmaid's dresses had been adorable. How's that the first thing that comes to your mind? A grown man couldn't be adorable. That was preposterous. "Fuck you", he growled. He would show this stupid asshole, how fucking not adorable he was. As a rapper he had a reputation to hold up and adorable was not fucking part of it. Please, don't try to be gangster again, that had been a terrible phase. With more vigor than needed he cut the last vegetables.

Nicolas continued to watch him.

"Can you cut this shit out!", Marshall said flustered. "Don't you have anything real to do?" Why did he keep looking at him? That wasn't normal. What do you know about normal? You're like the least normal person in your circle of friends, and that's saying something. Nicolas should just go back to his book until the food was ready, goddamnit.

But the man stayed where he was.

Marshall kept muttering to himself. Sharply he stood up and busied himself with the pots and the stove. While he was cooking, he felt the dark, burning eyes on his back. He rolled his shoulders, but the uncomfortable feeling stayed with him. Why kept this fucker staring at him? He wasn't that interesting to watch, especially not his cooking. It was edible but he wasn't a master chef and he didn't aspire to one. Fine was good enough. No need to stare. 

Adorable! What the fuck shat in his head! This whole weekend was embarrassing as fuck. First he made an ass of himself on their drive here, then he couldn't handle them making out and now - this! This whole boyfriend-thing was a mistake. He wasn't build for relationships, period. You're too much build for relationships, little gay looking boy. They should end it right here.

A short squeal came out of Marshall's mouth. Suddenly, without any warning at all, Nicolas stood behind him, wrapped his arms around Marshall's waist and kissed the nape of his neck. Unintentionally he leaned into those arms and exposed his neck more. Why did a touch from Nicolas feel so good? Because you're falling in looove. That wasn't normal, either.

"Idea." Nicolas's deep voice was so much too close to his ear, fuck. "No sex this weekend."

Marshall turned around instantly. "What? Why?" Was he so much of a turn off? Was Nicolas already fed up with him? He was too much, wasn't he? Too much work and too hesitant and ugly, too. Sex with him wasn't good enough to be worth all this effort, he knew that. Nicolas didn't need to tell him that to his face. God, stop thinking, my ears are bleeding. "We totally can, I swear. It's gonna be fine."

Nicolas didn't stop kissing his neck. "Relax. You think too much." Annoying son of a bitch, is that all he can say? "Let's take the pressure off." 

Terrific, Nicolas thought he was a sissy. Well, he's not wrong … What could they do if not sex? Talking wasn't an option. What else was there? He didn't want to bore Nicolas and without sex, how else could he make it exciting for him? He shook his head. "It's fine. No pressure. Just, let's eat and we gonna try again. I'm probably just scatterbrained, 'cause I haven't eaten all day. That can screw with you, you know." What the hell are you talking about? Your problem is not your empty stomach, homo, but how fucked up your brain is. You can fuck with random people just fine, but someone you like and everything goes to shit. You're a real piece of work. He just needed to grit his teeth. It wasn't so bad after all, his ass certainly liked it … Maybe they could reverse roles? That'd make it much easier. If he could act confident and assured enough, that could actually work, that could convince the other. Wasn't like Nicolas hadn't been bottom before and he seemed to be fine with it. Why was he so eager to get into Marshall's ass anyway?

For a moment, Nicolas's lips were on his. "You're my boyfriend, not a whore I hire."

Marshall's heart tightened and his throat constricted. That sounded nice, too nice to be true, but he liked to hear it anyway. They only had had four dates until now and three of those didn't count, so there hadn't been much time for sympathy or affection to build between them. They didn't know each other at all and whatever that tingling sensation was Marshall felt with every touch, had to be only skin deep. Nevertheless, Nicolas's words sounded like he cared.

And his gentle kisses felt like it, too.

The TV was talking on low volume and the close captioning was on, but Marshall didn't pay the show any attention. He didn't understand this situation. This was supposed to be a weekend just two men hot for each other and he had expected it to be filled with sex and silence, like their time at the motel had been. This was supposed to be the same thing, just safer for Marshall's name. But nothing like that happened. They just sat on the couch and watched TV. If he wanted to do that, he could've stayed home.

Of course he was aware that this was his fault. He fucked it up, like he fucked everything up. If he could just get his poised demeanor to work, it would be fine. He only needed to take control over the situation and seduce Nicolas, then have sex with him. He'd done it the first time they met, he could do it again. He'd done it with some other guys before all this, that had worked out well enough. He'd done it with numerous chicks before any of this shit, even when he didn't want to, and that had worked out as well, mostly. Why couldn't he do it now? Why did he feel so fucking nervous? Why did it feel like his soul was exposed? Nicolas must've been able to see everything.


Marshall blinked. Where was this silence coming from? His head was never silent. Great, he didn't just put off Nicolas, he put himself off. And that meant something, his mind wasn't easily disgusted. Now he couldn't even argue with himself anymore. How would he sort anything out this way? If he was so bad that Nicolas and his own fucking mind turned away from him, how was anything going to be okay again? Whatever that meant for someone like him anyway. It's not like he wanted to be this exhausting. He would love to be normal and for these things to come as easy to him as they came to everyone else. A casual, slightly awkward flirt, that slid into some making out at the right moment and after some initial getting to know each other, they would end up having sex. Nothing fancy, just a bit of lust to get the hormones rolling. Then they would just do that again and again, until they would grow into liking each other as the actual people they were.

That's how it was supposed to go for normal people.

It had never once gone this way for Marshall.

And now, his usual way went down the toilet, fast. Hooking up with random people was easy, because you didn't need to see them again and because of that, it didn't matter if the time spend together was nice or not. There wouldn't be a next time to exchange complaints, so who cared? This time, though, he cared and did everything wrong. He turned Nicolas off so badly, the guy rather spend three days with him in silence than to have sex with him just once. What a confession of failure! How was he so fucking bad at this? He was human after all, shouldn't he have at least some basic instinct for this shit? Even for his instincts he was too fucked up.

Calm down, jeez. What crawled in your ass and died? Marshall led out a gasp of relief. Aw, you missed me? Maybe things could go back to normal now. You're never normal. But instead of spiraling down your crazy, how about you talk to the guy? How was he supposed to do that? He hadn't learned any sign language yet. Figure it out. Better you talk to him, than to yourself. Start by explaining why you're so fucked up. He should know what he's getting himself into. If Marshall knew why he was so fucked up, he wouldn't need therapy, would he now.

A silent sigh. He hated, when his head actually made sense for a change. That was always a bad sign. But he wanted to get to know Nicolas, that was one of the things this weekend should accomplish. And failed at miserably.

He took out his phone, opened the messages app and texted: sorry for the lame evening. I ain't much of a thrill seeker or shit like that

Marshall heard the quiet buzz of another phone vibrating, but Nicolas didn't look up. He just watched TV. Marshall rolled his eyes, so much for his brilliant idea. He nudged Nicolas's ribs and held up his phone.

A questioning look on Nicolas's face.

Marshall texted again: don't give me that. you don't like talking and I can't sign. so what else's left?

Another buzz from a phone vibrating. Nicolas finally took his out and read his messages. Another puzzled look to Marshall.

Marshall just looked back. Did he really need to spell this out even more? He couldn't be any clearer than he already was. But Nicolas turned to his phone again and began typing. Marshall felt a bit of triumph.

Then the message came in: you're an idiot

So much for his triumph, that vanished quickly. He answered: any better ideas? I'm all ears

Nicolas sighed deeply. Something Marshall didn't expect to hear from the man. He knew, this wasn't ideal and rather silly even, but he wanted to respect that Nicolas didn't like to talk and probably had a hard time understanding him. Lip-reading couldn't be easy and probably didn't get all the information anyway. There was so much to speaking that didn't involve lips, how was Nicolas to get that? It just didn't seem fair to give him all the burden of their communication mismatch. This way they were at least on equal footing.

Nicolas texted: fine, whatever. a texting date it is. you wanna have a dick pic too?

Marshall answered: let's save that for some other time. if this goes on long enough, I'm gonna be out of town, hell out of the county. makes more sense then

Nicolas replied: you're planning for our future already?

Marshall felt his ears warm up. No reason to blush, he told himself. As if that ever helped. He texted: you're the one who's insisting on this boyfriend crap, now deal with it

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Nicolas's stupid sexy smirk. Then the answer came in: what can I say, I like you. got a problem with that?

Totally surprised he blinked at those words and asked: really?   Now that he had sent it, he wanted to take it back. That was a stupid thing to say. He really could screw up everything. A talent he didn't relish in having.

But instead of sending back a text message to make fun of him, Nicolas bend over and kissed him. A tame kiss, not long either, but filled with fondness and … amusement? Not helping. Then the text came: you're adorable

stop saying that!, Marshall wrote immediately back.

Nicolas asked: why? are big bad rappers not allowed to be adorable?

Marshall answered: stop saying that, too. I'm not a big bad rapper. just a rapper of normal size and of normal … whatever the other thing means

Nicolas replied: I looked you up. you're very successful and with a lot of controversy. that's big and bad in my book

His head shot up and he looked at him. Nicolas looked him up? When? Why? What did he find? How much had he dug into it? Did he like Marshall now more or less than before he found out all the crap people wrote about him? Shit!

Another text from Nicolas: wasn't I allowed to?

Marshall's heart sank deeper. Why was his heart doing anything anyway right now? Steady beating, that's all it was supposed to do. He texted back: you can do whatever you want, man   He kept his eyes focused on his phone, but he could sense that the dark eyes stared at him with their intense glare that sucked everything in. He couldn't, not now. This was bad.

Nicolas texted: your songs are intense, it's rather amazing

Marshall muttered under his breath and answered: you don't need to kiss my ass, I know my own songs, aight. just, be careful what you believe

There was another pause, more consuming stares, then Nicolas texted back: I believe that I like you, that's why I wanted to check out your music

Marshall typed: sure, whatever   He paused for a moment, thinking about what he could write next. They needed to change the subject. This was not the way he wanted to talk about his music with Nicolas. Of course he had expected him to know who he was and some of the stories that came with that, at this point just about everyone he met knew him already or at least thought so. That was an occupational hazard. But at least Nicolas hadn't acted like it. It had almost felt like they were both starting at zero, but as always it was just him.

Was that why Nicolas was so uncharacteristically nice and considerate today? Why he was still here, even though he had already enough of Marshall? Because he knew, if he stayed long enough, he might get some good deal out of this? And there he'd thought … What had he thought exactly? That Nicolas could like him? Not just as a friend but as a lover? Who was he kidding!

Before he could spiral down this dark train of thought any further, another message came in: you're upset?

Marshall pinched the bridge of his nose. This was only getting worse by the second. He should've stayed home. But he answered: no, I'm not. just wasn't expecting that you care about my music, ain't like you can hear it anyway. so, whatever, doesn't matter   Oh, Marshall hated what he just wrote, but he sent it regardless. This was a dick move and he knew it. And he still didn't look up from his phone. He didn't want to look Nicolas in the face right now.

It took a moment for the answer to come in: you're right, I don't care about music, but I'm starting to care about you

Marshall couldn't help himself as his thumbs moved on their own to answer: why would you? just let's end this right here, ok

A hand tightly gripped his chin and made him look to Nicolas. They kissed. This time the other bore more passion on his tongue, it almost felt like desperation and Marshall answered in kind. These lips sent a jolt of heat and sparks through his body, he couldn't resist.

When the kiss ended, they shared another long look. It was hard to see anything in a blackness that didn't let go, but Marshall thought he recognized tentativeness. He must've been wrong.

"I'm not going away", Nicolas said and after all this silence his low voice was like an assault on the ears. Then he began typing again.

Marshall's stomach fluttered. He jumped a little as his phone chimed with the new message: you're not driving me away just because you keep repeating I should break up with you. I'm not that easy to get rid off. I agreed to start a relationship with you and I take these things serious. I know you have issues, that was obvious the first time we met. but I'm no different. we all have baggage but that's not a reason to give up before we even tried

"Oh God", the small sob stuck in Marshall's throat.

Another chime and another message from Nicolas: you might be hard to handle but so am I. I'm mean and distant, I know that. I love to fight people, even when I lose, and when I know I win, I toy with them just because I can. but I want you to know: I take this serious and I like you. I know the feeling of self-doubt that makes you question everyone and everything. you're not alone

Weakly Marshall shook his head. More out of disbelief that these kinds of words came from Nicolas, than if they were sincere or not. He wasn't able to decide that by himself. He didn't trust good things. So he took a deep breath to steady himself and texted back: then why did you say no sex? that doesn't say you like me

Nicolas answered: is that all we're here for?

This time Marshall shook his head with more determination but before he could actually type an answer, Nicolas had another message for him: because it freaked you out so much. you're adorable when you're flustered but I don't want to scare you, just tease you a lil bit, you know

I noticed, Marshall texted.

Nicolas wrote on: and I know myself well enough. if we had sex all three days straight I probably gonna do something … say unconventional and I don't think that's a good idea just yet

Marshall frowned and texted: unconventional?

Nicolas sounded like his teasing self again: kinky easier to understand?

Out of surprise he looked up and said out loud: "Kinky?" But was only met with a shrug. Marshall sent his question: what kind of kink?   This wasn't the first time he more or less shared a bed with someone kinky. Another case of statistics: if you do something plenty enough, you gonna find the more rare occurrences. But it hadn't done much for him so far, especially if he already had to focus his attention on being with a girl. That was hard enough on its own.

Nicolas answered: rough and mean. told you, I like to fight people and toy with them, goes for sex too

While he read those words a few times, Marshall scratched his neck. That sounded kind of ominous. He texted: and you don't want to do that with me, I see

Immediate response: I can't wait to do that with you. but I don't know your preferences, yet. and the last thing I want to do is to actually scare you

Marshall defended himself: you don't scare me

Nicolas pointed out the obvious: you almost had a nervous breakdown when I squeezed your ass

Fair enough. Marshall bit his lip. He couldn't really argue with that, could he. Especially since he knew he actually had broken down over this sort of thing in the last couple of weeks. Not something he wanted to repeat here while in Nicolas's company. For some fucked up reason he couldn't get a grip on himself and it was starting to annoy the hell out of him. It was just sex, no reason to freak out over. Even if he got the short end of the stick here, he should be able to soldier through. In the end, it did feel good, that was more than he could say about fucking some groupie. Why was it freaking him out so much? How much difference did it really make if he was fucking an ass or if it was his ass that got fucked? Either way he was having sex with a man - on purpose and with desire. Couldn't get more gay than that, could it?

Another chime of his phone. Nicolas texted: you got some kinks?

Huh, good question. Did he? He scratched the back of his neck again, thinking. Actually, he didn't care much about the how's of sex and hadn't really payed that kind of attention to it when some chick wanted to get crazy in some way. He just let her and went along as much as he needed to. But it rarely made the whole ordeal better. Rarely didn't mean never. So he started typing and it was easier to type this into a phone, than to see someone in the face and say it out loud. Who would've thought. 

He texted: not really, I think? had some crazy chicks in bed before, didn't make it much better for me, though, so … but I'm open to try. rough doesn't sound bad, y'know. angry sex with kim had always been the best, it'll probably be a good change of pace to not actually fight but more pretend-fight or something. imagine that hurts less afterward, she packs a mean punch. I mean, she'd broken my arm once, that kinda takes the sexy out of it

Looking at the display of his phone he kneaded his lower lip with his teeth, still thinking. How much would be too much? Also, would Nicolas turn away if he went to far with any confessions? Liking one kink didn't mean one was open to all of them, right? But maybe one was more tolerant to their existence? Briefly he snatched a glance at Nicolas, who was looking at him. Of course he was, he kinda always was. Nicolas cocked an eyebrow questioningly.

So Marshall typed on: I don't think that's a good idea, cause of who I am, but there was this one time that felt really really dirty. I still sometimes jerk off to that … we were in the tour bus goofing around, the guys and me, somewhere on the road. don't remember. some chicks were there, too. one of them wanted me, tried to pull me away to the beds, but I wanted to stay with my friends, too much fun, y'know. but she was determined to have me for some reason, so she rode me right then in there, in front of everyone. I couldn't do anything to stop her. she wouldn't listen to anything I said, just she pinned me down good, I couldn't move an inch. she did her thing and got herself off, that selfish bitch, and left me hanging, man. in front of everyone. that was some dirty shit. but I can't do shit like that in public no more, so

He shrugged to himself. Funny thing was, he couldn't remember much about the girl herself, what er face had looked like or what her hair color had been or how her voice had sounded like. Except for all her movements, were her hands had been and how her hips had straddled him and how useless his own limbs had been. All of that was burned into his brain. So was the unmet desire after she had climbed down and the hot feeling of … shortchange? That was the best word he could come up with. How could she not gotten him off, too? Ungrateful bitch. He'd been this close anyway. How could he not, when all eyes had been on him?

Another chime of his phone pulled him out of his thoughts. Nicolas had texted, of course: we gonna have some fun time together

Marshall looked up and once more saw this evil grin on Nicolas's thin lips, that made his spine shiver. What did that mean? He kind of felt this close to being eaten alive …

Another text from Nicolas: don't worry, we gonna ease into it

Marshall huffed angrily at that and wrote: don't baby me. I'm a grown fucking man, I can handle your stupid-ass kink, asshole

A quiet chuckle next to him. Marshall blinked. Really, Nicolas laughed. What was so funny now? Fuck this guy! And on that thought he texted: fuck you

Apparently unfazed by this, Nicolas asked: anything else hot and dirty you wanna share?

Did he look like he wanted to share? Stupid fuck. Marshall answered: you get off on that, kinky bastard?

Instead of another ping of his phone that told him, Nicolas had texted back, he felt a strong arm around his waist. It pulled him toward the other, until they sat together stretched out on the couch. He felt Nicolas's muscular chest against his back and Nicolas's strong arms lay around him. A kiss on the back of his neck.

Fine, whatever. Did it even make a difference? Probably not. He began typing: what you wanna hear? it's not as exciting as people think

Another kiss on the back of his neck. That wasn't a helpful suggestion. He started typing: I really don't know what you wanna hear. with groupies it's usually a fast and loose game, I don't really like to bring them up to my hotel room, so there's often not much place or time to get all freaky. although, once I shared a chick with Proof, that was hot as fuck. but with kim it was … difficult often enough. like I said, the best sex with her was usually an angry fight. oddly enough, that was our first time, too. we probably fucked it up back then already, who knows

Nicolas interrupted with a short text: do you like women?

His body stiffened, when he read the question. The answer wasn't something he said in earnest, ever. One of the perks of being him was to make so many jokes all the time that nobody really cared to take him serious at all. Somehow he didn't feel like joking right now. He answered: no

Marshall's hands, that were holding his phone, shook ever so slightly. Rough fingers rubbed over them. Another kiss on the back of his neck. They sat a moment like this, before Nicolas texted: me neither. tall ones are the worst

This brought an amused smile on Marshall's lips. He agreed: they totally are. what about your sex stories?

A soft bite into the nape of Marshall's neck. Nicolas texted: sure. when I was a teen I fell head over heals in love with this girl, veronica. well, only thing girly about her was that she didn't have a dick. she was older than me and so much stronger than me, it was frustrating and exciting at the same time. I didn't even know I was in love first, but my roommate made sure to point that out in graphic detail … the last time I saw her we spent the whole night high as the sky and fucked hard. we literally trashed the room, you know, punching each other, throwing each other around, things breaking. at one point one of us grabbed my katana und slashed me with it, that's the huge scar on my hip. don't ask me, if it was me or her, I don't know. but I do know how amazing the orgasm was, blood and everything. she was the most beautiful when she was covered in someone else's blood. after that, they made her leave the city, citing our health or some bullshit

Marshall couldn't believe what he was reading here. That sounded less like a sexy story and more like a domestic abuse complaint, maybe a murder investigation even. He turned around enough to look Nicolas in the eye. What was he getting himself into? Maybe he wasn't the most fucked up person on this couch after all. And maybe Nicolas was right, that could scare someone.

Nicolas texted again: it was way hotter than it sounds. I'm not good at telling stories

Marshall shook his head slightly and answered: that's okay. it's just … that ain't rough anymore. I kinda get the fighting part, but blood? and that scar looks like you could've died. that's too much, dude

Another soft kiss to the back of his neck. He knew Nicolas liked to tease and probably was a bit mean, that's what his grin suggested, but up until now he had been, well, gentle was probably the best wrong word. Not even remotely close to a story like this, that's for sure. This was … Marshall didn't know what this was.

Nicolas texted: I know

Once again, Marshall bit his lip trying to think, but not many thoughts gathered in his head. He asked: you still like people bloody?   Could he get behind something like that? He didn't know and he was a little unsettled by himself that he was willing to find out. Nicolas's story didn't sound like a kink, not in his ears at least and, well, he had once sworn to not get into bad relationships anymore. He dreaded the answer.

Nicolas sent: not like my scar, no. I don't leave permanent marks, but blood's still enticing

Marshall led out the breath he unconsciously had held in. No permanent marks also meant no life-threatening wounds. That was a relief. He could probably learn to live with that. He wrote: okay then, it's worth a try

Chapter Text

Early morning sunlight was shining through the curtains. Marshall buried his face deeper into his pillow, the bed was so warm and comfortable right now. Couldn't he just stay here? The pleasant weight of an arm lay across his back and as he nestled closer to the body next to him, he let out a deep humming noise. God, he had forgotten how nice this was. He opened one eye and saw the outline of Nicolas's face right beside him. Strands of black hair falling onto his face, the usually furrowed brows smoothed into an expression of melancholy, the thin lips slightly parted, teasingly, invitingly. It was too early and too cozy for inhibitions and he just gave in to his impulses. He leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on them, savored the tingling they caused. Fondly his fingertips stroked over the other's jawline, feeling the pale skin underneath. He could get used to waking up like this.

The hand on his back pulled him closer, the lips answered his kiss slowly and still a bit sleepy. Their bodies now touched with every patch of skin, so close he felt Nicolas's chest raise with every breath. Warmth radiated from the scarred body and made the whole world feel like a summer afternoon. As if the sun itself was beneath the skin, warming and pacifying the disorder of Marshall's mind. Right now, he let it.

Their legs tangled themselves up, trying to pull each other even closer, to feel even more. Again this deep, satisfied humming purred in Marshall's throat as their groins connected. Nicolas's half hard cock rubbed against his skin, causing a short but rousing tremor to sizzle through his limbs.

The thin lips, now awoken, kissed him deep and the tongue teased him by exploring his mouth but evading his own that so desperately wanted to be danced with. Marshall leaned more into the kiss and sighed at the savoring movements the other employed, seemingly to discover everything that there was about Marshall's lips and tongue and mouth to be known. As if this was the most important thing in the world right now.

On his back Nicolas's hand moved with slow strokes, caressing the skin and sometimes pressing his fingertips into the hard muscles, tracing the bones of Marshall's shoulder blades and his vertebrae and his ribs. Rough skin scraped his own. With all the time in the world, the hand moved down, careful to map every inch of his back. 

A pinch into his ass cheek. 

Marshall moaned low between their lips. Immediately he felt his own arousal rise and press against the body that was too close. His first impulse was to push himself away and his fingers clawed into the muscular chest. But he didn't want to ruin it again. He wanted Nicolas to like him. This man was not just sexy and hot and tasted too good to pass up, no, this man was also fast and dirty crawling through Marshall's defenses. The thought that somebody could like him in this way and the way Nicolas sounded closing the distance between them despite the short time they've had so far, it made Marshall miss the feeling of being loved. He could almost imagine this feeling, but without real reference points it was but an echo in the hollows of his chest. Perhaps, so a small voice said almost inaudibly, perhaps Nicolas was the one person who could love him. After all, wasn't there supposed to be one such person for everyone? Surely, just one person in the vastness of humanity could be able to love him? He hoped to God, this wasn't impossible.

He hated to be alone. And Nicolas made it seem like they could actually be together. Like he wouldn't care about the troubles that plagued Marshall's mind, sometimes even trying to ease them and it almost felt like he might be able to. That his mean grin was what Marshall had needed to find happiness in. He didn't even know what that meant.

His body tensed nonetheless. His breath shook as he exhaled deeply, but their lips still close together. There had been many things in his life he had done without wanting them, there had been many people he had been with and not felt remotely this thrilled - this should come so easy. Why wasn't it? 

He willed his attention to his own hands, his fingertips were still clawing the other's chest. Then, he let go of the tension in them, straightened his fingers and concentrated on the movement of shallow breathing beneath them. The warm, scarred skin underneath his fingertips filled him with calm. Nicolas was built from muscle, strong and ready to fight and Marshall wanted to believe, just for this fleeting moment he wanted to believe Nicolas would fight for him, too. Hadn't he said, this was serious for him? Just one morning without the world falling apart around him because he wanted to be with a man. Just one single morning.

His hands stroked and caressed the pale skin, traced some of the scars with his fingertips and imagined that Nicolas had them because he'd protected Marshall, saved him from a terrible stepfather or a cruel bully or his hysterical mother or the disgusted look on Ronnie's face ... He leaned deeper into the kiss, their lips and tongues melted together. Slowly, savoringly his hands moved down and when they reached the other's abs his breath hitched for a second. Fuck, this felt good. From here it didn't take long for his hands to feel their erections lying close together. He stroked them and rubbed them together, sighing softly into their kiss. This felt so fucking good.

Nicolas's hand still massaged his butt cheek and he hated how amazing it felt, heat spreading from the fingertips, that dug into his flesh, to the rest of his body. Marshall bit his lip by the sensations he felt. Now in the morning light and without any rush, it all seemed more present, more pressing, more ... just more of everything. He wanted it and he hated himself for it. But right now he wanted to enjoy being together with someone. His teeth cut into his lower lip even more. Nicolas's tongue licked the same exact spot. Another intimate kiss.

This was all they did and for Marshall it was wonderful. If he drowned in their kisses now, it would be a happy death. But he didn't, not quite at least. Whenever Nicolas's fingers grabbed on too tight, sometimes he even could feel a little stretch on his hole, that longed for more. Marshall bit his lip again, stronger every time. But it all mingled with the sensations coming from their erections rubbing together and it felt so right. Their kisses started to get sloppy and erratic, tension built in their limbs, their moans mixed into each other.

As their orgasms eventually came, it wasn't taking their breaths away, it wasn't an adventure. But it was a serene, lovely moment, downright meaningful because they were trying to be more. This felt like they could be.

Marshall couldn't help but watch Nicolas's face, these lips and especially his eyes. How did they not reflect anything? He bit his lip and felt the dull pain of irritated soft skin. He really needed to stop that or his lips may fall off.

He rolled over and grabbed his phone. He needed to know something, so he asked: why you wanna get in my ass so badly?

A phone buzzed. But Nicolas looked at him with a strong hint of annoyance. Very purposefully he rolled his eyes, as if to really make sure Marshall saw that. After a moment longer he finally snagged his phone from the bedside table and read the message. Now questioning was added to his expression, but he typed a reply: you like that

no I don't, Marshall immediately texted back.

A quiet thud was audible as Nicolas's hand with his phone hit the mattress. His face said: Come on, I know you do. No signs or words needed.

Marshall's ears heated up under the stare and he kneaded his lower lip with his teeth, it hurt a little and he really needed to stop that. Then he answered with a bit more thought: I don't need this, it's bad enough already. my ass doesn't call the shots here

It took Nicolas a while before he began typing. Marshall couldn't stomach the stare, so he just looked down on his phone, waiting for an answer. Hopefully an apology, he'd like that.

Nicolas's words were not an apology: you're a bit oversensitive about this

"Hey", Marshall said out loud and kicked the other's shin.

Nicolas kicked him back just a childishly and added: it's a sex act, no need to read anything into it. you do know, that straight men can also enjoy having things up their ass? it's not like there's gay copyright on it

Unsure about himself, he scratched his neck while he read those words a few times. Now he felt like an idiot. He kinda knew, after all that's were this stupid hospital joke came from, that someone 'slipped and fell' into a bottle or appliance or whatever ass first and now needed the emergency room to get the thing out. It was a funny joke. Somehow he had never connected the dots. He texted: even if! my ass surely doesn't enjoy it because it's straight somehow, we both know that

Nicolas answered: you really are an idiot. even lesbians like anal. that has nothing to do with you being gay. it's a sex act not an identity

Marshall blinked surprised: you're kidding

Nicolas wrote on: and some gay men don't like it and don't do it. it's really not that big of a deal. if you don't want me to, I won't. seems like a waste though, your ass certainly is in to it. a lot

Not just his ears, his whole face heated up. God, he shouldn't have asked!

But Nicolas wasn't finished yet: sex is more than shoving your penis into some hole. or getting a penis shoved into your hole, for that matter. there's plenty more to do and I'm fine with that, don't worry. I just see how much you enjoy it, but if your ... issues are in the way to really let loose, than it's not worth the trouble

After he read the last word, Marshall buried his face in his pillow. This was so embarrassing. He not only got schooled on sex, which probably was fine, but he got schooled on his own pleasure, too. He was almost forty, he should know what he liked and didn't like in the bedroom by now. Which he did. He knew himself well enough, thank you! He knew how much his ass enjoyed the attention, for a lack of a better word. He may be an idiot, but not stupid or numb.

His phone beeped. Please, no! This conversation needed to be over. He never should've asked. Why did he ask? They didn't know each other well enough for a conversation like this. Nicolas should just shut up. 

But he dragged his phone to his still buried face and peeked: can I ask what the problem is? maybe I can help?

Marshall sighed deeply. This nice Nicolas really wasn't his thing, he wanted that mean smirk back. Slowly his thumb typed: no one can, but thanks

A warm hand stroked through his hair. A slow movement, a comforting touch and after a couple of moments he felt his heart calm down and his cheeks cool off. It really was nice to have someone next to you, who cared about you and shared that with you. Who was just there, because you needed them to.

He raised his eyes to his phone again and wrote a bit more: I'm fucked up, like, really bad. it feels like I'm ripping to pieces, like there's acid inside me burning through my guts, like if I don't stop this I'ma dissolve ... I know it's stupid. gay, lesbian, transgender, whatever - nothing of that means anything. you are who you are, that's it. but ... I can't stop my head from telling me I'm a worthless cunt. that I'ma lose my daughters and my friends and my music - everything. myself. that I'm a disgusting fag and a slut with a loose pussy, which the whole ass-situation backs up way to good for my liking. that I don't deserve ... I don't know, it's not like my life's all bad, it isn't, but ... I just want to be normal and I can't

The hand kept stroking him with that slow, comforting touch. A soulful kiss on his shoulder. The warm body lay skin close to his own, as if it belonged there. As if all of this was ... true. He buried his face into the pillow again.

"Normal is overrated." Nicolas's low voice was directly at his ear, sending a soft shiver through his limbs. Another kiss on his shoulder. Then a gentle pull, that rolled Marshall onto his back. A kiss on his lips, affection on the tip of their tongues. The hand still caressed through his hair. Their eyes met once more. "Don't be normal. Be you."

A wistful smile was on Marshall's features and his fingers played with the strand of Nicolas's hair that was always falling into his eyes. "I don't always know who that is."

He placed a kiss on Marshall's wrist. "You just are."

"You make it sound simple", but Marshall knew it wasn't. Nothing was ever simple. So many people relied on him. He had to care for his daughters and give them a good life. Money alone didn't make a home. He had wasted so much time by working too much, by getting lost in drugs, by destroying the relationship with Kim, instead of being a good father to his children. Now that he had his life in order, he could not have it slip away from him again. Also, he had a label to build and artists that needed his guidance and careers he wanted to see flourish. They counted on him to save their own families. He could not fail them. He needed to be strong. 

But he felt weaker than ever. Right now, he wished so badly he could give in to all of this. Just once he wanted to feel loved and cared for, like someone wanted to be with him for his own sake. Being with Nicolas tricked him into believing that was possible. Even if he didn't deserve it. But if he gave in, who would he be? Could he still be a father? Could he still make music? Could he still help others find their way?

"It is simple", answered the dark voice he could listen to all day. Nicolas's hand fondly touched Marshall's face, dragging the fingers along the bones of his cheeks and jaw. "You think too much." A kiss on the tip of his nose. "What do you wanna do? Right now, what do you really want to do?"

That seemed like a weird question. He already did, what he wanted to do, even though it was wrong. He was here instead of home with his daughters, instead of making sure they didn't throw a party and didn't get into any trouble. How stupid had he been to leave them with Ryan of all people. Sure, he was his friend, maybe even best friend now that DeShaun couldn't be here anymore, but still Ryan was an alcoholic. That was the dumbest ide-

"Don't think", Nicolas interrupted, "What do you want to do, right this second?"

Marshall blinked briefly. "Play basketball", was his answer. That sounded so good. Felt like he hadn't played in ages, damn. "But we don't-"

"Good, basketball it is", Nicolas interrupted him again. Another kiss, then the man got off the bed. Marshall's eyes followed his appetizing backside as he walked to his bag and took his clothes out.

Marshall heard the quiet and familiar rattle before he saw the orange plastic in Nicolas's hands. A bottle of pills. He cocked his head and his eyes followed the movement of nonchalant hands and a disinterested jaw chewing a few of them. Then their gazes met. He cleared his throat and asked: "You, uhm, are you sick or something?"

Nicolas shrugged with his shoulders and threw the bottle of pills back into his bag. Then he slipped into his clothes.

Marshall stood up from the bed himself and put his clothes back on. More importantly though, he took his phone in his hands and gestured Nicolas to type his answer. It's not that he was tempted by seeing Nicolas handle a couple of pills, but he needed to know. He would never let down a friend in need or push somebody away for having a problem, being it pneumonia or a heart condition or addiction or anything else. All if it were illnesses and he'd stand by his friends. But he couldn't take the risk to be surprised.

Nicolas still was visibly annoyed about texting. Nothing Marshall could be considerate about now. This was important, he never wanted to go back. So he typed: I don't want to pry into your life, I really don't, but I'm two years sober from prescription drugs. it's not a big deal right now, but I need to be on top of this. can you understand?

A warm hand rubbed his neck gently. The answer came in: sorry, I forgot. my mom was a drug addict, didn't get clean when she was pregnant. the pills help with seizures and stuff

"Oh." He hadn't expected that, although he wasn't sure what kind of answer he had expected. But before he could write a reply, Nicolas put the phone in his pocket and pulled Marshall out of the bedroom. Well, seemed like this conversation was over and he couldn't exactly say he was sad about it. Playing basketball sounded like a much better time, if he was honest.

Of course he had a hoop in the backyard and a ball ready to go. Even though Marshall's technique was better and he had a much easier time with the ball in his hands, Nicolas was fast and strong, not above shoving and cheating if it helped him. They reached a surprisingly balanced score and Marshall enjoyed their game full heartedly.

Chapter Text

The curve was almost invisible. The dark jeans didn't care about the form of his crisp ass, neither did the dark t-shirt that hid the muscles of his back too well. A slender body beneath the heavy fabric and it toned down how impressive he actually was. Every time he saw the man naked, he was surprised again. Even though he had slept next to him and touched every patch of skin, felt the muscles underneath his fingertips, Nicolas still couldn't believe how stunning he was. Even less, why he hid it underneath clothes that had no form and no color.

Not that he himself was a good example of well dressed, not by a long shot. He didn't actually care about clothes. Most of his attire was for work or belonged to Worick - or maybe he just took back from his roommate what was rightfully his, who knew at this point. But he could get behind caring, if he had something this gorgeous to look at. The ass alone was like perfection. The curve fell at the right angle, the cheeks firm and so sensitive, it was a delight. Nicolas wondered how it'll look with a bright red imprint of his hand on the lightly tanned flesh.

But he had a feeling, that would need to wait. The man was fickle like a cat. One moment he was distant and aloof, the next moment he demanded all the attention. Moody as hell, too. Relaxed now, annoyed immediately after and a second after that he was sweet like strawberries or cracking a joke. He wanted to be petted but not touched at the same time, and got pissed if things didn't go his way. Often he tried to show a laid-back, disinterested exterior, but he was a feisty little minx underneath. Though, if the moment was just right, he'd have this satisfied, blessed expression on his face that just warmed your body and soul. 

Luckily, Nicolas liked cats.

Marshall bend down to pick something up from the floor. A piece of green vegetable that had fallen out of the pan. One leg half stretched to keep balance while the other stood firmly on the ground, his upper body bending down, a tattooed arm reaching for the floor and fine fingers picking up the offending piece of food. Nicolas couldn't help the image, that formed in his mind: Marshall bend over the kitchen table, those same fine fingers clinging to the wood for dear life until the knuckles would shine through. He would take that for dinner.

Also something he was surprised by: He actually cooked, again. Nicolas would've been fine with a sandwich or just something to drink, but Marshall insisted on cooking their meal. He did look good in front of a stove, Nicolas had to give him that. Although, he had the feeling, Marshall wouldn't appreciate the wording of this compliment. In general he seemed rather apprehensive when complimented, almost shy even, despite the confident poker face he put on most of the time. A delicious sight, when it fell apart. But Marshall still stood there and cooked, regardless that an act this caring clashed with the image of ice and steel he tried to portrait in most of his songs. Nicolas took it as a sign, that he was allowed to see more.

Which he found also surprising. Almost everything this man did surprised him, which peaked his curiosity even more. Then again, they hardly knew each other and he made his assumptions on rather weak grounds. But he was very sure, Marshall guarded his true self harsh and fierce. Often he bit down a smile, an adorable gesture but also one that told a sad story. A story his songs captured well but perhaps not fully and Nicolas hadn't looked into it too much. He had looked up a handful of songs to be prepared. Marshall's eyes had practically glowed when he'd said musician and Nicolas was sure, that was something the man would love to talk about. He seemed rather talkative, gabby even - which made it all the more sweet when he was at a loss for words. But music wasn't Nicolas's thing, besides the occasional concert Worick dragged him to. The translations he found for Marshall's songs though, intense. The man undeniably had a way with words.

Now said man turned around and brought the food over to the table and when Marshall stood close to put a plate in front of Nicolas, he could see the greenish-yellow tint on the man's neck. The remnants of a hand, that wasn't Nicolas's and by now he'd come around to admit, the tight knot in his stomach was jealousy. Marshall's neck seemed so fragile. Often obscured by the hood of a sweater, but now it wasn't. Just that beautiful, fragile neck and the short cropped hair, that revealed more than it hid. If Nicolas raised his hand, he could touch the soft skin, lay his fingers around the wiry throat and squeeze, press his thumb into the triangle of muscles and feel the struggle for air.

To see how someone else had beat him to it, angered him. The small silver lining was, that this mark wasn't the result of passion but pure violence. Nicolas could empathize with the need to destroy something this ravishing, the need to make this man writhe and twist in pain, the urge to take him apart, delicate piece by delicate piece. But he also wanted Marshall to be filled with lust. It had literally taken his breath away the first night he saw it. He'd almost come just by the sight of this man being lost in his own sensual bliss. So much passion and emotion lived inside this athletic body and when he gave in to lose control of himself, it all just burst out of him.

Sadly, he had a hart time giving up control of himself. Something, Nicolas would be teaching him in the not so distant future. But first they needed to build trust and establish their relationship. Not that he cared much about relationships, especially romantic ones, Nicolas could live without and had so for just about all of his life. It was obvious, that Marshall needed it, though. Both those things.

Of course trust was important for what Nicolas wanted to do with this man. They needed to be sure in what they did and that they wanted it and that if it went sour, they'd had a lifeline. Otherwise a lot of pain awaited and this wasn't the kind of pain Nicolas was fine with or even wanted to cause. So, trust they would build.

The relationship on the other hand wasn't strictly needed, not for sex and not for trust. Nicolas wasn't exactly sure how to build one. A relaxing weekend seemed like a good start. When he'd come home, he'd have to ask Worick for advice. Not that his roommate was any better with relationships but at least he faked them regularly, that should give some hints. Without one, Marshall would never relinquish control - not freely and not for long. He craved to be in a relationship, that much was clear. Just the boyish delight in his eyes, when Nicolas had agreed to actually date him, was enough to tell you that. How domestic this weekend felt further cemented this conclusion. That Marshall was regularly jumping to call this off, was another paragraph to the sad story of his. He wanted this, but couldn't allow himself to have it. And Nicolas just wanted to see him smile more often.

Which was a new thing for him.

The food tasted well as they ate. Not that Nicolas had a distinguished palate and he rather have meat than all this green stuff, but it was good and Marshall cooking for him felt rather sweet. It wasn't necessary by any means, just something the man wanted to do for him. Something Nicolas didn't experience often, but nevertheless something he happened to enjoy, turned out.

Halfway through the meal he noticed the by now so familiar shifting in Marshall's body. Nervousness. It was barely visible, not really a movement but the tensing of muscles, which were well hidden underneath the dark clothes. The bright blue eyes darted around the room, always lingering on Nicolas for a moment too long and then flitting to somewhere else, just to come back a second later. Much like a young kitten prowling around its prey, but not yet able to pounce on it. It had been really easy to decipher what this meant: Marshall was thinking hard about something. Another easy conclusion was to be drawn, that he was thinking too much, specifically about negative things. He seemed to have a proclivity for that.

To get him out of his own mind, Nicolas decided to tease him a little. Under the table he raised his foot and started to stroke Marshall's shinbone with his toes. That should distract him.

The eyes focused on him, permanently. Their color was dazzling, the bright blue of a clear winter sky and with the extremes of one, too: usually ice cold, sometimes to the point of freezing you with a glare, but also sunny and warm whenever he spoke about his daughters. More mesmerizing was the sight of them filled with lust, when they glowed like ice under a full moon. Nicolas just wanted to howl, then, and swallow him, devour this beautifully sprawled body underneath him, that always held on tight as if that could prevent him from drowning in his desires. But Nicolas was going to push him all the way in, promise. Alone these lips were worth the trouble of dating. A light shade of pink, the upper lip perfectly arched into a cupid's bow and adorned a voluptuous lower lip, teeth sucking it in and kneading it distractedly. When he spoke, the lips moved sharply und quickly. Always an invitation to be kissed rousingly and it was Nicolas's pleasure to answer their call. So he leaned over the table and kissed that sweet, sweet mouth, a hand rubbing Marshall's neck gently.

It was a long and heartfelt kiss.

"What was that for?", Marshall asked slightly out of breath.

Nicolas sat back down, but only answered with a shrug. As he picked up the fork, he put his foot back against the man's shinbone, stroking it with his toes again.

Another tug on that lip as Marshall bit down one of his smiles. A good sign, but they needed to work on him not suppressing his pleasure like that. "You, uhm, is the food okay?"

Nicolas fought back a chuckle. He was sure, this was neither what Marshall wanted to say, but also that he wouldn't appreciate him laughing at the question. It was a little puzzling how easily the man made him laugh. His life didn't leave much room for these kinds of things, but here, with him, it seemed so simple, so normal. As an answer he took a big bite of their dinner.

Marshall reached for his phone and typed. Nicolas felt the small vibration, as the message reached the phone in his pants. He could live without. Of course he understood why the man insisted on this mode of communication, still it annoyed him. They were sitting right in front of each other, but writing made them seem so distant, as if each of them inhabited their own little universes and only a tin can telephone connected them. Nicolas was hard working against this distance.

He read the message: so, you said, you have a roommate. does he work in security, too? you're good friends?

That was an easy and at the same time rather difficult question, both of them. Some caution was prudent. Nicolas answered: sometimes, we share a small business doing independent work. security is just one of the services we offer. he frequently works as a gigolo

Marshall replied: gigolo? but you don't do that, do you?

There was a frown between Marshall's eyebrows, probably already thinking too much again. So he texted back quickly: no, I don't. I'm bad at pretending and I don't connect well with people. he's easy and charming, just fits him well

Marshall wrote: then you're good friends? having a business together and all

There now was the question: How much to reveal at this point in time? Trust needed honesty and honesty needed truth. Same went for relationships, that much he knew. But there was such a thing as too much truth and too much honesty. He carefully chose his next words: we're best friends, I'd say. known each other since we were teens, ran away together and made a living on the streets eventually. I probably would've died a few times if it hadn't been for him. but there's been a lot of hardship, too, that we caused each other. that's what happens when you're close with someone

Marshall tilted his head as he read the message. It should be obvious from the words, that there were some stories to tell, some bad, painful stories specifically, but that it probably was too early to share them. Stories about death were always hard to share. Nicolas was sure, the man understood a predicament like this, since Marshall hadn't told his story either. Nicolas still didn't really understand what Marshall's problem was, only that he was hurting pretty bad. Which made him want to protect the man. Seeing him close to tears, as he had been this morning, drew all tender feelings Nicolas hadn't lost yet to the surface. He was totally besotted with Marshall. If he'd still knew what fear was, this might've scared him.

Then Marshall's text came in: sounds like the right kind of friendship, the one where you trust each other even when it hurts ... I lost someone like that a few years ago and I miss him every day

Nicolas decided, he needed to read a book on comforting people soon. Marshall seemed to be a never ending well of sad stories. But right now he would have to wing it and hope for the best, so he answered: would think so. I can't imagine a life without him, that's ... I don't know. I wish you wouldn't have to go through that

Next message: me too

The sadness was obvious, even tactile in these two so simple words. If he reached out, he could touch the raw hurt beating in Marshall's chest. For a split second Nicolas wondered, if he should be here. If he should move any of this further along and possibly end up causing the man more hurt, only because he wanted to raven this heart-stoppingingly glorious body and see him break with lust. The side of him that craved blood now growled eagerly at the thought of how he would leave a sore, aching hole in the man's soul. The image was delicious but miserable. He rather have Marshall smile than cry ...

Nicolas stood up and walked around the table. Briefly he squeezed Marshall's shoulder, then pulled him up from the chair and into a hug. He found, words rarely expressed well what he wanted to communicate. They just didn't connect to him. One of the reasons he liked to read was, so he could learn new words and maybe find some that did the job well or just find a phrase that finally said, what needed to be said. But sadness like this, how could words capture that? For anyone. Though a hug, that he understood to be soothing. The feel of somebody else, who stood firm and held on when oneself seemed to fade away, that Nicolas knew to be helpful. Regardless of how awful the feeling of being so helpless was, sometimes things were just horrible, no amount of fighting could change that. Not being and more importantly not feeling alone was the only good left then.

Marshall leaned into him and returned the hug shortly, before pulling away from him again a second later. The man scratched his neck and instead of looking at him, Marshall looked to the table and their food. "I should clean this up", he said, lips barely moving.

Nicolas shook his head. With a strong grip he pulled Marshall with him into the living room, onto the couch. He felt the man struggle, but wouldn't give him any leeway. Finally, they sat, or more lay on the couch together and Nicolas stroked the other's back with a light touch. 

In the end, a boyfriend was also a friend and what a crappy friend would he be, if he let Marshall feel alone right now?

Chapter Text

At night the small house seemed almost invisible. Marshall couldn't make out the entrance and there was no light in any of the windows. He turned his attention to Nicolas, who was gathering his stuff. A short touch on the other's shoulder, so he would look at him. "Thanks for the weekend. It was really nice to get out of the daily grind, you know."

Nicolas nodded. Still, Marshall found that frustrating. Texting had given them the opportunity for some conversations, some lighthearted and some much less so, which generally he was grateful for. He couldn't be with someone and not talk. He just couldn't. Although, the darker conversations he could've done without. Since he used writing as a tool to clear his head, it had been easy to write too much. He had been embarrassingly open the last three days and even though a relationship needed that eventually, this felt too much too early. 

"It was a good way to spend my birthday", he added, "I usually don't do anything special, so this was really nice." A little time for only himself. Nothing to do with his daughters or his work, on both he spent about almost every waking hour. This had been only for himself, because he wanted to be with Nicolas, nothing else. Maybe this hadn't been the worst idea after all.

"Birthday?", Nicolas asked surprised.

Marshall nodded: "Yeah, today's my birthday."

Nicolas leaned forward and their lips met into a long, intense kiss. Then the dark voice said: "Happy birthday."

Marshall couldn't help the smile. "Thanks", he whispered back.

Then, Nicolas got out of the car and went to his house. Marshall waited until he couldn't see him in the dark anymore, and waited some more until he saw light in one of the windows.

Their weekend was officially over.

Marshall was surprised to see the foyer in, well, in orderly condition. Just as he had left it. He had expected some chaos, maybe a minor disaster of cups and scraps of food, some tumble of furniture. Even all the pictures were still hanging on the wall along the stairs as they were supposed to. His steps led him into the living room. Low snoring came from one of the couches, Ryan slept there. Everything else looked as always, no stains on the carpet as far as he saw right now.

His daughters could clean up really well, when they wanted to. He was impressed.

Since he didn't have the heart to wake Ryan up, he just draped a blanket over him and let him be. He'd been a really good friend. There weren't even beer bottles to clean up after him. Did he really stick to the no-alcohol rule Marshall had set up for the girls? That was sweet of him.

He left the living room and went upstairs. After checking up on his girls, who all slept soundly in their beds, he went to bed himself.

The morning rose early and Marshall with it. After a round on his treadmill and a good shower, he stood in the kitchen and made some sandwiches. There were a lot of mouths to feed today. He wondered, if he needed to wake Whitney up himself or if she would listen to her alarm clock. Usually he could say that from the way she went to bed the night before, but that wasn't available information right now.

Hailie was the first to walk in. "You're in a good mood", she said and snagged one of the sandwiches. "I take it, your weekend went well?"

"It was nice", he tried to sound nonchalant. "What about yours?"

She grinned briefly. "It was nice." As she came closer, he ruffled her hair in response. But instead of pushing his hand away or fixing her hair up, she just hugged him. "Happy birthday, Dad."

"Thanks, Hai-Hai", of course he hugged her back and gave a kiss to her temple. What else was there?

She sat down at the table. "So, you gonna give me some details now? Or are you still insisting that you don't have a girlfriend and don't really date?"

With his glass of water he sat next to her. "There ain't much to tell, honestly." He propped his head up on one hand and looked at her. "Was a nice weekend. I made a fool of myself a couple times, the usual, that's all."

Hailie let out a dissatisfied sigh, like a teacher who has to explain the same equation for the thirtieth time. "Details, Dad, details. Is she nice? What does she do? That sort of thing. Come on, spill the beans."

"I don't know", he shrugged. "It's still really new and everything. I don't wanna get ahead of myself."

"Breakfast." Ryan seemed surprised and relieved. He sat down and grabbed one of the sandwiches. Chewing, he asked: "So, how was the weekend?", of course looking at Marshall curiously.

Hailie answered before he could: "He says, it was nice, just nice."

"Sounds boring. What did you do for three days, sit on the couch and watch TV?"

"Kinda", Marshall shrugged once more. "It's one weekend, what d'you expect?"

Ryan took another big bite of his sandwich. "Something hot and steamy would be a good start."

Hailie crinkled her nose. "I don't need to know that."

"I agree, no one does. - Oh, Lainy, Whitney, morning." A welcome distraction from this unwanted subject. He should've seen a conversation like this coming, probably, it still was uncomfortable.

After they gave him his birthday hugs, the two girls sat down at the table and ate from the sandwiches as well, although Whitney less ate hers and more nibbled at it lazily. At least she'd come down herself, that was an accomplishment.

"How was the weekend?", asked Lainy.

Marshall rolled his eyes. Of course she had to ask, too. "Nice, it was nice."

"Apparently, it's too boring to tell", Ryan interjected not very helpful.

"It wasn't boring, just ... uneventful in a sense." How to get them off his back? "I hope, it was the same here, uneventful? At least you didn't trash the place, if that ain't something."

Lainy shook her head. "I told you, just a couple of friends and some karaoke. Nothing big and nothing to get all dad-like paranoid about."

"True, they were good little girls", Ryan grinned briefly. Marshall wasn't sure what that meant and he wasn't sure he wanted to find out. "But really, you watched TV the whole weekend? That's not what a romantic getaway is for, you know that, right?"

"Of course I know that", Marshall grumbled. "We just took things slow, you know, watched a couple movies, played basketball, took a swim in the lake, stuff like that."

Whitney let out a short squeal. "You swam in the lake? That's freezing!", and she shook her whole body to punctuate her words.

"Was pretty cold", he agreed.

Ryan raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Was that at least a pretense to get all hot and steamy?"

"Please don't", Hailie interrupted him. "Can't that portion of the story wait until we're in school?"

Marshall shook his head. "That portion of the story ain't gonna get told at all." That portion of the story didn't really exist. On the one hand it might've actually been a good idea and gave them more room to focus on just spending time with each other; on the other hand he still thought he turned Nicolas off too much and this whole thing was this close to being over. Which might or might not be a good thing, he couldn't decide.

"Good. Then you can get to the part I care about." His daughter looked at him with curiosity and demand.

He sighed. "I told you already, there ain't nothing to tell." He shifted under her stare. Oh, he always had a hard time saying no to her. "Well, what exactly want you to know anyway?" That's it, he might as well come out now and have it over with. Great idea, that's a way to ruin her day.

"Don't you listen? Is she nice? What does she do? How old is she? Does she have kids, too? How did you guys meet? Stuff like that." She seemed to get impatient with him. That didn't happen too often.

He sighed once more. How was he to phrase this inconspicuously? He didn't want to lie to them, which he would do if he spoke about a she. "We met through a dating app", he began. Well, not telling them that it really wasn't a she, was also kind of lying. He hated that so much.

"Really?", asked Lainy. "An app? That doesn't sound like you."

He shrugged. "So? I can learn new tricks." He rubbed his neck trying to play for time. But to no avail, all three of them looked at him with their cutest smiles and biggest eyes. "Well, the profile says 34 and that looks about right. No kids as far as I know. Uhm, what else? Work, right. Mostly as security at a pretty high-end night club."

"At a night club?", Hailie repeated skeptical. "Somehow that fits you well."

Marshall looked at her quizzically. "Does it?" Since it's actually a whorehouse, yup, fits you perfectly, little slut. He hadn't known she payed any attention to where he went to have fun. Going out wasn't his thing much, but strip clubs he did enjoy, only occasionally of course. Come on, it's too early for lying, fag. You talk about that in interviews, why be shy now? Not that he told his daughters that.

"Isn't that dangerous?", asked Whitney. "She won't get hurt, will she?"

Marshall shook his head. "Don't worry, Nicky's tough and hard as nails." The nickname didn't really fit Nicolas, but it would have to do in front of his daughters.

"You forgot the most interesting part", Ryan jumped in, "Nicky", he put more emphasize on that nickname than was necessary, "is deaf."

Marshall looked to his friend exasperated. Why did he have to say that? That wasn't interesting, only a hell lot of an inconvenience. Also too telling information, since he only knew one deaf person. Luckily his daughters didn't know that, still Ryan needed to be more careful.

"Deaf? So she can't hear you talk? That's useful", Lainy mused. "Then she won't get annoyed with you not shutting up. Cool."

"Hey, be nice. I made you breakfast", he scolded his daughter. She's right, fag. He doesn't have to listen to you, that's a big, fat plus. I wish I wouldn't have to listen to you. "And I can shut up, if I want to."

Lainy shrugged. "That's what they all say."

"Dad", Hailie said impatiently. "Stop dancing around the subject. How is she? What's she like? Since when are you so bad at telling stories, I mean, really."

One more sigh. "There ain't much story to tell, Hai-Hai, that's why. It's all pretty new still, we're just getting to know each other. That takes time."

"But you like her, obviously. Can't you tell us at least, what you like about her? I'm dying here, Dad. Give me something."

Marshall smiled a little about his daughter. She was cute when she got flustered. It made her look younger than she was, like the little girl she was slowly growing out of. "One thing, okay? One thing and you don't ask me again, aight. Deal?" She nodded, almost falling of her seat. So cute. "Okay, well, one thing I like, uhm ... Nicky has this mean, sexy grin. It's so ... That just gets me every time, you know." His hard dick's better though, buried deep inside your hole. A whole weekend and nothing! What a damn waste! He was talking to his daughters, for fuck's sake.

She blinked at him disbelieving. "A grin, that's all? You couldn't go for something bigger or more meaningful than that? Sometimes you're really unfair, Dad." She pouted, it made her look even cuter.

"You wanted to know what I liked, that's the first thing I noticed", he shrugged.

Lainy looked at him doubtfully. "A mean grin? You're weird sometimes, you know that?" He raised his eyebrows at her, so she continued: "Usually guys say, she has a beautiful smile or something like that. But a mean grin?"

He wrinkled his nose. Beautiful smile, only bad romance novels said stupid stuff like that. You're not that far off, though, homo, be careful. "Well, I ain't saying something that ain't true."

"But she isn't really mean to you, is she?", asked Whitney. "No one messes with our dad or she's going to have another thing coming."

He tousled her hair. "Don't worry, Sweetie Pie, that grin's just for show. You know, the same way Daddy sometimes says mean things in a song - doesn't make me mean, right. It's not real, it's just a game."

Whitney nodded. "Then it's okay."

"Well, don't you girls need to go to school? 'Cause I need the hot and steamy part of the story now, so you better go", Ryan warned amused.

The three girls jumped out of their seats talking over each other and rushed out of the kitchen. Knowing that their dad was dating was one thing, knowing that their dad was having sex was a completely different kind of beast - one neither them nor him wanted to air out.

Marshall shook his head, finally eating one of the sandwiches himself. "We didn't do anything hot and steamy. I would say sorry to disappoint, but I ain't really sorry for you."

"Seriously? Come on", Ryan huffed unbelieving. "You only know each other because you hooked up and then you have a whole three-day-weekend for yourselves and nothing? Don't be stupid."

"Then don't believe me, I don't care."

Ryan looked him over curiously. "Really, you two didn't do anything? Why not?"

Marshall swallowed hard. "None of your business." But he could see, Ryan wasn't buying it. "We decided to take things slow, you know, talk and get to know each other. That's all. Is that a crime now?"

"I still don't understand why. You can't talk and have sex? Besides, you two can't talk, he's deaf, you explained that at length to me."

"Well, we found a way. Texting is a thing these days, that works well enough for now."

Ryan cocked his head. "Texting?", he asked bemused. "If you say so. And you went along with the idea? You don't usually hold back. Must've been hard, three days with someone you want to fuck and can't." It almost sounded like a question, but it felt more like probing around a suspicion. It made Marshall's skin crawl.

"What do you think I am?", he huffed with a bit of fake anger. "Some kind of sex addict or what? I'm perfectly fine just spending time with someone I like, with or without sex, okay. It's not a big deal." He shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

Ryan shrugged, but didn't look away from him. "I don't know. I mean, you sneak out to motels and meet people from the internet for sex. Hell, you pay more for sex than you actually flirt with people. It just seems weird, you wouldn't do anything if you had a chance like this. Like, I mean, he was served to you on a sliver platter for three whole days and nothing? That doesn't sound like you, that's all."

"Maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do", Marshall growled.

"Well, maybe. Or maybe you really like this Nicolas guy", Ryan smiled at him. "Good for you."

