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Lessons Learned: Reunion

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“Happy third bookaversary Jenson!” Jessy announced loudly as she wandered through the office with a cake in her hands. She had painstakingly made it from a recipe in the book, baking was not her strong point but Jenson had a wonderful way in his books, he made it seem so easy. He wrote as if he was standing next to the reader just talking them through it like a friend, and that made his first book an instant best seller.

Jenson looked up from the desk he was borrowing to watch Jessy and the rest of the department walking towards him wearing huge smiles. "Thanks guys." He stood up to blow the candles out. “It looks amazing.” Jessy handed him a knife and he cut it up into enough slices for everyone to eat some, it was pretty good and as he offered his compliments to the chef her face lit up.

“You two are ridiculously cute together.”

Jenson looked at Mikey with amusement as he handed his slice over, he really wasn’t going to let it go, he saw him and Jessy out in a restaurant once and had ever since been trying his damndest to cement a relationship between them. “Stop it.”

“Oh come on, you look good together, why you can’t just both admit it I don’t know.” He took a huge bite then spoke with his mouth full. “Am see umm baayk.”

Jenson raised an eyebrow but left before he could swallow, his website manager was a hideous gossip, though thankfully discrete. He just wouldn’t give up. He liked Jessy a lot, but they weren’t destined to be together, someone else still had his heart.

“So was it good or were you humouring me?” Jessy asked as he leant against his desk.

“It was, honestly.” He patted her leg.

“Alright then, so if it’s not my baking that’s giving you that look then what is?” His smile was there but it didn’t meet his eyes.

Jenson didn’t want to get into it, he wouldn’t even know where to begin if he did, complicated didn’t even begin to cover it. He wished it wasn’t, he wanted it to be simple, like it was at university.

“See, it’s that look.” Jessy tapped his shoulder.

“I’m fine, just thinking back to uni, can’t believe it’s almost been ten years.” He can't believe it had been all that time, it still felt like yesterday.

“Funny you should say that.” She took another bite of her small slice of cake before continuing. “I was speaking to Marion the other day, it’s Sacha’s tenth soon, he’s so big, looks just like Romain. Look.”

Jenson looked at the photo of the three of them, Romain was beaming with a baby in his arms and his mini-me sporting an identical expression between him and Marion. They looked so gloriously happy it made his heart ache. “They look happy.”

“Yeah, they’re trying for another. I should really go visit.” She ended softly.

“Why don’t you then?”

“Hmm, maybe it’s something to do with the third bestseller I’m about to publish.” She thanked the day she decided to take a different route to work, chancing upon the shop that led her to make her break into the publishing world. They say it only takes one decision to make it big.

She was smiling but Jenson couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, everyone here essentially worked for him and when he released a book it meant they were working at full throttle until the last date on his book tour. Jessy approached him not long after he opened Rocket Red, she had been walking past, spotted Jenson working and then proceeded to spend the next few days dragging everyone she knew there. He had been tentatively putting together recipes for a book, not knowing Jessy worked in publishing Jenson told her his plans and before he knew it the wheels were in motion.

“After this is all over, you should go see them.” Jenson polished off the last of his cake in one single undignified mouthful with instant regret but powered through. “I can cope without you, just.” He licked the crumbs off his lips before rubbing his stomach feeling full.

“Think I will boss man. Right, now you’ve stuffed yourself full of cake it’s now time to go talk about it. Ann’s got you covered. And it looks like she’s here.” Jessy nodded at the door with a grin.

He liked Ann a lot, but she didn’t half make him work hard, but then again she made everyone work hard and worked harder herself, and now he had a mini empire. Ichiban. “Who is it this time?”

“And good afternoon to you too.” Ann smiled.

Jenson hugged her before handing over a neatly wrapped piece of cake. “Jessy made it.”

“Thanks Jess!” She called out as they left. “Are you two ever going to put Mikey out of his misery?”

“No.” Jenson smiled wickedly.

“You’re mean.” Ann smiled broadly. “I think I’ve put a stone on since working with you.”

“Impossible.” Jenson grinned as they made their way out of the converted warehouse that served as his publisher’s office. “Remind me where we’re going.”

“It’s Jonathan Ross. This is a big deal, one on one interview, primetime, perfect chance to push the book and get people interested in your show.” She checked her emails on the way to the taxi that had conveniently pulled up at the kerb.

Jenson had spent a couple of weeks last year filming a six part series on baking and it was now time for the big push to bring it all together, it had been years of work and grafting after leaving France. It was easy to throw himself into work, he had no other distractions to take up his time and that was fine then but it was quickly becoming not. He was lonely.

“Did you hear any of that Jenson?”

“No.” He was truthful, there was no point pretending that he had. “Sorry.”

“I really wish you’d tell me what was wrong.” It would be stupid to say she hadn’t noticed he wasn’t happy, but Jenson wanted to plough on regardless and it wasn’t her place to say otherwise.

“I’m fine, just a bit tired.” He stared out of the window watching the rain droplets streak across the glass.

“May I suggest several early nights then, your life is about to change.” She needed to know he was up for the challenge, the other books sold well but he remained under the radar, now if things went to plan he was going to be a household name. His name was a gift, as were his talents. “Right, things Jonathan's going to cover…”

He took it all in and made a mental note of the sort of answers he was going to give, this was his first big television interview and he was not going to mess it up. “Got it.”

“Great, you’re going to smash it Jense.” Ann followed him out of the car and into the studio, she could tell he was nervous and a bit overwhelmed but knew as soon as he could start talking about his great love he’d be fine. “Hair and make up then.” She knew the layout of the studio well enough so after checking in with reception she took Jenson along, saying hello to a couple of people as they moved through the building.

---

“Come on, it’s about to start!”

“Alright, is not on yet.” Came the exasperated sigh.

“Nano, get your glorious arse in here.” Mark shouted when the opening title music began. As soon as it appeared on the listings he set up a reminder on his phone to watch it, this was Jenson’s moment in the spotlight, much like the man’s wandering into their bedroom was too.

“What, this one?” Entering their new bedroom he immediately unbuttoned his jeans and pushed them to the floor, turning slowly and deliberately to get a reaction.

“I don’t have x-ray vision mate.” Mark grinned as Fernando rolled his eyes, but before he climbed into bed he tugged down his boxers briefly to let Mark see. “Tease.” He flicked back the covers and waited until Fernando was settled before bringing them back over.

Even after all these years together seeing his body made his stomach flip, it hadn’t changed that much since university apart from a subtle muscle definition that suited him wonderfully, gained from joining him on some of his lighter training sessions. “Love you.” Mark pulled him close so he was resting his head on his chest but could still see the laptop slotted between them.

“Te amo.” Fernando kissed his chest, the dusting of hair tickling his nose like usual. “Will finish painting the bathroom tomorrow.”

“Sounds good champ.” They had not long bought the house and although it didn’t need much work doing to it, they wanted to freshen up their first home, years of saving allowed them to avoid a huge mortgage so they could enjoy the simplicity of finally having somewhere permanent.

“I love our home.” His whole body felt warm when he used that word, they had rented all over the world in the last ten years and for the first time they were putting some roots down and had chosen London.

“It’s about time we did, feels good.” Mark kissed the top of Fernando’s head as the talk show host reeled off a couple of topical jokes about the weather. Their parents had all found it odd that for the pair of them to choose London as their base considering the climate, but they had spent months choosing, not only did they feel at home in England, it was special to them.

The rain was starting up again, but Fernando was restless. “Where are you going now? Jenson’s about to…” Mark tried to ask but Fernando was already out of the large bedroom they had chosen to be theirs before he could finish his sentence. He listened to him go down the bare flight of stairs they were considering carpeting and pad across to the kitchen, they fell in love with it immediately, the door giving nothing away to what was inside.

Mark got out of bed to put on a pair of pajama bottom, giving into the cool winter weather, and as he jumped under the covers he heard Fernando swear because he dropped something. He couldn’t help but chuckle. Looking around the room and even with stacks of boxes pressed up against the walls waiting to be unpacked, Mark truly felt at home, settled.

They had spent weeks traipsing around with several estate agents until they chanced upon the place they eventually bought, it was deceptive, an unassuming door that led straight into a large open plan area where the lounge, dining room and kitchen were combined. Close to Richmond Park meant that the lack of garden didn’t immediately bother them, but when the agent took them upstairs to see the bedrooms she showed them another staircase. The one that led to a roof terrace. It was basic but came with permission to build on, and sheer luck gave them neighbours that couldn’t quite see in.

Assuming the place was way out of their price range they didn’t get their hopes up at all and put in an offer they could actually afford, so it was a huge surprise when it got accepted, the agent told them it needed to be a fast sell. Listed and sold in one day, it was a fortuitous case of right place, right time. Now it was theirs, every single brick, pane of glass and piece of wood. Fernando returned and brought him out of his daydream clutching a cream coloured tub in his hand.

“I couldn’t find the spoons.” Fernando explained as he handed it all over to Mark, he needed to put some more clothes on, their heating had still not been figured out yet.

Mark was more than happy to take care of the ice-cream as Fernando warmed himself in pajama bottoms and a tee shirt just as Jenson came onto screen. “Ahh, there he is.” Mark beamed. Digging a spoon into the frozen treat he scooped out a little bit and relaxed against the headboard to watch the interview.

“Good evening Mr Button, glad to see you’ve brought something along with you for me.”

“It would have been rude not too Jonathan. And a bit mean considering I’m here to talk about cake.”

Jenson gave a little nod to the crowd and sets down the plate of cupcakes on the desk then giving a wave he sat down on the sofa. “He looks good in that suit, blue’s good.” Mark commented before taking another spoonful of vanilla ice cream.

“Don’t mind me.” Jonathan was tucking into a cupcake noisily with a huge grin on his face and reluctantly put it down to actually get onto the interview.

“Sorry about that everyone, but they really are that good. Let me guess, the recipe is in your new book.” He put the rest of the cupcake down and turned to face his guest.

“Funnily enough it is.” Jenson gave a cheeky smile. “On page fifty six if my memory serves me correctly.” He watched Jonathan flick through the hardback book to confirm he was correct. “Well there you go.”

“So we know you know your stuff from your last two books, and clearly you know this one inside and out, but you’ve said yourself this one is different.” He held the book up to show the cover off. “My wife loves the pictures in this by the way.”

“I think I spent more time picking the photos than writing the recipes, and that took a year.” Jenson smiled. “It’s more personal than my other two, the first was the basics and the second was more to do with celebrating, but when I came to write it all I could think about was how we show love through food.”

“Ah well, we all have our own spin on that.”

Jenson laughed in agreement. “We do, and go for it, but it always tastes better when you make it yourself.”

“Oh, does that advice come from personal experience Jenson?” Jonathan raised an eyebrow to draw the crowd into the joke.

“I’m a baker Jonathan, what do you think?” The whole audience laughed along with them.

“So tell me more about the stories that feature in this.”

“Well the general theme of this book is love in its many forms, the more I thought about it, the more I realised how big of an influence it has had on my career so far. And I’m under no illusion that this is the first book on baking, or the last, but I get asked a lot in my patisserie about the stories behind the names of things and why I used a particular ingredient so I thought including stories would help explain that.”

“It certainly makes for a good read, might find myself getting carried away when I’m trying out one of the recipes though. I love the one about your parents.”

Jenson smiled as the warmth of the memory of what had been printed. “I’m sure your wife will appreciate the attempt though. My first memory of baking was helping my mum, and she would always bake these tea cakes for my dad, his absolute favourite. I would always beg to help mix the batter, then got more involved as I got older. But it was my dad’s reaction when he came home from work that really resonates, he’d be so happy to smell them baking he’s find us in the kitchen and kiss my mum before hugging me. It’s such a simple act, but that was my mum showing my dad her love for him.”

Jonathan paused for the round of awws circulating through the audience knowing that Jenson’s dad passed away a few months ago. “I bet he’d be proud of this.”

“Yeah, he got to see this completed before he passed.” He paused to take a calming breath. “Although he wasn’t happy with the lack of pink, so I ramped it up in honour of him.” Behind him flashed up a picture of the three of them with his dad dressed in a pink shirt and white trousers.

“You have a great forward from Alain Prost too, you didn’t give him much chance to say no to you, did you?” Jonathan read out a quote detailing the moment he met Jenson for the first time.

“Of course not! I wanted to learn from the best, and yes there might have been a bit of luck on my side that day, but he’s a baking god. An actual legend, I think he learned pretty quickly that I don’t understand the word no. Led to some interesting arguments, especially when he went full on in French.”

“And we all know this picture don’t we.” Jonathan gestured at the screen.

“Oh my god!” Mark pointed his spoon at the laptop screen between them.

“It’s us!” Fernando laughed beside him, leaning forward in silence to hear it all.

“Hot shot photographer Fernando Alonso and pretty hot Tour de France winner Mark Webber.” Jonathan clarified just in case.

Jenson loved the photo, he turned to get a good look at it and let a huge grin slide over his face. “Yeah.” He sighed. “I love that photo, when I saw it…they were so brave.” It was the photo Fernando took to post on Twitter, the two of them sharing a tender moment. “They showed me that love can conquer all, it was a huge risk for Mark to come out and be the first openly gay pro cyclist, but he kinda kicked ass at it.” Mark went in feet first and had a riot with the media afterwards.

“He’s retired now isn’t he?”

“Yeah, just last month. Now he can actually eat fun stuff.” Jenson laughed.

“Damn right Jense.” The ice-cream was softening up and it was easy to take huge spoonful. “I love that photo.”

“Si, is one of my best.” Fernando had set up the camera on a timer to shoot every ten seconds for a couple of minutes, and with the excitement of the decision to come out publically strumming through them they celebrated with kisses, touches and looks. Sat on the sofa in their hotel room facing each other, Fernando had his legs swung over Mark’s exhausted race winning ones, they ended up with plenty of good ones but they both chose the same. Mark’s fingertips from a single hand were grazing Fernando’s jaw as they gazed into each other’s eyes intently but with a ghost of a smile on their lips.

Mark tweeted it after sending a few thanking his team, teammates, fans and family for all their help at finally getting the win in France. He had never quite got it together to win a world championship, but he won a few big races and that gave him a big enough platform to bring on big sponsors and provide a stable financial grounding for them both. He had nearly done it at the finish line in Paris, after breaking his leg almost ended his career he realised that last year was his final season and spent a lot of the ride thinking about Fernando’s unwavering support. Then crossing the line with the best part of two minutes in hand he sought Fernando out, desperate to find him, kiss him, finally show their love to the world.

Mark just couldn’t bear to hide any longer, but Fernando took off to stop him making a rash decision, which meant he could bask in the honour of the yellow jersey first. And when he did it, it was with a simple declaration. ‘And above all, I couldn’t have achieved anything without the love of this man’.

“You’ve made two dedications in this book, one to your father and the other to Nico, who’s that?”

“Nico is...he’s...he’s a friend from university. Um, he just never gave up on my dreams, and made sure I didn’t when things got tough.” Months ago it would have been the worst question he could have asked, he still missed Nico, but the feeling of aching, desperate loss had gone.

“Shit, I wish he’d stop dwelling on Nico, he needs to move on.” Mark mumbled.

“Is hard though.” Fernando replied, even though he agreed with Mark. The pain was clear in Jenson’s eyes at the question, or maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was finally fading. Nico wasn’t a topic they talked about often.

“I know, but it’s been the best part of five years, he needs someone to look after him. He’s struggling on his own.” He absolutely hated seeing Jenson this lonely, he deserved to share his success with someone who loved him.

Fernando just rested his head on Mark’s shoulder, tilting it enough to kiss the tip of it softly. “Am lucky to have you.”

“The feeling’s mutual.” Putting his spoon in the half eaten tub he waited for Fernando to copy him before placing the ice cream out of the way. With both arms free he wrapped them around Fernando's body and held him close.

“I’m lucky to have great friends. Which incidentally is the theme of the first episode of my new series.”

“Smooth link there.”

“Why thank you.” Jenson winked. “It’s about baking for friends, so ideas for dinner parties, gifts, and a way to get everyone involved in a recipe. I want to make baking more communal, it’s much better to share.”

“I can agree with that!” Jonathan took another greedy bite from the cupcake. “So when’s it on?”

“The first show aired yesterday at eight on BBC two, so you can catch up online with that one, but there’s five more episodes to go. Every thursday at eight, which gives you plenty of time to get your ingredients and have a go over the weekend. And I love to hear how people get on so tweet me your best efforts.” Jenson knew his time was up and he had covered all the important aspects Ann badgered him about, job done.

“It’s been great having you here tonight Jenson, the other guys have a lot to live up to now you’ve brought these.” He gestured at the cupcakes before the camera returned to the green room where the other guests were hungrily eyeing up the other treats Jenson had brought. “Ladies and gents catch him on his book tour, Jenson Button.”

“Thank you.” Jenson stood up, shook hands with Jonathan and waved to the audience before returning backstage. He was elated and knew Ann would be too.

“Jense!” Mark had called him the minute his section was over. “Oi superstar.”

“Hey, was it alright?” He knew he would be getting a phone call from them at some point.

“Brilliant, you’re a natural.” Mark set the phone down and switched it onto speakerphone so Fernando could get involved too.

“I didn’t realise he’d show your thing on there.” Jenson felt like he should say that because it was obvious Jonathan was going to pick up on it.

“Is fine Jenson, means we have all been on the show.” It was a thrill to see his photography on the screen.

“If we were fussed, we wouldn’t have written about your cupcake...ha, that sounds wrong mate.” Mark chuckled at the accidental innuendo. Jenson had asked them to write something about his baking and Mark knew the story he had to tell, that one cupcake that Jenson got Fernando to try at the halloween party, the one with the pink frosting that he kissed off his lips, the one where Jenson found them out.

Jenson joined in, what Mark had written was so kind and funny the publishers went mad for it and asked for a few more photos of them to slot into the book, so Jenson collared them at the last minute and organised another photographer so Fernando could be involved too. He baked and they did their best to disrupt him but despite their best efforts he ended up with the perfect shots, Jenson was adamant he was only going to include people he knew. His parents were also involved, as well as Jessy and Ann after some serious negotiating.

“I was fucking bricking it before I went on.” He could always be honest with Mark and Fernando.

“Couldn’t tell, like I said you’re a natural.” Mark assured.

“Ah, how did you watch it anyway, aren’t you in...where are you?” He could never keep tabs on where they were.

“Is online.” Fernando jumped in, they were planning to surprise him on his upcoming book tour once they were properly settled.

Jenson knew they were hot on where to find certain shows online, there were a couple of shows they got into at Silverstone they couldn't bear to give up. "You coming my way anytime soon?" He really needed to see them.

"We'll see what we can do mate." Mark really wanted to say they were here, but it wouldn't be long. "When are you off on your tour?"

"It started yesterday, I'm going to be at Silverstone in a couple of weeks." He would love it if they would take the hint and get there from wherever they are right now.

"Right." Mark didn't know what to say, was Jenson hoping to find Nico there? “Are you alright Jense?”

Jenson knew what Mark was asking, he wanted to know why Nico was still involved in his thoughts. “Fine, I’m fine.” He wasn’t quite as much as he thought, but therapy was helping, he just wish he had gone earlier.

Fernando squeezed Mark’s hand knowing he felt helpless. “Won’t be long Jense, you’ll be sick of us.”

“Never guys. I’ll leave you to it, god knows what time it is where you are.” Jenson huffed a small laugh.

“See you soon mate.” Mark desperately wanted to fix things for Jenson but knew he couldn’t do anything other than support him and listen. “Night.”

“Night.”

Mark hung up and dumped his phone onto a cardboard box serving as a bedside table feeling frustrated. “Come here.” He pushed Fernando onto his side so he could spoon him, it was cold outside and chilly inside but it didn’t matter because under the covers they had each other for warmth. Snaking a hand under Fernando’s tee shirt Mark lay his palm flat on his stomach before trailing it up to settle over his chest, he adored having Fernando in his arms. “Do you want to go furniture shopping tomorrow?"

Fernando pulled his shirt up a little so they could be skin on skin and wriggled back into Mark. “We have to paint the bathroom.”

“We don’t have to, what we do need is a sofa and a washing machine.” Mark kissed the tip of Fernando’s tattoo. “And we’ve painted the living room and the kitchen.”

“Hmm.” He felt Mark squirm behind him. “Okay.” It was true, they needed basics like that, years of renting had left them with hardly anything, plenty of clothes, bikes, photography equipment but nothing a household needed. “We go early.” He felt Mark laugh silently behind him.

“I’ll be up before you.” Fernando had yet to evolve into a morning person.

---

Jenson lay awake staring at the ceiling, maybe he should take Mark's gentle advice about finding someone else to settle down with. But the truth was he didn’t want to, he didn’t want to share a bed with someone else thinking about Nico, he didn’t want to kiss someone else imagining it was Nico’s lips, he didn’t want to risk falling for someone else when he didn’t know where Nico was.

So like the last nine years he turned over in his bed alone and closed his eyes to wait for exhaustion to take over.

Let go. Let go of what you can't control. Let go of what you can't change. Let go.

Chapter Text

Mark was right, he was up before Fernando, who was resolutely clinging onto the duvet, so quietly slipping into some training gear he took a brisk ride around Richmond Park with the other cyclists to sort himself out. Retirement to him didn’t mean giving this up, he sought out the right kind of advice to ease himself into civilian life, and to keep himself in a recognisable routine he trained the same number of days but with less intensity. The biggest change was going to be his diet, he didn’t need to load up on carbohydrates anymore and to match his new exercise regime he had to scale back on the calories too.

But not the ice cream.

He got a couple of nods from other early morning riders as he looped back towards home, he had yet to figure out exactly what he was going to do next with his life, but liked the idea of helping the new generation of riders. Mark had gotten some good advice growing up, but with cycling based in Europe coming from Australia was tough, and his dad had recently told him about a kid called Mitch who had approached him with a great set of results.

All he knew was that he didn’t want to run a team, after years on the road he wanted some time with Fernando so he could support him fully for once without putting training first. Jenson wasn’t the only one with a book coming out and Mark liked the idea of being the cheering squad for once, but he couldn’t exactly sit around at home, he needed a career and something to focus on. Heading home he steadily cycled down the street and counted down the house numbers until he reached theirs. Theirs. It was the best contract he had signed.

But maybe he could offer Fernando one better.

Entering their home he leant his bike against the wall and quietly headed upstairs for a shower but was heartened to find it already occupied, so stripping quickly and leaving his clothes in a heap on the tiled floor, he slipped in behind. “Morning.” He announced his presence with a smile.

Fernando grinned as he heard Mark’s voice. “Morning.” He turned to find himself faced with a completely naked man whose hands were already soapy and running over his skin. Mark’s hands were exceptionally talented, knowing precisely where to touch him to make his body come alive, and then he was gently turning him around so they were back to chest. “Your ride did not wear you out?” He could feel Mark’s arousal pressed against his top of his ass, and on instinct he arched into it.

---

“Stop smiling at me like that.”

“Like what?” Mark played the innocent card.

“Like that, like that.” Fernando pointed at the wicked smirk plastered all over Mark’s face.

“Oh this, I am so sorry for liking the way you beg for my cock.” Mark laughed as he spooned another mouthful of porridge past his lips.

“Ah...uh…”

“Stop being so coy, you know you sound sexy when you’re panting and moaning for me.” He must have known. “Especially when you start mumbling in Spanish. You know exactly what that does to me." He knew Fernando did it on purpose sometimes, but he positively adored when he couldn’t help but slip into his mother tongue.

“Mark.” Desire was strumming quietly in his stomach from the combination of Mark standing proud in their kitchen and the hint of dampness in his hair reminding him of the past twenty minutes in the shower.

“See you’re doing it now.” He was rolling the R in his name decadently. “The older you get the sexier you become.”

“Hey!” He gave up on his breakfast.

“I wasn’t poking fun, it’s great, god knows what you’re going to be like when you’re forty. I won’t be able to the leave the house.” Mark grinned before finishing his bowl off, then leaving it in the sink he walked over to Fernando and kissed him, leaving him under no illusion how serious he was. “Let’s go be domestic gods.”

His stomach flipped pleasantly when Mark said that he still found him attractive, it reassured him and it was definitely reciprocated. “I’m driving then.” Fernando grinned knowing Mark wouldn’t argue now.

Mark opened his mouth to argue but knew it was of no use. “Alright.” He took charge of the radio and let Fernando negotiate through the traffic until they reached their destination, they had decided on one shop for the items they needed the most to keep things simple and the day short. It reminded him of the first time they decided to live together, knowing they were not only going to be sharing a space but belongings too, that same feeling of nervous excitement and heady anticipation was flooding through him again. But this time it was permanent, it wasn’t going to be measured in terms or months, but in years and lifetimes.

“Are you okay?” Fernando had parked the car and Mark was grinning into space.

“Wha...yeah, I am.”

Fernando patted his thigh before he unclipped his seatbelt, he had chosen a department store for simplicity because they would have everything they needed, plus he had seen the perfect sofa on their website and wanted to see it in person. They wandered through the car park close together, Mark falling into step with Fernando’s pace, learning every day to learn how to move slower than he used to.

“Let’s go have a look at the sofas first.”

“Oh no, I know your game.” Mark knew Fernando would want to look at the fun stuff first, so he knew he had to use that as a carrot to get him through the boring part of the day. It wasn’t like he was particularly enamoured with buying a washing machine either. “Boring stuff first.” He slung an arm around his neck and playfully dragged him into the store, making it obvious he was avoiding soft furnishings.

“Alright, you will need to make it up to me later.”

“Sod off.” Mark kissed his temple quickly before releasing him. “If you don’t want to get one you can sit on the roof and doing it all by hand.” He lightly pinched Fernando’s waist to make him squirm, but all he got was a scowl. “You know you look hot when you’re pissed. Fucking hell Nano.” He whispered under his breath. Many a night tangled up in sheets had started with Fernando shooting him a heated look.

He was supposed to be annoyed with Mark. “We are wasting time.” He huffed with a smile creeping across his lips, a washing machine wasn’t glamorous or romantic but as they came upon the department he saw another couple circulating trying to make a choice. No it wasn’t romantic, it was real, so when Mark left him day dreaming to get on with the task in hand he was tempted to reevaluate. Mark looked masculine and in charge of the situation when he picked up an information card intently, so he decided to fake knowing what he was doing and wandered around himself.

