Chapter 1: Day Zero (Marc)
Marc returns home after breaking up with Kay
Marc drove in numbing silence in his car, having pressed the reset button of his life.
No more fake night shifts. No more lies. No more of that golden hair under his fingertips. No more Kay Engel.
He found Bettina sitting in their bedroom, folding laundry. The smell of fresh linen mixed with baby formula in the air gave him a sense of security.
This is home. This is his life.
Bettina looked up at him, a pinched expression on her face. She was still smarting from the argument in the bathroom last night when Marc called her crazy, when she’d suggested that Marc was acting all weird around Kay because the blond man had hit on him.
“And what about us?”
Marc thought of Kay’s words less than 30 minutes ago. But there was no us. There never had been. Not for Marc.
“Hey.” He greeted her gently, sitting down on the bed next to Bettina.
Bettina pursed her lips. “I spoke to Frank earlier.”
Marc froze; tried not to react just yet.
“He told me the reason you were doing so many extra shifts was because you were overwhelmed. About becoming a father.” She stopped folding. “Are you having doubt about this?”
Frank. Marc blew a sigh of relief inwardly. His best friend had lied for him, and no doubt expecting Marc to reciprocate with honesty. They needed to talk. He had no idea what Frank really thought about his fake night shifts, but that was a battle for another day.
Right now. Marc dodged a bullet. Thanks to Frank.
“I - I was.” Marc hedged; his brain working overtime to pepper some truths in his next lie. “The house, starting a family, owing my parents money...” he trailed. “It was too much too fast.”
It was all true and all lies at the same time.
She nodded. Marc could tell she was fighting to pipe down her irritation, trying to be understanding. “That’s what you meant that time when you said you felt stifled.” She recalled, brows furrowed, like she’s slowly working out a solution for a problem. “And you are drawn to Kay Engel because he represents some kind of freedom that you missed?”
Because only when I am with Kay, am I free. Marc’s traitorous heart screamed.
More like free-falling. He reminded himself instantly.
“Maybe. I know it was silly.” He smiled wanly, welcoming the philosophical explanation Bettina offered.
She nodded again, reprising her role of a dutiful and understanding girlfriend, accepting her wayward partner’s doubt as part of relationship’s reality. She turned to him, her arms going around his waist easily, like it’s her birth right. “And now?” She enquired, a hint of trepidation in her voice.
Marc kissed her lips. Then he glanced over to the crib, admiring their son’s peaceful sleeping form.
Everything is back to normal.
“I am back.” The last image Kay’s lonely figure in the balcony flashed across his mind. “I am ready to start our new life. Together.” He solemnly promised.
Chapter 2: Day Zero (Kay)
Day Zero - Kay after Marc left
Kay winced and closed his eyes.
Marc had closed the front door softly, the click sound barely audible. But in Kay’s mind, it was a deafening loud bang.
He opened his eyes again, fixating them on the horizon, concentrating solely on the joint in his hand. Inhaling, holding it in, exhaling. One action at a time. Slow and deliberate. Until the joint burned down to a roach.
His mind empty, almost peaceful during those precious minutes. It didn’t last long. When the fog and smoke cleared, reality returned.
How did I get it so wrong?
Like a gambler who didn’t know he was about to lose it all; even when he woke up in the morning after a heavy loss, he still thought he could recoup it all the next day, only to lose the last chip before he even had the chance to sit at the table again.
And like any addiction, Kay thought the best way to kill it was to go cold turkey.
Miraculously, the throbbing pain from the bruises on his face and body has stopped. A parting gift from magician Marc Borgmann perhaps - ripping Kay’s heart out in such merciless manner, it took away his ability to feel pain in the process.
Because a person without a heart can’t feel pain, can he?
He spared a look at the key left on the concrete railing again. At that cheap generic blue keyring tag. Perfectly functional and totally dispensable.
Maybe that’s how Marc sees me.
Kay reached out to touch the key. Inch by inch, he pushed the key forward with his fingertips, until it got to the edge of the railing. He stared at it for a good minute, then with a flick of his fingers, the key made a pathetic little arc in the air before dropping straight down twelve floors.
The decision to leave came easily. There was nothing keeping him here.
Limpinski, king of insensitivity and owner of a mosquito-sized brain, had come close to guessing the truth. “Why did you even come here, huh? You only know Marc. We don’t welcome cocksuckers here,” Limpinski barked before he landed Kay a few of his meaty right hooks.
Kay needed a plan and a phone-call. But first, he needed a drink. Or two. Or three.
After downing a few vodka shots with an empty stomach, Kay closed all the curtains, he lay down in bed and stared at nothing in the dim room. Head spinning, stomach rolling and heart breaking. But his eyes remained dry, because Marc had taken that away too. From all the other times before today.
Four hours later. He made the phone-call.
“Nik? Yeah. I am alright, thanks. Yep, still in Ludwigsburg... but hey listen, about that job in Stuttgart you told me about, is it still... yeah... I know.... well, you are allowed to say I-told-you-so...”
By the time Kay hung up, it was 8pm. Marc had left around 2pm. Within the last six hours, he had rearranged his life for the second time in five months. Like pressing a reset button.
Chapter 3: Day 8 (Marc)
Marc learns that Kay has resigned
“So, the fag called in sick again, huh?” Limpinski said to no-one in particular in the locker room.
A dozen of blank resigned expressions mirrored each other. Nobody said anything.
Marc’s left hand closed into a fist, but he kept it by his side, holding his anger in. Like he always did.
“Watch your language, Gregor.” Frank warned. He threw an uneasy glance at Marc.
‘We need to talk.’ Frank’s expression said.
Frank still had no idea about Marc’s affair with Kay. He had lied to Bettina about the night shifts because Marc had lied to Claudia about his affair with Britt a year ago. He thought it was only fair he reciprocate, because this was what friends do.
Marc followed him outside, putting on his jacket as he walked. Daytime temperature has dropped this week, autumn has arrived without warning. Hard to believe a week ago at the party, the sun was blazing like it was midsummer. And Kay had shown up in a black shirt, his clean sweat smell...
Marc’s brain was still scattered when Frank dropped the bomb without any foreword. “It isn’t official yet. But Kay is gone.”
Marc stopped on his track. No way Kay could get a transfer that fast. It would be weeks, months even. Marc thought he would still see... he looked up at Frank. “Wha... what do you mean he’s gone?” He stuttered.
“He resigned. Without giving any notice, by the sound of it. Eiden is fuming.” Frank had a peculiar expression on his face. “Do you still jog with him? Did he say anything? Did he ever complain he’s not getting support from the unit for... the gay thing?”
Marc knew Frank was worried about himself, not Kay. He was afraid the incident in the canteen would come back to haunt him, he hasn’t reported it to Eiden about who started the fight, about Limpinski harassing Kay.
If Kay decided to quit and throw away his police career, he didn’t need to worry about repercussion; he could report both Limpinski and Frank. Hell, he could even sue the BePo department for failing to protect LGBT members.
He could also tell Bettina. Tell everyone about Marc.
As soon as that thought entered his mind, his heart rate accelerated. And just as soon, guilt ate at him. He felt petty and pathetic. If Kay really wanted to destroy me, he could have done it at the party; could have done it dozens of times before, with a phone-call to Bettina.
He returned his attention to Frank. Shaking his head. “No, I... He hasn’t said anything.”
Frank looked deflated; he mumbled, “I should have listened to you, buddy, when you told me to report Limpinski.”
But Marc wasn’t listening.
“Did you see him? When did he resign?” Marc asked. He hasn’t heard from Kay since that day. Day Zero.
Frank shrugged. “Eiden said Kay requested a meeting with him outside 6 days ago. No one else has seen him since the party. He hasn’t even cleaned out his locker.”
Chapter 4: Day 8 (Kay)
Kay moves to a friend’s place
Kay cursed; he had nicked himself cutting open the removal box. Kay licked the blood on his fingertip.
“Let me.” Nik took over the Swiss army knife and opened the removal box without a hitch. He glanced at Kay. “Did you get any sleep?”
Hardly any. “I am fine.” Kay replied.
Nik scoffed, obviously not buying it. But he didn’t pry, didn’t ask why Kay was all black and blue when he showed up at his doorstep. Nik was his oldest friend, he might be the only person in the world who could read Kay well and knew when to give him space.
Nik changed the subject and asked, “what did your BePo boss say?”
“I told him I could go quietly with a severance payment or I could go straight to the EGPA,” Kay said. He had watched Eiden go through three stages of emotions: angry, bewildered and resigned in one meeting, before finishing it with a curt reply, “I will see what I can do.”
Kay knew he has burnt all bridges. There was no going back for him in any police units.
And it’s fine by him. He planned not to ever set foot in Ludwigsburg or any police training ground.
“At least your police background got you fast-tracked for this job interview. Skipping the psych-evaluation and training for carrying arms... oh shit, when was the last time you smoked weed?”
Kay thought back on that last joint he smoked in the balcony. Day Zero.
He shrugged, like the day wasn’t branded in his memory. “Seven? Eight days ago?”
“That’s not too bad. I can get them to arrange the drug test in a week, it should be out of your system by then.”
Kay nodded, not too bothered by it. He needed a job away from Ludwigsburg, that’s all. The private security gig was an easy solution to his immediate problem. He couldn’t care less if he’s a glorified bodyguard for some corporate bigwig.
“Why do they want to recruit gay bodyguard again?”
Nik squatted the back of his head. “Gay-friendly. The world has changed, a lot of LGBTQ people in high ranking corporate jobs now. They don’t want to spend all day with someone who secretly think they are sinners.”
“And who’s more gay-friendly than a gay person?” Kay quipped.
Nik smiled. Then he watched Kay closely. “Still hurt?”
Kay knew what Nik was referring to. They didn’t hurt anymore, not the physical ones. He shook his head. “It looks worse than it is. Fucker ambushed me when I wasn’t paying attention.”
Nik grimaced. “And you said he’s a colleague from the BePo unit?”
They both were. Kay answered inwardly. In the end, Marc wasn’t much different from Limpinski - Limpinski hated gay people; Marc hated being gay.
“Yeah. A real prince charming.” Kay applied some sarcasm.
“I hate to say I told you so. I don’t know why you want to work in a place which is the epitome of homophobia.”
“Have you seen the uniform?”
Nik smiled but he wasn’t fooled by Kay’s witty display. “You need to get some REAL rest. Not pretending to sleep.”
Chapter 5: Day 15 (Marc)
Marc leaves a message on Kay’s phone.
“Hey. You know what to do. Leave a message or get off my phone line.”
Marc listened to Kay’s voicemail message for the third time and hung up for the third time. After a long exhale, he called the number again.
“Hey... it’s Marc,” he paused. “Just calling to see...” he swallowed, switched to a curt tone. “Anyway, call me.”
He hesitated, wondering if he sounded too brusque in the message. Shit. Whatever. He hung up. Angry at himself for second-guessing. For caring.
Finding the empty apartment last week was a shock. Marc couldn’t believe Kay had left without a word. His shoulder was still throbbing from ramming against the door. The loud wood splitting sound had been as deafening as the complete silence that greeted him.
He could imagine Kay’s response if Marc had the chance to confront him: “what the fuck do you want?” Kay would say, in his usual swagger.
Count your blessing. Your life is exactly how you want it to be again. Marc told himself. Wanting to know how Kay was doing was entirely because... well, they were still friends, weren’t they?
It’s just sex. If I feel the itch... I can always go to a club... Marc still tried to convince himself it would be ok. Then immediately felt guilty about planning to cheat on Bettina again.
Bettina’s voice filtered through the living room. Marc quickly stuffed his mobile back in his jeans’ pocket.
Her light footsteps followed. “What are you doing in the bathroom?” She grinned; she raised a giant ring of paint colour cards in her hand. “Want to pick a new colour for Lukas’ bedroom?”
She wanted to redo the baby’s bedroom again. They had previously covered the wallpaper with a powder blue paint before Lukas was born, but it hadn’t been done probably, so it has been peeling off. They decided to rip out the wallpaper and sand the surface before putting a new coat of paint.
Marc had been putting off doing it for weeks; there was no real hurry. Lukas would be sleeping in his crib in their bedroom for at least another 6 months. But Bettina was eager to put their stamp on their new home, to mark their new family life.
That old feeling of the house’s four walls closing in on him came back with a vengeance; stifling, suffocating him. Marc had dodged a bullet, but like a lot of adulterers, the relief of a narrow escape was short-lived and trifling.
