“This is stupid. Marc is still Marc. He’s still my best friend. Who he sleeps with doesn’t change that.” Frank said exasperatedly. He would have thrown his hands up if he weren’t holding two big bowls. They’ve made too much food again, forgetting that Bettina has moved back to her house with Marc.
“It does when he cheats on his wife.” Claudia said. “Not only did he cheat, he did that with a man. It’s like we never know who he is.” She frowned, taking the salad bowl from Frank before she sat down. “I don’t want you hang out with him.”
Frank pointedly looked at her. He opened his mouth and closed it again. He was not worried. Claudia didn’t really mean it, she was just angry on behalf of Bettina. Angry and shocked.
Frank sat down and took a sip of beer. He’s certain this would blow over, Bettina has moved back home, she would forgive Marc - eventually, especially now that Kay has...
His mobile started to ring.
“Marc?” Frank spared a glance at Claudia, shrugging. He frowned as he listened. “Wait wait wait... slow down...” Frank continued, “you have checked that? Ok. Yes, I know a doctor who does house-call. He can be there in half an hour. I am coming over too.”
“What’s going on? Who needs a doctor?” Claudia was alarmed immediately,
Frank made a quick call to a doctor he knew who’d make house calls, then went to retrieve his jacket and car key in the foyer, he turned to face his wife. “Marc is at Kay’s apartment, he found him passed out and he’s running a fever. Anyway, he needs a doctor. I’m going there.”
1 hour earlier
This is stupid. Just go see him, he will understand. He always does. We will argue but Kay will understand, he has to.
And then Marc thought of Kay’s inscrutable expression when he glanced at the key and veered away. Emotionless. He didn’t even bother to look at Marc again. Marc chewed his lip in worry, he wasn’t so sure anymore.
It’s been a week. Kay hasn’t been at work. Hasn’t called or texted Marc.
Marc pressed the doorbell. When there’s no answer. He knocked on the door and called out Kay’s name.
A prickling sensation began at the back of Marc’s neck. Something is not right. Marc had already exhausted himself mentally before he came over today, he couldn’t imagine leaving without getting an answer.
After two seconds of hesitation, he squared his shoulder, stepped back a foot or so, then ran and slammed his shoulder hard against the door.
It worked. He almost couldn’t believe it. His shoulder was in throbbing pain as a rush of cool air greeted him. Marc saw the door to the balcony was wide open, the curtains blowing in the wind. But no sign of Kay.
Marc was about to walk further into the living room when he noticed a foul smell. The bathroom door was ajar and that’s where the smell was coming from. Marc pushed the door open slowly and the first things he saw through the crack was Kay’s bare feet by the door.
“Scheiße... Kay!” Marc pushed the door some more and it pushed against Kay, who’s sprawling on the tiled floor. He was naked except for his boxer-briefs.
Marc rushed to crouch on the floor. He gently patted Kay’s face. “Kay...” he tried again. He was a mess, his hair all matted and sweaty, there’s dry vomit on the corner of his mouth but thanks heaven Marc could tell he’s breathing.
“Hey... hey... can you hear me? Please, Kay... wake up.” Marc continued to touch Kay’s face. Something was not right, Kay’s hands were clammy and his skin was too warm, way too warm. Marc touched his forehead. Scheiße, he’s burning.
He used the side of the bathtub as leverage and hoisted Kay up to a sitting position. Kay’s head rolled to one side and a small moan came out, a shallow breath, just barely. He was still not conscious.
Marc slipped both of his arms under Kay’s armpits and began to gently drag Kay out to the living room. After some struggles, he managed to put Kay in bed. Marc closed the windows first and pulled the duvet to cover Kay, then changed his mind.
Sitting down in bed next to a still unconscious Kay, Marc’s mind was running a 100 miles an hour; he has taken first aid course in police training but couldn’t remember if he should keep a person warm when running a fever. In the end, he decided to cover Kay with a thin bedsheet.
Kay moaned, his head turned slightly but his eyes were still tightly closed. Marc knew he needed to do something. Should he call the ambulance? Or go get some medicine himself? He turned to look at the front door he had broken down and decided against leaving Kay alone in the apartment. Think. Think. Think.
He called Frank.
The doctor had arrived before Frank.