They all looked pretty much the same, although the one he was stood in front of looked cool, well as cool as a washing machine could look. He knelt down to see if its secrets would be revealed if he opened the drawer, then the door, left none the wiser he popped his head above the machine but couldn’t see Mark anywhere. “Mark?”

“Yes mate?” Mark heard Fernando but wasn’t able to see him, so poking his head up he was met with a set of very recognisable eyes gazing at him across the back to back machines. He could tell Fernando was grinning even without seeing his mouth, it was all around his coffee coloured eyes. Raising up he rested his chin on the cool white metal. “I’ve got no idea buddy.”

“You looked like you did.” Kneeling down on the floor he copied Mark.

“No fucking clue.” He laughed.

“Oh.” Fernando sighed lightheartedly.

“Do you need any help?”

Mark and Fernando both looked up to face the assistant offering help. “Please.” Mark answered as they stood up sharply.

She had watched them come into her department, being midweek it was quiet so she had the time to indulge in her favourite pastime, and she wasn’t ashamed to admit it was their looks that caught her attention. They were hot, and this was confirmed when her manager started to meander her way over, but she wasn’t going to let her steal her sale.

“What are you looking for?”

“We’ve been renting for ages, so we’ve only had what’s we’ve been given. All I do know is that I do not want a tumble dryer.” Mark couldn’t resist adding that last bit.

“It was an accident!” Fernando huffed. All he did was accidently get the setting wrong and some of Mark’s training suits got shrunk. A lot. And he never let him forget it, especially when he made a huge show of trying to get into it.

“Uhm.” She wasn’t sure whether or not to say what was running through her head. “Guessing something got shrunk then. Common mishap.” The taller one with the jaw and stubble started to laugh, which made the shorter one with the eyebrows pout. “So no tumble dryer. Any other requirements?”

“Um.” Mark began.

“We need a quick wash, which is quick.” They got stuck with an ancient machine once that seemed to go on for hours.

It was stereotypical, she knew, but it was a rare occasion when two men knew what they were on about, although she had her share of women who came in simply demanding the biggest machine they did. “Is it just the two of you?” As soon as she asked it to judge the best sized appliance she knew that no matter how handsome she found them she had no hope. Nobody looks at a housemate like that.

“Si.” Fernando replied with pride. It was the two of them for now.

She showed them several and despite her managers best efforts to swipe it from underneath her, she secured the sale, and found herself selling a fridge freezer too before squeezing in a very persuasive argument for a dishwasher. She definitely needed a high five after confirming that order.

“Sofa?” Fernando asked but was already heading in the right direction.

Mark found him contemplating a large corner couch, circling it like prey, taking the artistic angle. He could find something nice looking and Fernando would complain about the balance of it in its surroundings, so he decided to leave that aspect to him and take over things like comfort. Standing beside him for a moment Mark waited for Fernando to do another circuit before neatly throwing himself into the corner, it was necessary because he knew it would be his exact action day after day, year after year.

“Mark!” Fernando hissed.

“What?” He replied in kind. “We’re not buying anything that won’t work for us.”

In the evenings they would curl around each other and talk, or watch a film, so Mark had a point. But with the room the way it was it had to look good. “Is it comfortable?”

“Not bad.” He wriggled about, but there wasn’t quite enough cushioning on the back. “How about that one?” Mark levered himself off and wandered over to a set that looked positively squishy, he knew it wasn’t going to be to Fernando’s exacting standards. But when he fell into it, he knew immediately it wasn’t right, so together they tried out several configurations of, small, large, fabric and leather but returned to the first one.

Mark sat down again and Fernando joined him, he could understand his comments about needing a touch more cushioning. “We did used to have cushions.” So many of their belongings ended up in storage, but then simply had to be sold when it became clear it would be years before they would be taken out. It was a waste of money to hold on to things they couldn’t use.

“Maybe we could negotiate something.” Mark went full force on the first guy who came across their path hoping for an easy sale, he bartered a deal for the white goods successfully and did better with the sofa. He let Fernando pick the fabric and variety of cushions, as well as extra padding for the ones that came with the sofa itself.

“Bet he regrets asking if we wanted help now.” Fernando smirked. “Lunch?”

“Yeah.”

“Then we need to buy some stuff for the kitchen.” As they wandered out he spotted some plates and glasses he liked the look of, plus a dining table that would fit everyone they loved around.

Mark rolled his eyes in a good natured way. “I’ve unleashed a monster.” But Fernando would be doing the same to him when he was hunting for a television.

---

"Jense, time to go." Ann poked her head around the door. "Your public awaits." She smiled and was glad to see it returned.

Checking his phone was on silent he slotted it into his pocket and followed Ann downstairs, having done this before the noise of the crowd didn't spook him. He was petrified on his first tour, swinging from being convinced no one would turn up and not wanting anyone to turn up. But Ann had been there from the start, Jessy had called her along to one of the early meetings and after some inevitable catching up Jenson knew she was going to be great to work with.

Jenson still couldn’t believe they were all here for him, each and every person taking the time to wait and queue to get his autograph, he was just a patissiere that got lucky with timing. But he never took it for granted, not one second went by that he didn’t appreciate, more so now that he father wasn’t here.

“Can I have a photo please?”

“Of course.” Jenson grinned as he stood up to lean over the table.

“Awesome.”

The phone was switched around to get them both in shot and in a flash it was taken, standing upright he handed the book over.

“Thanks.” The book was taken, but as Jenson readied himself for the next in line the one before suddenly appeared in front of him again. “I’m so going to regret this…” He mumbled. “You’re gorgeous.”

“Oh, um, cheers.” Jenson grinned after the guy as he darted and weaved through the store, his gaze followed him out but the feeling of utter bewilderment and amusement soon evaporated when he picked out something familiar. Someone familiar. But in a blink it had gone.

“What did he want?” Jessy asked over his shoulder, she tried to go along to at least one signing to gauge the response for herself.

“What?”

“That guy, he came back all flustered.” She thought she heard him say something along the lines of Jenson being gorgeous, but wanted confirmation.

“Gossip.” He smiled as he handed a signed book back. “He said he thought I was gorgeous.”

“Nice.” Jessy was glad she heard right. “Shame you didn’t get his number.” She whispered. Jessy found Mikey’s insistence that they were an item hilarious, whenever he was in the office he tried to trip her up and get her to make the big reveal.

“Shut up.” It wasn’t widespread knowledge, but he didn’t exactly hide it either. But then again he wasn’t sure himself, whether he liked all men or it was just Nico. He hadn’t allowed himself to properly think about it. But that guy was certainly handsome, his hair dark and coifed perfectly, dressed in skinny jeans and a cardigan. He hadn’t thought he had looked at him properly, but he could recollect him so easily it was apparent he had.

“And that’s the last one Jense, day done.” Ann lightly grabbed his shoulder. “You’ve got the next two days off to cope without me, manage that?” She laughed as she packed up her large handbag.

“Just.” Jenson stood up and gave her a hug. “The culinary school next, right?”

“Spot on.”

“I’ll see you there then, going to check in on the guys at the bakery.”

“And get some rest.”

Jenson shrugged and gathered up his belongings to leave, the table was already being packed away, and the posters that he spent the day surrounded by had already been taken down ready for the next event.

“Please try, you work so bloody hard, take the night off and just veg in front of the telly.”

That face. He caught it in the front of the shop this time and found himself jogging towards where he saw it, ducking outside there was just the usual crowd of people.

“Jenson?” Ann called after him but didn’t get a reply.

Jenson was an enigma, he was genuinely happy all day, chatting with his fans like he knew them and gladly looked at every photograph of cakes they had made, but now he was withdrawn and looked so defeated. But what could she do?

Jenson walked to the bakery, he wasn’t that far away and despite the chill in the air he enjoyed it. Brushing past people he realised he had to delete the number because if Nico wanted to be found he would have been found by now. He would have let his parents know for a start, and having made a second trip to Germany last year he knew they didn’t know or care.

“Alright guys.” He pushed open the door to greet his staff. “How are we all today?” He received a chorus of ‘good’, great’ and ‘fine’ before they asked why he was there. “You know I can’t leave this place alone for long.” He moved past a couple of customers and made his way into the kitchen, washing his hands he felt his mind calm. So donning his apron he left his crew to continue what they were doing and fitted in around them.

Jenson slipped into the zone and began icing cupcakes, he had instilled his swirl in everyone during training and he was glad because it was now a trademark. When they were all lined up in the display they looked professional, which was all that Jenson wanted. As he helped his newest recruit perfect the trademark he thought back to the moment he realised this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, clothes covered in flour, skin softened by butter and sugar and a mind fueled by cinnamon and spice.

“See, if you hold the bag this way it gives you that clean finish every time.”

“Thanks Jenson.”

He could never quite convince himself to get his staff to call him Mr Button like he had to call Alain, Monsieur Prost. That sort of respect was earned and Jenson didn’t feel like he warranted it yet. “No problem, you’re catching on quick Kevin.”

Knowing he could finish the rest to his standard Jenson set about finishing up an order that was due to be sent out this evening. Coring the cupcaked he filled them methodically with lemon curd before topping them with lemon cream cheese frosting, and even though it wasn’t specifically asked for his gave a final flourish with a couple of strands of candied lemon peel on top. Boxing them up he tied each one with the usual bright red string and attaching the delivery slip he placed it in the in the pick up area ready to be sent out.

With every other delivery in process Jenson took to his office to make sure all of the paperwork was in order, sitting there pouring over the balance sheet he realised the best break he could give himself was to just do this, just run the business he had always dreamt about. No more shows or books, just baking. He had a comfortable life and knew the extra money he made was going into savings for his eventual retirement, whenever that would be.

He felt lighter.

---

“You look better.” Ann spotted Jenson as he practically bounced towards her.

“Feel it, spent the weekend in the bakery.” The familiar routine was a welcome reminder of his great love.

She knew what was coming next, Ann had worked with a few chefs and where some took to the limelight naturally Jenson didn’t quite seem as comfortable. “Do you prefer that?”

“Yeah, I think I do. Is that bad?”

“No Jense, when I first met you all you could talk about was the egg custard tart you made for Prost, I could hear how excited you were, especially when you mentioned the green tea stuff.”

“Matcha. That’s the powder.”

Ann saw that smile Jessy told her about, irresistable. “See, that’s what’s been missing. Why don’t you take that trip to Japan you keep mentioning.” In quiet moments they spent travelling to and from interviews, meetings and events he would occasionally talk about going back to Japan to try to work with some of the masters of Japanese baking.

“And write a book about it?” He smirked before taking a sip of his coffee.

“If it ends up that way I’m sure several people will be glad of the commission.” Ann smiled before returning to her own drink, everything was set up and ready to go. Jenson was adamant about helping the next generation and suggested visiting a couple of schools along the way, and yesterday was the culinary school and today was the last bookshop in London before he took the trip to Silverstone.

Jenson thought about it they weren’t expecting huge numbers there but the promise of free cake always got a decent turnout, more so when there was an extra Silverstone discount on top of the usual student one. All they had to do to get it was to show their university card. It should have taken a serious effort to convince his publishers, but Jessy let her heart rule and she went forward with it. The press was always great.

“Better get comfortable.” Ann stopped his day dreaming.

Jenson sat behind the table and could just imagine seeing the edge of the campus through the large plate glass windows, thinking about it raised a smile, he had a hell of a time there. From his parents coming with him on the open day to them dropping him off at halls, then meeting Mark at the gym and gaining a brother he always wanted.

“How the fuck does this work?” He pressed the start button again, insisting that he was doing the right thing. Jenson was sure this was what the guy showed him to do. “Fucking fuck you.”

“You alright there mate?”

“Uh, fine.” He replied without looking up from the control panel.

“Right, so you were swearing at me then?”

Jenson gave up and found himself faced with a sweaty guy giving him a bemused looked that infuriated him further. “Yes.” He pouted, not wanting to admit defeat.

“Oh really, I thought you were having a go at the machine and needed some help. But as you swore at me, you’re on your own now mate.”

He was going to turn around and leave him to do battle with the treadmill on his own. “Hey, wait. Sorry. I can’t get it to start.” The guy laughed smugly.

“Yeah, they are a bit tricky if you don’t put your key in.” He held his own up and Jenson immediately wanted the ground to swallow him up, and the redder he went the more the guy laughed.

“Okay, you don’t have to be so smug.” Jenson took the black plastic key out of his pocket and put it in the slot, the screen then welcomed him and instructed him to press the start button.

“Rookie mistake.” He shrugged with a wicked glint in his eye.

“I’ve been here before.” He hadn’t, he only had his induction yesterday.

“Yesterday, for your induction.” He climbed onto the machine beside him and made a great show of putting the key in.

“Do you live here or something?” He grumbled.

“Yeah, pretty much. I’m a cyclist.” He ramped up the speed so he could jog.

“Delivery?” Jenson grinned.

He laughed easily. “Yeah, fastest fucker around mate.”

Things got competitive quickly, but Jenson quickly realised that joking about what sort of cycling this guy did was not the smartest thing. He was super fit and more than willing to make Jenson’s life hell for the slight.

“Think you’ve earned a drink.” He slapped Jenson on the back.

“Just in case I die, my name’s Jenson Button. Tell my parents I love them."

“Mark Webber.” He hauled him onto his feet. “Come on buddy, to the pub with you.”

“Could you sign this to Mark and Fernando please?”

“Yeah, sure...Mark?!” Jenson wanted to leap across the table separating them, he took the hint. “Mark.” He resorted to hugging him across the table before turning to give Fernando the same treatment. “Glad to see you’re in the right country for once.” They were here.

“Yeah yeah.” Mark rolled his eyes, but couldn’t wait to tell him that they were here permanently.

“How long are you here for?” He made an effort to reel in the desperation he felt and leave it out of his voice.

“We’ll catch up after you’re done here, how much longer do you reckon?” Mark picked up the newly signed book.

“Half an hour.” Ann cut in to move them along.

“Annie, hey.” Mark hugged her briefly and moved out of the way to let the rest of the queue have their turn. “How are you?”

“Good, how’s retirement suiting you?” She had kept up to date with his career, race to race.

“It’s...different.” Mark replied with a smile.

“I bet, hello Fernando.”

“Ola.” He leant in to kiss her cheek. “Has been a long time.” He tried to think back to when he last saw her but couldn’t place the time.

“It has, but we’ve all been busy haven’t we.” Ann laughed quietly.

“True, be good to catch up though. In fact, Fernando’s got his book launch next week, you should come.”

“Who’s doing the publicity?” Ann asked, she instantly saw the worry in their eyes.

“Viceroy.”

“Good choice. I was curious, that’s all.” She was aware of them, they were big in the art world and it made perfect sense for Fernando to go that way. “I wanted to make sure you're represented by decent people.”

“So you’ll come?” Fernando smiled with relief at not offending her.

“Of course. Just send me the details.”

They exchanged numbers and Fernando was glad to be able to invite people that Mark knew. Mark always did well when he could attend, happy to take it easy and wander around providing constant but silent support and take the arty conversation. However this one was going to be different, this time they didn’t have to be friends.

“Tell Jense we’ll wait outside for him.” Mark gave her a brief hug before moving through the sizeable crowd of people hanging around to get another photo.

“Okay.” She agreed knowing Jenson would be dying to finish.

The weather wasn’t particularly great, but it was dry and it gave them a perfect excuse to try and keep each other warm. Wrapped up in jackets and scarves Mark tucked the book under his arm as they walked close together in search of somewhere to wait for Jenson.

A burst of warmth shot up Fernando’s arm unexpectedly, Mark was holding his hand. “Mark?”

Mark didn’t reply and instead he squeezed Fernando’s hand tightly, they never got to do this when they first began dating, they had to give up the little moments and he was on a mission to gift them to the man he was going spend the rest of his life with.

Fernando couldn’t stop the smile erupting over his face, they were just holding hands, such a simple act they conditioned themselves not to search for. For anyone else it was innocent, but for them it signalled how far they had come, lacing their fingers together they crossed the road. “I like this.”

“Me too buddy.” Peeling off the street they sat in the small park opposite the bookshop, still holding onto each other’s hands. Mark sent off a quick text to let Jenson know where they were and they settled back to just be themselves, watching everyone else go about their business. “Is this yours?” Mark picked the football up that had landed at his feet.

“Mine!”

“Alright then.” Mark handed it over.

“Sorry about that.” A harassed looking mother jogged over with another child in tow. “He’s been kicking that thing everywhere.”

“It’s fine, looks like he’s got a decent pair of feet on him.” Mark beamed. “There you go buddy.”

“Say thank you.” She prompted.

“Thank you.”

Mark gave the kid a wave and watched him kick the football off into the distance, he looked so happy to be be outside even though it was cold.

Fernando had watched the whole exchange, Mark had been casually watching the children play with a placid look on his face, and it made him wonder. He felt Mark slide an arm around his neck and his lips kiss his temple, and he hoped to the depths of his heart Mark didn’t see the way the woman hurried her children away with a scowl on her face.

“Have you ever thought of having children?” He asked with Mark’s arm still around him.

Mark wasn’t shocked by the question and pulled back to rest a hand on the back of Fernando’s neck so he could look at his face. “Yeah, kind of, how about you?” He had been quite a bit since he decided to retire, it was a thought that hadn’t been touched, there wasn’t time to think about anything other than racing. But the thought of teaching a child to ride a bike...

“Yes, might be good, is good I mean. But we are not married.”

“Hey!” Jenson found them easily, the last half hour of the signing couldn’t go quick enough. He still couldn’t believe they were here.

Mark grinned at Jenson but was excited about what Fernando had said, marriage? He stomach did loops at the word and the thought, but happy loops, swirly soaring loops. “Alright mate.” Mark swamped Jenson in a hug he knew he needed.

“Great.” He held on a little longer than was normal, but he was in desperate need of the contact. Fernando came next and continued where Mark left off.

“Are you done for the day?” Fernando asked.

“Yeah.” Jenson reluctantly pulled back feeling mortified he had been so clingy.

“Then we want to show you something.” Fernando led them to the car and smoothly taking the keys out of Mark’s hand he jumped in the front, which left Mark to take up the passenger seat after letting Jenson to squeeze into the back. They chatted for the entire journey and Fernando was content to simply listen and agree when he was prompted to, but they were essentially family, and they hadn’t seen each other properly for years.

“So where are we going?” Jenson tried to figure it out, all he could gather was that they were heading towards Richmond Park.

“You’ll see.” It wasn’t much longer until he squeezed his car into a space on their street. “Come on then.” Fernando pushed his seat forward to let Jenson out.

It was just a normal street but he let himself be led halfway down until Mark and Fernando came to a stop outside a bright red door. “This is?" He wouldn’t let himself hope.

“Home.” Mark answered brightly. “Our home.”

“You live here, permanently?” He really wanted to let himself hope now.

“Si, this is our home.” Fernando let Mark open the front door they painted last week, they were the only ones with that colour, a gorgeous glossy cherry red.

Jenson was overwhelmed. They were living in London a handful of tube stops away from him. “Please tell me you’re not joking.”

“No, this is us.” Mark grinned as he patted Jenson on the back.

The place was them all over, Jenson had to smile, even though the place was bigger than anywhere they had lived before but somehow they had made the space cosy. He didn’t trip over Mark’s bike but it was leaning against the wall from recent use next to a sizeable collection of brightly coloured trainers.

“Mark was supposed to tidy those up.”

“I was picking which ones I was going to wear.”

Jenson grinned as they continued to bicker with no real malice. The lounge was centred around a large corner unit, a deep brown leather decorated in more cushions than was normal, but they put the colour into the largely neutral walls. Definitely Fernando’s doing. It was light and airy from a large window at the back but there didn’t seem to be much of a garden which surprised him, they were both outdoors people.

“No garden?”

“We’ll get to that.” Mark answered mischievously. “You want a drink?”

“Could do with a coffee actually.” He was suffering from his early morning start at the bakery, the signing and the surprise that Mark and Fernando had landed at his feet.

“I’ll do it.” Fernando brushed past Mark, letting a hand pause on his lower back.

He drifted into their kitchen, he would have done a lot different but his own was geared towards creating, this one was more functional but very elegant. More of Fernando’s influence. Not that he thought Mark was incapable, but had himself admitted that ‘arty stuff’ wasn’t his thing. “Cherry wood?”

“Huh?” Mark shut the cupboard door with three mugs hooked onto one hand.

“Si si, picked it myself.” Fernando knew Jenson would get it.

“Looks brilliant. Is that the same one from uni?” He gestured at the coffee machine.

Fernando nodded. “It’s been in storage, then at my parents.” When they gave up on storing absolutely everything they owned, they chose the most important items and left them with his parents, knowing they would eventually settle in Europe. “It was broken, but I didn’t want to get rid of it, it meant too much to me but Mark got it fixed as a moving in present.” Fernando felt Mark’s presence and craned his head around for a quick kiss.

“Want me to do the milk?” Mark was already getting it out of the fridge. “I do great milk Jense.”

“I’m sure you do.” The way their relationship imploded had haunted him, but looking at them now he simply marveled at the way they moved together, existed in the same space as one. It was actually kind of beautiful.

“Here you go.”

Jenson took the cappuccino from Fernando and sipped at it before they headed back to the couch. “I’m guessing Mark sorted the television.” It wasn’t huge, but it was the perfect size for gaming.

“How d’ya guess that?” Mark acted innocent.

They slipped into conversation easily and caught up on things that were hard to explain over the phone, and Jenson listened to how they found the house and the trials of decorating and he was more than eager to had over his own tips that were received gratefully. It was easy until they were sat down eating and Mark flipped the focus to him.

“How are you mate?”

“Fine.” Mark had his head resting on a hand, looking at him soberly despite the bottle of wine they had shared over dinner.

“Trick is mate, you need to look fine to be fine.” Mark stated.

“I’m fine.” Jenson assured sharply.

Fernando had never been offended that Jenson was closer to Mark and so he knew when it was time to make an exit, splitting the last of the second bottle of wine between Mark and Jenson he put the empty in the recycling. “I’m going to head to bed.”

“Fernando, you don’t need to…”

“Is fine Jense.” Fernando shook his head kindly. “Night.” He kissed the top of Mark’s head as he passed by.

Jenson silently thanked him and once he had made his way upstairs he began to talk. “You and Fernando any closer to getting married?”

“I think so.” He was giving Jenson this. “Actually, I bought a ring.” Standing up he went over to his cupboard to pulled out a energy bar box, it was the best place to hide it because Fernando hated the taste of them. “Here.”

Jenson snapped to box open to see a simple gold band, no fuss, very Mark. “When are you going to pop the question then?” It was about time.

“Fernando’s got an event in Paris in several months, going to surprise him there.” He wanted to do it in the place they admitted they were in love with each other, where they both made their mark on the world and where they reconciled. Paris was theirs. “And when we were in Spain before Christmas I asked his parents for permission.”

It was a nerve wracking experience, he had gotten Lorena to take Fernando out and in that half an hour he spoke seriously about their relationship with Ana and Jose. About their future plans, how much he loved Fernando and wanted to look after him, then the words tumbled out of his mouth and within seconds he was being embraced by them both enthusiastically. His mum had shed a few tears and even his dad had them welling up in his eyes, then he joined them once Jose shook his hand firmly and officially welcomed him to the family.

“Soppy git.” He cracked a smile but it immediately began to waver at the edges. He wanted that. He wanted to be in love. He wanted to be so in love that he had to be with that person forever.

“Jense, please talk to me.” Mark reached over to squeeze his shoulder.

Jenson slid the box back towards Mark. “I want that.”

“Mate. You need to let it happen, it will if you let it.” Jenson would find it easy to find someone if he let himself be loved. Not only was he handsome, but he was kind and caring, someone would be incredibly lucky to find themselves with him.

“But that means I have to give up on Nico.” He knew he had to. Thousands of pounds spent on therapy had now gotten him to the point where he was just sick of feeling at odds with himself. His head wanted to be logical and his heart wanted to love, but finally he was at the point where logic was overriding the who he wanted to love. He wanted someone who wanted to be there.

“It’s been what, five years, don’t look at it as giving up, you’ve tried damn hard to find him. You went to Germany for gods sake.” Mark warned Jenson against going, but told him he understood why he wanted to go.

Jenson hated that trip, he was utterly convinced Nico would be with his family, he had to be after what he had found out in Silverstone. They had worked really well during that year apart, regular phone calls and frequent texts kept them in contact and although it was hard, really hard, they survived it. Then after graduation Nico took on a great job with a top firm in London which meant he visited him in Paris at the weekend. Jenson would work hard all week and then the single day he had off was spent buried in Nico in his tiny apartment above the bakery, it felt like a torrid affair.

But then one weekend he couldn’t make it, and another and months later Jenson begged for time off citing a family emergency and travelled to London to find his apartment abandoned with no forwarding address. When he asked his neighbours they had said there was a lot of noise one night and then they never saw him again.

His phone was disconnected, and when he called around to friends they just said he had left but didn’t say where. After spending his free time phoning anyone he finally got hold of Felipe who mentioned someone called Nelson, then after that things started falling into place. It was Nelson who had dragged him down into the gutter to begin with and when Jenson found out he had lived with him all year he felt betrayed, Nico had said nothing. He went to Germany on a whim instead of going home to see his parents, arriving at Nico’s door he was met with hostility, anger and blame. Blamed for letting Nico fall he was shunned and without an option he returned to Paris in shock. It was a desperate shock that had rocked him to the very centre of his being. Then he had felt like it was his fault. And it was only recently that he could see that it wasn’t.

“And you’ve worked so hard in therapy.” He was so relieved when Jenson sought professional help, and it had worked well enough, but he had to take that last step and officially let go.

“I know.” Jenson relented. He had, he struggled on for a year until it threatened to stop him from opening the shop of his dreams.

“I wish I could do something, I hate seeing you like this, hearing you on the phone in pain…” Mark had no words of advice that would work.

“Sorry.”

“I wasn’t looking for an apology Jense, I just wish I had the answers.” He gestured at the sofa and Jenson answered by getting up and taking his glass of wine with him, Mark joined him after secreting the ring away.

“No one has answers, I almost used a private detective a couple of years ago, but what if he didn’t find him? I couldn’t deal with that.” He knew Mark wouldn’t judge him.