“Marc, you coming?”
He slowly left the bathroom, following Bettina. The weight of the mobile in his jeans pocket felt like a heavy stone. Marc had set it on vibration mode, waiting and willing it to jolt.
But Kay never called him back. Not on Day Fifteen; not on Day Sixteen or Day Seventeen.
Three days later, Marc called his mobile again and heard this message: “The number you have dialled is no longer in service.”
Only then did it finally hit him - that he might never see Kay Engel again.
Chapter 6: Day 15 (Kay)
Kay gets a new job.
Some German words:
“Wasch mir den Pelz, aber mach mich nicht nass” - literally means “wash my fur but don’t get me wet”, it’s equivalent of “have his cake and eat it too”
“Hey, it’s Marc...”
Kay listened to the phone message on his mobile phone. He chuckled without mirth at Marc stating his own name, as if Kay wouldn’t recognise his voice after two weeks. It was just typical of Marc Borgmann to sound defensive and abrasive whenever things didn’t go his way.
The private security company has given him a new work mobile, so he could get rid of the old phone if he wanted to.
And he should. A fresh start.
Marc Borgmann wanted Kay to call him back. He had a pretty good idea what the policeman wanted. He wanted a meet up, a secret fuck in the forest or somewhere else, always with the exit door propped open.
There was never any doubt in Kay’s mind that Marc would come back sooner or later. Marc likes to have sex with men, no amount of will power or fear could make that go away. It didn’t take him long. Barely two weeks. Kay thought with twisted satisfaction. To Marc, Kay was a convenient fuck, he would always come back for more.
No, thank you. Those days are over.
Kay knew nothing would change. Different arrangement, same outcome. ‘Wasch mir den Pelz, aber mach mich nicht nass’ - Marc wants to have his cake and to eat it. His intention had always been clear; Kay had just been too much in love to see it.
So why not taking Marc’s transfer advice to the next level? There was nothing left there for Kay. A job with in a toxic environment; a lover who asked him to leave to save himself.
He pressed 3 to delete the message.
Kay stood up and nodded to the HR manager.
“Here’s your induction programme. Because of your BePo experience, we have shortened your orientation to one week of shadowing. You will shadow Gerd and his team next week at the SEP headquarters.”
Protection detail for senior staff of an international corporation. Better than dealing with drunken football hooligans. No harassment from Limpinski, no dithering from Marc Borgmann.
Kay shook hands with the HR manager and left the office. He walked outside and welcomed the crisp cool breeze. It was springtime when he first met Marc in the training academy; two seasons later, here he was, alone again.
Battered but not beaten.
Kay stepped on the crunchy yellow and red fallen leaves covering the pavement, he had a sudden urge to go for a run in the woods.
He found the extra pair of running shoes in his Jeep and put them on. Same running trail; the ghost of Marc’s heavier steps trailing behind him - though his breathing technique has gotten better, Marc never quite learned to run in light steps.
Kay ran, taking short, light steps, with only sounds of birds and insects around him.
Half an hour later, he reached the familiar clearing with fallen tree trunks. Lighting up a cigarette, he took a long drag on it and studied his surroundings. One last look. Then he took out the SIM card from the old mobile phone and snapped it in half.
Chapter 7: Day 120 (Marc)
Frank questions Marc.
Some German words:
Junggesellenabschied - literally means “Bachelor farewell”, it’s the equivalent of “Bachelor party” or “stag night”.
Marc halted tying his shoelaces; he looked up and stared into Frank’s concerned face.
He shook his head. “Nothing. Didn’t sleep well last night, that’s all.”
After the wasteful trip to Stuttgart last night, Marc had come home to an annoyed and bleary-eyed Bettina. He couldn’t rely on Frank covering for him again, so Marc lied about meeting an old school mate who had sent out a FaceBook invite last night for his Junggesellenabschied.
Except he didn’t see any old schoolmates or attend any party; he went to a gay club. Alone. The one he had gone to with Kay before. He thought if he could just scratch that itch a little, maybe it would go away - at least for a while - just so he wouldn’t feel like the walls were about to collapse onto him, maybe he would get a breather from the crushing feeling he’s been having since... Day Zero.
So much for the best laid plan.
Marc had fled the club after he nearly smashed some poor guy in the face in the bathroom... it didn’t work. In fact, he had made it worse by giving in to that impulse. Losing control again.
Frank continued to look at him with concen; he made a sweep of the empty locker room before he said, “A friend of mine saw you in Stuttgart train station last night. At 1am.”
Marc looked down.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?”
“I went to an old schoolmate’s party, he’s getting married,” he mumbled.
“Uh-huh. Bettina told Claudia the party is Stammheim, what were you doing all the way in Stuttgart?”
Marc’s jaw moved. “What the hell is this? Who asked you to check on me?”
“Stay out of this.” Marc started to raise his voice.
“Well, considering I lied for you, I have the right to know what’s going on.”
When Marc didn’t reply, Frank pressed on, “You need to be careful. Don’t get too attached - “
“Shut up, Frank.” Marc warned.
“- a fling is not a relationship. Some women...“
Marc snapped his head up. “Nothing’s going on. Nothing. There is no one. I am not having an affair. Nothing, alright? Nothing!” He shouted right in Frank’s face before he slammed his locker door shut.
In a flash Frank was grabbing his hand before Marc even knew what had happened.
He’s bleeding, there was a big gash on the side of his hand, caught in the metal lock handle when he slammed the door, now dripping blood like a leaking tap.
“Motherfucker!” Marc cursed.
“Shit. Marc, sit the fuck down and let me have a look.” Frank examined the wound. “The cut is not too deep. Get this clean under the tap over there. You need antiseptic wipes to dress it. I will get it.” And he left.
Nothing and no one. Marc closed his eyes.
“Marc! What are you still standing here for?” Frank returned with the First Aid kit.
But Marc didn’t hear him. “No one else, there’s no one else I want,” he said to Frank’s puzzlement.
Chapter 8: Day 120 (Kay)
Kay moves into a new home.
“And that’s it. Your washing machine is now up and running.” Kay’s new colleague, Siggi, announced.
The final piece of home appliance for his new home.
“Thanks,” Kay said, handing Siggi a beer. Their hands touched and brushed. Kay smiled but not meeting Siggi’s eyes.
Siggi looked around the scantily furnished, 60 sqm one bedroom apartment. “That’s all the furniture you have?”
Kay nodded. “I move around a lot.”
Siggi nodded. “Nik mentioned you were in a BePo unit in Ludwigsburg before. You like living in villages?”
Kay knew Siggi grew up in Munich, then moved to Stuttgart when he was 15, big cities were all he knew. Like Kay, he’s a former cop, they bonded quickly over that when Kay was shadowing a security team in his first week.
Kay chuckled. Ludwigsburg is not exactly a village, more like a suburban town. But it wasn’t like he had made any effort to appreciate small town living. Moving to Ludwigsburg had been a mean to an end.
A bitter end it has turned out to be. Naja...
“It has its charm.” Kay left it at that. Siggi wasn’t expecting an honest answer anyway, he continued to look at Kay with those honey-coloured brown eyes, sucking on the beer bottle with a faint smile on his face. He wasn’t not a flirty guy, but Kay knew all the signs.
Siggi was living with a boyfriend but they had an open relationship, at least Siggi claimed so.
Kay had broken so many cardinal rules over Marc, he was not interested to commit the same mistakes by getting involved with a colleague, or someone who’s already in a relationship. Not even for casual sex.
Plenty of fish in the water. Kay reckoned he just needed some time to get over the hurts. Right now, his own right hand was good enough.
Nik had other ideas, that’s why he had conveniently claimed he’s busy and sent Siggi to help Kay to move instead. His meddling best-friend.
“I was in BePo for two years before I went private,” Siggi said. He sat down on the used leather sofa - a housewarming gift from Nik. Siggi wasn’t in a hurry to leave. “That’s when I realised Landespolizei is not a place for us.”
By ‘us’, Siggi meant gay men.
“Nik told me you got assaulted by a colleague. That’s crazy. The worst I got was lame gay jokes in the shower room.”
“A rite of passage for any gay man who comes out.” Kay commented.
Siggi nodded, his eyes met Kay’s head on. Kay realised the understanding and solidarity in those eyes were what he had hoped to see from Marc on that final day.
But instead Kay had been given the marching orders.
“Being in the closet is no longer an option for me,” Kay said.
“No one stays long in one, not if they want to be happy.”
Kay admired Siggi’s optimism but he knew life was not just about pursuing happiness. Not to Marc. He could imagine Marc struggling in that closet but still determined to stay in.
Good luck, Marc.
Chapter 9: Day 201 (Marc)
Marc sees Kay’s old locker being cleared out.
It was inevitable. They had left the position open for more than six months during a quieter period.
Marc watched the administrative staff clearing out Kay’s old locker, preparing it for the newcomer.
No family photos, no slogan stickers, Kay hadn’t stayed long enough to personalise his locker. Like a passenger who alighted the train earlier than expected.
Kay never came back to get his things. According to Frank, he had officially resigned by post after meeting Eiden at the Baden-Württemburg Landespolizei’s headquarters.
There were only a few items in it. A spare BePo uniform, a grey towel, a black t-shirt and a pair of running shoes. Marc recognised them. They were Kay’s preferred brand and model; he ran so often, they needed to be replaced every four months.
Marc watched as they disappeared into a black bin bag.
It was late. Marc didn’t know why he wanted to stay behind for this. Bettina had texted him earlier, to remind him the dinner and bowling night out with Frank and Claudia. Marc’s parents would babysit tonight.
That has always been their plan. One of the reasons why they accepted his parents’ help to buy the semi-detached house next door, the financial help as well as babysitting duties.
His perfect family life proceeding smoothly, after the Kay Engel detour.
Just before the administrative staff left with bin bag, Marc stopped them. Pointing to the bin bag, he asked, “Can I have it? I can ask him if he still wants them.”
The staff shrugged and gave him the bag.
Marc had no idea what he was going to do with it, but at that moment, the idea of it being thrown into a dumpster was too painful.
He took the black t-shirt out and carefully sniffed it, he recognised the faint soap smell was the same one Kay used at home. Marc hid the bin bag in the trunk of his Golf, behind some jumper cables and tools.
Then he got into his car and drove to the bowling alley.
“Who’s the new guy joining next week?” Bettina asked Frank after she nearly did a strike with her first ball.
“Eiden said it’s a SHE.” Frank said.
“Really? I bet all the single guys will give her a good welcome.”
“Maybe not just single guys.” Claudia quipped, throwing a quick glance at her husband.
To this day, Marc had no clue if Claudia ever found about Frank’s short-lived affair with Britt. Frank was adamant that she didn’t know. Only suspicions.
Marc was sure Bettina had had her suspicions, he just didn’t know the direction of them. Perhaps Marc being with a man was a concept too remote for her...
“Britt’s one-woman welcoming army gave Kay a good welcome too,” Frank chuckled, he put his arm around Marc. “And Marc! For a while, we thought you adopted him.” He laughed.
Marc shook off Frank’s hold, he’s sick of this joke.
“Did anyone ever find out why he disappeared?” Claudia asked.
“No, but someone saw him in the Staatsoper in Stuttgart last week.”
Marc’s body went completely still.
“Really? I would never guess he’s an opera fan.” It was Bettina.
Frank shrugged. “Kay? I guess no one really knows him.”
Chapter 10: Day 230 (Kay)
Kay sees Marc in a bar.
“What do you want to drink?”
“What I want is a big fat joint.”
Nik rolled his eyes. “Another month. Drug test will be less frequent after probation period.”
Kay understood. He’s lucky to have a job, actually a better paid one, so quickly after he impetuously ended his police career. Four years of training went down the drain.
“Dinkelacker,” Kay settled for his usual choice. Nik tried to make eye contact with the barman.
Kay took a casual glance of his surroundings. This gay cafe/bar was an establishment in the city and Nik’s favourite. The music was not too loud and it had a friendly mixed crowd.
He was into his second Dinkelacker when Nik suddenly leaned over and whispered in his ears, “Good-looking admirer alert. Your 9 o’clock.”
Not interested. Kay scowled. “Stop trying to hook me up with men. Right now I only need a joint and my right hand.”
Nik laughed and kicked his leg under the bar countertop playfully. “But this one is broodingly handsome and intense. Exactly your type.”
“Shut up.” Kay scolded but he turned his head around to that direction.