Frank eyed the broken front door curiously before he walked into the living room; taking in the mess Marc created while trying to get Kay out of the bathroom. There were towels and bedsheets on the floor. The kitchen cabinets and drawers were opened, looked like someone was searching for things. What the hell happened here?
Frank said hello to Dr. Schneider. He was an older man with white hair and kind wrinkled eyes; he has been their family doctor since Frank was a toddler.
The doctor briefly acknowledged Frank, as Marc was looking at the doctor anxiously, asking him questions. “Why isn’t he waking up, is it just the fever?”
Dr. Schneider put down his stethoscope, his hands touching Kay’s neck and jawlines. He answered slowly, “yes, part of it is the fever. 102, high but not too dangerous for adults, I also think there’s drug still in his system. He probably have passed out in the bathroom after he threw up and caught a cold during the night. He didn’t overdose, but he might have taken quite a bit of... perhaps MDMA? Can’t know for sure without a tox-screen. Do you know if he’s a regular user? What other drugs does he take?”
Marc nodded quickly. “Yes, he takes E sometimes... usually when he’s clubbing. He also smokes weed... that’s quite a regular thing for him.” He finished with a brief glance at Frank.
Frank noticed Marc was holding Kay’s hand, stroking it in his palm like he’s holding a string of worry-beads.
The doctor observed Marc quietly and asked, “and the bruises on his face and body? They look at least a week old, do you know if he’s been in an accident... or...”
Marc’s face darkened. He threw a quick, uneasy glance at Frank before he answered, “he was attacked last week, by some homophobic prick.”
“Fucking hell, Marc... why didn’t you tell me?” Frank sighed, massaging his forehead.
Dr. Schneider’s eyes became gentler. “Hmmm... then he probably hasn’t been in good physical condition, that could be one of the contributing factors.” He thought for a second and continued patiently, “but his vitals seem ok, except for the fever. I gave him a shot of acetaminophen for his fever, let’s wait for a few hours, if the temperature persists and he’s still not fully conscious, you should take him to the hospital. In the meantime, keep him hydrated and comfortable.”
Frank walked the doctor to the door and thanked him. When he went back, he saw Marc sitting in bed, his hand gently brushing Kay’s hair and his face; his worry was etched on every line between his brows, around his mouth. Apart from uttering a few moans and the occasional movements of his hands, Kay seemed unaware of his surroundings, like he’s sleeping, fighting off a nightmare. Marc leaned closer, he was murmuring something; talking to Kay.
Frank turned his face away, he felt like he was witnessing a private, intimate moment between the two men.
He knew about them, of course. Bettina had told Frank and Claudia about Marc’s affair with Kay almost right after Marc had admitted it. Frank was shocked but the revelation also confirmed something that’s been bugging him - there had been something weird about these two. Marc had this nervous tic of an involuntary spasm of his shoulders whenever he’s feeling uncomfortable or cagey, and this showed up sometimes when Kay’s name was mentioned. And then at the party last week, when Kay almost ran out of Marc’s house... Marc hasn’t been himself afterwards.
Frank had even wondered that maybe Kay was hitting on Marc or something. Yeah, it was something, alright. Something completely foreign to Frank - that his best friend in and out of work was apparently in love with a man.
Yes, sure looks like love. Frank observing Marc uneasily. Or at least a fucking great deal of care and affection. Frank thought. Bettina had told him that Marc made it sound like it was a mistake, that it was a one-off. But Frank knew Marc. He knew Marc since he was 12, when their parents were living next door to each other.
Cheating and causal sex were not how Marc operated. Marc was not some insecure guy who needs to add notches to their belts in order to feel confident; and he wouldn’t hurt people he loved for some trivial affair. No, if he cheats, he’s doing it because he couldn’t help it. His heart wants it.
“Marc?” Frank cleared his throat, tried to get Marc’s attention.
“Huh?” Marc turned to look at him, one of his hands still holding Kay’s wrist.
“What happened? Why is the door broken? Why are you here?”
Marc looked away first. Then set his eyes at a point beyond Frank as he answered woodenly, “I came to see him. You said he hasn’t been to work this whole week? When there’s no answer, I kicked the door down. Then I found him passed out in the bathroom.”
What the hell... kicked the door down? Frank widened his eyes. He asked instead, “does Bettina know you’re here? She moved back yesterday. Aren’t you two...”