Mark knew about Nico’s past, Jenson had told him absolutely everything and his biggest concern was that Nico had gone back to that life, but with drugs. Or he could be dead. Not knowing was the kindest thing for Jenson it seemed. “It’s time to take a breath and stop pressuring yourself into feeling a particular way.”

“That's part of the reason I’ve decided to go back to the bakery full time after this book.” It took the pressure off himself massively.

“Sounds good mate, time to concentrate on yourself now.” He desperate for Jenson to find some peace, but he feared Nico had taken something from him that couldn’t be replaced.

“I want to fall in love again.” He wanted the tears that were welling up in his eyes to disappear but they did the exact opposite.

“Jense.” Putting his glass down and taking Jenson’s out of his tight grip he wrapped his arms around him and let him cry it out, god knows he had done it enough. “You are going to get through this, you are so strong.”

“But I’m crying.” He sobbed.

“You own an empire, you have a tv show, three books and people are willing to wait in a queue for an autograph. You went to Paris to learn from the best and have never taken no for an answer, never. You’ve done that all off your own back. You need to realise how strong you are, but it’s okay not to feel it all the time buddy.”

Mark’s kindness was making the tears fall easier, his face hidden in his hands the soothing circles being made on his back got his breathing back to something close to normal. “I’m glad you’re back.” Having Mark back had made him emotional, he was doing a lot better.

“Me too mate.”

Sitting back up he took a huge breath and slumped back into the cushions. “I should go.”

“Don’t be so bloody stupid, there’s a room upstairs with your name on it.” He had set it up before they left to go see him, Mark suggested it and Fernando agreed instantly. “Are you due in the bakery tomorrow?”

“No.” He had a meeting with Ann and Jessy tomorrow, but that was later.

“Good, leave your phone down here and have a decent lie in. We’ll look after you.” Mark assured kindly.

“I feel so stupid.” He wiped away the tears with on a sleeve. “I am doing much better than this.”

“Jenson, we’re friends, actually we’re family and family look after each other no matter what.” Both standing Mark hugged him repeating that they were family. “I’ll show you where you’ll be tonight, but let me show you something else first.” Mark knew now was the right time to show him the roof.

“Wow.” It took Jenson’s breath away, the twinkling lights of London were dotted around him and he couldn’t remember seeing the city like this ever and the tears were resurfacing again. But Mark was right there.

“You’re freezing.” Mark rubbed his arms to try and warm him up, he could feel Jenson wanted to stay up here.

“This is better than a garden.”

“My thoughts exactly. We’ve got a bit of work to do on it, but it’ll keep me busy.” Mark agreed and he forced him back inside. “Get some rest okay. No rush to get up.”

Jenson gave his thanks and opened the door and feeling raw he almost cried again at what he saw. There was a pile on the end of the bed of fresh towels and pajamas, and a key with a note attached. Consider this yours. Whoever had written it had also doodled a little house at the bottom. Okay, so he couldn’t love a partner at the moment, but he could love his friends all the more.

Changing for bed he could overhear Mark and Fernando next door as Mark had clearly woken Fernando up.

“Hey. Sorry for waking you.”

“Is he okay?”

“Not sure, I think he will be, Nico’s a lot to let go of after all this time.”

“I’m glad I have you.”

“Hey, hey, don’t get upset. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good.”

Jenson could just about hear the crack in Fernando’s voice as he hugged onto a pillow tightly, he lay awake for a bit longer thinking of the ring Mark had bought, Fernando had nothing to worry about. And maybe Mark had a point, he just had to let someone else in. Finally put an end to the abusive relationship he was in with a ghost.

---

“Morning.” Mark whispered as he dragged his lips over Fernando’s skin along his shoulder, his hand gently cupping his crotch.

“Hmm.” Fernando arched his back and mumbled contently, he loved waking up with Mark’s hands on him, pawing at his body. It was lazy and slow, Mark was pushing his boxers down and circling his cock, stroking him languidly. “Hmm.”

Fernando looked gorgeous like this, hair mussed, eyes bleary and limbs uncoordinated by sleep. “That feel good?” Mark whispered against his ear.

“Ugh.” Fernando flexed his hips up in response to Mark’s husky voice.

“Yeah?” Mark squeezed him and got a breathy sigh in return. Then with Fernando bending his knees up Mark quickly whipped the covers back to expose him to the soft morning light breaking through the curtains, then after peeling his boxers off he replaced his hand. Toying with his slit he spread the pre-come over his head as more swelled at the tip, sucking his thumb clean he swiped through his arousal again before offering it up to Fernando who greedily sucked on his fingers. “Taste good, huh?”

“Mark.” Fernando growled, getting more frustrated the more he woke up.

He began stroking Fernando again, his cock slick and hard Mark took great pleasure in making him moan and squirm, hearing those breathy and unguarded sighs were worth delaying his own burning desire for. This was the Fernando only he got to see, the private and vulnerable version of the man that came across so confident and assured to everyone else.

“Por favor.” Fernando sighed. Mark was just doing enough to keep him on the edge, he knew his body so intricately he could probably do this all day, balancing him between ecstasy and release until he begged and pleaded for relief. “Por favor.”

“Come for me Nano.”

Jenson had barely slept and the hushed and deep throated sighs he was listening to had woken him from his latest attempt, he knew he should really go home but there was something to be said about company. Maybe he should get a cat.

“My turn, in the shower.”

He heard laughter cut with sighs and gasps and had to smile, ten years or so down the line and they were still very much in love. He couldn’t wait to hear Fernando tell him Mark had popped the question. He assumed he had fallen asleep because when he woke again the house was quiet, so he swung his legs over the side of the bed and forced himself to get up and by the time he was ready it was almost ten.

A shower did wonders for his mood, just as long as he didn’t think of Mark and Fernando in here. Soon he was dressing in yesterday’s clothes and making his way downstairs to leave but found Fernando curled up on the sofa watching the news. “Morning.”

“Morning Jense, you want breakfast?” Fernando was glad to see Jenson looking a little better.

“I’m going to go, stayed far too long.” He shook his head.

“Jenson.” Fernando studied him for a moment. “Did you get that note?”

“Yes.”

“Then you read it, that key is yours, you are welcome anytime.” Fernando got up and moved into the kitchen. “Coffee?”

“Sure.”

“We’re both here for you, you know this yes?” He grabbed the coffee and set the machine to work. “I know you are close to Mark, but you can talk to me too.”

Feeling like a spare part Jenson hopped onto the counter to stay out of the way and Fernando smiled at him. “What?”

“You look more like yourself up there.” Fernando continued to smile. “Mark’s out for a ride.” He answered the silent question.

“Ah right. So things are good then?” It certainly looked like it.

“Si, don’t tell Mark but, I think...I think...actually I know…” He felt his face heat up.

He wasn’t used to see Fernando so flustered. “You can tell me.”

“I know I’m still travelling a bit for work, but I would like a child with Mark.”

Mark wanted to get married and Fernando wanted children, he sighed and rested his head against the cabinet. “Children?” He smiled.

“Yeah, this place is big enough, and we’ve sort of talked about it and Mark does want one, I think, he’s thought about it anyway. But he’s so good with them.” Over the past decade they had both become uncles and Mark was a complete natural, and it didn’t hurt he looked good with a baby in his arms. “We need to talk about it properly though, it will happen if it is meant to.”

Fernando was blushing. “I’d be lucky to be half as happy as you two.” Jenson gave him a soppy grin before returning to his liquid breakfast.

“You will be Jenson.” He assured seriously. “And you must come to my book launch, is next week.”

It would do him some good to get out and do something not related to work. “I think I will.”

Chapter Text

“Done already?” Jean-Eric looked up from his screen to see Dan looking down at him pleadingly.

“Yeah, can we go?” He was done with this week.

“Some of us do a full days work.” He leaned back on his chair with his arms crossed behind his head. “Unlike some people I know.”

“Unlike some people you make scream your name.” Dan grinned as the simple proximity of Jean-Eric calmed his bad mood.

Jean-Eric looked around, there was only one other person left on his department now, being Friday afternoon everyone else had chosen to finish their day off at home. It was just the newest recruit Daniil who was lingering behind desperately trying not to overhear their conversation.

“Daniil, I think it’s time for you to go home.” He spun around on his chair. “Come on, you’ve done enough this week.”

“Are you sure?” He asked meekly.

“As your manager, yes, I’m sure.” He laughed which prompted Daniil to believe him. “Go, enjoy the weekend.” He waited for him to leave before turning his attention back to Dan who was now perched on his desk beside him.

“Take me home.” Dan asked. “Take me home and show me a good time.”

Jean-Eric gave his response by snaking a hand up Dan’s thigh until his fingertips grazed his crotch, his head lolled back which was the perfect invite for Jean-Eric to up the pressure and use his palm instead. He looked so beautiful responding to his touch.

“Seriously, take me the fuck home.” Dan breathed, he wanted to be looked after.

“Alright.” Jean-Eric smirked, pleased with his work he got up and kissed him softly, in the way that turned him on more than his hand could right now. “Let me get my things.” He went to grab his laptop but caught sight of his boss. “Alright Sebastian.”

He had to walk past now, he had to walk past two incredibly happy people, he had to end another week alone by seeing them. “Afternoon Jean-Eric, Daniel.”

“You off home?” Jean-Eric asked politely. Sebastian was Dietrich’s right hand man and the link between the floor and the directors, as head of marketing Jean-Eric saw him every day so they were allowed a bit of familiarity.

“Yes.” He spent the week in Austria and went home to Hanna and their home in Switzerland for the weekend. “You two as well?”

“Yes.” Dan answered. “We’ve got a great weekend planned.” He saw Sebastian at least once a week to discuss the sporting arm of the business, he looked after the company’s biggest clients.

Sex. That was a smile that said they were going to have sex. It wasn’t fair they got to be with the person they loved. “Sounds good, have fun.”

“Will do, say hi to Hanna from us.”

“I will.” He gritted his teeth and walked out of the office to his car, it was the only journey that he hated. He absolutely adored driving, those early karting days still festered in the back of his head and when he took to the road it was the closest he felt to free.

“Right then, let’s get you home.” Jean-Eric broke the brief spell of silence as he packed his bag in record time.

“Please.” Dan replied before he took Jean-Eric’s hand and dragged him down to the car park. But they didn’t even get into the car before Dan demanded more attention, he loved Fridays, he loved the prospect of a weekend to themselves.

“This is very professional.” Jean-Eric mumbled between kisses.

“You bending me over the bonnet wouldn’t be professional, me pressing you up against the door is fine.” He gasped before submitting Jean-Eric to more.

Sebastian watched them with jealously streaking through him like a whip, striking him over and over painfully. He wanted that, he wanted what they had, but he had panicked and flaked out, he had ruined so much. So turning the ignition he broke their moment and found himself feeling relieved, and after running a hand through his hair he calmed down. Mentally apologising his waved to Daniel and Jean-Eric as he turned away from Austria and headed to Switzerland. To a version of home he couldn’t stomach much longer.

“Dan I will crash this car if you don’t stop.”

“Yeah, but your cock…”

“Dan.” He whined. “Fuck.”

“Okay.”

He could feel his zipper being undone. “Don’t you fucking dare!” He growled before pushing the speed limit all the way home, praying they weren’t stopped because two guys with hard ons was not something he wanted to explain. It wasn’t until he turned down their street and parked outside their modest house that Jean-Eric felt able to breath, his hands hurt from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

“Oh god.” Dan moaned as Jean-Eric pinned him up against the front door that had barely closed. He was holding his arms above his head by the wrist with one hand, the other one forcing him to jerk his hips into the delicious pressure he was creating.

Jean-Eric released him completely and wandered upstairs as he took his clothes off knowing that Dan was watching him take every step. Stood on the landing he pushed his trousers down as he saw Dan’s expression change from playful to deep lust, as he climbed the stairs he could see how dark his eyes had gotten. “I am going to fuck you.”

“Jev.” Dan panted desperately. “Please.” He dashed to their bedroom. He’d had a rough day, his biggest client had not long retired and he was struggling to find a replacement for him. Mark Webber had left a gaping hole in his portfolio and today he had to explain why it was still there.

“Okay.” Jean-Eric cooed. He knew Dan was having a hard time, but there wasn’t anything he could do apart from listen and support him. And love him. Dan was fidgeting and writhing about on the bed completely naked. “Je t'aime Dan.”

The words were soothing to Dan and he finally let himself relax. “Jev.” He reached out to bring him from kneeling between his legs. “Jev.”

Jean-Eric saw the submission in Dan’s expression, and laying down beside him he pulled him onto his chest to kiss to the top of his head. They did this often, just laying in bed together naked and clothed, just as an excuse to spend time together in a gentle silence, only punctuated with kisses and soft touches.

“I love you so much.” Dan clung on, they could organise dinner later.

---

“Sebastian!” Hanna greeted him at the door. “I’m missed you so much.” She flung her arms around him the moment he entered their home.

“Hi.” He wasn’t in the mood for this.

She moved in to kiss him but he turned his head so her lips landed on his cheek. “How was work?”

“Alright.” He shrugged. “Nothing special.”

“Oh, well I’ve got dinner ready for you.” He was always so tired after a week at work, and it was getting worse, and she wasn’t the only one worried about him. “I visited your parents this week, they’re worried about you, they haven’t see you in a while.”

“I haven’t had time.” Sebastian sighed as he turned to go upstairs.

“Then take some holiday, you must have loads, you barely take any.” She followed him up to their bedroom thinking of all the conferences he had to travel to. “You work far too hard.”

“I work hard because I want to.” How could he tell her he spent all the time at work because he couldn’t face spending more time with her than he had to?

“But I hardly get to see you.” She rubbed his shoulders. “How are we supposed to start a family when you’re never here?”

“We’re young, now’s the time to save for our future.” He just about managed to suppress the shiver at the mention of ‘family’.

“Now’s the time to have a family Seb, I’d wish you’d consider living in Austria.” She had tried several times to get Sebastian to agree but he resisted so strongly, it would make sense for them to be closer to where he worked so his travelling time could be cut down. Then it wouldn’t take long for him to come home and hold their child, but there was a tiny voice in the back of her head that told her something was wrong. Five years of marriage and no children, both families were getting anxious and she was having to field the questions.

“Switzerland is good, you enjoy living here don’t you?” She had never once mentioned liking Switzerland, he excuse was for tax reasons. That was no where close to the real reason.

“Yes, but, Seb, we spend all week on our own, this isn’t the way to spend married life.” She huffed. “I’m sick of being on my own all the time.”

Sebastian wanted to scream ‘me too’. “I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are.”

“They have to change Sebastian, how are we going to raise a child when you’re away?”

He couldn’t stand this. “Sorry Hanna, sorry.” Sebastian wrapped his arms around her and whispered ‘sorry’ again and was thankful to find it worked. "We're just going through some big changes at work, sorry to take it out on you."

"I just miss you." She reached up to kiss him lightly. "I'll get dinner set up."

"Danke." He waited for her to leave and threw himself on the bed, he needed to get away. But he couldn't yet, a couple more months and he'd be in his arms.

---

"Morning." Jean-Eric yawned, the early Saturday morning sun threatened to break through their curtains.

"Mmm."

He scooped Dan into his arms so they could lay face to face. "How are you feeling?"

"Alright, going to see if I can convince Mark to stay on as an ambassador." He smiled warmly at Jean-Eric before kissing the tip of his nose. "Don't know why I didn't think of it before."

"I suspect it's because you're stressed, you're a natural at this, all your clients love you." He returned the kiss. "There's a reason why they come to you first and why you have the best retention statistics."

Dan let his eyes close to the soothing tones of Jean-Eric's voice, gentle and still affected by sleep. As he continued to talk a plan formed in his head. "Thank you!" He kissed his forehead.

"For what?" He smiled lazily.

"You've given me the best idea, I'm going to need your brain though."

"Right, I love you, but not that much." He laughed quietly.

"No, I want your smarts, your marketing wizardry. I want to throw a party."

"And let me guess." He playfully hauled Dan on top of him. "You want it to be spectacular, fun, but only so you can poach some big clients for yourself?"

"This is why I completely adore you Monsieur Vergne, your brain is so sexy." He moved his hips just enough to let Jean-Eric know. "I love you."

"I love you too." Dan had crossed his arms and was resting them on his chest to give him the best view of his gorgeous face. "So do you fancy being lazy today?"

"Let's go for a run." The words left Dan’s mouth before he thought about the implications.

"It's freezing out there." Jean-Eric pulled the duvet around them tightly, he wanted to test Dan's resolve as he had a habit of suggesting a trip to the gym and then finding an excuse not to go through with it at the last minute. Except Jean-Eric found it hard to stay angry when Dan flashed him a patented hundred watt grin.

"It's a great way to keep warm, and we can have a bath when we get back." He dipped down to rub his nose against Jean-Eric's.

Jean-Eric loved the sound of a bath, having Dan between his legs, washing him, maybe indulge in a bit too much bubble bath as well. "Alright, but we're going now." He unceremoniously rolled Dan off onto the bed and headed to the bathroom. "Now Dan."

"Okay, okay." He groaned as he levered himself off the warm mattress. His first idea of the day was a great one, he just wished he’d left it at that. But as he readied himself for the day he got more and more into the idea, it had been a while since they went jogging together and he always enjoyed it, if only to hang back and watch Jean-Eric glide across the ground, he stomped, Jean-Eric glided.

“You ready then?” Jean-Eric wasn’t going to take any chances, it was positively frosty outside so he chose to wrap himself up in a hoody and sweatpants, but Dan had decided to wear shorts. “Dan, you’ll catch your death.”

“I hate working out in trousers.” He pouted.

“Put some on, I won’t be able to carry you home.” Jean-Eric shook his head as he rooted around for a pair of trousers that would keep Dan warm.

“We could just have that bath instead…” Dan tried to be tempting.

“No way, you can watch my ass get more awesome instead.” He smirked as he threw the change of clothes over his face. “You have one minute.” He called as he left their bedroom. Dan was beside him at the door in mere seconds.

“Out with you Vergne, I’m going to kick your ass!”

They took a route that sent them towards the local park, it was a brisk day, bright and chilly but it allowed them to stay out longer than they normally would in the summer. Breathing heavily they jogged around the large central pond being mindful to keep out of the way of dogwalkers and their trailing leads. By the time they drew to a mutual pause for water they had already been out for best part of an hour.

“This has to be better than staying in bed?” Jean-Eric hopped from foot to foot to keep his heart going.

“I don’t know, there is something about having you between my burning loins…” He tried to continue over Jean-Eric’s laughter but was forced to stop.

“Burning…” Jean-Eric tried to catch his breath. “Loins? What?”

“I had nothing to read on my last flight to England and there was a...Jev, stop laughing at me.” Dan swatted his arm. “There was a book left in the seat pocket, it was one of those trashy novels and I read it alright.”

“Did it get you hot, did it burn your loins?”

“Go fuck yourself.” Dan jogged off and upped his pace to make sure he was ahead of Jean-Eric and his cat-calling. It wasn’t until he got home and he was fumbling with the key in the cold that a set of arms circled his waist.

“Sorry, were you rushing home to your knight in shining armour?” Jean-Eric wheezed, he had run harder than he had in a while and was definitely feeling it.

Dan stomped through the house but before he climbed the stairs he spun around to his grinning boyfriend. “You’re my knight in shining armour.” The grin slid off of Jean-Eric’s face, and his own was burning with more than exertion.

“Dan, I’m...I didn’t mean to…” He shut the door quietly and walked over to Dan, pulling him close he hugged him. “I’m your knight in shining armour?” Jean-Eric was dumbfounded.

“Don’t make fun of me.” Dan pouted.

“I’m not now, I’ve never been called it before.” He whispered.

“I should hope not, that would mean you’d have loved someone before me.” There was something possessive stirring within him.

“Impossible.” Jean-Eric kissed him tenderly.

“You swept me off my feet.” He wanted to tell Jean-Eric but a part of him almost didn’t want him to hear.

“You saved my life.” If Dan was being open, then Jean-Eric was going to remind him about the impact he had on his life. “You pulled me back from the brink.”

“We’re never going back there.” He clung onto him, he didn’t need to be reminded of that year ever again. “Never.”

“Promise.” Jean-Eric was sincere. There was no need. “Promise.”

“Alright, we definitely need that bath.” Dan cooed.

“Sor-” The overwhelming urge to apologise crept up on him.

“I told you to never apologise again.” Dan interrupted him sternly. “Let’s get into our best suits.”

“You’re going to say birthday, aren’t you?” Jean-Eric relaxed.

“Am I that obvious?” Dan pushed his hands under Jean-Eric hoody.

“Beautifully so.” He leant in for a much wanted kiss.

Taking the stairs easily Dan organised something to drink while Jean-Eric drew the bath, hearing the water rush into the tub he steadied his nerves knowing nothing was going to go wrong, everything was going to be fine. He settled on water in the end and took two large glasses for each of them upstairs, and as he stood outside their bathroom he could hear Jean-Eric humming to himself happily.

“Hey.” He pushed the door open with his shoulder.

“I think you’ll like this.” He had found a couple of long-forgotten dusty candles they were given as housewarming presents in their bedroom, and was lighting them. It didn’t have the full blown effect of romance, but with the cloud cover outside it did enough.

Dan remained on the spot just staring at Jean-Eric’s naked form.

“There was so much dust on these, don’t tell your mum okay.” He chuckled.

“I won’t.” Dan quickly stripped himself of his sweaty clothes after handing over the gladly accepted water. “That smells so good.” The heady aroma filled his head as he neared the tub.

“My own special mixture, just wait until you get in.” He had bought some oils a while ago and had forgotten about them until now, he just hoped he got the proportions right. “Hey, lean forward.” Jean-Eric tapped Dan’s shoulder to get him give him the room to slip in behind him, he knew the little noise of dissatisfaction were down to him wanting to retain control. “Relax.” Jean-Eric soothed.

Whatever oils Jean-Eric had chosen were perfect, the scents infiltrated his senses and were sitting inside his head, forcing him to rest back onto his boyfriend’s chest. Unable to stop the hum of enjoyment he let it all flow out of him so Jean-Eric knew how he felt. The hands washing over his chest sent rivulets of water tickling over his nipples and that made him sigh. He could lay here forever.

Dan was properly relaxed, he felt boneless against his body, wholly lax and trusting. Jean-Eric washed his body with his hands so he could feel out his muscles and how slick his skin was becoming with the oil. “How does your body keep getting better?” Jean-Eric whispered but didn’t get much more than a contented sigh as he hands delved lower, Dan needed this.

He also needed him to wash his hair, and Jean-Eric was taken aback at how intimate the act was. Wetting his hair carefully he cradled his head to avoid getting the water in his eyes, and slowly he massaged the shampoo into his dark waves. Jean-Eric closed his eyes to listen to Dan sigh and whine as he lathered up his hair, it was the purity of the sound that he loved.

“Je t'aime.” Jean-Eric began the process of washing the bubbles out of Dan’s hair, sweeping his hands over his hair to push the water down his back to stop it washing over his face.

“Jev.” If this was heaven he would go happily. “Merci.” He reached forward to pull himself out of Jean-Eric’s lap, he felt a bit hazy from the tenderness but managed to turn himself around so he could see his boyfriend properly.

“Feel better?” Jean-Eric cocked his head.

“Yes.” Dan leant forward to capture his lips softly. “You’re getting wrinkly.” He smiled before grabbing a cloth to wash Jean-Eric clean and as Dan travelled up his body he hooked a leg over the edge of the tub to open up his body. Now without the film of bubbles Dan could see the shop crop of dark hair surrounding his cock and it wasn’t difficult for his arousal to flood his body.

“Better get me out then.” Jean-Eric smirked. He poured some shampoo onto Dan’s outstretched hand that soon found its way into his hair, his fingers threaded through his short hair and made short work working up the lather. And because Dan was kneeling up he openly gazed at the thatch of hair that teased him. “So sexy.”

When they eventually got out they dried each other leisurely, taking the time to soak up every single drop of water off their bodies with big, fluffy towels, they dressed comfortably before going back downstairs. By the time they had lunch all they wanted to do was to curl up on the sofa and watch a film, so arranging themselves in a way that Dan was slotted behind Jean-Eric they settled down.

Not moving much further during the rest of the day they interrupted the film to share lazy kisses and whisper sweet words to each other, it was just one of those days when there was no need to move apart, be busy, or fill the silence. It was a time to be them and nothing else.

---

“You were up early.” Hanna commented lightly as she walked into the kitchen, Sebastian was already sat at the table eating breakfast.

“Couldn’t sleep.” He had to get out of bed, his skin itched, he felt like his body was trying to burst out. “Didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Thanks, but I wanted to cook you something.” There was something wrong with Sebastian but she couldn’t bring herself to ask.

“Thanks.” He mumbled as he took another mouthful of cereal.

“What did you want to do today?” She had promised to meet up with a couple of friends.

“Oh, I thought you were going out with your friends.” He definitely remembered her saying that, he recollected the bubble of happiness that sprung around him.

“I can cancel.” She suggested.

“Wasn’t it to do with Katie’s wedding?”

“So you were listening.” She huffed a little laugh. “I guess not, I feel bad for leaving you alone though.”

“I do have a bit of work to do, maybe we could go for a walk tomorrow, or something?” He had to suggest something as he was being very unfair to her, he was highly aware of that fact to the point it was invading his sleep.

“That would be great, we’d have to wrap up warm though.” Hanna smiled before playfully sitting on his lap and kissing him, and relief flooded her when she could feel him smile against her lips. “I miss your smile.”

“You make me smile.” It wasn’t a lie, Hanna was kind and funny.

Hanna sighed and kissed his cheek before getting up. “Okay, I should go and get ready.”

By the time she had left Sebastian was aching from the need. “Kimi?”

Sebastian sounded needy. “Hello Seb.”

“You alone?” He threw himself down on his bed and with his phone wedged between his ear and shoulder his desperately unzipped his jeans.

He could hear Sebastian’s heavy breathing and him struggling out of his clothes. Kimi wished he had the self respect to hang up. “Yeah.” He was slouched in the armchair waiting until it was time to go to work.

“I want you here.” Sebastian panted as he remembered the speakerphone function.

He couldn’t lie. “Want you Seb.” He shoved a hand down his own trousers and pressed the heel of his palm against his crotch, putting his phone on the armrest he switched it to the speakerphone so his could use two hands.

Hearing the soft moan down the line Sebastian moaned louder in return as he freed his cock, circling it he slowly stroked himself to full harness, teasing his head the same way Kimi liked to. “Kimi.” He sighed.

