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By Any Standard (When in Bangkok)

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Things already aren’t going well, and then Svetlana comes to Bangkok.

Logically, Florence had known long beforehand that it would be a short-lived romance – the sudden onset intensity, Anatoly’s reckless willingness to throw everything away at the drop of a hat, and her foster mother’s own words echoing through time at her – “A relationship that starts with infidelity can only end with the same.”

Oh, she’d been young then and disinterested in love and sex and men in general.

But then there had been Freddie. Freddie and his clever tongue. Freddie with his filthy mouth and gleaming eyes and cock pressed just so, ugh, just right, just deep enough –

And then there had been Anatoly, who had been all emotion, all passion but not passion as she knew it and her entire life has been turned backwards, so it’s no wonder that she finds herself looking back now – back to her few, faint memories of her father, her foster parents back in England, but most of all, back at Freddie.

Freddie, who is just young enough to change and to bend just so; Freddie, who is just old enough to have the experience to make her swoon.

Anatoly knows how to make her swoon, sure – he takes the time to do it regularly, seems to get quite a bit of pleasure out of it.

Just… not that way.

Anatoly is a gentleman. Florence is beginning to realize that that’s not what she wanted.

(Freddie knows when to charm and when to drop the act and his pants all in one go.

God, she misses Freddie.

She never thought she’d say it, but it’s hardly been a year and already she’s doing exactly what he said she would. Doubting. Craving. Considering…)

Anatoly is a little older than her – and, well, that’s not… really the issue, but it probably doesn’t help. She’s approaching thirty with alarming speed and Anatoly is closer to forty, and as all men eventually find, he doesn’t exactly spring out of his boxers at the first breeze anymore. He’s so self-conscious about it that Florence would feel like a right berk bringing it up at all.

It’s not his fault, and it’s not a huge inconvenience. Really. Florence is a grown woman, and she can wait. She has other things to do – sex doesn’t rule her life. There’s groceries, there’s finances, politics, there’s…

There’s a whole lot of tedious crap in her life, that’s what there is.

Anatoly is beginning to seem like one of those things.

She feels his breath, slow and warm on the back of her neck as he drops off to sleep, and tries to pretend her stomach isn’t twisting itself up into horrible knots of uncertainty.

She wants to ask what the sex was like with Svetlana.

She thinks perhaps the problem is hers, but before she can pursue that exhausting line of thought, she gives a slow sigh and allows the rhythm of Anatoly’s breath to lull her to sleep.


He is, predictably, waiting for her at the restaurant.

She curses Anatoly for being so distracted, for being so damn anxious, for caring more about his image and his wife and goddamn chess than he did about their first real date in the past two months. She curses him for so publically leaving her, hasty and impromptu, at the mere mention of his wife’s name on Alexander Molokov’s lips. She hates that she hadn’t even been that upset, because she’d known that somewhere nearby Freddie would be lurking.

He’s been hanging around her for a week now, practically since her plane touched down. (He’s wearing eyeliner again. It’s been a few years since he’s dared – since his chess career took off, probably.) His hair is getting overgrown, in a good way.

He looks great.

It’s very clear that between the two of them, Freddie is the one winning this breakup.

If that’s even what they’re calling it…

Florence has been telling herself for seven days that she musn’t ever say that out loud. To anyone. Not Anatoly, not Freddie, not even under her breath to herself.

I will not be the one to ruin this, damn it.

But he’s waiting for her at the restaurant, and they make knowing eye contact seconds after she walks in, and before she knows it she’s at his booth, sitting lightly beside him, wary but somehow absurdly relaxed to be in his presence again.

He grins his Cheshire cat grin, and spreads his hands. “Florence. What a pleasant surprise. Where’s your date?” He raises an eyebrow delicately.

“Very smooth,” she murmurs, deadpan and glancing up at him from beneath her lashes. Her mouth hurts with the enormous effort it takes not to smile.

“Aren’t I always?”

When he lowers his hands, one of them lands on her thigh. Neither of them mention it.

(Her legs remain crossed. She tells herself that they’ll stay that way. Tells herself to ignore the already-building heat between them, for the sake of her sanity. For Anatoly. For her dignity.

For the sake of proving Freddie wrong, maybe.)

Freddie has always had boundary issues. It’s as if they don’t exist – and, well, to him, they probably never did. Not with her.