Fuck me. Kay cursed inwardly. It was Marc.
He was staring at Kay unblinkingly.
All of a sudden, Kay’s heart was pounding so hard, he could hear it thumping in his ears, drowning out whatever Nik said. “You know this guy?” Nik frowned when Marc began to walk towards them.
“Hey.” Marc said, followed by a loud hiccup; he took an unsteady step forward.
Nik stood up to block Marc from advancing to Kay. “Hey Kumpel, take it easy.”
But Marc didn’t seem to have heard him; he continued to look at Kay, like he wanted to make sure he’s real.
Kay noticed Marc’s eyes looked overbright and his face was flushed. Could be from the cold outside or it could be he has been drinking for hours.
Yeah, it was the booze.
“How much did you drink?” Kay asked Marc. Drowning his sorrows? Kay was not delusional enough to believe that it was because of him. Marc was probably trying to find courage in a bottle in order to get laid, which was completely on-brand for a self-loathing closeted gay.
“Too much and not enough,” Marc answered, slurring his words. Another loud hiccup.
Kay scoffed at the drunken philosophical answer; he looked behind Marc to see if anyone was with him. No. Marc seemed to be here alone and was completely smashed.
I don’t have time for this shit.
Kay got up and said to Nik, “Want to go to another bar?”
Kay knew by then, Nik had worked out who Marc was. His best friend was giving Marc a hard stare.
“Call an Uber and go home to your wife.” Nik said to Marc before he grabbed his coat from the back of the chair and gestured Kay to follow him out.
“Kay.” Marc called his name as Kay walked past him.
He knew he shouldn’t but Kay turned to face him.
There was a look of wonder on Marc’s face and he said, “I thought I would never see you again.”
Chapter 11: Day 237 (Marc)
Bettina is angry with Marc.
“Relax your shoulders and breathe evenly... come on...” Kay coaxes. His face inches close to Marc; he smells like spring...
Marc can’t believe it. “I thought I would never see you again.”
“How much did you drink?” Kay asks with mild disdain on his face.
He hates me.
Marc wants to reach out to touch Kay, but he can’t. Because he has no right to. Not anymore. Not ever again.
Marc looks around.
“Marc, wake up!”
Marc opened his eyes. Bettina loomed over him, shaking his shoulders.
He squinted which made his headache worse. His mouth felt like it’s stuffed with cotton. Shit. The whisky. What a bad idea.
Bettina was sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked irate. Marc belatedly checked the time. 11:55am. He couldn’t remember when he got home. 2am, 3am maybe? He hadn’t gone to Stuttgart this time; he had been in a bar in Ludwigsburg centre. Frank and a few colleagues had been with him, though they had left before midnight.
I did nothing wrong. Marc reassured himself.
“Sorry, I drank a bit too much with the guys last night.” The apology was well rehearsed and pathetically common in the last few months.
Bettina watched him with cool eyes and a strange expression on her face.
“You came home at 4am, Marc. You took a shower and then buried your shirt at the bottom of the basket, it stank of booze.”
“I just had some whisky, that’s all...”
She stared at him and said slowly, “You are acting strange again. Like before Lukas was born. Like you don’t want to be here.”
I did nothing wrong.
Marc groaned wearily. “Can’t I have a drink with the guys to relax?”
She scoffed. “Obviously, whatever it was bothering you before, it hasn’t gone away.”
It has. He is gone. Now he hates me.
Marc fought the fogginess in his brain; he needed to concentrate.
“It’s not that. We had a few big clashes at work, everyone is a bit wired.” Marc was referring to the recent demonstrations in Stuttgart city they’d been asked to assist.
Bettina didn’t believe him. “But you’ve been wired for months, ever since Kay Engel quitted.”
The accusation was so precise and delivered in such an offhand manner, for a moment, Marc thought he had misheard it.
“What are you talking about?” Marc suddenly remembered the black bin bag in his car trunk.
“You tell me. I mean one minute you all treated him like a pariah, the next you act like someone killed your puppy when he left. Claudia said Frank is acting strange too. I don’t know what’s going on. Did you two have something to do with Kay resigning?”
Marc knew Frank had gotten a reprimand from Eiden after the debacle with Kay’s resignation. He had little sympathy for his best friend over this, if Frank had reported Limpinski like he should, maybe Kay wouldn’t have...
Who am I kidding? Kay quitted because of me. Not because he can’t handle Limpinski.
“We failed him. Both of us.” Marc said quietly.
“What do you mean?” Bettina frowned.
Nothing. It’s too late now.
Chapter 12: Day 260 (Kay)
Kay bumps into Marc again in Stuttgart.
It was quite late by the time he got to the bar.
“Thought you are not going to make it.” Siggi waved him over.
“I said I would come, didn’t I?” Kay replied easily.
Siggi wanted Kay to join him and his boyfriend for a drink, Kay had issued too many rain-checks before, so he finally relented.
“You need to get laid - with another human being,” Nik had joked last week, when he tried to get Kay to go out on a Saturday night. “Come on, it’s been ten months.”
“Nine.” Kay had corrected him. But who’s counting? Kay was still slowly crawling back from the nadir, that chance meeting with Marc nearly a month ago hadn’t helped. Looks like Marc really misses me...
Fuck, don’t go there. He shot that down right away.
Kay turned to say hi to Siggi’s boyfriend, Anton. He’s a flamboyant sweetheart who had made a threesome proposal to Kay the first time they met.
Anton gave him a half hug. When he pulled away, he pointed at Kay’s freshly washed hair. “Where did you come from, gorgeous?”
“I went for a swim.”
“At this hour?”
Kay shrugged. The gym he used had an indoor pool and it stayed open until 10pm.
“Ohhh. Sexy night swimmer.” Anton said coyly.
“Kay also runs every morning. Rain or shine.” Siggi pinched his bicep, joined in the fun.
“All these hard works and you want to sleep alone? Why, sweetie?” Anton acted scandalised.
Because I need to tire myself out, so I can fall into a dreamless sleep.
Kay laughed off the teasing, he met Siggi’s eyes briefly. Anton and Siggi might not be exclusive, but Kay knew they were very much in love with each other. For them, sex is just sex; sometimes it has nothing to do with love.
Maybe Kay should take a leaf out of their book.
When they suggested to go to a newly opened drag bar, Kay feigned tiredness and left just after midnight.
Kay was walking in a quieter part of the gay neighbourhood when a loud crashing sound caught his attention. Kay turned to the direction of sound and found a toppled metal bin spinning on the ground. He looked into the dark alley, where it rolled out from. A man was facing a graffiti wall with his head down; heaving and vomiting.
“Are you ok?” Kay took a few steps closer and stopped. He recognised the brown suede jacket from the back.
Marc didn’t seem to have heard him at first, when he finally looked up, Kay gasped softly - Marc’s pupils were dilated and hazy. His shirt clung damply to his sweaty body. He looked wild.. and high.
Ecstasy. Two tablets at least. Shit.
“You came back.” Marc gave him a intoxicated goofy smile. “I’ve been looking for you.” He tripped on a upturned bin lid and stumbled.
“Hey! Careful.” Kay caught him by his arms, but the slippery road and Marc’s dead weight threatened to pull both of them down.
Marc wrapped his arms around Kay’s waist, his head rested against his shoulder, “hmmm... you smell nice.” Before Kay could react, Marc has passed out in his arms.
Kay noticed his jeans’ flies were undone.
Chapter 13: Day 261 (Marc)
Marc wakes up in Kay’s apartment.
The pounding in his head has become familiar.
Marc’s eyes were still closed but his brain was already working overtime for an answer to Bettina’s complaint when he woke up.
But something felt different this morning. First of all, there was something soft and padded behind his back, stopping him from rolling to lie on his back. Second of all... he sniffed. Instead of the baby formula and lavender laundry smell in their bedroom, it was something spicy and musky... like a clean male body.
Marc opened his eyes.
He was not at home; he looked down and found himself with only his boxer-briefs on. Then the mattress dipped as someone was on the other side of the bed turned. Marc hoisted himself up with his elbows and glanced over.
Kay was lying there, sleeping on the other side with some cushions in between. In a flash, Marc’s mouth went completely dry like the Sahara desert.
His eyes and brain registered only Kay’s serene sleeping form. Slowly, everything else stripped and fell away. And at that moment, his mind was a sea of calm, void of anxiety and worry. The elusive peace that he hadn’t felt for for months. Months that felt like years.
He didn’t have the chance to really look at Kay in the bar that time, so now he greedily took it all in. Kay’s golden hair has grown out a little but kept short on the sides. There were light dark circles under his eyes and he looked like he had lost some weight too.
From work or maybe he misses me like I do?
Marc swallowed as his gaze trailed the shape of Kay’s mouth, remembering the pink tongue behind the rosy lips; remembering the way it looked when it parted, welcoming Marc’s eager invasion, the taste and the scent...
His throat made an involuntary soft grunt.
Kay stirred, his eyes fluttered open.
Marc swore for a tiny moment, he saw the corner of Kay’s mouth quirked into a smile, fleeting happiness flashed across his face.
But of course it didn’t last. Good things between them never did.
Kay’s face closed off; he sat up in bed.
They stared at each other for a few seconds, both holding their breaths. Marc folded first. “How did I ...?” He asked.
Kay peeled off the duvet with one hand and got out of bed. Marc looked longingly at the retreating naked backside. It was as beautiful as the first time he saw it, touched it.
“I found you passed out on the street last night, you wouldn’t wake up, so I took you home.” He threw a uneasy glance at Marc. “People can OD on ecstasy, or choked on vomit.” His eyes were troubled. “You need to be careful with those pills and who you fu...” Kay didn’t finish his sentence; he looked away.
Marc’s face reddened. The pills were from the guy who gave him a blowjob in the alley. And Marc had been intoxicated before the ecstasy pills finished the job.
Kay cut in quickly, “There’re clean towels in the bathroom if you want to take a shower before you leave.”
Then he left the bedroom.
Chapter 14: Day 261 (Kay)
Kay and Marc have a talk
Kay listened carefully to the shower sound from the bathroom, while he quickly got dressed.
Five minutes later, Marc emerged from the bathroom, his hair wet and finger-combed; he was wearing last night’s clothes, looking a little lost. Kay pretended he wasn’t looking; he opened the fridge and proceeded to drink orange juice from the carton.
Marc looked around the apartment. “So this is your new place? It’s nice.”
Jesus, he wants to make small talk. Kay closed his eyes briefly before turning around.
He gave Marc a tight nod, immediately changed the subject. “Do you remember where you parked your car?”
Marc’s face was red again, his eyes were clear now but the smell of whatever hard liquor he had consumed the night before were still clinging on his clothes. He mumbled the name of a well-known gay club in Stuttgart, not too far from the bar Kay went last night.
Kay stared at him. He should have known, when he found Marc in a dark alley with his flies undone, that Marc had been in that area looking for a quick fuck.
“I guess this is your new life now, huh?” Kay let out a bitter laugh before he could stop himself.
Marc looked aghast; he reached out his hand to touch him. “Kay...” he called out his name softly like a caress.
Kay walked a step back and said quickly, “Sorry. None of my business.” He wanted to throw up; but he forced himself to pull it together, pushing down the acid churning in his stomach. He needed to get Marc out of his apartment. Now.
“I have to work today. You can take a taxi to get back there, it’s not far.” Excellent. He managed to keep his voice steady.
At first Marc didn’t say anything. He looked around the apartment like he was searching for something. He began talking without looking at Kay, “You know I didn’t mean for you to quit...” When his eyes finally set on Kay, they were red-rimmed. “Shit. I didn’t even mean it when I told you to get a transfer. I... I just needed to - “
Kay raised a shoulder like it was no big deal. “It was my decision to quit.“
“I just needed to get my life back in order.” Marc finished his sentence.
Kay nodded, swallowed the hurt with another mouthful of orange juice. “Well, job done then.” He mocked.
Marc’s grim expression showed he knew he deserved that.
After that, there was nothing left to say. Kay made a show of gathering his keys and backpack.
But Marc stood rooted to the spot. “Kay, I miss you - “
“DON’T.” Kay cut in tersely, shaking his head. “Don’t say shit like that. You’ve made your decision, I’ve made mine.”
Marc hesitated; his hand grabbing the corner of the kitchen counter tightly, like he’s drawing strength from it. “Can I see you sometimes? As friend?” He made the request in quiet despair.