Sebastian was whining away and the way he was doing it was driving him wild, he sounded out of control.

“Want you to fuck me, fuck me Kimi.”

“If I was there I would be.” He groaned as Sebastian cried out.

“Fuck me hard.”

Kimi had to release his cock, dragging his jeans down to his thighs he closed his eyes and imagined Sebastian’s hand working him, those impatient and still curious tugs and strokes, the wide-eyed joy when pre-come swelled at the tip, then the first lap of his tongue.

“Please Kimi, fuck me.” He needed to have him. “Need you.”

Kimi needed him too.

All Sebastian could hear was his breathing, Kimi didn’t talk much and it was the same in bed, but he knew exactly how he felt from the way his breathing changed, and when they were together it was also the way his fingers dug into his skin. “I want you in me.”

“Fuck.” Kimi growled, Sebastian had a talented mouth when he got going.

“Make me beg.” He loved the moment where Kimi took him to the edge and then left him there, forcing him to beg, making him prove how much he wanted to come. “Close.”

“Don’t you dare come.” He wasn’t quite there yet but the innocent whimper when he made his demand weakened his resolve. “Seb, I said no.”

“Can’t.”

“Wait.”

The sternness in Kimi’s voice strengthened him just enough to squeeze the base of his cock. “Kimi, please, I need to, I need this, bitte. Bitte Kimi.” He tried to think of something else to bring him back from the brink. “Bitte. Bitte. Bitte.”

Kimi was dizzy from the desperation in his voice, it was the neediest he’d ever heard him, and it was scary. “Come for me Seb, come for me. Voisitko.” He couldn’t hold them back any more. “Sebastian.” He cried out.

“Kimi.” He sobbed. The distance between them was too much. “Want you here.” Tears rolled down his temples as he jerked himself off wishing it was Kimi. “Kimi.” He gasped as the orgasm steamed through him, it hit him hard, the wanting and desire too much to hold inside. It burned and he couldn’t let go of it, he just didn’t want to. Writhing on the sheets of his bed he tried to clutch onto a full breath. “Bitte.”

The sound over the speaker was primal and enough to send him soaring over the edge, the climax tore at him, making his skin feel two sizes too small, making everything else fade away to nothing. Fully slumped in the chair he did his best to relax into how great everything felt, but the separation kept him tense, he wanted Sebastian in his arms pressing kisses into his chest as they both recovered.

“Love you Kimi.”

Tears pricked at his eyes at the words. “Seb.”

“Sebastian?”

“No.” Sebastian breathed. “Shit, no.”

“What is it?” Kimi asked to a panicky Sebastian.

“Hanna, she’s supposed to be out.” He felt sick. “Kimi.”

“Seb? The appointment’s been put back until tomorrow.” She wandered upstairs to find him. “Thought we could go for that walk now.”

Getting up quickly he stumbled into their en suite and locked the door, and just as he heard Hanna climb the stairs he turned the shower on. “I love you. I love you.” Tears were making his voice rough.

“It’s okay, just hang up. It’s okay.” He wasn’t talking to Sebastian, but out loud to himself. “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“You in the shower Seb?”

“Yeah.” Sebastian answered shortly. “Tell me you love me Kimi.” He whispered. “Tell me, I need to hear it.” But he was gone, staring at his phone he only saw the home screen.

He was the other man. There was no way he could avoid it, he was the other person in their marriage.

Chapter Text

“It’s prom night all over again.” Fernando greeted Jenson with a friendly hug as soon as he saw him enter the gallery they were occupying for the night. All dressed smarter than they usually would, it made a nice change to their day to day lives.

“Yeah, but you’ll be the one getting lucky this time.” Jenson chuckled.

“I hope so, depends how long Mark lasts.” Grinning, Fernando pointed out Mark being bored to death by a flamboyant art critic, he was mouthing ‘help’ and all he did was shrug in return pretending not to understand. “Or if I behave.”

“Shall I go over and save him?” Mark was looking increasingly desperate.

“I would say yes, but he’s being punished…” Fernando grinned.

“I don’t want to know.” Jenson playfully covered his ears. “How’s tonight going?” He didn’t turn up exactly on time because he wanted a crowd to hide in.

“Okay, seems good, I’m not going to know until tomorrow though.” It had to be good, if he started with decent reviews it would make the publicity tour all the better, although it was going to be different to Jenson’s, his was far less in the public eye.

“I know how that feels.” Jenson knew about reviews, but not on the same level as Fernando, he knew art was infinitely more subjective than cookery. “First book is a nervy one.”

“Of course, it’s permanent too, that’s what’s scary. It’s always going to put in that order, I can’t change it.” Fernando glanced over to Mark who was doing his best to escape. “And that’s why I’m glad you’re here, you understand.”

“Thanks a fucking bunch.” Mark spat.

“Qué?” Fernando did his best to come across as innocent but both Jenson and Mark saw straight through the act.

“You know exactly what, he wouldn’t stop talking about cycling, he knew nothing and wouldn’t listen.” Mark rolled his eyes. “And he kept squeezing my arms.”

“What?” Fernando hissed, all the while trying to find the man.

“That got your attention, huh? Thought it would.” Mark smirked. “Don’t worry, managed to keep control of myself. Just.”

“Fuck off.”

“Love you too.” Mark gave him a quick kiss and left Fernando to answer to whoever was calling his name so he could turn his focus on Jenson. “I want you to meet someone.” It was a set up, a shameless attempt at one but he could see it working, the guy had been through a rough time too. But it wasn’t the only thing they had in common.

“Okay.” Jenson waved at Ann who was chatting away like usual and followed Mark past photo after photo. “These are great aren’t they?”

“Yeah.” They were passing by his least favourite photos Fernando had ever taken, he pleaded with him not to go, desperate for him to stay away from an actual war zone but he took the assignment anyway. It brought them to the brink.

“Please don’t go, Fernando, this isn’t just playing around, you could die.” Mark was dumbfounded, half an hour ago Fernando had returned from the agency office and broke the news to him, and now he was packing his bags.

“I’m protected, there’s security for everyone.” He dragged his large rucksack out of the wardrobe.

“I don’t fucking care Nano, it’s an actual war zone, people are dying, you can not be one of them.” Mark stared in shock as he started to pack. How he could contemplate leaving him for somewhere so dangerous hurt.

“I’ve never stopped you doing anything.”

“None of my races involved a country where the leader is killing his own people, I can’t believe you agreed without discussing it with me.” He had come home, announced it and immediately began to throw clothes into a bag.

“I had no choice, I had to make my decision there and then.”

Mark dragged him upright. “You could be killed. Die. Dead.” He had to understand how he felt.

“Stories need to be told.” Fernando continued to pack.

“What about ours?” The thought of Fernando never coming back to him raised a lump in his throat, it was making him feel sick. “What about ours?”

“Don’t guilt me.”

“Well what else am I supposed to say? The fucking love of my life is determined to put himself in the line of fire for some fucking photos.” He had to make him see sense.

“Don’t belittle what I do!”

“I’m not, I just...I won’t survive if you don’t.” He clung on to Fernando like an anchor, hoping it would force him to stay but he knew it wouldn’t. Fernando was stubbornness personified. “Don’t leave me.”

“I have to do this.”

“I know, but don’t leave me.”

It brought them to the brink, but they survived it. Just. They didn’t talk for the whole time Fernando was away, having left things up in the air but Mark met Fernando at the airport to take him home. When Mark saw him come through departures with a beard, long hair and a deep tan he was sent to the edge, tears welling up in his eyes he took his bag and led him to the car. The journey was tense and quiet but once they were inside the sanctuary of their rented home the only words spoken before falling into bed were heartfelt apologies. They had gotten past it, but Mark still couldn’t look at the images.

“Jenson, this is David. David, this is Jenson.” Mark waited for the handshakes before telling Jenson a bit more about David having already done the same for David earlier. “David’s a baker, works at a deli not far from us.”

“You found him in a bakery?” They hadn’t lived here that long, it sounded like he had dipped into the local bakery and picked out the first guy he saw.

“Oi, I’m right here, and I used to race with Mark, we were at Red Bull together.” David piped up.

Jenson realised how rude he must have sounded “Sorry, thought it was odd Mark…”

“Hit the nail on the head there, Mark is an odd one, says he never fancied me.” He grinned to show he wasn’t completely arrogant.

“Hard to believe.” Mark chuckled as he backed away, they were on the same wavelength, he had played his part.

“Mark told me a bit about you, just said you were a baker too, didn’t realise he was talking about you though, bit of a surprise.” David smiled. Mark had just talked about this guy and the more he heard the more he wanted to meet him. “So I think you need to educate him about the difference between a baker and a pâtissier.”

“I’ve tried, he says I bake things so I’m a baker.” He shrugged.

“Next time he says that call him a glorified bike messenger.” David picked up two drinks from a passing tray.

Jenson laughed loudly as he took the glass offered by David. “I told him that the first time we met, it’s how we became friends actually, bit of an old joke now.”

David returned the laughter, Jenson was gorgeous, all cheekbones and freckles, sparkling eyes and blonde hair. He was even better looking in the flesh. Mark was a god. “You met at university then?” He knew Mark left out bits so they would would have easy things to talk about.

“Yeah, in the gym, I was hopeless and he was in lycra.” He sipped at the expensive champagne to calm his nerves.

“That ever do it for you?” The mention of lycra made him wonder, he just had to get that one awkward question out of the way.

“No, let’s be honest I had no chance against Fernando.” He had never been attracted to Mark, they shared plenty of banter, which became so much funnier when he found out about Mark and discovered himself. “Not that I wanted one.”

“Good to hear.” Not that he could have done anything about it. “Sorry for asking.”

“It’s okay. So that’s a Scottish accent then.” He would have asked the question had it been the other way around.

“As far as I know. Never heard one before?” He smirked.

“Not one that I could understand, or like.” That’s enough champagne. “Sorry.”

David couldn’t help but laugh at his comment. “Please don’t apologise, how could I complain about that?” He risked touching his arm and was glad to see a coy smile wash over his lips.

The warmth of his hand was pleasant, and he was surprised about how good it felt. “Do you want to have a look around?” They had to keep moving out of the way for people to pass which was adding pauses to the conversation they didn’t want.

“Sure.” David bravely relinquished his glass which left him nothing to do with his hands other than point at photos, but when he saw Jenson hold onto his he immediately wished he had too. He hadn’t been so nervous around someone in years. “This one is haunting.” It was one of a woman holding a fragment of cloth, it was in black and white and stark.

“Fernando can find things in people they didn’t know were there.”

“Personal experience?” It sounded like it.

“Hmm.” His own collection of Fernando photos flickered through his mind. “Sorry.”

“No need to be sorry about anything Jenson, rough relationship?” He kept looking a photo so Jenson wouldn’t feel pressured into answering.

“Yeah.” He sighed.

“Me too.” Mark had mentioned something about Jenson’s last relationship but didn’t get into details because it wasn’t his place to.

Jenson felt nothing but relief, David was in the same place as him, ready but nervous, and judging by the way he answered it seemed he had been hurt too. “Think we both deserve another drink.”

“They look like they’re getting on.” Mark commented airly.

“Why would they not?” Fernando glanced over as covertly as he could manage and was heartened to see Jenson genuinely happy, he was laughing away at whatever David had just said. “They are a good match, they are similar.”

“Like us then.” Mark ran an index finger along the soft skin of Fernando’s wrist.

“Hmm.” Mark’s touch was so tender. “We are the best match.” He muttered before Mark peeled away to speak to Ann as the Sunday Times art critic made a beeline for him.

“Do you want to get out of here?” Jenson proposed.

“Um, isn’t this your friends thing?” David replied, unsure to show exactly how eager he was to spend one on one time with Jenson.

“Yes, we’ve seen pretty much everything and to be honest this isn’t my scene.”

“Nor mine, kind of a cup of tea guy now.” He chuckled.

“Well that answers my next question, come on then.” There was a great coffee shop a short walk away and bundled up in their coats Jenson led them out of the gallery and down the street. “It’s not that far away, and I don’t think they’ll mind.”

“I shouldn’t think so, I mean let’s be honest, we know tonight was a set up.” David grinned as he meandered to the right to walk closer to Jenson.

“Yeah.” He exactly sure what to say in return. “Um, yeah it was, I’m not complaining though.”

David felt his face flush slightly. “Me either, although I would like to complain about the stupidly small hors d’oeuvres.”

“Yeah, I am a little bit starving.” Thankful he had worked with the guy who owned the place and knew he would make them something simple. “Here we go.” The place was half full, but still quiet, it was perfect to sit and talk in.

“A late night coffee shop?” It was dimly lit, but not stupidly dark. Cosy.

“Spot on.” He shrugged out out his grey wool coat and asked one of the passing wait staff a question. “Is Ant in?”

“Yes.” She replied.

“Can you let him know Jenson’s here? Thanks.” He turned back to David. “I would go back there myself, but he’d get me in there working and I’d much rather be out here with you.” Was that too full on?

“Glad to hear that. Do we just sit down?”

“Yeah anywhere.” He folded his coat over his arm and searched for the best of what was left. “How about over there?” For once there was a sofa free and without really waiting for an answer he walked over to secure it.

“Shit, this is comfortable.” David sunk into the sofa and was pleased when Jenson sat close, not enough to touch but enough to feel his body heat.

“I know right. Hey Ant!” Jenson leapt up to hug him. “”Please tell me the kitchen’s still open.”

“For you, of course, what do you want?”

David plucked the small menu off the table and scanned the list. “Cheese on toast would be perfect, thanks.”

“Cheese before bed?” Jenson raised an eyebrow. “That’s a bit risky for a tea drinker isn’t it?”

“I live life on the edge.” He joked, and Jenson laughed.

“Teacakes for me Ant, cheers. And some tea.” As Jenson turned his attention back to David he angled his body to face him better when he sat back down.

“No problem.” Ant ducked away, Jenson was clearly on a date.

“So how much of a risk taker are you then?” Jenson continued.

“Nowadays, late night cheese is my limit I’m afraid, I’ve gotten boring since I retired.” He fiddled with the seam of his shirt.

“I wouldn’t call baking boring, which deli are you at?” He welcomed the pot of tea and poured out two cups for them, he added milk to his own and David did the same to his.

“Rothmans.”

“Seriously?”

“I’m pretty sure.” He smiled before he sipped his tea and forced himself not to sigh as he swallowed the hot liquid down.

“No, it’s just they do the most amazing bread there, I would die for the pear and walnut loaf. And the honey and pepper buns. And the baguettes. Oh and the seeded range is ridiculous.” He slumped back into the sofa

“Why thank you.” David replied playfully.

“You do it all?” The bread there was his absolute favourite. In fact he had often gone out specially for it.

“My own recipes.”

Oh god. “Oh god, I’m pretty sure I have dreamt about your bread.” Now I’m gushing.

“Christ, I’m glad you’ve said that, I’ve dragged myself from my sick bed for your croissants before, and I have shamelessly bought your cakes and passed them off as my own.”

Jenson clamped his hands over his mouth and laughed, his shoulders shaking. “I’ve done the same with your bread, I can’t believe this.”

“We’ve been fans all this time.” David knew he shouldn’t be allowing himself to act like this and open himself up, but he was so sick of being alone and so sick of finding himself on shitty dates with guys who were just after sex. He was over that.

“Thanks Ant.” Jenson was glad to see the food arrive.

“Do you want to share, might be regretting the cheese now.” It was a thick slice of white with a decadent amount of cheese melted on top.

“Yes please, I was getting some serious food envy.”

Jenson grinned cheekily at him and he couldn't help but mirror him. “This is so good.”

Jenson practically moaned, helped of course by David’s handsomeness, his jaw was strong, his eyes bright and his smile was utterly gorgeous. He was finding himself being drawn in. And he liked it. “It’s always good here.”

“Quite the theme tonight.” The comment made Jenson flash a smile, totally worth it.

They shared their food and talked, Jenson asked about David’s career and gladly listened to story after story, where one drifted into another easily. They discovered similarities in odd, quirky things and healthy differences that they could laugh about and it was Ant that had to break them up, although he clearly didn’t want to.

“Sorry guys, going to have to turf you out, need to get back to homestead. Not sure the wife will want to hear I’ve been out all night with you.” He beamed.

“Sure, of course, sorry Ant.” Jenson got up sharply and pulled his coat on. “Sorry, I didn’t notice the time. Sorry.”

“It’s alright Jense, chill out, pay up and I’ll let you go free.” Antony chuckled.

David was curious about how eager Jenson was to apologise, it was so quick out of his mouth. “It’s on me.” He took the slip of folded paper out of Ant’s hand and made sure he left enough for a tip as well. “Thanks, it was really good.”

“No problem, sure I’ll see you again.” Ant winked as they made for the door, he got a scowl from Jenson but chose to ignore it.

“Bye.” Jenson sighed as he pushed the door open into the night air. “Thanks for that. Oh.”

“What is it?”

“I didn’t ask if you were working tomorrow.”

“I’m a big boy Jenson, and I do, but it’s been worth it. Been a while since I’ve enjoyed a night out like...this.” David swallowed thickly as he narrowly avoided saying the ‘d’ word.

“Same here, it’s been a while since I’ve been on a night like this too.” There was something about David that made him feel safe and protected.

David was buzzing, he felt lightheaded, he had felt like this once before. “Which way are you going?” They were stood in the nearest tube station and of course Jenson was getting on another line in the opposite direction. “I’m southbound.” His stomach dropped a bit.

“Oh, well, I’m northbound, I’ve had a blast.” A blast? A blast? Christ sakes Jenson how old are you? “I mean I’ve really enjoyed tonight.”

He purposely avoided looking at the flush of colour on his cheeks save he take a leap too soon. “Me too, I hope it’s not going to be the last time?” It wouldn’t be fair.

“No, I don’t think it will be.” Jenson grinned easily, getting his phone out and in a few moments a new number was saved under ‘David Coulthard’. “Maybe we could catch up sometime next week?”

“I’d like that.” A lot, a crazy amount. “We better not miss these last trains.” David swiped through first with Jenson quickly through beside him. “Night.” Without much thought and wholly fueled by wanting a last bit of contact he moved in to kiss Jenson’s cheek.

It was fleeting but it felt like heaven to have someone touch him like that, a hand cupped his bicep, stubble grazed his own and lips pressed to his cheek. But it wasn’t quite enough. And with that thought crashing around his head as David leaned back Jenson followed the movement and brushed their lips together. It was electric. The kiss was brief but everything they needed in that moment to let them both know it was okay to move on.

There was a touch of reluctance as they parted for their platforms, and as Jenson felt the tell tale whoosh of air that preceded the train’s arrival wash over his face, he raised his hand and ran his fingers over his lips as the headlights shone, they actually tingled.

---

“Hello stranger.” Mark hadn’t heard from Jenson in a couple of days and as he was heading up to Silverstone today he wanted to find out what happened from that night.

“Alright.” Jenson had opened the door to a beaming Mark. “What can I do you for?”

“End the radio silence mate.”

“Come in then.” Jenson stepped aside to let Mark in.

“Can’t stay long though, off to Silvo this afternoon.” Mark had already locked his bike up so toed his trainers off and followed Jenson into his house. “So when did you sneak out?”

“We…”

“We?”

“Me and David, don’t look at me like that, we knew it was a set up.” He smirked. “I’m not sure when exactly, but we went to get a cup of tea and something proper to eat.”

“The food was ridiculous, wasn’t it?” Mark agreed.

“Yeah, so we swapped numbers and...and…” His face lit up at the memory. “We kissed, well I kissed him. He’s...we’re meeting up next week actually.” He had dropped in at the deli after coming to the conclusion that texting was childish, and calling could mean leaving a voicemail, face to face was much more doable. “There’s an exhibit at the British History museum about baking, thought it was a bit weird, but sort of funny.”

“Jense, that’s brilliant. You looked like you were having a good time with him.” He was astounded by the kiss but kept that reaction from him.

“I did.” He was surprised about how okay he felt, he fell asleep easily that night, still thinking about the kiss. He still felt good about it actually. “How long are you in Silverstone for?” He was heading up there himself tomorrow.

“Not sure really, Fernando says he’s got something to do up there and he wants some company.” He shrugged, Fernando had been vague about why he needed to go there but insisted he come along.

“Right, well I’m up there tomorrow. I think we know what needs to happen.” Jenson winked.

“Come up with us.” It would make sense if he didn’t have to straight away afterwards.

“Wish I could, believe me, but I’ve got a couple of things to do here before I go.” A road trip would be excellent, a brief escape from adulthood.

“Oh really?” Mark caught a glimmer of something in his eyes.

“Coffee.”

“They have coffee in Silverstone mate.”

“It’s specific coffee.” Specifically with David.

“Right.” Mark grinned. “I hope you enjoy every second of it. Just give us a call when you’re free.” He stood up to leave, he had about an hour until they had to leave but that included cycling home. “See you in Silverstone then buddy.” He gave him a brief hug and left him to it, elated that Jenson was beginning to see how good life could be beyond the shadow of Nico.

Chapter Text

“There it is.” Mark pointed out the Silverstone sign and instantly felt nostalgic. “Do you remember the first time you saw that?”

“Open day, it rained the whole day. I wasn’t going to come here originally, there was a university in Italy that did a better course.” He could see Mark giving him a quizzical look. “Silverstone just felt right, even with the rain, I just knew.” He could just about remember the incredulous look his family gave him when he accepted the offer to Silverstone, it was disbelief and shock.

“I’m glad you felt whatever you felt then.”

“We would have met Mark, just would have taken a bit longer, that’s all.” He rubbed Mark’s thigh gently. “I believe it.”

“Destiny then mate.” He loved the way Fernando spoke about them in private.

“Si.” He sat back and took in the familiar scenery.

“Any more hints as to what we’re doing here then?” As soon as he heard Silverstone he told Fernando he would sort of the accommodation for them, so he made his way to the one place they had never been.

“Becketts Hotel.” Fernando sighed contently.

“Of course, only the best for you.”

“Us Mark. Us.” It was always going to be an ‘us’.

Fernando said it was such determination it made Mark’s head whip around to look at him. Us. He adored the sound of that word shared between them, he adored how serious Fernando sounded too. Pulling into a space in the car park he rested a hand on Fernando’s neck, rubbing circles with his thumb just under his ear.

“Let’s go check in.” Mark whispered before getting out of the car.

“Uh huh.” He climbed out and walked around to the boot, Mark was already there getting their bags out, but he was stopped when he reached out to take his.

“Let me.”

Fernando didn’t argue as he knew Mark liked to do these sorts of things, like taking the extra shopping bag, ordering drinks and opening doors. He never made a fuss about wanting to do these things for him and that’s why Fernando didn’t fight it, it was never done to make him feel any less of a man but cared for instead.

“Checking in for Webber, room for two.” He liked giving his name for both of them, the idea of Fernando taking his name in some way made him indescribably happy. Fernando Webber. Fernando Webber-Alonso. Fernando Alonso-Webber. Fernando Webbonso. He suppressed the laughter building up inside him and concentrated on the man booking them in.

“Yes, got you here.” He tapped away on the computer and brought up the details. “Have you got the card you made the booking on?”

Mark pulled his wallet free of his pocket and handed the card over to him, and with his hands now free he let one squeeze Fernando’s waist gently.

“Is it okay to put any charges on this one?” He asked over the desk as he held the card up to be taken.

“Sure.” Mark agreed as he took it back.

“Here’s your key for the room, second floor room twenty.” He pointed towards the elevator.

“Thanks.” Mark handed the key over to Fernando so he could pick their bags up again. “Lead the way mate.”

They found the room easily, getting out of the elevator they counted down the numbers on the doors until they were outside theirs, Fernando swiped the card and held the door open for Mark to enter first. He enjoyed the view of him bending over, he had put on a bit of weight, but only enough to round out the sharp edges he had carved into his body.

“Are you going to help or…” Mark was still bent over but turned his head to see what Fernando was doing. “Or are you just going to stand there and stare at my ass.”

“Staring at your ass is fine with me.” Fernando quickly sat down on the small sofa and made it clear he was getting comfortable. “Oh, you spoil it.” Mark had stood up. “Bend over.”

The way Fernando said it went straight to his groin, he was demanding it quietly in a low voice, over emphasising his accent. Turning he saw Fernando spreading himself over the sofa, legs parted widely and a wonderfully smug look plastered over his face. “So do we have time for you to tell me exactly what to do or not?”

Fernando took a long glance at his watch. “No. Maybe later.” He stood up. “I need to go to the university to do something, you’ll come with me yes?”

“Of course, the last time I was there was with you. Be fun to see what it looks like now.”

“Good, I’m going to get changed though.” He picked his suitcase off the floor and put it on the bed. “I’m meeting up with Andrea, they want me to do a lecture series.”

“Why didn’t you say, that’s amazing.” Mark hugged him from behind. “So you as a lecturer, you know there was one in my first year I used to fantasise about, now I’ll have one I can have all to myself.” He kissed the back of Fernando’s neck possessively.

“Ah, you like that then, you would like me to tell you what to do?” Fernando turned around. “Tell you to pay attention, to sit up straight, to make good notes?” He could see Mark fighting to hide the effect he was having. “Make you look at the slides, make you answer questions, make you obey me.” Fernando felt the twitch in his hips when Mark’s head rested on his shoulder. “Have you bend over my desk for handing in work late, have you ask permission for an extension, have you thank me for being such a good lecturer.” He was surprised about how much it was turning Mark on, they had messed around with power before when Mark tied him up once, but this was a step further. And he was intrigued.

“Are you sure we don’t have time?” Mark groaned.

“Si, we will pick this up later.”

“I’m a step away from picking you up and throwing you on the bed.” He growled.

He loved it when Mark showed how strong he was. “Later.” He wriggled out of Mark’s insistent grip and returned to his suitcase.

“Your phone mate.” Mark picked it up and handed it over without looking.

“Gracias.” Andrea was calling. “Ola Andrea.”

Mark saw that Fernando had pulled out a shirt and a pair of smart trousers and found himself doing the same, he only brought smart clothes for dinner but didn’t want to show Fernando up.

“Si, is okay, good. Half an hour. Yeah, I am. I will. Bye.” After hanging up he found Mark buttoning up a shirt, his chest slowly being covered up.