Not when she’s flushed like this, in that perfect terrible familiar way, her lips parting of their own accord. She can only imagine what she looks like. Hopefully not completely desperate, but she doesn’t hold out much hope. This is a game they’ve played too many times, and she can count on one hand the number of times she’s actually turned him down.

His hand slides further up her thigh, lightly, giving her every chance and no chance at all to back away now.

“Miss me?” Short and simple. It’s just like him. She makes a face, and his lips twitch, just barely marring his serious façade. He’s clean shaven and she wants to brush her fingers along a scar she’d never seen before that disappears under his chin. (Shaving accident? A fight? It’s been a year and already there’s so much she doesn’t know about him, it’s going to drive her mad.)

His eyes stay unwaveringly on her face.

Impressive… He seems sincere, despite everything. Florence has a moment of horrifying confusion that’s strongly reminiscent of a bad romance novel.

(Oh God, is she leading him on?)

She remembers moments later when his pinky grazes the edge of her skirt that it is, actually, impossible to lead Freddie Trumper on: because he always gets there first.

“Yoo-hoo, Florence? What’s going on in that pretty little head, huh?”

He’s still watching. Waiting. Lips just faintly curved in an anticipatory smirk.

He’s still a bastard.

“You’re not doing yourself any favors, Freddie,” she tries to say warningly, but it comes out significantly fainter than she’d planned. He licks his lips. (Very deliberately.) She knows she should move, but his fingers are steadily sliding up her thigh, under the thin, flowy fabric of the skirt Anatoly had bought her as a gift back in London, their first month living together.

Funny, it all seems a lifetime away now…

Freddie cocks his head to the side, slowly raising an eyebrow. His voice drops lower, leaning in so that only she can hear – not because he cares who does, but because he knows the warmth of his breath on her neck will make her skin prickle, the pads of his fingers brushing the very inner crease of her thigh, so close to the damp heat of her arousal that he has to be able to feel it, so close that she can’t help but relax into it. “Nah, but I could probably do you at least one… How about it?”

Always five moves ahead. She’s usually got him by three more, but Bangkok has addled her brains and now…

Hesitating is getting her nowhere. She can practically hear the headlines now, if anyone happens to be here. If anyone were to snap a picture of them right now.

Freddie expertly pushes the thin material of her panties just a centimeter aside, and her legs fall apart, breath hitching audibly enough that Freddie’s eyes glow smugly.

“Fine. Not mine, though. Yours.” It’s clipped, businesslike, but both of them can feel the tension coiling thick and hot and unbearably sweet behind it. Familiar. They know how this goes.

She stops caring about the potential cameras. They’re probably all dogging Anatoly, anyways.

Freddie, to his credit, doesn’t make any outward victorious gestures. It’s all in the eyes, gleaming with promise that makes her knees weak. He takes her gently (so damnably gently) by the wrist, and releases her so she could follow at a reasonable distance.

They leave before ever touching their menus. She doesn’t think about what Anatoly might wonder, if he were to suddenly remember her and come rushing back to make good on their date.

Anatoly isn’t on her mind at all. It’s like she’s regressed – or maybe she’s just sick of pretending. One of them has to be, right? She can’t be expected to do this forever. Not this way. Not with Svetlana in the picture and the press and the chess and Freddie right here tempting her back into something she already knows is so much more satisfying.

Freddie turns back to see if she’s following and a smirk unfurls slowly on his lips. He crooks a finger.

She reaches back to put her hair up preemptively into a messy ponytail and follows hot on his trail. No one turns to look at them as they pass. This is the last thing she should be doing, but she doesn’t care. Because this has been unbearable.

And if Freddie’s walk has a little bit of a swagger in it, she’ll pretend she never noticed.


They enter the room almost calmly, both of them so well-versed in maintaining that particular flat facial expression in public that it’s almost as if they’ve really gone back to Freddie’s room to discuss politics.

It lasts perhaps half a second after the snick of the lock on the door.

Freddie turns around and grabs for her and her hands fly up to twist into his hair, and it’s hard to tell who’s making what noise as they walk backwards toward the bed, kissing frantically, hungrily, groaning into each other’s mouths as they tumble backwards and Freddie wastes no time pushing his hands up under her skirt at long last.

“Shit, baby, you’re so wet for me,” he breathes, pressing the heel of his palm firmly up against her through the damp fabric and hissing through his teeth appreciatively in that obscene way she’s always pretended not to love – but right now it’s so much what she wants and she digs her nails in even crescents into his shoulders through his t-shirt, breath hitching and damn her dignity. He smirksup through his eyelashes, nudging his fingers further down, brushing, rubbing at the source of it.