Marc’s jaw moved but he said nothing.
Frank sighed. “What about the attack you were talking about? Who beat him up?”
“Limpinski.” Marc said with quiet vehement.
“Scheiße... Gregor... verdammtes Arschloch.” Frank cursed lowly. He should have known. Gregor was pretty aggressive at the party. That damn son of a bitch. This made the news he’s about to tell Marc even worse.
“Listen, Marc... Eiden told me this morning,” he paused, waiting for Marc to look at him. “Kay is not coming back to the unit. He resigned yesterday. He told Eiden he’s leaving town.”
He missed a spot there shaving. Marc thought distractingly. He gently rubbed that spot just under Kay’s chin. Kay’s head moved slightly, sinking deeper into his pillow.
His fever has broken half an hour ago, just like the doctor predicted, but Kay was still not awake. He had been thrashing and turning earlier as his body tried to sweat out the fever, now he’s sleeping again, his eyes remained stubbornly closed. His face was pale, the bruises under his eyes and around mouth were fading.
Marc bit his lower lip, he swallowed the scream that has taken residence in his chest. Guilt eating at him, he closed his eyes and his mind was transported back to a week ago, when he suggested Kay to ask for another transfer.
Transfer somewhere else. Get out of my life. This is not what I want. You’re not what I want. That was what I had told him.
“Eiden asked if he could stay on til we find a replacement, but Kay said he’s leaving in a few days. He wouldn’t say why. I think Eiden knows more than what he told me, but it’s done now. They accepted his resignation.” Frank had given him the details of his meeting with Eiden. Only then has Marc noticed the few removal boxes lying around the apartment.
He has sent Frank away to get some supplies and to look for a locksmith to fix the door. “I’m going to let Claudia know I’ll be late. What should I tell Bettina?” Frank had asked before he left.
“I’m staying here tonight.”
Frank had looked like he wanted to say something, but in the end he just nodded and left.
Marc used a towel to wipe the sweats on Kay’s forehead. When Kay turned to sleep on his side in bed, Marc took the chance to wipe the sweat off Kay’s back as well and silently noted that they should change the sweat-soaked bedsheet when Kay woke up.
“Ahhh...” Kay groaned, eyes closed, eyebrows drew tight. Even with the bruises and exhaustion from being sick, Kay was still the most handsome man Marc has ever seen.
“I’ve looked better, huh?”
A dispirited Kay had said to him that day, maybe he was expecting Marc to commiserate the unfairness, the frustration with him; maybe he was hoping Marc would tell him that he would stand by him; or that Marc would say he’s sorry for asking him to leave the day before. But what Kay had gotten instead, was another ‘please let me alone’ request from Marc, accessorised with a return key.
Marc’s mind kept repeating: please wake up, please be ok. I’m here now. I’m sorry... I was an idiot...
After a while, Marc decided to tidy up the apartment while he wait for Kay to wake up. He has cleaned up the bathroom a bit, washed the few glasses left in the kitchen sink and took out the half a dozen beer bottles in the bin. His worries returned as he found no food waste in the bin, or dirty plates. He wondered if Kay has been eating these days.
There were discarded clothes on the floor next to the bed, when Marc picked up the dark grey jeans, several items fell out from the pockets. Keys, coins... and a strip of condoms.
Marc picked it up from the floor, his eyes fixated on the uneven edges around the tear line of the strip and he knew one or more condoms have been torn off. Used and discarded afterwards, in some club, or perhaps a bathroom in a bar. And suddenly he felt something holding him by the throat, clutching at him until he could barely breathe. He slowly slid down, dropping the condoms on the floor. And then he pressed his hands over his eyes and leaned against the kitchen counter. He breathed and breathed until he knew he wasn’t going to fall apart.
What exactly did I think was going to happen? Marc thought bleakly. I did this to myself.
“Marc? I have the locksmith with me.”
He heard Frank’s voice from outside the door. He quickly wiped his eyes and got up.
He must have dozed off in bed.
When Marc opened his eyes, Kay was staring straight back at him. His face inches close.
Marc blinked and hoisted himself up with his elbow. He tried a tentative smile. “Hey... how are you feeling?”