Kay watched Marc biting down on that firm, sensuous mouth, his deep blue eyes full of misery, waiting for Kay’s answer.
“You mean you are going to tell Bettina, Frank and your parents that we are friends?” He shook his head. “We can’t be friends. You know it’ll only be a matter of time before we fuck again. And I can’t do that anymore.”
Chapter 15: Day 270 (Marc)
Marc gets the silence treatment from Bettina.
Some German words:
wehweh - German baby talk. It’s the equivalent of “boo-boo” in English. A trivial injury, a scratch or bruise
Alles wird besser sein - everything will be better
When the bath was ready, Marc picked up Lukas and took him to the bathroom.
It was his turn to bathe him. Bettina glanced at him once coolly, before returning to her book.
She was still not talking to him.
Sure, she “talked” to him when she needed to. Like when they had dinner with Marc’s parents, or when they hung out with Frank and Claudia. But when they were alone, she gave him the silence treatment.
They had a big row more than a week ago, after Marc had spent the night in Kay’s apartment. Naturally, he hadn’t told Bettina the truth. In fact, he had said very little. Just that the unit had been working in Stuttgart - which was true, that he went out to drink - also true, and he had fallen asleep in the car.
How much Bettina believed Marc didn’t know. What worried him more was how little he cared.
He should care more that he needed to get completely wasted in order to have sex with ransom strangers, while his girlfriend was waiting for him in bed, who he hasn’t had sex with for a few weeks now. He should care more that the family life he had sacrificed so much to protect - had given up Kay for - was falling apart.
“You mean you are going to tell Bettina, Frank and your parents that we are friends?”
Kay was right, of course, always went straight to the point.
Marc thought of that beautiful backside, close enough for him to touch that morning. How much he wanted to wrap his arms around Kay and bury his head between his neck and shoulder, to breath him in. He wished he could stay in that warm and safe spot. Forever.
“And I can’t do that anymore.”
Marc closed his eyes. That sentence had speared right through his heart.
He knew he had hurt Kay, he knew that. He wasn’t a thoughtless bastard who expects Kay to offer friendship when Marc himself had never even acknowledged their friendship to anyone.
It’s just that seeing Kay again, talking to him again, gazing into his warm blue eyes…had stirred something in Marc.
He should be happy for Kay, who deserved a new start, not waiting around for someone like Marc. That guy with Kay that night in the bar, maybe he’s the lucky guy? Although Kay was obviously still living alone... Marc’s heart couldn’t decide whether he should be relieved or jealous.
“Papa... wehweh...” Lukas pointing with his soapy finger to the pinkish bruise on his forehead. He had hit his head against a wooden cabinet because Marc had forgotten to close the baby gate to the kitchen. With Lukas now crawling in lightening speed, they had to keep an eye on him all the time.
That had caused another row between him and Bettina.
“Yes, that’s a wehweh. Let Papa kiss it and make it better.” He pressed a kiss on his son’s forehead.
Lukas laughed and splashed water around in the bath tub. “...wehweh... besser...” his son mimicking his words.
This is what I should care more. Marc reminded himself. Right here.
He gently washed Lukas’ hair, murmuring, “Ja, alles wird besser sein. Papa will try to be better.”
Chapter 16: Day 285 (Kay)
Kay meets someone new
“Is it against your company policy if I ask you out for dinner?”
Kay looked up and met James Grant’s amused gaze.
“Well, technically, no, because I am no longer part of your personal security detail. But you ARE still one of our clients.” Kay answered, returning a faint smile.
“It would be frowned upon then? What’s the German word for that?”
Kay chuckled at the English expression. He took a sip from his coffee and thought for a second. “Missbilligen? It means to disapprove. Close, but not as animated.”
Nik had warned him about the possibility of being approached by clients, especially with personal detail works, the daily and close contact with the client made it hard to avoid. Some clients thought they were using a dating app.
But Kay didn’t want a date. He wanted a fuck. No strings attached and preferably with someone he didn’t have to work with the next day.
James was the Chief Engineer for a big oil company, with the amount of threats they received after another spill accident, they always needed personal protection for their top staff. Security teams were on rotation, Kay had just been assigned to another gig. So, strictly speaking, no conflict of interest.
He had given James his phone number before and the Englishman asked him out for coffee the second day Kay was off his team.
James leaned closer, invading Kay’s personal space. “Sounds like a worthwhile thing to get told off for,” he whispered, his eyes dropped to Kay’s mouth. “Especially if I can get a dinner date out of you.”
Kay licked his lips and watched James’s eyes widen. He was not going to lie, he enjoyed this part. James made no attempt to disguise his interest in Kay, which was a nice change after Marc Borgmann. A very good one for Kay’s ego.
And Kay was tired of his right hand. If Marc has found his way to deal with the break-up, maybe it’s time he should too.
Kay’s heart thudded in his chest as he remembered Marc sleeping in his bed that night... the fact that after almost a year, the mere presence of Marc still affecting him so much. Like a powerful vacuum cleaner, threatened to suck Kay back into the vortex.
And Marc’s desperate proposition of friendship. The closet is a lonely place to be and Kay was the only person in the world Marc could just be himself with. So yes, Kay understood. But ultimately, Marc was simply offering crumbs. Even as a friend, Kay would still be a secret.
He couldn’t afford to backslide.
After that night, for a whole month, Kay had been looking over his shoulder every time he went to a gay bar or club. Hoping to see Marc in the crowd; worried he might see Marc with someone else.
But no, he hasn’t seen Marc since.
He returned his gaze on James. “Do you fancy German or Japanese?” Kay finally asked.
James grinned, his hand brushed against Kay’s jeans cladded thigh under the table, pressing a kiss on Kay’s lips.
It felt different. Kay realised it was the first time he kissed someone other than Marc in more than a year.
He returned the kiss; they deepened it. Right there in the middle of the cafe. Kay’s traitorous mind briefly wondered what it would be like to kiss Marc in pubic.
“I prefer my man German. But yeah, I like sushi.” James answered.
Chapter 17: Day 320 (Marc)
Marc spots Kay's new boyfriend
The man appeared on Marc’s third trip.
Marc sat in his car, watched the sandy haired man enter the building and appear inside Kay’s living room a minute later.
With the curtains drawn open and lights on, Marc had a clear view of Kay’s 1st floor apartment. By now, Marc has found the spot with the best view of the apartment.
Ever since he knew where Kay lived, it only took him another trip to find out Kay’s schedule - he was usually home by 7pm. Sometimes Kay would get change and go out again, sometimes Marc saw him smoking on the balcony by himself.
This wasn’t the original plan, of course. Marc hadn’t planned to behave like a goddamn stalker. He had wanted to talk to Kay - though he had no idea what to say. It was just a burning need to see him. It was as if Marc was afraid Kay would disappear again if he didn’t see him.
He just needed to find enough courage to get out of his car and walk up to Kay.
The sandy haired man was now standing next to Kay in the middle of the living room. They were talking. The man was talking animatedly, like he was telling a joke. Marc could almost see the smiles on their faces. They looked friendly with each other.
Marc’s mind was chanting ‘Friends’ when the man suddenly took Kay’s hand and pulled him in for a kiss. Kay gave no resistance, in fact the kiss he returned was definitely not for friends.
Marc tortured himself by gluing his eyes on his targets. This kiss looked different to him. It was a causal, everyday kiss, something they do so often it was like a muscle reflex.
And somehow this seemed worse to Marc. Because of the familiar way they kissed. That meant sandy haired man was not a one-night-stand, maybe he even had a key...
The kiss went on for quite a while.
It was like an out of body experience for Marc. Observing this. Have I ever kissed Kay like this? Like it was the most natural thing in the world to do? Like I don’t care who knows.
Marc was still pondering when he suddenly felt a sharp, burning pain in his stomach, he opened the glovebox and took out a bottle of Calcimed and popped two tablets. His heartburn has gotten so much worse these days. He knew he needed to cut down on drinking and smoking.
These days he didn’t even bother to offer excuses to Bettina. He had just told her he’s going out and then somehow, he had ended up outside Kay’s apartment, watching Kay kissing his new boyfriend.
Ten minutes later. Kay and sandy-haired man left the building together, walking side by side. They were close but not touching. Marc watched them turn a corner and disappear from his line of sight.
The pain in his stomach has now reduced to a dull pain. Marc started the car in autopilot motion.
He wondered what the hell he’s doing.
Chapter 18: Day 365 (Kay)
It’s been a year.
“Don’t let Anton talk you into a threesome.” Nik said to James.
“Foursome!” Anton corrected. “Siggi and I are a package.”
“You all forgot he’s British. They don’t like sex.” Kay smirked.
“Woah. Not true! We don’t like to talk about sex, but we like doing it.” James wiggled his eyebrows to Kay. “So don’t you worry.”
As far as Kay knew, none of them was having any threesome or foursome that night. He and James left the others for an early night in as James had an early flight to catch tomorrow.
Maybe he shouldn’t ask James to come back to his place, he knew James was always busy before a business trip, though the Englishman was more than willing.
And Kay didn’t want to sleep alone - not tonight.
A year has gone by. Apparently, Nik remembered it too, Kay knew that was why he invited everyone to the bar tonight, so Kay wouldn’t be alone.
This morning, on the bitter anniversary of his disastrous affair, Kay had realised he has spent more time with James in the last two months than the six months with Marc combined. And yet, he still felt like he had known Marc his whole life...
“Sometimes I can’t tell if Anton is serious or not.” James said.
Kay chuckled softly. “Let’s say he’s very persistent with his jokes.”
This was the second time James met his colleagues, he already knew Nik and Siggi from work. Kay had met a few of James’ friends as well. Everything went so smoothly... After what happened with Marc, such relationship normality almost seemed like a novelty to Kay.
The exact opposite of Marc, with whom everything was intense and secretive. They had let everything fester in darkness. Love. Resentment. Betrayal.
There was cool breeze in the air as they walked back to Kay’s apartment, everything was quiet and calm; Kay had a feeling his old life was as far away as in another galaxy.
Just before they reached the building, James said in a low and curious voice. “Hmm... I swear this is the second time I see that driver looking at us.” He nudged Kay’s arm, pointing with his chin. “There. Across the street. The black Golf.”
Kay glanced over and his heart stopped.
He could tell Marc realised he’s been seen at the same moment. After a few seconds, Marc got out of the car, but he didn’t cross the street.
They stared at each other wordlessly between traffic.
James cleared his throat. “Shall we go and ask what he wants?”
Kay snorted. He knew what Marc wanted. “I’ll go. He’s an old colleague of mine. A cop.” He told James.
“Alright. But be careful.” James watched Marc like he was expecting Marc to pull out a gun.
Kay nodded; he knew the only person Marc hurting was himself.
Marc’s clear blue eyes met his. At least he’s not drunk. Kay exhaled a sigh of relief. “This is a surprise.” He threw out the same greeting from that fateful night a lifetime ago.
Marc’s face reddened. He’s still so thin skinned. Short tempered and easily provoked, if Kay remembered correctly.
It was obvious that Marc hadn’t expected to be caught. But there was something else too. Kay studied him closely. Marc looked haggard, his face pale and sweaty, he looked... like he’s in pain.
“What are you doing here?” Kay asked when he realised Marc wasn’t going to volunteer.
Marc shrugged; he looked over Kay’s shoulders at James. “New boyfriend?”
It’s none of your business. Kay should tell him. But instead he asked, “Are you okay?”
Chapter 19: Day 365 (Marc)
Marc falls ill
“Are you okay?” Kay asked, his voice was low and soft, his eyebrows frowned with concern.
Marc was expecting an angry rebuke from Kay or something cutting to humiliate him. Because there was nothing more pathetic than getting caught stalking your ex-lover by his new boyfriend.
Marc barked out a laugh. At himself. I am pathetic.
Kay didn’t seem to find it funny though, he took another step closer. His hand hovered above Marc’s shoulder for a second before he put it on Marc’s forehead instead.
His eyes widened. “Shit. You have a temperature. Do you know that?”
No, Marc didn’t know, he grimaced. “It’s nothing. Just heartburn.”
Lately, his stomach has been acting up, every time he ate or every time he forgot to eat. At first, the pain would go away after two tablets of Calcimed, lately it’s been getting more frequent and the medication only worked for a couple of hours. He had already taken two tablets half an hour ago while sitting in his car waiting.
Today, the pain started when he got off work. He knew it was a bad idea to come here today. And what exactly did he want to accomplish? To say: hey Kay, guess what? I made a huge mistake exactly one year ago.