“Hey.” He spotted the pout forming on Fernando’s lips. “You’re the one who said we don’t have the time.” Mark smirked before Fernando quickly changed. “That tattoo still looks great.” He was surprised he hadn’t added to it, he heard from plenty of people that one was only the beginning.

“I know.” He smiled in response as they left the room.

It was only a quick drive to the campus and taking a turn into the visitors car park they almost risked a ticket from bypassing reception, but were caught. “Excuse me, if you’re visiting you need to sign in.”

“Sorry.” Mark apologised but Fernando seemed a bit flustered beside him. “It’s okay, it’ll only take a second.” Mark tapped in his registration number and contact details, doing this in his former university made him feel incredibly grown up, this and owning a house.

“Let me just get in contact with...” He glanced at the computer screen his side of the desk. “Andrea Stella.”

“He knows I’m coming.” Fernando didn’t get why there was such a big fuss being made.

“Regulations.” He answered shortly. “Ah, he’s left a memo on the system, go, sorry for the delay.”

“It’s fine.” Mark waved him off cheerily and followed Fernando outside. “You’ve got ten minutes.” As soon as the words were out of his mouth Fernando’s phone was going off again.

“Oh, Andrea says he’s going to be late.” He read the text. “Want to grab a coffee in the union?”

“How could I resist that?” It was close to the first text he had ever gotten off of Fernando. “Bet it looks the same, they never wanted to spend money on the fun things here.”

“Maybe.” They took the familiar path towards the on campus escape.

“You really shouldn’t be worried about this lecture thing, you speak so well about what you love, you’ll have them hanging on every word. I know it.” He knew people would find it hard to believe Fernando was insecure, but even after the plaudits and awards he needed reassurance every now and then and Mark was more than happy to give it.

“Mmm.” His legs felt weak, he was putting a lot on the line and he didn’t want to mess it up. He never imagined doing something like this and hoped he was going to be up to scratch.

“Maybe you should have something stronger, calm your nerves.” They weren’t in the main part of the union yet so Mark slowed them both to a stop. “You’re going to be fantastic at this, they want you, they asked you. Plus it’s Andrea, he thinks the world of you.” Mark kissed him softly, capturing his top between his own. “How long have we waited to do this?” He chuckled quietly.

“Too long.” Fernando took a deep breath and walked on. “Let’s have a look around.”

“Alright.” Mark agreed, he looked calmer now and was happy to forgo the drink. “Seems like someone loosened Bernie’s purse strings.” The whole place looked like it had been modernised. “They’ve renamed it too.” Mark spotted the replacement sign. “The Wing?” He shook his head. “Guess we’re too old to get it.” He stepped aside to let the group of students pass by, muttering about the union being for students not lecturers.

Hearing that made Fernando laugh. “Si, officially old.”

“Ah the pool room is still the pool room.” The rows of tables were laid out differently but it was still essentially the same. “Good to see some things haven’t changed.”

“Not much had changed though, since we left here.”

“Guess not.” Mark smiled, the feeling of nostalgia sweeping through him again. “Remember the nights out, well the rare ones.”

“Yeah.”

“Remember where we first met?” Mark stood in front of the closed door that was sealing off the separate room they came across each other in. “In here wasn’t it? Shame it’s shut.” It would be good just to sneak a last look.

“Maybe is not shut.” Fernando reached for the handle and pushed the door open. “See, is worth trying.” He stepped in first and reaching behind he laced his fingers with Mark’s and brought him in behind.

“That was a...bit...of...luck.” Mark was utterly dumbfounded when he walked in, he expected the room to be dark but it wasn’t, instead there was a glow, the unmistakable shimmer of candlelight was filling the room. “Nano?”

“Yes?” He guided Mark into the middle of the room and held both of his hands in his.

“What’s…” He was so confused.

“This is where we first met, this room and on this day thirteen years ago. I was in my first year and on a night out with my course mates, I came into this room to escape one of the girls and there you were. Standing here wearing the baggiest clothes, like you did not realise you had a body.” Fernando smiled. “I had to talk to you, then the way you were with Jenson I was not so sure, but I had to. I had to.”

“I noticed you too, you took my breath away.” Mark raised his hand to cradle Fernando’s face. “Your eyes got me first.” Fernando smiled broadly at him before taking his hands into his again.

“And then I did, and you had me, I had no chance when you spoke to me. And we’ve been through so much since then, and so much of it good but even when it’s been tough we have gotten through it together, because we are a team. Before I met you I wasn’t sure about so many things, and even though we had to be careful, you allowed me to find myself at my own pace and I am thankful for that.” He held onto Mark tighter to keep himself in check.

“I am thankful for many things Mark, but finding you and sharing these years with you is what I am most thankful of. We have travelled the world, made an impact and become successful. We have done almost everything, though there are things still to do, like building the roof terrace and discovering new ice cream flavours to eat in bed. But most of all, most of all Mark I just want to spend the rest of my life with you. Only you.”

Fernando released one of his hands so he could hold one with both of his and knelt on the floor slowly, Mark swallowed thickly as he realised what was happening. “Nano.” He barely got the word out before Fernando showed him exactly why they were in Silverstone.

“Mark, mi vida.” He took a deep breath. “I love the whole of you.” He was gazing up at Mark, he was welling up and he could see Mark was too. “Me harias el honour de ser mi esposo. Marry me.”

Mark nodded his head earnestly with tears blurring his vision. “Si, yes. Yes.” His voice cracked as he pulled Fernando up from the floor and straight into his arms. “Si.” He breathed against his ear. “Forever.” He clung onto Fernando, not wanting to let go of the moment. “I love you.” He pulled back enough to capture Fernando’s lips, he initiated a passionate kiss that was perfectly returned, the sheer joy of the moment fueling the sighs and the desperate grab for each other’s hands, interlacing them.

“Mi vida.” He stroked Mark’s face tenderly.

“We’re engaged.” Mark excitedly whispered as they stayed nose to nose. “We’re going to get married.”

“Yes.” Fernando began to laugh. They kissed again, truly swept up in the enormity of the moment.

“I can’t wait to tell people.” He was struggling to get the words out properly, his head working quicker than his mouth and he was smiling so wide he thought his face would crack.

“I do not think your parents will be surprised though.” He couldn’t turn down his smile.

“Why?” Mark felt dazed by the whole moment.

He hoped Mark wouldn’t think it was too much, too over the top, but it felt wrong to not do it. “I asked your parents for permission.” He needn’t had worried because he found himself swamped by his… “Prometido.” The word drifted from his lips.

“Fiance.” Mark confirmed with another kiss, unwilling to let go of Fernando.

“Si, Mark.” He sighed heavily, it was everything he had hoped for and more.

“You kept this quiet.” Mark whispered, still holding onto Fernando. “I’m impressed.” He had no idea this was what Fernando was planning, but it would explain his nerves for a straightforward meeting and that had Mark smiling even more. He couldn’t care less that Fernando had gotten there before him because the result was the same, he wanted to get married to him and now he was.

“I wanted it to be special.”

“It is, believe me, it is.” Mark rubbed his nose alongside Fernando’s. “All these candles, how?”

“Andrea.” Fernando revealed. He had come up with the idea himself but he needed someone he trusted to set it all up so Mark wouldn’t get suspicious, so he spoke to Andrea who was more than willing to help. They had kept in touch since he graduated and looking around properly the plans he emailed had been executed perfectly and now he wanted to thank him.

“Think we need to go thank him.” Mark left a trail of fluttery kissed along his jawline.

“Mmm.” He allowed Mark to hold him close to his body, his arms wrapped around him and soon he was cocooned in Mark’s warmth. It was a place he felt protected and cherished. A place he wanted the world to know about.

“Shame we don’t have some music, we could get some practice in for our first dance.” Mark smiled before kissing the top of Fernando’s head.

“First dance?”

“Yeah, it’s traditional, depends, we can talk about it later.”

“I like traditional.” He wanted that.

“Where’s my diamond then?” Mark chuckled and felt Fernando do the same in his arms. “I don’t think I can stop smiling.”

“Me either.” Fernando pulled back so they could see each others beaming smiles. They lingered for a few more minutes, whispering to each other just to make sure it was real.

With an arm around each other’s waists they eventually found the switch and illuminated the room with fluorescent lights. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this room with this much light. Looks weird.” The way it was painted was nothing how he imagined it, when the music was playing the lighting only showed glimpses.

“You never stayed late enough.” Fernando smirked, he had seen it like this more often than not, seeing it signaled the end of the night and time to go home.

Together they blew out the candles and took their time doing it, ensuring there wasn’t a sudden end to the moment. They let it merge into their lives seamlessly.

“Te amo.” Fernando said unbidden.

Mark stood up straight and cocked his head. “It sounds different when you say that now.”

“Is bad?” Fernando was unsure of Mark’s tone.

“No, of course not.” Mark took the couple of steps to close the gap between them. “It sounds...more.” He stroked a hand through his hair. The words sounded bigger, more meaningful even though they meant the world before.

---

“Gracias Andrea.” Fernando gave Andrea the hug he deserved.

“Thank you.” Mark shook his hand enthusiastically.

“Was no problem, was an honour.” He couldn’t stop smiling when Fernando called him with the proposition, Andrea had a lot of time for him after watching him mature at Silverstone. He work was exemplary at all times, never stopping looking for a way to improve, just never stopping. Mark made him stop, Mark allowed him to stop, Mark gave him permission to stop. Despite his artistic eye Fernando needed to be taught the pleasure in the grey areas.

“Go, enjoy yourselves.” Andrea waved them out, but before they left Fernando hugged him again.

They were wandering through the campus hand in hand slowly taking in the moment, the had spent months avoiding that level of closeness and now they were engaged. And knowing how much Fernando wanted to show off their relationship Mark waited for a couple of people to wander past so there were definitely in public before sweeping him into a kiss. Nothing too showy or over the top, but just enough to say they had, without a doubt, kissed on campus.

“Hotel.” Fernando stated. He wanted Mark. He wanted to lay in his arms. He wanted him now.

“Alright.” Mark found himself be dragged back to his car swiftly, and with his smile unmoved he drove them back gladly, his fiance’s hand resting on his leg the whole way there. “You go on up, I’ll be there in a minute, just need to sort something out.” He knew Fernando would be itching to change into something comfortable, or if he was lucky nothing at all.

On his way up he typed out a message to his sister to let her know he’d done it, but as he stepped out onto his floor he decided to call her instead. This was the time to call. “Hey Lorena.”

“Hola Fernando. Wait a minute.” She quickly put the phone down to tend to her daughter. “Hey, you alright?”

“I asked him.” He grinned at the recent memory.

The tears immediately began to well up in her eyes. “Oh Fernando.” She croaked.

“He said yes.”

“Well of course he did.” She chastised him kindly. “And can I say, finally?” Lorena giggled which started her daughter off.

“Si, had been a long time coming, but worth it.” His face was aching but couldn’t care.

Mark coming out had not been an easy ride for either of them, the press had a field day to begin with, even though the rest of the worlds was moving on some sports were clinging on to the past. And cycling was one of them. It was about six months ago but she could still remember the articles asking if it was right, defending the masculinity of professional cycling and then turning it around on Fernando. Mark could cope with the insults and snide words with expertly applied humour, but as soon as it was directed to Fernando he began to fight back.

He was vocal and swift which left no room for argument, and knowing him to be so calm and gentle she got a glimpse of how fierce he was as a racer. She never had any doubt about Mark’s love for Fernando, it was easy to see that in the way he acted around him, but seeing him defend her brother so publicly and so eloquently made her heart sing. Her little brother was in great hands.

“I bet, does mama and papa know?”

“Not yet, I’ll speak to them later.” The door opened before he could tell her any details. “I should...go.” Mark was leaning on the doorframe with a bottle of champagne in one hand and two glasses in the other.

She surmised Mark must have done something, or returned from somewhere. “Speak soon.” She hung up with a huge smile, her brother was so happy.

“We should celebrate properly.” Mark lifted the bottle up and left the door to shut itself behind him as he moved into the room. Handing the glasses over to Fernando he opened the champagne with practised ease, the pop not followed by foam as Mark wanted to save as much as it as possible. Setting the cork aside for safe keeping he poured the pale fizz into both glasses for them, he put the bottle on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed next to Fernando.

“Here’s to both of us.” Mark raised his glass and Fernando mirrored him to clink them together before taking a celebratory sip.

“Fiance.” Fernando breathed.

“I will never tire of you calling me that.” Mark kissed him again. “Although there is another word I will love even more.”

“Soon.” Fernando assured with another sip of his drink.

“Yeah? How soon?” Mark brought the glass to his lips and tipped it back, the fizz of the bubbles pleasantly tickling his tongue. It gave him an idea.

“Maybe the end of the year, after my tour, then we can take a long honeymoon.” It would be the first time they could truly relax on holiday, Mark wouldn’t have to watch what he ate, or train.

“I like the sound of that mate.” He finished his champagne off and put his glass out of the way. Now with both hands free he straddled Fernando’s lap and encouraged him to finish his off with a slight roll of his hips, and it wasn’t long until they started to rid each other of their shirts. Mark greedily kissed at his skin, sucking and licking at his warm flesh wanting to mark him as his own. “You’re mine.”

“Always.” He let his head roll back to give Mark whatever he wanted. It reminded him of a night when Mark thought someone had been flirting with him, it was at a gallery opening and the owner had spent much of the evening trying to persuade Fernando to do a show. However Mark hadn’t seen it that way, it was one of the few things they had invited to separately, he had seen this guy touching Fernando, making him laugh and following him about. Mark saw it as flirting and didn’t like it.

So after he dragged him back to the hotel he stripped him, shoved him on the bed and proceeded to claim him with his teeth, just little nips up and down his body. It was the most possessive he’d ever seen Mark and it drove him wild. The lasting reminder was a bruise Mark had sucked on his hip, and Fernando couldn’t stop touching it to feel how tender his skin was. He wanted it there forever. “Mark.” He gasped as the pressure was lifted from his lap.

He opening his eyes to see Mark stripping in front of him, pushing his trousers and boxers down in one swift moment, Fernando began to copy him but he wanted to do it all himself, so with a quick movement he pushed him onto his back. Bending over him Mark hooked his fingers under his waistband and once Fernando had lifted his hips they were in a pile on the floor.

“Ah!” Fernando shot up to see Mark stood over him dripping champagne over his stomach. “Joder.” Mark was exuding so much power it made him feel lightheaded.

Fernando was trying to get onto the bed properly, but Mark wanted him like this, his feet on the floor and his body supported by the mattress. “No you don’t.”

The hand on his thigh wasn’t letting him move anywhere so he stopped moving and waited. Mark had patience, and was making him wait. He could feel every nerve stand to attention, waiting for Mark to act but when he lifted his head Mark was just drinking from the bottle. Fernando flashed hot at the way Mark was looking down at him, his eyes were dark and laying back down he could practically feel his gaze travel over his body.

Mark took another mouthful and knelt down.

“Joder!” He had enveloped his cock in his mouth, but there was something else. “Fuck!” Champagne. He could feel the fizz and bubbles against his cock, it was mind bending. Then there was the flick of his tongue and he was fighting the urge to jerk his hips up. He couldn’t cope. “Mark.” He whined.

Pulling back Mark swallowed as much as he could, the expensive champagne mixed with Fernando was better than he imagined. All those podiums he had spent drinking it, his mind drifting off to enjoying it properly with Fernando. Another mouthful and he was bringing Fernando’s cock into his mouth again, loving the wriggle and fight in his body as the bubbles worked their magic.

“Maaark.” Fernando grabbed his head to stop him from pulling back, then scooted down so he had more leverage in his hips to thrust into Mark’s mouth. He felt the liquid being forced from around his lips, running down his cock and trickling over his balls, it was so good. “Maaaaaaark.”

His feet was scuffing the floor trying to find purchase to thrust into his mouth harder and that had Mark feeling more powerful, his fiance was losing control beneath him and he wanted more. He wanted him to completely lose it. Wrestling out of Fernando’s grip he took one more mouthful, but went lower, wrapping a hand around his cock he took one of his balls into his mouth and the reaction was instant.

“Uh, Mark, por favor, si si, Maaaark!” It was all too much.

He could feel the dramatic release hit his back, the spurts of come hitting his skin made his own cock twitch. Letting him go Mark got onto his feet, his hands taking a path up and over his trembling legs, he didn’t stop until he planted them either side of his waist. Just so he could make a show of swallowing the remnants of the champagne. “Think I need a shower.”

Fernando blearily looked at Mark licking his fingers, but what cleared his vision was when Mark turned his back on him. He had marked him.

“I’m a bit dirty.” Mark looked over his shoulder.

“Very dirty.” Fernando muttered as he righted himself. “Very dirty.” Standing he strode off into the bathroom knowing Mark would follow. He waited until Mark was stood inside the cubicle before acting, he turned him around and looked at the marks he had laid down his back. “You’re mine.” He ran his fingers through his come.

Mark shivered as Fernando dragged his fingers over his back then moaned when they passed over his arse, he had touched every part of his body he had branded. “Nano.” He turned around to face Fernando and embrace him. “Te amo.” Reaching behind he turned the shower on and brought them under the stream of water, gasping at the temperature he adjusted it quickly until it was comfortable.

The water was hitting Mark on the back and it didn’t take long for Fernando to grab the soap and wash him clean, running his hand over the sculpted muscles he had spent years earning. The water made his skin slick and silky to the touch, making it more tempting if that was at all possible. “I love you.” Fernando replied over his shoulder with a kiss.

---

“Morning guys.” Jenson got out of his seat to greet Mark and Fernando as they entered the restaurant. They looked extremely happy, but contented as well, he immediately wondered if Mark had popped the question early.

“Alright mate.” Mark hugged him.

“Good morning Jenson.” Fernando got hold of him next.

He could feel the excitement off them now, so he had to ask. “Out with it then. I know something’s up.” He watched their faces crease into huge smiles.

“Fernando asked me to marry him, we’re engaged.” Mark was positively fizzing, he couldn’t wait to let his sister know.

Jenson matched their grin, he wanted them to succeed so much at university, they were destined to be together.

“Are you alright?” Fernando watched Jenson well up.

“Yeah.” He blinked and felt the tears roll over his cheeks. “Sorry, it’s just...I’ve...it’s about time.” He got out of his seat and hugged them both again. “Right, first thing, I’m doing the cake.” He wiped his face dry.

“Like we would trust anyone else, do we need to come in for a consultation?”

“No, it’s my gift to you.” Since Mark had showed him the ring he had sketched out designs, he wanted something simple but undoubtedly them. “I’ll sort it out, just need to know where and when.”

“Oh, we haven’t discussed anything like that yet.” Mark’s stomach looped excitedly. “Guess we can start doing that now.”

“Si.” Fernando murmured as he slipped his hand into Mark’s.

“Can’t you stay a bit longer?” Mark muttered as Jenson sipped at his tea. “I don’t want you to go.”

“Don’t.” He was starting his tour in New York the same time as Mark was having to have surgery on his leg. “But I would like to be your nurse.” It was only a minor operation to get some of the metal work taken out of his leg, but he didn’t like the fact he was leaving him when he needed him.

“I’ll be looking after him, but he can stay at mine if you’re worried.”

“See, I’m going to be fine.” Mark leant over to give Fernando a consoling kiss. “It can’t be helped that you need to go dazzle the world and I selfishly want my fiance at my beck and call.” He grinned at the word ‘fiance’ before delivering another kiss.

Jenson couldn’t help but watch them, there was something else about them now, a very specific confidence that he hadn’t seen between them before, it was quiet and assured but there. And he was beginning to get his own confidence back, David was such a tonic for him, easy and uncomplicated.

“Well, let me get your breakfast.” Fernando got up before Mark could argue.

“Tell me everything.” Jenson begged.

Mark laughed. “It was perfect, better than anything I could have done.”

“Details!” Jenson hissed.

“Yesterday was the day we first saw each other, so he took me to the place we met and proposed there.” Mark grinned.

“In the union?” He thought Fernando would have gone somewhere grander.

“Yes, he filled the place with candles, it was...perfect. It was where we started. Thank god you forced me to go out that night.” He hated the idea of never meeting Fernando.

“What would you do without me?”

“I have no idea.” He answered truthfully. “You got us together and kept us together, and that’s why I want you to be happy Jense.”

“I’m getting there.” Mark’s smile was better than anything he could have said, he was relieved he was finally telling the truth. “Thanks for the set up.”

“Breakfast is served.” Fernando put the plates down before returning for their drinks.

“You better not be thinking of jetting off somewhere and getting married in secret, I swear to god I will hunt you down and…”

“Oi, stop with the ranting.” Jenson carried on with his empty threats but Mark knew what he was going to ask would silence him. “Would you be my best man?”

“I’d thought you’d never ask.” Jenson beamed. “Bachelor party.” His smile turned wicked. “I always wondered what you would look like without eyebrows.”

“Fine, but you’ll be dealing with Fernando and my mum.” Mark folded his arms across his chest.

“Spoilsport.” Jenson muttered as Fernando returned with two cups of tea. “How long until you’re off?”

“Need to get going in an hour really.” Ideally he wanted more time to enjoy the afterglow a bit longer but that would have involved missing a very special anniversary. He would make it up to him.

“Are you leaving the same time?” Jenson directed at Mark.

“I was hoping to nick a lift off of you.” He wanted to have that drink with Jenson.

“Fine with me, we can have a celebratory drink, champagne?" His suggestion got a dirty snigger off of both of them. “I really don’t want to know.”

“You’re right, you don’t.” Fernando agreed, his body tingling with the memory of Mark’s mouth surrounding him with bubbles.

Breakfast was jolly enough, Jenson doing his best to wind Fernando up with bachelor party ideas that involved some level of nudity but he was impressed when he didn’t bite. He hoped it meant he trusted him not to do the things he was mentioning.

“I need to go.” He felt incredibly guilty now.

“It’s okay. I’ll walk you out.” Mark left the table and escorted Fernando to their car, he was driving it home so he didn’t have to worry about the train journey. “I’m going to be fine, it’s just a minor op, nothing to worry about.” He was glad to be starting the process to getting it all out of his body. “Jenson will check up on me.”

“Still not happy though, maybe I could reschedule?” He made sure everything went to plan after Mark had his accident. He had been out training with the rest of the team and a car pulled out of a junction and hit Mark head on, he broke his shoulder and cracked a few ribs but it was his broken leg that was the worry.

He could still remember the call, it was long after he had been taken to hospital and Mark was in surgery when his phone rang. The downside of having to hide their relationship meant that he was low on the priority list to be informed, but it was Alan who had told him immediately after he received his own call.

“Fernando, where are you?”

“Hola Alan, I’m at home, Mark’s out training at the moment.” He was just about to sit down with a cup of coffee and wait for Mark to return.

“You sat down?”

“Uh, si. Why?” There was something odd about Alan’s voice. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Mark, he’s had an accident, he’s been taken to hospital. Saint-Antoine, is it close?”

He couldn’t answer, he couldn’t think of anything other than the worst. He felt like his throat was being closed shut.

“Fernando?”

“Where?” He choked out.

“Saint-Antoine. Get a taxi, please.”

“I’ll be okay.”

“No. Get a taxi Fernando.”

“Okay.” Sat in that taxi he felt his whole being turn numb, unable to process much more than Mark had an accident and was laying in hospital somewhere. Then as he handed the money over he realised he wouldn’t get much further than reception, it was family only and to everyone he was just a friend. It took Mark demanding to see him that he was brought up, the team hanging around saying how brave he had been, but the moment they were on their own in his room the tears flowed.

“No, you’ve made plenty of sacrifices for me, I am going to be fine.” He hugged Fernando tightly. “I’m so proud of you.”

“Te amo.” He mouthed against Mark’s chest.

“Come on, away with you.” He could quite happily carry Fernando up to the room and lock them in, but it was his time to have all the spotlight for himself. Mark shut the car door for him, his suitcase already with him and watched him drive away his heart clenching a little as when he disappeared out of view and then out of earshot.

Chapter Text

“I’m here to see Kimi.” He asked what he assumed to be the reception desk, it was manned by someone he thought worked there and took the risk.

“Kimi!” The girl bellowed through the shop.

He heard his name through the wall of the small office in the back and slowly got himself off the chair to answer. “What?”

“You have a client.” She lowered her voice slightly.

“No I don’t.” He cracked a smile as he moved through the shop to greet Fernando. “I’m going out for lunch.”

“Alright.” She continued sketching out a design without looking up.

“I know a place.” He laughed as Fernando wrapped himself up against the arctic chill in the air. “It’s not that cold.”

“There’s snow on the ground.” Fernando gestured at it angrily.

“I know.” Kimi smiled. He took them to a small deli he frequented and made Fernando sit down whilst he ordered food for the both of them. He knew Fernando was heading this way but he didn’t expect to see him so quickly after he arrived.

Kimi returned with a couple of bagels and coffees and he immediately wrapped his hands around the cup to warm them up. “No wonder you like it out here.”

“It’s somewhere new.” He muttered.

“You are eventually going to have to settle somewhere.” Fernando took a tentative sip to measure the taste but he soon realised it didn’t matter, he was freezing cold and would take anything to thaw himself out.

“Not now though.” He felt unable to until someone could convince him to stay. Sebastian almost managed it once. “Is that the only reason you came here?” After the last phone call with Sebastian he left Europe and bought a one way ticket to New York, leaving his phone behind.

“Someone’s got to look out for you.” What happened between him and Sebastian was horrible, and done so publically, Kimi had been living in Austria until it happened. Kimi had never explicitly said but he knew Sebastian was still in the picture somehow, and the impromptu trip to New York was definitely something to do with it.

“No they don’t.” He was glad Fernando did care.

“Whatever.” He fought his best against the sandwich and ate as much as he could manage. “How busy are you at the moment?”

“Eating.” He watched Fernando roll his eyes at him. “I don’t have any clients tomorrow if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Great.” Fernando smiled. “Now you do.”

---

“You had to have it here didn’t you.” Kimi picked up the razor and held it over the skin Fernando was exposing. They were both at his station at the back of the shop and Fernando was stripped from the waist down with a towel covering his modesty from the world.

“It’s a special area.” He stroked over the smooth skin.

“No more talk like that.” Kimi screwed his face up. He transferred the design onto his skin carefully and set himself up for a couple of hours of detailed work. It was a significantly different design from the other one but hearing how personal it was spoke volumes about Fernando, he was all heart and soul. It was an ornate pocket watch with a specific time on it, and why that particular time wasn’t revealed but Kimi assumed it was to do with Mark.