Marshall grumbled low and bit into his sandwich.

Chapter Text

Nicolas: thanks, dude. I never gonna live this down

Marshall: what?

Nicolas: my new nickname

Marshall: ?

Nicolas: hickey-nicky. everyone on staff today saw that thing

Marshall: you're welcome

Nicolas: next time I'll make you one

Marshall: thanks, but I can do without. my friends gossip enough as it is

Nicolas: thought, you didn't tell them about us

Marshall: I didn't. but somehow everybody knows I have a girlfriend now. apparently I glow. their word, not mine

Nicolas: I thought only pregnant people glow?

Marshall: god, don't tell 'em that

Nicolas: I suppose brides would also glow

Marshall: you're making it worse

Nicolas: I'm making you happy

Marshall: not right now you don't

Marshall: I hate the internet, tell you that much

Nicolas: ?

Marshall: stupid cat videos

Nicolas: they're adorable

Marshall: you like that word, huh?

Nicolas: if it fits. you don't like cats?

Marshall: not if I have to get out of my tub

Nicolas: you can bring your phone with you, you know. just don't throw it in

Marshall: haha, I know that. doesn't work that way when my daughter needs to show me something. something important, she said

Nicolas: cat videos aren’t important to you? what an affront!

Marshall: bite me

Nicolas: where?

Marshall: you have to lift the sex ban first

Nicolas: nah, I love breaking the rules

Marshall: well, I do not love cutting my bath short

Nicolas: then don't. cat videos aren't exactly a rare occurrence these days

Marshall: that's what I said. but she just had to bang and shout against the door for like twenty minutes

Nicolas: sounds very relaxing

Marshall: and I had such grand plans for tonight, man. kids, sometimes you wonder why you have them

Nicolas: grand plans for your bathtub? I see

Marshall: not live, you haven't earned your invitation yet

Nicolas: rise and shine, ice princess

Marshall: fuck you. it's 3am

Nicolas: I'm bored, distract me

Marshall: fuck you. I'm sleeping, plan to, whatever

Nicolas: then turn off notifications

Marshall: shut up

Nicolas: are you dreaming anything dirty?

Marshall: you'd like that, wouldn't you?

Nicolas: sure would. beats standing in the rain

Marshall: why are you standing in the rain?

Nicolas: drew the short straw, I'm the lookout tonight

Marshall: lookout?

Nicolas: work, boring. what are you wearing?

Marshall: nothing exciting

Nicolas: oh, you naked? that's very exciting. photo?

Marshall: you know me naked

Nicolas: and I don't wanna forget it

Marshall: ain't a lookout supposed to, I don't know, look out? not stare at his phone

Nicolas: I rather jerk off to you

Marshall: google it, internet's full with that

Nicolas: that's not very romantic

Marshall: jerking off to me is romantic?

Nicolas: it's not? I think about you when I come, can't get more romantic than that

Marshall: okay, that is sweet. a little

Nicolas: photo? I'm waiting

Marshall: you got a nickname? besides hickey-nicky

Nicolas: it's mostly nic or nico. nothing special, just lazy

Marshall: you like them?

Nicolas: I don't really care. why?

Marshall: I like Nicolas better. did you know it has the word for victory in it?

Nicolas: you looked my name up?

Marshall: so? you looked my songs up, now we're even

Nicolas: victory is better than a marsh, so I win

Marshall: it actually means something with horses. and Hailie has hay in it, obviously

Nicolas: you matched your daughters name to your own?

Marshall: what? at least I got creative. if she'd been a boy I would've called her hayden or philip probably. it's better than to be the fourth in line with the same old name

Nicolas: not eager to carry on the family tradition, eh?

Marshall: not for a family I don't care about. my father only stayed long enough to name me and then left. doesn't really make me wanna give it to my own kid, you know

Nicolas: you still kinda did

Marshall: it is my name after all. I had to give her something from me, don't you think? well, something better than ears that are too big

Nicolas: you have big ears? didn't notice

Marshall: I grew into them

Nicolas: cute. do you have pictures?

Marshall: sarcasm?

Nicolas: horsy doesn't fit you though. not calling you that

Marshall: why the hell would I want that?

Nicolas: ain’t that why you're telling me this?

Marshall: horsy, that's stupid. it's marshall mostly. my family used to call me brucie when I was kid

Nicolas: I'll think of something better

Nicolas: can I borrow your car? only for an hour, two tops

Marshall: what for? what's with your car?

Nicolas: I don't have one, I don't drive

Marshall: you can't drive? then you can't have my car, dumbass

Nicolas: I can drive just fine, but they don't give you a license when you have seizures occasionally

Marshall: don't you have medication for that?

Nicolas: don't matter to the dmv, it's too much of a hassle to convince them otherwise. ain't worth it

Marshall: what you need my car for then?

Nicolas: need to drive my roommate over with it

Marshall: yeah, living with people can be a bitch. what happened?

Nicolas: he wore my shirts again, now I need to buy new ones

Marshall: can't you just wash 'em?

Nicolas: he's too tall, he always stretches them out. and one of his clients slashed her nails through it. looks like he got mauled by a tiger - or cougar, actually 

Marshall: tough luck then

Nicolas: so, can I borrow your car or not? I'll be careful, no scratches, no blood stains, I’ll give it a thorough once-over in the car wash. I'll even take the plates off first. they won't trace it back to you, you'll be in the clear, I promise

Marshall: that's a lot of work for a joke?

Nicolas: I can't use my sword, police ain't that dumb. we live together, I'll be the first one on the list

Marshall: I mean, you are joking, right? it's just shirts

Nicolas: maybe I can use his gun, make it look like suicide. that's so tacky though

Marshall: you have to be joking! ain't you two friends or something?

Nicolas: mostly

Marshall: reading sucks balls, man

Nicolas: you're reading?

Marshall: trying to. how do you do it?

Nicolas: passes the time

Marshall: no, it doesn't. feels like I'm at it for hours and it's only been five minutes

Nicolas: and you're texting me instead

Marshall: thanks captain obvious

Nicolas: why anyway?

Marshall: more fun than a stupid book

Nicolas: not that. the book, why? you're not the reading type

Marshall: not in the slightest. only ever finished one book. and what I read to the girls when they were little

Nicolas: sounds sweet. did you do voices?

Marshall: they asked for it. it made them laugh, that’s why

Nicolas: sure. must've been a chore, I bet

Marshall: shut up. just tell me how you do it

Nicolas: get the audiobook, that's more up your alley

Marshall: my alley?

Nicolas: you're a sound-kinda guy, right?

Marshall: guess so. doubt there's an audiobook for this stupid thing, though

Nicolas: movie?

Marshall: I wish

Nicolas: what weird book are you reading over there?

Marshall: it's educational

Nicolas: educational? yeah, right, sounds like porn

Marshall: oh fuck you, who reads porn?

Nicolas: you

Marshall: I watch porn, that's the way god intended it

Nicolas: what porn are you in to?

Marshall: none of your business

Nicolas: I think, having my tongue and my dick inside you kinda makes it my business. don't you agree?

Marshall: no. you haven't had your dick inside me for almost a month. you'll have to work for the privilege to know my porn habits

Nicolas: then tell me what you're really reading? if it's not porn

Marshall: if you need to know, it's on sign language

Nicolas: why?

Marshall: so we can talk better? eventually, hopefully

Nicolas: you really are adorable

Marshall: fuck you

Nicolas: the cat's here again.

Marshall: maybe you should adopt her? have her as a pet, you know. she seems to like you

Nicolas: don't I have you for that?

Marshall: I ain't a cat

Nicolas: you cuddle like one

Marshall: fuck you

Nicolas: I don't know. I never had a pet before, not a real pet anyway

Marshall: it's not really hard. feed her, clean up after her and play with her. that's easy enough. but be careful, eats up your money real fast

Nicolas: you have a cat? should've seen that coming

Marshall: his name's tiger. we also have a dog called lottie

Nicolas: you have a full house

Marshall: so? I want my daughters to have a good home and grow up right. pets teach them responsibility, that's important

Nicolas: that explains a lot, I can't even take care of a cactus 

Marshall: how do you screw that up?

Nicolas: I forgot that I have it. interestingly, even a cactus dies without water after a while

Marshall: won't happen with a cat. if you forget her, she'll teach you a lesson, a very painful one

Nicolas: maybe I just put some food at the door for her. I mean, she's used to having her freedom, being a house cat probably just makes her sick. don't you think?

Marshall: maybe give her a collar with a tag. then people know, she belongs to someone, not that animal control picks her up or something

Nicolas: a collar? I can do that

Marshall: you won't believe where I'm at right now

Nicolas: hanging from a stripper pole

Marshall: what?

Nicolas: I'm daydreaming. repairing conny's shop is boring

Marshall: you dream of me on a pole?

Nicolas: I have many plans for us, you know

Marshall: you do?

Nicolas: you're hot as fuck! I can't wait to bend you over a table

Marshall: you could've, back at the lake

Nicolas: not yet. be patient

Marshall: for what?

Nicolas: we've only been officially together three weeks or so. patience

Marshall: so? we didn't know each other three seconds and fucked. no big deal

Nicolas: I want to chain you to a bed. I want to make you mine. to make you writhe beneath me. to make you lose yourself in lust and pain because of me

Marshall: ... I just wanted to know if you're into antique books

Nicolas: oh. not particularly. I read everything, doesn't need to be special

Marshall: don't you have a favorite author? or genre? or series? something?

Nicolas: not really. I don't like comedies all that much and I usually have fun with horror stories or historical fiction, the action kind

Marshall: I'll keep that in mind

Nicolas: are you freaked out now?

Marshall: why? because you wanna chain me to your bed and whip me?

Nicolas: I didn't say anything about a whip

Marshall: sure, that's the important detail

Nicolas: I could, if you like. but I actually don't have a bed, we might have to improvise there

Marshall: you don't have a bed? where you sleep then?

Nicolas: chair

Marshall: you're not that small. that can't be comfortable

Nicolas: it's very comfortable. it's cozy and has cushions and it's mine. if I need to stretch out, I take the couch

Marshall: yeah, not me dude. if I ever stay over at your's, that couch better be a quality daybed or I'm outta there

Nicolas: who are you, the ice princess on the pea?

Marshall: tease me all you want, I like my bed and it's a real fucking bed

Nicolas: whatever you say, ice princess

Nicolas: you're right, books suck

Marshall: since when? I thought you liked reading

Nicolas: depends on the book. this one sucks

Marshall: what is it?

Nicolas: educational

Marshall: haha, very funny. did your favorite character just die or what?

Nicolas: I don't get attached like that

Marshall: seriously, you don't have a favorite character? ever? anywhere?

Nicolas: it's fiction = not real. why get attached?

Marshall: why’re you reading then?

Nicolas: passes the time

Marshall: I watch TV for that, still I have favorite characters

Nicolas: cause you care

Marshall: what does that mean?

Nicolas: that you're a human being with a beating heart and feelings inside

Marshall: and you ain't or what?

Nicolas: not enough to care about fictional people. or most real people for that matter

Marshall: you have to care about some people. your roommate? that singer girl? your friends? family?

Nicolas: never had much of a family and I don't really have friends either. like I said, I don't get attached like that

Marshall: my therapist would call that a serious problem

Nicolas: so does the book. that's why it sucks

Marshall: they're probably right

Nicolas: you're not helping

Marshall: what book are you reading? sounds serious

Nicolas: some psychological bullshit on trauma and grief and bla

Marshall: why? did something happen?

Nicolas: I met you

Marshall: I'm not that bad ... ?

Nicolas: I thought it'd be good to dust off my people skills

Marshall: looks like they need a good scrub down. what are you talking about?

Nicolas: I want you to trust me

Marshall: and you need to read a book for that? what jedi mindtrick are you going for?

Nicolas: it's on trauma, not brainwashing

Marshall: I can deal with my own shit. is that why you're so nice lately?

Nicolas: nice?

Marshall: you hugged me for like an hour the other night

Nicolas: you were sad, I'm your boyfriend. isn't that how this works?

Marshall: not if you need to read a book first

Nicolas: I don't know how to comfort people. the last time I tried, it ended in bloodshed

Marshall: someone else than that girl? does everything end in blood with you? 

Nicolas: that's why I'm reading this book

Marshall: that ain't an answer. you almost sound like a serial killer or some shit

Nicolas: ... kinda? 

Marshall: what? explain

Nicolas: it's my job, security at a brothel is business going slow

Marshall: not making it better. explain.

Nicolas: we should do this face to face

Marshall: we'll text anyway. explain. now!

Nicolas: fine. we get hired for all kinds of jobs, as long as the money's good: repairs, deliveries, as bodyguards, stuff like that, also less legal things

Marshall: what does that mean? less legal things

Nicolas: well, I used to work for a mafia clan. so you can probably imagine what that means

Marshall: ... you're a hitman? seriously? is this one for your bad jokes?

Nicolas: I don't joke about stuff like this

Marshall: you have to be kidding me! really? a hitman?

Nicolas: you wanted me to explain. there you have it

Marshall: I need to think

Marshall: gym tomorrow 5:30am

Nicolas: really?

Marshall: you're not the only person with a rap sheet in this relationship

Nicolas: really?

Marshall: listen to my songs, I'm not just a pretty magazine cover

Nicolas: I know that. still, most people get away from me, not closer

Marshall: I'm not most people

Nicolas: evidently. I'll be there

Marshall: and don't pull your punches this time

Nicolas: it's just training

Marshall: I can hold my own, you know

Nicolas: I'm aware

Marshall: apparently you ain't. you're handling me with kid gloves. I hate that

Nicolas: no, I'm not

Marshall: yes, you are. you won't fight me seriously, you won't have sex with me, you water down your job for me. you're treating me like some fainthearted virgin or some shit. stop that!

Nicolas: I do no such thing. I'm trying for us to get to know each other. isn't that supposed to be a good thing for relationships?

Marshall: you think you're scaring me. that's the definition of kid gloves

Nicolas: what's your point?

Marshall: just don't. I'm a grown-ass man, I can handle my fucking own. and I can handle you

Nicolas: I know you can

Marshall: start acting like it. if you want us to get to know each other, then stop holding yourself back. I don't want to get to know a fake you, I want to know the real you

Nicolas: this is the real me. I can be nice to people if I want to

Marshall: but you usually ain't. and you're only nice to me, so I'll like you

Nicolas: wrong way around. I'm nice to you, because I like you. of course I want you to like me back, that's not a crime

Marshall: as if you care if something's a crime or not

Nicolas: figure of speech. point is, I like you, moody and high-maintenance and short-tempered and all. but be real, I can't introduce myself as Nicolas the hired gun, can I

Marshall: moody and what now? that doesn't sound like you like me at all

Nicolas: I'm not like most people either. I don't want a wife with 2.5 kids, a picket fence and a dog or some shit. I want a challenge and that you certainly are

Marshall: a challenge, that's what I am to you? you do know, that I have kids and a dog and a fence around my property and I like it that way

Nicolas: I know. it's one of the things I find adorable about you

Marshall: fuck you. stop saying that

Nicolas: it's true. it's a compliment

Marshall: not out of your mouth

Nicolas: what you mean?

Marshall: you like blood and fighting, in your job and in your books and for sex too. but you do not like adorable things

Nicolas: sure I do. I like cats for example, they're adorable as fuck. and my doc's niece is the cutest, I often play with her, you know

Marshall: you do? didn't know you liked kids

Nicolas: not in general, but she's a nice kid. look, you're more than a pretty magazine cover, so why can't I be more than a violent asshole? I'm just good at what I do, doesn't mean I'm only that

Marshall: sounds familiar ...

Nicolas: gym 5.30am, I'll be there

Nicolas: you're eerily silent this evening

Marshall: I'm pissed, that's why

Nicolas: wanna go to the gym and beat it out of your system?

Marshall: don't tell me what to do!

Nicolas: just a suggestion

Marshall: I kinda already did that. got me only more angry

Nicolas: couldn't tell, you're chill like an iceberg

Marshall: don't fuck with me, dude. I ain't in the mood

Nicolas: why're you so pissed?

Marshall: let's leave it for now. I don't wanna take it out on you. text you later

Nicolas: it's okay. I won't take anything personal, I promise

Marshall: you can do that?

Nicolas: I hardly take anything personal as it is. I surly can manage a couple mean words from you

Marshall: I broke my game, that's what happened

Nicolas: you broke your game?

Marshall: yeah, I broke my game. can't you read? I broke donkey kong of all things

Nicolas: I'm not sure what you mean by that. how you break a game?

Marshall: it was a little broken already. the jump button stuck sometimes, I was meaning to get someone to fix it. but at least I could play. now I can't anymore

Nicolas: can't you use a different controller?

Marshall: not that, it's an arcade machine, you know, like back in the day

Nicolas: oh, I see. would've thought they're sturdier though

Marshall: they are. unless you attack them directly, which I did after it ruined my run. fucking stupid-ass button

Nicolas: let me get this straight: you're playing your game, then the button gets stuck and you lose the game, so you assault the machine and now you're moping because that broke the machine entirely? are you 12?

Marshall: fuck you! that could've been my best run yet! I didn't have much progress in my scores for months now, this could've gotten me out of the rut. but NO! the fucking button decides to DIE on me! it did that on fucking purpose, I tell you! can't believe it DARED TO FUCKING DIE ON ME!

Nicolas: that's a bit melodramatic, don't you think?

Marshall: shut the fuck up! I lost my run and I can't even try and re-do it cause the machine's fucking broken. fucking shit!

Nicolas: play something else?

Marshall: I need to finish my run, like properly finish it. I can't play something else now, what'll happen to the run? I hate this fucking button

Nicolas: tough luck, you broke it

Marshall: I didn't mean to! I just lost my temper. no reason for the fucking thing to die on me

Nicolas: sounds like a bitch. ain't there a normal version you can play in the meantime? on your computer or xbox or something?

Marshall: it's nintendo, dumbass. and that is the normal version

Nicolas: you know what I mean, play like a regular person on your couch

Marshall: that's fucking lame

Marshall: I need your help. you need to explain something to me, for asl

Nicolas: it's 3am, go to sleep

Marshall: I would love to, but I can't. I can't figure this out. can you help me or not?

Nicolas: you're really serious about learning asl, aren't you?

Marshall: if you call me adorable again, I'll punch you

Nicolas: you want my help or not?

Marshall: ... fine

Nicolas: nah, if you expect it, it ain't fun

Marshall: will you help me now or not?

Nicolas: what's the problem?

Marshall: topicalization. what's the difference to passive? or is that the same thing? the book ain't clear on this

Nicolas: what?

Marshall: I see the difference in english: I won't eat that pizza. that pizza I won't eat. that pizza won't be eaten by me. passive is in the verb plus the word order. is there a passive voice or sign in asl?

Nicolas: I have no idea what you're talking about. sorry

Marshall: can you say "that pizza won't be eaten by me" in asl or is it "that pizza I won't eat" with like the eyebrows and stuff?

Nicolas: what's the difference?

Marshall: it's in the verb. but maybe it's different in asl, that's my question 

Nicolas: looks the same to me

Marshall: you're not helpful. 

Nicolas: sorry, I don't really see the problem

Marshall: the problem is who's active. if I say "that pizza I won't eat" then I'm actively not eating that pizza, but I use the topic to emphasize on that very specific pizza. if I say "that pizza won't be eaten by me" then no one's actively doing anything, the pizza will just exist uneaten 

Nicolas: why won't you eat the pizza? you allergic or something?

Marshall: it's just an example, don't take it literal

Nicolas: I could go for pizza, honestly. wanna meet for a slice?

Marshall: at 3 in the morning?

Nicolas: why not? doesn't look like you're going to sleep anytime soon

Marshall: ... okay. maybe I can get an answer out of you in person

Nicolas: I doubt that. I have no clue what you're on about

Marshall: how not? you use both languages

Nicolas: exactly, I use them. the hell do I care what the difference between passive and topic is. but I don't think I use passive in asl often? if that helps anything

Marshall: I find better examples and we go over them while we eat

Nicolas: ugh, sounds like school

Nicolas: the fuck, look at this. ain’t this hilarious?

Marshall: what's that? your mug shot?

Nicolas: yeah, my wanted poster from when I was 17. man, I was a scrawny little kid

Marshall: you still kinda are. you're smaller than me

Nicolas: I'm tall enough, asshole. don't act like you're a giant

Marshall: you don't look much different now, you're hair is like an inch longer or so, that's all. well, and your face has more edge now, I give you that

Nicolas: I know. you should see my roommate, day and night, total baby face back then. don't fall for that, I warn ya. I'ma use his for something, will come in handy somewhen, somehow

Marshall: you had a wanted poster with 17, though? sounds young to me

Nicolas: that's just the one still hanging at the station. don't know why they use this old thing. doesn't even show my rank correctly, bastards

Marshall: your rank?

Nicolas: it's a thing we do, so you know who's stronger. curbs unnecessary fighting. if someone's like six ranks above you, you better scram, you know

Marshall: I see. so, you rank higher now?

Nicolas: of course. A/0

Marshall: like grades? impressive then, sounds like a lot of hard work

Nicolas: comparable

Marshall: still, 17? it lists your record as mug, murder and blackmail ...

Nicolas: told you, that's what I do. I ran away with 12, you need to survive somehow. I couldn't let my roommate do all the work, could I?

Marshall: of course, still, that probably wouldn't've been my first move

Nicolas: I just stick to what I know ... you wanna change your opinion now? I would understand. I'm aware that this is, let's call it unusual and a bit difficult to get used to

Marshall: no, I'm not changing my mind. I'm just a bit surprised, I guess. like, with 17 you're still a kid, you know, and to have a record then. like this, too, I don't know, probably I'm just kinda sad your life was like this. still is, I guess

Nicolas: if it's any consolation, I never went to prison

Marshall: hardly

Nicolas: you don't have to be sad for me. I consider this a good outcome, you know. I could've easily died at birth or as cannon fodder as a kid. but I didn't. I'm double the age now than as I was in this photo, back then I would've never thought I'd live this long. so, I consider things went quite well for me

Marshall: I see your point. doesn't make me feel better though

Nicolas: ... thank you for caring, like at all. that's ... just, thank you

Marshall: hey, where you at?

Marshall: you're on your way or what?

Marshall: you standing me up?

Marshall: are you okay?


Nicolas: he's gonna have to rain check later

Marshall: what's going on?

Nicolas: he pushed too hard, had a seizure, now he's sleeping

Marshall: who're you?

Nicolas: his roommate

Marshall: what happened? where's he? can I see him?

Nicolas: look, I don't have time for this. he'll text you later

Marshall: you will make time, damn it!

Chapter Text

"I have a question for you", Ryan announced. He lounged on the couch in the studio and scrolled through something on his phone.

Marshall sat on the other couch, feet planted on the edge of the low table. "Shoot", he mumbled only half listening. His eyes were fixed on the screen of his laptop, he was searching for new cassette tapes to add to his collection.

"Did you invite Nicolas to your Halloween party next week?"

Marshall's head jerked up. "Hell no! Are you crazy? Why would I do that?"

"Because he's your boyfriend and you're throwing a party?" Ryan looked up from his phone. "Do you need classes on how relationships work? You were married twice, didn't you pick anything up from that?"

"Shh!" Marshall looked to the door anxiously. "Don't say that here." Why not? They already know. Your fucking panic attacks are too exhausting. Just get over it, fag.

Ryan snorted dismissively. "Relax. I'm careful, trust me."

Marshall grumbled some curse and closed his laptop. "No, I don't need classes, I know how relationships work, thank you very much. I just ... I don't think this whole thing is a good idea, that's all." You're such a coward, homo.

"Do you like him?"

Marshall nodded. "Maybe? I think so." More conviction, girl, you're all wet and open for his dick. We all know that. Stay true to your calling, fag.

"Does he like you?"

Marshall shrugged. "I think so? Maybe." Have faith, bitch, he's still texting your stupid ass. Whatever it is, he ain't giving up on fucking you. Who says, homos don't get lucky?

"Then it's a good idea." Ryan came over to his couch and sat next to him. "I get that you're hesitant and stuff, but don't give up too early. Be bold, be brash - you're good at that." He bumped his fist softly against Marshall's shoulder. "So, back to the topic at hand: Invite Nicolas to the party."

Marshall wasn't convinced. "Why? He won't know anyone and he ain't the social type. What would he gain from coming here and spending a night at my office party?" Which it basically was. Everyone from his label and the studio was invited and Marshall was pretty excited to have some of his favorite people all in one place. You're such a needy bitch, it's almost cute. Didn't happen too often. But to throw Nicolas in there? That didn't sound like much fun. Depends on the party. Gonna be some easy dicks there, that won't be picky about which hole to fuck. That'll be a lot of fun, won't it slut?

"Because he likes you. I'm pretty sure he'd like to meet your friends. You know, see you in your natural habitat."

Marshall frowned. "What am I, a rare animal?" You're a common slut, there's nothing rare about that. He shouldn't listen to Ryan. What did he know about dating a guy? What do you know about dating a guy? Or about dating at all. You can't hold on to a relationship even if your life depended on it, you always fuck it up. Literally.

Ryan smirked. "Kinda. Come, invite him and you can enjoy your party even a little more than you already will."

"And if he says no?", he asked. Stop with your stupid overthinking already! "If he thinks it's a stupid idea as much as I do? We've been only doing this thing for like three weeks or so. It's too early for a fucking party. He'll say no, I'm sure." Argh! You're killing me, fucking homo. Just get his dick inside you and shut up.

"Well, then you can tell him, it was my stupid idea and you can both laugh at me. Come on, just text him", Ryan insisted.

Marshall sighed heavily but pulled out his phone. He texted: had a stupid thought just now: I throw a halloween party next week, wanna come?   Then he looked at Ryan: "Happy now?"

"Very", his friend nodded. "And, you two sexting goes fine?"

Marshall nudged his elbow into Ryan's ribs. "Shut up. We don't do that, only normal texting, aight. Nothing sexy, nothing dirty." Such a waste! The guy's hot. And kinky. Get your goddamn freak on already. That wasn't what they were trying to do.

Ryan grinned and joked: "Are you getting chaste in your old age, Marshall? Look at you, all sweet and shy." See, he, too, knows you're full of shit. It's making me fucking sick.

Marshall shoved his friend almost from the couch, only almost, because Ryan was too burly. Then his phone chimed with Nicolas's ringtone. Yes, he'd given Nicolas his own ringtone, he knew how girlish this was. If the high heel fits ... 

Nicolas replied: sure. when, where? I'll be there

Marshall was surprised. "Really? Just like that?" 

"Told you", Ryan said in a very pleased tone.

Another message from Nicolas: with costumes?

Marshall texted: yeah, with costumes. it's probably gonna be boring though, just a bunch of guys at the studio drinking too much, y'know

I know a game to spice things up. It's called: How many cocks fit into this chicken? Guess, who the chick is.

"Hey hey, don't do that. He wants to come, let him come. No reason to talk him out of it", Ryan interjected as he watched him type.

"He needs to know", Marshall defended his text. This was going too easy. Why would he agree to come to some random party he didn't know anything about? There had to be a catch.

Nicolas replied: you gonna be in costume?

For some reason Marshall's ears heated up, when he read that. But he answered: yeah, that's the plan

Nicolas texted: can I make a wish?

"Oho? See, it was a good idea." Ryan patted him on the back.

Marshall looked at his friend for a moment not quite sure what he meant, then at his phone again. He wrote: what you want?   While he waited for the answer to come in, he kneaded his lower lip nervously. What would Nicolas like to see him as? Does it matter, girl? You gonna wear it, whatever stupid or embarrassing or hopefully naked thing he wants you as. 'Cause you're pining for his fucking dick. And you're too romantic to see he won't love you. He had no fucking clue. Nicolas wasn't really a fan of anything in particular. He read a lot, but nothing with much passion.

Nicolas's text came in: sexy cat

"What?" Marshall blanked. Fitting. I like how this guy thinks - with his dick, very appropriate for a slut like you, who only thinks with her pussy.

Ryan had to stifle his laughter. And failed at it.

"But that's for girls", he spurted out. Exactly, it's perfect for a bitch like you - well, pussy cat. "I can't go as a cat, that's ridiculous."

"Sexy cat", Ryan corrected him with a wide grin. "Hey, costumes were your idea, that's what you get. I told you, we're too old to play dress up."

Marshall huffed: "Come on, it's fun. With normal costumes at least. This is stupid, though. A sexy cat? How would that even look like anyway? It's not like I can glue a paw print on my tits or some shit."

Ryan chuckled at that. "Of course you could. I bet he'd like to see you half naked like that. I mean, that's what sexy cat means: half naked and with some cute ears."

"Exactly. It's how a cheap broad gets laid. Everyone knows that", Marshall huffed, still staring unbelieving at his phone. What was Nicolas thinking here? That you're a cheap broad that wants to get laid? Like really badly wants to get laid? As I said before, you're not hard to figure out. He couldn't dress like a girl, not on his own party. Could he? Of course you can, fag. Let everybody see what you really are: a needy hole. Good thing most of your friends are guys, they can stuff you up real good. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d wear a dress ... but on his own party, that was different. 

"Maybe that's why he's asking? You haven't seen each other since the weekend right? And you didn't do anything back then. Maybe now you'll getting some action", Ryan thought out loud. See! Everybody knows your dirty little secret. Give up this fucking pretense already: You love dicks, no shame in that. Marshall rather he would shut up.

He shook his head. "I don't need a stupid dress for him to fuck me. He can just go at it. Besides, I never find one that fits me anyway. They're all in chick-size." Well, that wasn't true at all. It was rather easy to find something in his size. But he couldn't do that on a party, like in public. Or semi-private public. Right?

"You're small, you'll find something." Ryan still fought not to laugh too much and still failed at it.

Marshall texted: seriously? you know I'm a dude, right?

Nicolas replied: I'm aware. I sucked your dick, remember

That he definitely remembered, even though it hadn't been for long and it had been too long ago. He answered: you must be kidding me

"Come on, let the guy have his wish." Ryan was very amused by all of this and it annoyed Marshall a lot. This wasn't funny, not from his point of view anyway.

He shook his head vehemently. "You crazy? Everyone's gonna be there, that's way to embarrassing." Ugh, don't be like this. Decency and morales ain't a good look on you. They were his friends and they knew him, but this was his party, so whatever costume he chose, was his own, private decision. Everyone would know. That should be considered carefully.

Ryan looked at him doubtfully. "Seriously? You go butt naked in your music videos, but a Halloween costume is too embarrassing for you?"

"That's different", he waved the sarcasm aside. How? Because everybody'll know it's actually you and not just a stupid joke? They already know, I'm telling you. You're the only one who gives a rat's ass about your fucking lies at this point.

His phone chimed at Nicolas's next message: you'll look adorable, I bet

Marshall grumbled at that. Why couldn't Nicolas stop saying that?

"You could at least go as a cat for him, you know, unsexy and all covered up", Ryan suggested. The smirk on his lips betrayed that he wanted to say more about all of this. But Marshall would punch him in the throat, if Ryan said anything about the a-word and he made damn sure his stare told his friend that. "That's easy, right, just cat ears and a tail and it's done. You could go as Marshall the Cat and wouldn't even need much of a costume."

Marshall snorted. "That's lame." To Nicolas he texted: I think about it   Oh? You actually gonna have the balls to come out? I need to see that!

"What? You wanna put on some fur, too?", asked Ryan.

Marshall just gave him another mean stare and growled: "Shut up." He pulled his laptop back and opened it again. "This is so stupid", he mumbled to himself, but the search engine spit out a bunch of women with cat ears, usually dressed in something slinky and black. Exactly what you are. "Exactly what I thought."

"Doing your due diligence?"

"If you don't shut up, I'ma punch that fucking grin right outta your fucking face, dude."

Ryan kept his grin, but chose not to answer. Good decision.

A couple of clicks later, Marshall was sure this must've been one of Nicolas's jokes, which weren't all that funny usually. All of these costumes looked terrible. Too slutty, too fake and of course only made to fit the female form. Since when are you a classy bitch? But if it makes you feel better, take the nice dress, whatever, if it means you'll finally do something, I'm all for it. He couldn't be sincere that he wanted Marshall to look like this, could he? I bet he is, that kinky bastard. He knows exactly what a slutty bitch you are and he loves it. Hold on to him tight, you won't find someone like that again. On top of it all, for Marshall to look like this in front of his friends. Like, seriously wearing a dress on his own party. That was too much.

"You're really considering this?", Ryan asked and still looked over Marshall's shoulder. His amused tone was traded in for something more serious, more thoughtful.

Marshall growled: "Of course not."

Chapter Text

He closed the door behind him. She was already sitting in her chair and nodded a greeting in his direction. "Doc, I got a problem. I think I need your help." Nervous he ran a hand through his hair.

"Perfect timing then", she smiled at him. "What exactly do you need my help with?"

Marshall paced through her small office. Sitting wasn't his thing right now, he rather be on the move. Felt safer. "I, uhm … I don't know how to say that. Out loud. It's freaking weird, Doc."

"Well, just start small. We'll be getting to the big things eventually." Another warm smile.

He tried to smile back, probably didn't work, and took a deep breath. Being calm would help right now. But he was so fucking nervous to say it out loud, it wasn't funny anymore. "I invited Nicolas to my party, the Halloween party." Well, that didn't sound too bad.

She looked at him curiously. "You sound like that would be a big deal. Who is Nicolas?"

"You remember the guy with the tattoo on his shoulder blades? That's Nicolas. We're … uhm … We're, kind of, dating. I think?"

"Congratulations", she smiled delighted. "That's a big step. All of it. Making the effort to be with him, but also to stand by your relationship in front of someone else. That's really great. I'm happy for you, Marshall."

Sheepishly he rubbed his neck. "Thanks?" That felt awkward.

"So, you invited him to your party. How is that a problem?", she asked and he knew what she was doing, trying to get him back on track. He appreciated that.

"That ain't the problem. Not all of it, at least, just kinda. It's a Halloween party, right, with costumes and pumpkins and stuff. The whole shebang."

She nodded slowly. "Sounds like fun?"

"That's what I said", finally, someone agreed with him. "But … the problem is, Nicolas kinda, uhm, he made a … wish?"

Of course she was curious to ask: "What did he wish for?"

Marshall took another deep breath. "What I go as. Is that weird?"

"Not at all", she said with a reassuring tone. "Couples often decide together on their costumes. And a lot of other stuff as well. That's part of being in a relationship."

"Yeah, I know", he sighed. "I know that. Guess, goes for guy couples as much as normal ones. And I said, I'd think about it. That's what I need your help with."

She gestured toward the couch for him to sit down. "Of course I'm going to help you. But I have the feeling, you haven't told me the actual problem yet. If it's your party and you made it into a costume party because it's fun, well, why would him having an idea for that be a problem? What did he wish you would dress up as?"

Bull's eye.

Marshall sat down with a sigh. "A sexy cat."

His therapist looked at him for a moment surprised. "That is … unexpected." She brushed a strand of curved hair behind her ears. "He wants you to dress up as a sexy cat? That is an interesting request."

He mumbled low. "Tell me about it."

"And you told him, you'd think about it?"

He nodded. "Yap. And there's my problem, Doc."

She leaned forward in her chair and looked at him closely. "Not quite yet. I'm pretty sure, you'd have not much of a problem telling him no, if he was out of line here. You can be rather vocal if you don't want to do something, I know from experience."

"Sorry", he scratched his neck. "Didn't mean that."

She raised her hand briefly. "It's okay, don't worry about it. But, what actually is your problem now? A Halloween costume seems normal enough and a feline isn't all that troubling really. If you consider heeding his wish, I don't see a problem here. The sexy part might be something for just the two of you, though, I admit, depending on the type of party you're throwing."

Marshall ran his hands over his face. "I kinda know what I want that costume to look like … and that's the fucking problem." He fumbled his phone out of his pocket and opened the picture of the costume he was thinking about, then he gave it to her.

For a long moment his therapist just looked at the picture in thoughtful contemplation. It was making him nervous, more nervous than he already was. Why was she just staring at it? "Is it that bad? You can tell me. It's too much, ain't it? I knew it. It's ugly. He won't like it." He reached forward to grab his phone back.

She looked up. "Marshall … It is a very fine costume." She handed him the phone back. "I don't know Nicolas, but he'll probably like it very much. Don't worry."

"Then why're you making a face like that?"

Her smile, though warm as always, seemed a little shy. That was weird. "I'm a little surprised. I'm sorry, my reaction worried you, that wasn't my intention. I didn't know you were into these sorts of things."

He frowned. "Is that wrong? It feels wrong, tell you that."

"As I said before, you like what you like. There's nothing wrong with that. And if this is something you like to do, then that's totally fine. Trust in yourself."

"Easier said than done", he sighed.

With a warm tone she asked: "Do you have the heart to see Nicolas in the outfit you chose?"

Marshall shrugged. "Not sure. I ain't even sure, I have the heart for this whole relationship thing. It really freaks me out, you know. And this", he waved with his phone, "freaks me out even more. I never done that seriously in front of people before, like, as actual me being serious. Always just as a joke."

"I see", she said slowly. "A new relationship is scary for a lot of people. It's new and exciting, but there are also often feelings of uncertainty. That is normal and nothing to fear. What freaks you out more, that this is a relationship or that he is a man?"

Marshall leaned back into the cushion. The question was rather weighted. But he couldn't imagine Nicolas being a woman. Or a woman to have the qualities he liked in Nicolas so much. Because he was a man, he stirred in Marshall the things he stirred. And Marshall kinda liked it this way, he had to admit. Even when they were just texting, Nicolas found a way to sound genuine and tough. As if Marshall could lean on him, if things got too crazy. A thought that eased his mind, even though he hated to depend on other people. You couldn't always do things alone. So he answered: "I think he kinda has to be a man … Nicolas wouldn't work as a girl, you know. So, that's okay, I guess. And he tries, he really does. He's always telling me I think too much and that me having shit to deal with is no reason for him to break up with me. I don't really like when he's too nice and sweet, but, you know, that's sometimes exactly what you need. He kinda gets that."

She smiled understandingly. "I'm really happy for you, Marshall. He sounds like a good guy, like someone who you can put your trust into."

Marshall couldn't help the smirk. "I don't know about good, but yeah … I think so."

"You sound more relaxed than the last time we talked about him. Do you still cry at night sometimes?"

"Uhm", he kneaded his lip between his teeth. "Not since the weekend."

She tilted her head slightly. "What weekend?"

A genuine smile grew on his lips and he couldn't do anything against that. "We went to the lake house, you know, for my birthday. It was nice, just the two of us." He shrugged slightly. "We didn't do much or anything special, just … I don't know, it was nice."

"If you enjoy spending time with someone, there isn't anything special needed. Being with that person is special enough."

Marshall nodded. "Yeah, I guess … Uhm, Doc, I know you're not here for relationship advice or shit like that, but … I don't want to fuck this up."

"I'm here to help you, Marshall, in any way I can. From the sound of it though, you seem to be doing fine at the moment."

"Hrmpf", he grumbled, "Doesn't feel like it. I always fuck things up. Ask my ex-wife, she knows a whole cornucopia of stories of me fucking things up."

Her tone was soothing and even. "Well, you're not dating your ex-wife this time, but Nicolas. Considering that you two had a nice, romantic weekend together and he's coming to your party, also having some ideas regarding the costuming - sounds like it's going well. Don't forget, you've only been dating a few weeks. Uncertainties are to be expected, there will be situations to come, that probably will be uncomfortable or vexing or any matter of negative emotions - that's part of forming and being in a relationship. It's not fucking things up, it's being a person."

"Well, I'm a terrible person, then", he sighed. "He doesn't even want to have sex with me. How's that for doing just fine?"

She made a thoughtful humming noise. The one she always made, when he said something particularly wrong. "Is that why you came up with this special outfit?" A suggestive nod to his phone.

"What?", he asked surprised. "No, that's not … I mean, I wouldn't mind", he sighed and shrugged. "He's gay, I mean, like, just dudes. The only girl he's been with had been pretty butch apparently. So, I really doubt he cares for this kind of outfit or that it'll do anything for him like that, you know."

"Good", she nodded approvingly. "You should do it because you want to, not because of somebody else."

He frowned. "Still feels weird. I mean, I shouldn't want to do it at all. It's too much. Being with a man ain't gay enough, so this." He snorted in derision.

Her eyes looked at him kind. "Those two things are not necessarily related. Homosexuality and cross-dressing might overlap by accident, but they generally don't cause each other or correlate to each other specifically. There are a multitude of factors why one would like to wear a dress or why one prefers to be in a same-sex relationship, but they're often not the same factors."

"Really?" He had a hard time believing her. "Seems to me like it's the same thing. I ain't much of a man, so I end up like a woman, you know, in bed or in clothes - or in my head, that's the worst."

She tilted her head slightly and it felt like she considered his words carefully. He shifted uncomfortable in his seat. Maybe he shouldn't have said that. But then she spoke: "If you could be any gender you wanted: man, woman, both, neither or something different. What would you choose?"

"What?" He had absolutely no clue where she was going with this. "What kind of a stupid-ass question is that?" He did not like the sound of this question. What was her next move here?

"Well, I ask because of what you just said. From your words, I take it, you seem to think that wanting to be with a man or wanting to dress like a woman typically does, somehow would make you less of a man. Or did I interpret that wrong?" How could she say something like this and still have this kind smile in her eyes? He couldn't understand.

He scratched his neck. "Well, kinda. Doesn't it? I mean, you can probably still be a happy person like that, if something like happy exists. But … I mean, there's a line somewhere, right? Between men and women. And it's not all about having a penis or a vagina or whatever, that much I know. That doesn't make you who you are. But there is a line somewhere."

She shrugged briefly. Something he rarely saw her do. "Maybe, maybe not. It's hard to tell, what makes us who we are and how we can approach our identity in a wholesome way. - Well, let me ask differently then. You said, you've done this before, as a joke." A short nod from him. "Tell me about that."

"What's there to tell? I like acting, so it's fun to dress up as different people, you know. It doesn't really matter, if it's a guy or a girl or whatever." Well, that wasn't all there was to it and from her expression he could see, that she knew that. He sighed. "But … I don't know. Women get to have prettier clothes? That probably shouldn't mean anything to me, I know. It's just … You know, I didn't really expect much when the idea was first floating around. Just another costume, who cares. Also, I didn't really think it'll look good - and to be fair, the whole outfit was hideous - but make-up can do wonders, so …", he shrugged. What was he to say?

"So …", she picked up his sentence, "you felt pretty?"

His hand twitched. The last time their conversation had been this embarrassing, burying his head in a pillow had actually helped. If he couldn't see her, she couldn't see him. But that was childish. He swallowed hard and nodded briefly. "Yeah."

Another warm smile. "That is okay. We all want to feel good in our own skin, sometimes make-up and clothes can help with this very human desire."

"But pretty is for girls", he interjected.

"Which brings me back to my previous question: If you could choose any or all gender you wanted, what would you choose?"

He still didn't know and tried hard not to think about where she was going with this. "Why?"

"As I said before, homosexuality and cross-dressing aren't all that related. And neither of them are related to which gender one identifies with. Wanting to be with a man or wanting to wear a pretty dress, does not make one a woman. But your words earlier suggested, there might be some overlap here. You said, you weren't much of a man, so you would end up like a woman. That to me sounds like an important sentence."

He sighed heavily and grabbed that pillow. Now looking childish didn't make much of a difference. Did she really think he was secretly a woman? He hadn't meant it like that. Had he? "You think I'm … What, a woman trapped in a man's body? Ain't that the plot of a trashy B-movie?"

"It's not about what I think. It's about who you are - or aren't. That's why I ask this question: If you could choose freely, if you dream of the ideal you, how would you be?"

He groaned into the pillow. That was a stupid question. "I wouldn't be this much of a failure." He looked up at her. "But that's not the kind of ideal you wanna hear, is it."

She smiled slightly. "Right now? No. But we can always talk about that."

"Nah, pass." He took a deep breath and began to think out loud. That usually got him somewhere, it's why he wrote his music: to clear his head. "I would not have tits, if that's what you're asking. They don't do much for me, so I can live without. I … I actually haven't thought about that before. Like, do I want to be a woman? No, I don't. Why would I? There are a lot of things about my life I would change, if I could, but … That never occurred to me, not seriously. I mean, sure I've stood in front of a mirror before, you know, in a dress and pretended I was one. And of course I sometimes thought it’d be easier if I was a girl, you know, liking men in this way, but … I never thought about, like, actually living as one. That seems weird and strange and … Nah, that wouldn't be me. It's just … I don't know, it feels nice, is all. You know … pretty, that's … Ever since I blew up with the music and all, people keep telling me I'm hot or sexy or some bullshit, some groupie trying to get into my pants and let her, whatever, but they don't really mean it. It's all lies. If I was still broke, they wouldn't look at me once, much less humping me first chance they get … But I look surprisingly good in a dress, somehow … You know, it just feels good to look at yourself and like what you're seeing for a change. Right? It gives me a little boost sometimes, that's all, like I … I can like myself a little. I don't usually like my face all that much. I mean, it's not so bad that I would do anything to change it, but it's just … It's just not overly attractive and that's fine, it's good enough. But sometimes, you know, you want to be more than good enough, right. You want to feel like a someone. Someone nice and pretty and good or whatever. With some make-up on, I even think my smile is cute. Ain't that weird, huh? It's just … I don't know, I sometimes do that to get back to myself again, to a self I like. … That doesn't mean I think I'm a woman. Or that I want to be one. I like to look good, that doesn't mean I want to change, what, myself? What would that even be? … I mean, sure, I just as often call myself some effeminate bullshit as much as the homophobic shit, but that's just me hating on myself. You know that. It sounds the same anyway. Like, all that name-calling is just mean and degrading, but … I don't think, when I call myself slut or bitch, that I mean or want to mean that I'm an actual woman. Wouldn't that be a weird choice of words? It just means, I'm too easy and messed up and not of much value. Words have contexts and that context is always the same, regardless if there's a bitch or a fag at the end of the insult. So", he frowned at her as he came to his conclusion, "I don't think that sentence was actually important or meaningful. It actually kinda sounds like some of those insults. Just phrased nicely. It's not always easy to filter them out."

She nodded slowly and her eyes looked at him with this warm, embracing expression. "That is very possible. Sometimes things seem meaningful, even if they aren't. But it still serves well to look at a question like this as truthfully as we can. And I think you did a fine job here. It can be hard to gather thoughts together about something, we might not think about too often. You did well, letting your thoughts guide you through the matter and find what this is really about: That you want to feel comfortable in your own skin. Everyone wants that. A pretty dress and nice make-up seem to help you and I'm glad that you know that about yourself. Not everyone does and without knowing how they can feel better with themselves, people tend to suffer quite a lot. So, again, I'm glad you found a way to feel good with yourself, at least every once in a while. That is very important."

"It's not weird that I need women's clothes for that?" He felt weird about that. Sure, it didn't mean he wanted to be a woman or something like that, but that didn't make it right. More importantly, it didn't fit well with the image of the kind of man he wanted to be. But he wasn't good at making that true anyway.

"No. Why would that be weird? It's just clothes, isn't it? There's nothing weird in cross-dressing." There was a short silence, but then it seemed like she remembered something and added: "If you like, I can give you some material for research. But in short, cross-dressing has been practiced for centuries in all cultures, sometimes for religious reasons, sometimes for theatrical reasons, sometimes to escape social injustice, sometimes to gain comfort in someone's identity, and sometimes for sexual pleasure. It does, however, hold a social stigma in our day and age, that can be hard to break out of, especially if it's a man, who wants to crossdress. Women, as usual, aren't seen as much of a threat to society and therefore are given a little leeway, in this regard at least." Her expression was thoughtful with a hint of worry. "So in regards to your Halloween costume … As much as I want to encourage you to express yourself and explore yourself, I also want you to be safe. Since Nicolas made the request he did and seems to support you, at least that's what I take from your words, take heart. It often comes with great rewards, when we put ourselves out there. You might be surprised."

He heard the "But" from ten miles away.

"But", she continued, "you might want to be more careful regarding your party as a whole. I know you trust your friends and you've known most of them for decades by now. Which is admirable. Nevertheless, our friends have prejudices as well, we all have. At this point in time it might be more wise to explore this in private first. I want you to trust in yourself and feel good with yourself and I'm really glad to see that Nicolas can spark something in you. That is wonderful. It's why I don't want you to get hurt. A costume like this might be more of a coming out than you're comfortable with at this point in time. So I advise for a little caution if a greater audience is to be involved, for your own safety."

He frowned. "I don't think my friends care that much. They never said anything before. And you said, those things don't go together."

"They don't", she agreed, "but that doesn't mean people know that. Just, it is best to concentrate these kinds of explorations in a safe space. It sounds like Nicolas might give you such a safe space. Trust in yourself, even if it seems scary."

"But don't go around flaunting it to people, 'cause they'll hate you for it", he finished her sentence.

She shook her head. "There's nothing to hate. Sadly, it doesn't stop people from being mean - or worse."

Marshall snorted angrily. "I dressed up as women before for my videos and no one ever said anything. They won't say anything about a Halloween costume either." They were his friends, for fuck's sake. They'll probably tease him with it and joke about it, if he actually went like this. But she made it sound like they would beat him up or even murder him. They were his friends and it would be embarrassing, but unsafe? No way.

"I sure hope so", her smile was warm but she couldn't leave the worry out of it. "Sadly, people have been hurt over these kinds of things before. Just, be cautious." He heard the accusation loud and clear: You have been hurt over these kinds of things before. He could take care of himself! So, his answer was just a low growl.

For a moment she let this sit in the air, so it might sink into him. Then she said: "You want to talk about the other thing, too?"

"Which other thing?", he asked slightly confused. This had been the only matter on his mind today.

"Well, you said something about you and Nicolas not having sex. That seemed to upset you a great deal", she explained in her usual tone of voice. 

He remembered her thoughtful hum earlier. This would end up to be another long conversation, he saw that coming already. "Nah, it's fine. He's probably just shy." Well, that might've been his worst lie yet.

Chapter Text

"Where're your cat ears?", Ryan asked, his grin amused and curious. His wife punched her elbows into his side.

Marshall rolled his eyes. Of course she knew. Why only was Ryan so chatty with his wife? That's not how she knows, homo, it's all over your face. "Hey you two", he gave Mona a short welcome-hug. "Good to have you here, too. Maybe he'll stop being an ass now."

She smiled at him. "Don't hold your breath on that. But he's been fairly good lately. I thought I give him a little treat." With that she fanned out her dress a bit, white and a little old-fashioned but it suited her well and complimented her dark skin as well as her curves. It wasn't overly sexy, only really pretty - which was even better, if Marshall was asked. Who would ask you? You shouldn't care for pretty, that ain't for a slut like you.

"Looks good", he nodded understandingly. He sure hoped they'd get along well. Their marriage was one of the few ones he knew, that actually held up still. Married almost eight years, dating just as long before that. A stronger relationship he didn't know and he was admittedly a little envious of them, and often annoyed with Ryan for fucking it up with some stupid-ass mistress. But in the end, who was he to talk? Thought experiment: What'll happen when you inevitably cheat on your boo? He'll shoot your bitch ass or he'll try to beat the slut out of you? Kim couldn't do it, but maybe a professional will help. Any thoughts? If he couldn't serve Ryan as an example of what not to do, well, then there was not much use in helping him.

Now he eyed up Ryan in his suit and cape. He flashed him some plastic fangs. "You're Dracula, huh?", Marshall guessed.

"And I'm Minna, obviously", Mona explained. 

He assumed that was Dracula's wife-to-be, but he would need to watch that movie again to be sure. "Cool."

"And what are you? If you want to be Marshall the Cat, couldn't you have gone with the Marshall, who as some semblance of a fashion sense?" Ryan looked him over more closely now. Something, Marshall really grew to hate these days. "And I ask again, where are the ears? And the tail? It's not much of a cat you have going here. He'll surely be disappointed."

Marshall picked at the neckline of his zipped up hoodie. Relax, there's so much hoodie on you, nobody can see any skin. Which is a shame. When you gonna show some cleavage, homo? As if he wasn't aware that a sweat suit firstly wasn't a cat costume and secondly wasn't much of a costume at all and thirdly it was too big on him as well. He knew all that! No need for everybody to point that out to him. "There were … complications. I could use your help with that, actually." His ears started heating up already and Nicolas wasn't even here yet. Fuck.

"My help?", Ryan asked. "Sure. What you need me for? Shall I zip up your dress?"

Okay, now all of his face felt hot. He already knows, get your head out of your ass, little gay looking boy, you gonna need that space later. He must shine red like a stop light.

Ryan laughed low. "Really? Don't you wanna have Nicky do that?"

"Don't call him that", he grumbled. He felt so fucking stupid and miserable and he just wanted to bail. But that wasn't really his nature. He saw things through, especially when they were bad ideas. So, here he was and you're finally fucking doing it!

Mona elbowed her husband again. "Shush, be nice."

"You know what? Stuff it. I'm taking your wife with me, she's way nicer than you anyway." He stuck his tongue out to Ryan and shoved Mona toward the back of the studio, away from the party. The music and chatter grew quiet, the more they walked away. He pulled keys out of his pocket and opened one of the doors.

Mona closed the door after she stepped in. "So, you're really doing this? With Nicky, I mean. Good for you."

He rolled his eyes. "Why's everyone saying that?"

"Because we love you, that's why. So, how can I help?", she asked and clapped her hands primed for action.

He tilted his head a little. "How much did Ryan tell you?" There ain't anything to tell, you're an open book, little gay looking boy.

"He tries not to, I swear", she said reassuringly. "He's just really bad at lying to me. It's not his fault, you know that."

He sighed. Yes, he knew that. "Well, it's supposed to be … uhm, a sexy cat. Whatever the hell that means." Skin. It means skin and cleavage and some legs, too. Show everyone what they can have, pussy cat. He gestured toward the table, where parts of his costume were lying. Ears and tail quite visible within the clusterfuck of his stuff that sprawled there.

She followed the gesture. "Well, I see the cat part. Seems to be all there. What's with the sexy part?"

"That's where I could use your help with. Ryan wasn't so far off with zipping up the dress. I mean, it's not a dress exactly and not a zipper, either, but-"

"Just let me help you", she interrupted him. "Show it to me, I'll figure it out. I dress five kids, I can handle getting you in your costume."

Marshall bit his lip. But he turned around and took his hoodie off. Underneath he wore a dark grey blouse and, more importantly, a black corset, with which he needed some help. "The laces, if you could", he asked and felt too coy for his own good. Damn right, you haven't been a shy virgin since your teens. And it failed then, too. He felt rather naked, even though technically he wasn't.

"Sure, no problem", Mona said and he felt her pull at the laces. "Do you want it really tight or a little loose?"

He turned to her. "Really? Nothing? You don't think this's weird or some shit?" He was, by all accounts, surprised by her reaction which just wasn't one at all. Not that he had thought, she'd have much of a problem with this, but some mild surprise at least. Wasn't that to be expected? Why? You're the only one who believes in your fucking lies, homo. But she really was chill and now Marshall came to understand why Ryan was so chill with all of this, too. Not much of a puzzle: Not everyone's as fucked up as you. Not just because of their history, but because his wife had talked some sense into him along the road. That she was really good at.

"Keep your head straight", she ordered and pulled at the laces again. "Tight or loose?"

"Well, I like to breathe, so not Victorian-style tight. But the waist, uhm …" Why d'you even know what that means? Your gay ass is exhausting. Another pull at the laces. "I want it to be convincing, you know?" Show everyone just how much of a girly slut you are, good for you.

"I see", she said and he could hear and feel her work at the lacing. "Good that you asked me, Ryan wouldn't know what to do with this. He'll probably be more embarrassed than you right now."

That wasn't necessarily a comforting thought. "Probably", he agreed. The three chains at the front clinked quietly with every hard pull at the laces that jerked through his body. The small cat heads swayed from the movement. She really didn't hold back, which just as probably was a good thing.

"So, how does it feel? Can you breath all right?", she asked and then added some explanation: "You know, one of my friends is all into lingerie and stuff, I picked up a thing or two." A moment of hesitation. "She'll probably be delighted to have a corset as nice as yours."

He made a step away from her and took a deep breath. All seemed good. His hands ran down the sides of his body and he was impressed, she actually managed to make a slight feminine curve to his waist. Just enough. Sure, the corset was designed this way, still she'd done pretty good. "Well … As thanks I could give you the card of a dressmaker I know."

"You're full of surprises", a genuine smile on her lips. "Now, what's with the rest of your costume? I'm pretty sure, you gonna need some make-up."

Marshall gestured toward the table with his stuff. "All there. But I can do the rest myself, really." Only the laces he couldn't do himself, at least not to a degree that felt adequate to leave his bedroom with. And this sure as shit wasn't his bedroom!

She waved his objections aside. "Nah, I'm here to help, so I'm gonna help."

"Ryan doesn't even know what a lucky guy he is", he mumbled low.

"I know", she smiled jokingly. "Now come, sit your ass down. We're gonna make you the prettiest girl on your party."

Marshall stopped dead in his tracks. "What?" Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! One little gay looking boy coming right up.

She looked at him questioningly. "No? I mean …", she gestured toward him, toward the corset and the blouse. "It's quite feminine, ain't that the point?"

"Well, yeah, but …" But what? Of course she was right, that was the point of all of this. Still, it was really weird to hear that out loud and not just in his head. Or from his mirror. He shrugged with his shoulders. "I don't know." Quit the pretense already, you know! Everyone fucking knows!

"You don't? Or are you too chicken?", she beckoned him to sit on the chair already. "Either way, we're gonna make it true now."

He sat down, that was all the answer needed.

One final gesture to smooth out the folds of his skirt. They didn't need it, but it was just one of these things he did to work up his courage. He felt really fucking nervous right now, akin to when he was this close to go up on a stage and perform one of his songs in front of thousands of people. Afterward, he actually liked this feeling, but now? He was fucking nervous as hell.

Marshall turned to Mona: "How do I look?" He had thought about bringing a full size mirror instead of only a hand mirror, but had decided against that on the last second. Seemed like too much effort. Now he cursed that decision. It felt like everything was in place, but you never knew.

The black hair of the wig fell silky smooth onto his shoulders and hid the headband for the cat ears, all perky and of a deep red colored fur. Mona had put make-up on him that accentuated his cheek bones and the blue of his eyes astonishingly well. A black necklace in the form of a prowling cat adorned his clavicles, a couple of red stones sparkled when light hit them just right. Earrings and bracelet and ring all made in the same style: feminine lines, black with red stones. The dark grey blouse hid away his tattoos and his biceps and the fact that his chest was muscle. He really liked the three red colored chains that hung in the front of the corset with the kitten heads, a last minute purchase but definitely worth it. The black corset sat really well today and Mona assured him, the lacing - in red of course - wasn't twirled. He had to take her word for it. Fitting to the ears, the tail was of the same red fur, of course. The satiny skirt was black as well and fell in some nice folds and layers around his legs, it had a slight angle to its cut so one knee was showing and the other one was covered. Some asymmetry never hurt. He'd picked some not too high heels, because Nicolas didn't like tall women, he remembered and assumed that'll probably went for men as well. Also better to spend all night in.