She might as well be wearing nothing for all the good it’s doing her now. “Freddie,” she breathes, back already arching off the mattress in that achingly perfect arch, pulling him down insistently. “Get to it, come on…”

She had wondered idly, sordidly in bed with herself on nights that Anatoly stayed out late or fell asleep on the couch, if it would be hard for her to get back into the swing of things… if she and Freddie ever – well – did what they were doing now.

Evidently the answer is no. Sex is easy as it’s ever been with Freddie, and God, he does make it so easy.

Freddie leans down and laughs against her neck, breath hot, tongue wet and purposeful beneath her ear. “Clothes off first, sweetheart. Don’t tell me you’re that impatient.” She can’t focus on the words coming out of his mouth, though, because that would distract her from the long-anticipated plunge of those clever fingers inside her.

Oh, God,” she moans, eyes squeezing shut in time with her hips arching up helplessly toward his hand, trying to push them deeper – faster – it’s been so fucking long, so long, since anyone had really bothered with this part, the foreplay, the endless torturous foreplay that Freddie always put her through, it was almost unthinkable that she’d ever done without it. There’s just one last thing on her mind, one last thing she has to hold herself to –  “Freddie – this doesn’t mean I’m coming back.”

“I know,” he murmurs, mouthing down her neck relentlessly. He works his fingers like they’d been doing this all week, just like they used to, almost every night. “Mmm – doesn’t matter. Tell me what you want, babe.”

“Babe,” she mutters derisively, but it’s hard to mock him when her legs are spreading like butter and her fingers are dragging so perfectly down his back, perfect nails sure to be chipped by the time this is over. He swats her hands lightly away and pulls back, pulling his fingers out of her just briefly – long enough to make her panic, needy and reaching for him – to shrug out of his shirt.

“Shhhh.” He leans back over her, fingers curving just so in the waistband of her skirt. Her skin is alive and oversensitive and she doesn’t hesitate to press her hands up and smooth her palms down his chest, over his belly – he’s been eating again, and it hits her with dizzying relief that Freddie has actually gotten better in her absence, is probably eating and leaving the house and making friends and she’s –

She’s what? Having boring sex with an older, married man who can’t commit to anything but a board game she’s grown to despise?

Freddie’s mouth covers hers, tongue slick and inviting at her lower lip. She gives an undignified noise and fists her hands into his hair, sucking it into her mouth. Her leg has hooked around his waist and she pulls him bodily down on top of her, and he laughs, vibrating and muffled into her mouth. The moment is so perfect – Freddie between her legs, Freddie’s fingers pressing deep again inside her and curling just so and rubbing vigorously, roughtly, the way Anatoly can’t seem to fathom, Freddie’s lips and tongue against hers and teeth at her lip – she just wants to cry.

She wants to cry about her entire life and Anatoly is probably patching things up with is wife right now, and Freddie just knows, like he always does.

“So wet, so fucking tight, God Florence, I missed you like hell,” Freddie is groaning, and his thumb rolls over her clit so seamlessly, and he means it. She whimpers, hips lifting again, moving in fluid, desperate circles on his hand, pulling at his hair all the while. She remembers when he cut it, how he frowned for weeks but never dared to grow it back out. It looks better this way. “Did you miss me?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” she manages to get out, not even bothering to smile because one of her hands has slipped down between them to find his cock and he’s jerking against her, gasping, slamming their mouths back together like slippery magnets and thrusting into her hand, fingers slipping through her folds.

Fuck.” That’s her favorite sound – Freddie caving, Freddie kicking his jeans off the rest of the way and tugging insistently at her shirt until she lifts her back and lets him pull it over her head, reaching around impatiently for the clasp of her bra and rubbing his cock up against her bare thigh, taunting. Florence shudders despite her resolve not to give too much away too soon, as though they both don’t know exactly what’s going on and where this is leading them.

“I fucking love it when you do that,” he huffs, cupping her jaw and leaning down for another toe-curlingly satisfying kiss. She leads his hand to her breast without finesse, just panting and straining against him, refusing to beg for it.

He wants her to, oh, of course he does. But he won’t make her. Probably. And she could use a few scraps of dignity to make her feel better when the intoxicating heat of pleasant nostalgia and carnal familiarity dissipates.

Freddie grins against her lips and rubs his thumb lovingly, mockingly over her aching nipple, nail just barely caressing the hard nub. “I bet you were wishing you could push your skirt up and sit on my cock all the way through the press conference,” he says, silky and low, so goddamn sensual that she wants to knock the smirk off his face. “Weren’t you.”