“So anyone on the horizon?” Fernando had his arms tucked under his head and was chatting away to fill the time.

“Not at the moment.” Kimi was under no illusion that Fernando knew he hadn’t strayed far from Sebastian.

“Oh, well, I…” Fernando knew Kimi was a different case compared to Jenson, Kimi hid so much beneath the surface it was near impossible to penetrate. Apart from when Sebastian made his decision. Then he saw Kimi raw and vulnerable and it was heart breaking.

“So why this now, you’ve been talking about it for ages.” He thought it was all talk because he assumed Mark wasn’t big on tattoos.

“It’s time.”

Kimi stopped working and raised an eyebrow at Fernando. “Really?”

Fernando grinned. “I asked Mark to marry me. It’s time.”

“Congratulations.” He resumed inking Fernando’s design in silence thinking about the last marriage he heard about.

They were supposed to have ended it, when Sebastian chose Hanna over him it was supposed to have ended. Sebastian had been put under immense pressure to not only be the youngest director in Red Bull but a family man too, being outwardly single wasn’t portraying a good image. Red Bull liked their executives to be married with children and Sebastian had fallen into line despite Kimi’s pleas.

He had begged Sebastian not to do it, to leave Red Bull and get a job that didn’t dictate what sort of life he should lead. He had laid himself completely bare, but Sebastian panicked about Red Bull destroying his reputation and left the home they had shared for five years and married Hanna.

Kimi got him to eventually admit that he was that he knew he was entering a life of unhappiness and going to be living a lie, but Sebastian still shut the door behind him and left and was married within a couple of months. It hurt. It hurt because he threw away a life they had built together so easily.

But the separation didn’t last long, Sebastian tracked him down at the international tattoo convention in Germany, he found his stall and waited until the end of the day before approaching him after following him to his hotel. They didn’t argue, they didn’t speak, they just fell into bed together naked and wanting each other. Wanting their life before. Wanting another chance. They kept it up, Sebastian turned up at the occasional convention, but the German one was guaranteed.

But last year something changed, Sebastian had turned up with significantly longer hair, blonde waves framing his face, he looked angelic despite what they did after the day wrapped up. When they got to Kimi’s room Sebastian didn’t strip he began to ask for something, tell him about what he really wanted, what he needed.

“I want a tattoo from you.”

“Seb, you don’t, don’t be stupid.”

“I do, I’ve wanted it for years but I’ve not be brave enough to ask, it’s why I grew my hair now. I have to have it.”

“What are you on about?”

“It’s to cover the tattoo while it heals.” Sebastian dug into his bag to present Kimi with a sheet of paper covered in designs, but it wasn’t a picture or anything complicated. It was a single initial, Kimi’s.

Kimi didn’t know what to do or say. “Seb…”

“You have to, you have to do this for me, For us. Seeing you here isn’t enough anymore. I need to carry you with me everywhere.” Sebastian was on the verge of tears. “Please Kimi, I know I fucked it all up, but let me have this, do it. Bitte.”

“Where?”

Sebastian pushed his hair back and indicated a spot behind his ear. “Here.”

“That will hurt.” It was skin on bone, he had no idea.

“Don’t care. Bitte Kimi.”

Sebastian had mentioned getting a tattoo before but it always sounded like a joke, and now he was demanding one. “Alright.” He shaved a patch of hair where Sebastian had indicated and checked it was alright in the mirror. Sebastian was already panting heavily and he hadn’t drawn the design on yet. “Which one?”

“Draw it freehand, make it yours.”

Kimi grabbed his pen and without asking Sebastian straddled him, turning his head and holding his hair back he let him sketch out the design, he could feel every jut of his hips and breathy moan. He was getting off on it. By the time he had checked the design his cheeks were pink and his eyes were wide with lust.

But he knew it would change when he got the needle out, he lay Sebastian face down on the bed and began the process of permanently branding him. “Are you sure?” He couldn’t believe he had let himself go along with it for this long.

“Kimi. Bitte. Need.”

With Sebastian’s head now on a pillow Kimi did his best to minimise the pain but it didn’t seem the matter to him because he was squirming against the mattress. He was getting off on the tattoo.

“Kimi, Kimi, Kimi.”

Sebastian made the most delicious noises throughout, he’s heard the odd sigh before, but what was happening now was brand new and Kimi found his concentration wavering. “Seb.” He warned because he was getting hard. “Be quiet.”

Sebastian tried his best but the silence made his movements more desperate, and when Kimi was finished he barely had enough time to put the machine down before Sebastian was clambering onto him, pushing him onto the bed and rutting messily against him.

“I’m yours. I’m yours. I’m yours.”

Sebastian chanted in his ear in a tone beyond desperation.

“Tell me I’m yours. Tell me. Tell me Kimi. Bitte.”

Kimi wished he found it hard to do what Sebastian asked. “You’re mine.”

“Again.”

Sebastian had tears in his eyes by now. “You’re mine Sebastian. You’re mine.” He really wished it was true, he wished he could have him all to himself, he wished for a lot of things. “You’re mine.” Sebastian came shortly afterwards, clinging to Kimi’s body, sobbing into his neck. But when he calmed down and Kimi had covered the tattoo up Sebastian just lay in his arms muttering.

“I want to be branded by you. I’m yours.”

He wished he had never asked. “But you’re married.” Kimi whispered.

“Doesn’t matter.” Sebastian sighed at him. “Not real.”

They weren’t real.

“Done.” Kimi leaned away from Fernando and stretched his back out, he was used to crouching over someone, but it didn’t stop it hurting. Carefully flexing his neck first he then cleaned the fresh tattoo before helping Fernando sit up.

“Ooh, that’s going to be a bit sore.”

“You wanted it there.” Kimi smirked.

“I know.” Fernando smiled in return. “Worth it.” Holding the towel around himself he walked over to the mirror to see Kimi’s work.

“Does it live up to your exacting standards?” Kimi remained sitting and began to clean his equipment.

“It’s perfect.” He imagined Mark’s reaction to it, and telling him the reason behind it. There was plenty of time for it to heal too, the two months on tour would leave it looking perfect for when he returned. “Thank you.”

“Pose for me then.” Kimi took a photo before it got too red and then coated it in a protective gel. “You remember the care instructions?”

“Yes, where can I get the cream?” He looked out into the snow covered streets, it was worse today than yesterday.

Kimi got up and fetched a tube for Fernando to have instead of sending him out into the snow to buy his own. “Here.”

“Thanks. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” He made sure all of his inks were in order in his station.

“Would you be my best man, at the wedding?” He wasn’t sure if Kimi would be receptive to the offer.

Kimi looked up at Fernando and studied his face, he looked so nervous and he was about to asked why but he was interrupted.

“I know what happened between you and Sebastian hurt, but you’ve helped me so much over the years, I don’t want anyone else up there with me. Mark asked Jenson you know, of course you would know that already, I just want you there. But I get it if it’s too much.” He wouldn’t ever forget that night Kimi turned up on the doorstep, it was pouring with rain but Fernando could still see the tears, no hat, no sunglasses, Kimi exposed what he truly felt for once.

“Okay.” He was touched Fernando was that worried about him.

Fernando hugged Kimi hard. “Thank you.”

“I’m alright, I like doing what I do.” He offered unprompted.

“I know that, I’m just worried you’ll eventually end up forgetting how to speak being alone so much.”

“I like being alone.” It was true, he thrived where others faltered.

“Get a dog.” Fernando slapped his shoulder. “Or a cat, or a fish, or a plant. Just something else alive.”

Kimi rolled his eyes. “Does this mean I get to organise your bachelor party?”

“Mmm, nothing permanent.” Fernando warned. “Better get dressed.”

“Yeah, any longer and you’d be the feature at your own party.” Kimi winked.

“Strippers?” Fernando barked as he pulled his boxers on.

“Ah ah, I’m organising it.” He wouldn’t dare do that to Fernando, but it didn’t mean he didn’t mind him thinking he would.

---

“Let me take a look.”

“At what?” Sebastian looked up to see Hanna walking over to him. “I’m fine.”

“You’re always touching your head there, does it hurt?” She tilted her head to the side to show her sympathy.

“I’m fine.” He hadn’t realised he had been touching his tattoo, but more recently he had caught himself doing it, it was the only link he had to his true self. When he was on his own he allowed himself to think about Kimi branding him, how turned on he was by the thought of Kimi leaving an indelible mark on him that would last a lifetime.

“Your face is flushed, are you coming down with something?”

“I’m fine, stop fussing.” He sighed as he got up making sure his back was turned to her. “I just need a drink.”

“We’re supposed to be trying for a baby, you heard what the doctor said about drinking.” They had been trying for a while and were no closer to getting pregnant.

“I need one, you’re stressing me out.” He barked as he walked to the small drinks cabinet they used for entertaining, pouring a glass of vodka he left her alone in the living room to get ice from the freezer. By the time he had reached his office the vodka had cooled enough for him to sip at it without recoiling.

He was a fraud.

He was living a lie and dragging Hanna along with him.

She had been so happy when they got back together, she had been single for almost a year when he made contact again, the worst moment of their meeting was when she admitted he was the love of her life. And that was when he returned to Kimi.

Sebastian only ever felt whole with him, in his arms, sharing the same breath, even being in the same room. He heart ached for him now, his skin needed his touch, the gentleness that only he got to see, the way he spoke to him, those secret whispered words. He took a large mouthful of his drink to try and quell his desire, but the more pressure that was put on him from Hanna and Red Bull the more he found himself retreating to the fantasy of the past, when it was just him and Kimi.

Their flat was small and discrete, but it was theirs, they bought a sofa together, they argued over what plates to buy and where to put the television. Sebastian would give everything he had to have that again, but he had given that up to conform, to keep a job he now resented. He thought it was what he wanted, he thought this was what he was supposed to do.

But he had fulfilled his contract with Red Bull now, he had to complete eight years with them as payment for them sponsoring him through university. He could leave guilt free, almost, he had stupidly made the decision to unfairly tangle Hanna up in his lie.

It used to eat him up that he was lying to her, but after seeing Kimi for the first time he stopped caring, he just lived for the next time he could make up an feasible excuse to sneak away. Just a matter of hours before his flight left for Germany, so he tipped the rest of the alcohol down his neck and went to double check his suitcase. He hoped the flight was early enough to be an excuse to not have sex.

Laying in bed he feigned sleep when Hanna climbed in beside him, but she had other ideas.

“Seb, I’m ovulating, I don’t want to miss another chance.” She slid a hand over his stomach.

“Ugh.” He turned away feigning tiredness.

“Seb, please.”

“I’ve got an early flight.” He mumbled. There was no way he could stomach being intimate with Hanna when in a matter of hours he would be on all fours begging Kimi to fuck him.

“See.” She cupped his crotch and found him semi hard. “I won’t be seeing you over the weekend.”

“Week.” He turned onto his front, she wasn’t turning him on, the thoughts of Kimi’s naked body was.

“You’re going for a week? You’ve just got back.” He had been away for a week to New York. “I hardly see you.”

And that was how he liked it, it was how he could cope with the situation. “Business.”

“It’s always business.” She sighed and gave up, turning over she wondered if Sebastian even wanted to be with her. In front of anyone else he was doting and caring, but at home he was moody and distant. Silverstone had changed him. “See you when you get back then.”

Chapter Text

He couldn’t relax on the plane, he fidgeted and played with the inflight magazine to the point of ruining the corner of it, he had to get to Kimi. He had to see him, hold him, touch him. Hear him talk, taste him, lie with him. But the flight seemed to go on forever, and having done this flight numerous times he knew how long everything was supposed to take. Hanna was wrong, he did take time off from work, it was just spent doing this.

When the doors finally opened he was one of the first down the steps and into the airport to get through clearance and into Germany. It was his favourite time of the year, a whole weekend of just them, but whereas he usually had to leave to get back to work he had taken a week off so they could talk.

Things were getting desperate for him, the phone calls weren’t enough, the brief snatches of time they shared made his heart ache all the more when then parted, things were getting desperate and he was on the verge of doing something that matched. So he had to speak to Kimi, he had to make him understand. He had to show him.

As ever his heart raced the moment he was in the taxi giving the address of the convention centre it was in, he knew the scenery, he knew the route, he knew every second of the journey. What he didn’t know was if Kimi would even want to see him after their last call, he hadn’t picked up any of his following attempts or replied to any of his texts.

But he was about to find out, he showed his ticket and immediately went to the stand Kimi had occupied for the last few years, he quickly learned not to bother with the layout sent with the pass as it sent him in completely the wrong direction in his first year. Plus he knew Kimi liked the spot he claimed years ago because the foot traffic was lighter, meaning if people wanted to see him, they had to actively seek him out.

He had a slight disguise on, he hadn’t shaved and was wearing a beanie hat that once belonged to Kimi, and with a long sleeved tee shirt to cover his bare arms he disappeared into the crowd. Bracing himself for his first look at the blonde hair, then their eyes would connect and Kimi would smile. Then he would breathe, then he would relax, then he would know they had a chance. But when he reached the stand Kimi wasn’t there.

He did a loop to make sure he was in the right place, and the other artists where they were where they had always been, but Kimi wasn’t. Kimi wasn’t here. He wouldn’t change his spot like that, he liked being here, being quiet. Trying to keep the panic inside he walked away and tried to find a map of the exhibitors to see where Kimi had got to.

Running his finger down the list he tried to spot Kimi’s name, or the name of his shop but nothing. He wasn’t here at all. But Sebastian couldn’t believe it, so checking on his phone he searched furiously for any mentions and then he found exactly what he didn’t want to see. He should have done this before, but deep down he knew even if he had read it, he would have come.

Raikkonen takes a break.

Seems like our favourite Finnish inker has left for pastures new, as we all know he moved Makia from Austria to Finland five years ago, and then has moved around frequently.

Sebastian knew about Europe, he wanted to know what they meant by ‘break’, so he scrolled down relying on his eyes to pick out the words he needed to see.

Raikkonen has left Europe altogether which is great news for his international fans, and rumour has it that he’s been enjoying the delights that New York has to offer.

He was just in New York! His mouth fell open at the picture of him with an arm around a pretty brunette, they gave her name and said she was a model. Feeling like the bottom had fallen out of his world he went and found a quiet spot to sit in and did his best to hide the tears running down his face. He couldn’t bring himself to come to terms with his hypocrisy, and instead was happy to sit with his face in his hands and ignore the thousands of people milling about.

---

“Afternoon sunshine!” Jenson trilled as he walked up to Mark’s bed in the ward. “No private room for the superstar then?”

“Shush.” Mark grumbled. The anesthesia was still very much in his system and he could barely keep his eyes open. “You taking me home?”

“Yeah, your chariot awaits.” He presented the wheelchair he had been given by one of the nurses to take Mark to the car with. “No expense spared.” Jenson watched Mark’s eyes slide shut. “Come on.” He gently shook him awake.

“Alright.” Mark groaned. “Help.”

It took a couple of attempts but as soon as he had Mark bundled in the wheelchair he took him through the hospital and down to the carpark. He was babbling away about nonsense until he started the engine and then he fell asleep, face pressed up against the window. Jenson had promised to take him home, but it was clear Mark wasn’t in a fit state to be looking after himself, so instead he parked up outside his house instead.

“Hey David, I’m outside, can you help me get Mark inside? I know, but he’s really drowsy still. Thanks.”

“You looooooove him.” Mark giggled.

“Shut up, don’t say that in front of him!” Jenson hissed. “It’s still early, don’t freak him out.” He warned before getting out of Mark and Fernando’s car he borrowed for the occasion.

Mark blinked a couple of times and saw David jog down the stairs with a big smile on his face, then watched them share a brief kiss before being hauled out of the car and helped into the house. “Shit, I’m tired.”

“We’ll take you to the spare bedroom.” Jenson assured as he looked across to David kindly who was helping brilliantly. “You can sleep the drugs off in there.” Between the two of them they got an exhausted Mark into bed, they left him in the pajamas he came home in with a large glass of water and his phone beside him.

“Nano?”

“No, it’s Jenson. Fernando’s away, remember?”

“Want my Nano.” Came the mumble.

His heart clenched at how innocent Mark sounded as he moved to hug the duvet tucked around him, he had heard him hurt and broken, but never this innocent. “He’ll be here soon Mark, just go to sleep.”

David had been patiently waiting in the hallway. “Thanks for doing that.” Once they had gone down to his kitchen Jenson flicked the kettle on to make a tea for both of them.

“Not a problem, he introduced me to you.” David watched Jenson’s movements pause before he put the mugs down to turn and face him.

“Very true.” Jenson looped his arms around David’s neck and lightly kissed him, and ever so slightly, bit by bit, it intensified. They had kissed close to this before, and last night after dinner it had got pretty heated too, hands began to explore new places.

David gasped against his cheek when Jenson pushed his hands under his jumper, the thin cashmere easy to move out of the way, and drove his hands up the curve of his back. Jenson was shocked at the sound, it was the first time he’d heard David sound so sexual and it lit something deep inside.

“I better go.” David breathed.

“Oh, uh, okay.” Disappointment wasn’t the word.

David knew how Jenson felt, because he felt the same. “Jense, I don’t want to rush things.” He kissed his lips softly. “There’s no need, is there?”

“No.” Jenson smiled. “Slow is good.” But to let David know that although he could wait, he wanted him, he passionately kissed him goodbye, lips parted and wanting, his tongue slowly flicking over David’s. He soon found himself being backed up against a cabinet with David’s hands cradling his face, his fingers threading through his short hair.

“Slow.” David moaned as he pulled back. “I…”

“Yeah.” Jenson grinned.

“Jense.” David leaned into another kiss. “God you’re hot.” He watched Jenson turn a deeper shade of red. “Take the compliment.” He kissed along his jaw, his stubble grazing his lips pleasantly, and when his open mouthed kisses hit the soft skin of his neck the way his head tipped back went straight to his groin.

“Okay.” He was flooded with the warmth of David’s words. “Okay.” He moaned.

“Going slow does not make that sound.” David pulled at Jenson’s tee shirt to expose the delicate skin along his collarbone. “Going slow does not move like that.” Jenson had just rolled his hips.

“You were the one who wanted to leave.” Jenson whispered against the shell of David’s ear.

“Don’t want to, more like I thought I should be a gentleman.” They both stilled and gazed into each others eyes.

“You are.” Jenson replied. David was a gentleman, in the short space of time they had known each other David had made him feel more stable than he had been in years, he felt more confident in himself too. He made him feel like himself again.

“I am going to go.” He had to, he really didn’t want to rush things with Jenson, it was ridiculously early to be thinking this but he felt they had a chance at something great. He had rushed in the past and messed things up spectacularly.

“Really?” Jenson tried his best not to pant.

“Yes, because I don’t want to mess this up.”

“Oh.” Jenson was taken aback. “Me either.” He agreed with a small, but happy, smile. Jenson followed him to the door and picked his jacket off the hook to hand it to him.

“I think you’re special.” David breathed. He felt incapable of holding things in around Jenson, his heart was happy to live on his sleeve.

“David…” His stomach fluttered. Jenson didn’t have the words yet, but he wanted them, so he settled on another kiss.

---

Jenson quietly entered the spare room to find Mark still asleep, he had taken the day off from work to look after him because he knew if he hadn’t Mark would be doing himself some manner of harm. Padding across the carpet he put the cup of tea in his hand on the bedside table and turned to leave, but Mark was stirring.

“Ugh, what time is it?” He rubbed his eyes roughly.

“Half ten. Just making sure you’re still alive.” Jenson cooed.

“Just about, still so tired.” He remembered being badly knocked about by the anesthetic from his first operation, Fernando never left his side at the hospital or at home. “I didn’t say anything embarrassing yesterday, did I?” Fernando eventually told him about the nonsense he spouted when he came around, he mainly focused on asking him about a dog they didn’t own.

“No, you just wanted Fernando here.” Jenson explained kindly.

Mark smiled as he pushed himself to sit upright. “He called last night, he didn’t believe your text that I was alive.” Mark knew that he called but wasn’t entirely sure what the conversation was, but he remembered Fernando telling him he loved him and that was more than enough.

“Typical.” Jenson rolled his eyes in good humour and sat at the foot of the bed. He had sent several texts after the first to assure Mark was safe and secure.

“Thanks for doing all of this, sorry if I ruined anything you had planned with David.” He watched Jenson blush. “I did, didn’t I?” That wasn’t his plan at all, when he got the date for the operation Jenson was unattached, but now he was rightfully enjoying the unrepeatable excitement of a new relationship.

“No, not at all. We’re taking it slow.” The images of the heated kiss they shared flooded his mind.

“Slow is good.” Mark agreed after taking a sip of water.

“Agreed.” Jenson beamed. “Do you want to stay up here, or come downstairs?”

Mark put the glass back down. “I would kill for a bath mate.” He needed to freshen up.

“Right, I’ve got my instructions from Fernando.” Jenson smirked.

“What?” Mark knew that look Jenson was wearing.

“Fernando left me a little folder.” Jenson exaggerated the size.

“Please tell me you’re joking.” Mark rolled his eyes. It was well documented that Fernando made a folder when he had originally broken his leg, it was filled with notes, appointments and care instructions. Mark used to get frustrated with it as it made him feel like a project, but after one particularly nasty fight he watched Fernando grab for it and hug it to his chest. Then he realised, it was the way Fernando found control in the situation that looked like the end of Mark’s career.

“I am, but he did give me some tips about dealing with you.” He found it sweet that Fernando had worked out Mark’s quirks and how to soothe them simply.

“Yeah, blow jobs all day.” Mark grin soon turned to a wince as he moved.

“Cheeky fuck.” Jenson rolled his eyes as he helped Mark up.

“Hmm, you’d have to do all the work though.” He helpfully offered.

---

Thank you for everything.

Jenson read the note attached to the box that had just been left outside following a knock on the door.

You are a true friend.

He guessed it was from Fernando and was soon proved to be right when he opened it to find a beautiful piece of art, an abstract painting of a swirl of colours on the canvas. It was happy, and it made him feel happy just looking at the bright colours. Immediately looking for a place to put it in his house he texted his thanks knowing Fernando was with Mark and not wanting to be disturbed.

“What’s that?” David peered over Jenson’s shoulder as he held a canvas out at arms length against a wall.

“Thanks from Fernando for looking after Mark.” Jenson turned around. “Help me figure out where to put it.

---

“Mark!” Fernando shouted as soon as he entered their home. He had made the brief stop off at Jenson’s because he wanted to come home quickly and lock himself away with his fiance.

“Yeah?” Mark carefully got off of the sofa, he was fine but there was a dull ache he wanted gone quickly.

“What are you doing, sit, sit.” Fernando dropped his bags to the floor and jogged over to his laughing fiance.

“I am fine, stop fussing.” He was so glad to have him back.

“Not had the chance, I was away.” Fernando hugged him hard, wanting to fill up on his scent, warmth and touch. “Missed you.” His heart ached all the way to the airport when he left Silverstone.

“Missed you too buddy.” Mark instantly buried his nose in Fernando's hair and breathed deeply, amongst the scent of travelling for hours was him. It was home. Everything about Fernando was home to him. “Or should I say fiance?”

They stood like that for a while, just simply being with each other, holding and breathing not needing words to seek comfort. Slowly they drifted to the sofa, hand in hand to retain as much contact as possible it didn’t take long for them to lay down and with a film on in the background Mark was content to take the chance to lay his head on Fernando’s chest. He preferred to look after Fernando, but he knew he needed this to take the unnecessary guilt for leaving away.

“I saw Kimi in New York, asked him to be my best man.” Fernando ran his fingers through Mark’s ever growing hair, he always kept it so short when he raced he had forgotten how good it looked longer.

“So Kimi and Jenson are organising the bachelors...I think we’ve made a bit of a mistake there.” Mark chuckled. “We’re going to end up the other side of the world with no body hair.”

Fernando laughed along with Mark. “That would be a shame.” As soon as Mark stopped racing his beauty regime ceased too, and it was clear he didn’t miss it. “I like the beard.”

“Thought I would try it out, not had much to do.” Mark looked up at Fernando and stroked the months worth of growth. “Do you like it?”

“I think…” He didn’t notice it immediately because he was so glad to be home, but he did like it, it was definitely a new look. “I like it. Makes you look manly.” Fernando stroked the new growth softly. “More manly.” He moved to kiss Mark and loved the feeling of the beard against his skin.

“Good.” Mark settled back down on Fernando’s chest and listened to his heart beat. “I guess we should start planning this wedding.” He grinned at how quickly Fernando’s heart began to race.

“Yeah.” Fernando replied breathlessly. “We should.” His heart skipped at the thought. “I want to write my own vows.”

Mark already knew Fernando would want to do that. “Okay, but mine won’t be as good as yours.”

“Is meant to be what is in your heart.” Fernando wrapped his arms around Mark tighter.

“I know, but it’s getting it down on paper, that’s the issue.” Mark looked up. “I want it to mean what I feel.” Fernando would come up with something poetic and he’d be left standing in front of everyone looking stupid.

“I know it will be Mark, whatever you say I will understand.” He kissed the top of Mark’s head.

Mark pushed himself up so he could kiss Fernando properly. “Te amo.”

“Is a good start.” Fernando smiled warmly. “Can we just go to bed?”

“Thought you’d never ask.” Mark grinned. They didn’t rush, they knew they didn’t have to but there was a frisson of excitement between them that spoke of the time they had been apart. “Oi mate, what the hell is that?” Mark was watching Fernando strip off from the bed and as he unzipped his jeans he saw a mark on his hip.

“Oh, this?” Fernando wriggled out of his trousers and then tackled his boxers. He traced around the tattoo with his fingers as he gazed down at it, the meaning behind it warming him. “Is a tattoo.”

“I gathered that.” Mark whispered. It was on his right hip. His favourite spot on his body, the patch of skin that was so sensitive to his hands, lips, teeth…

“You don’t like it?” Fernando felt crushed, it was all for him. He bent over to grab a tee shirt to cover up feeling idiotic but his wrist was captured by Mark’s hand gently.

Mark pulled Fernando to him so he was stood naked before him. “It must mean a lot to have it here.” He pushed his thumb into his skin and heard Fernando gasp. “Tell me about it.” He relaxed his hand and let it cradle his hip as he tipped his head back to look at Fernando.