"You're a gorgeous human being, Marshall", Mona answered and took his hands into hers, delighted and almost giddy with excitement. Why though? "He's going to love this. I'm loving this. It's perfect." She seemed so happy and Marshall smiled in response.

A warm sensation spread out in his chest. Perhaps all of this was alright, not just the costume tonight but being with Nicolas, too. Just maybe this could work out? At least as far as anything in his life ever worked out. Nothing was perfect, but good enough was easy to settle for if the alternative was pain and fear. It only needed to work out a little bit, a tiny little bit and it might all be worth it.

Mona's bright smile was a hunch that all of this might work out just enough.

There was a knock at the door. "Hey, you in there? What's taking so long?", Ryan's voice.

"Just a sec, babe", she answered. One more time she looked over to Marshall: "Let's have fun, tonight, honey, it's your party after all."

Honey? She had never called him that before. He kinda liked it. Huh. But he nodded confident and it wasn't all fake. He walked over to the door to open it and step out into the hallway.

Ryan leaned against the wall and watched the door open. When Marshall stepped out, his eyes grew big. "… Wow …", was the only thing he said, staring at his friend.

Marshall looked at him a little puzzled. "What?" Sure, the outfit was really pretty - not sexy necessarily, hopefully Nicolas wasn't too disappointed with him - and he felt really pretty, but not in a wow-kind of way.

"You … I mean … Wow." Not much of an answer. Ryan cleared his throat. "You look amazing. I mean, if I didn't know better … Just amazing."

Mona shoved her elbow into her husband's ribs once more, probably not the last time tonight. "Don't be rude, quit staring."

"Well … We better get to the party, then", Marshall suggested.

Ryan just remembered: "Right, Nicolas's here. That's why I came."

"Nicolas?" He spun on his heels and rushed down the hallway. So excited! 

The music hit like a wall, when he entered the room with the party. But Marshall didn't need to look around and scan the room, he saw Nicolas immediately. As if he could miss that man. Even though he really had wondered what Nicolas would come as, especially since he wasn't much of a fan of anything, now that he saw him, it seemed so obvious. He wore a dark kimono and a sword was hanging at his side. Marshall always forgot, there was a men's version of kimonos, but it certainly suited Nicolas well. The dark green colors and the straight cut gave him a rather stoic posture. Really like one of those movies, an old-timey samurai movie. He looked very handsome and Marshall wanted to call out to him, but caught himself in time. Nicolas was deaf, calling out to him would be useless.

When Marshall was just a few steps away, Nicolas turned to him, saw him and, well, froze. He literally froze on the spot, not a blink, not a breath. He just stared at him with wide eyes.

"Nicolas?", he asked with a hushed voice that was drowned out by the music. Nervousness tingled in his limbs. This probably wasn't what Nicolas's had wanted making that wish, but hopefully he wasn't too disappointed. Maybe this wasn't overly sexy, but he had made a lot of effort to fit in the cat theme. At least Marshall liked his outfit.

A jolt flashed through the other and his body moved again. With big steps Nicolas stood right in front of him, cupped his hands around Marshall's jaw and kissed him passionately and feverishly.

Marshall couldn't do anything but to kiss back. He didn't want to do anything else than to kiss him back. He held on tight to Nicolas's sides, he felt like falling. Then, a strong pull at his arm that yanked him from his boyfriend's hold.

"Marshall", a deep hiss in his ear, Ryan's voice again. "Be careful. Everyone's here, don't forget that."

He squinted at his friend. "What?" His gaze wandered over Ryan's shoulders and met Denaun's, who looked at him skeptically. "Shit", he mumbled and freed himself from Ryan's grip. He straightened his skirt nervously. "Shit", he repeated.

"I don't think anybody payed much attention, just … You know, be careful", Ryan shrugged with a hint of uncertainty.

"It's fine", he muttered. As he turned to Nicolas again, Marshall gave him a brief and genuine smile. He was glad, Nicolas was here. "Take a drink or a snack or something", he gestured to the table with all the food.

But Nicolas still looked at him intensely and … hungrily. Eventually he gave a strong nod and left for said table.

"You really are head over heels, ain't ya", Ryan mused and laid an arm around Marshall's hips. "Actual heels even."

Now it was Marshall's elbow that got shoved into Ryan's ribs. "Shut up."

He had decided to not talk to Denaun. Probably he should with the skeptical look Denaun had given him and all, but he just couldn't bring himself. What was he to say? He liked wearing silk and sucking dicks? Not cool, man, not cool. So, Marshall tried to get some unsuspicious space between him and his friend and also between himself and Nicolas. Maybe no one had payed attention and still wasn't, but he tempted fate or karma or whatever way too much already tonight, he wasn't going to be stupid. Or more stupid than he already was. What had he been thinking? 

That he liked Nicolas to see him like this, pretty and special. He wanted his boyfriend to see that Marshall was more than a useless, ugly nobody. Judging by their kiss, he saw.

 The party was fun. It wasn't that difficult to not cross Denaun's path too much and to not be alone with him, honestly. Of course the music was awesome and the food was as well, relaxed and cheery vibes all over. All of his friends had a great time and Marshall made damn sure they had. 

He liked taking care of people and making them enjoy themselves. So he made sure, everyone ate and drank enough but not too much and that the music on the dance floor was moving bodies. He saw Ryan and his wife dance at some point, which he found lovely and amusing. But they weren't the only people to do so and even he had put some moves on the floor himself. But he also made sure, the music didn't spill from the dance floor into the karaoke space - an idea his daughters had given him -, so as not to ruin the fun of singing off-key. There were a few short and fun games to keep everyone engaged and also to provide some meaningless and laugh inducing conversations for people to mingle easily. Most of them knew each other to a degree, of course, because they all kind of worked together, but he tried to break up the usual grouplets. Parties were a perfect spot to notice people you usually wouldn't without too much pressure and he liked the idea of his friends getting along well. That's why Marshall had the best time tonight.

Of course Von and Rufus and just about everyone of his friends had made a joke about his choice of costume, more about that it fit him well and less about that he chose it in the first place. Exactly what he had expected. He had heard more jokes the first time, when he'd done his Britney Spears-impression all those years ago. Which video had it been again? Didn't matter. Seemed like after a while this joke had just gotten old enough to be barely amusing and nothing out of the ordinary anymore. He wasn't quite sure, if he was okay with that.

Often his eyes wandered to Nicolas, though. He wondered, if Nicolas owned that kimono because he really was into this samurai-stuff, like if he dressed like this in private sometimes. Or if it was just a costume for him like for everyone else here. He did sword fighting, he'd said. For some reason he still couldn't picture Nicolas as a guy, who actually had fun with costumes all that much. That mean grin didn't really translate into this. Marshall felt a little bad that he left Nicolas alone at a party, where he didn't know anyone else. That was a crappy feeling, he knew that himself, and he was a crappy boyfriend for doing so. But the way Nicolas still looked at him, so fierily and all-consuming, he didn't trust either of them to not do ... something. They would. They so definitely would, he could feel his blood rushing already.

Marshall leaned against one of the walls, nursing a pop and taking a couple of deep breaths. He loved having his friends around and this party was all fun, but every so often he needed a breather.

"Hey", Danny raised his drink briefly. "Great party."

Marshall nodded. "That's the idea."

"Great costume, too." A suggestive wink up and down Marshall's form. "Looks good on you." There wasn't mockery in his tone.

Marshall shrugged. "Well, that's what Halloween's for, ain't it? Dressing up silly and having fun." Silly wasn't his goal with this particular outfit, but that was only for him to know. Or at least not for Danny to know. He was a colleague and friend, but definitely not close enough for this kind of information.

"You know, I had a cool idea the other day for a chord progression. You wanna check it out?"

"Now?", Marshall was surprised. "Sure, why not. I'm always up for that." He pushed himself from the wall.

Danny smiled at him: "Yeah, I know."

So, they walked down the hall and through one of the doors. Danny shut the door behind them and asked: "What're you supposed to be anyway? I mean, with the ears and stuff."

"A cat", he explained and turned to Danny expectantly. "So, what's your idea?"

"You mean, a cat-girl", Danny corrected him with emphasis on the last syllable. "I mean, you're definitely a girl, the cat might be debatable."

Marshall tilted his head questioningly. "You wanna talk costumes or your chords?"

"Neither, actually", Danny replied and said with a less conversational tone: "I saw you earlier."

Marshall did not like where this was going. He had a really bad feeling about this. "Earlier? You need to be more specific. After all, this is my party, everybody's seen me earlier."

"I mean, I saw you with the samurai and Ryan." Danny came closer with slow steps. "Looked like trouble in gay paradise to me. But I'm a little surprised, I didn't peg you for a tranny."

Fuck. Marshall went with plan A: feign ignorance. So he snorted in derision. "What the hell are you talking about? Don't know what you're seeing, but you should get your eyes checked, man."

"Come on, don't take me for a fool. He stuck his tongue down your throat. What kind of arrangement is that? I've been wondering about that all night." Danny stepped right into his personal space. "Is he into girls with dicks? Or do you tug it away under there? Are you guys a throuple or do you let just about anybody slop all over you? I'm curious how these pervy things work." One hand slid under Marshall's skirt and grabbed his junk, or tried to anyway.

"Fuck off!", he pushed Danny away with a hard shove. This was time for plan B: burning anger. He growled menacing and stared Danny as cold and enraged in the eyes as he could - which he knew was quite impressive. "The fuck is your problem? Whatever the hell you think you saw, didn't fucking happen. Now, get the fuck out of my studio, asshole, or I'm gonna throw you out my goddamn self! And don't get fooled by a pretty skirt, I will break your fucking bones in the process. I promise!" He shoved him again hard.

Danny shoved back and replied with a grin. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. I'm sure, the press will have a field day with this story. How much money, do you think, can I make from this? Eminem - a fucking shemale. Misogynist and homophobe par excellence is, in fact, a sissy queen. Who would've thou-"

The punch in his face interrupted Danny's sentence. It wasn't worth hearing the end of anyway. "Fuck you!", Marshall spit and grabbed the collar of Danny's sweater. Time for plan C: leverage power. He pulled him in close and said dark and threatening: "No one will believe you - and I will make damn sure you'll rot in prison for the rest of your life. We'll see who gets slopped all over then, punk."

Danny seemed to have lost some of his cockiness, but not enough. "They will believe me, I've got some compelling evidence, you know." His hand gripped Marshall's wrist tight and turned, so that he had to let the bastard go. "With pictures like these, you can't talk your way out of this. This ain't a fucking Halloween costume, this is just - you, all perverted and twisted you. And it's fucking disgusting!"

In this exact second the door burst open. Nicolas. With each step he took into the room, his expression grew more wild and more grim. He unsheathed his sword and there was a distinct metal sound to it.

Fuck! He brought his real fucking sword?! But Marshall managed a last mean growl towards Danny and wriggled his wrist out of the bastard's grip. "If you don't back off, I let him loose. And believe me, you don't want that." 

"What's he? Your lap dog?", Danny huffed but there was fear in his eyes, which focused on the blade.

"Try bloodhound." Marshall stared his former friend down.

Nicolas's deep voice cut the air: "Leave." It wasn't a request and it wasn't an order, either. The word was a threat on Danny's life.

Understanding that just as well Danny hurried out of the room. "You're crazy!"

"And don't you forget that!", Marshall shouted after him and threw the door shut. He leaned his forehead against the wood and hit it with his fists. Fuck! What had just happened? This was insane! Had he just gotten blackmailed with his gay thing? Fuck!

A quiet metal scratch.

Marshall turned around and focused on Nicolas. And his sword. "The fuck you bring a real fucking sword for!"

Instead of an answer, which Marshall didn't actually expect, Nicolas walked over to him, grabbed his hips and pulled him into a deep kiss. And Marshall kissed him back, arms laid around Nicolas's neck to pull him in closer. That's what he had wanted to do all night and he was going to enjoy all of it now. Maybe this was disgusting, probably was, but hell did it feel amazing.

Their kiss was desperate and starving and passionate and heated and so were their hands. Fore some mysterious reason both their costumes were not designed for an urgent make-out session. Marshall barely found skin beneath Nicolas's kimono and Nicolas would not get even half an inch under Marshall's corset. But luckily a skirt was more open for these kinds of things and it didn't take long for Nicolas to kneel down, head buried underneath the satin folds and licking, kissing, sucking on Marshall's dick.

He moaned loudly and clawed his nails into the door. "Fuck!" This was so worth the anguish of his mind. He never had had sex in an outfit like this before, but hell did he want to now. Jerking off in one was already pretty hot, having Nicolas's head under his skirt, though … Felt like a dream come true he didn't know he had dreamed of. Another loud moan as Nicolas's took him deep into his throat.

His hands jerked forward and grabbed hold of the spiky black hair, he could pet through all day long. But instead he pulled at it, pulled Nicolas up. Those thin lips needed to be on his own and that tongue needed to be in his mouth. Now! One of Marshall's legs wrapped around the other's body, their groins meeting beneath their clothes. Another moan, from both of them.

It took him a moment to realize, he wasn't just moaning sounds but actually saying something between their lips. Unwillingly he parted their lips from each other and sank into black eyes. He said those words again, now that Nicolas could see them: "Fuck me."

Nicolas grinned in response, all satisfied and predatory. Then they kissed again and his hands moved down under Marshall's skirt and squeezed the cheeks, he evidently was very fond of.

Another moan from Marshall and he gripped the kimono's collar hard. He had to hold on to something, 'cause Nicolas was already pushing two fingers in and stretching his hole. Patience was absolutely not his strength and even though it hurt, Marshall was too thrilled to care. But there was one last thought, he had drilled into his brain to not get easily devoured by passion: "Condom." He shoved against Nicolas's shoulder to remind him of that.

Out of the folds of the kimono Nicolas actually produced one and Marshall wasn't sure what seemed more odd, that there were pockets in this thing or that Nicolas had brought some rubber. Both not thoughts that kept long on his mind.

Especially not when there was a hot dick tearing his hole apart. That was exactly what it felt like. A hoarse cry, a pained groan, an ecstatic moan and an erratic kiss. His legs wrapped around Nicolas's waist tight, pulling him in close, while Marshall was pushed hard against the door with every thrust into his body. They panted into each other's mouths, their lips touching but not coordinated enough for a kiss anymore. Marshall's fingers dug deep into the mess of black hair, as if he could hold himself steady by them. He couldn't. Nicolas's hand gripped his neck, the rough skin of fingertips causing goosebumps all over his body and a wet tongue licked the side of his face. He moaned again, his hips moving against Nicolas's body.

When he came, he was totally out of breath and all tension drained out of his body. He slumped against the wood of the door and only Nicolas's hold on him kept him upright. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the movement inside him, intently focused on the feeling of pushing and shoving and thrusting of Nicolas into him and it was a sensation, he didn't want to live without. Even the tiniest tremor sparked heated friction not just on his skin, but from inside of him. There was a fullness, as if it wasn't just him anymore and whatever had broken so long ago, could become whole again. Raw pleasure beat in his veins. He was open and true and pure. With. Life seemed worth it and love seemed finally in reach. The sound of Nicolas's moans filled him just the same. He felt his heart beat in his chest, fast and strong and sanguine. He was a person again.

Marshall's face nestled in the crook of Nicolas's neck and his arms were wrapped around the broad shoulders, under the layers of cloth was the tattoo he liked so much. There was no movement anymore, just them breathing too quickly. With a slow mind he realized, they were sitting on the floor, a tight ball of human and clothes.

Nicolas raised his head and looked him in the eyes. Their noses touched briefly and they kissed lazily. "You are beautiful." The dark voice sank into Marshall and filled him to the brim with warmth and affection. For this moment, sadness was but a bittersweet memory from the past.

Leisurely Marshall's fingers stroked through the spiky hair and he smiled. "I'm glad you're here." In this embrace, at this party - with him.

Chapter Text

After a while their breathing was back to normal again and they slowly untangled themselves. Nicolas brushed a strand of black hair behind Marshall's ear and made the earring chime, his thumb caressed a rouged cheek. "You're make-up is … smeared."

"Figured that", Marshall agreed and pulled at Nicolas's collar. Even though the kimono looked in disarray and chaotic, there was still no skin to be seen. How did these things work, seriously? Then he stood up, or tried to and groaned. That hurt. Nicolas needed to learn some patience next. "Fuck", he growled.

Nicolas helped him to his feet. The grin on his face was not remorseful in the slightest.

On bare feet he walked out into the hallway and into the room with his stuff just a few doors down. He winked Nicolas to follow him. Back in the room he gestured Nicolas to open the corset for him. There wasn't any protest. Marshall felt the strong hands on his back, one steadied his hips while the other one pulled the laces open row after row. Meanwhile Marshall took the cat ears and the wig off and wiped the smeared make-up from his face. Getting back to his regular self.

After the last row of laces was loose, a kiss on his neck. The hands reached around, declamped the three red chains with the kitten heads and put them on the table. Then Nicolas's hands unhooked the front of the corset, the busk opened and it almost felt like he moved with reverence as he undressed Marshall.

Marshall must be seeing things. He unbuttoned his blouse and folded it neatly. 

Nicolas leaned against the table and observed every move of his.

"What?", Marshall asked. "Never seen a man half dressed with a skirt before?"

A smirk was the only response. As expected by now.

So, he took his t-shirt and pulled that over his head. A change of skirt for jeans and he examined the satin folds. Hopefully their fun hadn't ruined it. The folded skirt also went into the bag, where the blouse and the corset rested. "Oh whatever, I can do the rest later", he decided and grabbed his sneakers. When they left the room, he locked it up again. "Back to the party", he said with half a smile.

Nicolas just nodded and stroked his the small of his back for a moment.

The music was still on, laughter and chatter underneath, his friends still had fun at the party. It was good to see that, even if Marshall had neglected some of his host duties in the last couple of … He didn't even know how long they've been in the back.

"What happened to your costume?", Denaun asked 

And startled Marshall with that. "Shit, don't do that", he grumbled. Where did he come from just now?

Denaun looked at him worried. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just, didn't see you there." How would you, with your eyes still drooling over your boo.

Denaun still looked at him that way. "If you're worried about Danny, don't be. We took care of him."

"What?", he frowned at his friend. "What does that mean? How did you … What did you … Wait, ya'll didn't kill the guy, right?" This was not a gangster movie. Well … a quick look to Nicolas's sword. The thing was fucking real! They needed to have a serious talk about that.

"What? No, of course not." Denaun shook his head. "Not yet at least. But we made sure, he knew what's up." Then he took a phone out of his pocket and handed it to Marshall. "And we took this from him, just to make sure, he didn't try something stupid."

Unbelieving he looked at the piece of tech, then looked up to Denaun. "That's Danny's? Why do you have that?" Sure, he was glad that the pictures wouldn't get out now, but he felt like he was missing a piece of information. "Why did you take care of him in the first place?" He sucked your brains out just now? Because they know, homo, how'r you this stupid and slow?

"Because we're friends." Behind Denaun, around one of the high bar tables stood the rest of the guys and they smiled or winked rather suspiciously in Marshall's direction.

This was weird. "What's going on?", he asked in a low tone. "Did you, like, hear anything or … What?" And if they heard Danny talk his nonsense, how much else did they hear? Or see? Fuck! They've already seen far more of you than that, slut.

"No, but he was obvious anyway. Don't worry. It's over", Denaun said reassuringly.

Well, that tone didn't track with Marshall. He was worried. A lot. "Obvious, how?" If Danny had been obvious … How obvious had everything else been? Had Marshall been? And Nicolas! He was the most suspicious person ever. This was a nightmare!

"Look, don't worry. It's all fine now."

"Oh, I fucking worry!", he growled. "Stay the hell out of my business. All of you! I can handle my own shit." He shoved Denaun aside and stormed off. This was so fucking bad!


He didn't listen. Fresh air, that's what he needed right now. He left the party and the building. The cold air of an October night hit his face when he stepped outside. He breathed in deeply and the sharp pain in his throat felt good, cleansing. He could do this. He could deal with this. All his life he'd been dealing with this It's called running away and you seriously need to fucking stop that, homo! and keeping it secret. Even to the point where he'd almost forgotten it himself. This was no different.

But it was different. It wasn't just a silent secret, some thoughts he didn't dare to share with anybody else. No. He was actually doing it. He was out there fucking with guys, hell, he had a relationship with one even. An actual fucking boyfriend, he still couldn't believe it. You better do, his dick was just inside you like five fucking minutes ago. You're gay and you love it, girl!

And … he wanted it. He wanted to be with Nicolas. Even if it wouldn't work out with him, he wanted to be with a man. Maybe it was wrong, but it felt right. It wasn't even wrong. Lots of people were gay or something else from that alphabet soup and nothing was wrong with them. Why was it wrong for him? You ain't wrong cause you're gay, stupid homo, you wrong cause you're you. That didn't make fucking sense!

He threw Danny's phone against the wall, the only thing in reach he could destroy at this moment. Didn't do the trick though, too small and too easy. It exploded into its plastic components on first impact. "Fucking great! Can't even buy decent stuff that fucker", he huffed in anger and frustration.


He turned around. Denaun and Ryan and the rest of their little band of best friends stood at the door and all of them had this worried, thoughtful look on their faces. "What now!", exasperated he threw his hands in the air. "Do I need your fucking permission to get fresh air! Get the fuck back inside!"

"Marshall …", Ryan said with the calm voice he used with his son. Marshall had heard that tone often enough in the studio, when Ryan and his son fought over the phone. He knew that fucking tone too well.

"Don't fucking try that on me! I'm not one of your goddamned kids. Leave me the hell alone! All of you! Go back inside, that's not so freaking hard." He didn't even know why he yelled at his friends. It wasn't their fault, that he was a mess. Or that his party was turning into a disaster. One fun night, was that too much to ask? Just one night, where he had fun the way he wanted with the people he wanted. That shouldn't be so hard! You're making it hard on yourself. Just tell them, you love dick and you'll probably get some right now.

Rufus stepped forward. "We know, aight, Marshall. We know. So, just come back inside and enjoy the party with us."

His body froze. "What?", a whisper. Told you. They couldn't! Told you. They shouldn't! Told you. This was all his goddamned fault. He had tempted fate one too many times and tonight he'd lost. How's being you for a change losing? This ain't hard, slut, repeat after me: I'm gay and I love to suck your dick. Fuck. How was this happening?

"Well, sorta", Rufus continued and took another step toward him. "Not in great detail or anything, but we know. We know enough, you're into guys. What does it matter? We're family, aight. Don't forget that. We always look out for you."

This was not fucking happening! How did they know? How long had they known? Why didn't they say something before? Why were they still his friends? Were they waiting for the right moment, when it hurt the most? That was cruel! He didn't want to lose them. If he lost them, who else would be left? He had nobody else. Not like this, not as friends. They'd known each other forever. They'd been his family, when his own didn't want him. If they would throw him away just the same, he would just … Kill yourself? He didn't know what he would do then, but he already felt like breaking apart at the thought of it. But now that they knew, why would they want to be friends with him any longer? Like this, all wrong and disgusting and useless …

A dull burn in his throat interrupted his thoughts, then he was already doubling over and throwing up.


His lungs hurt. He needed to breath, but the night air was too cold and too heavy. Nothing was getting in.


Night was crawling into his eyes right through to his brain, the cold wind crawled right into his limbs, shaking him to the ground.





The first thing he saw, were obsidian eyes. Eyes Marshall loved and trusted. If he was here, all would be well. With an eased mind, he closed his eyes again and tried to control his breathing. Inhale deeply … and exhale. The cold air stung a little, but that grounded him in the here and now. Then he concentrated on his surroundings: The wall behind him was made from stone, so was the ground he was sitting on. Voices, several, and they sounded like his friends and also like they were worried. About what, him? But he was fine.

"Hey Marshall? You there?" A gentle nudge on his shoulder.

He nodded slowly and hummed low. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and saw the sparkling obsidian eyes again. But his smile died halfway. That wasn't obsidian black, that was ink-black. Those weren't his eyes, they belonged to Ryan. Why was he mixing them up?

Right. DeShaun was dead. 

And his friends knew his secret.

"Hey, you okay?", Ryan asked again.

No, you ain't. But no one could help him, so what was the point of admitting it out loud? "Yeah, I'm fine." Bracing himself against the wall he stood up, his knees weak and with a low groan. After the chat about his sword, he and Nicolas really needed a chat about patience and proper preparation. Wasn't like Marshall's ass was used to getting roughed up like this. No consideration that man.

"Sure? You don't look okay." Denaun's hand gripped him tight for support, but Marshall pulled away. "Did Danny hit you or something?"

"I'm fine, stop being stupid." He pinched the bridge of his nose, there was this familiar pressure behind his eyes again. This was not the right place nor the right time to cry, not in front of his friends - or probably soon to be ex-friends. Whining wouldn't achieve anything. At least one thing you're right about. Even a blind chick finds something to peck. He could not turn back the time and make his friends not know. Or bring DeShaun back. What's done was done.

"Then stop being an ass", Von snorted unnerved. "You just puked all over yourself and passed out. That ain't fine."

Marshall looked down at himself and saw said stains on his t-shirt. Shit, he couldn't even say he had too many drinks tonight. Sobriety sucked sometimes. "Whatever man, just leave me alone for a second. Is that too much to ask?"

A sigh from someone. 

Then Ryan spoke again: "You've been alone with this long enough."

"And you've been miserable long enough", Denaun added. "Tonight I thought, you're finally doing better."

Marshall frowned at him, at all five of his friends. "What’s this, an intervention? You know what, screw you - all of you! Party's over."

"Maybe you need one", Ondre suggested. I second that! They always knew, get over yourself, little gay looking boy. "Shouldn't you be relieved or happy that we know? We're your friends, your family and we love you, whatever you do. How's that translating in you … having some sorta breakdown or whatever this is."

Marshall, still leaning against the wall, now slid down again slowly. How was a fun Halloween party turning into this nightmare? Because you're full of shit, faggot. A pained groan left his throat. Why couldn't he just vanish into thin air? Not coming back, just disappearing forever. Didn't work when you were a kid, won't work now either. The whole world knows you, bitch.

Denaun kneeled next to him, a hand on his shoulder. "We always have your back. We don't care, if you want to have a girl in bed or a guy. And we don't care, if you rather be a girl yourself, or whatever else's going on here. You're always be you and that's exactly the person we call our best friend. And because you're our friend, you better stop lying to us. This been going on long enough. Whatever your problem is, it ain't with us, aight. You hear me? We're with you, all the way."

"Don't talk stupid", he snapped back.

Denaun opened his mouth to reply, but before he could get a word out, a deep, breathy voice cut through the cold October night. It came from behind all of them. "You think too much." 

Nicolas's voice soothed the tremble in his limbs, Marshall only now realized had been there. He buried his face in his hands. "I know, I know."

"So, who's your boyfriend here?", Rufus asked. "Don't you wanna introduce us?"

No, he didn't really. You realize, that's rhetorical, right? They knew and they all been at the same party for hours tonight, homo, they know he's stuffing your whole good. But he looked up again. "Nicolas", he answered.


He heard his own heart beat too loud and his breathing sounded wretched, not much more than a pitiful rattle. The taste on his tongue was sour and mildly strawberry. He wanted to go home.

But Von broke the quiet: "That's all? Don't we deserve a bit more here?"

"What do you want from me?", he asked defeated and looked up to his friend. "I just want to go home, aight?" You sound like a depressed slut who's coming down from a bad trip and just realized, what stupid shit she done, again. That's not for you. You ain't done fucking nothing tonight. Stop whining, fag! He pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, stopping the tears from coming out. "This night's supposed to be fun, not a fucking nightmare", he muttered.

"Hey, tonight was a great deal of fun", Ryan said all confidence. He pulled Marshall up to his feet. "You set up an awesome party. All your friends had a great time, your boyfriend came over, too, you had a lot of fun dancing - don't even try to deny that - and your secret's out the bag. Which means, you can dance with your boyfriend now. If that doesn't sound like fun to you, you need to update your dictionary."

He thoroughly doubted, Nicolas liked to dance. But didn't look like Ryan would count that as an excuse, since he still held on to Marshall and dragged him back into the studio, back to the party. Denaun handed him a glass with a bright red drink, smelled like strawberry and cherry. "What's this?", he asked puzzled.

"You've been mixing it the whole night", Denaun explained as if that said everything.

Marshall frowned. "You spying on me?" How could anybody spy on you? You do every-fucking-thing in public.

"Shut up, just drink it."

In the meantime, Von and Rufus walked over to the music booth and a few moments later the Beastie Boys blared out of the speakers. That was awfully sweet of his friends. They didn't like this music as much as he did. "You're really putting out all the stops, huh?"

Ryan bumped his shoulder amicably. "Your party ain't over yet."

Optimism, not a thing Marshall had much experience with. He let his gaze drift through the room. Few of the other people, he'd invited, looked over curious or mildly concerned. They had probably seen him storm out in his regular clothes, that was pretty much a neon sign for: something's up. At least right now, right here it was. But still seemed like most of them had a good time. His drama wasn't much of an inconvenience tonight, wasn't that a new thing. "You do know, you guys ain't the only people here? The rest don't know, so no dancing tonight", he answered Ryan. Then he raised an eyebrow as Nicolas came to stand next to him.

"You still went as a cat girl in front of all of them", Ryan replied matter-of-factly.

Marshall rolled his eyes. "Must've had my five minutes of crazy to think I could blend in on Halloween. Sorry, won't happen again."

"Oh, don't get sarcastic with me. You're letting loose a little, you know, and getting your queer on or whatever you wanna call it. That's good."

"How's that good?"

Ryan grinned at him: "Like your boyfriend said: You think too much."

Marshall took a sip of his drink.

"Dance?", Nicolas asked.

Marshall looked at him surprised. "Really, you dance?"

"Badly", Nicolas shrugged.

Trying to picture that, he smirked slightly. "I need to see that", and set his drink aside.

Nicolas held his hand open and looked expectantly at him. Hesitantly, Marshall accepted it. A short squeeze and Nicolas pulled him to the dance floor. He hadn't been lying, he was a terrible dancer. Seemed like he could feel the beat alright, but his limbs didn't move in time with it, at least not all of them at the same time. 

Him trying to dance was really amusing. Marshall chuckled quietly, while he was moving to the same beat in a similar silly manner. He didn't care to dance right, it was all about moving your body and having fun with it. Which he had right now.

Damned be Ryan and that he had to be right. Again.

Chapter Text

"You're home?", his daughter asked surprised. She leaned on the back rest of the couch and looked at him inquisitive.

He lowered the notepad to his chest and looked up to her. "Took the day off." He raised an eyebrow, "Or is that not allowed anymore?"

Hailie shrugged. "Sure. Except you don't take days off. You barely take national holidays off."

"So? I can make exceptions. Didn't feel like going to the studio, so I didn't. Not a big deal." You're hiding, pussy, but you can't hide forever. He sat up to talk properly with her. "How was school today?"

She rolled her eyes. "Come on, Dad, you always ask the same question and I always give you the same answer: school was lame, like always. Don't you get tired of this?"

"Not at all", he smiled. "It's so boringly normal family-stuff, I love it."

She climbed over the back rest and sat next to him. "Whatever. Do you feel sick or something? When a dog doesn't eat, you know he's sick, right."

"I'm not a dog." You're a cat, evidently, and you purr when somebody has his dick inside you.

She just gave him that look. This look of: don't be stupid.

"I eat fine." Want a saucer of cum? How you have a boyfriend and not had his cum yet? You're really bad at this, little gay looking boy.

She tilted her head: "That's debatable. You always eat weird when something's up, either too much or too little."

That earned an eye roll. "Who are you, my dietitian?"

"Somebody has to look after you. So, what's up? Why the day off?"

"Wanna watch some cartoons?", he asked instead and turned the TV on.

She nudged her elbow into his side. "I'm not six, Dad. I don't watch cartoons anymore."

Now he gave her that look. This look of: I know you better.

She snuggled next to him. "Is Phineas and Ferb on?"

"For you, always." He put an arm around her and snuggled back. The theme song played in the speakers and some colorful mischief flickered across the screen. Happy family fun time.

Which didn't last too long. "You haven't answered my question, though", Hailie said quietly, intently watching the show. "I know something's up, I'm not stupid."

He kissed the top of her head. "I know, I know. But you're my kid and you don't get to mother me. That's the wrong way around." You wish you'd be her mother. Half the litter you got already, you reserve the other half for your boo to knock you up?

"Is it because of Nicky? Did you do something stupid already?", she looked at him. "I would help you. I'm a girl, you know, I can give you some pointers. Lainy, too."

He sighed. "No, it's not Nicky. That's going fine, I think. At least that's what my therapist says and she would know, wouldn't she."

"You talk with your therapist about her but not me? That's mean, Dad, and cold. I feel left out now." She poked into his side. "I'm your daughter, I get dips on your girlfriend stories."

He looked at her skeptically. "Says who?"

"Says me."

"On who's authority?"

"Mine", she answered just as cocky as before. "So, was she at your party? I bet she was. Did you do couples costumes? That would be so cute." Don't ever! I feel sick already, fag.

He cocked his head. "I ain't cute. Didn't we agree, you wouldn't ask me anymore? I remember a conversation like that."

"You said something about a mean grin, a small tidbit like that only buys you roughly two weeks of my silence on the matter. You know, I'm generous like that. If you want more, you need to tell more", Hailie explained calmly and business-like. Then, her expression turned pensive. "Wait a minute, I don't even know what you went as this year. Why don't I know that?"

"Because I didn't tell you? And no, we didn't do couples costumes. Nicky went in a kimono. I think, a real kimono even."

Hailie nodded approvingly. "Good choice. Exotic, colorful but also modest."

"And fitting. I think, Nicky is Japanese or something, and also does that kind of sword fighting, samurai style, so …" Shoot, of course she found a way to make him talk and of course he fell for it. That's easy, you're a Chatty Cathy. She knew, he didn't like to keep secrets from her and eventually he would spill. He always did. In the end, he did want to tell her. He liked Nicolas and if it worked out, he would like for them all to get along. Somewhen in the distant future. How you wanna come out? When he found away to not tell them about the gay-thing at the same time.

"Cool. But why didn't you tell me about your costume? You always tell me. And you always show me, more importantly. I didn't see anything this year. Strange …" She furrowed her brows deeply. "What's going, Daddy? Something major is going on here. What's wrong?" Her voice sounded deeply troubled.

He rubbed his neck uncertain. "For what it's worth, it's nothing bad. It's my therapist's idea, kinda."

Hailie still looked at him with the same thoughtful and worried expression. No, wasn't worth anything apparently.

"Nicky's a little … different than what I usually go out with … you know", he chose his words carefully. Yeah, I'll say. A little? He's gay, kinky and criminal - need I say more? You're already planning the wedding, ain't ya. "And the costume was a little … embarrassing, kinda … Not necessarily something you'd want to see your Daddy in." Why not? Looked good on you, you turned a few heads. A little too decent and too prude, but we'll work on that.

She shook her head. "Still not making it better, Dad. You have to try harder than that."

Marshall sighed deeply. "Don't do this to me, Hai-Hai. The party was bad enough already, okay. The guys kinda jumped me with their thing and … I can't really deal with this right now. Or ever, probably. Why you think my therapist has ideas on the matter at all, hm? And she ain't done with me yet, so, be patient. Can you do that for me?"

She cuddled into his arms properly again. "For now", she gave in, "and only because you're running away from it so hard, that you're avoiding the studio. For you, that's pretty big."

He kissed the top of her head again.

"Let's watch some cartoons. They always make things look easy", she said.

He knocked on the door. No voice answered from inside. Marshall knocked again. "I know you're in there, Lainy."

"What, Dad? I'm busy", she answered, her voice muffled by the wood.

He smiled briefly. That always happened when she called him dad. They both knew he wasn't, not in any biological sense and they both remembered the time when he just had been her uncle. Which she still sometimes called him, if she was angry or annoyed by him. All the he more did it make his heart all warm and fuzzy, when she called him dad, just because that's how she saw her life. Moving these sentimentalities aside, he opened the door and leaned against its frame. "Busy, huh?"

Lainy sat at her desk, book and notepad open. Looked like homework. "Yeah, busy. These equations won't calculate themselves." She looked up to him and took the second earbud out as well. "Or do you wanna help me with that?"

"God no", he chuckled softly. "That'll be a guaranteed F." Lainy had surpassed his abilities to help with her homework a long time ago. In English he might still be of some use, but math was beyond him at this point. He could use the rule of three almost with confidence, that took care of the math needs his life may have. For everything else he had people to do it for him.

She nodded strongly. "Thought so. So, what's up?"

"I wanted to give Tiger a good brush down, his winter coat is coming in. And you know how excited Lottie gets when she sees that. Thought, you wanna help?", he explained. It would be a lot less work if they took care of them at the same time. It also was more fun to do it together and spend some daughter-father-time in the process.

"Ask Hailie, is her dog."

He hummed disapprovingly. "No, she's not and you know that. Besides, Hai-Hai ain't home, today's training."

Lainy shrugged uninterested. "Then ask Whitney."

"That just gets out of hand, you know how she is", he sighed. "They need to be actually brushed every once in while, not just play brushing. Come on, I'm sure you could use a break, no? It's good for the brain to shake things up a little."

"Sure, Dad", she grinned and put the pen down. "Just to shake things up a little."

He answered with a grin of his own. "If you want, I can show you some moves, that'll sure shake things up."

Now Lainy bursted out laughing and shook her head. "No, please don't. The last time you tried that, I broke my ankle."

Her laugh was contagious and he joined in, laughing just as well at the memory. Her fall would've made any cartoon banana proud and her subsequent yammering had rivaled The Dying Swan. "Not my fault you were shimmying backwards. How often do I have to tell you girls to look where you walk? Or dance." He pushed himself from the doorframe. "I set things up in the living room already. Can you get Lottie?" He would go and look for their cat. Cats always knew the best hiding places, but hopefully Tiger was sunbathing right now, would make this a lot easier. Marshall kept his fingers crossed for himself.

Eventually, all pets were found and their living room turned into an animal grooming salon. He still wasn't sure which was better, this or when the girls turned their girliness up to elven and turned the living room into a beauty salon with spa. He usually tried not to get caught up in that, but sometimes he was too slow.

Tiger purred content in his lap, while he brushed the fur. The low, steady sound gave his ears an idea. Quietly he hummed the beat that was developing in his head. "I - wanna - rene - gade - down", he muttered, nodding his head to the rhythm. "Carry on and burn it down. Get away every bug. Take away and do for me, in a world without answers. This blurred voice …" He looked around searching, he should make note of this. Where was his notebook? Never far away from his side was where it's supposed to be. "Where should I go?, I say. Not that I don't care about life, as the future shakes. But the distance of my focus has become twisted …" Under the chair was his notebook. How did that happen? Anyway, he turned a new page and started writing down. "My feelings cloud up. How to chain them in place is something I've left behind in the past. And things are fine this way, because fooling myself like that only turned into betrayal. Yielding, I've put away … my hatred and even my … compassion? That doesn't sound right", he muttered to himself and made a note to look for a better word later. "You've got to be the one you want. Why don't you come, these are pieces of you. Breath in, breath out, fill out your voice. Calling … Find out your name. This is your life, you never lose yourself."

Tiger rubbed his head against Marshall's knee, totally not okay with being ignored like this. If he was supposed to get brushed, then his human should brush him thoroughly. That was their deal. 

 Marshall petted the cat apologetically. "Yeah, sorry, sorry. You have my undivided attention, hm." He pulled the cat back on his lap and resumed brushing him. "Better now?", he asked amused and earned more purring.

"So, you gonna tell me what's up?", Lainy asked.

He looked up from his task. "What? Nothing's up."

"Come on, Dad", voice and face clearly telling of her disbelief. "I know something's up."

He shook his head and repeated: "Nothing's up. Why would you think that?"

She made a vague gesture in his direction. But he returned just an inquisitive look. What did that mean? That everything about him was wrong? Thanks, he knew that already. She answered: "Because you're brushing the cat. Like, on purpose."

"So? He needs that", he defended himself. There was nothing wrong with brushing a cat. On the contrary, as a pet owner that was a very normal activity.

Lainy shook her head. "We don't usually sit down for that, like specifically sit down for that."

That was a good point. Usually they incorporated that when they played with him or when they watched TV and Tiger came to snuggle. So, Marshall shrugged with his shoulders. "Just thought, he needed that."

"You're bored", she told him outright.

He sighed deeply. "Totally." This had been another day not spent at the studio and he was completely out of things to do at home. Even watching The Wire for the umpteenth time didn't do anything to distract him. He just thought about the party and the scene with his friends. Bad, very bad. Not having anything to do made him restless and he couldn't stand this feeling.

Lainy nodded understandingly. "Then, why aren't you at the studio?" The obvious place he should be.

Another deep sigh. "Because I did something really stupid and I'm waiting for things to quiet down first." You're terrible at this, homo. You did exactly what you should be doing: get fucked in a skirt.

She chortled briefly. "Really, you're hiding? What did you do? They're all used to you being silly, that's no reason to hide." Even though that was very much the truth, hearing it like that kinda made it sound like a bad thing.

"Not silly-stupid", he explained, but kept brushing Tiger. "More bad-stupid, kinda. I don't wanna talk about it." Maybe, if he stayed home long enough, his friends would forget anything happened? Come on! Even you aren't this stupid. Yeah, hew knew that wasn't how the world worked.

Lainy moved on to more play with Lottie than brushing her. "Obviously, that's why you're hiding. You know, that's a dumb move, right? It won't get better by you sitting things out."

"I know that", he muttered. "I told you that first. Don't act like you're all grown up now." In this house, he was the parent, not her. Try telling yourself that, homo. How'll you raise a kid, if you can't grow up yourself? Usually. Hopefully.

She smiled warmly at him. "Then take your own advice."

If it was that easy, everybody would take this advice. But it was actually really hard. He had no clue what to expect now that his friends knew. Nothing! They always knew, don't you listen, fag? Even if they had always known, now he knew that they knew and that made everything different. The worst. 

Also, how had they known? He had always been careful not to engage with these … urges. Not that he had always been successful at this - Right, who're you kidding? You salivate at the sight of a dick, slut, that ain't a secret - but mostly he hadn't acted on these impulses in the past. Nobody should've known.

"Let me guess", she continued, "It had something to do with your costume, right?"

Instantly he looked up, a sharp pain in his neck from the forceful movement. "What?" He rubbed his neck.

"Well, usually you're all hyped for Halloween. It's like your favorite time of the year and up until last week that was still true. But suddenly, you were all silent about it. Not a single peep, you were just quietly brooding and mumbled 'I don't have shoes for that' to yourself."

"God, am I that obvious?", he sighed. That was a horrifying thought.

She shrugged. "So, what's up? Did you make fun of the wrong person with your costume or something?"

"Nah, they don't care about stuff like that." His friend knew him well enough to not get offended by his humor.

Lainy looked at him expectantly. 

Another deep sigh. "Ain't something you girls should know."

Now Lainy looked at him doubtfully and with a hint of worry.

"It ain't anything bad", he added quickly. "At least, I think it ain't … I don't know. My therapist says, it's nothing bad. But what does she know."

"Maybe", Lainy suggested in a careful tone, "You should talk to her about it?"

He shook his head. "I already did. That's why I changed it last minute. And that's why I'm in trouble now. So no, thanks, she done enough."

"Then it can't be that bad. Therapy's there to make life better, not worse, right? She would never tell you to do something that's bad."

Marshall nodded begrudgingly. "I know that." You loved it, girl! Don't act all sorry and sad.

"So? What's the problem then?", she asked.

He was the problem, as per usual. Gently he scratched Tiger's neck, as if that changed anything. "We shouldn't be talking about this."

For a long moment, Lainy was silent. "Maybe that's exactly what you should be doing?" Exactly! Just get it out there and have it over with!

"Why would you say that? That's a terrible idea", he negated immediately and strongly shook his head. He could never tell any of this to his daughters. That was literally one of his nightmares.

"Is it? It's clearly something that is important to you, but you feel ashamed about it. It's often really frightening to show something of yourself, that you feel ashamed about." She pulled Lottie into a hug and the dog licked her cheek for a moment. "I mean, I don't know what your thing is, but whenever something absolutely, horrifyingly embarrassing happens … I think of you, you know." She shrugged briefly and concentrated her eyes on Lottie's fur. "You always have my back and you love me. You just do. You don't care if I puked all over myself in the school play 'cause stage fright totally got the better of me. Or if I still can't sleep without my plush horsey even though I'm seventeen and that's just not cool anymore. You're there, when I need you and even when I don't. Sure, you make fun of me sometimes, but you're here, you always gonna be here and then it doesn't matter if other people laugh at me or pick on me or whatever." For a long moment, Lainy looked at him with sincere compassion. "You don't have a dad to lean on like we do, but you do have us. We're a family and we always gonna be there for each other. Especially if it's hard. You taught us that."

A shy smile stole itself onto his face. He pulled her into a loving hug. "You're the best, you know that?" How did his little girl sound so grown-up and smart? He at her age had been anything but. "I'll keep that in mind", he promised and gave her a kiss to her cheek. But not today, perhaps one day he could stand by himself with enough confidence to face his daughters. And perhaps their judgement wouldn't be as harsh as he expected it to be.

"You better do." Lainy leaned into the hug. "And you better go to the studio tomorrow. You've been moping and hiding enough, young man", she joked in a stern voice.

Marshall chuckled. "Yes, ma'am."

Chapter Text

It was Wednesday, when he finally found his way back to the studio. Two days off was already three too many, he was itching for some beats and rhymes and the whole creative energy of the booth had been missing from his body. Not a state he wanted to endure.

The room with the stuff from his costume was still locked and his costume was still in there. So much for cleaning it up later, that now seemed impossible. What if somebody came in while he was in there? That's a dumb thought, girl. He knew that. Everyone from the studio had been at the party, they all had seen him wearing it. So then, how would being caught cleaning it up be worse? Your stupid horny ass really needs to get out more. He didn't know how, it just was.

Regardless, he was sneaking around in the halls of the building and into the room, closing the door quietly. Not that anyone would hear or even care if they'd heard a random door shut. Still, he feared and he was compelled by it, so here he was, sneaking around his own fucking studio. He owned every goddamned thing in this building and the building itself, but he felt like a petty thief or some shit. Sometimes his life was really fucking absurd. Who's fault is that, huh? Hint: This pussy likes to wear cat ears.

Marshall checked the bag with the blouse, the skirt and most importantly the corset. Everything was still there, of course, and still folded neatly. Who would've put them in disarray? The room had been locked. Shoes, cat ears and tail as well as the wig also went into their designated plastic bags. Things like these needed a lot of different compartments, otherwise a mishap was bound to happen. For somebody who yells 'I don't give a fuck' from a stage, you give a lot of fucks. If you would put half as much care into your regular clothes, even a little gay looking boy like you could be quite presentable. Maybe then some dick would like to fuck you, not just Eminem, you know. He moved careful and deliberate, when he handled each item. This was special to him, not just some run-of-the-mill t-shirt you could ball up and toss aside. The corset was a custom product, a lot of thinking and agonizing had gone into its purchase and some skillful work as well. Not just any corset would give his body a slight but clear reminiscence of feminine lines. He was slim but still build like a man. Barely. Your ass wants men, it ain't one, that much is clear. Usually a good thing, just not for the few times when he wanted to dress in something like this.


Marshall flinched at the sound of a voice. He almost dropped the small case of make-up, but caught himself fast enough. He turned around. "… Denaun?"

"You're really jumpy these days", Denaun observed.

Marshall shrugged. "Pays to be on guard, you know." Bitch, shut your mouth if you ain't sucking a dick, there's only nonsense coming out of you.

Denaun frowned at those words. "You need help with that?"

"No! - I mean, thanks, but I'm almost done anyway, so …" He shrugged again.

There was a short pause. "Can I ask you something?" Denaun hadn't moved away from the door yet, but his eyes moved all over the table and the duffle bag with all his things inside and especially over Marshall.

Who had feared something like this would happen, when he came to the studio. Not just from his closest friends, but potentially from everyone who worked here. Now thinking about it, his therapist had been right. Going to the party in this kind of outfit had been some form of coming out and he was totally not prepared for that. You rather want your boo coming in you. Maybe your friends are up to the task, slut, somebody has to fill you up soon. Now that they know, what's standing in your way? On top of it all, he had kissed and danced with Nicolas in front of everyone, which confirmed any suspicion people would have about the meaning of his outfit. You didn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this one out. Hey! I wanted to say that. Don't steal my lines, fag. So he sighed and shrugged. "I rather you not, but whatever." He put the case for the make-up in the duffle bag and gathered the jewelry, he had worn that night.

The door closed. Denaun came a few steps closer. "So … You don't want to talk about this." A gesture to his stuff.

"What's there to talk about? I own a dress, essentially, that's it." He zipped the duffle bag up. Good one, who're you trying to fool here? You love your dress, how's that just it?

Another short pause. "It's none of my business, but …"

"It ain't", Marshall interrupted him. "Yet, here you are talking about it." Get his mind off of things, homo, blow him or ride him, that'll change the subject real quick. Promise. That was a bit gross, wasn't it? They were close friends, like brothers. He wouldn't have sex with him, no way that could happen. As if that stopped you before, slut, a dick's a dick. They all fit, who cares who's attached.

Denaun came the last few steps closer and leaned against the table. "We're friends, nothing will ever change that. And if this is something you do, then that's that."

Marshall's fingers played with the zipper nervously. "But?" There had to be a but at the end of that sentence, just had to be. Could be yours, homo. I tell you, much better than talking. 

"No but." Denaun shrugged this time. "I just want to do right by you."

Oh, he wants to fuck your mouth? Yeah bitch, he knows how to treat you right. Confused Marshall raised his eyes. "What?"

"Look, I figured you're into guys in some way back when nobody listened to us. That's been a long time. I don't really understand how that's appealing but I don't need to. There's nothing for me to do, when you pine over a guy or something. That's your business and whatever guy you're doing it with. The same way you going with a chick ain't my business either, regardless if I think she's hot or not." Denaun explained calmly and his gaze drifted through the room. Not to avoid him, just to give an air of casualness to this conversation. "You don't need to say anything if you don't want to. Just don't do anything stupid, aight. Guys can be mean if they just want to fuck. We both know that, hell, we both done that. You get that?"

Marshall nodded and answered slowly: "I'm aware."

"Good. Now this thing", Denaun gestured a little to the duffel bag with the oh so telling costume inside, "That's different. At least, if you keep doing that in front of us - which you totally can, if you want to", he was quick to add. "What I mean is …" Denaun paused for a long moment, clearly trying to find the right combination of words. "At the party, I didn't really know what to do, you know? I mean, I've seen you in a pink dress before, but then you had been all joking and silly about all of it, the whole video shoot through you've been just a goofball. It wasn't serious to any of us. But at the party the other night … Somehow that felt different. You was different." Now Denaun looked at him. "You was … kinda more you?", a helpless shrug.

Marshall frowned. "What's that supposed to mean? I'm always me." Don't make me laugh, little gay looking boy, you're so deep in denial, you need me. What's that supposed to mean? He didn't deny anything, he was just not engaging.

"You've changed. I mean, we all have. That's life, right. We're not twenty anymore and shit happens, so we change."

He still didn't know what Denaun was trying to say here. Of course life happened and he wasn't the same guy than he had been twenty years ago. Who was? But he was still Marshall. Still the same gay horny ass as always. Which reminds me, you didn't celebrate your anniversary: Your cherry popped twenty years ago. No cake? No binge? No fuck party? Disappointing. Interesting, all parts of his mind were bad at math. Actually - Nerd! - the anniversary would've been last year and he had been a little busy then, what with staying sober and promoting the Relapse album and everything. No wonder you don't get fucked enough anymore, you became a boring and fun-hating recluse.

Denaun hauled himself up to sit on the table. "That's how I know the costume that night wasn't just a costume, not for you anyways. It meant something to you. You … I don't know, there was just this vibe about you. You smiled even. Hell, I didn't realize you don't do that anymore, not like that anyway, until you just smiled at me that night. All bright and shiny and … happy, I think."

A blush crept from his ears down into his cheeks, Marshall felt them warm up fast. "How drunk've you been? You must've imagined things or some shit."

"I'm serious. I think, unburdened is a good word? And I have no idea how a nice dress does that for you or what all of this means. I figure, that's what your therapist's for. But more importantly, I didn't really know what to do - and I still don't … You're my friend and I'll always have your back. Thing is, I don't know how to do that right now." Denaun paused for a moment again, his gaze drifting through the room and his jaw muscles clenched visibly. He seemed nervous. "That's what my question is. I figured, it's best to ask you directly, instead of making stuff up I have no clue about, you know. At the party, I was surprised and I also wasn't sure if I saw that right at first. And even if I saw that right, what the hell does this mean. I don't know any how these things work. So I played it cool and talked to you normal, the same way as always. Plain old Marshall. That's the best thing I could come up with. But …" Denaun looked over to him again and rubbed his neck. Obviously uncertain with his words and uncomfortable with this conversation.

As if Marshall felt any better right now. Why was Denaun talking about this? And so long even. Couldn't he get to the point already?

"But maybe that's not the right thing to do here? Maybe that's not having your back on this. Maybe if you dress like a girl, maybe you want to be treated that way, too? I don't know. And I can't know unless you talk to me. If you want to do this more often … or permanently, if you finally get over yourself with all of this, that's good and right and you have my support … I just don't want to say something mean to you without knowing, aight? This is probably hard enough as it is and you don't need me being an ignorant bastard about this. But I don't know how you feel and I can't understand how this is a thing in the first place. And I don't need to, but I need to know how to have your back. And if that means calling you Maria, I'm down with that. Just … Just let me know, aight? You're like a brother to me - and if you want to be a sister, that's fine with me. Just let me know, how to have your back on this, when you can, aight?"

Marshall groaned loudly. "You didn't just say that." He collapsed onto the table, all tension and tautness draining out of his body and his forehead hit the wooden tabletop. Come on, bitch, this is awesome! That's what I call a best friend, one that finally calls your girly ass out. It's about damn time. This was just as bad one on one as it had been the other night with all of them looming over him. What the hell did they think of him? That you're a better bitch than a dog? So much for friends.

Denaun flinched slightly. "You okay?"

"No! I had to listen to you ramble off like that for forever." He propped his chin up on one hand and looked up to Denaun. "I can assure you, I don't want to be a girl. I'm not transexual or whatever you think's going on here", he huffed.

Denaun just nodded, but didn't say a word in response. Was it now Marshall's turn to ramble off? He could forget that!

Marshall stood up straight again. Bend over a table probably wasn't the best choice of position during this awkward mess of a conversation. Au contraire! Take your pants off and he can teach your needy ass, just how much better you are as a bitch. "It's just a dress, aight? Nothing special, nothing to worry about. I'm still plain old Marshall and it's totally okay to talk to me as you always do, regardless if I'm wearing jeans or a skirt. … And for the love of God, never call me Maria. That just feels wrong."

Denaun nodded again. "Good to know then."

"But really? You see me in a skirt on Halloween of all nights and your first thought is that? Like, all of that. I think, you need some help here, not me." He shoved Denaun's shoulder playfully. "It's a costume, not a liver transplant. No need to take it more serious than it is."

Denaun shoved back in kind. "It wasn't my first thought, give me some credit. Like I said, you was … different wearing that thing. A little more like you used to be and then some. Unburdened, maybe less restrained, that's what it looked like at least, right. So I figured, your therapist had something to do with it, getting you out of your shell and out of the crap you deal with. And then it makes sense to think, that if a dress makes you more you, maybe that is who you would actually be if you could. You know?" He shrugged.

"Who I would actually be?", Marshall frowned. "You really think, I'm a girl or what?"

"How would I know? Half the time I was thinking I imagined you being into guys. You always tried so hard not to, at least sober you did. Considering how the culture is and with what kind of attitudes most of us grow up with, I can't really blame you for keeping it secret. But how would I know, if you’re into guys because you're a gay man or because you're actually a straight woman in there? At the party the other night, the latter thing seemed rather plausible."

Marshall snorted in derision. "Come on, don't be stupid. There's a pretty big difference between the two things."

"I would think so."

"Then what the hell?", Marshall asked annoyed. It was one thing for his therapist to interpret too much into his own words and come up with this kind of idea. It was a very different thing for his closest friends to think this, just because of a fucking Halloween costume. If you could … Shut up, he was well aware that it wasn't actually some fake bullshit. He knew that. But they didn't!

Denaun sighed quietly. "Do you realize, you still haven't told us? We all have known each other most of our lives and Ryan's even helping you with your boyfriend and we two been talking about this now for almost an hour or so, but you still haven't actually said it out loud. Whatever it really is. To any of us. You didn't even say anything to Proof as far as I know. I just call it how I see it and what I saw at the party was a person comfortable in their own skin - which made me realize, you normally ain't. What am I supposed to think, hm? What would you think, if the roles were reversed? I get that this is hard. That's precisely why I'm asking you straight to your face, how you want this to go, how can I be your friend in this. Because if you're a gay man, I don't really need to do anything, except maybe go to a gay club with you some time. But if you're a woman, I should treat you as such, right? I mean, there is a difference in hanging out with a guy or a girl. And if that's what you want, what you are, I want to do right by you. That's all."

Marshall slumped down on a nearby chair. "Do I really have to say it? Now?"

"You might as well. It's what this conversation's all about anyway, so why not?"

He sighed. Good question, why not? Denaun tried really hard to be a good friend here, going way further than he needed to. He probably deserved to hear it. Suddenly, Marshall felt stupid and childish, that he never said anything before. It wasn't too big of a deal, at least not as big as what Denaun actually thought. Compared to that, this should be a cakewalk, right? 

He took a deep breath. It been a long time since he actually said that particular sentence out loud in a serious manner. "I … Fuck, I don't even know why this is so hard. It's just words." He ran a hand over his face frustrated with himself. "Uhm … I'm gay." Marshall held his breath.


But the world didn't fall apart.


Denaun nodded. "Okay. Good to know."

Marshall blinked surprised. "Really? That's all you have to say? Okay?"

"Is there more to say? I told you, I've known for years. All the freaking out and trying to deal with this, to understand this - I've already done that. Wasn't easy, I tell ya, but you're my friend and that don't change. Period."