Kay had slept through the locksmith fixing the door; Frank putting away groceries in his kitchen and Marc’s continuous tidying up. After sending Frank home with a promise to call him later, Marc made some noodle soup he remembered his mother used to make when he was sick. He ate some himself and left the rest for Kay. Then... he picked up a book from Kay’s desk and started reading while keeping an eye on Kay’s temperature. At some point, he must have lain down next to Kay and fallen asleep.
Kay’s hair was matted but his eyes were clear and alert. He was still staring at Marc without saying anything.
Feeling self conscious, Marc rubbed the back of his neck and asked, “are you thirsty?”
After a second. Kay lowered his eyes and nodded.
Relieved, Marc sat up and grabbed the glass of water he had put next to the bed. Kay took the glass and drank it in one go.
“You must be hungry. I’ve made some...”
“What are you doing here? What happened?” Kay asked. His voice raspy.
Marc saw something between weariness and suspicion in Kay’s pale blue eyes, he didn’t recall ever seeing this side of Kay - the cautious, step-away, guarding his heart Kay. He swallowed and said, “erm... I found you passed out in the bathroom, you were running a high fever, so I called the doctor.”
Kay was still staring at him unblinkingly.
“You should eat something if your stomach can take it.” Marc added.
But Kay ignored it. His brow furrowed, like he’s trying to work out something. “How did you get in? Did I open the door?”
Marc’s face reddened. “I am sorry. I got worried so I kicked the door down.”
Kay glanced quickly to the newly repaired door and snorted. “Worry about what? You think I’d kill myself?”
That wasn’t what Marc was thinking at all, but his heart lurched just hearing it. Why would Kay even suggest that? He shook his head. “No... I just wanted to see you.”
Kay ignored that as well. He tried to get up, took a second to steady himself. Marc tried to hold his arm, but Kay evaded his touch and leaned on the side table for support instead.
“Scheiße... those stupid pills.” Kay muttered to himself as he stood up.
“Was it just E you took? The doctor wasn’t sure. He said it was still in your system this morning, that’s why you had a hard time waking up.” Marc said.
Kay pursed his lip. “I don’t know. I got them from some guy in the club. Maybe it’s from a bad batch.”
“Kay, that’s incredibly stupid!” Marc couldn’t help but raise his voice.
Kay’s eyes sharpened. “It’s my life and it’s none of your fucking business.” Kay bit out before he turned away.
Marc swallowed whatever he wanted to add and watched him walk to the bathroom. He took the chance to pull out the soaked bedsheet and was looking for clean ones in a drawer when he heard Kay returning.
“You don’t have to do that.” Kay said. He sounded half angry, half... Marc couldn’t be sure, he hoped it was gratitude. But it’s more like resigned.
Marc took the clean sheets out. “You were sweating a lot. You’ll catch a cold again if you sleep on soaked ones.”
Without another word, Kay helped him made the bed, they changed the duvet cover as well. When it’s all done, Kay was looking exhausted again already.
“Thanks for doing all these.” Kay murmured. “I guess I drank more than I should have.” He chuckled without mirth. Then he said quietly, “I’m ok now. You should go home.”
Marc was expecting this. He hesitated for a second, trying to catch Kay’s eyes before he said, “I want to stay here tonight. I want to make sure...”
“No.” Kay cut him off. He looked at Marc directly. “No. You don’t get to do this.” Kay repeated.
For a long moment, Kay was silent; then he let out a shaky breath. Marc could see something glistening in his eyes. Kay said slowly, “You don’t get to return the key, break my heart and then come back and kick down my door because you feel like seeing me. I’m not doing this anymore.”
With Kay’s words hanging in the air, for a few seconds, the only sounds in the room were their breathing.
“Kay... I am not... I want to tell you...” Marc began to say, then he stopped abruptly.
His mind went blank. He suddenly realised he had come here without knowing what he was going to say, or do. The whole day, he had been reacting to situations only. Problem solving - because that was easier than figuring out what he should say to Kay. Am I ready to leave Bettina? Out in the open with Kay? Or ask Kay to give me more time? What exactly am I offering Kay?
Then he remembered seeing that strip of condoms earlier, the descent of crushing darkness engulfing, suffocating him. Like a tsunami of pain, so sudden and so powerful, crashed over him.
Is there really a choice? How long am I going to lie to myself?