It was silly. It was pathetic. Kay has someone now. And I have my family and my responsibilities.
The pain seemed to have lessened with Kay’s hand on his shoulder. Marc wished it would stay there forever.
“If you are sure...” Kay said skeptically; he began to withdraw his hand.
Please. Not yet. Marc panicked; he called out, “Kay - “
Then suddenly a sharp, excruciating pain pierced through his abdominal, Marc doubled over, holding his stomach; he could feel it rising in his throat, like a tidal wave, threatening to crash over.
He tried to push Kay away, but it was too late.
Marc threw up all over Kay’s shirt.
“Marc!” Kay cried. His arms holding Marc up. “Fuck!” Marc could hear the alarm in Kay’s voice. The next moment, he heard Kay shouting, “James!”
Fuck no. Don’t call you boyfriend over. Marc wanted to protest, but another wave of nausea swept through him and he bent over again. Thankfully this time, he managed to aim it on the street.
Head and eyes down, Marc saw a pair of expensive black designer shoes standing in front of him.
“Kay, there’s blood in his vomit... He needs to go to the hospital.”
What the hell is designer shoes talking about? I am not going to hospital. Marc felt lightheaded, his legs have gone weak...
Fuck fuck fuck. He cursed inwardly. Kay was still holding him up with both of his arms. “Shit. Marc, hold on, grab my arms. James! Could you please - “
By then Marc was only grateful that the urge to vomit seemed to have subsided; he was too weak to object to anything. Then before he knew what was happening, he found himself lying on the backseat.
“Katharinenhospital is the closest. I’ll give you the direction.” Marc heard Kay say.
Someone was holding his hand. Kay was holding his hand. It’s okay, Kay was with him.
Chapter 20: Day 366 (Kay)
Kay calls Frank at the hospital.
“Frank? It’s Kay... huh? Yes, Kay Engel... thanks, I am okay. No, it’s not a... sorry to call you at this hour, but Marc is in the hospital, they have to perform an emergency surgery... no, it’s not a joke. The doctor said he has a perforated ulcer and it’s bleeding internally... yes, in his stomach. He’s... he’s in Operation Room 2... no, no, he’s in Stuttgart. We are in Katharinenhospital... yes, the one in central Stuttgart... please, if you can come here right away.” Kay was about to hang up, then he quickly said, “hey Frank? Err... don’t mention my name when you call Bettina, okay?”
Kay finally hung up. He sat down on the waiting room’s chair and checked the time. It’s just after midnight.
Shit. Kay clasped his hands together to stop the shaking. His mind kept going through the ER doctor’s words.
“A perforated ulcer is a life-threatening complication. We need to do an emergency surgery to repair the wall in his stomach...”
Fuck. Kay shivered; he pulled the jacket tighter. He had thrown away the shirt splattered with Marc’s vomit, the memory of that bloody coffee grind like substance made him shudder.
“You should go home. You have a flight to catch in the morning.” Kay had sent James home after it became clear that he would need to stay until Marc’s surgery finished or at least til his family arrived.
“Here, take my jacket,” James had offered, putting it over Kay’s shoulders. “Call me when it’s done. I don’t care how late it is.”
James hadn’t asked Kay what was his relationship with Marc, but one didn’t need a Ph. D. to figure it out.
What the hell has Marc been doing? How did he get so sick... Only now did Kay remember what James had said earlier - that it was the second time he noticed Marc looking at them.
Has Marc been waiting outside my apartment?
Shit. What a clusterfuck. Kay couldn’t decide if he should leave now. He didn’t want to, there was no way he’s leaving Marc alone here. But if Bettina arrived with Frank, it would be impossible to explain... Shit.
Between Frank and Bettina, Kay had chosen the lesser evil.
Half an hour later, a nurse informed him that the surgery went well and Marc would be in the recovery room for further 20 minutes. Kay was so relieved he could hug the nurse then and there.
It was almost 1am when he saw Frank burst into the ER. And he was alone.
“Frank!” Kay called out.
Frank turned to look at him like he’s seen a ghost.
Kay ignored Frank’s inquisitive gaze. “Marc is in the recovery room. The surgery went well. Though I haven’t seen the doctor yet,” he relayed what he knew.
“Good, good... that’s good...” Frank muttered. He was still looking at Kay with a strange expression. He asked slowly, “I still can’t believe you called me. How did you - “
Kay had time to think about this before Frank arrived; he decided to tell a half truth. “I bumped into Marc in the city... then all of a sudden, he was throwing up, it looked pretty serious, so I took him to the hospital.”
Kay met his eyes and prayed he had his best blank expression on.
“Shit.” Frank turned away and cursed softly to himself. When he looked at Kay again, he said, “Bettina and Marc’s parents are coming. They’ve left Lukas with Claudia.” Frank’s eyes darted back and forth before he finally said, “It’s late, you should go home.”
Kay swallowed the lump in his throat. “Of course.” he simply nodded.
Chapter 21: Day 368 (Marc)
Marc in the hospital
Kay was not there when he woke up.
Marc remembered feeling the crushing disappointment in his chest when his vision had finally come into focus, the moment when he saw Bettina’s half crying, half relieved face hovering above him.
It wasn’t Kay’s hand touching his face, it wasn’t Kay’s voice calling his name.
After that, everyone was going in and out of his room like a carousel. Frank, Bettina, his parents. On the second day, a few BePo colleagues had come too.
Everyone was here. Except the person he wanted to see.
The surgery had flattened Marc for days. Who knew he was one of the suckers who suffers bad side effects from general anesthesias? He had never had surgery before; he had never even spent overnight in a hospital before.
“His grandfather had pretty bad ulcers too, does it run in the family?” Marc’s mother asked the doctor.
“Yes, genetic factors play an important role for peptic ulcer disease, but the biggest risk factors are usually lifestyle or environmental. Smoking, drinking. Although this case seems more stress-related. Has there been any major life changing events lately? We found that your cortisol has elevated a lot.” The doctor enquired.
Bettina turned to look at Marc. Her eyes less accusatory, more curious.
The health scare has defrosted the cold war going on between Marc and Bettina. She seemed shaken by it and has been by his bedside the whole time. Marc couldn’t allow her to think that the stress was her fault.
He avoided her gaze and mumbled, “Just stress from work.”
She didn’t ask further questions after the doctor advised him to ‘de-stress’ and left a list of dietary requirement for recovery.
Frank was another one who kept looking at him with a strange expression. Marc could tell his best friend had hundreds of questions in his mind, ones that he had no answers for, so he kept his mouth shut.
His avoidance tactics was forced to an end on the second night at the hospital, when everyone has left but Frank.
“I didn’t tell anyone, but it was Kay who called me that night.” Frank said in an uncharacteristically subdued voice.
Marc had figured as much. Frank might be oblivious but he wasn’t stupid.
“So it was Kay? The one you are having an affair with?”
“Was.” Marc said reluctantly. What difference does it make? He shouldn’t insult his best friend by denying it. “We stopped. Then Kay quitted.”
Frank nodded slowly, seemingly been struck speechless. He paced around the room like it was a work problem that he needed to come up with a solution.
“And Bettina? She’s still in the dark?”
Marc closed his eyes and nodded. “But my parents know. My mother caught us once.”
“Mist!” Frank exclaimed. “What were you doing in Stuttgart then? Are you two getting back - “
“No.” Marc said hoarsely, his throat still raw from the tube down his throat. “It’s over.”
Frank’s dismissive expression said it all. “Over for you? Or for him?”
That Marc had no answer for.
Marc didn’t know what Frank saw on his face, but his best friend raked his hand through his hair, his voice turned a notch softer. “For what it’s worth, Kay seemed pretty broken up when I told him to leave.”
Chapter 22: Day 370 (Kay)
Kay comes to see Marc.
Kay was mindful of the squeaking sound his shoes was making on the linoleum floor. 20 minutes before the end of visiting hours, the hospital was quiet.
“I’ll make sure they all leave by 7:30pm tonight. You could go see him, I mean...” Frank had paused before adding, “If you want to.”
A year ago, Kay would never have thought that one day Frank Richter would hatch a plan for Marc and Kay to see each other.
Kay had gone back to the hospital the next day after the surgery. He had found out Marc’s room number, had even gone up to the floor, but when he saw Wolfgang Borgmann standing outside talking to Frank’s wife, he knew going there would only make things worse - for him and for Marc.
Plus Kay couldn’t take the risk of Marc asking him to leave in front of his parents’ again. So he left.
Tonight, the room looked dim from the outside. He knocked softly and opened the door.
A faint yellow overhead light was on, casting a soft glow on Marc’s face. His eyes lit up when Kay entered. He’s been waiting.
“Hey.” Kay said while his eyes taking in the room. There were fruit basket, books, toys on the table and jackets hung behind chairs. Evidence of Marc’s family life.
“Hey,” Marc greeted. “I survived.” He smiled ruefully.
“You did.” Kay walked closer to the bed. He glanced at the machines around, beeping and dripping, scary looking things. Then his gaze finally rested on Marc.
He looked a lot better.
“I didn’t have the chance to thank you for the other night,” Marc said. He hesitated for a moment before he touched Kay’s hand on the bed railing, he flicked a glance up at Kay. His hand stayed.
Kay stared at their hands. One on top of the other. “Well, you keep falling into my arms. Must be my cologne,” he said, keeping it light and friendly.
Marc seemed to have the same idea, he looked at their hands and answered, “but you never wear any.”
Kay smiled but said nothing. Personal grooming preference was not something he wanted to talk about with Marc.
Seconds ticked by with neither of them saying anything. Kay slowly withdrew his hand from under Marc’s, he cleared his throat and asked, “What did the doctor say?”
Marc looked disappointed but he forced a smile. “That I was lucky, that a perforated ulcer can be life threatening. He gave me a long list of food to avoid and told me to find a way to live stress free” Marc let out a long sigh, “but I’ll live.”
It’s easy to say it was just a stomach ulcer now, but Kay remembered seeing the blood and how sick Marc had been that night... it was hard, seeing Marc lying in a hospital bed, he must have lost at least a few lbs, even his stubborn chin has gotten pointier.
“You need to take better care of yourself, Marc,” Kay said quietly.
Somehow saying his name out loud brought hot prickle of tears behind his eyes, Kay pulled back, turning his head so that Marc couldn’t look at him as he composed himself.
Fucking hell. It had been a few hellish days. Kay couldn’t concentrate at work, all day long he was debating with himself if he should call Frank or go to the hospital.
But in Marc’s world, Kay was still the dirty secret not to be let out in daylight. He just had to see in his own eyes that Marc was fine.
And now he had. Mission accomplished. He should leave.
“Kay, I am sorry for what happened.” Marc said to his back.
Kay knew Marc didn’t mean throwing up on his shirt. He meant what happened a year ago. Me too, Kay thought. He shook his head; he finally turned to face Marc. “I have made peace with it.” He lifted one shoulder. “It’s your life, who am I to tell you how to live it?”
Even though we would have made such a good life together.
Chapter 23: Day 384 (Marc)
2 weeks after last chapter
Marc comes clean.
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.
Or, in Marc’s case, with a mundane household chore.
Still recovering at home, Marc volunteered to be on laundry duty, he was turning out pockets in the utility room when Bettina came in with a black bin bag.
The one Marc had hidden in his car.
Bettina wasn’t even looking at him. “You should wash these too. I found them in your car, you’ve completely forgotten about them, haven’t you?” She took out the BePo uniform, the towel, the black T-shirt and the sneakers. Her nose wrinkled. “Why did you put them with dirty running shoes?”
She held up Kay’s running shoes. “Should we throw them away? They look all worn out.”
Bettina took Marc’s silence as agreement; she he put them back in the bin bag and left.
Marc stared at the clothes she dropped on top of the laundry basket. Kay’s clothes.
“It’s your life, who am I to tell you how to live it?” Kay’s words echoed in his mind.
The problem was Marc wanted him to; he wanted to know what it would be like to live his life with Kay. Like that suggestion from long ago: go somewhere, start over. Together.
He picked up Kay’s black T-shirt and left the utility room.
He found Bettina on the patio; she had her glasses on, writing on a notebook on the table. She planned to go back to work next month, having arranged childcare between Marc’s parents and a local nursery.
“Bettina?” Marc sat down opposite her on the table.
She looked up at him. Her eyes dropped to the black t-shirt in Marc’s hand.