“It’s our time together in the past.” He pointed at one hand on the clock. “Our time now.” He pointed at the other. “And our time in the future.” Fernando drew a circle over the numbers on the clock face.

Mark leant forward and lightly kissed the three elements Fernando had pointed out. “Bello.”

Fernando sighed with relief. “You really like it?”

“Yes. It’s...it’s beautiful.” He was taken aback by how much thought had been put into it. “You know how much I love this part of you?”

“Si.” Fernando nodded as he pushed Mark onto the bed so he could straddle his waist.

“So I’m guessing Kimi had his hands all over you.” Mark gave him a cheeky look. “Not sure I like that.”

“I did.” Before Mark could argue Fernando kissed him hard, his tongue invading his mouth. “Missed you.”

---

“Hey.” David greeted a flustered looking Jenson, it was about an hour until it all kicked off. Jenson had told him not to turn up early, but he knew an extra set of hands wouldn’t go amiss.

“Oh, alright.” Jenson replied as he darted across the restaurant. Tonight was stressful enough as it was without his mum and sisters turning up too, gods know what made him thought of choosing now to get them all to meet.

“Set me to work, what needs doing?"

“Tables!” Jenson shouted, he would have preferred David to have seen him serene and in control. “There’s one done!”

David spotted it immediately and set himself to work, methodically completing the simple design and making sure to put the right numbers on the right tables. By the time Jenson returned he seemed a lot calmer, the smile he loved so much was back on his face and he was wearing a set of clothes without a speck of flour on them.

“It looks amazing.” Jenson breathed as he walked over to David. “You’re a lifesaver.” He rewarded him with a quick, but deep kiss.

“Evening Jenson.”

Jenson left David’s lips and turned to see his mum and sisters stood in the doorway. “Hi. Mum.”

“Hello, and who are you putting a smile on my son’s face?” She walked through the restaurant with her sole focus on the handsome man her son had just embraced.

“David.” He held his hand out and shook hers before kissing her cheek.

“I’m Simone.” She smiled broadly. “Now Jenson, why didn’t you tell me about David?”

It wasn’t like he wanted the ground to swallow him up, it was that he imagined their first meeting to be less embarrassing. “It was too early.” Thankfully his mum took the hint and let it drop. “These are my sisters, Natasha, Samantha and Tanya. Girls, this is David.” They took their turns in greeting each other properly, and with everyone chatting amiably he felt brave enough to say hello to Anne.

“Hey.”

“Sorry, I’m late, won’t happen again.” Anne apologised profusely.

“It’s fine, chill out, no one’s here yet. Just David and my family.” Jenson nodded over his shoulder.

“They look like they’re getting on.” She peered over discretely.

“Caught us kissing.” He groaned quietly.

Anne laughed loudly which caused everyone to look over at her, and judging the look on Jenson’s mum’s face she knew the reason why. “I’ll go say hello and get on with your guest list.”

---

“Still sure about the beard?” Mark finished trimming it in the bathroom mirror with Fernando stood beside him at the second basin brushing his teeth.

Fernando flicked his eyes over to Mark’s reflection and glanced at the now neatly trimmed beard he smiled around his toothbrush. “Is sexy.” He liked it more and more, and so did everyone it seemed. He was getting back into the swing of things now and was beginning his foray into the other side of cycling, Mark was writing for a couple of publications and was scheduled to help with commentating for ITV for the Tour de France soon.

“Yeah?”

“Mmm.” He spat the used toothpaste into the sink and rinsed his mouth. “I like how it feels.”

“Oh right.” Mark raised an eyebrow. “Like this?” Standing behind him his pulled at the collar of his shirt and kissed the back of his neck, Fernando instantly offered up the rest of himself.

“Mark.” He groaned.

“Come on, we have to go, can’t be late for this, can we?” Their eyes connected in the mirror and shared the exact same thought, hands immediately flew to unbutton freshly pressed trousers and within moments they were creased around their ankles. Mark reached out for a condom while Fernando quickly readied himself with lube.

“Joder, Mark, quick.” Fernando arched his back and Mark took the hint and felt him press the head of his cock to his entrance, but with impatience coursing through him he pushed back. “Mark.” He gasped the moment he was breached.

It was quick and dirty, staring at each other’s faces in the mirror as they neared a mutual climax. Mark was braced against the basin and each thrust he made forced a delicious sigh from Fernando’s lips, his expression was beautiful. “Fucking hot.” Mark cried as Fernando squeezed his cock.

Fernando arched his back further to take more of Mark and as he felt himself being filled properly he looked into the mirror to see Mark’s eyes focused down to where they were intimately connected, his face showing nothing but admiration. As the thrusts intensified he glanced at his reflection, mouth open, cheeks flushed red, and eyes struggling to focus. “Mark, por favor.”

Mark loved the whine in Fernando’s voice when he was close, so wrapping one arm around his stomach he used his other hand to jerk Fernando off. Mouthing wetly at his neck Mark just showed his teeth as he felt that wonderful buzz at the base of his head, Fernando was keening beautifully in front of him and soon found himself joining in.

“Nano.”

Their eyes met once more in the mirror and with mouths desperately trying to find air they dare each other to fall first, but Mark had the advantage and was using it. Fernando braced himself against the mirror with both hands and let himself fall. It had happened so quickly, so much quicker than usual that his legs felt weak, they were shaking as the orgasm hit him.

Mark could feel him begin to shake as he thrust deeply one last time, buried up to the hilt he let Fernando’s body pulse around his cock and it felt like heaven. His hand stilled around his cock but didn’t release him, just rubbing his thumb over his head to feel him him twitch and hear him sigh. Quick wasn’t their thing, slow and drawn out was their favourite way to spend time with each other, but he could see the pleasure in the quickie. “Fuck!” Fernando always felt so good around his cock, the deep heat and tightness always drove him wild. “Love.” Mark shouted as he came. “You.”

Knowing they didn’t have time to savour the afterglow in private Mark carefully slipped out of Fernando and then slowly brought him upright so he was standing again. “You okay there buddy?” Mark whispered tenderly.

“Si.” Fernando sighed happily. He watched Mark clean up before doing the same himself, they would have to do something like this again, he felt so alive. “Oi!” Mark had lightly spanked him as he bent over to pull his trousers up.

“What, your fault for being so tempting.” Mark grinned. “Right then matey, we need to get going or Jenson will actually kill us.” He smoothed his shirt down as best as he could but as they caught each other’s gaze in the mirror they shared a laugh.

“I think he will know.” Fernando chuckled, their faces would give them away if nothing else.

---

“Nice to see you finally arrived.” Jenson hissed as he passed by the VIP table he had personally designated even though the rest of the guests didn’t realise.

“Traffic.” Mark hissed back, his hand squeezing Fernando’s leg under the table.

“My arse.” Jenson replied when he headed back to the kitchen, no way that was true, not with smiles like that.

Chapter Text

“Excuse me Anne, there’s a late guest, I think, at the door.”

“I’ll sort it. Excuse me.” She apologised to the table of food journalists she was sat with and followed the waitress to the front door.

“I need to get in.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t just let you in, your name needs to be on the list as it’s invite only.” Anne tried to be polite in her explanation but it was clear he was just trying to get out of the cold. He was probably homeless, dressed in layers of tatty clothes that were far too big for him and had spent considerable time outside.

“Oh. But I know him, Jenson.”

“Then you would have an invite.” She felt guilty for turning him away. “How about I get you a cup of tea instead, something to eat?” It didn’t ease her guilt because she could tell he was fairly young, but at least she felt she was trying to do something.

“Can I borrow a pen?”

“Sure, take it. I’ll go grab you something, stay here.” She was careful and took the guest list with her as she weaved between the tables to enter the kitchen. “Hey Jense.”

“What can I do you for Anne?”

“Can I grab a tea and something to eat?” She really didn’t want to go into why she was asking.

“My food not good enough?” He paused to shoot her a look.

Keeping her expression cheerful as the kitchen was visible to the dining area through a large pane of glass, she explained the situation quietly and quickly.

Jenson looked across the kitchen to see who had enough time to whip something up. “Kev, sort Anne out.”

“I’m almost done chef!” Came the strangled reply.

“No worry, I’ll do it myself, just get the tea in a takeaway cup.”

“Yes chef.” Kevin shouted back to confirm.

Anne only had to wait a few minutes to be handed a cup of tea and a sandwich wrapped up in brown paper, but by the time she opened the door the man was gone. Sighing she considered going back in, but instead checked around the restaurant, the man didn’t seem remotely dangerous he just looked sad. “Hello?” No reply. “Hello, I’ve got a sandwich for you. And a cup of tea.”

There was nothing, no sign of him and leaving in on the ground seemed somehow disrespectful. But she had no choice, taking it back in was far worse. “I’ll leave it here for you.”

“Thanks.”

Anne heard the small voice just as she crouched down, so standing up she handed the cup of tea over first which was swiftly drunk. Next was the sandwich which he took with more thanks.

“Sorry for interrupting your dinner.” He mumbled quietly.

“It’s okay, I don’t mind.” She shrugged. “Have you got somewhere to go, it’s pretty cold tonight.”

“Yes. Thanks again.”

He turned away and slowly walked down the street and Anne felt unsure as to what to do, but before she could come to a useful decision he had disappeared into the night. “Shit.”

---

“Go get yourself some fresh air.” David advised to a flushed looking Jenson with a covert kiss to the cheek.

“Yeah, think I will. Thanks for all of your help.” He gave a weary smile. “I mean it, you kept me calm.”

“Anytime.” He rubbed his arm and gave him a friendly push towards the back door knowing he would start cleaning up if he didn’t, he had spoken to practically everyone in there now.

Tonight had been a huge success, he wasn’t one to gloat or be smug but despite the early panic he had a great feeling about it. Anne had given him the nod too and she had yet to be wrong on these sorts of events. Leaning against the wall he tipped his head back, closed his eyes and listened to the city in full flow. The endless buzz of traffic, the chatter of people walking by and as he felt his face cool the wind began to get up around him.

“What a night.” He said out loud to himself. “What a fucking night.” He chuckled as a few drops of rain fell on his face. “Raining now huh? Still a great night though, can’t change that.” He smiled broadly, this was how good life was supposed to be. “Shit!” He heard a sickly sounding cough not so far away. “Who’s there?” His voice was wobbling, he didn’t need to be mugged tonight.

There was no response, just the sound of more coughing but this time it was muffled behind hands. Whoever it was didn’t sound like they had the strength to beat him up and while he didn’t know what possessed him to investigate he bent down to try and find the source. “Hey.” He noticed the brown paper screwed up in a ball at the set of feet poking out behind the large bin. “Were you the one I made the sandwich for?”

There was a gasp that he would usually associate with crying and feeling safe he went over to discover a sad looking heap. “I hope it wasn’t that bad.” He crouched down so they would be eye level.

“...closer.”

“What was that?” Jenson shuffled nearer.

“No closer.”

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He reached out instinctively but the guy flinched violently. “Look it’s going to tip down in a minute, at least come inside, please.” As he spoke the heavens opened.

“Leave me alone.” He sobbed.

“I can’t, look, come in and get warm. At least until it stops raining. I don’t mind.” It was coming down heavily now and he knew David would soon realise and look for him. He was close enough to see a few facial features, but unfortunately close enough to smell him too, it was verging on overwhelming but he did his best not to show it.

“No!” The man kicked out and sent the other man flying onto his back. “Sorry!”

He desperately tried to scramble onto his feet but it didn’t work, Jenson grabbed him and held him still. “Stop fighting me, I’m trying to help.”

“Don’t need help!” He tried to shout.

If he wanted it to the voice would sound familiar, something from his past, but he was more concerned with making sure he was going to be okay. Especially now he had upset him. “Oh.” In the flurry of movement something dropped to the ground, a heavy book, tatty and dogeared.

“Mine!”

He snatched it out of his hands and pressed it against his chest, breathing heavily Jenson took another angle. “Sorry. My name’s Jenson.” Jenson watched his head bow and his shoulder began to shake under the layers of clothes.

“Don't.” He warned.

“Don't what?” Jenson slipped an arm around him and tried to guide him inside, he was soaked through now.

“Be nice.”

There was a faint accent, but his voice was so rough and broken all he could tell was that it wasn’t British. “Clearly my sandwich was no good, I’m making up for that.” With his palm on the handle his pushed it down and brought the bright light of inside into the dank alleyway. “In with you…” He left a pause hoping to be told his name but nothing came of it. “Please stay.” Jenson took a step and the man tried to bolt. “No, stay.”

“Can’t Jense.” He voice cracked.

“Jense?” He told his name was Jenson, only people he knew called him that. “Who are you?” Fighting the arm feebly trying to defend himself Jenson uncovered the face that had been a mystery to him. His face was battered and bruised but there was something unmistakable about him. His eyes. “Nico?” He grabbed his face with both of his hands. “Nico?” He needed to know he wasn’t imagining things.

“Jense.” He sobbed. “Sorry.” He tried to cover his face back up but Jenson’s grip got stronger.

“You’re alive?” He croaked. “You’re alive. You’re alive.” He kept chanting out of shock. “You’re alive.”

“Sorry.”

Jenson ignored the apology and released him to dig into his pocket for his phone. “Yeah, back corridor. Now.” Nico was trying to escape again so Jenson grabbed the front of his coat. “Quick, come alone.” He attempted to shove it back into his pocket but it fell to the floor. “Why?” Jenson asked.

“I...I...sorry.”

“This is a bit secret squirrel isn’t it?” Mark turned the corner to see Jenson pinning some guy to the wall. “What’s happened? Do you need me to call the police?” On the last word the guy struggled violently against Jenson.

“No, fuck no. Just deal with my mum and everyone would you, get them back to the hotel. Make up something.”

“What the hell am I supposed to say?” Jenson looked both livid and confused and when he took a step to get closer he caught a glimpse of the dirty face belonging to the man was restraining. “Nico?” He gasped. He looked awful, half dead in the face and more than dead behind his eyes. “I’ll...sort it.” As he rounded the corner he heard Nico beg to be let go, and a part of him wished Jenson would, but Mark knew there wasn’t a hope in hell of that happening.

“What was that about?” David enquired lightly.

“Oh, Jense is determined to help...clean up. Wants us all to politely bugger off, mentioned something about breakfast tomorrow.”

“Fair enough, I’ll just go say goodbye.” Simone got out of her seat and missed the utter panic on Mark’s face that Fernando saw. “Jenson?” She called towards the kitchen.

“Yeah, hi. Sorry about this, I just need to stay here for a couple of hours.” Jenson appeared when he realised that a sudden disappearance wasn’t going to cut it, he hugged his mum praying all the while that Nico stayed put.

“That’s fine, we’ll do something tomorrow.” Simone reassured him, and she was quickly followed by his sisters. “Thank you for tonight, it was wonderful.”

“You’re soaking wet.” David mumbled as he hugged him, Jenson had put on a fresh top and tried to dry off but he could still tell.

“Got locked outside for a bit.” He loved the way David kindly laughed at him.

“I’ll leave you to it, you won’t let me help will you?”

“No, you’ve done loads for me tonight as it is. We’ll catch up when you get back from Scotland.”

“Definitely.” Ignoring Mark and Fernando he swept Jenson up into a kiss that left them both smiling from ear to ear. “Bye.” He turned to the others in the room. “Bye guys, look after him.”

“Bye David.” Mark and Fernando chorused.

Mark waited until the door shut before hissing at Jenson. “What the fuck mate, that’s really Nico?”

“Nico?” Fernando echoed. “Nico Nico, uni Nico?” Everything Jenson had told him about Nico came flooding back, it was a horror story.

“Yeah, he turned up.” Mark shook his head. “What are you going to do with him?”

“Take him home.” Jenson stated confidently.

“What’s wrong with a shelter?” Mark suggested.

“Mark!” Jenson barked.

“Is too late to find one now, can’t leave him on the streets.” Fernando agreed.

“Exactly, I’m taking him back with me. I have to do something.” Jenson spat.

“He abandoned you.” Mark tried to reason with him, his life was so good now.

“And maybe you think the state he’s in now has something to do with that. I’m not doing the same.” Jenson turned on his heels and stalked off hoping to find Nico still there. “Fuck!”

“Bet he’s done a runner.” Mark sighed, but Fernando pushed past him and jogged out the front door.

“Nico!” Fernando shouted after a retreating figure in the distance. “Stop!” He ran after him with Jenson close behind him, he hoped Mark was too as a fall out between them wasn’t about to happen. Jenson was going to need support.

“Oi, Nico!” Mark pelted past them both and grabbed Nico as gently as he could, he was pissed but not cruel. “Nico, please, stop.”

“Going to a shelter.”

“Nico, just, sorry okay. It’s all a bit of a shock. We thought you were dead.” Looking at him under a streetlamp made him seem a hell of a lot older than he knew he was. “It’s a shock. Are you alright?” As Jenson and Fernando approached Nico got wobbly on his feet. “I got you.”

“What happened?” Jenson demanded.

“Fainted, running dehydrated is not a good idea.” Mark replied softly. “Get a cab, we’ll take him to hospital.”

Fernando took the initiative and jogged back to the main road, turning back he saw Mark try to pick Nico up, how Nico could let him get himself into this state chilled him, what happened to him must have been traumatic.

“Help me take this coat off, I’ll be able to pick him up then.” Mark asked Jenson quietly, he didn’t want to get into an argument over this. “There we go.” Mark cooed kindly as he hoisted Nico into his arm, he was coming round but in no fit state to walk. “Sorry Jense.”

“I know.” Jenson relented, he had quickly realised Mark was just looking out for him. With Nico’s coat and treasured book in his arms he stayed close as they walked towards Fernando and the waiting taxi.

“Oh no, I don’t want that in here stinking up my cab.” The cab driver barked as he caught a glimpse of the homeless person being put in the back.

“He’s a person and we’re taking him to hospital.” Mark matched his tone. “We’ll pay up front if that helps.”

“I’m not going all the way to Kings from here, that’ll be the end of my night.” He shook his head.

“Give us five minutes.” Jenson gave his own address, at least then Nico could be somewhere warm. “Okay?”

“Fifty quid.”

“Fucking rip off.” Mark muttered as they pooled the cash they had on them, it wasn’t as if they could wait. “Fine, here you go.” He put Nico onto the seat beside him and strapped him in, Jenson sat opposite him with Fernando opposite Nico.

They spent the short journey in silence, unable to figure out how to start a conversation that didn’t centre around Nico’s current state. Nico was doing his best to stay upright and when they took a corner Mark made sure he stayed that way.

“Here you are.”

The driver braked sharply which threw Nico forward. “You’re a dick.” Mark shouted before unclipping the seatbelt from around Nico’s waist and helping him outside, but as soon as his feet were on the pavement Jenson took over.

“I’ve got you.” Jenson whispered soothingly.

“I’m a fuck up.” He rasped.

“Who isn’t?” Jenson guided him up the steps with an arm around his back, with Mark and Fernando in tow.

“No, I’ll ruin your house.” Nico panicked. This wasn’t what he wanted, he did not want to get involved in Jenson’s life, it was the last thing he wanted to do. He just had to see him once more.

“It’s raining again Nico, come inside.” He was firm but careful not to raise his voice whilst he opened the front door, pushing it open he felt Nico flinch. “Nico, please, it’s here or the hospital.”

The thought of a stranger touching him made him physically heave, so to avoid that experience he gingerly stepped over the threshold. It was so nice inside, clean and bright, something he only saw every three months, if he remembered. But it wasn’t sterile here, it was so warm and inviting he was already regretting entering.

“Book?” His eyes darted around to locate it.

“Got it here.” Fernando handed it over and Nico snatched it to his chest. “Is okay, I didn’t look.”

“I’ve got it from here. Thanks.” Jenson turned from Mark and Fernando

“Jense, are you sure?” Mark tried. “He really needs to see a doctor.” Jenson mouthed the word ‘tomorrow’ at him.

“Yeah.” He sighed, Nico was clearly uncomfortable with all of them standing around him. “Nico’ll be fine here tonight.”

Mark handed over the coat and Nico grabbed it off of him, his eyes never leaving the floor. “Right, we’ll leave you both to it. You know where to find us if you need anything. Okay?”

“Alright.” He waved them off.

He waited for the door to shut before speaking. “Jenson, I...I...I’m so sorry. I need to go, it’s too much to be here. You shouldn’t...what I did to you...I’m a bad person…it’s not far to you.” He dived for the door but Jenson easily kept it shut.

“Nico.” He felt like he was talking to a frightened child. “If you want to leave so badly I’ll accept it, but only once you’ve had a bath.” He was using baby steps, just one achievable goal at a time. “I’ll wash your clothes as well.”

He would kill for a wash, he couldn’t remember the last proper one he had that didn’t involve freeing cold water, or a sink. “Sorry.”

Jenson ignored the apology, he couldn’t keep telling him not to say it because it needed to be said, but he knew it helped him to keep saying it. “Alright, let’s leave your coat here.” Jenson prised it out of his hands and hung it on an empty coat hook.

“Don’t, just don’t.” He took it off and folded it up and lay it on the floor. “I’m not worth it.”

Jenson watched him struggle to get back up, it was obvious he was in a lot of pain, god know where he had been sleeping. “I’ll show you where the bathroom is.” He led the way slowly wondering what he was doing, and what he was going to do. If he took him to hospital they would fix him up and ship him out, and he couldn’t stay here without David realising that Nico was the reason he was such a mess inside. Maybe Mark had a point, but not a shelter, he needed proper help. Therapy, rehab maybe. Jenson resolved to spend the night researching a facility, the best, to get Nico pointing in the right direction again.

Nico watched Jenson turn the taps on in the big roll top bath, the hot water streamed in and he could already feel his skin itch to be washed, but then came the dread of the colour of the water he would leave behind. He would clean it afterwards he thought. Feeling exhausted he braced himself against the tiled wall and waited for Jenson to leave, but he didn’t.

“Nico, I have no idea what’s happened since I last saw you, and I won’t pry, but let me help you.” He tried to make eye contact but Nico refused point blank to cooperate. “Let’s get these clothes off.” Nico fumbled but with the extra exertion of tonight what was left of his coordination was gone, he hated it but he had to let Jenson help take his tee shirt and jumper off.

He honestly tried to keep the shock hidden, but seeing Nico’s body made him gasp, he was rake thin and bruised, he looked like he had been beaten. The dark bruising over his left side of his ribcage gave the reason for his pained movement. “Oh Nico.” His eyes welled up with tears and they fell as Nico turned to hide himself. “Don’t, I’m...what happened?” He clamped his lips tightly together. “Sorry, don’t answer, I’m in shock. I thought you were dead.”

“Almost.”

“Don’t say that.” Jenson wanted to hug him, but being mindful of his apparent injury and his reaction to physical contact he held back. “Never say that.” No matter how much hatred he felt for Nico after his disappearance he never wanted him dead. “Let’s get you in the bath.” He eased the baggy sweatpants down his legs after Nico toed his trainers off, the tatty socks came off quickly and were shoved into his shoes. The only thing left were his boxers that looked oddly new.

“I stole them.” Nico knew he was wondering.

“I’m not judging you.” Jenson replied softly. “You can keep them on if you want.”

Nico nodded and took his arm as he stepped into the water, it was the perfect temperature, hot but not too hot and the bubbles were divine. He sunk in carefully but couldn’t relax, Jenson shouldn’t be this calm, this kind after what he had done. “Shout at me, you know you want to.”

“Nico, that would achieve nothing. I stopped being angry a long time ago, I had to. Now I’m sad that you didn’t come find me sooner, you didn’t deserve whatever’s happened to you.” He reached for a sponge and handed it over. “Let me get you something to drink.” Leaving the bathroom door open he jogged down to the kitchen and took several bottles of water from the fridge, putting some in the spare bedroom he took a couple back to the bathroom, opening one in preparation. “Here.”

Nico guzzled it down, it was fresh and clean, and relief flooded through him when he felt the heat in his throat die down. “Thank you.” He concentrated on the bubbles in front of him once he had taken his boxers off, he wasn’t worthy enough to look him in the eyes. “What are you doing?” Jenson had tipped his head back gently and had poured water over his hair.

“Washing your hair, there’s a lot of knots to work out.” Jenson grabbed a comb and slowly began to tease them out. Nico washed his body on his own with the odd contented sigh floating into the silence between them, and as gently as he could manage and taking his time Jenson just about detangled his shoulder length blonde hair. “It’s long.” Jenson commented before he poured a liberal amount of shampoo into his palm, then massaging it against his scalp he felt Nico finally relax. Then cry.

“You shouldn’t be nice to me.” He sobbed.

“How would shouting make it better?” Jenson kept his voice low.

He could handle nasty, he could handle violence, he bore the scars but he could understand it. He couldn't grasp why anyone would be nice to him, least of all Jenson, anyone would give him permission to beat him senseless. “Just would.” Nico sniffed.

“Alright.” He wasn’t sure how to react to that so instead he picked up a large towel and held it up to shield Nico as he stood up in the bath tub. “I’ll get you some fresh clothes in a minute.”

Nico stepped out of the bath as Jenson wrapped the warm towel around him, he couldn't bear the thought of someone touching him and for years he had been repulsed by it. But here and now Jenson's hands were on him and he wanted more even though it was wrong to want it. He didn't deserve a second of kindness.

“Sorry it’s pink, had an accident with a red top.” He helped Nico into the dressing gown and tied it around his waist. “There’s a spare toothbrush over there for you.” Jenson pointed over to the sink and left him to brush his teeth, twice.

“I need to go.” Nico murmured after his rinsed his mouth out, he then move to struggle to bend over for his clothes.

“They’re not washed.” Jenson asserted. “I said I would happy to let you leave once everything was washed.”

“Stop.” He pushed Jenson away. “This is not right.” He coughed. “You can’t...I abandoned you.”

“Nico there was some reason why whatever happened, happened.” Jenson pulled the dressing gown around him tighter. “I trust whatever that made you feel that disappearing was the only way out for you.” Pulling the plug out of the bath the dirty water began to drain away as he showed a reluctant Nico to his spare room. “Ignoring you, throwing you out on the street is not going to make me feel better, I’m not after revenge.” The years in therapy had worked.

Jenson left Nico to dry himself off properly so he could find some clothes for him, he guessed that even though he had the heating on that wasn’t going to be enough, Nico was scarily thin. His ribs were visible and his cheeks were hollow, he was a mess.