Marshall felt dizzy. "I don't … This feels so fucking weird. This is just bizarre. I mean, okay? That's it? Okay! This ain't real. Stop fucking with me, dude. This ain't funny. I'm in upside-down world or some shit." He got up from the chair and started pacing through the room.

"Why?" Denaun asked curiously and his eyes followed Marshall pacing. "Should I not be okay with this? Do you want me to freak out? Looks to me like you got that covered."

"I'm not freaking out!", Marshall snapped at him.

Denaun raised his eyebrows skeptically. "Of course not, you're all chill and relaxed."

"Oh, fuck you." Marshall kept pacing through the room, clenching his fists. They trembled.

Denaun watched him a couple of paces. "You're gonna throw up again?"

Marshall halted and took a deep breath. He needed to calm down. If Denaun wasn't freaking out, then there was no reason for himself to freak out. Right? Right? He had said it out loud and meant it and nothing bad had happened. Surprise!

"What happened to you?"

Marshall turned around to face Denaun. "What?"

Denaun gestured at him. "That ain't a normal reaction, dude. You tell me that you're gay and you almost have another panic attack. Come on, what is this?"

"Where you get that idea from? I never had a panic attack before."

Denaun snorted disbelieving. "At the party? You threw up and blacked out and I'm sure you was almost choking to death at one point. I ain't an expert, but that was an attack and you were in panic. How you call that?"

"Nah, man, you're blowing that out of proportion. I was just … surprised and a little stressed?"

Denaun's expression told every shade of disbelief and doubt there was.

Marshall threw his hands in the air in exasperation. "Fine, maybe. But in my defense, the last time I said it, I almost died. So, I got every right to panic."

"What? Are you serious?"

He just shrugged in response.

"That's fucked up, man. Really? I don't even … I'm sorry. How did that happen?"

Another shrug. "Nothing special, just a homophobic asshole. They tend to try to kill you whenever they find out. Why you think I hid it for so long? Or tried to at least, apparently I did a pretty bad job at that."

Denaun seemed genuinely distraught. "Not that someone tried to murder your ass. I mean, insults and fights I would expect, but … Man, you really get in some crazy shit."

"Tell me about it", he muttered and sat down again.

"I'm going out on a limb here and say, you never had anybody who was okay with this, did you? I mean, growing up."

Marshall rubbed his neck. "Of course not. I barely had anybody growing up and none of them were exactly what you call open-minded people."

"Yeah, my family probably wouldn't've been too happy, either, if I was gay", Denaun mused. "Hell, even with the others there was some hard fighting. Accepting's a slow-"

"What you mean, the others?", Marshall interrupted.

Denaun smiled crooked. "Now we're all fine with you being gay, but not to throw anyone under the bus, some of us had an easier time adjusting, others took it harder."

"You're only five people." Also, Ryan didn't count, since he had sex with guys as well, at least he'd had sex with one guy, that Marshall knew without a doubt. Left four of his friends. How much was some of four? And what meant, they had taken it harder? Did they hate him secretly? But why hide it for what sounded like many years? That didn't make sense. "What're you saying?"

"Don't flip out again. It's fine now", Denaun tried to reassure him. "All five of us are your friends, gay-thing and all. Considering your panic, it's probably best that you didn't see the freak out. There was some serious unlearning to do for some of us. I mean, you're not the only one who doesn't come from an open-minded home."

Marshall weighed his head. "Yeah, I know."

Denaun watched him carefully for a moment. "You wanna talk about it? I mean, the asshole who tried to get you dead. Sounds serious and your panic looks serious."

"No, not really." He rather forget it happened at all, but some things stayed with you.

"You talk with your therapist about it?"

Marshall shook his head. Then he huffed: "Don't give me that look. I have a lot of shit to go through, that takes time."

"That I believe", Denaun snorted amused.

Marshall kicked out for Denaun's leg. "Hey."

Denaun smirked briefly. "Well, if you ever need to cry and your therapist doesn't answer her phone, I'm here."

"That's awfully nice of you", he sneered sarcastically.

Denaun shrugged. "You’d do the same for me."

Of course he would. His friends were like his family and he'd do anything for them. Listening to the shit they've been through and giving them support to do better was the easiest thing in the world. They didn't do that often, though. Probably they should. Marshall sighed at the thought. That's what his therapist would say, wasn't it. "I had a crush on the guy, that's why he beat me up."

"You really know how to pick 'em", Denaun quipped half joking and half sympathetic.

Marshall briefly ran a hand over his eyes. "I was like thirteen or so, what'd you know at that age? Nothing. He seemed like a cool guy, how was I supposed to know he'd flip out like that?"

As he stopped talking, Denaun asked: "You two been friends or something?"

Marshall swallowed hard. "He'd been a friend of Ronnie's. I was crashing at my granny's for a few weeks. One night, Ronnie had his friends over and, of course, his best friend, too. So …"

"Oh, I see", Denaun said quietly.

Marshall looked at him questioningly. "You see what?"

"How did he find out, though?", Denaun asked, bypassing an answer. "I mean, did you just tell him?"

"I might as well have." No, talking with a friend about this was not easier than talking to his therapist. Some things just weren't meant to be said out loud. "I flirted with him … Well, what I thought that was anyway. It's a learned skill, and as with most things, I never learned that. So, total disaster. Which in itself, fine, whatever, just … He didn't take me serious, but I was fucking serious - as much as some know-nothing teen can be anyway. So, to prove how much I meant it, I … - fuck, don't laugh, aight - I wanted to blow him." That probably had been the most stupid idea he'd ever had. Sure, Victor had ran off his mouth about blowjobs back then, but only because he'd seen it in some shitty porn. Now, in hindsight and as an adult, Marshall knew how fucking stupid the guy had talked and he himself had been even stupider for falling for it. That's what you get, when kids had to teach themselves these things.

Denaun snickered. "Yeah, that'll show him you're serious. Dude, at thirteen? That's a little precocious, don't you think?"

Marshall kicked him again. "I ain't precocious with anything, aight. And I said, don't laugh."

"Sorry, sorry. Go on. I assume, he didn't like the offer?"

He grumbled. "He would've, if I'd been a girl, I bet. But no, that's when he went ballistic. Started calling me names, shoving me, shit like that. Easy stuff, right, nothing I wasn't used to. But - and don't ask me why - but I talked back, which I knew just made things worse, but … I don't know, I wanted him to like me and you need to fight for that, that much I knew even then. No one just likes you out of the goodness of their heart. - Anyway, somehow I said those words to him. I'm gay. He punched me so hard, I fell to the floor. That must've been a signal or something, 'cause the rest of them joined in, all lining up in a circle kicking me and then I blacked out. Next thing, I'm in a hospital and my mom's yelling at me."

"Sounds like your mom", Denaun agreed. "But yeah, I get your panic now. Something like that won't make you keen to say it too often."

Marshall's fingers picked at the screw that stuck out halfway from the side of the chair. "Nope, it doesn't. Ain't like that's the only time anything went bad because of this, but it kinda was the worst. So, after a while, you just shut up about it."

"Of course, sounds like a sensible decision, you know, to stay alive. I get that … Uhm, I have a question, though. You probably won't like it, I think …", Denaun started but Marshall interrupted him.

"It's about Ronnie, right? Yeah … I don't know. I mean, they were his friends and that was his home, so …", he shrugged. "I didn't see him for a while. I wasn't allowed into my grandma's home for months after that, so not much chance to spend time with him. But it wasn't quite the same afterward. He sometimes would look at me weird … you know, disgusted and hostile. That's what it felt like, anyway. We only got better when I started dating Kim." He still didn't remember if Ronnie had joined the circle or not, but what difference did it make? The only member of his family that ever seemed to care about him and that he had looked up to, had hated him just as much as any of them. Still, him being dead hurt as hell even now. Without him, Marshall would've never started to rap and probably would've never had a chance to make something with his life. He just wished, he hadn't let Ronnie down so hard.

Denaun hummed low. "Yeah, I'd hoped for a better answer, honestly. I mean, you two were close, that should count for something."

"Well, it didn't."

"Apparently. - I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry you had to go through something like this. And all alone, too."

Marshall stood up again and grabbed the bag with the clothes. "Yeah, well, I don't need your pity. It was a long time ago, doesn't matter now."

"It's not pity. It's called empathy, you stubborn ass. Take it, if somebody's nice to you, don't throw it away", Denaun huffed.

Uncomfortable Marshall rubbed his neck. "Sorry, I … I still kinda expect something bad to happen. I mean, you're a normal person, why should you care, right."

"Because I'm your friend and I care a great deal about you. Are you this anxious with Ryan, too? You seriously need to take your therapy up a notch, man. This is basic friendship-stuff."

"Ryan's different", Marshall interjected promptly. "I mean, you're the first normal person I talk to about this stuff. Of course that makes me nervous."

Denaun looked at him skeptically. "Normal person? What's that supposed to mean?"

Marshall sighed. "Well, I mean, my therapist kinda has to, right. That's her job, she got education in this and it's her life's mission to heal sick people, or whatever. Fine, I can see why she'd be nice about this. Nicolas also makes sense, he's kinda in the same boat and he wants to fuck me, so of course he's gonna be nice, too. I totally understand that. And Ryan, well, that's a similar story, I suppose. I mean, he has a wife now, but that doesn't change the past, and he gets a lot of entertainment out of this whole mess. All of that makes sense, but you … You're just nice, just for the sake of it. There has to be a catch somewhere and the only things I can come up with, all of them end bad for me." He shrugged. "This here, it's just weird, man. All of it."

Denaun slid from the table he had been sitting on. "You, my friend, are one seriously broken kitten." He laid an arm around Marshall's shoulders. "But if you need some sorta catch here to feel okay again, I can give you one."

"Kitten?" Didn't the phrase usually include a puppy?

Denaun grinned at him. "Nicolas was right, the cat ears suit you well. Now, go and bring your clothes to the car and when you come back, we gonna do some work."

Marshall nodded. That sounded like a plan. "Okay. But what's with the catch?"

"Next time we hang, you bring your boyfriend."

Chapter Text

Denaun made sure next time we hang meant soon, like next week kind of soon. Which felt too soon for Marshall, but apparently he wasn't asked about this, so was the deal with catches.

"You don't have to do this", he said to Nicolas. They were still sitting in his car, parked in front of the strip club. "They're just messing with me, you can opt out. You don't owe them anything."

Nicolas waved his objections aside and got out of the car.

So, Marshall sighed and got out of the car himself and followed his boyfriend inside. Once more these days he had this bad feeling creeping around his guts. All of this felt wrong. That his friends knew he was gay, that he'd spilled his guts to Denaun, that his friends and Nicolas were about to hang out for a whole night. He felt like getting sick again.

He gave a short nod to his friends as he sat down.

"I took the liberty to order for you", Denaun said with a smirk and slid a glass with a bright red liquid to him. "Enjoy."

Marshall rolled his eyes. "Come on, seriously."

Next to him a quiet chuckle from Nicolas. Denaun slid a drink to him as well, a bottle of beer, but Nicolas shook his head.

"He doesn't drink", Marshall explained. "A pop's fine."

Ryan grinned at him. "So, you understand sign language now?"

Marshall rolled his eyes. "That ain't sign language, dumbass, that's knowing each other." He stood up, a short gesture to Nicolas that he would get him that pop. It was just a pull of the fist, easy to remember. The book had turned out to be useful after all and there was a surprising amount of material online. After long nights on his laptop, he finally felt confident enough to use a couple of easy signs with Nicolas. The bartender luckily understood spoken language, though. His boyfriend liked the taste of lemon, Marshall knew, so that's what he got him. When he was back at his friend's table, they all looked at him smirking. "What?" Did he miss something? Had he something on his face?

"Sit down, Kitten", Denaun said. "We're here to enjoy the view, no reason to be antsy. Relax."

Nicolas gave him an amused wink. Probably about the kitten, possibly about the advice to relax, too. Seemed like he'd fit right in here.

Marshall grumbled. This did not bode well for him. The aftermath of his Halloween costume just kept coming, didn't it. Why had he needed to do that? Why had Nicolas asked for it in the first place? Cat? Kitten? They all gone crazy.

Nicolas nudged his side and made a gesture with his thumb and index next to his face, looked almost like he twirled a mustache. No, less twirling, more stroking, short and sharply.

"Oh no", he groaned low. "That's kitten or cat or whatever, ain't it." It wasn't twirling a mustache, it was stroking whiskers.

Nicolas signed: >Correct.<

"I think, we gonna have good fun tonight", Ryan proclaimed and drank from his beer.

That's exactly what Marshall was afraid of.

The first round of questions was easy and boring and not very informative. His friends repeated the things, they already new from Marshall's recounting or similar mundane questions and Nicolas kept nodding or shaking his head.

"So, you work in security?", Von asked. Nicolas nodded.

"You're self-employed, I heard", was his follow-up question. Nicolas nodded.

"You two met via an app?", Rufus asked. Nicolas nodded.

"You read a lot?", Ryan asked. Nicolas nodded.

"Something special? Fan of anything we know?", was his follow-up question. Nicolas shook his head.

"You're from Detroit?", Denaun asked. Nicolas nodded.

"You have kids?", Ryan asked. Nicolas shook his head.

"You have siblings?", Ondre asked. Nicolas shook his head, then shrugged.

"You've been deaf from birth, or?", Von asked. Nicolas nodded.

"The hot singer form Bastard's, that ain't your girlfriend?", Denaun asked. Nicolas shook his head, but glared warningly.

"The cat girl was your idea?", Rufus asked. Nicolas nodded with a grin.

"You have a cat?", Denaun asked jokingly. Nicolas weighed his head.

"You like cats?", was his more important follow-up question. Nicolas nodded.

"You have a roommate?", Ryan asked. Nicolas nodded.

"He gay too?", was his follow-up question. Nicolas shook his head.

"He works with you, right?", Von asked. Nicolas nodded.

"You like music?", Rufus asked. Nicolas shrugged with his shoulders.

Von shoved his friend slightly. "He's deaf, of course he doesn't like music." But Nicolas shook his head about this comment.

Marshall sat next to them, sipped from his slightly bitter strawberry-cherry mix and watched the girls dance. The aesthetics of a body moving to the beat, this he liked very much. It was like watching music instead of listening to it. Especially if the body knew how to move well, that could be just as thrilling.

But in this moment he used the sight for distraction. He had warned Nicolas about this interrogation, but he still came, so his boyfriend could deal with this on his own. Marshall had no intention of joining the conversation. That would only backfire on him, like everything else did.

"What's with the dog tags?", Ondre asked. Nicolas made a gesture with his hand.

"What does that mean? Kitten, we need you to translate."

Marshall looked to Denaun. "Seriously, stop calling me that." But it fits you so well, I might need to use that, too, homo. "And I ain't doing nothing tonight. You wanted him here, then you'll have to deal with his deafness the same shitty way I have to. Tough luck."

"You let your boyfriend hanging like that?", Rufus asked bemused. "Did you use up all your niceness already?"

Marshall flipped him off and turned back to the dancers.

"You served in the army?", Ondre rephrased his question. 

Nicolas shook his head. "Mercenary."

"Oh, he talks", Rufus said surprised. "You never said he can talk. Why the big fuss then?"

Marshall snorted annoyed. "Don't get used to it. He hates talking."

"Mercenary. They take deaf people?", Von asked. Nicolas shrugged. 

"Then you must be pretty good, I guess", Ondre added. Nicolas nodded and grinned his typical way: mean and provocative.

"Served anywhere interesting?", Rufus asked. Nicolas shrugged again.

Ryan guessed on that: "Probably too many words. How 'bout this: You like to box? I know you and Kitten had a boxing date once, right."

"Hey, let me out of this", Marshall interjected. "And don't you start, too."

Nicolas smiled briefly. "He's not half bad. Quick on his feet, good stamina. Fun."

Marshall growled low on that and rubbed his ear.

"I think you made Kitten all shy and rosy", Denaun joked.

"Shut up."

"Are you sure", Ryan started, "you wanna deal with this son of a bitch? He's quite a handful."

Nicolas looked over to Marshall, who felt that stare. He always did and he shifted in his seat because of it. That's already making you hard? You're seriously underfucked, bitch, get his dick finally in you. What's a boyfriend good for, if he won't fuck you? Without a warning there were thin lips on his own, a short, sweet kiss. Marshall flinched. "What's that for!", he huffed. They were in public, goddammit.

Nicolas turned to Ryan again. "I like a good challenge."

"Then you found a real piece of work. Good luck", Ryan wished him amused but with an undertone, maybe sneaky. 

"I'm right here, guys, I can hear you", Marshall grumbled and took a sip from his drink. Or he tried to, but diverting his attention between the conversation and the dancers and Nicolas's kiss somehow didn’t leave any brain power for his motor skills to work with. Long story short, he spilled his drink. Luckily, mostly on the table. That's what you get from drinking like a girl. "Aw, man", he muttered.

"Watch the pretty ladies", Denaun hushed him. "Or maybe don’t. It’s enough if you spill your drink all over the table, don't need you to spill anything else."

Marshall kicked him under the table for that.

"Hey, you need to aim better", Von complained and kicked back.

Marshall flipped him off. A quick look to Nicolas he couldn't entirely suppress and that smirk on his boyfriend's face made his ears heat up again. That's the smirk right before he usually said adorable. Please not here! And he wasn't!

But Nicolas didn't say anything. Yet.

"I need a new drink." Marshall stood up.

When his second drink, unsuspicious coke, was half down, the conversation had moved away from interrogation and more into a casual back and forth between friends. About how hot this or that dancer was, how good or crappy a twist on some TV show had been, that work was going more or less good, something from the news, opinions on the weather - the usual stuff people talked about.

Until Ryan said: "I've got a question for you, Nico. Last one, I promise."

"Come on, give it a rest." Marshall had enough of these questions. It had been quite pleasant afterward and if that would be how this night ended, fine.

Nicolas just shrugged. He didn't seem to care either way.

Ryan with curious and drunk eyes leaned forward. "Okay, Marshall has been bitching about this sex-embargo you put on him for quite a while now. What's up with that? You met over a sex-app, I mean, you can't be that precious about it. So, what's up with that?" What shitty questions lay at the bottom of a glass of Hennessy. Or in this instance, four.

"For fuck's sake, really?", Marshall huffed. "That's none of your business, asshole. And I didn't bitch about it, liar, I just said, there wasn't any."

Nicolas gave him a doubtful look.

"What? He asked for details", Marshall defended himself, "I had to explain why there weren't any."

"Blabbermouth." Despite that word, Nicolas didn't seem upset and hardly annoyed. So, a plus?

Von looked them both over quite closely. "You might wanna think that over, dude. Lots of girls have been burned already, trying to withheld anything from him. I mean, it's a stupid move either way. Marshall doesn't usually go for that."

"And I don't have to, evidently the embargo has been lifted. He had his head under my skirt. As far as green lights go, that's pretty bright, don't you think? So, can we stop talking about this now?" Marshall really liked to know, why people had such an interest in these kinds of things and how he so often ended up in the middle of these conversations. You should listen to yourself, then you would now, fag.

Nicolas held up both of his hands and made a gesture with them, that could only be described as: blablabla. It probably meant exactly that.

>Shut up<, Marshall replied in sign language. That was one easy to learn phrase. One of his first ones even, very useful. It wasn't exactly as impossible as he thought it'd be, or at least understanding signing was going well enough, signing himself on the other hand was harder to manage. Recognizing a gesture to mean something was easier than to remember all the words he needed to use in a sentence or the rules to build a sentence. But this particular sign, that just made sense.

Nicolas smirked at him. >You asked for this<, he signed. Then he turned to Ryan and said out loud: "You saw the skirt, he has one precious ass. Something like that you handle with care. Wouldn't be of much use, if I broke him too soon."

Marshall smacked his forehead and sighed. There it was, his bad feeling came true right about now.

"So, it's really like that, Marshall's the girl between you two?", Rufus asked. "I knew he's gay, but I didn't think he would be the one getting stuffed. Although …"

"I ain't", he denied promptly. Try that again, fag. I know your sex fantasies, slut, you want dic- Not necessary now! "Also, not anybody's business. Or do you wanna volunteer your favorite position, huh?"

Rufus took a sip from his beer. "I can, if you want. It's the cowgirl. Wanna know why?"

"You're a lazy son of a bitch", Marshall was not at all surprised. "And I didn't need to know that."

"You asked."

Marshall rolled his eyes. "That was rhetorical and sarcastic. Dude, come on, don't act more boneheaded than you look."

Ryan clicked with his tongue, a smug expression on his face. "I don't think you need to be careful with him. Not in that sense." His eyes lay on Marshall for a very long moment.

"He ain't, believe me", Marshall muttered, remembering the Halloween night. Nope, that had been sexy and great, but not careful. "Patience ain't his thing." He threw a reproachful look to Nicolas, but the man just smirked as a response. Obviously Nicolas's care for whether or not he broke Marshall's ass had its limits.

"You wanna share with the class?", Ryan asked amused. "You still owe me something hot and steamy, you know."

Marshall smacked his forehead again. The fuck did he say that for? But Nicolas made him sound like a soft, petite girl, who couldn't handle sex. Precious? This he could not stand for. Also, he was tired of Nicolas being so cautious and gentle with him, especially since that wasn't what the other wanted. Nicolas wanted rough, so he should take it, Marshall could handle that. Their Halloween-quickie had been fine, despite the roughness. Hopefully that had shown, that he indeed would be able to handle his boyfriend. Better than Nicolas getting bored of him and whatever he liked Marshall for wouldn't be enough to hold him. All of this though, nothing his friends needed to know, so he stood up. "Know what, I don't have to put up with this. Call me, when your senses are back."

But Nicolas signed sternly: >Sit down.<

Marshall sat back down again.

"So …", Denaun stretched that word out, his eyes focused on Marshall for a second, before he turned to Nicolas, "You like skirts, huh? Wouldn't it be easier to date girls, then?"

Deliberately Nicolas shook his head, clearly negating the assumption. Also, he gave Marshall a smirk, "He looks good in one." On that, Marshall blushed, after all, he thought so himself and hearing a compliment about it, was nice. "Besides, women cry too much. Too soft, too weak. Most of them fight bad. I like people with an edge."

He liked people with an edge? That Marshall knew he had. His personality had sharp lines that often hurt the people around him and himself. He risked too much, even for small gains. Fighting was etched into him, often even when he wanted to flee. Was that what Nicolas liked him for? Luckily, he didn't know how Marshall had been regularly crying a couple of weeks ago - and it had been out of the ordinary, so, maybe that wouldn't bother. And too soft? With his family always, but that shouldn't matter. Nicolas was being soft sometimes as well, then there was a bit of leeway here. Could work.

Rufus cocked his head. "What does that mean? Why should they be good at fighting?" He was a bit confused.

"So putting them down is more fun", Nicolas explained the obvious.

"He means", Marshall stepped in to salvage any good opinions his friends might have of Nicolas, "That he likes things a bit kinky, you know. There's nothing wrong with that."

"Maybe", Ondre said reluctantly. "Look, Marsh can make his own decisions, usually bad ones, but we're his friends and there's a line here. We won't let him get hurt by some random asshole. You understand what I'm saying?"

Marshall frowned. "Hey, stop meddling in everything. I let the thing with Danny slide, but ya'll really need to keep your noses out of my life."

"That's why I'm here", Nicolas agreed. "I'm serious about him."

"Already?", Ryan asked skeptically. "Ain't it a little early to be serious here? It's only been a month or so. Don't try too hard, that'll only make things worse.”

Marshall took in a sharp breath and growled angrily. "Says the one who doesn't take his marriage of almost a decade serious at all. Ya'll don't get a say in who I date or don't date. I can take care of myself. So, back off! This was a lot of fun, but it's over now. We're going." He stood up with force, so much so that his chair fell over, and he gripped Nicolas's arm, dragged him with.

Outside the club, Nicolas halted their steps. >They're your friends. That's important.<

Marshall snorted dismissively. "They're nosy sons of bitches. They don't have a right to talk to you that way. Or accuse you like that. They wouldn't if you were a chick, so they don't get to just because you're a guy."

Nicolas smiled slightly in response.

"I'm just fed up with them scrutinizing everything. Not just tonight, you know. Ryan's been up in my business for weeks over this and Denaun pestered me so long I actually told him." Marshall shook his head and fell against the wall of the building.

>They're your friends<, Nicolas repeated. He gave him a quick kiss. >That's what friends do. That's what you need.<

Marshall frowned. Did he see that right? "What I need? I don't need this. I don't even want ya'll to meet and definitely not for ya'll to be at each other's throats. It's like hyenas fighting in there." He did not want his friends and his boyfriend to fight. He would only lose in that.

>You think too much. You have friends who take you for who you are and who care about your well-being. They're just making sure, I'm trustworthy. Don't worry about me, I can handle this.< Nicolas signed plainly and calmly, his expression filled with determination.

Marshall bit down the smile, that tugged at the corners of his mouth. "You're serious about this?"

Another short kiss, then Nicolas nodded. >I'm serious about you. When're you getting that into your thick skull?<

"When it starts making sense." Marshall shrugged. "I mean, Ryan's right. It's only been five weeks. Eleven, if you count the motel. That ain't a lot of time. And we've been mostly texting. There ain't much to go on here, honestly."

Nicolas raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"So I counted", he snarled.

Another short kiss. >You're serious, too.<

Marshall sighed. Of course he shouldn't. He shouldn't even be talking to Nicolas anymore, if he thought about this rationally and logically. There was a good chance, he may have killed his ex-girlfriend. Marshall wasn't sure, but by now he wouldn't put it past his boyfriend. Which was the most gigantic red flag there could be. Even if not, he knew there were bad things to come. Nicolas was holding himself back so as not to scare him away. Perhaps more accurately: He was holding himself back so that Marshall would fall too deep, so that Marshall couldn't get away when the real Nicolas revealed himself. Whoever that was, this meant nothing good.

Marshall had been long enough in a bad relationship, he didn't want to repeat that. On top of that with someone even worse.

But he couldn't help himself. Nicolas genuinely wanted him, despite everything. More astonishingly, Nicolas genuinely wanted him and had no reason to. He just did. If he was after money, someone like Nicolas had easier ways to get it. If he was after sex, he wasn't taking it. Even though Nicolas talked about if often enough, he barely did anything in that regard. Marshall really started to believe, that Nicolas might like him just because.

How could he not be with him? Nicolas looked good, with all the muscles and scars and the tattoo. His body was always warm. He listened. He seemed aloof but actually was very observant. He was honest. Calm. Untethered. Fearless. He even read a book to learn how to deal with Marshall better - no one had ever done that before.

>I'm not saying, there's more here. But I'm willing to find out, how far we can go. You're a man of people, you need your friends to be happy and I respect that. Let's go back inside.< Nicolas's hand stroked softly over Marshall's sides.

"You're doing it again, you're too nice."

Nicolas smirked. >Remember that, when I'm not.<

Chapter Text

Should he get naked? Marshall eyed the motel bed curiously. Should he get on there and strike a sexy pose? Maybe he should prepare himself a little before Nicolas came in? His boyfriend wasn't all that careful with Marshall's ass, a little obsessed but not careful. If Marshall took some time now and prepared, they could get to the fun part sooner and it'd be easier afterward. Finally a good idea, little gay looking boy!

He halted in his steps to the bed. Was he now fine with getting fucked in the ass? When had that happened? Sure, it felt good, amazing even, but … He couldn't come up with a but. Except for yours there ain't no butts to fuck with here. He liked it, a lot, and he wanted it. At Halloween he had so much as begged for it. Was that when it happened? He must've been second-hand drunk, that was a thing.

"Don't be ridiculous", he growled to himself. He liked what he liked, no excuses. Besides, Nicolas wanted in his ass just as much as Marshall wanted him in there. A perfect match. If he could show everyone that he liked to wear a skirt, underhandedly show them but that still counted, then he could be at least truthful to himself: He wanted Nicolas to fuck him. Period.

At the memory of how that particular act felt like, a hot shiver ran through his body. Back to the real problem: How to welcome Nicolas tonight? It was their first alone time since the quickie and he wanted it to count. He needed it to count. If he waited for him naked, would that send the wrong signal? Perhaps it looked a little too desperate, too wanton, too debauched? It would send the correct signal, needy slut. Was that something Nicolas was into or not?

Huh. Marshall didn't actually know what Nicolas was into in bed. Sure, he wanted to chain Marshall to a bed, he had said, but for what exactly, like specifically what for? Would he use handcuffs? Or rope? How did he want to get rough, even painful? With his bare hands? Or whips? Knifes probably, with his propensity for blood and walking around in public with a real fucking sword. How about other sex toys? Like cockrings? Vibrators? Anal beads? Gags maybe, wasn't like he could hear Marshall scream anyway, so why bother. Or something else, perhaps, something he hadn't thought about yet? There was a good deal of sexual perversion written into his songs, if it wasn't anything off of that list, Nicolas was pretty deep into this. Marshall just didn't know.

Now that he thought about it, he should've brought handcuffs. That would send the right signal: Marshall naked and handcuffed to the bed, all willing and open for Nicolas to take him. Why didn't he think of that sooner? Thinking ain't your strong suit, your pussy ain't the brightest. Had he time to drive back home? His watch said: No, Nicolas should be here any minute. Curses.

With Marshall's luck, Nicolas would invoke his stupid no-sex rule again and they'd end up cuddling all night or some nice shit like that. That he could not have! On that impulse he started to undress. Strip to the buff, little slut, get you naked. Slip it off, take it off, show it all. Strip to the buff, little slut, wanna see you naked. Slip it off, get me off, suck it all. He hummed the cheery melody. Of course he appreciated how Nicolas tried for them to get to know each other and make this into a proper relationship, Marshall really valued the sentiment, but they only saw each other about once a week and usually that didn't include any sexy time. If this went on any longer, Marshall would start to crawl up the walls.

He knew himself well enough, sooner or later he'd cheat on Nicolas eventually. Marshall always fucked things up. But he wanted that to be later - best never, of course, but that didn't seem to be in the cards for him. Hadn't been for the last two decades, there was no reason to think he suddenly turned into a saint now. It wasn't like he loved Nicolas and even though he had - and still did - loved Kim, he still had cheated on her plenty. But before he fucked things up with his boyfriend, he wanted to enjoy the time with him and as much of that time as possible. Which included sex. Which would also be greatly prolonged by sex.

Now naked, he climbed on the bed, pondering what pose to strike. How would he get Nicolas all hot and bothered just from the sight of him? So much, that he'd forget his stupid no-sex rule instantly. Best guess, Marshall's ass. Nicolas's hands always ended up there somehow, even when nothing sexy was going on. 

On all fours he angled himself, so that his ass was in perfect view of the door. But that wasn't hot enough. Marshall gathered the handy bottle of lube out of his jeans and also the condoms, so they wouldn't have to fumble for them later. Preparation was everything. That's why you don't have handcuffs here. Another time.

Marshall poured some lube on his fingers and with them now slick he reached behind himself, slid them between his cheeks and circled the tight hole.

Fuck, was a long time since he last had done this to himself.

His finger caressed the ring of muscle slowly and softly, massaging the spot. Marshall sucked his lower lip between his teeth, kneading it lightly at the sensation his finger caused. A low tingle, warm anticipation, a precursor to pleasure. His index finger pushed passed the muscle and into him. A deep hum came from his throat and his forehead fell gently on his other arm still resting on the bed covers. He took the finger out again, just to push it back in, circled once more. Then, he did it all over again. Delight pooled in his stomach like a hot liquid and tried to push into his arteries.

The door closed with a loud thud. Marshall looked over his shoulder, but didn't leave his position.

It was Nicolas standing at the door, looking at him silently. Silent because he didn't speak or because he was too surprised? His face didn't betray his emotions in this moment, it didn't know many emotions to begin with. He put his messenger bag down near the table and took his jacket off. Another look at Marshall, long and intense like he usually looked at him, the black eyes small and absorbing, shadows underneath them.

Marshall swallowed hard. "Uhm … hi?", he waved his dry hand in a meek gesture, his head barely lifted from it. He bit his lip and slowly took the finger out of his hole for good. This wasn't the reaction he had hoped for, nor the one he might've expected.

Nicolas's lips curled into an amused smirk. >Don't stop on my account.<

Marshall sat up. "I was … getting ready for you."

A nod. >You still need me or shall I leave you and your hand alone?<

For that stupid joke, Marshall just flipped him off. That was a universal gesture, regardless their language barrier. Now this situation grew awkward fast. Why was Nicolas only standing there amused? If Marshall wasn't sexy enough to incite some arousal in him, fine, so he made a fool of himself, again. But this awkwardness felt almost cruel. How could Marshall get them on track for a sexy, fun night with each other? Although, if the scene of him fingering himself didn't do the trick, what would?

Nicolas made the few steps to the bed and leaned forward, their faces coming close together and almost into kissing distance. Marshall licked his lips. >I had the same idea<, Nicolas grinned at him with dark promise.

Marshall perked up straight. "Really? Started to think you were all talk."

>Some talk is needed. These things can get pretty intense, even small stuff. It's best to negoti-<

"Don't you start with this shit again", Marshall interrupted him. "Just take what you need, I can handle it. I've been through worse than some rough sex, no need to fuss." How often did he have to say that? He wasn't a weak person and he certainly didn't want Nicolas to think that way.

Nicolas raised his eyebrows. >That's not-<

But Marshall interrupted him again: "Come on, I'm already hard and half open, you really want to talk now?" He pulled Nicolas into a kiss, a deep and stirring kiss. "I did this on purpose, you know."

Nicolas answered the kiss and he squeezed Marshall's ass, as he liked to do. Another hum purred in Marshall's throat. >Did you now?<, he asked with amusement. >First things first.< Nicolas walked the few steps back to his bag and opened it. As he turned around again, he held a collar in his hands. It was made from red leather and about the width of two fingers, adorned by a row of black rivets and a small bell chimed quietly.

Cocking his head, Marshall eyed up the collar. A strange feeling arose from the pit of his stomach, where the feeling of delight still lingered from just moments ago. "What's that for?"

With great care and gentle fingers Nicolas placed the collar around Marshall's neck. "You're mine", he said in a husky voice. The small bell chimed approvingly with each movement.

Marshall raised his hands and felt the leather and the rivets under his fingertips. The soft chime sounded calming in his ears. This felt strange. He always prided himself to be his own man, to not need nor belong to anyone. He fought for himself. But now … He could feel the soft inside of the collar rubbing the skin of his neck as he swallowed … he was owned?

Their eyes met for a long moment. He saw a distinct gleam of excitement in Nicolas's eyes. A strange sense of pride rose in Marshall, that he brought light from these eyes, that usually let nothing escape. Nicolas explained: >You said, a collar would tell people what was mine, so they don't take it away from me.<

Marshall frowned. "I meant your cat. I'm not a cat."

>You are mine.<

Marshall couldn't argue with that.

Nicolas bend down to kiss him, a kiss full with fiery potential and lustful promises and Marshall was melting into it. As their tongues and mouthes parted, Nicolas said: >Tonight, you'll have one task: Don't bite your lips.<

>What? Why?<, Marshall asked confused, unconsciously using the bits of sign language that came easy to him.

Rough fingertips stroked over Marshall's cheek. >Because I'm the only one who hurts you.< Nicolas tugged lightly at the collar around Marshall's neck and the bell chimed approvingly. >Every time you bite your lip, I'm going to slap your ass.<

"But it's a habit. I don't even realize, I'm doing it half the time." How should he control an action, that happened without his will? That was an impossible task. "I can't do that. Think of something else."

Nicolas tugged at the collar again, harder this time. >Don't talk back to me. You're mine, you will obey my word.<

"But I'll fail", Marshall objected. This night should be fun and sexy and filled with pleasure, not with him being a failure. He needed to do this right.

The hand, that had tugged at the collar, now gripped around his neck and the pressure the fingers caused was minimal, but exemplified well what was to be expected. "You're mine", he said in a low voice. "Every time you bite your lips, I'm going to slap your ass. I'm expecting you to fail quite often tonight." Nicolas grinned with his teeth showing, like a shark ready to strike. "And I'm gonna enjoy every slap on that precious ass of yours. It's gonna be red and you gonna feel my hands for days."

Marshall recognized the hint of arousal those words poured into his blood. He bit his lip.

"There it is", Nicolas said pleased and with a strong, swift motion he turned Marshall's body around. The slap.

There was a distinct tingle on his butt cheek. Marshall wanted to bite his lips again, but turned it into a lick at the last moment. This was going to be a hard night for him.

There was a pleased look in Nicolas's eyes for a short second. >You can finger yourself again.< 

>What?<, Marshall asked confused, again. Nicolas was here, wouldn't they be doing things together?

>You understood me.<

>Yeah, but don't you wanna do it?<, he asked, because he certainly wanted Nicolas to do it, and more.

Nicolas pulled up one of the chairs and sat down. His expectant look lay on Marshall and he made a prompting gesture.

Now he felt self-conscious. Marshall rubbed his neck and the collar was in the way. But the feel of leather made one thing perfectly clear: This wasn't his choice to make, but Nicolas's, who he belonged to now. If Nicolas wanted to see how he fingered himself, then wasn't it Marshall's duty to obey? There was this strange feeling again. Marshall hated to be told what to do, but when he looked into Nicolas's eyes, he lost his will to resist. He wanted this man to like him and the easiest way to make people like him was sex.

So, Marshall turned around to give Nicolas the best view. He poured some more lube on his fingers and massaged the small hole again. His index pushed inside and his head fell forward onto his arm again, a sigh left his lips. He moved the finger around slowly, then he took it out again, just to push two fingers back in. The tips of both of them pressed past the ring of muscle. A hot jolt of arousal shot through his stomach. Marshall sucked in his lip between his teeth, the moan died in his throat. Immediately when he realized his mistake, he opened his lips again and a sigh was audible. But it was too late. "You did it again", he heard Nicolas say close behind him. Then another slap on his ass, this time the tingling was more heated and held longer.

And for a while, those were the only actions to happen in the dimly lit motel room. Marshall went slow, always pulling his fingers out again, pressing them in just so he broke through and felt his muscle pucker around them, focused on the sensation of something going into him. Sometimes he sighed or moaned, sometimes he bit his lips and the slaps on his ass following grew into a sweet, prickling pain that lingered on. Marshall's dick twitched curiously at all of this, hard at the sensations their hands caused at his ass. The gentle pressing and caressing of his hole was rather tantalizing, but the slaps left a subliminal pain and were such a stark contrast it heightened the craving he felt here. A craving, he knew, could be met with a great deal of pleasure.

Marshall wanted it, all of it.

After a while he looked over his shoulder to Nicolas, who's eyes were fixated on him, on his ass. Good. Marshall brought his other hand up to his ass and gripped the cheeks tight, digging his nails into the flesh, which burned from Nicolas hitting it over and over. He stretched them apart, showing his hole to his boyfriend's unwavering gaze. He could feel it pucker with an appetite for so much more than his own fingers.

There again was amusement coloring Nicolas's smirk. >You're really needy tonight.<

Was the amusement also approval? Marshall took the leap. "I'm always needy. A bad habit of mine." Over his shoulder he shot his boyfriend a sexy smirk back.

Nicolas grabbed Marshall's ass and yanked him backwards, their bodies connecting, skin against cloth. A soft bite into his neck. "Like a slut with a loose pussy?", directly in his ear.

An electric shiver ran down Marshall's spine and unconsciously he closed his eyes. He recognized the quote and out of Nicolas's mouth it sounded wrong in the right kind of way. "Yeah", his voice quivered. He rubbed his ass against Nicolas, feeling the rough material of the jeans against his sore, prickling skin. A sigh, stopped by him sucking his lip between his teeth.

Another slap on his ass. 

Marshall moaned roughly. He turned around, so he could face his boyfriend and more importantly, so he could get these clothes off. They were in the way. Slick fingers moved erratically as he tried to open the belt and the pants or, as that didn't work out quite right, just to raise the t-shirt. He needed to feel the other's skin.

Nicolas grabbed his wrists with one hand and held them tight, his other hand pulled the belt from his pants and with precise movements he tied Marshall's wrists together and behind his back. Seemed like he knew exactly what he was doing.

Marshall assumed, his boyfriend actually did and not just out of pleasure. He bit his lips again at this thought, of how Nicolas liked pain and blood so much he made it his work and still wanted it for sex, too - that he couldn't get enough of it.

Another slap on his ass. The skin glowed red with pain.

>To take, one first has to give<, Nicolas reprimanded. "Be a good slut and open wide for me", he said out loud and Marshall wondered for a second, why he even bothered speaking? Then Nicolas's hand gripped his jaw tight and forced it open. 

A slurred sound came from Marshall's throat, a mixture of surprise and discomfort. Through his mind flashed a picture from the last time someone had held him like this and it wasn't all arousal that made his heart beat fast.

With his hold firm, Nicolas pulled Marshall off the bed and made him kneel on the floor of the motel room. He might've been slender, but Marshall still had muscles and they still weighed something, but the strength in Nicolas's hand and the rough grip felt like his jaw would be ripped from his skull, if he didn't move accordingly. So he did. 

His eyes clung to Nicolas's, searching for a sign the man wouldn't actually do that, at least not to him. But the eyes looked down on him and Marshall was sure, the man could see exactly what he was, every little dirty part of his being. That there were only dirty parts and Marshall needed to proof he was worth the other's time. The urge to kiss Nicolas came over him hard, but he couldn't reach out. He wanted to wrap his arms around the broad shoulders. He wanted to be hold tight, but he couldn't reach out. He pulled at the belt around his wrists, of course it didn't give way. He blinked away tears of lust and frustration … and of the pain that all of this wasn't his. He was a toy that people enjoyed and Nicolas was no exception. Till the man would be bored of him or till Marshall inevitably would become too much to bear. All needy sluts ended like this.

 Then he heard the sound of Nicolas's zipper opening up and the man pushed his pants down enough. The cock was hard and ripe for attention from the looks of it. "Open your mouth, my adorable slut." The hand still held Marshall's jaw and pulled him toward Nicolas, toward his erection. There was already pre-cum on it. In the back of Marshall's mind, he heard the memory of Nicolas's voice: Relax, you think too much. Now he understood and he took a deep breath. The bell chimed laudingly. A slut didn't think, so why should he? He was so tired of thinking anyway. He rolled his shoulders to relax them. Marshall stuck his tongue out as a welcome. He put a kiss on the head, because Nicolas's lips were out of reach. The hand from his jaw let go and moved on to stroke through his hair, perhaps better: to pet his head softly. 

This gave Marshall his freedom of movement back and he licked along the sides and spread the pre-cum with his tongue. Just enough to make sure it would slide well, then he took it into his mouth. Hard and hot and pulsing. Marshall moaned around the flesh. 

The hand, that petted through his hair, grabbed tight once more and guided his head back and forth, slowly first but eventually the pace increased. Marshall relaxed his jaws and his shoulders, breathing became hard and he felt his gag reflex wanting to jump in as Nicolas's dick thrust deep into his throat. But that was okay, then he was just a mouth that needed to be filled, sometimes with cruel words and sometimes with a relentless dick. He relied upon the hand to know what Nicolas wanted. Every new thrust into his mouth knocked more and more thoughts off his mind, which he was thankful for, he thought too much.

Marshall closed his eyes and felt a tear run down his face.

Nicolas's thumb caressed the trail that the tear left behind.

At last, the hand pulled his head away and the hard dick left his mouth. Did he do something wrong? Marshall stuck his tongue out again, eager to do better and he was trying to get back into his position, but the hand held tight. His eyes searched for Nicolas's, who looked down on him and his gaze felt almost tender. "My adorable slut", he said once more and came. The cum hit Marshall's face and dripped down onto his chest.

Gasping lightly, Nicolas kneeled down in front him. "You gave good", he said in a husky voice and a thumb caressed Marshall's roughed lips, touched them gently and warm. Nicolas kissed him feverishly and Marshall was completely absorbed by it. "Now, do you want to be taken?"

He nodded and croaked: "Yeah."

A wet finger circled Marshall's hole, pressed against the tight muscle, teased him. The finger went inside him and moved deep, stroked over his insides and struck right. Marshall arched his back and moaned lustful.

Then the finger was gone again and Marshall whimpered.

Nicolas tugged at the collar and pulled him onto his feet that way, which didn't stand strong. But they didn't have to, a second later Marshall was on the bed again.

"On your knees, my adorable slut." Nicolas went to his bag. 

A deep breath, Marshall closed his eyes and kneeled on the soft covers. With a second to himself, he felt his body hurt. His throat hurt, the jaw strained from the harsh fucking and pain throbbed and burned his ass cheeks, sore from every strike of Nicolas's hands. So were his legs from kneeling too long on the floor. The muscles of his hole still puckered around nothing and missed the sensation of being parted open. But without anything else to be more important, his aching, leaking erection crawled to the forefront of his mind. He wanted to touch himself, but was sharply reminded of the belt around his wrists tying his hands behind his back. Sitting on his knees, there was no way of getting friction or just attention to his hard dick, not talk about release. 

The point of a finger between his shoulder blades. Marshall opened his eyes again, looking up behind him but unable to. The finger pressed deep into its spot, making it impossible to turn around. The finger pressed more, pushed down and Marshall had to give. He leaned forward a few inches. The finger pushed down more and Marshall had to give. He leaned forward even more, almost bowing down and then gravity pulled. The muscles of his upper body worked to prevent him from falling, until his head rested on the covers. The leather collar slipped up his neck a little, the bell chimed avidly.

"Get your ass high", Nicolas demanded.

Marshall moved his body accordingly, forehead still resting on the covers and his ass high in the air. 

The finger moved down from its spot between his shoulder blades, stroking the side of his spine and rubbing the vertebrae intensely. Another finger, wet and slick, moved between his cheeks, finding the hole again that puckered expectantly. Finally! A chuckle. "Such a needy slut, aren't you."

Marshall bit his lip.

A slap on his cheeks. It burned harsh.

The finger slid easily passed the ring and deep inside him, stroking again that point and Marshall's body arched again. The release was instead, but not enough. His ass presented itself eagerly in this position, obviously wanting more. The lustful moan was swallowed by the covers.

Oh yes, he was a needy slut.

The hand on his back found its way down as well and stretched his cheeks apart. He could feel the small strain on his hole, a different kind of sensation. A bare one. Good.

Marshall groaned with pain and pleasure as the finger was replaced by a bigger toy. It felt a lot bigger, but that might just be his hole being too tight. It wasn't used up yet and for a moment, the thought of a part of his body, a part of him not being worn out and spent, scared him. It meant, there was still something in him that was unbroken, intact, vulnerable. That was impossible.

"Be a good slut and take it all in", Nicolas's dark voice said and the sound of vowels stretched a little too much relaxed Marshall. 

He swallowed hard and felt leather caressing his neck. What was being intact worth anyway? Nicolas could use all parts of him, that's what Marshall was here for. 

The toy moved back and forth, pushed and shoved into him and it was all he could feel. His hips met each thrust and a moan left his throat each time. Loud and distorted and sensual. The vibration came from deep inside of him, radiating through his body in hot waves, his skin barely containing it. The toy filled him up, having the shape of the piece which was missing from him but hadn't been searched for. A new pulse beat in his chest, a lustful craving that needed a way out.

Marshall pulled at the belt around his wrists, but it didn't budge. There was one way for lust to leave his body, but he was barred from it. He couldn't move his hands and even though his hips moved, his aching erection didn't move into anything. His dick was needing, but it wasn't needed. He panted and moaned, the sound of his own voice seemed distant and foreign. A primal cry of desire and voracity and bliss. His body was trembling and stretched to meet the pressure inside of him.

Then the toy stopped. All the way in, but not vibrating and not thrusting.

A whimper came begging from Marshall. Almost.

A hand on his head stroked through the shortly cropped hair. "You're beautiful."

There wasn't breath left to speak. He swallowed hard, the leather of the collar rubbed against the skin of his neck. The covers beneath his face were damp from sweat and spit and cum and tears. "Want … more …", he tried to look up and see Nicolas, but the angle was all wrong. "Give me … more …"

But Nicolas didn't. Strong he gripped Marshall's hips and threw him over.

Marshall landed on his back, his tied up hands buried underneath his body, pressed into the covers. The wet spot of his first release was cool against his skin. A whining, ruttish moan left him. His back arched again and he moved his hips upward, his legs wrapped themselves around Nicolas.

But Nicolas swatted them away. His gaze lingered on the body hungrily, unmistakably enjoying the sight Marshall presented him with.

He pulled at the belt again, which still didn't give way. This was not enough. He needed more. Another whimper. Within a moment, Nicolas’s lips were on his, kissed him frantically and Marshall answered in kind. Their lips moved with each other, their tongues coiled around each other, desperate to be as close as possible and never close enough.

The kiss ended as abruptly as it had begun. Nicolas sat back up again and took his phone out of his pants. "My needy, adorable slut", he mumbled low, slurring his words almost unrecognizable, but his deep voice vibrated within Marshall nonetheless. Then he took pictures of the man writhing beneath him, to keep record of what he had done to him - a wrecked mess, Marshall was sure, and it still wasn't enough. Again this mean grin, maybe a hint of admiration and Nicolas asked: "You wanna see?" Did it matter, what Marshall wanted? The phone was held up to his face without waiting for an answer and the image he saw knocked air out of his lungs.

Over the years Marshall had seen a lot of pictures of himself, another occupational hazard, some of them taken by professionals, some of them taken by paparazzis and fans. Usually he just looked like a regular guy, at least to his eyes he did. Sometimes the picture was rather silly, mostly on purpose by him; sometimes he looked concentrated or amused or high or annoyed - a human, in short; sometimes he didn't like the image, especially those documenting his excess weight he hated violently. But a picture of himself had never quite looked this … utterly wrong in how truthful it was.

His head bend to the side, neck stretched and the red collar clung to him, eyes closed. Though his mouth was open and the tip of his tongue stuck out. The traces of their bodily fluids were unmistakable. With lips red and raw his face was a blatant invitation. Arms trapped underneath his body, no defense whatsoever. His torso was covered in sweat, skin light, muscles defined, but with only a hint of his tattoos this seemed to be barely him. Few splashes of his own cum dotted the tattoo around his naval. Erection strong and begging, but also not the center of attention and therefore unimportant. Legs sprawled wide open in an obscene invitation and begged for anyone to fill the space out. The red colored vibrator was oddly out of place, only a placeholder for a real dick that needed to be there. 

His insides collapsed into themselves and into a tight ball of dread and disgust. He didn't want Nicolas to see this. Ever. He would learn this eventually, but it was too early. Marshall didn't want them to end already, they've barely been together. Couldn't he enjoy their illusion just a bit longer?

He wriggled his body away from Nicolas. Once more he pulled at the belt around his wrists, twisting his hands to get them free and failed. An old instinct came back to the surface, to be invisible, so he made himself small while he desperately tried to free his hands. His blood turned cold with fear. How had he lost control this completely? In anger, he kicked out against the headboard.

"Marshall?", Nicolas asked baffled. "Hey, it's alright", he reached out but got kicked next. "It's alright, Marshall, just a second." He fended off another kick and unfastened the belt from the wrists. It took him longer than it needed to, because Marshall was still fighting against them. When the hands were finally free, he lashed out more and punched Nicolas in the side, but not with much strength. "Hey, it's alright." Nicolas pulled the blanket up and wrapped it around him.

"Fuck", Marshall cursed in a hoarse growl. The blanket did nothing against the icy feeling in his limbs. He crawled to the edge of the bed and stood up, he needed to get out of here. But his legs trembled and gave way under him. His body hit the floor. Angry with himself, he threw the sex toy across the room. Why did he always fuck things up? "Fuck."

"It's alright. Lie down and take a deep breath or two", Nicolas said in an even tone and helped Marshall onto the bed again. Not that Marshall wanted that and slapped Nicolas's hands away, but he helped him up anyway. 

Marshall shook his head. Nothing was alright. He was not alright and now Nicolas knew. He would leave, like everyone left. Don't be such a drama queen, this was awesome! Until you had to ruin it again, fag. "Go away!" 

"It's alright, Marshall. You hear me? It's alright", Nicolas kept saying and gently caressed the shortly cropped hair, while Marshall curled up into the blanket on the bed. 

Everything was wrong. He had failed, Nicolas just as much as himself. Never let your guard down, when would he learn? It was glorious! You really let yourself go, slut, respect. Can I have seconds? "Leave me alone!"

"Just concentrate on your breathing. You're here and it's alright, Marshall, it's alright", Nicolas went on saying and went on stroking his head.

He was repulsive. Who could like something like him? In the end, Marshall would die alone. A fate, he had always known about, but still tried to fight against. Come on, he loved it so much he wants your needy ass on his fucking phone. That ain't nothing. It's dirty and depraved and dissolute, that’s a lot of something. "Get away from me!"

"I'm here", Nicolas insisted, his voice close and strong.

Marshall looked at him. Why was he still here?

Nicolas still petted his head. "I'm here, Marshall. Whatever you're feeling right now, I'm going to be here."

"No, you won't", he said hoarse and shook his head. How could Nicolas stay with him? With someone this tasteless. With someone this out of control. With someone this selfish. With someone this spirited. 

The touch lingered on. "What happened?"

Marshall shook his head again. Nicolas couldn't know - shouldn't know. He just saw you, fag, the man is deaf, not blind. And he ain't dumb, either. He would not make him leave faster, even he wasn't that much of an idiot. He sighed and rolled onto his back, a painful groan. The bed pressed against his ass and reignited the burn. This was absolutely not how he planned tonight to go. It went exactly as you planned tonight to go: hot and sexy and you got your holes stuffed, little gay looking boy. He always fucked things up and strangely enough, the older he got the faster that happened. Tonight should've been enjoyable, which sex with Nicolas actually was. Ho boy! You enjoyed the hell out of it - but still didn't get his dick in your ass. You're really bad at this, homo. But that was no excuse to get carried away and show himself like this. One more sigh, the burn a throb in the back of his mind. Being with a man, trying to be gay and to be more himself in a way he actually was, of course that had to drag this side out of him even more. After all, being yourself was losing control. It's not losing control, bitch, it's called being alive! He should've seen this coming, shouldn't he?

Silence grew between them. 

Get your ass back on his dick, slut, that's what you're here for: getting fucked raw and covered in cum! The covered in cum part you completed successfully and with high honors. Your face looks pretty like this, all smeared and dirty with cum and spit. Now, get your ass full with cum, too. You'll love that, bitch!

An uncomfortable silence while Marshall looked up. The ceiling had been white once, but judging from the yellow tint, that had been a long time ago. Didn't mean the ceiling wasn't judging. All of them were, everywhere. Motel room ceilings were some of the worst, staring back with this yellow, faded tint that said: I know depravity when I see it. 

Marshall still felt the belt on his wrists and the pain of every slap on his ass. Mostly though, the feeling of being too open and hollow inside, where the toy had conjured all those sensations before. You could probably be even more open, if you at fucking last get his fucking dick inside you fucking you to pieces. Sensations he wanted so much and that should be okay, said his therapist, but he felt wrong. He wanted to hide.

The warm hand petted his head, caressing over the shortly cropped hair. Nicolas's presence made it better and worse at the same time. Not being alone felt nice, like this didn't need to be bad. But he was and Nicolas had seen it. "This wasn't what you want", he said quietly. His voice thin and hoarse, also he didn't want to talk. You always want to talk, bitch. Use your mouth for something better, you could suck him some more. Your boo seems to like you down on your knees. Where you belong, slut. But better to talk than to think. Because if he thought now, he'd only come up with words meant to hurt himself. You mean me, homo? I'm just telling you how it is. He didn't want that no more, but he couldn't stop.

A kiss on his shoulder.

Marshall rolled his head to the side to look at Nicolas. "You're still holding back." It made him feel even more weak. More wrong. He wasn't good enough for Nicolas to be himself, to take what he wanted, to be worth his time. Marshall knew, he wasn't, but he had fallen for the illusion Nicolas had created: They could be together. Whatever Marshall did from here, all would end up in flames. It always did.

>So are you.<

Of course he was! The other was comfortable with who he was, all twisted and weird and proud, that's why he wouldn't understand why Marshall couldn't be. Until he became too much and it would become obvious even to Nicolas, why Marshall shouldn't be. "I need to."

Another kiss on his shoulder. >You're mine. And I want all of you.< The other hand nudged the bell on the collar. The leather still caressing Marshall's neck and the little cling was still calming.

That sounded too good to be true. "I fuck things up. I always do." Ample reason to squeeze all the cum out of him now, who knows when you'll get a chance like this again? Even if Nicolas could somehow tolerate what he saw tonight, in the end, Marshall couldn't be only for him and as with everyone else, Marshall would be left behind. He ran a hand over his face, smearing the proof of his depravity more. "I couldn't even do this right. And this should've been the easy part."

A questioning look in Nicolas's eyes.

"The sex", he explained halfheartedly. Still the curious gaze from the other. "It's the easy part, it's supposed to be anyway. And I fuck even that up with you."

A kiss to his lips. >Why is that so important to you?<

"It ain't to you?", Marshall asked surprised, unbelieving.

>I like sex, it has many merits. But it's just a thing to do. If something goes wrong, it doesn't matter. Maybe next time'll be better.< Nicolas shrugged. >But for your information, I got what I wanted tonight.<

Marshall rolled onto his side to better look at his boyfriend, his body slow to move. "How? You didn't really do anything and nothing as rough as you make it out to be. You just played with my ass for forever and took a godawful picture. Basically."

Nicolas smirked. >Exactly. And you loved it.< That absolutely made no sense to Marshall. How was that good? >The slut-thing surprised me, though.<

"Oh fuck, don't", he mumbled and buried his head in the pillow. That should've never left his mind. Why had he told Nicolas about this in the first place? Cause you love his voice, little gay looking boy. You love it, when he says slut. I might get jealous about that. Ain't I abusing you enough? Slut, you can't get your ass full enough. Although, after how he'd lost control tonight, Nicolas would've probably figured this out on his own soon enough. And now the man was using it against him, of course he was. Well, at least it wouldn't be much of a surprise once they were breaking up, maybe that would save Marshall's life. Nope! One could hope.

Nicolas's hand was still petting his head, another kiss to his shoulder. 

He looked up again, there was one important question to ask. "Why're you so nice to me?" Wow, that's actually a good question. He ain't getting much out of your needy ass so far, what a pity. Even though this was going all wrong. "Why're you going through all the trouble with me?" Nicolas didn't get from him what he wanted, but he put so much effort and energy into their little thing. Clearly, whatever Nicolas wanted, he could get with someone else easier and better, but regardless he didn't go away. Which made Marshall dread the day, when Nicolas would finally have enough of him and leave for good. A day, that was closer than he wished.

Nicolas looked at him for a while. >I don't think you're in a good place right now for the answer.< Ha! You ain't never in a good place, either you wallow in self-pity or self-denial. Homo, just fuck your lies, you're gay and a he-bitch. Be proud of that!