Kay has turned his face away from him, his palms pressed against his eyes. For all the time they had been together, Marc had never once seen Kay like this. Angry, cocky, yes. Even disheartened; but Kay was never sad. He has always dealt with whatever bullshit Marc dished out with defiance.
Marc put his hands on his shoulders, forcing Kay to look at him. “Can we talk about this tomorrow? You need to eat something and rest.”
“No! I want you to leave.” Kay pushed him away.
For someone who’s been sick in bed for a whole day, Kay was surprisingly strong. Marc found himself sliding backward, but his hand was still clinging onto Kay’s arm, the momentum carried Kay forward with him. Kay caught Marc with his shoulder, knocking Marc off balance, sending both of them crashing to the floor.
Pinned underneath, Kay pushed and struggled against Marc. The wrestling match was frantic and short, Kay kept kicking Marc’s legs, grabbing his t-shirt, while Marc used his knee to stop the kicking and he tried to grab Kay’s waist to steady him. “Stop it! Kay! Stop it. Damn it! You’ll hurt yourself.”
Kay’s breathing was ragged but he continued to struggle. Marc winced, he didn’t want to but he had to take advantage of his full strength, he pressed his arm on Kay’s chest, knocked the wind out of him and finally used his whole body pinning Kay to the floor.
Kay coughed. Marc immediately eased his pressure on him but still lying on top of Kay.
“Get off me! I fucking hate you!” Kay shouted. His eyes blazing.
Holding both of Kay’s wrists above his head with his hands, Marc dropped his forehead to rub against Kay’s. He murmured repeatedly against Kay’s ear, “I’m sorry, baby, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Kay thrashed and twisted, trying to free himself; he bit Marc on his shoulder. Marc grunted but he held on, kept rubbing his head, his face against Kay. Until he felt the fight slowly drained out of Kay, Marc eased his hold on the wrists. Even through this frenzy, even through layers of his jeans, he could feel himself getting hard, could feel Kay was getting hard too. Marc was shocked but quicker than lightning, his instinct took over, he rolled his hips.
The friction was all they needed.
Before Marc realised what was happening, he started rutting up against Kay. He could feel the wetness in front of Kay’s boxer-briefs and it drove him out of his mind. His hand moved down to touch Kay’s cock, giving it a squeeze through the elastic cotton. Kay grunted and thrusted up against the touch.
With his free hand, Kay reached down, pulling at the button and zipper on Marc’s jeans. Marc rose up a bit and took off his jeans and boxers roughly in one go.
He pressed against Kay again, his eyes seeking permission when he tugged at Kay’s boxer-briefs.
Kay gave the permission by rocking up into Marc with his hips. Marc took the boxer-briefs off and gently kissed Kay’s inner thigh.
“God, I miss you, you don’t know how much.” Marc said against the tender skin.
“I hate you.” Kay whimpered with contradictory words.
Marc took Kay in his mouth, his hands roaming all over Kay’s inflamed skin under the cool air. Kay grabbed onto his hair as Marc bobbed up and down, his rhythm erratic but full of desire and heat. Their unified breathing filling the room, bringing up the temperature.
Kay tugged at Marc’s shoulders to get his attention. When Marc looked up, Kay was turning sideways, his back against Marc’s front.
Marc found what they needed in the usual drawer, he pulled the duvet down to cover part of their bodies when he returned to hold Kay from behind. “You are still ill, remember?” He explained as he quickly prepped Kay with the lube and put on condom.
Kay turned his head and gave him a reluctant smile for the first time that day, Marc kissed him once, hard. And just like that, his world has been set right again.
He wrapped his arms around and held Kay tight against his chest as he rocked into him. Kay let out a soft moan as their bodies met and slid against each other; his fingers linked with Marc’s on top of his chest, squeezing so hard it almost hurt. The intensity of their fight fused into their love-making, Marc has never felt more alive, his heart so full he thought it would burst any minute.
How could I ever think I could live without this? Without Kay? Marc thought hazily. This thing... this love between him and Kay, so intense sometimes it scared Marc to death.
Marc licked and kissed the side of Kay’s neck as he could feel he’s about to come. He saw Kay pulling his own cock frantically, he reached down to cover Kay’s hand, synchronizing their pace as they raced towards the climax together.
When it ended, they spent a minute just listening to their ragged breathing, their still too fast heartbeat against each other. Time stood still.