Marc shook his head when Frank offered him a bottle of beer. “I can’t. Not yet.” He pointed to his stomach.
They were sitting in Marc’s parents’ garden. Marc has temporarily moved back to his childhood bedroom.
“Sorry but you are a persona non grata in my house as well. Claudia was upset about my part in the cover-up.”
“I am sorry.” Marc grimaced.
Frank shrugged. “She will get over it.” He studied Marc. “Bettina will too... just give her time. At least you came clean.”
When Marc didn’t respond, Frank said slowly, “... unless you don’t want to...”
“I don’t think Bettina and I are getting back together.” Marc finally said. He thought of Bettina’s parting shot earlier today: “But you didn’t choose your family. Or me. In fact, I think you’ve given up on us the moment you slept with him.”
She was right. It just took Marc a year to realise that.
Shit. He wanted to smoke so badly. Marc rubbed his hands on his jeans. “Would you be very shocked if I tell you it wasn’t just an affair? With Kay.”
Frank tipped his head back and swallowed a big gulp of beer; he thought for a good few seconds before he said,“I’d tell you that I don’t understand, I’d say you’re crazy.” He stared at the beer bottle. “But it’s the 21st century, stranger things have happened.”
Marc appreciated that. Frank was reacting much better than he expected.
“What are you going to do? Are you and Kay - “
“He’s with someone now. Some English guy. I almost threw up on his expensive shoes.” Marc chuckled bitterly. The joke was on him.
“Autsch.” Frank muttered. He turned to Marc. “But you are not going to just give up, are you?”
The first sentence is, of course, a quote from T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”
Chapter 24: Day 395 (Kay)
11 days after last chapter
Kay has a chat with Nik at home
“Wait. What exactly did James say?” Nik paused opening the beer bottles, his eyes widened.
Kay forgot that Nik didn’t know. He had been assigned to a security detail in Köln and had been away for a month.
Nik didn’t know that soon after James had come back from his business trip, he was having second thoughts about going further with Kay.
“His exact words were: ‘it is obvious after that night, your attention has narrowed down to your ex. I like you a lot, but I don’t want to go into a serious relationship with someone who has unfinished feelings for someone else’,” Kay let out a long, deep sigh. “Then he unceremoniously dumped me.”
Nik rolled his eyes. “Fuck me. Those are some fancy words. I didn’t know feelings can be unfinished.” He sat down on the sofa next to Kay. “Are you okay?”
Kay pursed his lips. He had been more shocked than upset, like he’s been sucker-punched, if he was honest. Nik had warned him that James was a rebound, so Kay should take his time, but the short romance had felt solid and promising at the time... well, until Marc showed up. Kay felt he couldn’t trust his own instincts anymore.
“Do you remember how much we liked the first season of ‘True Detective’?” Kay said.
Nik narrowed his eyes but he humoured him. “Yes...?”
“Sometimes I think they shouldn’t have made Season 2. Some good things are better off left alone before they get ruined. So, yeah... it sucks to get dumped. But I am okay.”
“I am going to pretend you didn’t just compare your sex life to my favourite TV series.” Nik sat up straighter, his voice turned serious again. “But is James correct?”
“That you have unfinished feelings for your ex?”
Kay thought of Marc lying in the hospital bed, of Marc drunk and high in a dark alley. “You don’t stop loving someone just because you left, do you?”
“Has you seen him since he left the hospital?”
Kay traced the rim of the beer bottle with his finger. He wondered if Marc was following the doctor’s advice to stay away from cigarettes and alcohol for the time being, if Bettina was taking good care of him.
“I know he was discharged the day after I visited him. He sent me a thank you text afterwards.”
Maybe that was their goodbye.
“You said he was waiting for you outside your apartment that night? Surely that means he still have strong feelings for you?”
Strong feelings were never in short supply between him and Marc.
Kay frowned into the bottle in his hand. “Sometimes I think maybe if I have left him alone, if we’ve never gotten together, then Marc would have been a footnote in my life, some straight guy I gave a hand job to once, a funny story to share with you... Then maybe Marc’s life wouldn’t be in such a mess.”
“You are not Kay Engel if you didn’t at least try...” Nik smiled. Then he put his arm around Kay. “But don’t flatter yourself. This Marc person? He’s gay or at least bi. He was always going to cheat on his wife. If not with you, then someone else. This is his struggle. Maybe you two just met at the wrong time.”
“Maybe.” Kay said forlornly. “Seems like our timing is always off.”
True Detective Season 2 was released in 2015, so please ignore the timeline as it doesn’t match... I just want to use it 😅
Chapter 25: Day 405 (Marc)
10 days after last chapter
Marc deals with the aftermath
Everything was a struggle. Everything took longer than he expected.
First Bettina had taken Lukas to stay with her mother and had refused to talk to Marc.
Then came his parent’s wrath.
“What did you expect? You don’t just drop a bomb like this and expect everyone to be okay with it.” His mother’s angry words still ringing in his ears. His father, who usually took his side, were heartbroken. “I don’t understand. I just can’t. You had everything and you are just going to throw it away.”
Even Marc himself had been waiting for the doubt to creep back in, to tell himself that it’s a mistake. But it never came. Still on sick leave from the surgery and alone in his now empty home, he had plenty of time to think and every day, his conviction became stronger.
He had no idea what was going to happen but for once, he didn’t need certainty. He had clarity instead. He knew who he was and how he wanted to live.
Three weeks later. He finally got Bettina to sit down with him.
“You have no idea what you’ve destroyed. There is no way back for us.” Bettina threw the first punch.
Marc was watching her expression. The defiant words were hollow, she knew he wasn’t looking for a way back, but he’s sensitive enough not to say it out loud.
“I know you don’t need to hear it again, but I am truly sorry. For everything.” He continued when Bettina looked at him. “But please don’t punish my parents for my actions. They love Lukas and want to be part of his life. I do too.”
It was a few long minutes before she finally said, “I am not doing this for you or your parents. I am doing this for Lukas.”
Then they sat down to discuss the house, the loan, shared-custody of Lukas. For the next hour, they began to untangle the life they had built together for the last three years.
Before she left, Marc watched her steel herself to ask, “Are you going back to him?”
He didn’t blame her for asking this. They live in the same circle, it would not be easy for her.
“I don’t know,” Marc said automatically. The withering look she gave him indicated she didn’t believe a word of it.
“But I want to,” he added truthfully.
That night, Marc rang Kay up on his mobile. It went to voicemail after five rings. He said, “Hey... can you call me when you get this? I want to... “
Before Marc could finish the message, someone answered the phone. “Marc?”
“You are screening your calls?”
“What? No, I just had my headphones on.” Kay sounded like he’s outside. Marc could hear traffic sounds in the distance.
“Are you smoking weed on your balcony again?”
“Why? Is that a problem, Officer?” He asked playfully. The unintentional flirty undertones sent a shiver down Marc’s spine.
Yep, Kay’s high and his guard is down.
Marc shifted his legs, glad that Kay couldn’t see his face right now. “Hey, erm... I want to tell you something.”
There was a pause from the other end of the line, like Kay was trying to sober up. “Okay...” he said.
Marc steeled himself, he said in a steady voice,“I’ve told Bettina the truth. Everything.” He took a big gulp of air before he continued. “And we are separating.”
Marc kept the mobile close to his ears, he thought he heard a faint inhalation of breath. He closed his eyes and soldiered on. “I hope I am not too late. That it still matters to you.”
Chapter 26: Day 408 (Kay)
3 days after last chapter
Kay meets Marc in Ludwigsburg.
It’s just coffee. Kay reminded himself again before he got out of the car.
It felt strange to be back in Ludwigsburg. Marc had suggested to meet in Kay’s apartment, but Kay preferred a more neutral location; he also didn’t want Marc to take a long drive with his newly healed surgical wound.
Marc was waiting outside Parkcafe, with two cups in his hands; he flashed Kay a gentle smile. One of those rare Marc smiles that used to make Kay think all the secrecy and meagreness was worth it.
“Shall we go for a walk?” He asked and led the way, then he passed one cup to Kay. “Black coffee?”
Kay nodded. “Thanks.” Their fingers brushed. Kay cleared his throat. He pointed to other cup in Marc’s hand, it had a teabag handle. “No caffeine for you?”
Marc smiled ruefully. “My diet is healthier than a vegan these days.” He looked nervous but well rested. The tension lines and the permanent scowl on his face were gone. Maybe being out wasn’t so bad for Marc Borgmann, after all.
See? Just rip it off like a bandaid. It wasn’t so hard, after all? Kay thought.“I am glad you are feeling better,” he said, hoping he sounded neutral and friendly enough.
“It was a wake-up call alright.”
The message behind was clear but Kay didn’t want to confront that yet. They walked in companionable silence.
Kay had been to this park before. By himself. One of those weekends he had spent by himself, while Marc had been with his family. Lonely hours he spent missing Marc, feeling restless.
They reached a quieter area of the park, near the Japanese Garden part and sat down on a stone bench and table.
“Are you clear to be on duty yet?”
“Next week. But only desk work and light training for the first two weeks.”
“Makes sense.” Kay nodded. They talked about BePo life for a while, avoiding the elephant.
“Who’s my replacement?”
“Her name is Anna Schuster. A transfer from Bochum.”
“Is she any good?”
Marc shrugged like he didn’t care one way or the other. “She’s alright, I suppose.”
“Everything is back to perfect harmony in the team then.” Kay commented without inflection.
Marc winced. “Kay... about what I said on the phone,” he began. “I mean it.”
Kay met his gaze. So here we go.
Something he had time to consider after the phone-call. Kay said carefully, “It takes courage, what you’ve done. It’s never too late to be who you want to be. I am happy for you.”
But Marc looked like Kay has just kicked him in the guts. “I know I have no right to ask for anything and you are with someone now... “
Pain squeezed Kay’s heart. He could feel a tremor in his throat; he swallowed, forced himself to talk past it. “I love you.” Kay smiled without mirth. “But you already knew that.”
Marc’s hand reached across the table to touch Kay’s.
Kay let him. He looked down at the table and pressed on. “Something happened that day. When you returned the key to me. I feel like part of me is gone forever. The fact that you can just leave me behind like that, especially after what happened...” Kay met Marc’s gaze. “I can’t. I can’t take that kind of chance.”
Some emotion flashed across Marc’s face. Sorrow, fear, remorse all rolled into a painful one. Marc added his other hand on top, clenching Kay’s hand impossibly tight. “I know I messed up. Fuck. I regretted it almost as soon as I left.” He looked distressed.
In all the time Kay has known Marc, he has never seen him so open, so forward with his words and emotions, like a part of him has been freed. A new Marc, maybe.
But Kay remembered the painful days, weeks and months after they broke up. His throat closed, he shook his head.
“I feel like we’ve been here before - that night when you came to my place after I was outed. I was so sure we’ve turned a page, that we both knew what this meant. This thing between us. But I was wrong - “ Kay exhaled a shaky breath. “I don’t think I can trust myself to believe in us anymore.”
Chapter 27: Day 416 (Marc)
8 day after last chapter.
Marc returns to work.
The change was small but you wouldn’t miss it. Because that’s why they did it. That was the whole point. To make you uncomfortable; to make you feel unwelcome, threatened even.
Marc returned to work a changed man. Apparently, everyone has gotten the memo too, they all looked at him with new eyes.
Although Kay had never filed a complaint, Limpinski was given a off-the-record warning by Eiden. Marc could tell it took all his self control not to say or do anything. But if look could kill, he has assassinated Marc dozens of times already on the first day.
The whispers and the I-don’t-know-you-anymore-looks were the worst. If Marc hasn’t already had so much on his mind and a still angry ex-girlfriend to deal with, he would have screamed at them to just say it to his face.
I guess now I know how Kay felt.
Marc was still reeling from his meeting with Kay a week ago. And what has he ever done for Kay anyway? Telling Bettina the truth was the least he should do. What was he expecting? Kay to kiss his feet and be grateful for Marc’s return?
In some twisted logic, he saw this as his penance. For failing to stand up for Kay back then; for being part of the gang who had shunned him.
A taste of his own medicine now.
And Marc knew what he was getting now wasn’t even half as bad as Kay had endured. He was still protected by Frank’s seniority and authority. People like Limpinski would glare at him; but they did nothing. Others talked behind his back but offered support to his face.
It was Britt who surprised him the most.