She gives his hair a sharp, furious tug and takes vicious satisfaction in the wince that flashes across his face. “Do you want to fuck me or not?” she demands. “I was under the impression that this was a quickie reunion.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t have to bite your tongue when he’s fucking you so you don’t scream my name,” he murmurs huskily, mouthing down to her breast and sucking that one pert nipple into his hot mouth like he read her mind, like he just knows exactly how to touch her. And he does. He has seven years of experience under his belt, of pleasing her – specifically her – of drawing the orgasm out of her slowly, deliciously, of tormenting her in the best way. His tongue flicks stiffly over the nub again and she lets out a shaky breath, fingers going slack in his hair.

“Just fuck me, Freddie,” Florence sighs, leaning her head back and pushing her hips down in a final plea. His cock is slipping against her skin, obviously wet with want, weeping for it, jumping eagerly as it brushes her slick folds. But Freddie never gives in this soon.

She’s not disappointed. He gives an appreciative groan, hips grinding up against her thigh, but he’s not done with her yet and his mouth only moves keenly down to her navel, biting and sucking and leaving a hot trail of saliva all the way back up to her other breast, kneading it roughly before sucking the entirety of her nipple into his mouth, fingers rubbing furiously up against the throbbing nerve between her legs. Biting back a throaty yell, Florence yanks him back up her body with a fistful of dirty blond hair and forces him to look at her. She’s probably thoroughly disheveled by now, but she still manages a commanding tone, one she knows Freddie responds to.

“Fuck me, Trumper, or we’re done here.”

“You’re bluffing,” he snorts, but his pupils dilate with hungry anticipation. She feels his hand squeeze her hip briefly, warm and reassuring – the shape is so familiar by now that it almost aches – before his fingers start to withdraw and she feels his cock nudging impatiently again at the crease of her thigh. “You want me to draw this out. I bet your red doesn’t even know how to make you come.”

“Freddie,” she growls, heel digging into his back warningly. They both know that she’s perfectly capable of wiping the floor with him, in or out of the bedroom, and he pauses with a speculative gleam in his eye, gaze roving up and down her body for an unbearably hot, sluggish moment.

He starts to get that creeping, mocking grin again and she can’t take it.

Sitting up suddenly and without warning, she takes a firm hold of his shoulder and bodily shoves him backwards, twisting and throwing a leg over to straddle his thighs. “Shut up. Lie down.” She instructs breathily, giving his cock a cursory pump. His back hits the pillow and the breath is knocked out of him, and before he can even splutter through a response she’s reaching back and lowering herself onto him with no barrier between them.

It’s at this point that she realizes she has no idea where her skirt has gone – or her panties. Damn Freddie, that sneaky bastard. She has a feeling she’s never getting the latter back.

It’s really not the time to be pondering that, though, because she’s sitting back on his cock and she’s so full she can’t think, too focused on the throbbing pulsing pull, the twitch of his cock so deep she feels it in her fingertips, gasping and lurching up and back down, fingernails scraping down his front unapologetically.

He catches her hand in his and rubs his thumb against the center of her palm, groaning. “God, Florence, I love you, Jesus-”

“Shut up, shut up,” she moans as she rocks back on him, her hips acquiring a mind of their own, her brain short circuiting until all she can think in a loop is Freddie fuck, Freddie yes, deeper Freddie oh yes yes finally yes

“Can do,” he chokes out, laughing and grabbing onto her hips for dear life, guiding her down harder and rougher and without any regard for the marks they both know he’s going to leave on her fair skin. She thinks she catches a glimpse of a tattoo wrapped around his shoulder, just peeking at her from beneath his armpit, but her eyelashes are fluttering and she can’t help squeezing her eyes shut as Freddie gives a grunt and a hard upward thrust that has her nails biting into his biceps.

“Oh, fuck, I can’t go back,” she moans, mostly to herself, and Freddie almost pauses before she clamps a hand over his mouth and clenches her thighs around his waist. “I can’t – fuck, oh –”

Maybe there’s some real despair buried under there somewhere, but mostly it’s relief – it’s epiphany – it’s everything she’s been putting off for days and weeks and months, since the first night Anatoly forgot to kiss her good night and the first time she overheard a phone call home, his daughters both clamoring on the other end of the line, the note of indecision in his voice.