That sounded ominous. Marshall sat up slowly and a deep sound of ache came from him. "Just say it. Can't be worse than everything else you say." Or how he had shown himself tonight.

Nicolas sat up as well. >I told you already, I want you to be mine. I want you to break underneath me. I like to destroy things and … You're stunning and beautiful, I want you to be in pain - I want pain to be you … You're full with emotions, with life and I want to break away every delicate piece of you and see it all, raw and unhinged. But before I can break you, I need to mend you first. I need to heal you up, so it's only me who hurts you, not anyone else.<

Marshall shifted away a few inches. "You're insane."

A shrug, then a nod. >Probably.<

"I should go." He should be as far away from this guy as he could possibly get. He should've gone, when Nicolas had told the story of his ex-girlfriend. That's how Marshall would end up: beaten, bloody and dead.

Nicolas said in this dark, lovely voice of his: "I want to see you smile."

Chapter Text

The alarm clock was ringing and Marshall groaned into his pillow. He reached out with a heavy arm, but didn't find the device. He pulled the pillow from under his head and threw it onto the nightstand. The alarm clock was still ringing, but muffled now. He groaned once more and struggled to the edge of his bed. Just about every part of his body complained vehemently as he sat up and even worse stood up. In the dark gray of a rainy day he walked to the adjoined bathroom, his feet barely lifting up from the floor. As he turned on the light there, all the curse he could muster was "Ugh!" and he squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for them to adjust. Half blind but knowing the way, he turned the shower on and let the cold water hit his body. He gasped out, muscles contracting and his body shivering awake. Slowly the water warmed up and he wiped some of it from his eyes. As he poured body wash on his hands, he noticed the stark red marks and thin scabby lines on his wrists.

Memories from the night before hit him hard. The belt, the collar, the toy - the picture. A kaleidoscope of feelings welled up inside him from pleasure to pain, from desire to disgust, from satisfaction to shame. The bottle fell out of his hands and only his reflexes moved his feet out of the way in time.

 He cursed under his breath about the memory of the picture, the evidence of him losing control so fully. There was one thing to be said about having sex with people you weren't attracted to: You didn't lose yourself in the moment. Only because he had started to feel comfortable with Nicolas - and with himself oddly enough, but that exactly was his undoing now. Marshall leaned his forehead against the cool tiles, water flowing over him, but it couldn't wash away his actions, much less his being. A person without restraints but with … cravings, some of which he had successfully channelled into a career, but it wasn't enough. It never was enough.

The tears he hadn't allowed to manifest the night before now mixed with the water from the shower. Not because he deserved to cry, but because he couldn't fight against it any longer. He was weak. He was despicable. He was wrong deep inside of him. Slowly Marshall slid down the wall and came down on his knees, a sob escaped him, a fist meekly hit against the wall. He wanted too much. He wanted too bad. He wanted the wrong things in the wrong way. Another sob.

He didn't want to hurt anybody.

But she had been hurt by everything he wanted. The same would happen with Nicolas, even worse, with him it seemed possible but it wasn't. Starving was worse, when you had something to eat.

A nameless hook-up didn't ask questions. There wasn't time to be thorough or to go deep, only enough to scratch the itch. But Nicolas asked questions and Nicolas went deep with his answers. The man didn't want to scratch an itch, he wanted to fulfill a desire. 

But Marshall's couldn't be fulfilled. It shouldn't exist. How broken was a person, who thrived on being consumed? That needed to be fixed, not satisfied. To serve himself to millions with his music should be enough, but it never was enough.

Inevitably he became too much.

A low groan, as he stood up again. He shut the water off and on weak legs he walked back to his bed. Wet, hurting and desolate he climbed back under the covers. 

But he couldn't allow himself to fall, he had too much to lose. So he grabbed for his phone and realized, it hadn't been his alarm that had rung earlier. There was a message, from Nicolas of all people. It read: morning ice princess, had a dream of you last night, hot and sexy and admittedly a little corny

This man sometimes texted strange things. Agree. Sounds like he can't get enough of your needy ass, little gay looking boy. Maybe at least once you're in luck and that kinky bastard'll give it to you good. Marshall replied: good for you, I'm in a nightmare   Nicolas wasn't the person he wanted to speak to, but he also didn't know who else he could call. This wasn't really something you talked with your friends about. Why not? I'm sure they'll be happy to lend a hand, well, dick. He wouldn't even know where to start, just that he shouldn't be in his head right now.

The answer came in immediately: want me to come over? 

Marshall wanted to say yes. The thought brought back more memories from last night, but better ones: Nicolas's fingers in his hair, the steady voice and the obvious concern for Marshall's well-being. Something he didn't deserve, but Nicolas had given him anyway. Even after Marshall had threatened to leave, the man had been there, hugged him, even had brought a little treat for him. Dark chocolate didn't change the world, but it sweetened the soul. Marshall’s favorite even and he had no idea how Nicolas knew. You're such a sentimental bitch, you make me sick. The only thing he did know was, that he needed that.

Nevertheless he wrote: no, the girls be up any minute for school. and I need to go to the studio

Nicolas replied: it's sunday, there's no school

It was? Marshall looked the date up on his phone, yep, it was. Wow, he literally fucked your brains out? Awesome! And he didn't even fuck all the way, yet. Nice going, slut. That made the suggestion worse. He sent: you can't come when my daughters are here!

Nicolas replied: want to meet somewhere else? not being alone is often helpful with this

With this? Marshall frowned at the words. Of course they were true, he knew that, but what did Nicolas think was going on here? The man didn't know Marshall or what mental pitfalls he navigated through, sometimes with success, often without. So he asked: what you mean?

Nicolas replied: I told you, these things get intense sometimes and that can linger on. last night was quite intense by the looks of it, so here's the aftereffect

Marshall huffed at his phone and answered: I ain't weak! I can handle that little bit of sex, asshole. I've done worse, don't treat me like a kid   Well, you're a bit new to this gay shit, bitch, getting your ass loose'll take some time. And your throat's out of practice taking dick. Rough he wiped the tears from his face. Nicolas didn't like weak people, so Marshall shouldn't show this side of him. He didn't like weak people, either.

Nicolas replied: it's a normal response. there's no weakness in it, only humanness. and before you say anything, I'm nice to you, because I care about you. and because I care about you, I don't want you to be alone right now. can you call a friend over? somebody who you trust, who can hold you?

Marshall huffed again: I don't need anybody to hold me   Come on, you'd love to cry at some strong, muscular shoulder right now. I know you do, little gay looking boy.

Then the display changed completely, a video call came in. Out of reflex he pushed the button to decline. As if he could show his face to Nicolas right now, all whiny and tearful. Crybaby. Or that he was still laying in bed, even though it was 11:33 am and he so should be up doing stuff. Marshall didn't quite remember what stuff he should be doing, but there was always stuff to do.

Another request for a video call from Nicolas. Marshall got the suspicion the man would probably keep calling, until he answered. Nicolas was a rather insistent person at times. So he wiped over his face once more and sat up with a groan, halfway there he abandoned this undertaking and lay down again. Sitting was not an option today.

He pushed the button to accept the call. "What?", he asked with a frown. Better to feign annoyance, maybe Nicolas would stop his worrying. It was a nice sentiment, but Marshall didn't know how to respond to it. Not with how he really felt, that was clear. Do you even know, how you really feel?

Nicolas was silent for a moment, then he said out loud: "I'm sorry I brought this on to you." 

There was a warm feeling in his ears, hearing the breathy voice and vowels stretched just ever slightly too much. He savored the sounds for a moment, before the words sank into his brain. "You didn't do anything, no reason to feel sorry."

Nicolas shook his head. "I grew impatient. You have a lot of shit buried and I know", he raised a hand to hold off Marshall's objection, "you can deal with that on your own. I know. But that doesn't mean I can go and hurl that to the surface. And I can't even help you with whatever shit last night dragged up. I can only assure you, you ain't weak. On the contrary, you are a very strong-willed person. Something I really like about you. It's your strength that makes me want to break you, you know. If you were weak, that wouldn't be any fun, there wouldn't be anything to break, right. But you are strong, that's what drags people in to you, your strong will and your fighting spirit. That you feel bad now doesn't erase that. It's precisely what makes you so strong. One can only be strong, if there's something to overcome. And I know, whatever shit's in your head right now, you're stronger than that. I'll be here as long as you need me to."

Listening to these words, he rubbed over his eyes again. "Is that from your stupid book?", he asked as a deflection. If these words were only true …

Nicolas smiled mildly.

… but even if those words were lies, it felt good to hear them. Sometimes an illusion was all you had left to cling to.

"Is there something else you feel bad about?", Nicolas asked.

Now it was Marshall who smirked crooked. "You sound like my therapist."

Nicolas shrugged. "If I was, I probably could help you better, but … I don't usually comfort people. I'd like to help you, but all I can do right now is talk with you. Which seems inadequate." Another shrug and Marshall understood what he meant. Looking at the other man so tiny on the display of his phone, it just wasn't right. "Don't forget to eat right, though. Who knows, maybe cooking distracts you a bit. I hear, that helps."

Marshall frowned. "That came out of nowhere."

Nicolas shrugged. "As much as these things feel emotional, they're also physical. That's why it's not an uncommon response. You're not the only person who falls after a high like that. And considering how last night ended, I'm really not all that surprised. Eating something and getting your body back in balance, helps. So does accomplishing some minor tasks, you know, settle back into everyday life."

That sounded fairly technical. Marshall frowned more. "I thought you were sorry? Don't act like you're my doctor or some shit."

"That's not", Nicolas began and interrupted himself, an eye-roll followed. "You know, if you'd be a little more willing to talk about these kinds of things, we might've been able to avoid all of this. I reiterate, I like to do kinky stuff and I have so for a while. One tends to pick up a thing or two after some time, like for example that sometimes the hours and days after can be quite dark, especially for people in your position. Usually, there would be measures in place to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. But for that, communication is key."

Marshall snorted. "You ain't communicative, don't kid yourself."

Nicolas looked at him unamused and unimpressed by this dismissive reaction. "I know, thanks for noticing", he replied sarcastically. "And you're even worse than me. You know, you could've told me that you don't like pictures of yourself. Then, I wouldn't have taken one, much less shown it to you." Nicolas cocked his head knowingly. That would be a great loss, fag, that picture is glorious!

Marshall pulled the blanket up some more. "I ain't really in a position to care about pictures of me, you know, being famous and all. People take them all the time, I kinda gotten used to it. There's always a camera somewhere, now more than ever with them being stuffed into every cell phone. Besides, it's not like I dislike photos of me in general, professional or private. It's not vain to want some reminders of your life and pictures help with that, of course I have some of me. That's fine."

Nicolas looked at him skeptical. "That's a winded way of saying, you don't like my picture specifically. Which, by the way, was pretty obvious."

"I never heard you speak so much in one sitting", Marshall deflected. That wasn't something he wanted to talk about or for someone else to know. He didn't want it to be in the first place. Which is exactly your problem, bitch.

"Told you, 's all I can do right now. I know you like my voice", he shrugged again. "Don't get used to it."

Marshall blinked unbelieving. "How d'you know that?"

"Was that supposed to be a secret?" Nicolas waved the unspoken objection aside. "So, why was my picture so wrong?"

Marshall swallowed hard. This wasn't something to talk about, but if he thought about it … He would just fall back deeper. He barely clung on to their conversation, but focused intensely on it. Distraction was helpful, dwelling on how wrong he was, was only harmful. "Can we talk about something else?", he asked instead.

Nicolas looked at him silently for a long moment. "Sure. I can tell you about the book I'm reading at the moment? It's about a dullahan working as an underworld courier and an internet-based gang called the Dollars and the chaos that unfolds around the most dangerous people in Tokyo. It's pretty weird."

Marshall smiled thinly and nodded briefly. "Sounds perfect."

"Okay", the other nodded in agreement. "The story starts with a teenage girl banging at some dudes door …", Nicolas began re-telling the book.

Chapter Text

The next morning was only barely better, but he managed to get out of his bed and to put some clothes on. For situations like these, he always kept some comfy, cozy, baggy clothes around, if he sank away in them, perfect. Still trying to be invisible, little gay looking boy? Yeah tough luck, that ship sailed about a decade ago. After he forced some breakfast down his throat, he felt slightly more equipped to handle the day to come. He knew, just getting out of bed wasn't enough, he needed to get out of his house, needed to see his friends. Being so absorbed into his own mind and its downward spiral, that would only get worse if he stayed here all alone. Calling someone on the phone was only marginally helping. I know what helps, a good, thorough fucking. There's too much space inside you empty, bitch. Also, he didn't want to put Nicolas through another hours long call. It must've been awful for him to speak so much yesterday, Marshall didn't want to be a burden on him. This was his shit, not Nicolas's. Besides, that night made him doubt their relationship was a good idea after all. For so many reasons.

Marshall took a deep breath and focused his eyes on the traffic Big Eight was driving them through. This was not the time to think about that and he was in no condition to make any decisions at the moment. He knew that. I'm always surprised when you show self-awareness. Makes your denial even worse, fag. Only thing he could do and needed to do right now was to write and spend some time with his friends. Which already sounded like a too taxing plan. He wanted to crawl back into his bed, if he was honest. But he knew from the past, this would help, however impossible it seemed, this would actually help him. It needed to help.

Didn't mean it was easy. Holding his focus onto the outside world was hard and he didn't want to speak to anybody as they arrived at the studio. Not even a greeting left his mouth as he walked in. He gave the row of arcade games in the foyer a long look - no, he wasn't in the mood for a game. So he walked past them, walked way into the back of the building and into a small room to lounge in. He was here, after all, that was enough for now.

Lazily he pushed forward through some of the beats, that were always stuck in his player. Nothing sounded appealing, but how could they? As if somebody cared to waste their quality beats on him … He took a deep breath. Not true, he told himself, you made it, dumbass, you're the artist of a whole fucking decade. That meant something. Probably.

"Hey, you came. I thought you were sick?" Ryan entered the room with his usual shiny personality. At least to Marshall right now, he seemed shiny and gleeful. His friend stopped in the motion of sitting down, halfway down but still ass hanging in the air above the couch cushion. "What happened to you?", he asked surprised and concerned. "You look like your dog just died."

Marshall raised an eyebrow to that comparison. "Not very original. Don't I deserve some more brainpower?" More accurately, he felt worse than if their dog had just died.

An eye roll. "You look like shit. That original enough for you?", Ryan responded. Finally sitting down, he leaned over and, like usual, eyed Marshall up closely and piercingly. With a low voice he asked: "Did you … get attacked again?"

"No", Marshall snorted abrasively, in the same instant he pulled the sleeves of his hoodie more securely over his wrists and just all of his hands for good measure. But that couldn't hide the spots on his jaw. They were only faint, almost imperceptible under the right light. Come on, slut, wear your trophies with pride. Next time, ask him to grab harder and show off what you want them all to do to you. But Ryan made sure to perceive everything about him, evidently. "No, I wasn't", he repeated.

Ryan made a low, disbelieving sound. "You really need to be more careful with your … conquests, the world is full with crazy people. Besides, I thought you liked Nicolas. You should try this harder, he seems to at least. I mean, a month or so is pretty short even for you. Maybe take this a little more serious?"

"I wasn't cheating", he explained with more force in his voice this time. "Don't just imply stuff like that willy-nilly. There is nobody else, aight, just him. And I don't wanna talk about it. Can we just spit some bars?"

Ryan furrowed his brow with concern and anger. "He did this to you? Dude! How did that happen? I hope you clocked him back good, that he deserves."

Marshall questioned his decision to come here. This was not helping. He did not want to think about their night at the motel. Not because of the physical marks it had left behind, but because it would inevitably bring up the end of the night, the photo … He shifted in his seat, a low sigh of pain. "Let's just have fun with some music, aight?" He pushed the forward button on his player again, still not appealing.

"Don't let this become a habit again, aight", Ryan said warm. Don't listen to this moron. Best thing to do right now, text your boo and finish it.

Marshall pinched the bridge of his nose. More tears wouldn't solve anything. "Just stop talking, man."

"I'm worried about you, that's all."

Marshall snorted dismissively. "Don't overwork yourself. Ain't like he did anything wrong." This was his own fault, he was wrong, Nicolas only tried to clean up the mess - to then possibly turn him into an even worse mess.

"How you mean?", Ryan asked, caution in his voice. "Like, you want this?", he gestured toward all of Marshall, who was a rather sorry sight at the moment.

Marshall sighed deeply. Couldn't his friend just back off this once? "It's called a kink, dumbass." Why did he have to talk about this now, here, with him? You came here looking like this, you knew he'd make you talk. Don't act like you don't want this, bitch. Spill the beans, let him know what he could have, if he takes you right here right now, slut. He pushed the forward button a couple more times, still no good beat came up. "No reason to freak out, everything's fine. I'm fine." No, you ain’t.

"A kink?", more obvious doubt in Ryan's voice. "Is that the new 'I fell down the stairs'? Look, if you two try some things out or whatever, that's great, maybe. But it's not only the bruises, you look … I don't know, gloomy? sad? miserable? dejected? gri-"

"You gonna throw the whole thesaurus at me?", Marshall interrupted annoyed. "I have a mirror, I know how I look." Puffy red eyes, a tired gaze, a bruise on his jaw, clothes that made him look even smaller than he was and generally a ducked down stance. His mirror always said the awful truth about him. Probably he also wore a frown of irritation because Ryan was annoying instead of helpful. Additionally, there must've been some evidence of the painful burn his ass complained with in his features, since his ass made perfectly and loudly clear that sitting would be torture for the rest of his life. Which right now he welcomed as a valid distraction from his thoughts. He really needed to control his lip biting in the future.

Ryan cocked his head. "Then you know why I'm worried. You need anything?"

"For you to stop talking", he growled. Was there some half finished song he could work on? Not a wise idea, chances were he'd ruin the piece with whatever he came up with at the moment.

A sigh. Standing back up again in a gesture of surrender, Ryan nodded. "Fine, whatever, do what you want." He left the small room.

Marshall's eyes followed the movements and stayed a long moment on the closed door. Nobody said, being friends with him was easy. To be anything with him wasn't easy and to pretend otherwise sometimes took out all his energy. Then don't. Stand to the gay slutty person you are, will make your life so much easier. One of the many reasons he didn't collaborate with as many artists as he wanted to. He couldn't invite a stranger to his studio for work and be like this. That wasn't professional and it wasn't a good work environment. Not for himself, either, but he couldn't leave himself, could he now? He intensely wished for it.

He reached for his notepad, maybe jotting some words down would start anything. I live in a bubble, I struggle … Trouble as the pain grows double, give a fuck what you say, he started writing and shook his head. Wrong direction. The words should go away from it, not toward. He started over again. Am I not deserving of what I got, did I not work for it? Put it all in every record I record … I keep rapping, but I wonder sometimes, is it worth all the bullshit? Cause it feels like down there ain't no getting up from but I won't let it get me down, I won't succumb

He snorted derisively at himself. How often could one climb out of shit? Wasn't it only a matter of time, when he inevitably succumbed, regardless of how hard he fought back? Constant dripping wore down every stone and he very much wasn't made of stone. He wished he was. It just feels like I'm so done with this shit that I may as well wipe. I have nothing else to give you, nothing left to contribute. Farewell, I bid you …, he stroked the words through. No. But it's getting harder than I thought to not just go crazy, trapped in this house, I'm about to snap … They'll appreciate me when I'm gone, they'll say it was ill right? They way I killed mics? But the way I feel right now … He threw the notepad across the room. "Fuck." Why couldn't he come up with something different to say?

He slumped down along the sofa, feet hanging over the arm rest and buried his face in the crook of his elbow. Never had he something different to say, always this depressive shit. Exactly, who wants to listen to you whining? Fill your mouth with a cock instead of a microphone, everyone wins. Why would anyone want to listen to his shit anyway? He was not original or talented, just a useless, ugly nobody. Why should anyone listen to him? Why would anyone like him? If your boo and your friends are anything to go by, it's because you're a needy bitch. May not be special, but it's something. He wasn't special. Lots of people lead painful lives. His life actually was awesome, if he looked at it objectively. He had the best job in the world and got to meet crazily talented people, could even make music with them. He stood on a stage and thousands of people shouted his name. There was enough money in the bank, that no one in his family needed to worry anymore. He had no right to write about being done with life, when his life was this fucking good. How would that feel to people, who actually struggled? Just a slap in their faces. It wasn't good anyway. He would never write something like the Marshall Mathers LP again, regardless of how many crazy rhyme schemes he squeezed into a bar. That wasn't everything. You needed to say something with your art - and he just hadn't anything left to say. But your mouth ain't useless, homo, go where your talents are: sucking dick. Only the same old shit.

Because he was useless. 

Nicolas would see that soon enough. How long had they been together? Forty-six days. How often had they had sex in that time? Three times, if he was very generous. That's - he pulled his phone out to type the calculation into - once every fifteen days. Not a satisfying ratio. If you were in a relationship, you shouldn't need to wait half a month to get some fun. Soon Nicolas would be surely bored with him. Their nice weekend he had completely ruined by being a coward for normal sex, not even talk about Nicolas's real desires. Marshall was the worst boyfriend ever. Again. And the one time they finally came somewhat close to what Nicolas wanted, Marshall had to fuck it up, of course. He had to lose control and show what an abhorrent thing he was.

Because he was ugly.

Nicolas had to see this already. He couldn't understand why the man continued to call him adorable and beautiful - Marshall wasn't. He was a bad person, inside and out. That was plain as day. However hard he tried to control himself and keep himself in check, in the end his true colors always shone through. How much of a sick fuck he was. Someone who only hurt the people around him. Someone who couldn't be faithful, who had fun cheating on his wife. And he was sure as shit this would continue with Nicolas just the same. He didn't want to hurt the man, but in the end he would lose against himself. He already had. Nicolas had already seen, how much he enjoyed being fucked mindless. There was no denying it.

A sob echoed in the small room. Marshall rolled onto his side and made himself small. He didn't deserve to cry and he didn't deserve how nice Nicolas had been to him all forty-six days long. Even when he fucked it up. Even when he had lost control. There was no reason for Nicolas to care about him, yet the man somehow did and tried to get along with his friends, even hugged him. And he wished, Nicolas could be here now, could hold him now and say again, that he cared about Marshall. He didn't deserve that either, but he wanted it anyway. He always wanted too much.

He was a nobody.

His fingers stroked over the words tattooed on his wrist, even when his eyes were still closed, he knew they were there. A reminder that he could live on, needed to live on. But he also felt the bruises left by Nicolas's belt. He bit his lip and for a moment he held his breath, expecting a smack on his ass. But none came.

What if all of this was just a plot to trap him in Nicolas's arms? Hadn't he said something like this? To make him compliant, so Nicolas could hurt him over and over? That sounded like just deserts. Maybe Nicolas could force him into being a better person. Who was he kidding! His mother had tried and Kim had tried, but all had failed. Deep down inside of him he was wrong and there was no fixing him.

Best thing he could do, was to stay alone. To save the people he loved from the pain of being with him. His partner, his family, his friends, they all suffered because of him, because he was too selfish.

Even now he was too selfish, wishing Nicolas was here. How could he bring the man any closer, when he knew how all this had to end? Deeply he pressed his fingers into his wrist and the bruises, savoring the pain this caused. Holding on to the memories this caused, the memories of the belt keeping him from touching Nicolas, when the man had fucked his face, and keeping him from supporting his own body, when the man had fucked his ass.

A shiver ran down his spine. He bit into his wrist to make the pain stronger, to make the memories stronger. The good memories. But his teeth weren't enough, nothing was ever enough. He licked his fingers, sucked them into his mouth deeply and that flashed his mind with the images and feelings of that night again, of Nicolas's hard dick in his mouth, ruthlessly taking his own pleasure from him, and in the process emptying out Marshall's mind. Which emptied itself out now with every push of his fingers into his mouth, slower than Nicolas could but steadily nonetheless. Relief was settling into his limbs with every next thrust, with every new flick of his tongue. He imagined it being Nicolas and not just his fingers. He could proof to Nicolas, he was worth his time and he was worth his attention. Showing him that he wanted to be just for Nicolas, whether he was strong enough to control himself or not. Maybe Nicolas believed him? He put his wishes on the tip of his tongue. His intentions were true, didn't that count for anything?

"Marshall!" Not Nicolas's voice, not dark enough and the vowels weren't stretched at all. Hands on his shoulders, pulling him up to sit, but he fought them off. He wasn't finished yet, Nicolas hadn't cum yet. "Marshall, come on, man." A warm hand on his face, wiping away tears. But he shook his head. If he left now, life would be harsh again. "Marshall?" There was serious worry in the voice. He knew the voice, he knew this flavor of worry …

Marshall wiped over his eyes to get the tears out of them, so he could open them again. As he did, he saw Ryan kneel in front of him and looking at him with eyes full of concern and sympathy. "What?", he grumbled, his own voice hoarse. 

Ryan breathed a sigh of relief. "You were pretty gone, man. You okay?"

"Just distracting myself", he muttered. "Sometimes thinking's the worst, you know."

Ryan's hand wiped over his cheek again. "Yeah, maybe … Still, you kinda scared me." The other hand rubbed his neck gently. "You need anything? You wanna call your therapist or something?"

Marshall shook his head slightly, not to lose the hands. "Nah, I'm fine." His eyes came to rest on Ryan's pants, the erection was visible through the denim. If he could suck on a real dick, that would have to be a better distraction than the fantasy of one. "Well, if you're asking like that, I still could use some distraction. You know."

"Course, that's why I came in. Denaun has something really cool and-"

"No, writing don't help", he interrupted his friend. "Tried that, made things worse." He slid to the edge of the couch, closer to Ryan and his hands stroked lightly over his friend's groin. The erection tangible through the jeans. "You kinda interrupted me, you know … I could use help finishing that."

Ryan's Adam's apple bopped visibly as he swallowed. "Ain't we friends?", he said, his voice rough.

Marshall shrugged briefly. "So? Wouldn't be the first time, doesn't make things worse." His hand kneaded the erection through the fabric.

"And … And Nicolas? I mean, you two like each other. Right?" Ryan was still gently stroking his cheek.

"Same as your wife: They don't need to know." His fingers opened the belt and undid the zipper.

Ryan leaned his forehead against Marshall's. "But … You sure? I don't think, you're thinking straight right now … I mean …"

Marshall smiled warm. "When do I ever think straight?", he chuckled softly at the pun. "Just, I hate my head right now … Please?"

A short nod, then their lips met. A careful kiss, tender feelings palpable. Ryan's fingers still caressed his neck.

Marshall's hand found its way into the jeans, into the boxer shorts and stroked over the hard-on. A sigh between their lips. He directed his friend with soft pressure against the chest to sit on the coffee table. Then he could kneel in front of him and a second later his lips enveloped the erection. Again, relief settled into his limbs, this would make the bad thoughts go away. This was easy. This he could do right. He needed to do it right and things would be okay again. So, he focused intently on the hard dick in his mouth, how his lips moved around the hot skin and when to flick his tongue against the pulsing flesh, to control his throat as he took it deep and to find a nice rhythm moving his head.

Ryan sighed and moaned in low tones, enjoyment audible in every sound. His hand still caressed Marshall's neck gently, until eventually the fingers clawed into him. "Marsh, I'm …"

Without hesitation Marshall took the orgasm in and continued his efforts throughout it. Only when he felt Ryan relax again, did he let go of the softening member.

"Damn …!"

Marshall rubbed over his lips with his thumb as he looked up. A small smirk. "I like the sound of that. I thought I was getting rusty."

"Not that I can tell", Ryan replied with a playful smile of his own.

With a short nod, Marshall slid back onto the couch and briefly rubbed the joint of his jaw. It still felt sore from the night with Nicolas, like everything else.

"Ain't Nicolas … keeping you in shape?" Ryan put his pants back in order.

"Well", Marshall weighed his head. "It's less me giving him a blowjob and more him … fucking my face, kinda. He likes to, uhm, direct things, if you will."

Ryan raised his eyebrows. "Does he?"

"He likes to order me around", Marshall continued his explanation and shrugged, "and just generally be in control, I think. That's what the belt was for. But we don't really do it often, so that's a bit in the way of 'being in shape' for now." He leaned back on the couch and tried to find a position that his ass wouldn't be too offended by. By the feel of it, the only passable solution might be a handstand. He wasn't doing that.

"Right, the sex-embargo."

Marshall crinkled his nose. "Don't call it that. That's not even it, it's more, I don't know, we don't have much time together, and certainly not alone."

Ryan sat down next to him on the couch. "Might be better. He doesn't sound like a nice guy, at least not in bed." He slid closer to Marshall. "Can I lend you a hand with that?", and gestured toward Marshall's pants, which although too big on him still couldn't hide his own erection.

"Nah, I'm fine." He picked at his pants, to find a more comfortable fit.

A questioning look from Ryan.

Marshall shrugged again. "He's a person, sometimes nice, sometimes not nice. You ain't nice all the time either and we're still friends."

"True", Ryan gave in. "But I usually try to be nice to the people I like, you know."

"Which I'm sure they appreciate", Marshall assured him with jest in his voice.

Ryan nudged him in the side. "You can barely sit right", he pointed out aptly.

Marshall shifted in his seat again. "On purpose, though. I mean, you saw him, of course he ain't into snuggling. He's a fighter. I mean, he brought a real fucking sword to the party, that kinda speaks for itself."

"That was real?", Ryan asked surprised, uneasy. "Man, he's weirder than I thought. Is that even legal?"

Marshall nodded strongly. "Exactly what I said."

"I'm starting to get why you two like each other."

"What's that supposed to mean?", Marshall asked with raised eyebrows.

Ryan shrugged unsure how to answer this properly. "Well … You are a bit of an odd person yourself, don't you think? I mean, that's part of your charm and no reason to change, but you're not really a regular guy. That was pretty obvious the first time I met you."

"Bullshit. I'm as normal as everyone else … Minus the music career, maybe, I give you that." Being a worldwide successful rapper wasn't exactly normal, he was aware of that.

Ryan grinned amused. "You, my friend, are a lot of things, but normal ain't one of them. Just think, you come her all depressed, then cry on the couch for a good hour or so, suck a friend off and now your world's fine again? That ain't how normal people behave, you know."

Marshall wanted to answer back, but couldn't really come up with words to say. 

"Plus", Ryan continued to add, "You don't get yourself off, for some reason. And that's just today. You sometimes break out randomly into a rap mid-sentence, not always on topic. You talk to yourself a whole lot, even when you're sleeping. And whether or not something's funny or angers you is decided by the flip of a coin, it seems sometimes. Although, that has gotten better. If you get something in your head, you have to do it, even if it's the most obviously dumb idea ev-"

"Okay, okay", Marshall interrupted grumpily, "I get the point, dude, I get it. I'm a weird-ass person, thanks for sharing."

Briefly Ryan pulled him into a hug with one arm. "No reason to feel bad. We like you, because you're a bit weird. At least, I do."

"Heartwarming, that's just heartwarming", he answered sarcastically.

"Good, we're on the same page there." Ryan flashed him a smile.

Marshall rolled his eyes, that seemed to be the only answer to make sense. He leaned back and let his head fall on the back rest of the couch. The ceiling was chiding him, the dark grey color strict and austere. The message was clear: He had fucked up again. But what else was he to do?

"I used to practice, you know", Marshall said in a calm voice. He managed to break eye contact with the ceiling and looked over to Ryan. His friend had a puzzled expression, so Marshall added: "Blowjobs, when I was a kid I used to practice them."

Ryan still seemed puzzled. "What?"

"I wanted to be good in something." He shrugged. Wasn't that obvious? You practiced, what you wanted to be good at. That's how life worked. "You know, I wasn't good at anything. Well, I could draw but that ain't impressive, is it. Was before I started rapping."

"Sure", Ryan nodded slowly, "I get that. But why this of all things? That's a weird choice."

It probably was, now in hindsight. "Seemed to make sense at the time. I had a huge crush on this guy and I thought he was the coolest, you know. Like you do with thirteen, anyone older than you is the coolest or something. He was so fucking proud of this one porn movie he owned." Marshall snickered briefly. Kids could be really stupid, just because they didn't know any better yet. "Seems really dumb now. Main attraction of the thing was a woman sucking a dick, so the guy of course went on and on about that. Not that he knew anything real, but you know kids, they never admit to that. So I thought, that would be a good way to impress him, to make him like me."

"There's some twisted kind of logic in there, I guess", Ryan reluctantly agreed, still looking at him skeptical. "So you practiced? How? I'm assuming, if you wanted to impress him, you didn't practice on him."

Marshall let out a short, amused snort. "God forbid, no. I wanted to do it right to him, anything less would've been defeat. Mostly I practiced with bananas. I mean, come on."

"Really?", Ryan asked with mild surprise. "I thought you didn't like them. Or wait, ain't you allergic? Someone was allergic to them …" His gaze shifted away for a moment, thinking.

Marshall shook his head, still leaning on the back rest. "No, I just tell people that. I actually used to like them quite a bit, but … Some wires got crossed or something, is really embarrassing now, or was back then at least. Haven't tried them in a while."

Ryan raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Don't tell me you get hard, when you eat some piece of fruit."

"Technically, bananas are an herb, not a fruit."

"How do you even know that?", Ryan asked stumped.

"I just told you, I used them as practice. I spent a couple of months with them before I moved on to the real thing, of course I picked up something like that. I used to know why, though, but … I think, that's lost now." In the end, that wasn't impressive knowledge, so who cared.

Ryan shook his head with a brief laugh, the grin showed his teeth. "Dude, just when I thought you couldn't get more random. Must've been fun to hang with you as a kid. Something's always up, hm."

"Nah, I was pretty boring as a kid. Still am."

The grin on Ryan's face told, that he didn't agree with this statement. But he thought better than to dwell on it. "What happened then? Was the guy impressed with you? I mean, you sacrificed eating for him."

Marshall sighed. "Nope, he wasn't. I didn't even get that far. Apparently, it's more fun to beat up a gay kid, than to get your dick sucked."

"Ouch …"

"That's what I said", Marshall agreed. "Well, before I collapsed. Didn't do much talking then."

Ryan shook his head, "Not what I meant." He put his arm around Marshall's shoulders again, this time permanently. "His loss, man. The things you can do with your mouth are impressive as fuck, rapping or otherwise."

A genuine smile on Marshall's lips. "Thanks."

Chapter Text

Marshall looked at the table and counted the plates once more, seven. He smiled for a moment, thinking how amazing it was that his family counted seven people in total. That was a lot of people. Even if they weren't always nice to each other, he was thankful for everyone of them. Which fitted perfectly the theme of the evening.

He called them all for dinner and while they seated themselves, he mixed himself another glass of the red drink he recently had grown fond of. As he came back to the table to take his seat, he halted for a moment. His three girls sat at their usual places, expected, but his ex-wife and his brother sat as far away from each other as possible, which somehow left himself to sit between his maybe-sister-in-law and his ex-wife. Just a little bit awkward. Oh well, he was an adult. Since when? You, my little gay looking boy, hadn't had a growth spurt since you sucked your first dick. He could eat civilly next to Kim.

So he sat down. "Everyone, dig in." It followed the clings and clangs of plates and pots being passed around and the chatter of "Hand me the gravy" grew into an easy conversation. Marshall didn't much participate. He wasn't in the mood for company, if he was being honest, but this was Thanksgiving and his girls deserved some wholesome family time. If not today, when else? Also, he liked to see his daughters and Kim spend time together. He hated how broken their family was, so he tried even harder to smooth things over for them. It wasn't the girls fault, that their parents couldn't be together.

His ears perked up, as his brother Nate said in a very accusing tone: "You have a boyfriend?" Marshall thought in a moment of shock this was meant for him and tried to find an excuse. But there was none.

Then, Kim answered: "So what? Am I not allowed to date?"

Nate responded with a disapproving huff.

"You date? Huh. Cool", Marshall said and continued with his meal. Relieved. Pussy. Your friends knew all this time, what makes you think your family doesn't?

Kim looked at him lightly annoyed. "What?"

"Uhm, good for you?" Was that better? He shrugged.

Now she seemed just puzzled. "What?"

"Hope, it's going well for you two", he added, but she still looked at him confused. "I don't know. What you want me to say?" No one wants you to say anything. Just shut up, fag!

She frowned. "I didn't expect you to say anything."

"Oh", he tilted his head slightly, nonplussed. "Well, then pretend I didn't." I wish I could, but fuck me is your voice annoying. And no dick in sight to shut you up.

"So, you're cool with her dating some random guy?", Nate asked, still with this accusing tone.

Marshall shrugged again. "What's it to me? She's her own woman and we've been divorced for years. If she wants to put herself out there, that's her business."

Kim gave him a short but friendly smile.

"And it's always some random person, until they suddenly ain't anymore. That's how meeting new people works", he added. They'd gone through enough shit together and tried hard enough to make it work and it just wouldn't between them. What else was he to do but to let go? However hard that was. He still thought of her as family, he always would, and he loved her, but he also sometimes hated her fiercely. They both deserved to find some peace and it wasn't with each other. A truth, that was hard to swallow.

"Why so nice all of a sudden?", Nate asked perplexed.

Lainy grinned conspiratorial as she explained: "Maybe, because he has a girlfriend, too. They've been going out for a while now."

"You've got a girlfriend?", Kim asked surprised and eyed him up close.

Marshall shrugged. "Not for long. I'll probably end things soon." He already should've had. He never should've started this relationship in the first place. A fistfight was never a good start for romance. You don't do romance, homo, don't kid yourself. Did he never learn from his experiences? He always made the same mistakes over and over again.

"What? Why?", asked Hailie. "The other day you said, everything was going fine. What happened?"

How did he always end up in these conversations? "We want different things. That happened. And I don't want to talk about it, Hai-Hai. Is that really so hard for you to understand?" But you keep talking about it. Why can't you shut up?

"I see", Kim said in a bored tone as if she had heard this story a thousand times before. Also, bitter. "She's serious and you aren't and now you're dumping her. That's your problem, you know, you don't take these things serious. You're too selfish."

Marshall sneered: "I take them serious enough." In this case, his own well-being and his own life were a very serious thing to him and Nicolas clearly made a threat, he should not ignore. Was that selfish? Nevertheless, they were still texting each other. Nevertheless, he was fucking things up already.

"So, is she a nice person?", Kim asked doubtful.

Lainy was quick to answer for him: "Her name's Nicky, she works at a night club and he likes her smile very much."

Marshall threw his hands up questioning and disapproving. What did she do that for?

"Night club?", Kim asked ill-humored. "Really, Marshall? Of course you have to do that. Can't you find a normal girl?"

Nate weighed his head thinking. "I can see the appeal." His girlfriend cleared her throat warningly. "For him, of course, not for me", he added quickly.

Marshall rubbed his temple. "Security, good grief, it's security, not what you're thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Well, you had a fling with a po- … an adult film actress once, an exotic dancer would actually be a step up for you." Kim caught herself fast enough, after all, their daughters sat at the table, but her discontent shone through brightly. 

He sighed. "I didn't, aight. How often do I have to tell you that? Nothing was going on there." Damn was she hot! Lucky you're famous, slut, otherwise your girly ass would never get a fine broad like that. They had these kinds of conversations too often in front of others, specifically their daughters. Was that necessary, now?

"You called her, frequently", Kim said in a sharp tone.

What a weird accusation was that, since when was calling someone a crime? "Can't I talk to people?" Marshall was growing annoyed, not just that they were almost fighting again but over this stupid thing of all things. At least airing out their shit should be meaningful, not petty, shouldn't it?

Kim shook her head. "To someone like that? No, you can't, not when you're in a relationship."

"Why not? They're people, too, with friends and families and hobbies and stuff", he argued. "She was a nice person and we had quite some things in common." I'll say! You still have her number? Two loose pussies is exactly what this night needs.

"You watched her films", Kim pressed on. "That's not having things in common."

"So?", he frowned, "She listened to my music, that's par for the course. I really don't get, what your problem is. There was nothing going on there."

She snorted disbelieving. Probably, she would never believe him. Now it didn't matter anymore.

"Anyway …", Nate stretched, "Nicky, right? Is she hot? D'you have a picture of her?"

Marshall groaned annoyed and his silverware clattered on the plate as he threw it down. "Could ya'll just drop it? I've had it up to here with everybody being all up in my business about this. If I wanted anyone to know, I would've said something. But I don't, aight. Why's that so fucking hard? Just leave me alone!"

"Marshall!", Kim reprimanded him promptly about his cursing. "Control yourself."

Nate raised his hands defensively. "Aight … Relax, bro, I was just asking."

"Eat your dinner", Marshall growled.

"I take it, therapy isn't going too well?", Kim asked with a reproachful look on her face. She always pushed further than he could stand.

He rubbed his neck trying to calm down, and rolled his shoulders. "As a matter of fact, it's going quite well. It actually works, you know." It worked a little too well. Was he really trying to be gay? His hands picked up the fork and knife again to finish his meal.

She tilted her head skeptically. "Really? Didn't fix your temper, evidently."

"If ya'll keep pestering me, I'ma lash out. Not my fault. Just because I go to therapy, doesn't mean I want to bare myself to everyone."

"Since when?", she asked cynically. "You serve yourself to millions already."

He glared at her annoyed. "Believe it or not, I don't put everything into my music. I pick and choose." Of all people, she should know him better.

"Yeah, right", Kim muttered disbelieving. Most things he said, she didn't believe. He couldn't exactly fault her for that, after all, he had lied to her - a lot. In her shoes, he probably wouldn't believe a single word out of his mouth. How Nicolas thought of him as honest, was beyond him. What would the man do the first time he caught Marshall in a lie? He'll probably put that sword of his to good use, and I don't mean the one in his pants. Let's see if you can swallow that, too, bitch. He suspected something much less understanding than how he portrayed himself so far.

"Uncle Nate?", Lainy asked, "You wanna see the vacation pics we took this summer?" A sweet attempt to change the subject. 

His brother nodded with a smile: "Of course. What fun things did you girls do?"

"Snorkeling." The rest of the dinner was accompanied by stories from their summer vacation and how school was going for the girls and similar chitchat. Marshall rather not open his mouth, he didn't want to cause any more of a scene tonight than he already had.

The game was playing on TV and Lainy's laptop was showing their vacation pictures. But Marshall hardly payed attention either way. The hand in his pocket was clasped around his phone and the thoughts in his mind were clasped around Nicolas. He should end it. Why couldn't he? Because you want his dick.

Of course he saw, how Nicolas was obviously dangerous, threatening to hurt him and also making him lose control so utterly, but to Marshall he hadn't been nothing else but nice. At least a lot nicer than most people were to him. He remembered waking up next to him, the warm body in his bed he could nestle against, the pleasant weight of an arm around him … Ugh, stop this romantic shit. Love ain't for you, slut. You fuck, that's all you do. Even when you had a wife, she was just somebody you fuck. Marshall wanted that. He ached to be with somebody and every time he was with Nicolas, it felt like with him it was possible. He knew, that was exactly Nicolas's play, the man had said as much: healing him first, so he could hurt him all over again.

Was that all his life had to offer? Ain't a bad life. You worked hard to get here. Why don't you enjoy it? The money, the fame, the women - you have it all and you're still fucking miserable. Get out there and get some life fucked into you. Being in pain for some reason or other? But when he was with Nicolas the pain eased off a little. Ever since their days at the lake it didn't feel like a disaster waiting to happen that he was with a man. Of course he was still afraid to lose his family and his friends over this, but the fear was not strong enough to end their relationship, as it would've been in the past. Probably therapy helped too, giving him hope that his daughters at least wouldn't turn away from him, not permanently. Times were changing and they were good girls, who he tried to teach an open mind. Perhaps they could overcome this eventually?

That was a hope, he felt for the first time.

And even though he had panicked hard on Halloween, he'd had a lot of fun that night as well, particularly wearing his outfit and not hiding it away. See, I told you. You should listen to me. And I say: Let's go somewhere and fuck some life into you, slut. This shit's too depressing. At least on Halloween with everybody in costume, it hadn't seemed quite so daunting and all in all, he had enjoyed that night quite a lot. More so than most other parties he went to. He slowly came to the realization his friends wouldn't leave him. Or at least not all of them. Ryan had supported him from the very first moment, urging him to try this seriously and pushing him passed his fears. Denaun had gone out of his way to have his back and take Marshall for who he was, regardless of how incomprehensible it was to him. So, if disaster still struck, there was a slight chance that at least two of his friends would be with him. That was more than nothing.

Suddenly, there was a non-zero chance things might turn out okay in the end.

And against his better judgement, he wanted to take this chance with Nicolas. Because he gave Marshall the feeling that he could be himself and Nicolas would still be there, intimately and heartfelt. Don't do this to yourself, little gay looking boy. I know you're a romantic girl, but this ain't a fairy tale, this is a porn flick. Don't open your heart, open your ass. That Nicolas wanted to still be there for him and that he still wanted Marshall, even when he made a fool of himself, even when he couldn't bear a touch, even when he was too weak, even when he was an asshole, even when he wore women's clothes, even when he lost all control of himself. If that was true, maybe there was a non-zero chance things might turn out okay with Nicolas, too? That Nicolas would still want him, even when Marshall fucked things up.

Was that worth being ripped apart for?

A pillow hit his head. "Hey!", he rubbed his neck and turned to the thrower, his brother. "What was that for?"

"Finally a reaction", Nate said. "Must've been one heck of a daydream you've had there." A grin that thought, it knew something.

"I was watching the game", he replied and pointed to the TV. Commercials, of course, wasn't he lucky.

Nate snickered. "Sure thing. Dreamed about Nicky, eh?"

"Shut up", Marshall growled. Why did everyone need to bring this up? All the fucking time somebody said something about his love life. Why the fucking hell did they do that? It couldn't be that hard to just say nothing. You ever listen to yourself, bitch?

"Well, if you don't want her anymore, what about this girl?" Nate turned the laptop around so Marshall could see the display. It showed a picture of the Halloween party, a fair skinned woman in a slinky nurse costume - a technician from his studio.

But he saw only one thing: his Halloween party. "Where did you get that?", he asked in a lurking tone. Had they more pictures? Had they already seen him? And his costume? And Nicolas? And everything?

"From Trenton", Hailie answered and shrugged noncommittal. "You're so cagey about Nicky, so I thought I ask him if he could get any pictures from the party, so that I can just take a look for myself, you know."

Shrewd. Ryan took pictures of almost everything, always having his phone only inches away. Not an easy task for his son to get a hold of it long enough to get the pictures off of it, but not impossible. Very shrewd.

How she got them, didn't change his predicament. He wanted to yell at her and take the laptop away and ground her and then yell some more. He wanted to disappear and not be spoken to or be seen of ever again, just to not exist anymore. He wanted her - all of them - to stop and let him breath, to give him the time he needed to figure things out. If he could be gay and if he could be with Nicolas; and if it took a lifetime for him to figure it out, that was not their decision to make.

But this was his daughter, he didn't shout at her. This was their family time, not a time for fighting. What if the pictures didn't show anything suspicious? Come on, even you can't be this dense. The way Ryan looked at you, I'm sure half his phone is full with pictures of you. He has a serious boner for you, fag. Why don't you put on your dress and you two fuck through the weekend? His dick is exactly right for you: absolutely horny. He had to calm the fuck down!

His heart didn't get the memo, beating rapidly and loudly, and his mind tried hard to pull words out that were acceptable in front of his daughters. "Does it ever occur to you, to not stick your nose into my life?", he said slowly and tried his hardest to sound calm.

"I figured", Hailie explained, "You're making much ado about nothing, like usual, and it'd be a lot easier for you to just not. But since you don't want to talk about her, which you made perfectly clear, we need to find a different way to help. First step is to figure out what the problem is. Hence, the pictures."

He inhaled deeply, mostly to give himself some time and think about his words first. His daughter did not deserve him lashing out and spewing mean things against her. "The problem is none of your concern, okay? I know you mean well and I appreciate the thought, I really do, but I don't need your help, Hai-Hai. Things would be a lot easier, if people would just leave me alone for once and let me do things my own way. Either I get there or I don't, but I have to do this myself - not you or somebody else. But this, what you're doing, is not helpful, okay. So, please, would you delete all the pictures? I'd be really thankful if you could shelf your curiosity on this."

"What are you talking about? What's going on here?", Kim asked puzzled by the serious tone the conversation had taken.

He couldn't help it, his eyes rolled. "Don't you listen? I ain't talking about it."

"About what?", she asked again. She'd always been good in ignoring hints, even the most broadest of hints. Not that she wouldn't get them, she did, but she disregarded them out of principle. What principle that was, he could never quite figure out. Maybe general dickishness?

Marshall turned back to the TV.

"About Nicky", Hailie explained in his stead. "They spent a whole weekend at the lake house and all we can get out of him is, that she has a nice smile or something. They've been going out for months and I only found out by accident. That's so weird."

Kim grumbled in agreement. "It kinda is. Come on, how bad can she be? Or isn't she bad enough for you? When it comes to these things, you've always been tasteless. Don't be such a drama queen, just spit it out."

"Why's it so hard to understand, that I don't want to talk about this? Do I have to spell it out for you guys?" He wondered for a moment, if Kim remembered. It had been so long ago and they'd never spoken about it again. Possibly she didn't remember or had chosen to forget, otherwise she would've used it in some of their uglier fights over the years, he was sure. Would she've used it to take the girls away from him? He was glad, she'd forgotten.

Lainy shrugged. "Because you always do. You always tell us, when you have someone for a while. We're your moral support for relationships. At least, we used to be, but ever since you two split up again, you kinda … I don't know, you gave up. Of course we're excited, when you get some life back."

"Always?", he asked a little confused. "I had like two long-term girlfriends in all my life, not counting your mom. How's that always?"

Lainy looked at him doubtful. "Depends on what you mean by long-term. But you always tell us, when you like someone, you know. When and how you started dating them, what you like about them, how your relationship is going and all that stuff. It's sweet."

Marshall frowned. "Maybe I shouldn't have." Told you, bitch.

"Told you", Kim interjected. "But you never listen to me."

"Why should I? Most of the time you're badmouthing me or I don't understand you. What's there to listen to?"

Kim glared at him darkly. "You're so full of yourself. Sometimes it's impossible to talk to you."

What did that have to do with anything? "Maybe if you talked straight, it'd be easier."

"If I could get a word in edgewise, it would. You ask, why people are always up in your business? Why your daughters stick their noses into your life? Because you make it so. You have no filter. Whatever you're thinking, you have to say ASAP or you burst or something. You can't control yourself. How d'you think I always knew when you cheated on me? I didn't want to know, but you made it impossible to ignore. The same with your music, you put everything out there, for the whole world to know. Of course everyone's all over you then."

Marshall rolled his eyes. Why did she always bring up his music? "That again. I thought, that's done. We've been over this a hundred times by now. I'm sorry, I wrote that song, okay? I write to get things off my chest, all great artists do, that's personal by nature. And it pays the bills. There's always a trade-off, whatever career you want, and for being a successful musician it's being public property. Get over it."

"Go to hell", she snarled back.

He flipped her off in response.

"Are you two done? You are the most childish grown-ups ever", Hailie said with a sigh. Then she took the laptop into her hands. "Fine, Dad, I'll delete the pictures, if that's so important to you. Looked like a fun party, though. But, if you want your privacy, that's okay, I guess. Whenever you'll need tips for a romantic date with Nicky, we'll be here anyway." She made a few clicks on her machine. "There, done, deleted."

Looked like a fun party? What was that supposed to mean? He needed to find out what Ryan had taken photos of that night. Certainly sounded like Hailie, and by extensions all of his daughters, had seen them all. Maybe his brother now, too, at least some of them. "Thank you, Hai-Hai."

"What's up with you?", Kim asked standing behind him.

Having heard steps coming into the kitchen, he wasn't surprised to be spoken to, but who was speaking did surprise him a little. They had agreed one-on-one conversations weren't good for them. Deciding his drink could wait, Marshall turned around to face her and leaned against the counter. "What you mean?"

"Don't act stupid", she snorted with snide. "That", and she gestured toward the living room. Eloquent.

He couldn't hide the eye roll. "I repeat, I ain't talking about it. And certainly not with you." As if she would have anything helpful to say or just something not hurtful.

A frown on her face. "They're my kids, too, don't forget that." I sense a cat fight coming. Ready your pussy, fag, I want you to win. You can do this!

"Don't worry, the girls are fine." He would always make sure that statement was true.

"Then why do they try to fix you again? Don't you have your therapist for that? I thought I made myself clear about stuff like this, don't be a burden on them." She had, crystal clear. As if he liked it, when his daughters visibly worried about him, of course not. What was he supposed to do? Hide himself even more from his family? That wasn't a solution, he knew, because he already hid.

He stifled a sigh. "I did not ask them to. They're kids and nosy, that's all it is. Don't read anything into it."

She had a doubtful look on her face. "Sure, like your bloody wrists don't mean anything, my ass. Don't do stuff like that in front of them, that's just wrong."

Instantly he stroked over one of his wrists, the bruises still brightly visible on his skin. Of course he wore only long sleeves these days, but he still needed to live and therefore to move his hands. Some peeking through was unavoidable. At least the light bruise on his jaw had subsided, otherwise Kim probably would've had some choice words for it as well. "Don't get hysterical. You broke my nose once - in front of them. Ain't that worse?"

"I didn't", she fended his statement off. "Your nose wasn't broken, it just bled a little. You're frail, you know that." That was a highly debatable assessment of the situation. A debate he didn't actually want to get into. Ever. "Besides, that looks more like one of your … weird things again. You found someone as dirty and depraved as you? Ew." She wrinkled her nose in disgust, not even pretending to hide her feelings about the matter.

His body tensed, preparing for a fight or maybe to flee. He wasn't sure yet. "What I meant is, there's nothing to see here and nothing to worry about."

"Everything with you is a reason to worry about." A motto of hers.

He hated it, when she talked like this. Mostly because he thought she was right, sometimes because he knew she wasn't. "Let me be clear, it's nothing you have to worry about."

She cocked her head. "So, there is something to worry about? I knew it."

Again, he couldn't keep his eyes from rolling. Somehow she was even better at twisting his words than he was. "No, there ain't. Just because I grapple with something, don't mean anyone needs to worry. Just enjoy your time with the girls."

"You grapple with something?", she made air quotes around his turn of phrase. "About what? That you ruin everything, particularly in bed? Making it weird like that won't fix it, believe me."

He knitted his eyebrows. "That ain't a very festive way to talk. It's a holiday, lighten up." Maybe he could salvage this conversation enough for it not to break out into a serious fight.

Kim's face stayed sour.

Honestly, he expected that. "It's none of your business."

"Of course it is", she rebuked. "We have a family together. So by extension, whoever you date is my business, especially if she's unsuitable to be around the kids."

He looked at her dumbstruck. Where even to begin? Everything about that sentence was … wrong, just plain wrong. On that thought, he send a quick prayer to his therapist, that he actually caught this instead of falling for it. "No!", he managed to say. Was it worth arguing over? They never came out the same side.

"Yes", she insisted with a strong nod. "I won't stand for you dragging another slut in here. You're bad enough. The kids live here, think about that."

"He ain't-", Marshall bit his tongue hard. Fuck. "Believe me, I won't ever bring anyone home that couldn't be trusted with the girls." In fact, he hadn't brought home a single girlfriend before. Not that he'd had many long-term relationships at all, but even the one that had lasted a whole year he had not introduced to his daughters. It just didn't feel right.

"He?", of course that was the word she focused on. "What'd you mean, he?"

Marshall shook his head. "Nothing. Let's go ba-"

"This Nicky is a guy?", she interrupted him. "You're dating a guy? Did you break your brain again? You can't do that!"

"Yes, I can! I can do whatever the hell I want!", he snapped back. "You don't tell me what to do, we ain't together anymore. Shut your mouth and spend time with the girls, that's all you're here for."

Kim had this angry glare in her eyes, he knew so well. "Don't you yell at me! I can't believe you're doing this to me. To them! Didn't you fail us enough? How broken are you? And I thought - I hoped you'd gotten over it. I mean, you aren't some confused teen anymore, grow the fuck up. You know, this shouldn't - cannot exist. You can't be serious! This is wrong, you know that, deep down you know how wrong this is. You're sick, really sick. Disgusting even. Do you really think, you could live like this? That this'll make you happy? Nothing will ever make you happy. You will die alone! And if you really go through with this, I take the kids and leave the fucking country!"

His hand shot forward and grabbed her arm tight. "You won't!", he growled angry. "Don't you even think about taking my girls. If you think I made your life hell so far, believe me, this will look like a picnic in comparison."

"Let go off me!", she wriggled her wrist in an attempt to free herself. In vain. "You prick! Let go, you're hurting me!"

Marshall pulled her in close and put more pressure into the hold. He was certain, he would leave a bruise with a grip this strong and he was pleased with the thought. "If you take them away from me, I'll find you and make you pay. You hear me?"

There was a smidge of fear in her eyes, but her anger usually won, they had that in common. "You'll only have yourself to blame! You're the same sick fuck you always been. A useless, ugly nobody! A repulsive, abhorrent thing and you can go whoring yourself out to your fans as much as you want, it won't change that you're done. You're almost forty, your best days are long behind you, but you're still the same weak, out of control scumbag you've always been. No matter how many pills you take or how much money you throw around, you'll stay the same sick, perverted asshole!" She twisted her arm out of his grip. "At some point, even your money can't make up for that."

Again, his fists clenched hard, he felt his nails dug into the palms. Violence may not be a solution, but sometimes it was the most satisfying action. He wanted to. He wanted to so badly. "Leave! Go! Get out!", he yelled at her, venting his anger this way. "Get the fuck out of my house! Before I forget myself!"

Kim flipped him off. "Yeah, throw me out, that won't change anything. You better break up with that gay whore of yours. Ugh, so gross, you're fucking disgusting! I don't even know why I put up with you." She turned on her heels and walked to the door, but before she left, she looked back at him one more time. "Really, you need to stop all of this, I won't have my kids near a couple of perverts." 

"Just go and die already!", he threw at her instead of the punch itching in his fist. 

With force she threw the door close behind her, a loud bang that was audible throughout the whole house.

A glass shattered against the door and red juice dripped down the wooden panel. "Fucking bitch!"

Chapter Text

Nicolas looked up into the sky, white with clouds. Why had he to pick up groceries today? He hated stores on a normal day, the day after Thanksgiving though was uniquely brutal. But they needed jam, he had to concede, also that he was the one who had emptied the glass. The phone vibrated in his pocket, two distinct vibrations meant Marshall had sent a message. He shifted the paper bag in his arms to better pull the device out of his pants. The message read: I can't do this no more

What had happened now? As far as Nicolas knew, the aftereffect of their highly pleasurable but also abruptly ended night had worn off. It had taken a couple of days, but eventually Marshall had sounded normal again - to say happy would be a stretch even on a good day with the man. However, he would have assumed a whole day with his children would bring Marshall close to that emotion. Apparently, even a day like Thanksgiving couldn't achieve this. One more lie TV had told him. Still, didn't give him a clue on what exactly this text was about. Nicolas replied: what happened? I'm sure, it isn't as bad

Most things weren't as bad as people thought. All a matter of perspective.