“I guess I should say thank you,” she said. To Marc’s puzzlement, she clarified. “I felt stupid and humiliated when Kay came out, but now I know that was nothing compared to the kind of hell Kay must have been in.” She shook her head. “I know how hard it is to be ‘the other woman’,” she smiled mournfully. “Or in his case, the other man.”
“It wasn’t our intention to drag you into it.” Marc offered a quasi-apology.
“Kay never really misled me, if you want to know. Nothing happened between us. Sure, he let others assume whatever they want, but he never tried anything. It was all me. Barking up at the wrong tree, like I always do.”
Marc thought back on those days, how he had been shamelessly glad that Kay had a cover, so people wouldn’t suspect...
“I want you to know that it doesn’t change how I see you,” she said. “I believe people should be allowed to live the way they want, to be with the person they love.” She flicked up a glance at Marc. “I wish I had told Kay that.”
Marc knew about the ill-fated affair Britt had with Frank two years ago; Frank has always insisted that they had parted ways mutually. But Marc had a feeling that Britt knew a thing or two about heartbreak.
“I saw him. Recently.” Marc felt the need to tell her. “He said he’s made peace with what happened. I don’t think he blames anyone, definitely not you.”
She nodded slowly, still studying Marc. “Don’t give up just yet. People don’t just turn off loving someone like a light switch. This much I know.”
Chapter 28: Day 450 (Kay)
34 days after last chapater
Anton has some sage advice to Kay
“He definitely has a type.” Siggi said.
“By type you mean hot, blond and German?” Anton quipped, cupping Kay’s face in his hand. “Like this fine specimen here.”
“Fuck off,” Kay pushed Anton away jokingly.
The three of them were looking at James turning up with his new boyfriend at the bar. Shit. Stuttgart is not big enough. Seems like every gay man goes to the same few clubs and bars.
We should really find a new bar to hang out.
“You are not mad that he has moved on so quickly?”
The truth was Kay has hardly thought about James since they had broken up. Does two months of dating even qualify as a relationship? But it’s not the duration that count. Kay knew he was in love with Marc already, that day in the rain...
Nope. Don’t go down that memory lane. He shrugged. “Like Nik said, James was a rebound.”
“Nik always has a theory!” Siggi exclaimed.
“Wait!” Anton narrowed his eyes. “A rebound means there was someone to bounce from... how come this is the first time I heard of it?”
Kay opened his mouth, then closed again.
“I didn’t tell you but Kay has committed the mortal sin of pining for a straight guy,” Siggi told his boyfriend.
“Hey. I am right here.” Kay was already contemplating which one of Nik’s arms he would twist next time.
“Oh Kay baby, you fool!” Anton went full on gay agony-aunt mode. “Speaking from personal experience, before I met Siggi, I had also been a takeaway-fuck, a delivery-fuck to a hot but straight fireman.”
Kay knew he shouldn’t encourage Anton, but he couldn’t help it. “Takeaway-fuck?”
“It means hot but straight fireman didn’t want to take risk going to gay bars and clubs. And why would he, when he could get a fuck-all-you want-buffet delivered to him?” Anton made a tsk tsk sound. “That never ends well, honey.” He wrapped his arm around Kay. “I’d say, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammed, Muhammed should find another mountain.”
Kay didn’t even have the heart to laugh at that, the joke was too close to home. Kay pulled a packet of cigarettes out from his jeans pocket, tapping one out slowly before sticking it into his mouth, thinking distractingly, hoping he was more than a takeaway-fuck to Marc.
Kay dug out his lighter. “Marc has come out though,” he felt a sudden need to defend Marc. “He did it in the end.”
“Woah! Wait! What?” Anton took the cigarette from between Kay’s lips, while pointing to the ‘no smoking’ sign. “That changes everything. The mountain has come? Your straight guy came out for you?’
“He didn’t come out for me. He came clean to his girlfriend about our affair.” Kay glared at Anton.
“And?” He made a speed-it-up sign with his fingers. “He wants you back?”
Kay lifted a dispirited shoulder, pretended he didn’t care. “Yeah.”
“Then what the hell are you doing here?”
Anton sounded so blunt, so matter-of-fact. Like it’s the natural order of things.
Kay swallowed the bitter taste in his mouth, feeling that pinch of pain, whenever he was reminded that it was over - even though it was his choice this time. “You don’t understand...”
“You’re right. I don’t. You are single and he’s now single...”
“It’s too late. It’s over,” Kay insisted. The reason now sounded a lot less convincing than a month ago.
“Late for whom? I wish MY straight fireman had come out for me,” Anton quipped but quickly kissed his boyfriend. “I’d still leave him for you though, babe.”
But Kay wasn’t paying attention to them anymore. For some reason, facing Anton’s relentless pressing, Kay couldn’t come up with an answer. Yes, exactly too late for whom? And why?
Kay had been so ready to dish out the rejection, too busy ring fencing his own heart, digging up old hurts to justify his decision.
“That poor man, does he even have any support after he came out?” Anton wondered out loud.
The sudden doubt wormed its way through the noise around him, a frustrated knot of emotions, churning and rolling in Kay’s gut.
Chapter 29: Day 460 (Marc)
10 days after last chapter.
Marc sees someone familiar while on anti-riot duty.
Back to real work.
He has been sitting behind a desk for too long. This was the first anti-riot duty Marc participated since his surgery. They were working with the Stuttgart BePo team in the city. A few environmental groups protesting outside the regional office of an international oil company.
They had a busy day - protests plus report of a suspicious package.
Marc hadn’t been back to Stuttgart since he puked his guts out on a pavement. He had also stopped waiting outside Kay’s apartment just to get a glimpse of him from afar.
What is the point? It is over. He was too late.
Plus he had other matters he needed to take care of - his other life. Frank’s estate agent friend had found a buyer for the house financed by his parents, so Marc was able to give them back the money. He lost some legal and commission fees, but he was just glad that it was resolved quickly.
Bettina had moved out with Lukas which was still a sore subject for his parents. They were still at the stage where Marc was accommodating all of Bettina’s demands - except when it concerned his access to Lukas.
Marc himself had moved to a one-bedroom apartment, like a goddamn bachelor before he had moved in with Bettina.
Back to square one.
Except not quite. Because now he’s free. He had experienced something special, something so life-defining that it obliterated everything before it. Before him.
Marc chuckled at his ill-attempt at being poetic. More like a master poet of how to fuck up your life.
He returned his attention to the task on hand - to secure a safe passageway for the oil company’s staff to go back to the office after the suspicious package has been cleared.
The team was getting everyone to queue in single file when someone called him.
“Hey, it’s you. Marc? Right?”
Marc turned and came face to face with Kay’s boyfriend. James. No need to pretend he didn’t remember his name.
“Hi there.” He said coolly, schooling his face to a blank expression.
James looked unruffled by the protests outside, all calm and assertive. He tilted his head a little. “Kay told me he used to be a policeman. So this was what he did before?” He asked with genuine curiosity.
Marc merely nodded. He was tempted to say: Why don’t you ask your own boyfriend about it?
“Well, I am glad you are on your feet again.” His lips curled into a slow smile.
Marc wanted to wipe that smirk off his face.
But he didn’t have time or interest for polite chitchat with someone who’s sleeping with Kay, so he gently hurried James along. “Thank you.. erm... for your help. Now please follow the officer over there, she will take you to the service lift to get back to your office.”
James didn’t seem to mind the cold-shoulder Marc gave him; he did a OK sign with his fingers to acknowledge Marc’s instructions. “Anyway, send my regards to Kay,” he said casually before walking off with another suit guy behind him.
It took Marc a few seconds to digest the words through the fog in his brain. He looked ahead and saw James was about to turn a corner into the service lifts area.
“Hey.” he tapped James’s shoulder. “What do you mean?”
James turned around. “What about?”
“About send... what do you mean sending regards to Kay?” Marc wrestled to repeat the exact English words.
The two furrowed lines between his eyes relaxed as he caught on. “Oh.” James’ pale complexion turned pink. “I... sorry, I was being an arse. I shouldn’t have said it. But I just assumed Kay is back with you after we broke up. That was months ago.”
Chapter 30: Day 475 (Kay)
15 days after last chapter
Kay waits for Marc in the woodland
If Marc hasn’t changed his routine and route, weather permitted, he should show up at the entrance of the woodland in his car around 10am.
Kay checked the time, 9:58am. The car engine sound was comfortably familiar, Marc’s black Golf stopped and parked on the side of the road. He could see Marc putting on his running shoes inside the car.
He still had his routine down to a T.
“Why don’t you just wear your running shoes when you drive?” Kay had once asked him.
“I don’t want to drag mud into the car.” Marc had replied defensively, but Kay had wondered if it was because he didn’t tell Bettina he was going running.
Maybe I was the paranoid one.
Kay flicked away his cigarette and jogged over.
The surprise on Marc’s face through the windshield was priceless. The initial shock slowly morphed into a cautious, hopeful smile. And finally, relief washed over his face. He got out of the car.
“I wasn’t sure if you still run on this trail or if you even still run,” Kay said by way of greeting.
Marc studied him quietly for a few seconds. “That’s a lot of ‘ifs’ to have to be waiting for someone in the middle of nowhere.”
Kay flashed him a sheepish smile and shrugged. “I fancy my chances.”
Marc snorted. His eyes veered away to one side, like he’s considering. Then he shook his head and stepped closer. “You cocky bastard.” He delivered the insult in a whisper and fisted a handful of Kay’s T-shirt, pulling him in roughly.
Kay let himself be manhandled into a tight embrace. Marc bent his head and kissed the curve of his neck. He mumbled, “Tell me I am not dreaming.” His arms dropped down to Kay’s waist and tightened.
Kay shivered at the yearning in Marc’s voice. “You’re not.” He reassured. Want curled tightly in Kay’s stomach.
His gaze flickered between Marc’s eyes and mouth, his breath misting in the crisp morning air. The insistent gravity pulling them ever closer together, Kay looped his wiry arms around Marc’s neck and pressed his mouth on him.
Marc tasted of tea and honey, his rough velvety tongue pushing against Kay’s, always competitive, always hungry. Nibbling, biting, caressing and never enough, as if they wanted to stake claim to the other through a single kiss.
The kind of kiss that Kay had almost forgotten. Passionate, powerful and all-consuming, the kind that reminded him why he has fallen in love even when it seemed hopeless.
Every kiss he had after Marc paled in comparison, like a bad imitation, exposed as fraud in light of the real deal.
How could he ever think he could replace this with Jameses of the world?
A soft moan escaped Marc’s mouth, they pulled away just to catch a breath. “Fuck.” Marc groaned as his fingers dug deeper into Kay’s shoulders, almost hurting. “I’ve missed you so much,” he murmured against the corner of Kay’s mouth.
Still locked in a loose embrace, they rested against each other’s shoulders. The feel of Marc, tensile under his heavy hoodie, was warm and welcoming. And safe. Kay quietly marvelled at the new sensation; he sighed happily.
“What made you change your mind?” Marc’s finger carding through Kay’s short blond hair.
“I realised I was a pussy.”
“What?” Marc’s hand stilled. He sounded like Kay was speaking Greek.
“I said I was a pussy,” Kay said it against Marc’s neck. “Too pig-headed to take the chance.”
Kay could feel Marc’s mouth quirked into a smile. He kissed Kay’s hair and said, “Any other animals you resemble that I should be aware of?”
Chapter 31: Day 476 (Marc)
1 day after last chapter
Kay spends a day in Marc’s bed
Of course they had forgotten to close the blinds in the bedroom last night.
A ray of sunshine was beaming onto his bed, covering the planes of Kay’s body with a layer of golden dust. Marc took a moment to admire the sight before he got up to close the blinds.
“Marc... come back to bed,” Kay’s deeper morning voice startled him.
Marc turned around and saw Kay roll on his side, rubbing his eyes like a lazy cat. He obliged and got under the duvet again. The cotton bedsheet was still warm; Kay was still warm. They lay in bed facing each other.
Kay’s blond hair was a bedhead mess, there’s sleep in his eyes and a faint sleep line on the side of his face, he’s the most beautiful thing Marc has ever seen.
He still couldn’t believe Kay was really here. In his bed. With their clothes discarded all over the floor, their legs tangled and rubbing against each other’s.
Kay reached out to trace Marc’s nose bridge with his finger, a soft smile on his face. “Alles klar?”
Marc nodded. A lump suddenly appeared in his throat as he remembered Kay asking the same question long time ago, inside the car, after he had shaken Marc’s world so hard it was never the same again.