Florence is so sick of living with uncertainties. Here is something she’s never been unsure of.

Freddie groans obscenely, wordlessly, miming zipping his lips just to be an ass as he pulls her down on top of him and she can feel herself spiraling closer to the kind of orgasm she hasn’t had in over a year now, the uninhibited, reckless, raw sort of –

His thumb finds its way somehow back between them and rubs teasingly between the folds, up against the swollen nerve there and Florence barely has time to squeak before she’s coming, hot and sticky and endless over his cock, still achingly hard and twitching inside of her.

He catches her and gently, so gently, rolls them over so that he can continue pressing up between her legs, panting just beneath her ear like a prayer. “Mm, Florence – Florence – Christ, you’re still just – God, I knew it would be like –”

“Shut up, Freddie,” she rasps between thunderous beats of her treacherous heart, still so overwhelmingly sensitive that every smooth-glide thrust makes her jerk and pant.

He bites suddenly at her shoulder, just high enough that it won’t be covered by her shirt when she leaves – she’s certain that’s on purpose, but she doesn’t have the energy to call him out on it. His orgasm is quieter than she’s used to but maybe that’s because the air is so thick with her impending breakup that neither of them can bear to inhale it.

He runs his hands up and down her body, continuously, feeling every curve and dimple and stray hair like he’s trying to memorize it all over again, like he’d ever forgotten. She knows he hasn’t. She knows he probably thinks he has.

Freddie, obsessive devilish Freddie, reaches back and pulls the comforter over them, pulling her into a long, slow kiss that she can’t find it in her to refuse him.

It’s a reminder, she knows; Freddie can be soft, Freddie can be willing and he can change and he wants another chance. Wants her. Again and again and again.

It’s moments like these, trapped in sound of each other’s heartbeats, that she knows he really does love her. Regardless of what else he may like, and regardless of chess.

She wishes she could say the same for Anatoly, but…

Oh, God, Anatoly.

It’s like Freddie can sense the sharp turn of her thoughts because there’s a stinging slap against her thigh and she lifts her hips instinctively, feels him shift inside her, still not entirely soft yet. “You’re overthinking,” he advises, still uncharacteristically soft. The snark is still there, though, subtle and buried. “Don’t let that bastard in your head right now. You’re with me.”

“I thought you were being quiet,” she mutters, suddenly tired and wishing she could find even a shred of regret in her to bring back to her lover. There’s just no way. No way she can go back to that, to him, when she knows it’s not what she wants or wanted – not with the imprints of Freddie’s teeth and hands and the lingering, smirking presence of him that she knows will linger in her pores for months even if she doesn’t inevitably go back.

She knows he’ll wait. He knows she’ll break, eventually. It’s a new game of theirs, now, one she doesn’t find herself entirely disinclined to play. That in itself is mortifying.

Small tingling waves of bliss are still coursing through her, drugging her. Her limbs are so heavy now, and Freddie is so warm, so soft in the way his hands trail over her skin. His hair tickles her nose as he mouths down her neck again, just licking and nuzzling.

“I told you,” she begins, reluctantly, but he beats her to the punch.

“Yeah, yeah, what happens in Bangkok stays in Bangkok. Got it.” He says it into her throat, evidently enjoying the way it vibrates against his lips and into her skin, her thighs tensing briefly again. If they wait much longer to separate they might just have to go for round two. “But you can’t seriously wanna go back and let that old man bang you after that.”

She gives him a suitably incredulous look and he pulls back, affronted and wrinkling his nose.

“Florence, that was fucking incredible. Fucking Sergievsky has to be like – like humping a dirty sock. Come on! Why are you fighting this?”

She presses the heels of her palms into her eyes and sighs. “I don’t know, Freddie. I’m not going back. Not to him, not to you. Not right now, anyways.” She gives him a moment to digest that – hell, she needs a moment to digest that, or possibly several lifetimes.

“… Does that answer all of your questions?”

“Nope,” he says, popping the ‘p’ and pulling out of her in one unpleasant movement. He rolls onto his side and grabs her by the waist, tugging her close against his chest with an affectionate bat of the eyelashes. “You never said you loved me back.”

She smacks his arm in utter exasperation and finally lets herself feel the burst of answering affection centered somewhere deep in her gut. Anatoly is going to be upset. Maybe she will be, too. At least Svetlana will be happy. “That’s because you know, you ass.”

He grins and leans up to kiss her cheek. “Fine, fine! How about dinner, then? We seem to have skipped ours.”