A thud into his torso, he looked up from his phone. And raised an eyebrow. What did Nina do here? And why was she running down the stairs without looking? Dr. Theo would chop his head off, if anything happened to her here. The Doc was too protective of his niece.

A short nod, then he walked past her up the stairs to the apartment. Worick stood there only in briefs and his eyepatch, otherwise naked; Alex in her usual provocative outfit - short and tight. He would've ran from them, too. But he squeezed past them through the door and went into the kitchen.

Another message came in: you gonna break up with me anyway, better we do this now before it hurts

Nicolas raised both eyebrows at this. How was a man as stunning, talented and successful as Marshall so insecure? He already told the man numerous times, he wouldn't easily break up with him, but that somehow didn't seem to stick. A suspicion crept up in Nicolas, that some of Marshall's relationships probably broke because of these kinds of statements. He could imagine, most people didn't like to hear accusations about a negative future, they didn't intend to make real. Also, it was annoying. Nicolas replied: I don't see any reason. I enjoy dating you. you don't?

Then he unpacked the groceries. After everything was stowed away, he took a bottle of water and a can of soda out of the fridge.

In the living room, meanwhile, Worick, Alex and Nina seemed to make small talk. Glad, he had not to participate. Coming in with stealth, he put the cold can against Nina's neck. She jerked up. So easy to spook her. >Take this, we ran out of mineral water. So drink this one.<

With slow signs Nina said: >Nico, you always say that. But you always buy one of them for me. Thank you.<

From the corner of his eye, he could see Worick whisper into Alex's ear. "She comes here occasionally to play and she's learning sign language from Nic as an excuse. Isn't she cute?"

Alex seemed touched. She wasn't with them terribly long yet, there were lots of things and many people she didn't know.

As a rebuttal of her cute smile, Nicolas pinched Nina's nose. That's what she got for thinking he was nice to her on purpose.

"So, Nina", Worick started, "What brings you here today?"

"Well", the kid stuttered and ruffled through her hand bag, "Dr. Theo sent me here, along with this medicine." She pulled out two bottles of pills. "He's expecting these to run out of stock soon." Dr. Theo's calculations were slightly off, they were already out of stock.

Nicolas sat down next to her. >Thanks<, and took the bottles from her, inspected them. They looked less full than usual? >He really is the best at cutting corners when it comes to his medicine.<

"She works as a nurse at Doctor Theo's clinic", Worick explained to Alex. "We're looking after her every now and then. She may only be a little kid but her work ethic puts us adults to shame. And she's also very skillful at working on stitches."

Alex looked surprised at the twelve-year old girl. "A nurse? That's amazing."

"Ah, not yet", Nina deflected, "I am still an apprentice." Of course the girl was selling herself short. Nicolas trusted her more than the Doc.

Now he popped some of the pills into his mouth.

Nina pulled at his shirt. "Nico! Not again! Don't do it! You shouldn't take an overdose!"

>It's alright, it's alright!<

"No! It's not okay!", she persisted and tried to grab the small bottle from his hand.

Worick was faster, much to Nicolas's annoyance. "Hm, sending you here with these, I wonder what sort of job does Dr. Theo expect us to deal with."

>Today was supposed to be our day off<, Nicolas declared. Couldn't Dr. Theo deal with things himself? Wasn't like the man was incapable of doing so.

"Hey Nic, don't interrupt me when it gets important!", Worick chided him.

>I was only joking!< Another text message vibrated in his pocket. Maybe he wasn't joking after all. Marshall did take up a considerable amount of time to deal with.

Worick continued: "Could Dr. Theo probably be involved in something with some group again?"

Nina sighed. A serious face on a girl this young looked wrong. "If his opponents were ordinary people, he would be requesting this from Inspector Chad, but …" That could be interesting.

"I see, so there is a Tagged among them."

His thoughts exactly. >That tagged guy, is he strong?<

Nina explained: "The guys that came to our hospital may be lackeys of Mr. Adriano, but he couldn't blow a single clean hit. I'm certain those guys are B-grade or a higher rank."

That sounded almost worth his time. Good. He stood up and grabbed his sword to fasten it to his belt.

"I'll join you a bit later", Worick informed him. "Need to tie up some loose ends first. Got it, Nic?"

Nicolas snorted in derision. He took the bottles of pills and put them into his pockets, with the same movement he took his phone out. >You'll have to buy me lunch for this.< He went out the door and read the message from Marshall: yes and no. it's complicated

What about dating was complicated? It wasn't necessarily easy, but those two things weren't the same. Nicolas replied: you should do what feels good to you, what you want to do. that's how I live

If it meant, Marshall didn't want to be with him, Nicolas could understand that. Wasn't like he felt undying love for the other man and he was sure to find someone else to fuck, if he so desired, also probably someone who was easier to handle.

Nina followed him quickly and took his hand, as they walked down the alley. A couple of houses down, she halted her steps and looked back.

>What's wrong?<

"… Something just happened", she said.

Nicolas took an educated guess about what she meant. Worick must be tying up his loose ends right about now. >But I didn't hear anything. You're just imagining things<, he told her. Curious, that they followed her here.

She smiled awkwardly. "You couldn't do it from the very beginning, Nico …" After a second she added, "Nope, nothing's wrong. Let's go. Doctor Theo should be tired of waiting by now."

No wonder, the Doctor had no patience. >Next time, when you decide to come to play, don't carry any dead weights with you<, he explained to her. But that meant, whoever had it out for the Doc was serious.



As they came around the corner to Dr. Theo's clinic, which didn't really deserve the term clinic, they saw a group of half a dozen men standing at the door. One of them was Dr. Theo himself and he was arguing with the intruders, his eyes tiredly looking over his glasses. Another one was a huge black man, by guess 6'5" tall with a broad back and bulging muscles. He seemed to be the boss of the group, probably himself just an errand-boy to whoever wanted to mess with the good Doctor.

Dr. Theo greeted laid back. "Hello guys. Sorry for disturbing you on your day off, Benriya. Is the other guy slacking off?"

Nina was hiding at Nicolas's side, wary of the intruders.

>My pal's gonna come later. If you need another job done, tell him.< He didn't care to lip-read the shouts of the intruders. Who cared what they had to say?

"D-Didn't I tell you, not to come again?", Nina said, still clinging to his side. "Don't be a hindrance to Dr. Theo anymore!" She had courage, some.

There was commotion in the group of men trying to get a hold of their friends no doubt. But Worick had already killed them all. Nicolas gathered enough to know, whatever these guys' plans had been, it was falling apart quick.

The black man grabbed the one with the bad news by his face and slammed his head into a nearby wall. Blood. He turned around to Nicolas and said: "Looks like you took real good care of 'em, Benriya! I've heard the rumors. Rumors of some tagged Asian dude on 8th street and he turns out to be a teeny midget!"


"Anyway", the black man continued. He grabbed the chain around his neck to show off his dog tags. The rank said B/2. That would be a nice distraction. "Let's bring it on, bro. I'll just have to put on a good show for the sake of my subordinates."

An idiot as well. Nicolas checked his phone, no new messages yet. Then he turned to Dr. Theo and asked: "Your orders, Doc?"

Dr. Theo took a long zig from his cigarette. "Hmm, do as you like. But make sure Insepctor Chad's bunch don't have to clean up afterwards, okay? And don't let Miss Nina get a single wound, else I'll kill you." That Nicolas believed, no doubt.

He took a few steps toward the B/2. From his back pocket he retrieved his own dog tags to show off his own rank: A/0. The shock on the tall man's face was delicious. They all underestimated him at first glance, their own fault. Nicolas put the chain around his neck again, where it belonged. B/2 was nice, but not too strong and Dr. Theo said, he could do as he liked. How to have fun with this?

Nicolas readjusted the position of his sword. One end of the band tying it to his belt he loosened and tied it around the hilt of the sword as well. When it was secure and couldn't be easily unsheathed anymore, he looked to the black man and held up three fingers.

Dr. Theo translated: "He says, just three minutes." A short hand gesture winked Nina to him. "Let me tell you something, it seems you're lucky, because that guy is jealous and pissed by your hearing ability. So he's handicapping himself to restrain his actions. You're an easy opponent for him."

This talking would go nowhere. Nicolas extended his index and beckoned the B/2 to come at him.

Gritting his teeth angrily, the big man did. He charged at him, ready for a wide punch of his massive fist. "You take me for a wuss?!"

But Nicolas jumped up and out of reach, while the fist buried itself into the asphalt. A kick to the black man's face, that send him down and made his nose bleed. Nicolas easily landed a few yards away.

"I don't even need three seconds!", the B/2 threatened and grabbed the pole of a street sign. "I'll smash your head and turn it to minced meat!" But with easy feet, Nicolas dodged the assault. Throwing around a pole like that was only desperate, that's what a hot temper did to you. After a couple of bouts like this, the B/2 was out of breath. "You son of a bitch! You're just recklessly moving around!"

Recklessly? Idiot. A fight needed more than a fist.

"Hey! He, Benriya!", Dr. Theo called out to him. "It's fine to have some fun, but don't let that savage run amok. He will wreck my hospital. I won't tolerate-", he interrupted himself.

Interrupted himself? He did say, Nicolas could do as he liked. No backsies now. A cold suspicion ran through his spine. He turned around to the panting idiot, but too late. The pole caught him fully and sent him flying. Ouch.

The pole speared itself into the wall of Dr. Theo's clinic.

"Haaa! You were looking the other way so … Sorry, I couldn't go easy on you. Yeah, that's it … die …" Another moment of shock on the man's face.

Because Nicolas landed on his feet. As if barbaric strength like this could throw him down.

Suddenly Dr. Theo grabbed his shirt and tried to ram a syringe into him. >Doc … Doctor, Doctor, can we save this for later?<, he signed with one hand, the other trying to fend off the syringe. >And you know that I ain't guilty. He crushed the wall! Don't point the needle at me.< He hated needles and the Doctor knew it.

"Shut up!", Dr. Theo yelled at him. "This wouldn't have happened if you had ended it quickly. Die! I'll eviscerate that three inch midget's body of yours and kill you!"

The B/2 charged toward the both of them, another metal rod in his hands. Face contorted in anger. "Cut the crap! I've had enough with the two of you! You shitty monkey and bush-doctor, you hear me!"

Some people just didn't know when to stay down.

With a fast hand movement Nicolas unsheathed his sword and cut the rod in half. "Three minutes are over!", he informed using his voice. Fear grew in the other man's eyes. "Can you handle this shit? Even if I crush your head, turn it into minced meat and do you in?" Sword in hand, a grin on his face. Now they would have some fun.

The muscular man turned on his heels and climbed up a fire escape. Idiot.

Nicolas sheathed his sword again, then took a step and jumped up, another jump from the sidewall of the building. Now he was high enough to cut downward on the B/2 and send him back to the ground. The man landed painfully on his back, a gush across his torso bleeding.

Nicolas landed on his feet next to him and also next to Worick and Alex, who must have arrived just now.

"Yo Nic, thanks for your hard work, buddy." Worick looked at the B/2 for a long moment. "Oh my … Why did you overdo it? What if he kicks the bucket?"

>He's not gonna drop dead at his level. A B/2 is sturdier than this.< And if he wasn't, well, his own fault then. >Chad?<

Worick shook his head. "He's already contacted. Screw that! You overdid it with showing off again!", he reprimanded him anyway. Then he kneeled beside the wounded man. "Level B/2, huh? This was unexpected. Such a high level guy was used and wasted just to nab Doctor Theo's business. I wonder which rich pig's organization is responsible."

Nicolas would care about that, when his sword was needed again. Until then, he had other matters to attend to. A look to his phone, another message from Marshall had come in: I already do what I want, usually only leads to more trouble

He smiled at that amused. Some people thrived on trouble, others didn't. Nicolas was sure, they both were rather similar in this regard. They needed their lives to provide some thrill in order to find it livable. They weren't normal people, no reason to pretend otherwise. He replied: then don't half-ass it. do what's right for you. trouble's there to be dealt with, not to bow down to

Worick looked at him questioningly and pointed to the phone. "Texting your sexfriend again? I'm surprised that is still going on. Did you finally hit puberty and develop a steady sex drive? Good for you, buddy." The grin indicated a joke.

Their respective attitudes toward sex were fundamentally different. Worick wasn't very selective with who he slept with, as long as the woman was attractive to him. Nicolas on the other hand was selective, being an attractive man was easy enough to manage these days, but there were other things to consider as well, like that their personalities didn't clash adversely or that their preferences in sexual activities overlapped enough. Only rarely did he go out for something quick, if his needs grew too impatient.

Usually, this annoyed him more than the subsequent sex act relieved his needs, this time though he was rather pleased with the raw diamond he had stumbled upon. After their night last week, Nicolas was absolutely sure he could satisfy his desires with Marshall in very substantial ways. On his phone was still the photo of the man absorbed with sensual bliss and eager to live out his lewd pleasures. Nicolas looked at it every night and every time his blood boiled with lust again. Sadly, the backlash to their night had been severe. Deep in Marshall rooted a fear, perhaps hatred against himself and as pointless as Nicolas found this, there was not an easy solution to it. He had seen a lot of broken people in his life, these things rarely had one cause and even more rarely would be repaired by kindness. Gaming the system by being a nice person wouldn't do here, that might work against shyness, but this was a whole different beast. Nicolas wasn't the right person to help Marshall.

Another text message came in: what I want ain’t the right thing, that's the fucking problem

Nicolas cocked his head. That sentence was more evidence for Marshall's self-hatred. Hard to answer without knowing any of the details. Understandably, the man didn't share exactly what he hated himself for, if it was even possible to convey this with words. Nicolas doubted that. He replied: if it is what you want, then it's the right thing for you. after all, you have to live your life, not anybody else, so no one else gets a say in what is right for you or not. you decide

It did serve him, that he read so much. Sometimes there were words and sentiments on the pages, that could be employed in a helpful manner like this. Personally, Nicolas didn't ask what was right or wrong, he didn't have the luxury of such philosophical qualms. And for the few moments he had cared about this question, it hadn't done him any good.

A smack to the back of his head. Startled he looked up and into Inspector Chad's disgruntled face. Great, the police was here …

The B/2 was being loaded into the police car.

"How many times", the officer started his rant, "need I to repeat myself to make you understand? Don't cause unnecessary injuries or deaths and don't damage any buildings! When you’re fighting with a tagged guy, do it someplace we, the police, can monitor! Man, I keep saving your asses only to find out that you're involved in yet another mess?!" Now his face turned red from all the yelling. "Hey! Don't you have anything to say? Nicolas! Worick!"

Nicolas rubbed the back of his head, where the inspector's fist had hit him. >I said I was sorry! So don'tcha use your fists on us, man!<

Worick held his bleeding nose. "Mr. Chad, having problems with your wife? Is that why you're in such a bad mood?" He rarely took things seriously, or showed when he did.

"That's irrelevant!" Inspector Chad didn't take well to Worick's quip. "You moron! Do you want to be tied to a patrol car and dragged around the city?!"

Would serve Worick right.

Feet tied down to the seat of his chair, Nicolas did some crunches following his training routine. The chain of his dog tags was wrapped around his wrist, so it wouldn't bother him. Near his head lay his phone. Since they had started to officially date each other, his phone was always near him in case the man texted or Nicolas had something to text. The latter wasn't as common, but he tried to regularly find something of at least mild interest to send. From the many romance books he had read - he didn't care about genres much - he knew that a constantly open channel of communication was important and should be regularly used. Not overused, just used to indicate a point of contact.

Alex came down the stairs. "S-Sorry … for interrupting."

He just looked at her for a moment, then continued with his training.

Meanwhile she went out of his sight to the corner of the room with the kitchen. Fine by him. The display of his phone lit up and therefore was more important anyway. The message read: what if the right thing for me would be to break up with you?

Nicolas got the strong impression, Marshall had a tendency to obsess over things. Severely obsess over things. He probably was thinking too much about all of this, digging himself deeper into whatever was eating away at him. How to combat this via text messages? He replied: is it though? wouldn't you have broken up with me weeks ago, if this really was the case?

He wouldn't argue that with all probability Marshall was right and the best thing to do for the man was to not be involved with Nicolas. Not because of anything Marshall did or didn't do, but because Nicolas wasn't the best person to be around. He knew that. After all, he understood why Veronica had needed to leave them. He had cut off one of her arms and they had been rather brutal and violent with each other, despite and because of how much they had loved each other. If she had stayed, they both probably wouldn't be alive anymore. Not that it had saved her.

The image of her weak, rotting body faded into his mind. Only clinging to life because of machines, not because she had any will to live left. Next time they had a delivery for Big Mama, Worick could do that alone. Nicolas wouldn't go in there again.

Another message came in: I should've

but you didn't, Nicolas replied immediately with the obvious observation. It was clear to him, Marshall didn't want to break up with him. He had the suspicion, Marshall had a hard time breaking up with just about anyone, not him specifically. The man wanted to be in a relationship, he needed to spend time with the people he loved to feel good. Not only did his face light up when he saw Nicolas, but also when he spent time with his friends, as Nicolas had been able to observe a few times. A very human quality and Nicolas didn't fault him for it. In all likelihood, there would be someone else out there, who was a better fit for Marshall and would be able to give him the loving, supportive, sociable relationship he needed and perhaps this would ease some of the pain the man harbored. That's what he should do.

But Nicolas also was sure, Marshall rarely did what an objective point of view would label a wise decision. Because such wise decisions usually made life boring and dull and in the end, Marshall wasn't build for that.

After a few more crunches and a short look to see, that indeed Alex was still in the kitchen and washing the dishes for some mystery reason, the display of his phone lit up again. The message read: but I should. I should end it, now. for both our sakes

This wasn't going anywhere. Text messages were a good medium to keep the channel of communication open, but it wasn't the best medium to discuss a serious topic or even solve a serious problem. Nicolas replied: wanna meet?

He really would like to know, why the man was so adamant about this at this point in time. Usually an objection or two was enough for him to drop this, at least for a couple of days. Now he was rather persistent. Something must've happened that threw their relationship into question, maybe even more for Marshall. As far as Nicolas knew, the man hadn't totally come to terms with his homosexuality yet. Another thing he himself thought of as pointless, but people led different lives and considering the bottomless well of sad stories that seemed to be Marshall's life, there might be good reason for the man to act this way. Who knew?

What could make the man withdraw this strongly? Because even though he didn't seem sold on the idea of a gay relationship, he clearly was trying to warm up to it. Apparently he had found the good kind of therapy, that worked by affirmation and acceptance. What would be strong enough to undo all the work he had done so far?

Marshall's answer came in: no, you only lull me in and make me forget why this is bad

Nicolas chuckled at this very astute assumption. Of course this was his goal, he wanted to stay in their relationship and go further with it, after all. His lesson for Marshall to give up his control over himself wasn't completed yet. He only had learned that he needed more finesse and perhaps subtlety. Nicolas replied: can you fault me for trying?

While waiting for the next answer, he decided to abandon his training for now. Constant interruptions like these weren't conducive to the purpose of his training, although most of the purpose was to not be bored. With Marshall texting him, he wasn't bored.

Nicolas unfastened his feet from the binding around the chair and stretched his limbs for a few moments. He realized, Alex was drying off the dishes. Briefly he frowned about this. With his phone firmly in his hands, he left the area to the small room in the back, the bathroom. He needed a shower.

Marshall's text came in: I don't get you

That was entirely Marshall's own fault. Nicolas was as straightforward, clear and honest as he possibly could be. If the man didn't believe his words, that was totally on Marshall himself. Nicolas replied: what's there not to get? I want you, it's as easy as that

He had just shed off his clothes, as the answer came in: yeah, I don't get that. ain't like you're a fan or groupie or some shit

Nicolas raised his eyebrows, as he read the message. A little more ego wouldn't hurt the man. He responded: seriously, what happened? did you have a fall-back to last week? He sat down on the closed toilet seat waiting for the answer. This started to be really worrisome and needed to be handled immediately and carefully.

As it finally came in, Marshall's message read: my ex-wife. she was here for the girls yesterday. we had a fight

Presumably not much of a surprise, this seemed to happen to enough divorced people as far as the media was concerned. Nicolas had no first hand experience with a situation like this, but he knew Marshall and his ex-wife had a rather strained relationship. At least if his songs were anything to go by. The two of them didn't talk about her and Nicolas thought, he didn't need to be interested in the story. Well, evidently he had been wrong about that. He answered: I'm assuming, the fight had something to do with us? Why else would Marshall's reaction to a fight with his ex-wife be to have second thoughts on Nicolas?

Did she find out, her ex-husband was gay? He supposed, she wouldn't like this fact, pure conjecture on his part. As far as media went, which was his only source for how regular people acted in life, this would be a rather heated topic and maybe lead her to feel invalidated or offended. Sure, the realization one might've only been used as a cover-up Nicolas could understand to hurt and enrage. He wouldn't take lightly to that either. Then again, what right did he have to cry foul on anything? If Worick so ordered, he would have to follow, it was as simple as that.

Marshall’s next answer arrived: she threatened to take my daughters away

That was certainly an overreaction. It was as plain as day how much Marshall loved and cared for his children. How was his sex life of any importance to that? Puzzled for a moment, Nicolas scratched his neck. Then he cursed himself for his obliviousness. He hadn't to care about this, but people had all kinds of reservations and superstitions about homosexual people, or just about anything they didn't like. Hate was a strong motivator to find excuses. He replied: that won't happen, not on my watch. I take care of her

Nicolas turned on the shower, but before he could get one droplet of water on his body, his phone lit up again. Marshall had texted: NO! fuck no, don't do that!

It was the obvious solution to his problem, but if the man wanted to do it the hard way, so be it. Nicolas answered: fine, I won't. tell me, when you change your mind

Then he stepped under the warm water and washed his body quickly. If this was the ex-wife's fault, he could take a few minutes to clean himself up. Also take the time to think about how to remedy the situation. If Marshall's hesitation about their relationship was only founded on some stupid remarks by his ex-wife, it should be fairly easily possible to get them back on track. Whatever she had said probably had only reminded Marshall about why he had his misgivings in the first place, but that wasn't necessarily a reinforcement. He had overcome them to a degree already, Nicolas needed to remind him of that and how much Marshall benefitted from embracing himself, instead of denying who he was. In that, their goals overlapped.

As he stepped out from the shower, a new message had arrived already: I won't! don't do anything to her, aight?

I promise, Nicolas replied and sighed. What a shame though, she kind of deserved it. He added to his message: don't let her get to you. if she can't take you like you are, she never deserved you in the first place A little cornier than he liked, but Marshall responded quite well to sentences like this. In the end, the sentiment was true, why obscure it by phrasing it edgy on purpose? No use in that.

Nicolas toweled his body off and slipped into fresh pants.

A new message came in: you're right. she ain't the boss of me anymore. I'm the guy who doesn't give a fuck! I certainly don't give a fuck if she thinks I'm wrong or whatever

Interesting turn of phrase. He wondered for a moment, if Marshall was aware of his tendency to be subservient. One would assume, people were aware of these kinds of things about themselves, but considering how repressive the man was against himself, he might not. Nicolas hadn't had the opportunity yet to watch Marshall in varying different social circumstances, so there might still lay surprises ahead. But as far as he could tell, toward people he trusted Marshall was easy to relent. Despite his own words the man cared deeply and with devotion, sometimes to the point of self-sacrifice. He wanted to be of use to the people around him.

Which Nicolas had no problem exploiting. He hated to serve someone. Now being self-employed, he only had to take orders from Worick, that he could manage. That was only right. Being on the other side however, ordering someone else around, he liked the feeling quite a lot, honestly. And it was rather irresistible to not make Marshall submit.

Nicolas answered: that's the spirit, kitten, you want to be with me and there's nothing wrong with that. she needs to keep her nose out of your business

When he left the bathroom and entered the main room of this floor again, Alex was gone from the kitchen area. Good. There was some prepared food under saran wrap on the counter.

The familiar vibration in his pocket, Marshall wrote: I do. fuck it if it's wrong

Chapter Text

Her hoarse scream echoed from the walls and her manicured nails scratched his scalp holding on to his short hair. A push, or a yank? Hard to follow a direction this conflicting, but she screamed again hoarsely. It send a pleased shiver over his skin. He could feel her body tremble underneath his fingertips where they touched her thighs.

Then shallow breathing filled the room. "Damn …" Her legs came down to rest on his shoulders again, all their weight on him and with careful hands he laid them back on the bed. Marshall rubbed over his lips with his thumb as he looked up. A small smirk. He liked the sound of that. On his hands he crawled up to look into her face properly. The lipstick on her pouty lips was a little smeared and the golden glitter on her long lashes had rubbed off on her cheeks. Her honey brown eyes returned the look with a content smile. Probably, she was a nice looking girl, well, woman he assumed, under all that make-up. Make-up made everyone look nice, even him, so that wasn't anything to judge somebody by. But that wasn't of interest right now anyway. He needed to know if she had liked just now and judging by that smile, she undoubtedly had. Then he had done this right. Good.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in close, a seductive bite to his ear. Was she learning what he liked? "Let me show you my gratitude."

Marshall shook his head and sat up. "I'm fine." Wasn't like this turned him on. You're too gay for your own good, fag, eating out a fine pussy like hers and all you can think about is sucking dick. All you think about. "You might wanna touch up", she wouldn't pick up many clients if she looked already spent. They all knew, what she was, but the illusion usually was supposed to be the opposite. Then he climbed off the bed.

She stood up herself and pulled her skirt with the golden floral pattern into position. It matched the floral lines of the bed covers well. On Purpose?

"What's your name anyway?", he asked. What's it to you? You won't remember.

The smile on her lips deepened, he wasn't sure with what. "Call me Iris."

He tilted his head.

"It's the name of a flower", she explained and pulled a small mirror from her purse.

That made sense. "Seems to be a theme here."

She smiled amused and corrected her make-up. "It's better than Chastity or Purity, don't you think?"

A small chuckle left him. "That's true. I always find that off-putting."

Now with her appearance back in order, she took a step toward him and swiveled her hips while she did so. "You seem more relaxed now, up for enjoying the evening?" A seductive flutter of her eyelashes. "Maybe I can show you my gratitude later?" Hell yeah, let's pollinate her flower!

"I doubt that, but sure." Briefly he shrugged with his shoulders and laid an arm around her waist. "I was planning on having a nice evening with my friends, so there's that."

"Sounds perfect."

With his arm not leaving her waist, they left the room and went down the stairs. Mellow sounds dominated the main floor of the club. On this night again, the busty singer stood on Bastard's stage and sang. This time she wore a short, black dress and it was just as unable to rein in her goods. While he watched her for a moment, Marshall remembered that she was a friend of Nicolas's and even lived with him. Was a figure like hers tempting for the man? Jealous? Would serve you right. Look, what you just did, slut. Even if not, was she trying to tempt him? More importantly maybe, was his other roommate slash best friend slash gigolo equally good-looking? Marshall didn't know much about him, not even his name, he just realized. That was odd …

He wiped the thoughts from his mind and after a quick exchange with a staff member he found the table in their name. Ryan and Denaun were already seated and provided for with drinks. So, Marshall and the petite blonde in his arm walked over to them. A short greeting as he sat himself down, she leaned close to his side.

"You found company quick?", Ryan asked, but his gaze was fixed on the girl.

Marshall shrugged. "So? I came here early, needed to blow off some steam."

Ryan furrowed his brows deeper. "Thought, you'd been all good since … last we talked." You ain't never good, bitch, just bad and a little less bad.

"Kim found stuff to bitch about", he muttered annoyed by the memory. Would not be the last time the two of them clashed, didn't mean it was particularly thrilling when it happened. That they spent this night at Bastard's of all places was actually a blessing in disguise. You could just grab a girl if you needed to, nobody said anything. There's plenty to say about that. Let me start with, you don't deserve any of these girls, fag.

"Didn't hear that name in a while", Denaun stated. "Can't say I was sad about that."

Marshall shrugged. "Me neither, but it's that time of the year again." On the one hand he liked these holidays at the end of the year, but on the other hand it meant he had to spend time with her. And at the moment, it felt almost unbearable.

The petite blonde played with the pendant of his chain. "Maybe tonight you'll give me that dance, hm? That'll be more amusing."

"Maybe", he gave in and stroked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Ryan cleared his throat, a doubtful, disapproving look on his face.

"You got something to say?", Marshall bristled. There was no reason for his friend to give him this attitude right now. No reason? What about you sucking his dick? What about your boyfriend? What about you being gay? What about you liking her dress more than her? There's plenty reason.

"You know that without me saying anything", Ryan replied sharply.

Marshall huffed annoyed and in a biting tone he said: "Ain't my fault your mistress ain't on your call tonight. Don't mean, I can't have fun."

"It's a Tuesday night, other people have to work", Ryan defended his mistress and her canceling their date.

Marshall just shrugged to that. He hated what usually counted as a work schedule. As much as he was a creature of habit and tried to fit his studio hours into a more normal 9-to-5 routine, that didn't vibe all that well with his creativity. It was more a way to spend as much time as possible with his daughters, that he worked like this. When they weren't home, he wasn't home and when they were, he would be as well.

"Don't you have Nicolas to have fun with?", Ryan pressed on harshly.

"What's it to you?", Marshall asked back. "You don't think that's much fun anyway."

Ryan nodded grimly. "And if you need her, then you don't think of it as much fun, either." He got a point there, little gay looking boy. You had a fucking meltdown 'cause you have too much fun with him.

"Oh, now you know what's fun to me and what's not?" He sneered with a thick layer of sarcasm: "Sorry, next time I want fun, I call you first." Why not? I'm sure he remembers how to fuck you good.

Denaun rolled his eyes. "Guys, save your jealous fits for your actual lovers. This is ridiculous."

Marshall snorted dismissive.

"Speaking of which", Ryan pointed out smugly and nodded toward the entrance.

Nicolas had entered the night club and walked directly to their table. As far as Marshall knew, his boyfriend didn't have to work tonight. Being self-employed had its perks like that. So probably had working as a handyman in the underworld. Marshall didn't really expect them to be up at seven o'clock in the morning.

As the man arrived at their table, a similar doubtful look settled on Nicolas's face as his friend had sported earlier. For a moment his scrutinizing look wandered around the table, but he sat down without a word next to Marshall. He laid an arm around Marshall's shoulders and pulled him a little closer.

The petite blonde on Marshall's other side raised an eyebrow questioningly; he squeezed her waist reassuringly for her to stay.

You doing what I think you're doing? I'm all for it, a threesome's always a great way to spend the night, slut.

Ryan still showed the smug grin and made a short hum, probably meaning something along the lines of: See, I told you.

Marshall flipped his friend off. He had absolutely nothing to say about a situation like this, not one word. Also, this wasn't much of a situation at all. A hooker sat next to him, that wasn't a crime, that was her fucking job.

Directing his question to Nicolas, Denaun leaned forward: "You're alone? Kitten said, you'll bring your friends tonight. I'm really curious." In all likelihood he only wanted to wring out an introduction to that singer lady. He really had an eye out for the busty woman. Nothing on Nicolas said, he would have interesting friends.

Marshall rolled his eyes at the nickname he couldn't get rid off. 

But Nicolas didn't bother to reply, instead he turned to Marshall with a smirk. >Did you? Are you using hanging out with your friends as an excuse for your own curiosity? I see right through you, ice princess.< Nicolas had made sure to teach him 'ice princess' in ASL. Another nickname Marshall couldn't get rid off.

>I'm not responsible for their …<, he thought a moment what the sign for stupid was. It was easy but not obvious … Right, the peace sign at your forehead. >… stupidity. That's all on them, don't drag me into this.<

"You're really making an effort, huh?", Ryan observed, his tone half amused and half something darker.

Marshall tilted his head with question.

In a general motion Ryan gestured at him. "It's admirable how you learn stuff to impress your crush. So much effort." Oh, he didn't just say that, fucker! Go, get your fist out, bitch!

Marshall bit down hard, he felt his teeth grating against each other. This was not a compliment, but an attack. An underhanded one at that, using their friendship for it. How did he deserve this? What had he done wrong now? "Maybe you should try that for your wife. I'm sure she'd appreciate a little effort from you, that can go a long way." The hand on his shoulder was gently caressing him, a reminder that Nicolas was here, with him. That was comforting.

"Communication is key", Nicolas said out loud, his eyes piercing through Ryan. "So is respect for your partner and their preferences."

Denaun stepped in: "I think it's pretty cool. Talking with your hands, that's a pretty cool concept, don't you think?"

"It is …", Marshall answered slowly and he had a hard time refocusing his eyes on Denaun. "It's a different language. Sometimes it's totally mind-boggling how ASL expresses things, very different than English does."

"That must be hard to learn", the petite blonde said. "I once took Spanish in high school, just learning to say new words is hard."

Marshall shrugged. "I like language." The more differences he found between the two languages, the more excited he got about learning it. If he would've known that earlier about himself, he might've started learning languages as a kid. That probably would make things easier.

Denaun snickered warm. "I can so see that: You sitting in your kitchen, glasses on and poring over a textbook in one hand, a notepad in the other. All scribbled over in that chicken scratch of yours."

Marshall knew, that wasn't far away from the truth and described most of his nights these days rather accurately. You didn't learn a language from slacking off, you really needed to dedicate your time to it. Although he still missed a lot, when Nicolas signed, he usually got the gist of things and his own signing was coming along as well. He was quite pleased with his progress.

"You have glasses?", the petite blonde asked. "That's pretty sexy. Why don't you wear them now?"

"Nah", he lightly shook his head.

"Next, you start rapping like that", Denaun joked on and made some mocking hand gestures, as if he were to use sign language.

Marshall snickered on that. "Why not? It's pretty awesome, ASL rapping, you should check it out." There were some videos of that on the internet. If he had some time to analyze all the little movements, he not only learned a lot about ASL but also appreciated the art behind it. It was a different way of expression, but skillful nonetheless.

A waiter came to their table and Marshall wanted to order a coke, however, Nicolas signing his own order interrupted him, now that he understood. His boyfriend ordered for the both of them. Marshall raised an eyebrow about that, then shrugged. What was the difference? His friends already knew he was gay and in a relationship with a man, a girly drink wouldn't make it worse. My words exactly!

Of course it really was the red drink that landed in front of him as the waiter came back with their order. Marshall had suspected as much.

"Hey, you know what you get your kids for Christmas yet?", Ryan asked out of the blue, question clearly directed at Marshall.

Who was by all accounts surprised about the question. That turn was sharp as a razor. "What now?" Was this another attack and he just didn't get it?

"It ain't even December yet, dude", threw Denaun in.

"By a day", Ryan dismissed. "I got five kids, that takes time, you know."

Denaun shook his head. "Two of them barely walk, they don't care what you get them."

Ryan grumbled in response: "Doesn't make it easier." He looked to Marshall. "So? You done any shopping yet?"

Denaun sighed heavy.

"Some", Marshall shrugged. He felt a little sympathy for Denaun, who didn't have kids and sometimes got bored with these conversations. "But it's low key at our house, they never get big presents or anything. Some DVDs or stuff like that, that's enough." He wanted Christmas to be about the sentiment first and the presents second. Love wasn't anything you could buy, but with a thoughtful gift you could show your affection. On top of that, he didn't want to spoil them too much. Just because they had more than enough money to fulfill every single one of their wishes, didn't mean that was a good parenting style. He wanted them to grow into well-adjusted and responsible people; not spoiled rich brats.

"Of course it shouldn't be too big", Ryan nodded in agreement. "But DVDs? That's a bit too small …"

Marshall cocked his head. "What's the problem?"

"I don't know what to get them", he stated the obvious. "Especially Trenton."

"Ask him." Wasn't that just as obviously the solution? Marshall didn't really see why this was so hard.

Ryan leaned back, his nose crinkled. "I can't just ask him."

"Why not? How else'll you know, what he wants? Or the others." Marshall really found this to be blatantly obvious. "Let them make a list and you get them, what seems appropriate. That's what I do." Mostly. If he stumbled upon something, that was just perfect for one of his daughters, he wouldn't say no.

"You do that?", Ryan asked surprised. "Don't you kinda just know what they want? You're their father, after all, and you're really good at that."

Marshall snorted amused. "I can't read minds, dumbass. Their kids, they have a different idol every week, I can't keep up with that. Believe me, I have better things to do than to update on the newest gossip." Occasionally it was fun to listen to them, when they tried to explain to him the latest developments of school intrigue. But he couldn't be bothered to remember for long. Not everything in their lives was of utmost importance, however much he loved them.


This really was a classy night club, Marshall thought as he dried his hands with a paper towel. An embossed paper towel, it showed the Bastard's logo. This was some heavy attention to detail.

He left the restroom and headed back to his friends. There was commotion at their table. Why? He was too far away to be sure. Ryan and Nicolas had clashed, so much was evident. Both standing, the other's shirt grabbed, their faces close in threat, fists ready to punch. Denaun next to them, talking at them. So was an employee of the club, wearing a dark suit like all of them. 

Finally Marshall came close enough, the first person of which he understood a statement was his boyfriend. Nicolas signed: >He started it!<

The employee rebuked: "That is not of importance", a stern expression on his face. A deep scar ran across the man's cheek bone, from the bridge of his nose to his right ear.

"You better fuck off!", Ryan snarled in a dark tone. "You hear me? Leave him alone!" Not the best choice of words toward a deaf person.

Nicolas raised his middle finger in response. Always a gesture easy to understand.

Ryan punched the smaller man in the nose. But Nicolas grabbed the other man's head and butted his forehead into the face. Now, both noses were bleeding.

"What's going on here?", Marshall asked bewildered. How had this happened?

The employee pulled forcefully at Nicolas and with the help of Denaun was able to separate the men, barely. But he now stood between the two and scolded Nicolas. "Miss Christiano won't be pleased. Even when you're here as a guest, you need to retain manners."

Denaun shrugged as he answered Marshall: "One moment they talk, next moment they fight. What do I know?" Only slowly and tentatively did he loosen his grip on Ryan.

"You were here", Marshall replied reproachful. "You should've held them off."

"How?", Denaun asked, "I ain't their fucking babysitter. That's your job."

The employee turned toward them now. "I'm very sorry Mr. Brown disturbed your evening. We will make sure, this won't impede your enjoyment of our establishment."

Marshall waved the apology aside. "It's fine, man, don't worry. We did invite him, so it's partially our fault, ain't it. Nothing's impeded, I'm sure." He threw an angry look at his friend and at his boyfriend respectively and added: "And I'm also sure they gonna kiss and make up now. Won't you, guys?" His tone shut down any backtalk. With three kids, you needed that tone in your arsenal.

The two squabblers glared at each other defiantly, daring the other to break first.

But before one of them could loose their silent fight, there was more commotion in the club. This time at the entrance. They all turned around.

A woman and a man had entered the club, they exuded an aura of danger and trouble. The woman wore a black coat and underneath a mini dress, which hugged her buxom figure tightly. The smile on her face was disturbing. The tall man grinned just as menacingly. Tanned skin, blonde hair, a tattoo on his left arm.

Marshall sucked in air. Striker. Fuck.

"Spas!", Striker called out, "Let's play!"

The Bastard's employee with the scar cursed under his breath. "Nicolas, help secure the guests", he ordered immediately and went toward the newcomers. "You don't need to do this, Striker. We can settle this peacefully."

Striker laughed briefly, threateningly. "We could, but I don't want to." Then something else caught his eye as he was looking at, apparently, Spas. "Nice. When I'm done with you, I know how I'm gonna celebrate. Yo, Shady!", he called clearly out to someone else, to someone behind Spas, "You still owe me that blowjob."

To Marshall. Who felt the first icicles of dread form in the pit of his stomach. "Fuck", he whispered. Instantly his hand shot up to his neck, where the man had grabbed him hard a few weeks ago. Eight to be exact. Fifty-six days to be more exact.

Striker grinned pleased at the reaction. "You remember me, great."

"Who's that?", Ryan asked in a low, angry voice. His face showed, he already had a pretty good guess.

Nicolas's hand squeezed Marshall's shoulder firmly. >He won't hurt you again<, he promised with a serious expression. Not a second later, he had left his side and stormed past the employee named Spas, rushing toward Striker.

"Nicolas!", Spas yelled in warning, but too late.

Nicolas's fist connected with Striker's face and send the tall man almost to the ground. But Striker was quickly back in balance. "You little shit!", he growled, aiming for a punch himself. Without effort, Nicolas jumped out of the way and up, his hands on his hip, where his sword should be. But it wasn't there. In the fraction of a second he repurposed his jump and rammed his foot into Striker's face, kicking the tall man across the room. Tables toppled. Drinks spilled. Glass broke.

"Brown!", someone else yelled in warning. "Stop it! You can't!"

A panic broke out. High pitched screaming, people rushed from their seats and ran for safety, but orientation was lost. The employees of the club came forward, trying hard to calm down the guests and to show them the way to the doors.

Nicolas attacked Striker again, but this time the hit didn't land. On the contrary, he was himself thrown into a wall. It cracked.

"Nicolas!", Marshall cried out, finally breaking his stupor and wanting to rush to his boyfriend. But two strong arms held him back, more they tried to pull him away, to safety presumably. As if he cared for that! He tried to break away from them.

"Don't! Are you crazy?", Ryan said with alarm about the display of strength from the two men.

Denaun warned: "You can't head in there! That's insane." Shock in his eyes at how immediate the level of violence had risen high.

But Marshall had to go! Nicolas fought for him, of course he had to help. Especially since Nicolas fought without his sword, clearly his weapon of choice. Which wasn't here because of Marshall, because he had told his boyfriend not to walk around with a real fucking sword in public. Now Nicolas was without any weapon against someone strong, someone with two clubs. This was his fault.

His muscles tensed and his blood was boiling. Still he fought against the grip his friends had on him. Finally, Marshall pulled free.

"Striker!", the Bastard's employee with the scar yelled. From the watch on his wrist he pulled three fine wires. "Leave, now!" The two men locked in their fight.

Before Marshall could reach his boyfriend, who he wanted desperately to be near, a tall black man with broad shoulders and dreadlocks stood in his way like an unmoving mountain. From his attire clearly an employee of the club. "Sir, you need to head for safety. This can get ugly."

"But Nicolas", Marshall started a sentence he didn't know how to finish. He didn't need to finish. But Nicolas! His eyes tried to find his boyfriend, but couldn't see past the mountain of a man. His fists clenched helplessly in agitation.

"Don't worry about him. Now go."

Ryan pulled at his arm again. "He's right, Nicolas clearly can fight for himself. Come, let's go!" A dark gleam of fear on his face by the eruption of brutality all around them.

"This ain't a normal bar fight, dude. We can't butt in in that!" Denaun had followed him just the same. Eyes equally wide at the abrupt shift toward carnage in the club.

From behind the broad back of the man appeared Nicolas. There was a laceration bleeding from his brow, otherwise he looked ruffled but unharmed. >It's okay. Go! I take care of this<, he told Marshall.

"The hell you will!", he yelled, voice raw. "That shithead ain't worth the trouble. Or your blood." His heart beat loudly and fast, pushing his own blood through his arteries and melting his insides with heat.

A tremor went through the building as the fight between Striker and Spas exchanged particularly hard blows. Furniture was scattered across the room, glass had fallen and broken on the floor. The employees still worked their best, to move all guests out of harms way.

The employee in front of him gripped Nicolas by the back of his shirt and lifted him easily off the ground. "You did enough, Brown. Nothing but trouble with you."

Nicolas stuck out his tongue at the man, looking even more childish than the gesture usually was.

"So, you're the little manwhore that stood him up?", said a smooth feminine voice behind them. Striker's escort.

Goose bumps rose on his hot skin and Marshall swiveled around. "I ain't little, you bitch. Fuck off!", he growled at her dark.

Unperturbed she sized him up, then she wrinkled her nose in disgust. "He could do so much better. What's the fun in breaking toys that are already broken?" As a warning she let her whip crack in the air. "Be a good little whore and save your energy. You'll need it later."

Marshall bared his teeth. "Fuck off!", he growled again. His muscles were taut, almost tearing and he breathed heavily. He threw a punch against her face, pleased when his fist connected with her jaw. As if he was one to easily back down. 

Again, Denaun grabbed his shoulder, trying to get him away from all of this. "Let's go, man. Now! Dude, she got a whip!" His voice filled with gravity and urgency.

"Marshall, get a grip, man!", Ryan urged him, pulling him as well. "This's serious. Think of your kids." The only ace in his sleeve.

The woman touched her lips and looked in surprise at the blood on her fingertips. "Have you no decency? Hitting a woman like a Neanderthal." She clearly was mocking him. This time, her whip was meant for him.

But Nicolas intercepted it with his arm, where the thong coiled around it. His face was contorted in rage. From his other hand fell a small orange bottle, empty from the pills it had once contained. Then he rushed the woman, pushing her back with hard blows.

Marshall picked up the bottle, the label had Nicolas's name on it.

"Damned faker", the black man with the dreadlocks cursed. He hurried away, brass knuckles gleaming on his fists.

"What the fuck's going on here?", Ryan muttered under his breath. "Fine club, huh?", he huffed toward Denaun.

Marshall's eyes looked up from the label and found Nicolas, his eyes glued themselves on every move as his boyfriend was beating that fucking woman. A suspicion grew in him, that this was what Nicolas had held back from him. How much his boyfriend came alive in violence, something a couple scars and a mean grin couldn't tell in detail.

Denaun shrugged noncommittal. "What? It was. Until all hell broke loose."

A loud bang echoed through the building. A gun shot.

Marshall ducked down, so did his friends. Even the people fighting stopped their assaults. Everyone was looking up to where the shot had come from.

At the top of the stairs that led to the bedrooms stood a teenage girl with curly blond hair dressed in a white blouse, a brown skirt and a bowtie around her neck. She held a gun in her hand. "Enough!", she yelled with a stern face. "I won't tolerate any more chaos in my establishment."

Cars emptied out of the parking lot. All guests were leaving Bastard's after the incident. Only the employees stayed to clean up the mess of broken furniture and spilled drinks the fight had left behind. No doubt the main room would be reconstructed immediately, so business could be back up and running as soon as possible. At least, that's what the manager assured them and every single guest would receive adequate compensation for the inconveniences tonight. Marshall would not have thought, the huge black man with the dreadlocks was actually the manager of the club. His jovial smile didn't fit that position well, if he was asked. But luckily he wasn't the boss of this establishment. Being boss was hard, anyway.

All of this was irrelevant.

Marshall leaned against the hood of his car, arms folded across his chest and watching with a deliberately stern expression how the cars left the parking lot. His heart was still beating hard and his skin was still hot from the blood rushing underneath. A stir like this always tore at his nerves. He tried to still his temper.

At the driver's side stood Big Eight, vigilant to what else might happen tonight, but waiting with thin patience for Marshall to get into the car. So that, finally, he could take his boss home and to safety.

"You guys should go", Marshall directed toward his friends, both were still here. His voice strained under the pressure to sound even and calm.

Ryan's breath was visible in the cold air as he spoke: "So should you." 

"Besides, we ain't leaving any time soon", observed Denaun, a skeptical eye on the row of cars that queued at the exit of the parking lot. Something was halting the progress, that they couldn’t see. He stuffed his hands deeper into the pockets of his coat.

"Still, go to your cars, warm up", Marshall insisted. They had already reached the first hours of December tonight and the first snow was already here.

But his friends stayed, where they were.

With a furrowed brow Marshall steered his gaze to Nicolas, who was standing close and inspected a tissue for signs, if his nose still bled or not. "What did you think you were doing?", he asked his boyfriend, his voice dropping into a grave whisper. His tension only showing itself in how his hands dug hard into his arms. "You could've seriously injured yourself. Or some bystander. Those two weren't fucking around, couldn't you see?" 

>He hurt you<, Nicolas signed as if this explained anything.

A hot shiver ran down Marshall's spine. "I don't fucking care!", he yelled. His composure broke. "You wanna beat and kill everyone who ever hurt me? Are you fucking insane!" He really needed to be more careful what he wished for. "You would need to clean out half the city, you fucking moron! Use your goddamned head next time!"

Ryan put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, aight?"

"Don't touch me!" Marshall pulled his shoulder away.

>I will.<

Marshall's body stilled. His heart stopped beating, his lungs stopped breathing, his muscles stopped twitching. His mind stopped.

>I will kill them<, Nicolas repeated with dark earnest. He stepped closer to Marshall, stepped right in front of him and the white puff of their breaths mingled. In a hoarse whisper he said: "No one hurts you but me." With a strong grip he squeezed Marshall's cock, achingly hard in his jeans.

Movement exploded in Marshall. Hard he grabbed Nicolas's jacket and pulled him closer. His mouth crushed into Nicolas's, a frantic kiss. Their bodies pressed firm against each other, pressure against his crotch and a desperate moan left Marshall's lips.

Blindly they reached for the door handle of the car, too absorbed with their lips and hands touching each other, and somehow they scrambled inside. Even before his back could make contact with the backseat, Marshall's hands shoved the coat off of his boyfriend's body. Who in return opened their pants, the clatter of belt-buckles was barely heard.

A cold breeze blew into the car and over his dick, Marshall shivered and moaned. Instead of Nicolas's tongue in his mouth, two fingers jabbed inside and without a thought, he sucked them wet. His hands clung on to Nicolas for dear life.

But this was no good, his legs couldn't part wide like this. He pulled himself up and onto Nicolas's lap. Closely pressed together, their dicks rubbed against each other. Both moaned. Another ecstatic kiss. Marshall closed his fist around both their erections, pumping them together, and so did Nicolas, their fingers brushing each other as they chased their orgasms together, breathlessly. When Nicolas's wet fingers entered his hole, his hips rolled down on them eagerly and chasing him deeper into lecherous uproar.

Their climax was rash and desperate and brazen.

With his eyes closed, Marshall listened to their panting and leaned his forehead against Nicolas's. His fingers trailed through the hair on the back of his boyfriend's neck. Now he could feel the tension trickle out of his body with every new moment, slowly but steadily. "You really are insane", he whispered.

Lazily Nicolas nudged his index into Marshall's chest, the meaning plain: You, too. Perhaps, there was truth to that. 

A cold shiver shook his body violently and Marshall opened his eyes to find out, why. Usually, he didn't get cold easily and even when, Nicolas was warm enough for the both of them. Assessing the situation, he came to understand. His coat was missing, his sweater was pushed up and his pants were pulled down, exposing his torso to the cold breeze. Marshall raised his head and saw, the car door was open. That explained it, of course. Sitting openly and half-naked on a winter night, you would freeze fast.

Another shiver. Hastily Marshall put his pants and sweater back in order, grumbling about the lack of a tissue to wipe down their mess. But he rather be dirty than freezing. Relieved, he found his coat on the ground, but Nicolas's feet were standing on it. "Come on", he grumbled some more, but he couldn't pull it free. The cold began to bite into his clothes fast and deep. He climbed out of the car and urged: >Hurry, man, it's freezing.<

After a second, Nicolas handed him the coat through the door.

"You're unbelievable." Clearly Ryan's voice, also clear, he was seriously pissed.

Marshall turned around and looked into the faces of his two friends and his bodyguard. Mortified he tried to say something, but no words came out of his mouth.

How about 'If you had fought, I would fuck you, too, right now'?

Chapter Text

She greeted him with this warm smile of hers. "Good to see you again. It has been a while."

Marshall shrugged with his shoulders. "I got a demanding job, I don't always have time for this." That wasn't the reason. The rational side of him knew, she wasn't pissed at him for canceling their last appointment, but the other side of him was still brusk.

"I know", she nodded, "It wasn't a criticism, just an observation. Let us start with a follow-up to our last meeting, kind of tying things up a little. How did your Halloween party go?"

Instantly he tensed at the memory, his friends looming over him, telling him that they knew, that everyone saw right through him. Like he was made out of glass. But the world was still standing. Somehow. "Fun. Hot. Panic. You were kinda right, going like that was a bit coming out-ish."

"How did that go?", she asked kind, not at all insisting on: I told you so. She had every right to hang this over his head, but she didn't.

"Well …", he started and wasn't sure how to put the night into words. Now that the dust had settled and everything was set and done, at least regarding his friends knowing, it wasn't really that bad. At least he thought so. "It kinda went the wrong way around, I think. Like, they told me that they know, that they've always known. I kinda panicked, but … They're my friends, my family really and, I don't know, I think it's gonna be okay? I mean, they didn't beat me up or stuffed me with pills or preached the gospel to me or anything. Quite the contrary, we all went out after that, you know, my friends and me and Nicolas. That was embarrassing as fuck, but they seem to be going along fine. Mostly." Whatever Ryan's problem was, he'd like to know. 

She nodded her head pleased. "I'm glad to hear that. It's always best, when we don’t have to hide ourselves from the people we love most. And it sounds like your friends are trying to integrate Nicolas into your group?" He nodded briefly as an answer. "That is a very good development. Not always does it work out, when our friends and our lovers cross paths. It's good to hear, in your case things are going well so far."

"I think so", he agreed. "Nicolas really tries hard. He didn't object at all, when they grilled him. I warned him, but he wanted to do it anyway. He says, friends are important to me, so he goes through with it."

A genuine smile appeared on her face. "I'm really glad to hear you have a supportive environment around you. You're very lucky to have people like this in your life. I wish, more people had that, then my job wouldn't be needed as much."

A little sheepish he rubbed his neck. "It's not a big deal, we're just friends and that's what friends do …" Friends stuck up for you, they always had done so. Why would it be different now? Ask your panic brain, that has a strong opinion on that.

"They should, yes", she agreed in a grave tone. "But not everyone reacts with sympathy when a loved one does things in a not so common way, or just in a way they don't agree with."

Marshall sighed deeply. "Yeah, I know. Kim didn't. Again."

She tilted her head with question. "I wouldn't have thought, you had invited her to your party."

"Thanksgiving", he explained, "She came over for the girls, you know."

"Ah, I see, of course. I imagine things were a little tense? Did you do the calming exercises we practiced? You know for yourself, getting agitated by her doesn't do much good."

"I know. I tried", he sighed deeply once more, "But I failed." Like he always did.

She nodded understandingly. "That's alright. You're human, not a robot, no need to feel bad about that. Just practice more. You don't have to be perfect, okay? Try to find a place, where she can't reach deep."

"Easier said than done." If he had a place like that, he'd had an easier time dealing with her. But such a place in all likelihood didn't exist.

"I'm aware", a comforting smile on her lips. "Tell me what happened. Perhaps we can find out, what went wrong and devise a strategy for the next time you meet her. Christmas is coming up, I'm assuming that'll mean for you to spend more time with her."

"Of course, it's Hailie's birthday." He would never stand in the way of his little girl enjoying her birthday and Christmas, that included having her mom around - without her dad being an asshole about it. Sadly, Thanksgiving had already been much of a disaster and he didn't know how to prevent this from happening again. Only idea he had was breaking up with Nicolas and stay silent throughout all the holidays. And that sounded awful. But maybe, for the sake of his little girl, he could manage? He'd do anything for her.

She looked at him expectantly and inquisitive.

Marshall sighed once again, probably a theme for today. "It wasn't bad at first. I mean, we bickered like always, but nothing too bad. Just the same old stuff. But then … We were alone in the kitchen and everything went sour." He ran a hand over his face. "I know, I know, I shouldn't talk to her alone, that never ends good. It just happened." 

"Life tends to do that. But you already know, the two of you being alone exacerbates things, I don't need to tell you that. It can be hard to leave a room or a situation, especially if the other person is insistent, but in this case it's the best thing to do. Did you try?"

"Not as much as I should've", he admitted.

"Try harder next time", she said amicably. "Even if she gets angry at you for being rude or accuses you of running away, that is probably still better than letting the conversation unfold more naturally."

Marshall slumped down into the couch cushions, an admission that she was right, like always. He should've left the kitchen as soon as she had walked in, but his dumb ass had to stay and actually engage in her conversation. Why didn't he learn?

She pushed a strand of her curls behind her ear. "It sounded, as if she'd found out about your relationship with Nicolas, or that you're homosexual. Did I hear that right?"

"Yeah", he muttered and shuddered at the word, the memory. "I kinda slipped or something."

She made a prompting gesture for him to continue talking.

He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for the recounting. "The girls are a little nosy that I have a relationship. I don't want to tell them, yet … ever … It's a bit grating but I can handle them. But that must've peaked her curiosity or something. She told me off. Said, that the girls aren't supposed to worry about me and my dumb problems - which I know, she doesn't have to tell me that. I don't want them to worry about me, either, aight. And she said, that my relationships are her business, too, to make sure no one bad gets to the girls. As if I would let anyone bad come close to them, ever. Who she thinks I am? I love the girls more than anything, I would never let anything bad happen to them. So, I told her: no. She insisted. She said, my relationship's a bad thing 'cause she, of course, thinks it's a stripper or a prostitute or some shit like that and … I mean, I get why she would think that, but it's only 'cause it's easier this way, no stupid flirting or feelings required and shit. Don't mean, that's actually what I want in a relationship. Shouldn't she know me better than this? And sure, Nicolas ain't the best company to keep, I know that, but I don't think - I don't want our relationship to be a bad thing, you know. I wanted to rebut her, to say something about Nicolas, that he ain't a bad person - that's when she heard it. Then she went on a tirade about how wrong and sick I am and how shitty of a person I am. And that if I don't break up with Nicolas, she's gonna take the girls away from me, like out of the fucking country away and …" He bit his lips hard at the thought of losing his daughters.

She leaned forward in her chair and spoke softly. "She can't do that, Marshall. Remember that, she can't take them away, least of things because you're in a relationship, a same-sex one or not. You have the custody of your children because you're a good father and provide a better environment for them, despite your life being rocky at times. Homosexuality is no grounds to challenge this ruling."

Marshall let out a shaky breath and unclenched his fists slowly. "I know. I know that, it's just … She already did this shit once, and I hate it."

"Understandable, you're a father first and foremost. That is precisely why she can't do this. The court decided, it's in the best interest for your daughters to stay with you. There's no reason to overthrow this decision, especially now when you and your life are stable and healthy." Her calm, soothing voice gave some gravity to her words.

Still, he snorted dismissively. "Don't feel stable and healthy to me." Other words came to his mind: weak, out of control, failing.

Her eyes searched his figure for something. "The rest of her words don't sound … particularly nice, to say the least. Do they stick with you?"

"I try not to", he said in a low voice. "But I fell into old habits again." He always was fucking things up.