They didn’t spend a lot time talking yesterday - there were other more urgent things to catch up. Marc cleared his throat. “I know you’ve broken up with James months ago.”
Kay bit his lips but didn’t say anything.
Marc carried on, “My first instinct was to go to you, to try again... and then I thought: if you already said no when there was no James, maybe the problem is me.”
“There was never anyone else.” Kay simply said. “I was just fooling myself.”
“Like I did.”
“Two pussies.” Kay quipped, but his voice was grave.
“I love you.” Marc had been thinking about saying it all day yesterday. Kay probably already knew, but it still needed to be said. Maybe Marc himself needed to hear it. “I wish I’ve told you that before.”
Kay leaned over and kissed him. “You can say it more often from now on.”
Marc cupped the back of Kay’s neck and flipped him under; he kicked the duvet away roughly. Kay’s long, lean body stretched out below him, his cock hard and pressing against Marc’s thighs. He liked to look at Kay naked when they fucked. Always did. Wanted to see their limbs tangled together, their bare bodies sliding over each other, their hands caressing their skin, until he couldn’t tell which was which.
“Want you inside me,” Kay said raggedly, rubbing his face against Marc’s jawline. In the past, Kay usually just moved sideways to show Marc what he wanted, as if words would spook his skittish mind. But the demand went straight to Marc’s cock, it twitched with eagerness.
Suddenly everything was familiar but different at the same time.
Marc took his time. Teasing Kay first with his fingers and then with the slick head of his cock. “Not sore?” He breathlessly enquired, wanted to be certain Kay was ready for round two after last night. Kay shook his head quickly and said, “Do it.”
Kay tipped his head back as Marc finally sunk into him with a powerful thrust, eyes closing as a soft groan escaped from his rosy lips. Marc surged forward again, kissing the exposed long column of his throat. “I love you,” Marc said against Kay’s adam’s apple; kissing and nibbling. Kay’s whole body responded with a powerful shudder.
He got his hands under Kay’s knees, pushing his legs back, so he could thrust deeper. He watched Kay biting down on his lips, trying to suppress a moan. Marc starting to move faster, pulling back, thrusting in earnest. Their bodies moving in time with each other, in perfect sync.
Tension began building in his stomach, spreading all the way down to his legs and balls. Marc knew they wouldn’t last long. He thrust deep and hard a few times. Kay’s body went taut, Marc felt him clench around his cock. Kay stifled a loud moan on his shoulders before a spurt of cum pooled between them. Only then did Marc finally let go. “Fuck... oh god...” he groaned, his body shuddered under the force of his release.
Marc rolled away on his back, both catching their breaths. The dim bedroom smelled of sweat and cum. And love. And happiness.
“I like having you in my bed.” Marc declared. His hand brushing the side of of Kay’s body distractingly, not ready to let go yet.
“Oh yeah?” Kay exhaled. His face was flushed, his sweaty hair standing up in odd angles. Marc was sure he looked just as dishevelled.
“Me too,” Kay answered.
I only just realised that I have written 29 (short) chapters without them kissing 😝
Thank you for reading and commenting! It won’t be long now.
Chapter 32: Day 490 (Kay)
14 days after last chapter
Kay joins Marc for a drink with Frank
It was always going to be awkward.
Frank wasn’t a homophobe, but treating Kay as an equal as a gay cop was different from treating Kay as the gay boyfriend of his best friend.
“So, you’re like some fancy bodyguard?”
“Not always. Sometimes we are just guards. Door guard, personal shopper, driver... whenever the clients want us to be around.” Kay explained the perks of private security work.
Maybe talking about Kay’s work was easier than... well, anything having to do with Marc sleeping with Kay. “Is that why you were seen in the Opera house? For work?”
“Yeah, that happens.” Kay has accompanied a client and his wife to the opera house a few times. He remembered thinking he would rather watch paint dry.
Frank whistled when Kay gave him a rough idea of how much one could earn in the private sector. Yes, more money, less homophobes. Kay thought. He spared a glance at Marc, who has been quiet.
It was Frank’s idea to have a drink in town. He was nice enough to admit he was wrong not to intervene when Limpinski was harassing him.
In their own little world, Marc has always been loving to Kay. In the early days, he had even been passionate, always eager to please. That was why it had been so hard for Kay to reconcile the two Marcs in and out of his bed. One minute Kay was his entire world; the next, he wouldn’t even acknowledge him as a friend.
The apologies and the ‘I-love-yous’ were nice, but out in the open like this was the real test.
Kay was surprised Marc agreed to this location. They sat around a small table in a traditional bar not too far from where the BePo unit stationed. Anyone of Kay’s ex-colleagues could pop in. Marc sat with Kay on one side, across from Frank, his thigh touching Kay’s under the table, like a solid reminder. Kay relaxed a fraction.
“How’s the unit?” Kay asked casually, deliberately allowing Frank to respond in any way he felt comfortable to share.
“Same old. Same old.” Frank hesitated, then added after a quick glance at Marc. “Might lose Marc soon, cos he is thinking of taking new training seminar.”
This was new to Kay. “What kind of training?” He frowned, turned to Marc.
“I am thinking of joining the State Police Service.”
“It’s a stepping stone to join KriPo,” Frank explained. “But I hate all the textbooks they ask you to read. And the exams!” He raised both of his arms to emphasis. “So I am staying here. But Marc has bigger ambition.”
Kay knew the advancement path for State Police. Marc would be a uniformed cop patrolling streets for at least a year, if he passed more exams, then he would move onto the investigative unit and eventually become a detective.
“Detective Borgmann like in Tatort?” Kay bumped Marc’s shoulder, teasing him.
“Fuck off,” Marc cursed softly, but he was smiling. “I have more joke for bodyguards.” He casually draped his arm behind Kay’s chair, his other hand grabbed hold of Kay’s under the table.
Progress! Kay smiled to himself.
“Someting funny?” Marc enquired with a whisper when Frank turned to order more beers.
Chapter 33: Day 550 (Marc)
60 days after last chapter
Marc tells his parents he’s moving in with Kay
“What did Bettina say about this?”
Marc put down the boxes and turned to face his mother. THIS meaning moving in with Kay.
They’ve been commuting back and forth between their separate apartments the past two months. Because Marc thought - if he could sleep next to Kay every night, why would he want to sleep alone? The idea came when Marc was accepted to State Police training programme, moving closer to Stuttgart was logical.
To live with Kay. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. Something Marc couldn’t have imagined when he had left that key on Kay’s balcony more than a year ago.
He was home today to pack the last few things he had stored in his parents’ house when he and Bettina separated.
“I haven’t told her,” Marc admitted. Though he was certain she would have heard it through Claudia, because as reliable as Frank could be as a friend, he has a big mouth.
“This isn’t right. It’s barely been four months!” His mother made her outcry crystal clear.
Five and a half. But Marc didn’t need to correct his mother, it wouldn’t change how she felt.
“Marc, don’t do this. If you do this, there’s no going back with Bettina.”
“Mama! We are not getting back together. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you.” Marc sighed.
He knew he would get a lecture from his parents, trying to retrieve his belongings today.
“Do what you want.” It was Marc’s father. He hasn’t said anything today until now. He stood in front of his wife, like he had to protect her from their son. “But make no mistake, that man is not welcome here. I’ll give you three months with that kind of life.”
The one which I can finally breathe freely? The one which I live with the person I love? That kind of life?
Gritting his teeth, Marc swallowed the bitter words. Feeling heartsick, he clenched and unclenched his fists, tried to get his temper under control.
The last few months haven’t been easy, he almost never visited his parents unless he had Lukas with him, like a distraction. At least the situation with Bettina has improved, both sticking to their careful arrangement, taking turns to look after their son.
When the veil of pretence was finally lifted, they could acknowledge that their relationship had been on a slow death path. And once the anger has passed, Bettina knew they would be better off without each other.
But for his parents, the idea of Marc going on a path vastly different from theirs was still unacceptable. Unimaginable.
Marc kept his voice strong and steady, head held high. “Papa, before I joined the police, you told me to follow my heart, if my heart says a career in police, then do it. But don’t do it just because you did.” He met his father’s gaze. “I followed my heart and your footstep on that. And now. I am also just following my heart. You can’t tell me this is wrong.”
For that his father had no answer for.
Marc hid his disappointment well with a brave nod. I am going home to Kay. He reminded himself of this point. Probably the most important point in his life right now.
Chapter 34: Day 552 (Kay)
2 days after last chapter
Marc and Kay at their home.
(Ugh. I didn’t have time to edit or spellcheck. Please excuse any mistakes!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kay squinted. He bent his head lower, closer to Marc, who was lying with his head on Kay’s lap. Then with great precision, Kay plucked out a strand of grey hair.
“Ouch! What the hell?” Marc exclaimed.
“You have one grey hair on your temple.” Kay showed the offending grey hair, thicker and shinier than the others.
Marc rubbed his forehead, sighing. “I know, I know. I lost six pounds, developed an ulcer and now have grey hair.”
Kay smoothed his hair with his fingers. “Still very handsome.” He smiled down at him.
Marc held his wrist and gazed into his eyes. “It didn’t take me long... the desires came bubbling back to the surface, in my dreams, my idle thoughts. They refused to go away. Everything reminded me of you. Everything.” He shook his head like he’s laughing at his former self. “Guess my body has been trying to tell me being away from you is not good for my health.”
“Your body is very wise.” Kay said; he smiled and kissed Marc’s still open mouth. Their tongues leisurely swept against each other, licking their mouths’ corners. Then Marc impatiently pulled him down, so Kay was lying half on top of him on the sofa.
Marc shifted around to accommodate him in the narrow space, he murmured, “We should get a larger sofa.”
They should. Since making out on the sofa seemed to have become their favourite activity outside their bed.
Once upon a time, Marc used to go for straight for the main course. The wham-bam-thank-you-sir kind of sex, at least before Kay showed him how to get all riled up just from kissing, touching and rubbing against each other, how much better it makes the sex later. Or even without the follow-up sex. Now they have all the time in the world, no countdown clock in their head to rush them, they just make out for the fun of it.
Maybe a bigger apartment too, with a bedroom for Marc’s son to visit. Kay quietly contemplated as he lay contently next to Marc, rubbing his stubble gently against Marc’s neck. At the moment, Marc usually took Lukas to his parents’ house, they both agreed it might not be the best time to introduce Kay to his son.
Kay didn’t mind. They had time. If they were lucky, they still have their whole life ahead of them together.
“How did it go with your parents?” Kay asked. Marc hasn’t said much about his trip to his parents’ house two days ago.
Marc’s hand came to rest on the back of his head, stroking his hair. “I think they need more time.”
Not a surprise to Kay.
They’ve survived the last Christmas being apart. Kay had gone home with Nik to their hometown up north, their parents were friends and have always spent Christmas together. Going home wasn’t hardship for Kay, while Marc had to face a tension filled reception at his parents’ house, had spent a whole day chauffeuring Lukas between two grandparents’ houses.
This could be their future Christmases for some time to come.
“Is your father happy that you are training to be a detective?”
“I am still a long way from being a detective.” Marc said humbly, but talking about his new career prospect always brought a smile on his face. “But yeah, at least this he approves.” Marc sighed. “The funny thing is, I think you and he would really get along if - “
“Well, if only I could bring them a grandson.”
Marc’s whole body stiffened. Then he barked out a hearty guffaw.
Kay signed theatrically. “Unfortunately, I have a completely different plan for your...”
“Shut up!” Marc giggled even harder and rolled to pin Kay down on the sofa, stopping Kay from spouting more silliness with a kiss. “I love you, you crazy bastard.” He said affectionately.
Finally calming down and gazing into Kay’s eyes, Marc added quietly, “Kay, I really want this.”
Kay could hear what he didn’t articulate in words. That he really wants this to work, even when others said it was doomed; even when they knew there would be more obstacles on the way. And it’s scary.
“It’s okay. It terrifies me too.” Kay said, pulling Marc close in a tight embrace. “But it’s the good kind of fear.”
This is it. A HFN ending ❤️
This fic is a little different from my other stories, I didn’t know how hard it is not to write ‘longer chapter’ 😂 but at least that’s unofficial FF NaNo 2020 done 🙌
Thank you so much for reading, commenting and leaving kudos!
Val - not sure if you are still following this fic, sorry it didn’t appeal to you. Hopefully we will see more other Marc and Kay stories in the fandom ❤️