Marc kissed Kay on the lips before he got up to fetch a warm cloth from the bathroom. He wiped them down quickly and pulled Kay up onto the bed and cover themselves with the duvet.
Kay’s face was flushed from all the exertion, Marc brushed his hair back and put his hand on his forehead. Satisfied with the cool temperature.
“You feeling ok?” Marc asked.
Kay slumped against him in bed, “What’s happening, Marc?”
So Kay wanted to get right into it.
“I want to be with you.” Marc kissed the side of his head. “If you’d have me.” He added.
Kay stilled. His voice cautious, “how?”
“Anyway you want.” Marc answered simply. When Kay didn’t immediately respond, he said, “I told Bettina about us. We... we are not getting back together.”
“I have resigned.”
“I know. Frank told me. Frank was here earlier.”
Kay turned to look at Marc, “Frank was here?”
Marc nodded slowly. “Yeah. He knows. Pretty much everyone I care about knows.”
Marc could feel Kay mulling over what he has just said. He was surprised to feel Kay’s fingers on his jaw, turning his face gently, and then kissing his mouth, his nose and cheeks before he rested against his neck.
It was another few minutes before Kay said, “I don’t want to stay here.”
A peculiar feeling came to Marc at that moment, in the 27 years that he has lived, he has never been more sure of what he was about to say.
He held Kay tighter. “We will go to someplace new. Start over.”
“So he did it. He really left Bettina for him. Just like that.” Claudia dropped down on the sofa, like she has just received some devastating news.
Frank could only nod. He had just helped Marc move to a short term rental in the outskirts of Stuttgart. He and Kay would live there until they figure out their next move. This way, Marc and Bettina could give each other some space and for her to find another place before they sell the house and sort out shared custody of their son.
“It’s not something they just get over, isn’t it? I still can’t believe it. Not someone like Marc. He adored Bettina! And Kay? He can have any woman he wants.”
“Come on, you know it doesn’t work like that.” Frank said.
“Men... you just can’t trust any of them.”
Frank grimaced. He thanked heavens every day that Claudia didn’t know about his brief affair with Britt.
“So what’s going to happen with Limpinski?”
Frank was relieved by the change of subject. He had told Claudia about Limpinski’s altercation with Kay after the party.
“Eiden is going to transfer him to a different unit, he’s getting a 3rd level warning, it will be on his record and he has to finish sensitivity training.” Frank had told Marc the same thing earlier today.
“You did the right thing.” Claudia said, shaking her head, “I don’t want someone like him in your unit.”
It is the right thing to do. Frank thought. He had reported Limpinski to the department, gave statements and recommendations as squad lead. Since Kay wasn’t coming forward to report Limpinski himself, the department had no recourse to charge him, Frank could only report this incident as a witness and raised it as a cause for concern.
Still, better than nothing. Frank didn’t just do this for Marc, he did it for himself as well. The way he had ignored Marc’s warning before, he regretted that now, ever since that day in Kay’s apartment. Maybe if Frank had been more supportive, Kay wouldn’t choose to leave the unit in such a hurry.
He thought of Marc and Kay’s reaction earlier today, when Frank told them what’s happening with Limpinski. Marc had simply nodded, he was looking at Kay, waiting for his response.
“I’d prefer to beat up him myself, but I guess the sensitivity training would be a hellish punishment for him.” Kay smirked. Then he said more seriously to Frank, “thank you.”
When Marc walked him out, he thanked Frank again for his help.
“You’re not quitting too, are you?” Frank worried.
Marc shrugged. “Not for now. Kay said we should take a few months to sort things out first, especially my side of things...” he glanced at Frank. “Then we will decide what we will do.”
A Marc Borgmann without a plan or a life goal?
“Anyway, I think it’s for the best. The move, I mean. We can’t stay here, and I can’t fit back into my old life. A fresh start, a change of scenery, is exactly what we need.” Marc had explained.
Frank had looked his best friend with new eyes. He looks different. Frank belatedly noticed, at first he couldn’t pinpoint what it was. He seems happy, confident...his shoulders relaxed and he lost the scowl he used to carry around.
“Well, I hope Marc has made the right decision. I don’t think Bettina would take him back.” Claudia’s comment shook Frank out of his reverie.
“Oh. I think he has.” Frank answered his wife.
Marc’s in love. Yes, that’s it.