She nodded in a thoughtful gesture. "These things don't resolve themselves so easily and you two spent a long time with each other. You can show some forgiveness for yourself. Everyone would be deeply hurt by what she said just once, but you endured that for years and you're still standing strong. That is remarkable."

Marshall shook his head. "Strong ain't really the word that comes to mind, Doc." Neither was remarkable. He wasn't special enough for a word like that. "And it ain't an excuse to cheat on Nicolas either. I shouldn't have done that."

"True, that wasn't a good move", she accepted. "What happened to boxing? That worked adequately well before."

"It did a little, but she really got under my skin. And I talked with Nicolas a bit, that made things better." He scratched his neck shyly. "He said, I should live my life how I want, not what she says. That sounded right." Like something he would hear here in therapy and he knew the words from here were good, even if he couldn't always believe them.

She smiled at him. "I like to hear that. He seems to care a great deal about you, doesn't he. I'm glad your relationship develops so well."

He bend over and buried his face in his hands. "Until I fucked it up again."

A thoughtful hum from her. "That is a delicate situation. You probably should talk with him about this. What happened with your ex-wife and about how exactly Nicolas himself approaches the topic of faithfulness. So you two can map out the line together. People sometimes have different views on this topic, some are more lax than others. He seems to be supportive of you, he might be able to give you a little space in this regard."

"Yeah, no", Marshall growled and shook his head. "I'm pretty sure I know his view. He's … a bit possessive? Yeah, I think you can say that." Giving someone a collar like a pet and calling them 'mine' counted as possessive, right? It felt that way.

"Is he?", she asked with raised eyebrows. "Well, a little bit of jealousy isn't harmful, but if the word possessive is an accurate description, I strongly advise for a clarifying conversation. If this word is fitting, that often indicates somewhat harmful views or behaviors. Even more important, then, to determine what you as a couple will consider unfaithfulness and what kind of reaction is acceptable should it occur nonetheless."

He growled deeply. "I don't want it to occur nonetheless", he mimicked her tone of voice. "I don't want to cheat on him. I didn't want to cheat on Kim, either. I sure as shit don't what this to end the same horrible way." But he was already on that path and there was no way of leaving his nightmare. "You have to fix me!" Nicolas deserved a better man than him and Marshall wanted to be this better man, if he only knew how. Was this more selfishness?

A sympathetic nod. "I understand your anxiousness. But you know by now, some habits are hard to break out of and this is a long-standing habit of yours. Don't expect it to be fixed within a few hours, these things take time. That's why it's best to talk with him about this. So far, he's been understanding and supportive, right? When you explain to him, how things ended up this way and your desire and hard work to better yourself, it might not end in a worst case scenario."

He let out a long, deep sigh. "I was afraid you say that."

"You've been in my care for a while now, nice that some things seem to finally stick", she smiled with jest.

"More than just that, Doc", he replied with a small smile of his own. "But what if it ends in the worst case? If he can't be understanding and supportive of a cheating asshole like me? I mean, who could …" He didn't deserve Nicolas's understanding and support anyway. Not even two months and he already fell into it again. How harsh Kim had been wasn't an excuse. Even if, how he had used his friend for this … You barely touched him, don't get hysteric over a blowjob, fag. He was the worst. Not only would Nicolas leave him, but Ryan was angry with him as well. He really fucked everything up that was good in his life.

She clicked her tongue. "Before we engage in some hands-on therapeutic approach about anything, we need to assess the problem first and what the goal for change is here. Right?"

Marshall raised his eyes to look at her and nodded in agreement. They've been here before. "Yeah, sure. You can't fix anything, if you don't know what's broken or what the thing's supposed to do in the first place." That was just logical. You could probe around, but that usually let to more damage. He had a similar approach to his music, if it didn't work out right. You could try out stuff all you wanted, if you didn't get a vision of the finished song at some point, you wouldn't be able to finish it. "Aight, I'm on board. What you need me to do?" He halted for a moment, because he knew this. They had tackled some specific problems in the past, he already knew how she assessed things. He groaned slightly annoyed. "More embarrassing talking, ain't it? That's what you need me to do."

"Well, it is your behavior and mind that we're trying to guide into more wholesome ways. And I can't read minds just yet, so for now, talking it is. Let's start with the problem. What is that exactly?", she asked.

"That I don't want to cheat on Nicolas. I just said that."

She tilted her head slightly. "Isn't that more of a goal than a problem? A problem is some form of difficulty, something that has to be resolved in one way or another. How would it be difficult for you to not cheat on Nicolas?"

"I don't know", uncertain he rubbed his neck. "I just … do that. Or already did that, whatever. I can't help myself."

A moment of silence spun out in the room, before she spoke again. "Let's go from a different angel, perhaps that'll help. Tell me about the incident when you cheated on him. What happened, what did you do or not do, what did you feel?"

"Which one?", he asked back.

She looked at him surprised. "There's more than one incident?"

Marshall shrugged helplessly with his shoulders. "Was a hard couple of days?"

"Hm", she hummed thoughtful. "Let's focus on the one following your fight with Kim. Fighting with her always throws you off balance, that's probably a good start to dig deeper into this."

"If you say so." He would not rush to tell her what a despicable friend and boyfriend … and just human being he had been. Using Ryan because he couldn't stand the sight of himself, utterly disgusting. "Uhm, I don't really know where to start, though … Kim left after the thing in the kitchen. That just completely ended the evening, no one was in a very festive mood afterward. Can't blame them. I tried to hold myself together, but I don't think I did a good job there. I was pretty shitty the whole evening actually … I really wanted it to be a good time for the girls, but she just, I don't know, she just knows what to say. And it hurts every time. I mean, ain't the first time she called me ugly and useless, but regardless how often she says it, it doesn't really lose impact. That she wants to take the girls away 'cause of Nicolas … because I am like this, that ain't making things better. So, was a pretty dark night. I spent most of the weekend hitting the bag or running, just trying to get out of my head somehow. Being too exhausted to think is one way to do that. And I texted with Nicolas, like I said. It really sounds like he wants to be with me, that's … I don't get that, but it's … Was nice to hear that after what she said, you know. Just because it's true, don't mean you actually want to know, right …" 

Marshall sighed deeply and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Fuck, man, this shit's just … I know it ain't true, like not all of it and not like this … I think? She always makes my head all soft and fuzzy with this shit. I can't be this much of a useless failure, not with all the things I've achieved over the years … Right? Some things I can do right and proper. Maybe not the things she wanted from me, but … I never was able to give her that anyway. She knew that! Why was she with me, if she couldn't handle that? One of us should've. I certainly didn't, hell, I still don't, but - That ain't no reason for all this shit, is it? If she was so fucking disgusted by me … by me being gay, then she could've the hell just left me, for good just once. But she fucking didn't and that ain't my fault. That can't be my fucking fault!"

She leaned forward and listened to him attentively. Now she interrupted and asked: "Did Kim know you're gay? Before last week, I mean."

"Oh yeah, she did", he nodded strongly and huffed. "She knew and she threw a fit about it back then, too."

"Huh, I find that surprising. Usually spouses leave, if they can't handle this kind of revelation. Some are supportive."

Marshall snorted derisively. "Yeah, supportive ain't her strong suit, or any suit of hers. But she knew, like, she knew very much from the start. We never spoke about it again until now, but she knew." If one could call it talking, what they had done at Thanksgiving. He wasn't sure that fit the description.

"How so?", she asked.

He shrugged. "Apparently, I'm bad at hiding it? I ain't really good at controlling myself and my impulses, you know that. I mean, I kinda dated her so I could hide it. Wasn't my finest hour, I know, it's pretty mean to do that, just … I couldn't stand it anymore and there was no excuse anymore why I didn't have a girlfriend or wasn't going out with girls really. I had to do something and that's what my stupid ass came up with." Another shrug with his shoulders, helpless and docile. What else could he have done? Stand true to yourself and come out? If the truth would've come out back then, he probably would've been beaten to death for good. Somebody would've finally finished the job. Maybe that would've been better.

"It's a more common way of handling these situations than you might think", she explained in her soft voice. "Doesn't make it the right way, of course, but you're not uniquely bad for trying to fit in this way." 

"Really?", he doubted that very much.

She smiled forgiving. "It's only natural for us to want to fit in with our friends, with the people around us and sometimes we try so hard, it's to the detriment of ourselves and others. That is normal, Marshall. The problem is less with you and you being who you are, and more with the system we live in and that it forces us to sometimes make these horrible decisions."

He weighed his head thoughtful. "I don't know … I knew it was wrong. You don't use people like this and deceive them. I lied to her. I lied to her about the most basic thing between us, that I liked her, that I was in love with her. I wasn't, not like that anyway. That's pretty shitty."

"Is that why you told her?", she asked.

"Ain't sure, that's how it went down …", he evaded the answer. Another deep sigh. This wasn't the time to play chicken. Damn right, girl, stay true to yourself! "But yeah, I kinda wanted her to know. I mean, I didn't want anyone to know at all, but … only 'cause everyone was giving me shit about it. I wanted her - them - to get off my back. I couldn't try any harder than I already did and she being so … incessant about it, it was insufferable." He rubbed over his eyes trying to not get too absorbed into his memories. "After the first couple of months going well enough, she was so adamant about us having sex. No clue why, neither then not now, but that was that. I just … I just couldn't. We tried often, I always failed and then we inevitably fought, which didn't really make me want it more, you know."

"Yeah, that doesn't sound very romantic", she agreed. "Do you know, why you couldn't? At some point, you found a way to overcome this after all."

Marshall sighed. "Well, kinda the obvious, she's a girl and I don't find that particularly appealing. I got over that after a while, you get used to some things." He bit his lips, deciding if he should tell the whole story or not. He knew, he should. "But also, she would've been my first, I didn't want that." He looked down to his feet as he admitted this sentimental weakness of his. "I know it's dumb to put too much stock into these kinds of things, but I just do … and I think, that was for the better in the end."

She looked at him closely, thoughtfully. "We all put meaning into certain situations, especially ones that seem daunting at first or that are new to us or are somewhat of a step into a new chapter of our lives. It is perfectly fine and healthy to do so. And if you weren't prepared to take this step with her, that was perfectly fine as well. Though, it raises the question, how you resolved that special conundrum, that you didn't want your girlfriend to be your first."

Shyly he rubbed his neck. "Well, I did it with someone else instead."

"You mean, the first time you had sex at all, you were unfaithful to your girlfriend?"

Marshall blinked for a second confused. "I never thought about it this way before, but … technically … yes?" Fuck, had he never been faithful? What a huge-ass scumbag was he! "Don't ruin this for me, Doc", he pleaded.

"Not my intention", she raised her hands in surrender. "Really not my intention. I'm just trying to understand what happened."

"It was good, that's what happened. Can we leave it at that?", he muttered.

She nodded. "Of course. Do you want to tell me how Kim found out? That isn't really clear from what you've told me so far."

"Ugh", he sighed annoyed at he memory of that particular fight. "In short, with … uhm, while I had my first time, I kinda figured out what I like. Well, I mean, I got a hunch of what I like, maybe, you know what I mean. Anyway, I asked Kim to do that, right, so we could have some progress. Wasn't like I wanted to disappoint her all the time or anything, so I thought, that could be a way for us to, uh, overcome that hurdle and get it over with, you know. Now in hindsight, I shouldn't been surprised that she saw that differently. We see everything differently, but back then we didn't know each other that well yet … In any case, she thought of that as disgusting and wrong and sick and perverted and gay and - yeah, that's the main things. Didn't stop her form using it to her advantage, though, she's never one to pass up an opportunity. And that's how that went."

She knitted her eyebrows together. "I'm not totally sure I could follow you there. Let me recap my understanding. Your very first time was enjoyable and you wanted to replicate some of that with Kim, so that you two could finally have sex because that was very important. But she didn't think highly of whatever you wanted to replicate and that's how she found out you're gay?"

Marshall nodded agreeing. "In a nutshell, yes. Turned into a huge fight and, like I said, she thought of that as gay and other things. My response was, that's exactly what that is and what I am and of course, that turned into an even bigger fight … By the end of the night, though, she'd gotten her will. She always gets her will in the end. Not that the sex was any good, even I could tell that, but surely that wasn't a surprise to anyone."

"You still went through with it, in spite of the fighting?", she asked surprised.

"Yeah", he shrugged. "Not that I wanted to, but I didn't really have much of a choice there. She's way stronger than she looks and I was dumb enough to show her my weak points, shouldn't have done that. She utilized 'em to the fullest. Huh", he realized something, "Only that one time, though. Probably more for her benefit than mine or she might've had to actually cope with the fact that her boyfriend was gay - whatever that would've meant."

"Hm", she hummed low, "That is quite a story … It's not really the way most people start their sexual exploration."

He crinkled his nose. "Sometimes you say really weird shit, Doc."

A tentative smile on her lips. "Sometimes that's the best way to say a particular thing. I'm a little curious, you never mentioned any of this before when we worked through your relationship with her. Why is that?"

"Uhm …", he shifted in his seat. "Don't know. Probably 'cause I would've had to admit I ain't into girls? Ain't like I'm good at saying that."

"True", she agreed, "But you're getting better at it. You're saying it a lot smoother now."

"Thanks?" Was that a positive? It felt more like defeat, like he gave in to this thing and he still wasn't sure if he should or shouldn't.

But she continued: "Still, sounds like a dramatic event, maybe even an impactful one. There could've been use in us discussing it with everything else related to her. Don't you think?"

Marshall weighed his head. "Of course I thought about that, but … It didn't really have anything to add, you know. We fought a lot, our sex life was horrible, so that's the same, only difference is the gay-thing. And I really didn't want to get into that, like at all."

"Well, we still did", she pointed out with slight amusement. "Okay then, if this little story isn't all that special to you, we won't dwell on it."

He tilted his head. "Should it be special to me?"

"That is up to you. I only want to make sure, I don't overlook or miss anything, that has significance to your life and your well-being. If this incident is not meaningful to you, then it isn't. And if this incident is meaningful to you, we can go deeper and work through it", she offered. "But I don't believe in making a mountain out of a molehill."

For a moment, he looked at her silently. "You mean, 'cause it wasn't really a good way to do it. I mean, I know that wasn't really … it wasn't even nice, forget about romantic or sexy or anything."

"Something like that", she nodded slowly. "A fight isn't a good basis for sex, or a relationship or for anything really. Without knowing exact details, I can only say that I see potential for some … let's call them hurtful actions for the time being. But if you didn't experience this story as hurtful or not as more hurtful than what we have discussed already, then that is alright. Just because I see something, doesn't mean your experiences have to mirror that."

"Hm", he hummed low. "Not more hurtful than most other shit that happened. I know, this wasn't a good way to go about it. I mean, now I know. I don't think we need to open that particular can of worms again."

"Then for the time being, we won't. If you feel like this needs a closer look, just give me a hint", she assured him like she always did.

"Sure, Doc."

She leaned back in her chair. "I think we got a little off the path there. How are you feeling? Going back that far can be taxing, especially if the topic isn't a good one."

"Exhausted, but not too bad, honestly", he answered and was a little surprised about his own words. That wasn't a lie. "It's weird, we've been having these fights for forever and … somehow nothing has changed. Except, I'm trying to change. It's a weird juxtaposition. I mean, she said some of the same words last week that she said all those years ago about this and they hurt just as much now as they did back then, of course, but … I could talk with Nicolas about it, in a way, that was new. That was good, I think. And my friends are fine with this, I think, that's … That is actually a very reassuring thought. Like, things are actually changing for me, even if she ain't. It's really good to see that, to have this comparison. Things are moving along, slowly but surely. I like that."

She smiled at him warm and approving. "Good to hear that. It's best to make note of this in a way you can remind yourself later, if and when things seem dark again. To remember that things are changing for the better, even if a certain situation might not feel like it. People often draw strength from knowledge like this. All the better that we made this detour then."

With a small smile Marshall agreed, "I will do that."

Chapter Text

"Really? Ain't this a bit … public?", he asked and doubtfully glanced out of the car window, trying to suss out how many people were here and how well they knew his face. Some crowds were more prone to recognize him than others.

Ryan smirked amused. "What? Eminem ain't allowed to have some fun?"

Marshall grumbled on that and still skeptically eyed the small, blinking Christmas trees that flanked the entrance as well as the sign hanging above: Merry Christmas! A Christkindlemarket. He shook his head: "Not sure this counts as fun, dude."

"Don't be a grouch", Ryan nudged his ribs. "Your people brought this with them, then it's your duty to enjoy it. Come on." He got out of the car.

With a sigh, Marshall followed. As the car door closed, it pulled away to park somewhere and wait for them. "Highly doubt that's how this works."

"Pretty sure, that's exactly how this works." Briefly Ryan put his arms around Marshall's shoulder, meant as encouragement. "Look, Big Eight's here, what can go wrong?"

He looked to his bodyguard for a moment. "I know like a hundred different ways from the top of my head." There was always something going wrong.

Big Eight just nodded encouragingly. He'd always make sure his boss was safe, but also that his boss could live a little. Everyone needed that.

Ryan pulled him through the gate and into the market. Right there to welcome them stood a tall wooden Christmas pyramid slowly turning on its axis, the figures looking out onto the visitors in solemn greeting. The lights shone brightly and warmly in the dark gray of this winter day. 

Internally Marshall shrugged with his shoulders. It was nice to do something else for a change and get out of his daily routine. Especially since his daily routine was rather depressing at the moment. Maybe some Christmassy sweets and hot chocolate would take his mind off of things for a couple of hours. "I was a bit surprised you called, actually", he said as they leisurely strolled along the way. The stalls presented all kinds of sweets and yummy food, but also festive decorations and other knick-knacks for the season one never needed, but which looked nice in the house anyway. The smells of freshly baked waffles and hot spiced wine filled the air. "You know, after the other night." Wasn't Ryan still angry with him? Marshall would understand, you didn't use friends. He had been a bad friend and he should make an effort to mend their friendship, not the other way around.

"Nah, why?", Ryan asked puzzled.

"You was pretty pissed", he explained and browsed the display of a stall with dozens of small animal figurines. The detail was astonishing. A figure of a cat playing with a ball of yarn caught his eyes. What should he get Nicolas for Christmas? Should he even get him anything? They hadn't discussed this yet. Marshall didn't know how to bring this up. It seemed so … couple-like. Were they at this stage yet? Would the man even care? Fuck, bitch, you're a grown man, act like it. He's probably gonna call you adorable for this one again, we can't have that.

"Not with you, not really", Ryan defended himself and looked over Marshall's shoulder. He picked up a figure of a black puppy wiggling its tail and looked at it intensely for a moment before he put it back. "Was a weird night, you know."

That was certainly true. "Yeah … Sorry for that."

"Not your fault, not really", Ryan defended him this time. "Nicolas is …", he was looking for the right word.

"I know", Marshall interrupted before his friend could find an adequate one. He had tried, there wasn't really a word to describe his boyfriend well. Insane and brutal, obvious from that night, but also tender and thoughtful, not to forget demanding and teasing. Truly a person with whom life would never be boring.

Ryan hummed low and they followed the crowed along to the next stall.

"What did you guys fight over anyway?", he asked. Nicolas wouldn't tell him, much to his annoyance. How could he fix this, if he didn't know what was broken? Had Nicolas found out about his infidelity? I'm sure, he'll call you out on it if he knew. That guy ain't one to just take things lying down, he's gonna strike back, hard. But why would he be fighting with Ryan instead of him? After all, Marshall had been the person to break their relationship and they had barely begun forming one.

"Uhm …", Ryan hawed, "Doesn't really matter."

"Of course it does", he insisted and looked up to him. "You're important to me."

Ryan smiled warmly. "Don't worry about it, it's fine."

He didn't really believe that. "You can tell me when something's wrong. I mean … We're friends, right?"

"Of course we are", Ryan said promptly and nodded strongly. "That don't change, don't worry. You can't do anything about it anyway, no reason to get all worked up over it."

That didn't sound any better. "Just tell me."

Ryan shrugged briefly, barely visible with the big winter coat he wore. "I just don't like him very much."

Marshall blinked surprised. "What? Why not?" Nicolas was a peculiar person, sure, but that made him so likable in the first place. Every facet of his was exquisitely different from the next, yet somehow they all belonged to the same stoic man.

"Don't know. Just don't get a good vibe from him." Ryan stopped at a stall with wind chimes made from colorful glass. The geometric shapes flowed into each other as they spun in the breeze and the light danced off of them in curious ways.

"He's cool, trust me", Marshall assured him.

Ryan hummed low and disagreeing. "No offense, but you don't have the best taste when it comes to lovers, you know."

There wasn't much to be said in his defense, so Marshall sighed and shrugged in response. He was aware of this fact, he of all people knew this intimately well. One of the many reasons this relationship freaked him out on a regular basis, he never had much luck in this regard. But Nicolas was different. Yeah, he's worse. He kills people for a living, won't stress him out at all to do it to your cheating ass.

Again Ryan laid his arms around Marshall's shoulders and he leaned into him close. Close enough to whisper into his ear: "Don't worry, I'm here for you. I'll keep you save."

A shy smile on Marshall's lips. "Thanks … But I can look after myself, you know."

"Four eyes are better than two", Ryan winked amused and dragged him to the next stall with all kinds of gingerbread.

Probably true. It was nice, after all, to have friends who cared so much and who stood by even when things were bad. Friends, who forgave your faults. Appeared like Ryan had forgiven his stupid stunt already, without him having to do anything for it. Marshall decided to get Ryan something special for Christmas. Like your ass with a bow? He needed to show how much he appreciated the other being his friend, how much that meant to him. That he wanted them to be friends, even when he did stupid stuff like this.

Big Eight cleared his throat in warning.

"Uh-uhm … 'cuse me?", a small voice said behind them. A man in his early twenties, big coat and with a nervous glint on his face stood there, two friends half a step behind him.

Marshall turned around. "'Sup?", he asked with a slight nod. He wasn't about to ruin someone's weekend much less their Christmas by being an asshole. At least, as long as that person wasn't an asshole first. This was a public space, so of course this would have to happen sooner or later, he knew that and he could handle that.

"You're, uh, Eminem, right? And Royce?", the young man said. "This is so cool! Just … so freaking cool!"

Sweet. He nudged Ryan's arm: "Look at that, you're famous, too."

Ryan grinned and nodded: "I know, I worked hard for it."

The young man stepped closer. "Could you maybe sign something for me? I'm a huge fan of both of you. I just love Death Is Certain and Relapse is pure genius, if you ask me", he started to talk while he was searching in his backpack for something for them to sign. "I'm so thrilled you two are friends again. You doing any music together? That be so fucking dope. I loved that track back on Slim Shady." He pulled a calendar out of his backpack and opened the page for today. When he handed the book to them, his nervousness caught up with him again. "Uhm, please?"

"Sure", Marshall nodded and fished out a pen from his pocket. He never left his house without pen and paper. "Glad you like our shit", he said and wrote a Christmas wish onto the page and signed it. He added a little doodle of a devilish snowman. "You'll probably hear us together again. But psst, it's still a secret, you know." He winked with that.

Ryan added his own signature to the page and some words as well. "You only keep it secret, 'cause my shit's better than yours", he joked and gave the calendar back.

"I'm worried about your delusions, man. That's all", Marshall replied jokingly.

The young man was brightly delighted as he saw that the whole page was now covered in words from the two rappers. "You guys just made my day. Thank you! This is the best Christmas ever." Carefully he put his new treasure back into his backpack.

"Happy holidays, man", Ryan wished their fan. "We better should get going, though, you know, don't wanna get into a mob here."

One of the friends stepped forward now, munching on a sweet snack. "You should go get roasted almonds next. There's an awesome booth next to the nutcracker. It got all the flavors, it's delicious. Cinnamon, salt, honey, Nutella, strawberries - unbelievable. You seriously need to check that out." Obvious enthusiasm regarding the sweet treat.

The friend with the autograph rolled his eyes and sighed. "It's just almonds, dude, not a revelation. Stop annoying everybody with it", and he shoved his friend aside.

"But it's awesome", the young man insisted.

"We will. Can't miss that, can we", Ryan assured amused.

The three friends resumed their original way, probably debating over almonds and what a freak coincidence this meeting was.

Marshall and Ryan got on with their stroll as well, passing more stalls with decorations and foods and drinks. Arrangements of evergreen twigs and fir cons were sold here, next a display of wooden Christmas trees in all sizes and colors, a stall just for candles made from beeswax, cuteness overload at the booth with angels to sit and hang and cuddle with. When they turned the corner, the first thing they saw was the huge nutcracker at the end of the line. It had to be twenty feet tall and its mouth opened and closed slowly.

"Guess, that must be where the roasted almonds are", Ryan realized out loud.

Marshall nodded slowly. "I'm surprised there ain't a booth just for nutcrackers though." Little did he know, the huge wooden statue was flanked not only by a stand for roasted almonds, but on the other side was a booth for nutcrackers in all sizes and colors.

The guy hadn't been lying, there were more than a dozen different flavors of roasted almonds and some other roasted nuts as well. They each bought a little bag, Ryan got his almonds with chocolate-mint flavor and Marshall got a batch with balsamic-raspberry flavor.

"Let me try yours", Marshall asked his friend curious and he already stuck his fingers into Ryan's nuts. He snickered at the phrasing of this thought.

Ryan smirked amused. "Only if I get some of yours." 

Of course his friend could and Marshall held up his little bag of almonds, so Ryan had easier access to them. "It's pretty good, still sweet as fuck, though."

"Fitting", Ryan mumbled while chewing and slowly nodded in agreement. This was pretty tasty.

Marshall blinked. What did that mean?

"You seen you?", Ryan said with a playful smile. "You got rosy cheeks like a toddler, that's pretty sweet. Downright cute even."

Marshall crinkled his nose. "I ain't cute. That's just the cold, dude, it's freezing." He raised his shoulders in a protective reflex and the fake fur of the coat's hood reached into his face. It tickled his nose and he sneezed small, high-pitched.

"Yeah … No, you ain't helping your case there", Ryan stated dryly. 

Marshall grumbled and scratched his nose, which was tingly from the fur. "I'm a grown-ass man, asshole", he huffed. And he sure as shit wasn't cute. Oh come on, we both know what you’re doing here, slut.

"I know", Ryan agreed with heavy nodding. "You're older than me, like by a big enough margin actually, so believe me, I know."

Marshall grumbled some more. He usually was the oldest compared to his friends. Well, in numbers at least. 

"Still", Ryan shrugged, "I think, it's a good thing, you know."

He saw that very different. Cute was for little kids and young women, not for men. Then stop being cute, bitch, problem solved. But you can't, can you. That only invited all kinds of harassment. "Yeah, how would that be?", he muttered.

"It's just how you are. I told you, I like you. I like you in all your multifaceted weirdness and that includes you being nice and sweet every once in a while." Ryan's voice dropped down to an intimate whisper.

This tone raised goose bumps all over Marshall's body. What was he supposed to answer to a statement like this? How about another blowjob, homo, he certainly is in to that. He nodded with a low hum.

"How about we try the merry-go-round next?", Ryan suggested with a smirk and changed the subject to something simpler. The old-fashioned carousel was lit just as festive as all the other booths and attractions, the horses shone white and red.

Marshall burst out laughing. "Sure, if they let two adult men with zero kids on it. They might have a rule against pervy people like that."

Ryan feigned pondering this interjection. "What a bummer, didn't think about that."

"That's what you have me for. I smell perviness ten miles away", Marshall kept joking.

Ryan looked at him for a long moment, amused and also thinking. "You still get one from me."

With an almond between his lips, he looked to Ryan puzzled. "Why?", he asked.

"The other day", Ryan explained and raised his eyebrows suggestively.

Marshall swallowed hard at the memory of it. So, Ryan had not forgiven him yet? Of course not, he wasn't so lucky. "Sorry."

"No, don't be", Ryan shook his head. "Come." He grabbed Marshall's hand and pulled him through the meandering crowd.

Surprised, Marshall stumbled after his friend. Where was Ryan taking him? Why was he pulling at him anyway? But more importantly, how could he show his friend how sorry he was? He didn't mean to abuse their friendship like this and had he been thinking straight, he wouldn't have. Surely, he wouldn't have, even he had boundaries. Who're you kidding, slut? Fine, maybe he didn't have boundaries, but their friendship meant a whole lot to him and he wasn't going to ruin it again. Or ruin it more than he already had. Why was he always fucking things up? 'Cause you always think with your pussy first. Case and point.

Ryan dragged him to a dark corner, where the lights of the market didn't reach well, and pulled him in close, their coats rustled against each other. "Don't ever be sorry, aight? You're perfect the way you are", he said with a low voice and his warm breath hit Marshall's cheeks. "Let me show you."

They kissed.

Marshall was astonished as he felt soft lips on his own and a tongue prying him open. His mouth opened on his own and their tongues met each other, just as striving as always. Not a second passed and their kiss was heated and fierce, the air in his lungs vibrated. A quick pull of the zipper and Ryan's coat was open, Marshall's arms wrapped themselves around the muscular torso. It felt almost burning hot in Ryan's cloths, only because the cold air around them was biting.

Ryan's hands found their way into his coat just the same and pulled at his hoodie impatiently.

The grin on Marshall's lips got absorbed into their kiss. But he knew a better way to express himself and his hands cupped Ryan's crotch. His friend was well on his way to hardness. That made him sigh with want.

Ryan did the same to him, his hand on Marshall's groin felt the same exact thing: arousal getting high. Their lips parted, barely an inch but enough to feel it as a loss. "Let me make it up to you", he whispered. "Let me treat you right."

Marshall's ears heated up at those words. Nervous, he bit his lip and had to look away. A second, he paused. "Why's there straw here?", he asked. Hahaha! Finally you turn your life into an actual porn movie! Perfect!

"Who cares", Ryan dismissed the question and opened Marshall's belt. He kissed him again feverishly and his hands grabbed Marshall's ass tight.

Another wanting sigh from him. He took a step backward to lean against the wall, but the wall gave way behind him. Almost Marshall fell, but Ryan held him tight. A dull thud, as something heavy hit the straw. Puzzled, they pulled their lips apart again and looked to what happened.

Marshall knitted his eyebrows. That wasn't a wall, that was a wooden statue of … a donkey? "Fuck, where did you-"

But his question was interrupted. "Hey!", a deep voice yelled out to them. "Hey! Get out of there! I'm calling the cops! Sacrilege! Fucking homos!"

"Fuck!", Marshall cursed and pulled his pants back up. Again, Ryan's hand grabbed him and pulled him away. On fast feet they ran through the crowd, first cursing, soon laughing. They dodged the other visitors, sometimes that earned them more angered yells, which only made them laugh more. Until they stopped at the other end of the market.

"We made out in front of baby Jesus", Marshall spluttered laughing and held his ribs, which didn't know what to protest more, the panicked running or the uncontrollable laughter.

Ryan looked just the same, leaning on a high table to find his breath again. Without much success. "Not on purpose!", he defended himself between wheezes.

"Oh, you did it on purpose alright." He remembered the determined pull at his arm very well. "Sacrilege!", Marshall mimicked the man, who had interrupted them, and burst into another fit of laughter.

"At least now you know what the straw was for", Ryan explained and wiped tears from his eyes.

Marshall leaned against the wall of a booth, this time an actual wall. "Yeah … your idea was better, though."

"We gonna repeat that", Ryan assured him and still chuckled.

Marshall snickered as he nodded. "Sure, but not here, man. Way too public."

Ryan laughed again, warm this time. "That never really bothered you."

"Shut up", he said, still grinning but also kicking out after his friend.

"You guys want some mulled wine?", an older woman asked friendly. She worked the booth they were leaning against and looked at them curiously. "Or maybe you had too much already?"

Ryan stepped toward her. "Great idea, didn't have any yet. You got some rum or brandy to go with that?"

"Not for me", Marshall shook his head and skimmed the menu hanging on the side of the booth. "Hot cocoa's fine. Do you have dark chocolate by any chance?"

"I got you, boys", she nodded and prepared their order. "You have a lot of fun here, don't ya?"

Ryan chuckled again. "We sure have. But some other guy's probably pretty pissed right now." He mumbled "Sacrilege" again and snickered.

"Huh, did we lose Big Eight?", Marshall wondered and looked around. "Well, he's gonna be pissed." His bodyguard did not appreciate when Marshall wandered off by himself and got lost.

Ryan put his arms round his shoulders. "I'ma watch out for you and that you don't get into trouble. Don't worry."

He looked at his friend doubtful but highly amused. "I didn't do nothing this time. 'S was all you." You did plenty, slut. Shouldn’t you be here with your boyfriend?

"Sure you did, you're irresistible", Ryan explained with a wide and fond grin. "Your face is still all rosy, you know, it's lovely."

Two steaming cups were put in front of them. "Here you go, I put a little extra in there for you. Don't let some stupid bigot ruin your fun, all couples are allowed to enjoy Christmas, straight or otherwise", she smiled encouragingly.

Marshall looked at his cup, which seemed to be more whipping cream than hot chocolate, but he wouldn't complain about that. "Thanks, but we're just friends", he tried to correct her assumption and fumbled for his money.

However, Ryan was quicker and handed her the couple of bills. "That's what I keep telling him, but he's much of a pessimist", he explained jokingly.

"I ain't a pessimist, it's called down-to-earth", Marshall muttered low and started to spoon the cream into his mouth.

"Honey, there ain't nothing wrong with dreaming big. Especially not when you have such a handsome man at your side", the woman told him.

Marshall raised his eyebrows, but the small smile on his lips wouldn't go away. "I don't know about big. It's more … You don't need big, if your home is real, you know."

"That's what you have me for", Ryan agreed and softly bumped their shoulders together.

Marshall replied with a soft bump of his own.

The woman watched them fondly. "Christmas is a wonderful time, don't you think? I mean, you actually see people care for each other for a change. It's really the season of love."

"It is, isn't it", Ryan agreed, "Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. Like your wine, this is an amazing brew. Can I have another one?"

"Of course", so she made him another cup.

Marshall had his fingers wrapped around his cup and sipped his hot chocolate more leisurely. His pocket vibrated and a short melody emanated from it. Not just his phone, but it was Nicolas's ringtone. Hastily he pulled it out and read the message: you wanna do something for christmas or is that closed off for family only?   He bit his lips delighted. Nicolas wanted to do something for Christmas? That was pretty big and Marshall got nervous just thinking about it. He wrote back: christmas day is for family only, it's Hailie's birthday. but we can meet some other day that week?

"Hey, am I not exciting enough?", Ryan asked with jest and leaned over to read his phone.

Marshall smirked: "I have other friends, you know." Now he seriously had to think about Nicolas's gift. Probably a book would be a good choice? Though, his boyfriend didn't read with much passion, so how much would he enjoy one as a present? Hard to tell.

"Well, he ain't here." Ryan took the phone out of Marshall's hands and put it into his own pocket. "We ain't done yet, there's still more stuff to see. Come", he prompted. Ryan downed his cup of mulled wine in one gulp.

Marshall finished the rest of his hot chocolate as well. "Fine, but give me my phone back, aight?"

"Later", Ryan dismissed and lead him down the line of booths. They didn't go far, before he exclaimed: "Look, teddies galore. You need one for your girls?"

Marshall snorted amused. "They're teens, they would never admit to that. What about yours? Your girls are still small like this."

"Huh, you're right", and Ryan halted in front of the booth, which had all the teddybears in the world. One, brown and holding a heart, he took into his hands and squeezed it a bit, then he rubbed the teddy against Marshall's cheek. "Feel this, ain't this fluffy? They don't have anything this fluffy."

With a smile he nodded: "It's very fluffy." He turned to the vendor: "You have anything more fluffy than this? Really soft and puffy, something a two-year old can snuggle with?"

The vendor handed him a white teddybear. "That's the fluffiest I have. My three-year old has the same, he loves it."

As Marshall held the teddy in his hands, he understood why. The stuffed animal was supremely soft to the touch and the fur was light and smooth. It just begged to be cuddled with. "This is perfect. You should get this one", he advised his friend. "I'm sure, they'll love it. And if they don't, I would."

"You have three of those?", Ryan asked and luckily, the vendor had. He couldn't get one of his girls the perfect teddybear, but his other two went away empty-handed.

Marshall nodded satisfied as they strolled on. "See, finding them presents ain't hard at all."

"Easy for you to say." Ryan glanced one last time into the bag with the freshly purchased stuffed toys. "And I wasn't worried about the girls. They love everything cute and pink. I mean, they're one, two and four, that's easy to impress."

"True", he relented. "You'll find something for your boys, I'm sure."

Ryan hummed dark. "I don't know, Trenton's really getting difficult. Not just for presents, you know, just in general."

"Is he? Is he getting in trouble?" He'd always thought Trenton was a nice kid. But sometimes, that was what got you into trouble in the first place.

Ryan shrugged briefly. "I don't think so, not yet at least. He's just hard to handle", he tried to explain. "You have those problems with Hailie?"

"Nah, she's a good kid and smart as hell. She probably seen me and knows what not to do, you know. I just make sure, she knows I'm there for her if shit hits the fan. That's important. I mean, it's getting a bit hard to spend time with her, but that's probably for the best. You know, spending time with friends and doing her hobbies - growing into her own person, right, that should be her priorities, not her old man. Maybe Trenton's trying the same thing?"

"Maybe", Ryan didn't sound convinced. "We don't have much in common, maybe it's that."

Marshall weighed his head. "Possible. You should try and find something you could do together. To show him, that you're there and approachable if he needs you, right, that you're his dad regardless. But don't try too hard, that just backfires bad."

"I'll keep that in mind." Then Ryan changed the subject: "But we can mope about our kids growing up some other time. That ain't what we're here for."

"It ain't? What're we here for then?", Marshall asked jokingly. "Getting high on powdered sugar?"

Ryan grinned: "Sounds like fun." So, he dragged him to a stall, that baked and sold waffles. Ryan really got his with powdered sugar, but Marshall opted for hot cherries on top.

A whispered cry next to them. "Oh my God, I can't believe this!", a young female voice said. The brunette looked at them wide eyed and shook her friends arm hard, maybe trying to get at least her friend to believe this. "You're Eminem! Here! Just … Here of all places. Never thought anybody cool would go to something this lame."

Marshall sighed internally. Now he regretted that they lost Big Eight in the crowd earlier. Was it worth to lie that he wasn't Eminem? He wanted to eat his waffles.

The brunette stepped right next to him, holding her camera up for a photo. "This is so unbelievable. Eminem at a Christmas market, like, really. Nobody's gonna believe this. This is so random, just ridiculous."

"It's nice that you girls have fun", Ryan interrupted her sternly, "But we're trying to eat here in peace, if you don't mind."

"Who're you?", she asked puzzled.

Marshall growled low: "Let's leave", and pushed his friend aside, back into the meandering crowd strolling along the booths. It was a pity to leave their half eaten waffles behind, but perhaps he could make some at home and enjoy them in peace. December had just started, there was enough time for some festive fun at home.

"Hey!", she yelled after them. "You can't just leave!"

That was exactly what they were doing and it only took a few steps, and they were part of the crowd again. Just some visitors here, nobody needed to pay them any attention.

There were booths which sold folksy cups or decorative, illuminated stars or Christmas lights or schwibbogen with intricate designs carved into them. One stall burned your name or a cute motive into a wooden cutting board.

But Marshall halted next at a stand with all sorts of baking dishes. "Oh, that's nice", he mumbled to himself. He had laid eyes on a set of cookie cutters with a cutesy unicorn theme.

Ryan chuckled next to him. "You're into baking? This'll make some sparkling cookies, no doubt."

"It's for Whitney", he grumbled and his ears heated up embarrassed. "They have a bake sale at her school this month", he explained. Ryan shouldn’t think of him as lame. Baking. So he explained even further: "I think, she'll like these and she can stand out a little. Kim ain't really good at the oven, you know." Even if Kim didn't make the best cookies, having them in the shape of unicorns and rainbows would earn his little girl a few points for effort. Maybe if they used colorful frosting, she could impress some of her classmates. He'd have to remind Kim later to pick an easy but tasty recipe. He probably had one lying around somewhere he could send over. 

The set was payed for quickly.

"Yeah, she doesn't strike me as much of a cook", Ryan thought out loud. "But unicorns probably sell, regardless how they taste."

Marshall nodded agreeing. "My thoughts exactly. And with enough colorful frosting, even burned cookies are great."

"Sounds like you have big plans already. Why don't you bake cookies with her, then? I mean, it doesn't matter if Kim burns them or you, right." A small smirk was on Ryan's lips. "Would probably earn you some extra dad-points with her, wouldn't it?"

"Nah, it's fine", he shrugged slightly. "She can do that with her mom, I don't want to stand between them or anything. I mean, that's something girls do with their moms, I'm assuming she wants that, too. It's just the normal thing to do, ain't it."

"Guess so." Ryan looked at him for a moment, head tilted. "I'm always a little impressed. You still give Kim so much space, after all you guys've been through and shit. I don't know if that's sweet or dumb."

Marshall returned the look doubtful. "Probably both. She's their mom, whether I like it or not, and the girls should have as much of her as they can have. That's all there is to it."

"Yeah, I don't know if I could do that, if I was you." Ryan stole another glance into the bag with the teddybears he had bought for his daughters. "Ain't like you two just grew apart and everything ended in friendship and shit. I would probably bear a huge grudge … Even if I was the one, who broke us apart, you know."

"Well", Marshall said slowly, "You are the one who's breaking you guys apart ... Look, I ain't no saint or anything. She did shit wrong, and I did shit wrong. Doesn't mean, anything's great now, just means … They're my little girls, man, if being with their mom makes them happy, then that makes me happy. That's it. And if it means I have to put up with Kim, I will handle that, somehow."

"Your girls are lucky to have you, you know."

Marshall shrugged with his shoulders once more, more embarrassed. "I'm just trying my best."

Ryan smiled at him affectionately. "You're succeeding."

It took a few booths for them to pass, until Marshall didn't feel so embarrassed anymore. He tried to be a good father and for his girls to have good lives, no reason to make a fuss about it. Wasn't this normal, anyway? But a few stalls down the line, the spirit of the Christmas market and its attractions had him back again. Of course they had to see the big Christmas tree at the center of the market, it was beautifully decorated and looked like a postcard. They saw even more booths and stalls with gingerbread and cookies with cinnamon or aniseed or vanilla and stollen and speculoos as far as the eye could see. Just from looking at it, Marshall was gaining some pounds, he could feel it. Holiday season always did that to him. They even came by the nativity scene again, this time from the right side to actually see the display of the live-size figures. It was lovely from this side.

"Look, somebody stood the donkey up", Marshall pointed out and laughed quietly.

Ryan chuckled as well. "Probably the same guy. Sacrilege!"

Both burst out laughing and were quick to get away from there, lest they get recognized again. This time not so much for being rappers, but for being some indecent homosexuals. A bad combination.

"Still, my point stands", Ryan insisted.

Marshall looked at him doubtful, first into his friend's face, then his eyes wandered down the other’s body. "Well, doesn't look standing to me, not right now." A friendly shove to his shoulder.

"You wanna go back and knock the donkey over again?", Ryan asked half joking, half challenging.

But he shook his head. "I reiterate, you don't need to. I shouldn't have done that in the first place. Just cause I have a problem with Nicolas, don't mean I can take it out on you, does it. And I'm really sorry." His therapist had made this real clear to him, the benefit of apologies. They didn't change the past, but they showed hope for the future. Only if you mean it, slut.

"Don't be", Ryan repeated himself from earlier.

Marshall tilted his head and looked at his friend puzzled.

With a side nod of his head Ryan suggested: "Come, let's get out of here."

Chapter Text

Marshall stepped through the door and a small apartment opened up in front of him. The short hall led him into the living room. With two couches, a coffee table and a TV the room had everything you needed, but it didn't really look lived in. As he looked around, he leaned against the backrest of one of the couches and finally asked: "What's this for?"

Ryan took his big winter coat off and threw it onto the couch. "Just a place for fun, you know."

Giving the living room one more long look and noticing no game consoles nor DVDs nor CDs or anything remotely fun, Marshall went out on a limb, "You mean, with your mistress."

"Can't really take her home, can I?", Ryan defended himself with a weak shrug.

"Hm", Marshall mumbled to himself, "Never thought about that." Motels had worked fine for him. 

Ryan clicked with his tongue. "And she ain't my mistress, dude. What am I? Some English lord or what?"

Marshall laughed softly. "Nah, that you ain't, not by a mile. You want me to call her your side bitch and Mona your main bitch? That's just rude, Mona deserves better, you know."

"Didn't bother you to say it about Kim", Ryan said and tilted his head thoughtfully.

Marshall waved the interjection aside. Then he took his own winter coat off. "You really serious about … owing me something like this?", he asked. Marshall wasn't sure, if he liked this thought or not. I’m sure for you, slut. I know what you’re doing. On the one hand, he did find Ryan madly attractive and they certainly had chemistry between them. Back in the day, they had had a lot of fun in bed. Well, figuratively, bed probably was one of the places they had spent the least amount of time in. On the other hand, they were good and close friends and usually sex didn't go with that. On the other other hand, he also was with Nicolas and shouldn't have sex with anybody else but him. Which he had broken twice already.

"Well, you said it yourself, you weren't really thinking straight in that moment. I kinda took advantage of you, didn't I. So, I should make it up to you, don't you think?", Ryan explained and leaned casually against the doorframe.

Marshall highly doubted, this was how these things worked. "Shouldn't you tell me, not to cheat on my boyfriend? Again."

Briefly Ryan weighed his head. "If you were any other person, sure I would. But you flirted with a hooker right in front of him, I don't think, this'll make anything worse." There was undeniably truth to that. Then Ryan smiled at him softly and stepped forward until they almost touched. "Wanna know what I think? I think, you do this on purpose." You ain’t fooling no one, bitch.

Marshall swallowed nervously. "I don't know, what you mean."

"Let me show you", Ryan whispered and kissed him again, slowly and tenderly.

Of course Marshall kissed back. He liked the feel of Ryan's soft lips on his own and how their tongues always strived to reach the sky - regardless if they were rapping with each other or kissing one another. His hands grabbed hold of Ryan's sweater.

As their lips parted just enough to not be kissing anymore, Ryan asked under his breath: "See?"

The only answer he could give, was him sucking his lower lip between his teeth and kneading it shyly. Ugh, can you stop this cutesy act? It's making me sick, fag. What was he to say? He had never denied that he liked Ryan. He trusted his friend and he loved spending time with him. Wasn't that okay? "I see you", he answered in the same low tone.

One more time today Ryan grabbed Marshall's hand and pulled him with, into the bedroom this time. Here, he kissed him again, with more passion now as he walked them slowly to the bed.

Marshall felt the edge of the bed against the back of his legs and let himself fall down, but never did he let go of Ryan's hand. The satin covers felt smooth under him. A small smile on his lips and he softly tugged at Ryan's hand still holding his.

Ryan followed the unspoken request and laid down on him, kissed him again. "I make you feel good", he said with a low voice. "Whenever he doesn't, I will."

Gently Marshall stroked over Ryan's cheek, feeling the little stubble. "You don't have to."

Ryan kissed his wrist, kissed the last yellowish tint the belt had left behind. "He surely should."

Marshall bit his lip again. "It's not like you think."

"I have eyes, man, I see what he does to you." Ryan's lips followed the lines of the tribal tattoo that circled Marshall's wrist.

"It's my own fault", Marshall defended.

A deep sigh. "It's never your fault. Not with Kim, not with him."

Marshall pulled his friend down to kiss him once more. "This really was my fault. I tore at the belt too much", he explained quietly. "I ain't good with these sorts of things, I mean, you know that."

For a moment, Ryan blinked at him puzzled, then he slightly shook his head. "He should be more careful with you. If he really liked you, he wouldn't be so … He just wouldn't do that." His hand slipped underneath Marshall's hoodie and t-shirt to find skin.

Marshall shrugged briefly. "He likes it this way." What was he to do about it? He couldn't deny Nicolas his pleasures, that would be wrong.

"But you don't", Ryan said firmly. "You deserve somebody who likes it your way."

Instantly, Marshall's ears heated up. There was nothing he could do against it, against a faint memory rising up. He pushed it back down.

Ryan chuckled softly. "You're real cute sometimes, you know that?" A soft kiss on his lips. "No wonder you pull off a skirt so well."

The heat flowed into his cheeks and he mumbled: "I ain't cute." But he knew, this argument was lost. You only have yourself to blame, slut.

"It's a shame, they don't appreciate that about you." Another soft kiss on his lips and his cheeks and down his neck.

Marshall sighed quietly and stretched his neck, so his friend may linger. "… Who?", he asked a second too late. 

Now with more space, Ryan kissed and licked and nibbled at the fair neck. He found the perfect spot to suck and softly bite into the skin. When he leaned back again, there was satisfaction in his gaze. "Both of them, Kim and Nicolas. They don't appreciate you right."

"But you do?", Marshall asked and touched the wettish spot on his neck. "Did you just make me a hickey? Dude, come on."

Ryan laughed briefly. "I'm sure, it's gonna be hella sexy on you."

Grumbling Marshall bumped his fist into his friend's shoulder. "It's more complicated than that, with Kim I mean. She ain't a bad person, and neither is Nicolas." He pulled at Ryan's sweater to get it off of him.

His friend helped with the piece of clothing. "I know that you think that, but when she runs off her mouth about you … Boy, there ain't enough soap in the world for that." With a soft touch he stroked over Marshall's cheek and kissed him again, long and heartfelt. His hands opened the zipper of the hoodie.

Marshall kissed him back intensely and squeezed his arms out of his hoodie. "That ain't her fault. I hurt her deeply. How's she supposed to … appreciate anything about me, when I'm a colossal asshole to her? She copes by being mean." A reaction Marshall understood well and often employed himself. It was a lot easier to be angry and mean at the people who hurt you, than to actually show how you felt. Being vulnerable always made people hurt you more.

Ryan leaned back for a moment. "Why did you guys never break up? I mean, break up for good, you always came back together somehow."

"Like I said, it's more complicated than that", Marshall shrugged noncommittal. Then he smirked and bit lightly into the tip of Ryan's nose. "You really wanna talk about my ex-wife now?", he asked humorously. "Thought, you wanted to make this feel good? Hint: Talk about her doesn't do that." With this thought in mind, his hands worked the belt open. Marshall wasn't above teasing the interested dick with a squeeze or two through the denim of Ryan's jeans. Talking about other people wasn't sexy, if he was asked. Playing with a hard dick on the other hand, that was very sexy indeed.

Ryan gave back the smirk. "There he is", he said with his deep voice, tone satisfied. He pulled the t-shirt off of Marshall's pale body and shook his head slightly amused at the sight of the naked torso. "Man, you're really going the extra mile, ain't ya. How come, you look better now than thirteen years ago? That ain't how time works."

Marshall shrugged again. "It's called a personal trainer, thought you knew that." This wasn't a secret. Way in the past, he had hated to be some scrawny teen, but it took him long to do anything about it. He hadn't thought putting work into himself was worth the effort, but luckily some effort wasn't totally lost on him. A very few things he could do right, then he deserved to do just a little bit for himself. Yes?

"I know that", Ryan huffed and bend down to kiss and lick across the defined chest. "It's just the first time I get to enjoy the results, is all."

He rolled them onto Ryan's back and came to straddle his friend. Marshall's hands clawed into the dark, tattooed flesh. "That's your own fault." Now he bend down to kiss Ryan heated and breathless and he whispered against the soft lips: "Let's cut the chitchat, aight. You want to fuck me? Then do it."

"Oh, I will." Ryan did not need any more invitation. Quickly he took off the rest of their clothes, shoes and pants flying to the floor. He was a little more careful taking off his chain with its big pendant of a microphone. Marshall found his friend's taste in jewelry hilariously over the top, but his own he took off himself. This certainly would turn into more than a quickie, they had years to catch up on. Then Ryan gathered the aids they would need from within the nightstand: lube and condoms. Two highly important items he had on stock in this apartment.

Marshall took the opportunity to watch his friend for a moment. The muscular body stretched over the bed, all 5 feet and 9 inches of it. One of the few people he wanted to be taller than himself. The dark and tattooed skin shone alluringly against the light blue sheets. His favorite color, what a nice coincidence. He followed his impulse and bit into Ryan's navel, kissed and licked across the stomach. The hard dick begged for his attention and who was Marshall to deny? He kissed and licked along its length, soon he indulged himself and took it into his mouth. The voiceful sigh from his friend was evidence, Ryan liked this just as much as he did.

A hand on his cheek tried to raise his head up, but Marshall was stubborn. Why stop, when Ryan liked this? With heated effort he put more pressure into it, took him deeper. This he could do right, he knew.

"Damn … Get your ass over here", Ryan said a little breathless.

Marshall slowed down and with a last long lick, he let go of the dick. For now. One more kiss, he sucked at its side. "What?", he asked and his fingers massaged the wettish skin.

Ryan smirked amused. "Sometimes you're really dense. Get your ass here. Didn't I say, I make you feel good?"

"Your dick winked at me, what you expect me to do?" Another long, slow lick up its length.

"Right, I forgot", Ryan muttered to himself. He reached forward and grabbed Marshall's hips, pulled them toward himself. Almost Marshall fell over himself trying to hold onto the dick he badly wanted to suck, while his body was yanked across the bed like this, on top of Ryan's. A bite into one of the ass cheeks, Marshall moaned silently. "Then, go on. But don't overdo it, aight. I'll have you know, I want to come inside this beauty." He tightly squeezed Marshall's ass, another moan.

A shudder ran through Marshall's body. Shortly he nodded, "Yes, don't overdo it." He would keep with that. Then, he wrapped his lips around the hard dick again, sucking pleasure from it. But he was careful to go nice and slow only, as told.

"Yeah, right there, that's it", Ryan praised him with a satisfied sigh. Another bite into one of the ass cheeks, before a slick finger teased the rim playfully, mimicking to enter him only to have Marshall huff with disappointed anticipation. Until his moan stuck in his throat, as Ryan's finger slid inside him. His hole puckered willingly around the digit and not before long, Ryan slid a second finger inside and started to open him up for real.

But this time, this would not be the end. Marshall was determined to handle it right this time. He couldn't have all the fun, that would be wrong. It was only for his benefit that Ryan or Nicolas seduced his hole, but they didn't gain anything from it. Unless he gave it to them. Last time he had failed, but this time he wouldn't. He would learn to do this right, then Nicolas would be pleased with him again.

With this in mind, his mouth let go of the dick, a longing moan vibrated deep in his chest. Quickly his hands made work on the condom and a bit more lube, to get this delicious body part ready. As usual, his impatience won over. Marshall withdrew from Ryan's hands and turned around, he wanted to see his friend.

"Hey, I wasn't done yet …", Ryan said with a skeptical look.

"Trust me", Marshall answered with a sanguine smile. Finding his position, he straddled his friend's lap and reached behind himself to guide the hot flesh inside him as he lowered his body down. A long moan erupted from his throat.

Instantly, Ryan's hands grabbed the pale hips and held on to them, dug his fingers into them. A raspy moan from him.

For a moment, everything was still in the room. Their breathing grew loud in the silence.

Marshall closed his eyes and savored the feel of a living, pulsing dick inside him. A whole month without this feeling seemed like torture now that he had it back. He loved sucking on one, no doubt, but this right here, right now … It was the feeling of perfect happiness permeating his whole body. As if life itself danced deep inside of him. A sensation he was always chasing after. Drugs only fooled you, made you cling to a dull shadow of this; but standing on stage and hearing the cheers of tens of thousands of people almost brought the same high as this. Almost.

Realization hit him with a pang of regret. He should've come out years ago. He should've come out back then, when he and Ryan first met and so intensely fell into each other. At least to himself he should have been honest, should have been strong and true, like he always had been with his music. Why hadn't he been able to?

"Shh, hey …", Ryan's deep voice was close to his ear. A thumb softly caressed his cheek and rubbed a tear away. "It's alright. Does it hurt?"

Marshall shook his head. "I'm fine", and he meant it more than ever in his life before. He was more than fine. Wrapping his arms around Ryan's neck, he pulled his friend into a long and sensual kiss. His hips started to roll slowly against his friend, enjoying the closeness of their bodies and the little jolts this sent through his limbs.

For a while they stayed like this, in close embrace and kissing each other intimately and heartfelt. Their hips moved slowly into each other, more to feel how close their connection was and less to rise passion. They had a bond that went far beyond attraction and it was this close bond they reveled in.

But passion caught up with them again, when Ryan grabbed Marshall's thighs hard for leverage and thrust roughly into the pale body. Loud moans stumbled from their lips still touching each other. Marshall relinquished. His arms let go of Ryan's torso, which they had held close, and he fell backward onto the bed. There was a small noise from him, as Ryan slipped out of him. More incentive to heighten the moment. He raised his legs and gripped the hollows of his knees, presenting his ass and his hole eager to be taken.

And Ryan was just as eager to take him. He pushed inside again, both of them moaned loudly, wanting more. With a strong grip he held Marshall's knees as he thrust into the slender but well-trained body.

Now free again, Marshall's hands put themselves against the headboard in a feeble attempt to steady his body against the vigorous thrusts and trying his best to meet them. Closing his eyes and throwing his head back, Marshall let himself get absorbed in their act and how they moved and felt and sounded. His voice came out of him in uncontrollable moans and groans and cries, barely able to carry the pleasure and ecstasy he felt. Ryan's deep voice, just as caught up in passion and heat, filled his ears and made his body shiver. Nothing stopped the relentless and harsh thrusting. That Marshall came, did nothing to stop the lust from soaring through his body and mind. It should never stop.

 Until inevitably it had to stop as Ryan's orgasm washed over them and ebbed away. Panting, he came to rest next to Marshall on the bed and only lazy movements of his hands got rid of the condom.

Marshall just laid there for a short while not even trying to catch his breath. Didn't seem possible this second. Just staying alive with a heart beating this fast was much of a task.

"We're still awesome", Ryan proclaimed under his breath and wheezed amused. Possibly he wanted to laugh but his panting got in the way.

"Uh-hu", Marshall nodded agreeing. More coherent words weren't in his mouth right now.

A moment more passed between them and Ryan rolled on his side. He looked at Marshall, an amused grin on his lips and one of his hands rubbed fondly over the pale chest. "I bet, he don't make you speechless."

The blush on Marshall's face was instant. Nicolas made him do a lot of things …

A warm chuckle from Ryan. "Told you, I make you feel good."

That Ryan had certainly done. "Never doubted that", he said and cleared his throat. It felt dry.

"You know …", Ryan started his next sentence slowly, thoughtfully. His voice tensed up, his eyes concentrated on a spot on Marshall's neck, maybe the hickey. "How about, we start this up again as well? I mean, we speak again and are friends like we used to, we do music together again like we used to … Why not this, too?" His hand still rubbed fondly over his chest.

Marshall looked at his friend, closely examined the well-known face and its tense lines, the tattoos, the ink-black eyes. There you have it, slut. Happy now? One more dick for your new collection. Why not? They certainly fit together great, regardless what they did: being friends or music or sex. To spend time with each other was easy, uncomplicated, elemental and at the same time they inspired each other to push themselves further. A lot of the time they thought similar and when they didn't, that was just more opportunity to broaden their own horizons. On top of that, he appreciated their friendship much more than he used to. He had been a brash and erratic person when they met, when they had tried to develop this instant connection into a stable relationship. Today he saw, why they hadn’t worked out, back then he had only been hurt and angry. Which meant, perhaps this time they would find a good way to build their friendship and the last few months gave much hope for this. So, Marshall nodded agreeing: "Yeah, why not."

A tentative smile on Ryan's lips. "Cool."

"Cool." Marshall rolled on his stomach and bedded his head on his arms. "But if you keep me here, you gonna need to add in some fun things. This place is boring as fuck."

"Man, don't rub it in my sheets", Ryan complained and shoved Marshall's shoulder. "They're fresh."

Marshall wiggled his body a little to rub his stomach and, more importantly, his jizz into the bed sheets. "See, that's why I do motels. Other people clean this shit up. I just have my fun and then leave. Perfect."

Ryan hummed disapproving. "I have a cleaning lady. Still, you're a bit gross."

"You do? Wow, you really think your side game through, don't you." He briefly whistled impressed. "What a smart cookie you are."

"No need to make fun of me", Ryan muttered and pinched Marshall in the small of his back, before he resumed to caress the skin. "What you wanna have? I won't put a pinball machine in here."

"Why not? Killjoy", he snorted. For a moment, Marshall looked at the headboard thinking, his chin rested on his arms. A pinball machine wasn't a bad idea, perhaps he could bring one or two of his arcade machines over as well. At any rate, he needed to bring CDs over. How could they spend time here and not have any music? Impossible. Considering this being their little sex den, they possibly needed some toys for that as well. A set of handcuffs they definitely needed, maybe a pair of cockrings to really make the most of a night. "Well, if you won't, I will. Next time I come here, I'll bring some things. This place needs some life, I tell ya."

Ryan chuckled softly. "That is you speciality, after all. No doubt, you'll make this place lively."

"Oh, do I get a key?", an idea struck Marshall, "Tell me, I get a key. I gonna need a key, right?" He turned to Ryan and explained what filled his mind right now: "Maybe I wanna surprise you with something sexy. Think about it. There's gonna be a night, when I'm here early or maybe I wanna prepare something special. Maybe I wanna welcome you, make myself into a little present for you and lie here all naked except for a cockring, for you I even get one with some bling. Or I wanna give you a little treat, right, open myself up for you good, all wide and wet, so you can slide right in there no fuss. Reminds me, do you have any vibrators here? Otherwise I'll bring one or two." If he did that in the hallway, he'd only anger the neighbors and cause some sort of commotion. Since he was who he was, that only ended up on a front page or magazine cover somewhere. Headline reading: Eminem throws a sex party in the lobby. No thanks.

As an answer, Ryan nodded toward the nightstand he had pulled the condom and lube out of. Then he tilted his head, his eyes darting across Marshall's face. "You're really excited about this. Guess, I shouldn't be surprised, you've always been quite the horndog."

Marshall shrugged slightly. "So? I never was someone's side bitch before."

"Weren't you insistent on not calling it that?", Ryan asked tauntingly.

"I mean, when the shoe fits …" Wasn't like he fit the description to be a kept woman or anything fancy. Him being a dirty little secret seemed exactly right. Spending some time with his friend for hot sex with no strings attached, that was all he could accomplish. You're a good bitch, stands to reason you make a good side bitch, too. Not a bad plan, homo, kudos. "In this scenario, I'm the side bitch to your mistress. What do I care about her?"

Ryan's eyes widened in surprise and confusion. "Wait, what?"

"Although", Marshall began thinking out loud, "It was much the same back then, too, wasn't it. I mean, you weren't married yet, but you and Mona had been in a committed relationship. So, our little stunt probably counts as an affair to that." His eyes followed the grain of the headboard's wood, while he concentrated on his train of thought. "You always draw things out and spend months with a girl, before you drop her and get a new mistress, so you only have affairs. I'm much different, right. I usually do one-night stands, maybe a short fling, a couple of weeks tops if passions run high. They usually don’t. That doesn't really count as an affair, I think, neither for me having one, nor for me being one … Almost sure, most of them are single anyway. Or if not, that them fucking around ain't a secret." Marshall weighed his head thinking back to some of the encounters he'd had over the years. "Playing it fast and loose best appeals to people, who're bad at relationships. So, my point stands firm: You're the only person I'm in an affair with. Or now, the affair to the affair. That's gonna be juicy."

"Wait, wait … What are you talking about?", Ryan asked baffled and lightly stunned. "Slow down, dude, I can't keep up. You want to be someone's affair? Or the, what, affair to the affair? What's that?"

Quietly Marshall chuckled at Ryan's perplexed expression. Was a long time ago, since last he seen his friend this much out of his depth. After all, Ryan was a smart person, he even had gone to college for a time. "Easy. It's like layers, right? Deep down, the core so to speak, that's Mona, your wife, obviously. Around that is the layer of your mistress, with who you cheat on your wife. Third's me now, we're cheating on your mistress. It's like Russian nesting dolls."

"You're crazy", Ryan said dryly.

"Not gonna argue that", he agreed. Sane people wouldn't fuck their friend. You stealin' my lines again, fag. Or agreed to be their friend's side bitch. Or stay with a person who threatened to tear them apart. Could he give Nicolas a Christmas present, the man couldn't refuse? Something sexy and hot and provocative. Maybe Marshall could buy a collar and show it off? No, that didn't feel right.

Ryan's hand slowly rubbed across the small of Marshall's back, sometimes finding a way up to re-discover his back and shoulders. "So, you're fine with … that?"

"Sure. Ain't like you gonna leave your wife for me, don't be ridiculous", Marshall snorted amused. "You didn't back then and to hell with you if you try now. Don't even think that." He would not be responsible for the two ending their marriage. Ruining his own had been enough.

Ryan made a thoughtful humming sound. "I won't, but … You okay with me having Missy around, too?"

"You realize, all your lovers start with M?", Marshall threw in. That was an interesting coincidence.

"Don't deflect, I'm serious here. I mean, this is the same apartment I meet her in. This is the same bed I screw her on. This is the same stuff I use on her. Doesn't that feel weird to you?" Ryan's face sank into a deep frown and he sounded genuinely upset. "It's kinda fucked up, man."

Marshall grinned and leaned forward to kiss his friend dearly. "Doesn't that just prove your set-up works? Why don't you invite her over? We could do a threesome, after all you like tits and vaginas. That's kinda missing here, don't you think." Not quite what he wanted from this day, but he couldn't have Ryan missing anything, least of which things he had no control over. He hadn't been born a girl. Just because he sometimes liked to put on a dress, didn't suddenly change this.

Strongly Ryan shook his head. "No, ain't nothing missing here." He kissed him back just as deep. "I want you, muscles and cock and balls and everything."

A small smile settled on Marshall's lips. He climbed on top of Ryan and his hands slowly, softly wandered across the tattooed skin of his torso, traced some of the lines with his fingertips, teased some of the muscles twitching underneath the dark brown skin. "You have it all", he agreed in a low voice. "Besides, honestly I don't expect us to spend much time here. We're friends, we can meet whenever and wherever we want. And there's always a dark corner to fool around in. We already proved, we're excellent at finding them." He grinned amused and suggestively. This wasn't anything to worry about. On the contrary, the slightly forbidden and thrilling note of doing it in places that usually didn't see this kind of action, he liked the thought. And he remembered, his younger self had downright loved it.

Ryan's hands stroked over his thighs as he looked at Marshall, clearly thinking deeply. For a long time, he only looked at him. Wasn't he liking the idea? Wasn't he liking the gentle caress of Marshall's fingers? Finally he spoke again: "You ain't breaking up with Nicolas, huh?"

"Course not." Surprised Marshall shook his head. "Why would I?" Did he give the impression, he wanted to break up with Nicolas? He absolutely didn't. "I like him. He's a bit quirky, like me. Sure, I still have a lot of work to do, until I can really be with him, but that's okay. My therapist's gonna fix me, she's really good at that. And when she does, this", he made a hand gesture between them, "Won't be happening anymore, obviously. I don't expect that to be soon, but just as a heads up."

"Fix you?", Ryan asked. "There's nothing about you to fix."

Marshall smiled forgiving at him. "There's plenty, believe me. Most pressing right now is this cheating business. I mean, you know that this ain't right. You're married and you love your wife, yet still you fuck me. You want to fuck me on a permanent basis, even. That ain't right. That ain't normal."

Ryan knitted his eyebrows. "You joined in rather enthusiastically. You got all excited and shit. Don't act, as if I forced you or anything."

"Ain't what I mean", Marshall shook his head. "I loved it, hell, there's no question I'm gonna love it all. But, that doesn't change the fact, I have a boyfriend and I want to be faithful to him." Keep fooling yourself, slut. This is where you belong: on some random dick.

Ryan snorted derisively. "No, you don't. You hardly spend time with him, I highly doubt you actually want him as your boyfriend. You probably only have him, so you have some guy around to fuck, when you can't find someone else. This is probably the very same thing you went back to Kim for all the fucking time. That your therapist should fix, the rest'll sort itself out i-" A hard punch into Ryan's chest pressed the air out of his lungs.

Marshall held up his fist and growled warningly: "Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about." Kim had not been some sort of consolation prize and he wasn't having anyone talk about her like this. Not even a close friend like Ryan. She had been his core and he still loved her. He had hurt her deeply and she'd always tried to do the right thing. It wasn't her fault, that no amount of punishment could make Marshall learn.

Ryan clawed the spot of his chest where Marshall's fist had hit, and gasped for air. "Fuck, dude!", he panted, "That was uncalled for."

But he kept staring his friend down. "The only person allowed to trash her is me", he explained, his voice deep and simmering with anger.

"I wasn't trashing her." Ryan still rubbed the spot on his chest. "I was talking about Nicolas."

Another punch to Ryan's chest. "You don't get to do that, either, asshole. He's good to me, so you need to shut the fuck up." After all, Nicolas was still here and still cared for him, even though he had seen Marshall losing control over himself. A man like this deserved someone better. Only thing Marshall could do, was to defend him.

"All I'm saying is", Ryan pressed further and he grabbed Marshall's wrists tight. In a smooth motion he rolled them over and pinned Marshall down. "If you really wanted to be faithful, you wouldn't make out with a hooker right in front of him." Fully using his position between Marshall's legs, he rubbed his cock against the half-dried hole. "If you really wanted to be faithful, you wouldn't have begged to suck my dick." Ryan's cock filled out fast and the head got caught on the rim. The ring of muscle was pliant and easy to give way. "If you really wanted to be faithful, you wouldn't be like this", Ryan pointed out and with demonstrative slowness he pushed his dick inside Marshall. The pale body stretched toward him and a long, lewd moan spilled from Marshall's lips. "Or am I wrong?"

But Marshall's gaze was defiant and furious. "Yes, you're wrong!", he shouted and fought against the hands holding his wrists in place. With Ryan's weight, there was no escaping, but Marshall tried anyway. He always fought against the odds. "Get the fuck off of me! And get your fucking dick out of me!" A dull burn took hold of his ass. "You're wrong!"

"Yeah? Tell me, how am I wrong?", Ryan challenged him and taunted him with more forceful pushes. 

"Get out!" Marshall's hips moved smoothly with the dark body and his own erection was ever present. "First of all, I didn't make out in front of him. She just sat there, that ain't a fucking crime. Fuck you!"

Ryan only sneered at him. "Don't play dumb. She's a hooker, we all know why she sat there." The bit of lube left behind from their previous fuck wasn't enough to smooth out the path for Ryan's thrusts. However, the hole was open and unresisting. "You specifically came like an hour earl-"

"Fuck off!" Marshall interrupted. His arms jerked trying to get free. "It was half an hour. Get out of me!" His hips rolled with every thrust into him.

"Don't interrupt me", Ryan put more pressure to the hold he had Marshall's wrists in, disregarding a pained hiss. "You came half an hour early to your date with your shitty boyfriend, so you could fuck with the hooker first. That doesn't sound like you want to be faithful, does it?" He was still thrusting and pushing callously into the under equipped hole and with a particularly strong and well angled push he hit Marshall's prostate. The pale body arched upward and a tremble rushed through the limbs. "It sounds like you want him to catch you red-handed."

"Of course I fucking don't!", Marshall exclaimed, panting heavily under the persistent thrusts and the ineffective exertion to free his hands. "Get your fucking dick out!" The dull burn was growing more intense. So was a pressure behind his eyes. "Fuck you!"

"Stop lying", Ryan snarled. "You begged to have my dick in your throat. Twice. You're ecstatic to be my side bitch, your own words. That doesn't sound like you want to be faithful, does it?" Another strong push and he hit Marshall's prostate again. The pale body arched upward and a tremble rushed through the limbs. A cry as Marshall came. "Hear that? That's the sound of someone who loves fucking around."

Still fighting against the hard grip around his wrists, Marshall stared mean and angry at Ryan. "Fuck! You!", he spit with an acidic tone. His friend couldn't do this, couldn't see this. Wasn't his lecherousness exposed enough, yet? "Get! Your Fucking! Dick! Out!"

"It's like they say, it takes one to know one", Ryan went on, still thrusting into the ass. "You do these things on purpose. You can't fool me, I fucking know you." He sped up his rhythm to chase his own orgasm.

"Fuck you! Asshole!", Marshall kept shouting and twisted his body still in fight to get free from Ryan's hold. "If you don't pull out, I'm gonna bite it off!"

This threat worked, for Ryan pulled out his dick from the roughed up hole. But he was still eager to reach his own climax and the white fluid hit Marshall's stomach, where it mixed with his own and painted over the tattoo around his naval.

"Fuck you!", Marshall repeated, his voice a mixture of anger and relief.

A smirk on Ryan's lips. He bend down and kissed Marshall. "We're not so different after all, that's why we fit together so well."

Marshall growled guttural. "At least I care about that I'm hurting him! You sneak around and stab her in the back, but to her face you tell her, you love her. How's that better?" Finally his hands were free, so Marshall pushed Ryan off of him and pressed his own body against the headboard.

"That's my problem, not yours", Ryan answered and climbed out of the bed. "But at least I don't lie to myself and go around telling myself, I'd be some sort of model husband if only I could stop sleeping around. I don't want to stop. I like this." He went to the door and one more time his eyes pierced into Marshall. "And so do you." Then he left the bedroom.

"Hey! You can't just leave!", Marshall shouted after him. He jumped off the bed and hissed in the same movement. The burn was there, lingering patiently. Disregarding his body's warning, he followed his friend into the kitchen. "She ain't dumb, she knows that, too. That's what makes you an asshole. Either have the decency to divorce her, or stop your fucking bullshit."

Ryan took a bottle of water out of the fridge. "Oh, like you? How did that go for you? You still ended up back together with Kim all the fucking time. And even now, when you're finally rid of her, you find the same person, just with a dick."

"They're not the same fucking person!" Marshall snatched the bottle of water out of his friend's hands and drank from it. At once, he spit the clear liquid out again, snorting a spray across the counter. The sharp sting of alcohol lingered on his lips. "Fuck, Dude! This is vodka!" With the back of his hand he wiped over his mouth. "Goddamnit, get your fucking booze out of my face."

"Then don't drink my stuff", Ryan huffed and took the bottle back.

Grumbling, Marshall looked into the fridge and found a bottle of water with actual real water in it. The cool liquid ran down his throat, stabbing him along the way with its tiny icy crystals. Greedily he gulped down the water, only by quenching it, he realized how thirsty he had been. The coolness not just froze the insides of his chest, but it also cooled down his temper. Why were they fighting? This wouldn't change anything. Ryan wouldn't leave his wife, but he also wouldn't stop with his mistress. Either way, it wasn't Marshall's place to get involved, not as a friend and surely not as someone, who had not done this right himself. At the same time, nothing said or done here would make him break up with Nicolas. If Kim's threat couldn't do it, if Nicolas's threat couldn't do it, nothing would.

With a relieved gasp he sat the empty bottle down. Now calmer he spoke again: "You're wrong, you know. I want him to be my boyfriend. That's exactly why I don't want to hurt him." Admittedly, he fucked that one up pretty bad.

"I don't believe you", Ryan answered in a grave tone, nonchalantly leaning against the counter. "If that was true, you wouldn't be here. Or at least, you wouldn't be so excited to be my … side bitch, as you put it." He frowned, as he said those two words.

Marshall smirked at him. "You can say it normally. It's just a word, I don't mind."

The frown remained. "I don't know, it feels weird. You said it kinda serious?"

"When the shoe fits", he shrugged. "Ain't like this is a real thing or whatever. It's just some sex, preferably hot and dirty. I think, it's the perfect word for that."

Ryan grumbled ill-humored. "If you say so … What you call Nicolas?"

"Nothing", he blinked bewildered. "Why would I?"

"I don't know. Pet names? Dirty talk? You're a creative guy", Ryan shrugged briefly, "Thought that extends to sex, too. You know, the heat of the moment and all that."

"Oh that, yeah, he sometimes calls me slu-", he slapped his hand over his mouth, but much of the syllable had already been heard.

"Slut, really?" Ryan raised his eyebrows questioningly. "You put the skirt on for him more often?"

"No", Marshall growled embarrassed. "It's just some stupid dirty talk, man."

Ryan nodded understandingly. "I get that. But I wouldn't have thought, calling you a slut or a bitch or whatever turns you on. Huh, maybe Denaun had a point."

Marshall groaned annoyed. Couldn't he just forget that awful conversation? "No, he didn’t. Forget this, aight."

"You sure?", Ryan asked and tilted his head thinking.

"Yes, I'm a hundred percent sure. Make it two-hundred percent. How d'you even know what Denaun's thinking?" Marshall became a little flustered. This was a weird turn of events.

Ryan's eyes examined him intensely. Nothing new, but now it felt more grating and more uncomfortable. "We talked about it. I thought, he went a bit off with that one, but … Maybe he's right. You can be a bit girly sometimes."

Frustrated Marshall threw his hands in the air. "Why's everyone thinking I'm a girl, lately? I'm gay, that's it."


"Don't you even start, aight", he warned his friend, stabbing the air with his index finger. "And I'm not, I repeat, I am not girly."

Ryan smirked amused. "Yes, you are. Like a couple hours ago you bought a unicorn cookie cutter set. It was pink and with glitter. Can't get more girly than that."

"For my daughter", he defended himself. "She has every right to girly shit like that."

"Sure, but you'd like to bake those unicorn cookies with her. Instead of Kim." 

Marshall folded his arms in front of his chest. "I like to spend time with my daughters, there's nothing wrong or girly about that. It's called parenting, jerk."

"Sure, yet you sounded rather excited about the frosting and all that. You sounded like you already had the colors picked out and shit." Ryan made a step toward him.

"Because she'll like it", he explained. "She's eight, they all like bright colors."

"Of course, of course", Ryan didn't sound at all convinced. "You have an apron?"

Marshall pressed his lips together. "That ain't girly, that's kitchen etiquette."

Ryan chuckled and made another step toward him. Now they stood only an inch away from each other. "Sure, and you're so big on etiquette."

"Shut up", he snapped.

"You know … You were pretty hot in that skirt", Ryan lowered his voice to a raspy whisper.

A hot shiver went down Marshall's spine and warmth settled into his cheeks. "It was just a Halloween costume", he muttered.

"Was it?", Ryan asked, clearly thinking differently. He leaned even closer in to Marshall. "Don't you wanna put it on more often? You seemed to like it. You seemed to wear it rather … natural. Don't you wanna show me, what a gorgeous side bitch I snagged?" His lips ever so slightly brushed over Marshall's as he spoke.

Hard Marshall swallowed. "I … I don't always do, what I want."

"You only do, what you want", Ryan said softly. "I admire that about you, you know." With small movements his fingers caressed Marshall's sides.

Slightly Marshall shook his head. "I'm not that good of a person …" His own hands came to rest on Ryan's arms, which he stroked gently. "I want too many things and … and I end up with nothing." He was living on borrowed time. Soon Nicolas would have enough of him. At the bar the other night, he had practically attacked his boyfriend because he couldn't control himself. How many more times could Nicolas bear witness to his debauched truth? When would he find out, that Marshall gave himself over to everyone?

"What's that supposed to mean?", Ryan asked with a pensive frown.

"Well …", Marshall started to explain and wrapped his arms around Ryan's neck. He pulled his friend closer in. "It's obvious, really. I want Nicolas. Hell, I can hardly be in the same room as him and not throw myself on his dick …"

"I noticed", Ryan interrupted in a sour tone.

He softly kissed his friend's lips. "But I also love to have sex with you", he went on and grinded their hips together. "I totally love being your side bitch, that's just perfect. Don't you think?"

"Really?", Ryan asked skeptical.

One of Marshall's hands fondly followed the tattoos on Ryan's neck and chest. "Yeah. In the end though, I still find my way to a hooker or some nameless hook-up. I always do." Another kiss.

"Why?", Ryan wanted to know.

Marshall shrugged briefly. "I don't know." It was the easiest with a hooker, after all he payed them and even if he did bad, they couldn't tell him. A hooker would never tell him, how ugly or useless or how much of a nobody he was. It was their job to make him feel good. But it was an illusion and he had only so much strength to pretend it was true. Then he went with someone else. Why he was this way? He didn't know. Maybe he didn't want to know. Possibly, it was only a sign of something bigger, of something deeper. The itching of a scar barley healed and he had forgotten how it gotten there. 

Honestly, he didn't want his therapist to find an answer. It couldn't be anything good. Sometimes, ignorance was bliss. He rather live lonely and hated, than know once and for all that he'd be forever broken.

Ryan tilted his head and his hands caressed Marshall's cheeks and his neck. "Is it cause of the sex? Is it not enough? I mean, you can be … demanding sometimes. You've always had much of an appetite and judging by how much his sex-embargo annoyed you, that hasn't changed much. Hm?"

Marshall snorted dismissively. "No, I don't have a demanding appetite or whatever." His hand had found its way onto Ryan's back and could absolutely not help itself to grope this fine ass. "Shit, you sound like Kim. Can you believe, she actually accused me once of being a sex addict or a porn addict or whatever." Stupid woman. Sometimes he really couldn't follow her train of thought. Wasn't like he had wanted to have sex with her. If she thought, they had done it too often, that wasn't his fault.

"I can believe that", Ryan said amused and kissed him briefly. "Don't you think, she has a point? You just said, you want to have sex with me and with Nicolas and with a hooker and a hook-up. Sounds rather insatiable, right?"

Of course Marshall kissed him back intimately. "I didn't say, all of you at once." Then he halted and hummed thinking. "Although, now that I say it out loud …"

"Forget it", Ryan shook his head immediately. "I can't stand that guy, I ain't sharing a bed with him. No way. Forget it."

Marshall cocked his head. "Why not? He's cool, really. And pretty amazing in bed."

"No, he ain't", Ryan bristled angrily. "He's a brutal asshole and you look at him through rose-colored glasses, man. I get, that you find him sexy as hell, but that ain't a reason to suffer through this shit." He leaned his forehead against Marshall's and his voice strained under the pressure of not raising again. "He beats you so hard, you can't sit no more. He ties you up so bad, you bleed. He controls what you drink, what else is he forcing on you? He makes you cry for hours. But still, you're defending him. Please don't, aight … You deserve better."

Instantly, Marshall's ears heated up as the last three words hit them. He embraced Ryan once more and kissed him long and heartfelt. "It's not like you think", he said reassuringly as their lips parted just a bit. "It really ain't like that, aight. He hasn't done anything, I wasn't okay with."

"You want to be a mess like that?", Ryan asked unbelieving. "How's that okay? What the hell did she do to you?"

Marshall sighed deeply. Why was Ryan so insistent to put the blame on her? After all, it had been him who had messed up their relationship. He didn't treat her right. He couldn't satisfy her. All he did was hurt her, lie to her, infuriate her. And he never learned to do better.

But before he could answer, Ryan went on with a low but pressing voice: "You need to break up with him, you know that. He ain't good. And you two just started dating, but he's already so … What'll happen with you, when you guys are together six months or a year? You gonna end up in a hospital, that's for sure. How can you want that? Did you ask him to do that to you?" Ryan looked at him, finally waiting for him to answer.

"Well, not in so many words …", Marshall answered vague. "It's something he likes, I don't judge." He brought their hips together again, more vigorously this time. "If he wants to do that, sure he can, you know." After all, this was what Marshall was here for. This was the only thing he was good for.

Ryan shook his head. "No, he can't. You shouldn't let him, or at least not only because he likes it. What about you? What you want also needs to count, he can't just dismiss you like that."

A warm, fond smile crept onto Marshall's lips. "He doesn't, really. He's actually pretty sweet most of the time."

"Not that I can see", Ryan negated the observation instantly. "And even if, that don't change the fact, you don't want this, but he makes you regardless."

Marshall tilted his head and frowned deeply. "How you know, what I want and don't want?" He didn't put too much stock in the how's of sex, so if he didn't see much of a difference, how could he want something different?

"Dude, I know you", Ryan explained. "You're brazen and audacious and reckless. You always take what you want, regardless the consequences. I mean, the whole cutesy act today? I know, you only put that on for my benefit, cause I like my women cute. You wanted me to fuck you and you very well know, I can't resist your big blue eyes." Ryan held up his fingertips for Marshall to see light rose colored smudges. "Sorry I smeared your make-up", he didn't sound sorry at all. "You did the same shit in the past. That's how I know."

So Ryan had seen through his act? He had been so careful not to overdo it with the rouge, only very light rose to give his cheeks just a tiny bit of color. Less is often more, after all. But this wasn't a satisfying answer. Marshall kept frowning at his friend. "Still doesn't explain why I couldn't like Nicolas's thing."

This time it was Ryan who sighed deeply. "Because he really made you cry. That wasn't an act, you cried truly and deeply hurt. That's something you never fake."

"Huh, you think you have me all figured out, don't you."

Ryan shrugged as an answer. "I just want you to be happy, you know. You deserve better."

Marshall lowered his voice, part in warning and part in grief. "You ain't him. Don't act like him."

"I'm not trying to", Ryan said certain. He pulled their bodies close, their bare skin touched everywhere. "He would never make you an offer like this: Break up with Nicolas, kiss that asshole goodbye for good … I'll stay with you. I'm your friend and the sex between us is great. And - And if you demand more than I can give, I won't get jealous if you go to a hooker. I promise."

Marshall's heart tightened and his lungs contracted. It was hard to not get washed away by memories. Easy to drown in a sea of pictures and moments, when his best friend had been by his side, who always had his back even when he acted foolish again, when he fucked things up again. His best friend had stood by his side, holding him up and keeping him safe, when he himself had been unable to. It felt like a lifetime ago. It felt like he had heard his voice just a second ago.

But he had never made an offer like this.

Shaking his head, Marshall pushed his luck: "What if I don't want a hooker on the side, but Nicolas?" One of his hands stroked down Ryan's body again, with a clear goal in mind. "What if Nicolas gives me the things I want?" Ryan was too sincere and too close a friend that he could say words like these and mean them. "What if Nicolas gives me those things better?" His fingers laid themselves around Ryan's cock and pumped life back into it. They weren't done yet. "What if Nicolas knows how to fuck me six ways from Sunday?" Ryan was already closer to him than anyone else still living, that had to be enough. "What if Nicolas is really the person I want?" There wasn't anything left in him to break for when he lost a best friend again. He could only keep together so many pieces to stay alive. "What if I'm Nicolas's main bitch and he'll always be first?" Only one piece in him was still intact and he needed for Ryan to wreck it. His friend needed to finish the job he had started over a decade ago and wear his hole down for good.

Ryan snarled. He pulled Marshall into a rough kiss, vandalizing his mouth. "You don't need him, you'll see. I'll fuck him out of you." With a smooth motion, he turned Marshall around and not a second later did he bury his dick inside that firm, white ass.

Marshall groaned between lust and pain, bracing himself against the counter. "You can try", he managed to sound taunting. "But only with a condom."

"Oh, fuck that", Ryan dismissed and started a harsh rhythm. "Ain't like I can knock you up. You may like to be a girl, but you ain't."

The burn got hot and hurt. Good. Marshall gasped for air. His body was pressed against the hard edge of the counter, etching into his bones. Every new dry thrust pushed him harder against the stone top. "Make me all the babies you want", words tumbled out between gasps and he squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. What was he trying to say? Right. "But don't spread your germs inside me, bastard."

"If you want my babies, that's what I'll need to do", Ryan said amused. 

The sound of their flesh clapping against each other filled the kitchen. "No condom, no fucking! I don't need to catch anything your mistress brought along or some shit." He hauled off to struck his friend with a hard blow. A few times he hit Ryan's arm, putting his muscles into it and aiming for the same spot so it really hurt.

"Ow! Fuck, man! Aight!" Ryan pulled out and stepped to the side, rubbing his arm. "That wasn't necessary."

Marshall growled low and collected himself from the counter. "I told you, I'll bite it off."

Ryan flipped him off. "Fuck you, I'm healthy as a horse."

"How would I know?" Marshall rubbed his hips, where the edge of the counter had bitten into. That would leave a bruise. "Do I know where you stick your dick? Or who else sticks his dick in those holes, too? No, I don't."

Ryan cocked his head quizzically. "Yeah, you do."

"Look, it's for your benefit, too. You don't know who I fuck with, either."

"Course I know", Ryan disagreed immediately. "It's me, obviously, and Nicolas, unfortunately, and that hooker and this crazy guy from the other night, who attacked you", with each person he named, he counted his fingers. "There, I know", he held up four fingers, "That's who you fuck."

But Marshall rolled his eyes. "Didn't you just tell me, you know me better than this?"

Ryan raised his eyebrows questioningly. "What's your point?"

"I'm trying to settle down. Well, a bit. You know, being sober now and stuff, I'm kinda growing up", he shrugged briefly. "My point is, I'm trying to hold myself back and be more like a normal person, right. But, as you should know, I'm bad at controlling my impulses. So, until my therapist fixed me, that", and he held up his own four fingers, "is only like last month or so. A slow month on purpose."

"You're proud of that?", Ryan asked skeptical, probably making fun of him.

Marshall weighed his head. "Not from either point of view, no."

"Either point of view?", Ryan asked curious and bemused. "What you mean by that?"

"Ain't that obvious? For trying to be mature and in a committed relationship, four is way too many", Marshall explained what really should be self-evident. "And compared to stuff in the past, it's quite lame. I remember days more exciting, so." Not a past he necessarily wanted to go back to, but some of the thrills he did miss. But, life moved on and he couldn't keep doing the same shit with almost forty that he had done in his mid-twenties. That just didn't work. Marshall turned away from the counter and went back to the bedroom. "Just put the damn condom on. That ain't so fucking hard."

Ryan followed him. "More exciting? I can give you that." He took the package of condoms and prepared himself. "Know what, I ain't just gonna fuck you so good, you forget that asshole, I'ma fuck you so good, you won't remember any of those faces, either. It's all gonna be me, wait for it."

Chuckling, Marshall threw himself on the bed. "Won't be difficult, I hardly remember most their faces as is." He took the bottle of lube to re-slick his hole. Ryan's attack in the kitchen had made clear, it absolutely needed that for another round. The touch of his fingers stung, but the cool gel actually eased some of its force. Awaiting his friend, he kneeled in front of the headboard and his hands gripped firmly its top. He wiggled his ass teasingly. "This good for you? You sound, like you wanna let off some steam." And turn this round into one hell of a pounding. The thought made his nerves tingle all over.

Ryan climbed on the bed, right behind Marshall. A rough grip in Marshall's hair yanked him back, so Ryan could speak close to his ear: "Let's see, how long you won't be able to sit thanks to me." The dark voice brought a shiver up Marshall's spine. "Side bitch." Marshall moaned as the words hit his ears. The next second, his friend's hard dick thrust rough into his hole and a lewd moan burst loudly from his lips. The rhythm grew harsh fast, relentless and they didn't stop.

Chapter Text

There was a small buzzing in the room. An annoying buzz. He wanted to sleep for fuck's sake. Every bone in his body was heavy and sore and, just, so exhausted. Grumbling with a dry throat, he rolled onto his other side. Perhaps this would shut the buzzing out … Naturally it didn't, only a throbbing, burning pain set in. Or it might have been there forever, who knew. Keeping his eyes shut in hope of sleep, he pulled himself to the edge of his bed and reached out for his nightstand. Marshall didn't know what he hoped to find there, but just something to shut this buzzing off and maybe the vibration from the bed, too. He needed to sleep. Wait, his bed could vibrate? His hand groped the air, but didn't find his night stand. More grumbling. Was it worth opening his eyes for? He could just give up and try to ignore the quiet buzz … Marshall laid down into the satin sheets and took a deep breath as an invitation for sleep.

Nope. No sleep, only annoying buzzing. Was there a fly here somewhere? Defeated he dragged a hand over his face and slowly opened his eyes. Darkness. He blinked. Did he go blind? Had he finally found the critical mass of masturbation for this to happen? A quiet chuckle, too loud in the room. Marshall groaned. Again, he reached out for his nightstand and as his fingers found the wall, his first impulse was to sigh in relief he found anything. But he remembered, his bed didn't stand against a wall. Weird.

There! A wooden edge, a flat surface, the shape of a lamp. Marshall closed his eyes again and hid his face in the crook of his elbow, when he turned the light on. It still stung. Another groan.

He let himself fall onto his back and a sharp pain roared for a second. What did he do last night? But his thoughts were as heavy as his body. It would come eventually, no worries. Or maybe it wouldn’t, but he probably wouldn’t miss anything important. For a moment, he rubbed his hands over his face. If he wasn't going to sleep thanks to this annoying fly, at least he could wake up for good. Not sold on his own idea, he opened his eyes and stared against the ceiling. A singsong that it knew exactly what he had done and that he shouldn't be proud of it. Well, that wasn't much of a hint. What had he to be proud of?

He looked to his side, to the nightstand and frowned. The yellow light revealed a small, beige table on which it stood. That wasn't his. Now he registered the light blue of the sheets. Those weren't his either.

Had he fallen asleep in a motel again? An annoyed snort was all this was worth. Then, the buzzing probably was from some half-broken appliance, perhaps the air conditioning. Or the vibrating bed itself. There had to be a switch somewhere to turn this off. His eyes searched the table, but except for the lamp nothing was there.

The shadow of a plan formed in his mind: Take a piss, get dressed and then leave. In his own bed he might be able to sleep. At least nothing buzzed or vibrated there, least of which his bed. Who wanted that anyway? Fucking people.

Laborious and unnecessarily awkward he rolled himself out of the bed in pursuit of putting his thoughts into actions. But his legs trembled for a second and then collapsed under him. Marshall fell to his knees. A short cry left him as pain raced up his spine and something hard shoved itself deeper into him.


Feeling too stiff for contortions like this, he reached behind himself and grabbed the base of the goddamned vibrator stuck in his ass. With too much force and the resulting gasp of more pain, he yanked it out of himself and threw it to the ground. The toy happily buzzed on.

What. Did. He. Do? Wasn't he above this now? Waking up in some random bed, left-behind after fucking senseless, too fucked up to even stand. Hadn't he vowed to quit this shit? Apparently, he would never change.

Marshall leaned back and rested his head against the bed. Inhale deeply … and exhale. The air was stale. It smelled like cold sweat, old sex and too much deodorant. Heaving himself up from the edge of the bed, he managed to stand on shaky legs and expected to fall down again any second. But hey, at least he stood for now. A moment he looked down on the bed and tried hard to remember how he had gotten here. He remembered a muscular body, dark skin, shitton of tattoos, the feeling of safety … Ryan.

"Really? Fucking bastard", he muttered raspy. "So much for being nice." At least Nicolas stayed with him until he could move again and even checked in on him afterward. That was nice. This shit on the other hand was just nasty. Marshall decided to take his piss right here on the bed then. If Ryan left him - a friend and also someone who he wanted to fuck more frequently - like a used up toy for himself to put his discarded pieces together again, well, that's what happened. Hadn't he served Ryan well? If the throbbing pain in his ass was anything to go by, he had served his friend remarkably good.

With small steps, slow movements and sluggish hands, he collected his clothes from the floor and put them on his body again. Meanwhile he tried to remember more from last night. Hadn't they started out with waffles? He remembered waffles. Yes, the Christmas market. Like expected, acting cute around Ryan still worked like a charm. He might have lost his babyface somewhen a long the way, but blue eyes and a little blush always worked. They had ended up in Ryan's shagging shack, so to speak, not a motel. Wasn't that much better, tsk. The first round had been mostly slow and gentle, followed by a fight and angry sex … About what? That he wanted to be Ryan's side bitch and his friend didn't - no, his friend wanted that, too. What had they fought about? Who cared! The third round had been hard and rough, just raw fucking, that's how Marshall liked it the most. Ryan thought he was sneaky with the vodka in his water bottle, guess again. When you kept kissing, that would blow your cover real quick. Drunk and high people were the stupidest, really. Then a fourth round even, Marshall was impressed with himself for getting it up.

He put the jewelry back around his neck and his wrist. His watch said: 2:57 AM. Great, his favorite time of the day. After that … Marshall stopped in the middle of picking up his coat from the couch in the living room. He had wanted a fifth round? Really? Shit, he was getting into old habits again. Not sure if this was his memory or him knowing himself, but he would not have gotten it up again for a fifth round in the span of a short couple of hours. Not without some pill-shaped help, at least. Which he was almost completely certain they hadn't taken. Had Ryan more stamina? Considering the vodka in his water bottle, probably not. That might explain the vibrator. Ryan wasn't much into toys as far as he knew, but beggars can't be choosers. In all likelihood he had egged Ryan on until his friend did something - anything that could be considered fucking. How had it gotten stuck in him, though?

Marshall raided the fridge for a bottle of water and made sure it actually was water, then he left the apartment. Standing in the elevator, more accurately he leaned against the wall and was even too tired to fall over, his hands searched the pockets of his jacket for his phone, because he really needed to call Big Eight. He had no clue where his car was and he was in no shape to drive. He wasn't even in shape to stand upright. A disdained snort for himself. No phone. Curses.

The high pitched ping of the elevator was too sharp. He stepped out and left the building as well. Where was this? Any taxi nearby? Or a bus? Or a phone booth? In the darkness of the night he didn't see much, the street lights only illuminated small portions of the sidewalk, grey islands on top of vast blackness. Nothing but the snow seemed to exist, a bluish white that glowed eerily in the night. Marshall pulled the hood of his coat on as well and buried his hands in his pockets. The night was freezing. Then he shuffled along in slow steps, his body aching and his legs still shaky, but they needed to work now, they just needed to. Any direction was fine.

Occupying his mind with the last riddle of this night. Where was Ryan? Why had he left him behind like this? Chaotic whispers of a discussion in his ears: sorry - I need to go - she should be - I promised to be home for dinner - sorry - I can take care of myself - she's mad - you should go - sorry - I finish you up real quick - she's waiting for you - I should go now - sorry - I'm fine - stay, aight, please stay - you need to go - sorry - I know

Marshall wiped a hand over his face, cold from the wind biting into his skin and drying the tears as soon as they dropped on his cheeks. That's what side bitches got, a rushed goodbye and a mess to clean up. The best sex in the world wouldn't change this, so what hope did he have of getting better treatment? Friends or no friends.

Even though it happened in slow motion, Marshall couldn't do anything to stop it. His feet tripped over themselves, he lost balance completely and fell down on his face. His hands didn't make it out of the warm pockets fast enough and possibly, they didn't want to. He wouldn't want to be in this cold, either. A small sigh left him and he tried to heave himself up again, but he couldn't. He was too tired and too sore, there was no way he could control his body and make it move. Resigning, he just laid there on the icy asphalt. From experience he knew, at some point you didn't feel the cold anymore. Usually a sign you were too damn cold, but right now, even that sounded like relief. He closed his eyes.


"Hey, are you okay?", a male voice asked above him. "Are you drunk? Hey, you can't sleep here, man." Two hands grabbed him and heaved him up and Marshall wanted to help, he did. This wasn't a place to sleep, he knew that. It was just so fucking hard.

"No", he said with frozen lips. They barely rounded for the o-sound.

"That's what they all say, isn't it", the voice kept speaking. The man managed to get his arm around Marshall's waist and held him up like this. He was a tall man. Every-fucking-one was taller than him, shit. "Come, let's get you inside, alright?"

Marshall nodded weakly. "Whatever." Inside sounded like it wouldn't be cold anymore, that sounded nice. He had not been cold at one point. Right? Oh, he knew, with Ryan it hadn't been cold. And with Nicolas it was downright hot, that man radiated warmth. Where was he now? Why wasn't he looking after Marshall? He was good at that.

The man dragged him along the street and Marshall tried to move his feet in a walking motion, but he thought that looked rather pitiful. Even at the most basic human things he failed. Walking. Every two-year old could walk, but he of course was a disaster on two feet. Fucking shit.

"What were you doing out here? You could've frozen to death there, you know", the man tried to engage him in a conversation.

Marshall shrugged briefly. "Couldn't get up", he answered honestly. "Couldn't get it up either, so, just deserts or some shit."

"You don't come to this part of town often, do you?", the man asked more and dragged him further along. "I kinda know everyone around here."

A short shake of his head. "Don't know where this is." This wasn't the street his house stood on, that was sure. It also wasn't the street his old house stood on, there he would've known his way in the dark, even blind. Was it still empty? He couldn't blame people for not wanting to live there, he hadn't wanted to live there either. But who asked him?

"No? How did you come here then?", the man kept asking. Nosy, wasn't he.

"Came with him. He's gone now, to his wife", Marshall explained his night. Had been a good night, mostly. If Ryan hadn't just left him behind. He groaned, as he tripped again and almost fell again. His sore flesh protested vehemently. Would've been a good night, if he knew when to stop. "Five rounds, God, feels like a truck can make a U-turn in there."

A sympathetic nod. "Sounds rough. Come, over here", the man dragged him around a corner. "I'm going to call you a cab and that'll take you home, okay? You can't work like this, not tonight. And probably not tomorrow, either."

"Just, sleep", he muttered and pressed himself against the warm body next to him. "So fucking tired."

"I know, just a bit more", the man assured him and rubbed his shoulder. "What's your name?"

"Marshall." Probably a bit more meant a lot more. It usually meant that.

They stopped. "I'm Worick. Here, we're almost there." A staircase reached into the house, a door at the top. "Only a few steps now. Get your feet high, okay?"

Marshall sighed deeply. Stairs, really? His luck was the worst. "Aight", he mumbled. How was he supposed to get these feet high? They felt as if they were made out of lead. Wasn't that poisonous? Great, his own body was poisoning him. Judging by the throbbing pain everywhere, it might finish him off sooner. 

At last, he was dropped down on a couch. Finally! He stretched out and lay on his stomach, his ass was too sore for sitting. The man was still talking, but it didn't seem to be directed at him. There also was a female voice. Well, then they could entertain each other, Marshall really was spent. Sluts had limits, too, he would have them know.

Just sleep now. No buzzing fly anywhere, the bed wasn't vibrating - Wait, not a bed, the vibrator. Right. Anyway, not here, his hole was empty. It was, wasn't it … Marshall sighed deeply. He didn't want to be empty no more. Not empty, not alone, not useless. Hadn't he done enough? When was he allowed to be a person again? Had he ever been one? Marshall couldn't say. He didn't remember. There was a lot, he didn't remember. But the things he desperately wanted to forget, those were engraved into his brain. She yelled at him how disgusting he was, how useless he was, how she wanted him dead … He had tried! But he was afraid of the silence.

A soft hand stroked over his head. "Honey?", a female voice asked carefully. "Honey? Come, wake up, just for a moment. Your cab is here. You'll be home soon, I promise. Honey?"

Exhausted he groaned. His muscles strained as he heaved himself up and into a sitting position. Only pain. So, he was still alive then. Was this good? He couldn't tell anymore. "What?", he asked and his voice was raw. Everything was.

"You're going home", she said. A shy look from blue eyes, a sorrowful frown on her face. Her skin was beautiful, brown and smooth like silk. Black hair framed her face like a picture. Somehow he thought, he knew her voice. "Honey? Can you hear me? You're going home, alright?" Her breasts moved with every syllable, the t-shirt hardly enough to contain them.

Marshall nodded slightly. "Home", that sounded good. He rubbed his face to wake himself up. He needed to go home, she was right. What time was it? He needed to cook his daughters something, probably. It was always time for that.

A tall man came to them and kneeled in front of the couch. An eyepatch? But he certainly could wear it. Long blond hair fell down to his shoulders and the blue eye visible was very alert. "Here, take this", he said and pressed a cell phone into Marshall's hands. "My number is already dialed. When you get home, call me, okay? When you don't get home, call me, okay?"

"Thank you", Marshall nodded. "For everything. You don't have to."

"Nonsense, we look after each other. It's dangerous on the streets." The man - he knew the name, didn't he? - smiled at him. He smelled like cigarettes. "What will you do, Marshall?", he asked. Always asking.

"Call you", he repeated. "I call you." He gripped the phone tighter, so he wouldn't lose it. After all, he knew himself, he was clumsy enough to lose someone being so nice to him.

"Very good", the man, no, Worick said pleased. "Then, let's go and get you home." He wrapped his arms around Marshall and helped him up.

Marshall tried hard to pull himself together. It was terrible enough that he was a burden on his family and his friends, but some nice and friendly stranger? Unacceptable. So he concentrated hard on his legs, to move them how he knew walking worked. Should work at least, he did a terrible job. Finally, he sat in the taxi. He hated sitting, Marshall decided. 

"Marshall, what will you do?", Worick asked again, ready to close the car door for him.

Oh, he knew the answer and showed the phone his fingers clenched around. "I call you."

"Very good", Worick nodded pleased. "Hear you soon." The car door closed.

They drove away.

It took him three attempts before the car door finally swung open. Tightly his hands gripped the door, as he climbed out of it. Leaning on the metal helped to find a steady stance. Or what went for steady tonight. As he shut the car door, he realized this wasn't one of his. He knocked against the passenger side window and it rolled down. "What you get from me?", he asked and tried to squeeze his fingers into his jeans pocket, but it wasn't a good fit. That he didn't drop the cell phone was more important.

"It's alright. Your friend payed already", the driver said.

Good, then. But he groaned annoyed. He still had to get his hand into the pocket, his keys. Damnit.

The car pulled away and drove off.

Marshall stood in front of his gate and fumbled his keys out, opened the gate and squeezed through. It always felt weird to do this by foot. Especially if your feet felt this funny to begin with. However, he was home now.

With unstable steps he walked up his driveway. He pressed the green button of the phone and listened for the dialing tone. After the second, someone answered the call. "Yes? Marshall, did you get home?" Worick.

Marshall nodded. "I'm home. I call you."

"Very good", Worick said pleased. "Now, go to bed and have a good night's rest. And I don't want to see you work tomorrow, you hear me?"

"No work tomorrow", he repeated.

"Exactly", Worick said pleased again. "No work, and I mean it, not a single client. Even if you think a blowjob's fine, no. Not even a handjob, nothing. Give yourself some rest."

Marshall blinked and halted for a moment in the middle of his driveway. What? That didn't sound right. "But I-"

"No work", Worick interrupted him.

Marshall sighed. "Aight, no work." He probably deserved to be mistaken for a whore. The difference wasn't big anyway. Huh, wasn't even the first time this week, he realized.

Yes, his old habits were in full force again.

"Good. Then now, go to bed. Good night, Marshall." The call ended.

He stood in front of his door, keys still in hand. He had been clever enough to not put them back into his pockets. There was something to be proud of. So, he opened the door and stepped into his foyer. Everything was dark and gray, mostly memory told his eyes were the furniture should stand. Doubtful he looked up the stairs. Nope, he wouldn't do that.

Not everything was dark. There was a small glimmer of light coming from underneath the living room door. Curious. The light was right, it was the best room for some rest now. A short nap to get at least some strength back, that was exactly what he needed.

When he entered his living room, he smiled a little. Lainy and Hailie had fallen asleep in front of the TV, rolled tightly into their blankets. If they had been younger and if he had felt stronger, he would've simply carried them up into their own beds. But tonight he couldn't even do that for himself. So, he kneeled in front of the couch, because sitting really was worse than walking, and with a soft voice and a soft touch he tried to wake them up. "Hey you two, you should go to bed. It's late."

Sleepy Hailie rubbed her eyes and blinked at him. "Dad!", she exclaimed and threw herself at him, wrapped her arms around his neck. "Daddy, you're home."

Perplexed he caught her, his arms automatically embracing and holding her.

"Dad", Lainy rushed to hug him just the same. "You really gave us a scare there."

What was this? "Yeah, it's me?" A crucial piece of information was missing from him, clearly. "Why aren't you guys in bed?"

"You didn't come home", Hailie said in an accusing, worried tone and still hugged his neck.

"And then Big Eight called and asked, if you were home", Lainy continued just as distressed as her sister.

Instantly, he pulled both girls into long, heartfelt hugs. "I'm so sorry." He had been out way longer than expected and he had totally forgotten to call in home. How had he forgotten? He had messed up big time. "I'm so, so sorry." Comfortingly he rubbed their backs and kissed their heads repeatedly. It was a feeble attempt to console them and take away the scare he had given them. They shouldn't worry about him and yet, this. "I'm just so sorry." What else could he say?

He felt Hailie nod, her blond hair tickling his neck. "It's okay. We know."

No, it wasn't okay. Nothing was okay. "I'm here now, I am. You can go to bed, it's late." A good night's sleep would do wonders for all of them.

"But Dad", Lainy tried to interject.

He didn't let her finish. "It's late, go to bed. I'm here and I'm gonna be here when you wake up again. I promise. I'll be right there in the kitchen making you breakfast. Like always."

Lainy looked at him wary.

"I promise", he repeated. "Now, go to bed." He gave her one more hug and one more kiss.

"You have to go, too", Hailie insisted and examined him closely. "You look horrible."

Then he looked better than he felt. "Of course. I can't wait to go to bed. Now, off with you two, go."

She looked at him skeptical, but finally she nodded and let go of his neck. Both girls stood up and went toward the door, but halted in the middle of the room. "Aren't you coming?", Hailie asked.

Marshall was still kneeling at his spot. "Sure, yeah. I just … I'll need some water first. Go on, go on. You're big girls, ain't ya? You don't need your old daddy to tug you in", he tried a bit of a joke.

Lainy and Hailie looked at each other for a long second. Obviously communicating to each other, how little they believed him and how odd his behavior was. Thanks, he knew.

"Sure, Dad", Lainy finally said, "Good night." The two resumed their way.

"Good night, sweet cheeks." He took a long, deep breath to steel himself and with a strong grip into the edge of the couch, he heaved himself up in as smooth and fast and, specifically, normal a motion as he could possibly muster. His legs complained with soreness and ache, but they would have to endure this for only a few more moments. Marshall knew, his daughters probably hid behind the door and watched him. They were sneaky like this. So, he swallowed down the pained groan and made a step toward the kitchen.

But his body was absolutely fed up with his commands to just work. It couldn't. Sheer willpower had its limits. This was it. After all, there was a perfectly good couch standing right in front of him to lie down on.

His foot wasn't even up from the ground, as his supporting leg shook uncontrollably and collapsed underneath him. His hands only barely grabbed the armrest of the couch, but they hadn't much strength either. Exhaustion and tiredness did that to you. But the try to catch himself turned his body around and when he made contact with the floor, his ass was first and caught most of the impact. Hot, burning pain raced up his spine. The raw throbbing turned into knifes stabbing every single cell of his ass inside and out. A short cry of agony filled the room, even as the sound of his voice faded.

"Daddy!", two high-pitched voices called out.

Fuck! This wasn't going right. His daughters should not worry about him. He was still messing up. He was failing them, like he always did. That couldn't, mustn't happen. His daughters were to be happy, he must not fuck this up. Arduously he lifted himself off the ground and onto his knees again. "It's alright, I'm fine. Go to bed, aight."

"You're not fine!", Lainy said now more angry than worried. Her hands grabbed one of his shoulders to help him up.

Hailie stood on his other side and put his arm around her shoulders. "Stop it, Dad, you're hurt. Let us help you, please."

But Marshall shook his head. "I'm fine, it's alright", he insisted. He could not let them see, how hurt he was. What despicable things he'd done tonight. "I just  …" What had he used as an excuse? "Right, water … I just need some water." Again he tried to walk toward the kitchen, but his feet barely lifted from the ground and his knees buckled.

"Stubborn son of a …", Lainy muttered angry and fastened her grip on him. As did Hailie and she put her arm around his waist for support. Together the two girls tried to hold him upright. Sharing the weight between them helped a lot, despite them being build slender and slightly shorter than him. Nevertheless, they helped him into the kitchen.

"Sit", Lainy ordered and pulled a chair out for him.

A reluctant sigh. How was he supposed to sit on a kitchen chair? He folded one of his legs underneath himself and put most of his weight on the edge of the seat. He propped his elbows up on the table to catch the rest of his weight.

"Here", Hailie put a glass of water in front of him. "You, uhm … Do you want an aspirin or something?" She sat down with a worried look on her face.

An undefinable noise left his throat. Less pain sounded like a plan. Even better, no pain. That he could get behind. A couple of Ambien and he might finally get some sleep tonight, even if a stupid fly buzzed or an even stupider vibrator. Fucking shit. Why did he always end up in situations like these? He wanted a normal, boring life, not these nightmares. Why couldn't he stay numb and dead inside? Nothing good came from feeling anything. This was a night to forget. Maybe he should've taken Ryan's vodka instead of the water. Maybe, he would've forgotten already? Maybe he could've drowned the monster inside?

He rubbed his hands over his face. "No", he croaked. "It's gonna pass … eventually." Until the next time he lost himself.

"What happened?", Lainy asked tentatively, audibly torn between worry and upset. "Did you … spend the night with Nicky?"

Confused he looked at her. "What?"

With a short gesture she touched her neck. "You got something there."

"If you two got, uhm, a little wild or something, you can tell us. We're big girls", Hailie told him. "We can handle that. Just don't say, you're fine when you're clearly not."

Marshall shook his head. "No, it's not … I wasn't …" What could he say? What were words not to worry them more? What words would soothe them? His thoughts felt like molasses, dragging words through slowly but too sticky to use. "I spent the day with Ryan … as I told you." He was sure, he had told them about that. That he was going out with Ryan today and it probably got late. At least in the afternoon his head had still been working. He must've told them.

The two girls exchanged another look with each other. Then Lainy asked: "Until now?"

He nodded and took a sip from the water. It was cool, right out of the fridge. He liked that. As it went down his pipe, he could feel it wake up all the cells it touched. "We got a bit rough … and had a fight, too." He pressed the glass against his forehead. Perhaps the coolness could wake his brain up as well. He saw shadows moving that looked like them. Ryan agitated, Marshall … driven. "But then his wife called. She was pretty pissed he stayed out so late." He had heard her voice shouting through Ryan's phone and had to bite into the pillow to not make traitorous sounds himself. Though his hole had been slick enough, the sturdy silicone and the sharp vibration had hurt, his ass already too raw. It had been hard to withhold any sound of that, hence him biting into the pillow while he fucked the toy. She couldn't know that Ryan had a new side bitch.

A deep sigh. He was the worst.

"Hm", Lainy made an understanding sound. "We tried, you wouldn't answer your phone."

"Yeah, right, sorry 'bout that." He took another sip from the water and put the glass down. "Ryan has my phone. One of his bad jokes, I think." He wasn't entirely sure how that had happened. Something about mulled whine and presents. Oh, Nicolas had texted him to ask for Christmas. They wanted to spend some time that week. Maybe they could go to his lake house again, set up a small tree and drink some hot chocolate. Nicolas always kissed him lovingly, something he badly longed for at the moment. A light touch of love, even fake love he'd take. As if he'd knew real love, if it hit him in the face.

There was a slight pause before Hailie asked in a careful tone: "Did you guys go out drinking?"

Marshall shook his head. "No, we didn't. I didn't." Ryan had, of course, but there wasn't much he could do about that. The spit out sip of vodka didn't count. Did it? It had been an accident. And he hadn't drunk it. He had made sure to only drink water tonight. At least with this he had been good.

"Well, you're a bit - actually you're quite a lot out of it", Lainy explained.

Again, he shook his head. "It's just fatigue, that's all. My brain's a bit fried, you know. Was a bit much, tonight … I ain't used to this no more." He pinched the bridge of his nose, as if this could bring back energy. Or at least stop the sting behind his eyes. "… I don't want this no more." How could he stop? Wasn't it enough that he cheated on Nicolas? Why did he have to abuse his friend, too? Why did he push too hard until every part of his body was harried? Why was he so wrong?

"Hey Dad, hey shh", Hailie said softly standing next to him. "It's okay. It's gonna be alright." She hugged him tenderly. "You're not wrong, okay? You're the best dad. And we love you. It's gonna be alright." Her gentle hand rubbed comfortingly over his shoulder.

"Know what, you were right", Lainy said. She squeezed his hand warmly, her thumb caringly stroked the back of his hand. "We should all go to bed. Rest will do you good."

He sniveled but nodded. "Yeah, that sounds like a plan."

"Come, we help you upstairs." Together the two girls helped him up on his feet - one of them added numbness to the list of complaints - and supported him out of the kitchen and through the living room. Flanked by his daughters, who held on to him tight, the shakiness of his legs was bad but manageable. If both his legs carried his weight, standing was almost possible. The pain an underlying current to every movement. Slowly, one step at a time they climbed up the stairs.

Eventually he saw his bed. What a long, weary and hard journey had this been! As he crawled into it, the familiar sight and feel of his bed sheets seemed almost like a dream. A heavy sigh, as he finally laid down. He buried his face in the pillow, one more picture of this night flashed his eyes. When he had buried his face just the same, had been crying just the same, his body raw with pain and his arms too tired to move the toy inside, still doing it relentlessly. All alone in the apartment the responsibility of making him learn had rested on his shoulders alone. Too much responsibility. Possibly the pain would linger for days, then he had done good. He was wrong, he needed to hurt.

His shoes came off. Someone opened his belt and pulled his jeans down. A pained groan on his lips, muffled by the pillow. "No … I can't …" He had nothing more to give tonight. Please!

"You can't sleep like this", Hailie said. "Not with your clothes on. Come, help a little."

Lainy grumbled a curse. "You need a shower, too."

His hoodie was pulled off of him.

Weakly he shook his head. "Sleep. I want to … please … I want to end."

The bed shifted beside him as they laid down next to him. The blanket covered them all.

"Good night, Dad."