“Here you go.” Jenson handed over some pajama bottoms and a large tee shirt first with some boxers folded in between. “I’ll leave you some things for the morning too.”

“I’m going to go.” Nico asserted.

“Where?” Jenson demanded, he was tired and although he knew Nico needed to be treated carefully, he also knew a decent night’s sleep would help a little too. “Where on earth are you going to go?”

“Um...I’ve got somewhere.”

“Give me the address and I’ll take you there now.” He put his hands on his hips. “Tell me and we’ll go.”

“I…” He couldn’t show Jenson where he had been sleeping, he had a feeling a doorway wasn’t going to cut it tonight.

“Nico, sleep, please just sleep.” He took the damp towels and bundled them into his arms. He watched him fiddle with the book and it made him curious about the only thing in his possession. “See you in the morning.”

“Thank you.”

Jenson hated himself a little for doing it but he double locked the front and back door to keep Nico in, he had to help him, he had to get him proper help. “Hello.” Jenson answered his phone as he reached his bedroom.

“Hey, just wanted to say goodnight again.”

“Miss my charming personality already?” Jenson answered happily.

“Not one bit.” David laughed. “Were you alright before, you seemed a bit harassed.” There was something else in his eyes he couldn’t place, but he hadn’t known him long enough to figure it out.

“Yeah, just think I put a bit too much on myself, bit overwhelmed.” He hoped this wasn’t a lie that was going to spiral out of control.

That would make sense, he was a fun loving person but incredible serious about his work. “Just take it easy okay, I’ll look after you when I get back.”

“Love the sound of that.” Jenson grinned as he padded around his room.

Nico could hear the conversation Jenson was having, he sounded so happy. That was probably his partner, he imagined a cute blonde girl just dying to see Jenson. It couldn’t be too much longer before he had children, lots of blonde haired children running around covered in flour and sugar because Jenson had been teaching them how to bake.

“Have fun.” Jenson replied. “I’ve got plenty to do, I’ll be keeping myself entertained.” He would explain it all to David when he got back, he couldn’t keep something like this from him, he didn’t want to. “Are you okay Nico?” Jenson lightly tapped on the door, he just needed to make sure before he went to bed. “Nico?” He pushed the door open to find the room empty, the pajamas untouched but the sweatpants and hoody intended for tomorrow gone, so was the book. “Nico!”

Sprinting away he thundered down the stairs getting closer to the desperate rattle of his front door, Nico was yanking on the handle. “Let me out, just let me out. You can’t keep me here, it’s not right!” It didn’t matter that his throat was raw, Jenson was keeping him trapped, he had prepared him. “You haven’t paid!”

“Nico, Nico.” He soothed. “I’m not…” Now at the bottom of the stairs he took an exploratory step forward but Nico just pressed himself to the door. “Okay, I’m not going to come any closer.” He retreated to sit on the stairs, making himself lower than Nico to lessen the threat. “I’m not expecting anything from you.”

“You said you had plenty to do, be entertained.” He had heard those words used on him before.

“I didn’t mean, shit Nico, I didn’t mean you.” He didn’t want to get emotional, but hearing and seeing Nico react this way to a few words really brought it home. “Nico, I only want to help you, I want nothing in return.” He took a chance and moved to him, his long hair was covering his face so he swept it over his ears.

“I’m not the same person.” He was a worthless human being, barely human. He’d hurt everyone who had loved him.

“Nor am I.” Jenson picked him off the floor gently. “No one is.”

Nico’s stomach growled fiercely. “Sorry.”

“You want me to let you go hungry, I’ve haven’t changed that much. I’ll cook.” He saw the fight fill up Nico’s eyes. “No arguments.” Despite Nico yawning Jenson could see him not want to go to sleep yet. “I’ll show you to the kitchen.”

Nico was set up at the breakfast bar and watched Jenson quickly slice up some cheese and bread before turning the grill on. He mouth was watering at the thought of eating something hot, then he was positively salivating when Jenson switched the kettle on.

“Here you are, cheese on toast.” He slid the plate across the granite countertop towards Nico before turning his attention to make them both a cup of tea. The hot liquid perfect for soothing which they both needed, as Nico demolished both slices before starting on his tea.

“There’s no rush.” Jenson assured. “Take all the time you need.”

Nico set his cup down tentatively and asked meekly. “You’re not going to throw me out?”

“No. But I do want to take you to hospital tomorrow, your ribs are broken aren’t they?” Nico nodded. “You need to be taken care of properly, you need to be checked out by a doctor.” He heard Nico sigh quietly beside him. “I’ll be there with you, if you want me to be.”

He didn’t want someone to touch him, he vowed to never let that happen again, but he couldn’t remember the last time his body didn’t hurt. “Okay.”

“Good.” Jenson was relieved. “Good. Time for bed.”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

He hadn’t slept well at all, every single noise jerked him awake, even the ones that hadn’t bothered him all the years he had lived here, but there was a ghost in the house. When he did manage to sleep it was either flooded with memories of university, flashes of kisses, sex and happiness, or spiked with the nightmare of the attack, the arguments and his disappearance. Jenson woke up more tired than he went to bed.

But he didn’t have the option of trying for more sleep because someone was knocking at his door, and as he sleepily made his way down the stairs he realised who it would be. “Mum, hello.” He saw his sisters poke their heads around. “Alright Tanya, Nat, Sam.”

“We’re starving.” Sam laughed. “Get dressed.”

Simone could see something was wrong with Jenson, it was a less severe reminder of the look he wore when he turned up at home completely broken one weekend. He looked haunted and she could see traces of that around his eyes now. “Girls, Jenson is clearly going to need some time to fix his hair, how about we meet you at the cafe we went past.”

They left agreeably and Simone entered his house all the while ignoring the panic on his face. “What’s gone on?”

He took her to the kitchen and shut the door. “I can’t see you today, I’ve got something I need to do.”

“That’s fine, but you're worrying me, I don’t need details but I need something.”

“I’m fine.”

“Jenson Alexander Lyons Button, I am your mother, and as long as you aren’t burying a body I will be here for you.” He fell into the hug she offered easily. "You know what, even if you were burying a body."

Jenson smiled before revealing all. “It’s Nico.”

“That boy from university?” Jenson nodded at her. “What about him?” She was highly sceptical.

“I found him, or rather he found me, last night. He’s upstairs.” His eyes flicked upwards. "He's in trouble."

“You need to tread very carefully here, what about David? He made you smile so much last night, I like him a lot.” She spent most of the night talking to him in between catching up with Mark and Fernando, but being years since she saw her son look truly at ease with himself she naturally focused on David. And she liked him immensely, he was mature and stable.

“I’m going to tell him when he gets back from Scotland.” Jenson practiced what he was going to say last night as he tried to sleep.

“You do remember what happened though, the years of therapy?” He was barely able to keep himself together, if it wasn't for baking she would have feared the worse.

Jenson only ever told her he had disappeared, she would never understand the complete truth about Nico, only two people in his life were trusted with that information. “Yes, he abandoned me and look what happened. But worse has happened to him and you and dad taught me to never give up and I can’t do that with him. I’m going to get him the best help, that’s all.”

“Sometimes I wished you didn’t listen to everything we taught you.” She shook her head kindly. “Just be aware, yes?”

“I will be.”

Things must be bad with Nico for Jenson to be this sure. “I’ll say goodbye now, I have a feeling this isn’t going to be done quickly.”

“Thank you.” He hugged her tightly before following her out. “Thanks for understanding.”

“You’re my son Jenson, I trust you.” Simone debated whether or not she would ask Mark to keep an eye on Jenson, but she didn’t know if anyone else was aware. She was going to have to let him figure this out on his own.

He gave himself enough time to take a breath before returning back upstairs only to hear the shower going, but there was steam escaping from underneath the door that made him want to check on Nico. “You okay in there?” He pushed the door open a little and spotted Nico curled up in the bath with the shower beating down on him, rushing over he found him naked and muttering so to begin with he shut the water off.

“Dirty, dirty, dirty.” He mumbled. “Dirty, dirty, dirty.”

Reaching over Jenson snatched a towel off the radiator and wrapped it around his shivering shoulders. “I’m here Nico, I’m here.” He was overwhelmed instantly, Nico wasn’t just broken, he had been decimated. “Let me help you.”

“I made a mess of the bed. Had to be clean.”

“I don’t care.” He encouraged Nico out of the tub and helped him dry off carefully, leaving his intimate areas alone. Fixing the towel around his waist he wrapped another over his shoulders to shield him from the change in temperature, then it was back to the spare room.

Jenson wasn’t sure about what he was going to find when he entered, but nothing was out of place, the duvet was thrown back but there wasn’t a speck of dirt on the sheets. He felt like he could unravel at any moment, but he couldn’t, he wouldn’t, he was going to keep himself together for Nico. “How about we get your hair dry?” Jenson waited for a nod before moving to get the hairdryer.

He was empty. He couldn’t feel. He didn’t want to.

“Do you want me to do it?” Jenson asked quietly.

“Not going to have sex.” He slurred.

“No Nico, I don’t want you to get a cold.” Knowing Nico couldn’t see his face he turned away to compose himself, blinking back the tears he switched the hairdryer on. Making sure it was on the lowest setting he began to gently dry his hair, keeping the heat off his skin as much as possible.

“Thank you.” He mumbled on instinct once the noise stopped.

“I’m just going to pack a few things and then we’ll go.”

“Go?” He throat threatened to close up on him at the thought of being thrown out.

“Yes, to hospital, you really need to get checked out.” He knew Nico wouldn’t be returning, there was no way he would be released.

Nico couldn’t remember the exact date he last got tested, it was the one time he got to sit in a clean room, and people were nice there. He had gotten fairly friendly with one of the nurses who always made sure he ate something before he left.

"Don't..."

"I won't leave you there, I'll stay if you want me too." Jenson made an effort to give Nico options and not tell him what to do, because he knew he wouldn’t have had being given that luxury recently.

Nico took a deep breath. "Don't waste your time.” He would take the offer of a lift to the hospital because if he was honest his body hurt.

“It won’t be a waste.” He assured softly. “What would you like to wear?”

“Um.” It was too much. “I…” Panic was beginning to scratch at his throat. “Don’t...know.” He didn’t have the right to make demands.

“It’s okay. I can pick something out for you if you want.” He waited for the nod before going to choose a pair of old jeans and a tee shirt. “Try this on.” He handed them over with some fresh underwear and socks and left him to get dressed. “I’ll be downstairs.”

Quickly nipping into his bedroom he took a backpack to fill with clothes for Nico, he was hoping that he would be kept at the hospital until he could find somewhere to help him get back onto his feet. It was painfully clear to Jenson that he needed medical attention.

“Ready?” Jenson asked, he had been sitting in the living room waiting to hear Nico come down the stairs, but if he hadn’t have stepped on the squeaky step he would have missed his cue. Nico was doing his best to be invisible.

“Mmm.”

“The cab should be here in a minute.” As silence settled between them a horn sounded outside and broke it, both avoiding each other’s eyes it was only when Jenson moved that they released the breath they were each holding.

They travelled silently once Jenson requested that they were to be taken to Kings Hospital, Jenson was contemplating how he was going to explain this to David. He hoped he would understand when he told him, there was no way this was becoming a secret, he adored spending time with David, he was uncomplicated and funny, and they had loads in common. Plus he was becoming adept at dinner party conversation, Fernando called them a double act, and it was hard to argue with him because banter flew back and forth easily.

Nico stared out of the window as they passed by streets he knew, ones from happier times and others where he gave out chunks of his soul for cash. The sky was brighter today, none of the clouds that had hung around last night had stayed, but Jenson had. Why he had decided to help him would be a mystery he knew he never find out. Not only that but Mark and Fernando were there, and Mark had carried him and fought for him in the taxi.

“Here you go.”

“Thanks, keep the change.” Jenson handed the money over and left the driver the change as he climbed out at the accident and emergency entrance behind Nico. “Come on.”

Wrapping the thick hoody around him he followed Jenson through the automatic doors, the tang of cleaning chemicals hit his nose uncomfortably as they walked to reception. He had no idea what he was going to say to the doctor, he wasn’t sure he had the words and but he was sure he didn’t want Jenson to hear them.

“I’ll go get us somewhere to sit.” Jenson could read the apprehension in Nico’s face, and it wasn’t like he could speak for him, he had assumptions not explanations.

“Name please.”

“Nico Rosberg.”

“Address?”

“I...um...don’t...don’t have one.” He wouldn’t give Jenson’s even if he knew it.

“Okay, that’s fine.”

He knew she was typing in homeless and each keystroke sounded louder than the last.

“Why are you here today Nico?”

“My...um...brought me in...ribs.” He took a breath and was grateful for her patience. “Sorry. I think I broke my ribs.”

“Alright, if you take a seat we’ll get to you as soon as we can.” She gave him a sympathetic look as he turned away to join the friend he came in with in the waiting area. Thankfully it was quiet so it wouldn’t take long for him to be seen.

He barely had time to get into a comfortable position before his name was called out, the wise looking doctor waited for him to prise himself off the metal seat.

“I’ll wait here Nico.”

“You don’t have to.” Nico turned around. “You must have something better to do.”

“I’ll wait.” He raised his hand to stop the back and forth. “Just tell the truth, yeah?”

Nico nodded before following the older man into an examination room, standing in the doorway he hovered for a few moments before moving over to perch on the edge of the bed. He was moving over to the sink to put on a pair of latex gloves, the snap made his skin prickle but he repressed the shudder and internalised it, he was like so many of the men who had paid for him.

“Alright there Nico, I’m Dr Hartstein and I understand you’ve hurt your ribs?”

“Yes.” Why did it have to be a male doctor?

“Well if you just pop up on the bed and lie down I’ll take a look.” Nico looked like a frightened deer so he was careful to treat him gently.

Nico eased himself up and slowly lay back on the bed that was thankfully raised.

“Just lift up your top for me please.” As he shuffled about he took another look at the brief admission notes and his patient record, he’d been in several hospitals over the years with a variety of injuries, mainly ones related to being beaten. He didn’t look the sort to start a fight. Then he caught the regular testing at a sex clinic, since medical records were under one system it made it easier to spot patterns.

He flinched when he touched him, there wasn’t any pressure from his fingertips yet but his body was sensitive to touch. The words from the recent lecture on sex workers was coming back to him, it was all based on women, he’d never thought he would come across a man in the same situation. “You’ve got quite a few bruises here Nico, some are quite a lot older than the one over your ribs.”

His fingers padded over his stomach, over bruises that were weeks old and some that were relatively fresh. “Ah.” His skin felt raw.

“Sorry.” He pulled his hand away. “I think you’re right, they are broken, but I’m going to order an x-ray to confirm.”

“Okay.” Nico pushed himself so he was upright and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

“How did it happen?” He didn’t feel comfortable sending him away with instructions to take it easy and rest, because nothing about him said he knew how to do that.

“Got into a fight.” He mumbled.

“You don’t look the sort to get into fights Nico.” He spent long enough as a doctor to be a fairly good judge of people.

“Well, I did.” He spat.

“I didn’t mean to offend you, but you’re quite thin, I’m a bit concerned.” The absolute last thing he wanted to do was to upset him, but seeing his ribs and hip bones so clearly made him worry about his general health.

“I’m. Fine.” He gritted his teeth.

“Let’s get you this x-ray then.” He put the request in via the touchscreen in the room and was relieved to see a slot available now. “We’re in luck, they’re free.” His offer of help to get him down from the bed was valiantly ignored, but he didn’t make a fuss and pointed Nico down the corridor to the x-ray department.

It didn’t take long for the images to get sent through and the first reaction he had wasn’t medical, he was shocked, his ribs were a mess but they could be fixed, it wasn’t the first time they had been broken. Now having read his file properly he knew that was only the tip of the iceberg, and that he had seen him before back when he worked in Silverstone. He remembered the look on his face when he first saw him, he could just see his eyes. The fear shielded by bravery.

“Hi Nico, here’s your x-ray. As you you can see, I suspect you already guessed, your ribs haven’t healed properly.”

“Right.” He watched his index finger point out each break and the bulge of bone growth.

“You must be in agony with this.” He stated.

“I cope.” Sometimes it took his breath away, and sometimes if he was lucky the pain got so bad he simply passed out.

“Hmm.” He flipped the chart over and started jotting down the tests he wanted to do. “Nico, I would really like to run some tests and admit you overnight. That way we can start to manage your pain properly.”

Nico could imagine the fuss Jenson would make if he upped and left, but then if he snuck away he wouldn’t be able to find him, and then he could just get on with he had planned to do last night. “Okay. Let me go tell my friend.” The only problem with his plan was that he had to walk back through the waiting room to leave, but as he slowly poked his head around Jenson was no where to be seen.

Jenson was pondering what to buy from the vending machine, Nico had been about an hour so far which he hoped was a good indication that he was being properly looked at. But while he tried to decide between chocolate and crisps he caught someone in the corner of his eye. “Nico? Nico!” He jogged after him and reached for his arm. “Did they discharge you?” Jenson was incredulous. Dragging him back in he walked straight through until he was face to face with the doctor from earlier.

“Did you make him go?!” He looked shocked. “How could you do that? He’s…” Jenson remembered where he was and lowered his voice. “He needs proper help, he’s in pain and I can’t fix that.”

“He was going to tell you I was admitting him.” The layers of complexity of the case were mounting up.

Jenson felt stupid. “Sorry, I’m really sorry.” How could Nico do that?

“It’s okay. Nico, would you let me admit you?” He turned to Nico and waited for his answer, but out of the corner of his eye he could see his friend fighting to keep his opinion to himself. At least he had someone on his side.

“Okay.” He breathed.

“Thank you.” He was grateful, although he had a feeling his friend wouldn’t let him walk out of here, it made all the difference when the patient was willing. “Let’s get you into a bed and into a gown.”

“Sorry.” Nico mumbled.

“It’s okay, please don’t do it again, don’t refuse help. We obviously came across each other for a reason.” Jenson pleaded.

How could he tell Jenson he didn’t want to be saved? He nodded slowly and followed the doctor instead, the walk took him past some people who actually needed help, deserved it. There was a crowd of people around one bed, they were working furiously to figure out what was wrong, commands were being thrown around firmly but calmly. He didn’t deserve the bed. He shouldn’t take up resources someone else needed.

“Come on Nico.” Hartstein prompted, Nico had ground to a halt behind him. “It’s just in here.” He pulled the curtains around to give Nico his privacy.

Nico rested against the bed for a moment to catch his breath, he used to be so fit. He used to be many things. Taking the gown he waited for them both to leave before taking off the clothes Jenson lent him, he shouldn’t have but he buried his nose in the fabric, the comforting scent of cleanliness filled his senses and overrode the clinical one of the location.

“Are you okay in there Nico?”

“Yes.” The curtain was flicked back and the doctor entered again with Jenson hanging back.

“If it’s okay I’m going to have a look at you.” It took some coaxing but he eventually checked his body over, there were sores on his legs and back, with a range of scars and bruises interspersed in between. Replacing his gown and tying it back up he quickly scribbled some notes. “There might be a bit of a wait for a bed, but while we do that I’m going to get some fluids into you.”

Nico let the nurse insert a needle into the back of his hand and connect it to a bag of clear liquid now hanging above his head, once she had taped it in place Dr Hartstein returned.

He had made some quick phone calls so he was able to make Nico an offer he hoped he would agree to. “I need to ask you some questions, they might be a bit difficult, but they’re important.”

Nico was dreading it, but he didn’t have the strength to fight so he gave a short nod. “Don’t want Jenson to hear.”

“That’s fine.” He poked his head out of the curtains. “He must have gone for a cup of tea.”

Nico was pleased, he didn’t need to burden Jenson with this. “Go on.”

“Have you ever used drugs?”

Nico inhaled deeply and remembered Jenson's plea for him to tell the truth. "Yes." He whispered before the doctor reeled off question after probing question into where he was living, how long he had been on the streets and any services he used.

"I was the service." He laughed bitterly.

He creased his brow at the way Nico talked about himself. "Do you truly want to get through this? I understand it's a big question, but it's a vital one." He waited for Nico to answer him, hopefully in the affirmative, but instead he watched his lips press into a thin line. "Nico, you have a chance here and I don't want to scare you, but you only get so many in life." In truth he believed it could be his last.

He considered his options, and there weren't much to choose from, it was simply life or death. "Maybe."

Chapter Text

“Since when were you a morning person?” Jean-Eric asked as he finally caught up with Dan at their local coffee shop, he was hunched over his laptop and an empty cup.

“Hrgh.”

Jean-Eric smiled softly at the grunt and went to put in an order for both of them, Dan looked exhausted and he couldn’t remember him coming to bed at all. And that was the reason why he probably didn’t sleep too well and also the reason why he had so much room to move about. He absolutely hated sleeping alone, all the time he spent in hospital proved that, he was awake all night, but slept through visiting hours when Dan was there holding his hand or sneaking into the bed and holding him.

As the barista steamed the milk he wondered what would have happened if Dan hadn’t have found him and shuddered. Turning his head he gazed at Dan, still thundering away on the keyboard, and thanked whatever force brought them together at the pre-programme. They had been together for almost twelve years since that first kiss. With braces.

“Thanks.” Jean-Eric handed over the money and took the two cups over to the table strewn with a stack of paper, empty muffin and sweet wrappers. Peering over Dan’s shoulder he saw what he was working on. “How’s it going?”

“Almost done.” He muttered.

“Okay.” Jean-Eric sat back and stayed silent as Dan continued to work, it was another weekend lost to Red Bull but he would never start an argument over it, he had done it plenty of times himself over the years. He took the opportunity to think back over their relationship since graduation, he smiled first at the memory of them getting frisky when they changed into their gowns with their parents just the other side of the door.

As Dan scrunched up his nose at something he didn’t like on the screen it reminded him of the expression he gave his father when they got found out. When he was sorting through his things at home before moving to Austria, at his father’s request to empty his room, he dug out a few textbooks from the Red Bull pre-programme but had forgotten what he had secreted in between the pages.

“Jean-Eric would you please explain what this is.”

The tone of his voice sent a shiver through his whole body, and turning around he saw the anger on his father’s face. “Explain what?”

“This photo you’ve hidden in this book.”

His eyes focused on the image his father was holding, it was one he had taken of him and Dan on his phone, he had made a print of it because he liked the idea of having a physical reminder. It was dangerous. And now he knew the true extent of that danger.

They were kissing.

How was he going to explain kissing Dan? How was he going to explain why they were topless? How was he going to explain why they were laying down in bed?

“Jean-Eric, answer me when I ask you a question.”

He flinched when his father roared, his face flushed red with rage. “I…” Jean-Eric just about managed to open his mouth for a single syllable before his mother reached his doorway.

“Jean-Marie! What is this shouting for?”

His father didn’t say anything instead choosing to thrust the photo at his mother and stood with his back against the wall he watched her face fall. It felt the ground had given way and he was free-falling, pushing into the wall he tried to prove he was still standing, still breathing, still alive.

“Jean-Eric?”

“Maman.” He croaked.

“Daniel?”

The shock was so evident in her voice it cut through Jean-Eric painfully.

“Daniel!”

“No! Père, no!” He leapt towards the open door and tried to close it, but by the time he reached it Dan was already at the top of the stairs looking confused. Jean-Eric tried his best to warn him with a look, a shake of the head but his father yanked so hard on his shoulder he fell backwards to the floor.

“Jev!” Dan barreled into the room to protect Jean-Eric, but it was short lived. He was soon the centre of attention.

“Hands off my son!” Jean-Marie tore them apart. “How dare you, we let you into our home and you do this to our son? You corrupt him with your unnatural ways!”

He was pointing at Dan, then he was pushing him. “Père” Jean-Eric scrabbled off the floor. “No.”

“Jean-Eric stop.” His mother was holding him back.

Dan was staying silent, he knew he was trying not to make the situation worse, but it was the worst it had ever been and his father was saying some disgusting names. Barking at him in the same tone he used on him whenever he did something wrong.

“You have nothing to say because it is all true, you have ruined my son, made him unworthy. What if someone saw this, he could never marry.”

Jean-Eric felt sick at what his father was saying, he wasn’t ruined, Dan had given him a chance at a life he could only dream of. “I am not ruined, Dan has not ruined me!” He spat. Levering himself out of his mother’s grip he dashed to stand between his father and Dan. “You can’t say those things.” He gritted his teeth.

“I can, he is a disgrace to his parents, unnatural, disturbed.”

Jean-Eric felt everything around him ground to a halt, his world stopped. He’d directed all that hate at the man he loved.

“No he is not, you can not say that! His parents love him, they love everything about him. And so do I.” His voice climbed up to a scream.

“What!” He cried.

“I love him.” He roared. “And I hope after everything you’ve said he still loves me.”

“See, this is the corruption I speak of.” Jean-Marie spat.

Before he would have cowered, apologised and taken the punishment. But not now. “If you see it as corruption, then fine, I have always been corrupted. But Dan had no part in that, all he did was show me it was okay to feel this way, that it is not wrong. He showed me love.”

“If that is so then you are no son of mine.” He kept his voice low.

“Jean-Marie!” His mother cried out in shock.

“No, if he is so sure that he is...unnatural...then he can go.”

His father’s vow was eerily quiet and steady, more unnerving than any amount of screaming and shouting. “Go?”

“You can stay, respectfully marry and join my company, or you can go. You choose your family, or you choose ‘that’.”

He looked over at Dan who was stood solemnly beside him, it was simple he could choose to be happy or he could choose a miserable existence. But he would leave his mother and sister behind, thankfully Lea was at school and wouldn’t hear her father talking like this. He’d probably say he ran off amongst other horrendous things, but...Dan.

“Dan.”

“Then I have no son. Get out.”

He turned his back on him and left taking his mother forcefully with him, “Jean-Eric.” She broke away to hug him.

“Why would you hug a stranger?” Jean-Marie remarked airily. “Come on now, they are about to leave.” He stood aside to make way for them.

He had put everything he wanted in his car already and was only sorting out things to be thrown away or stored in the attic, Jean-Eric knew everything in here was going to thrown out regardless of any flickers of sentimentality that remained. Including any family photos in which he appeared. He was thankful he had his own collection already in his possession.

“Let’s go.” He put an arm around Dan and guided him out, his father had taken his mother elsewhere in the house. “Wait.” He dived back into his room, remembering a silly cuddly toy he won at a fair many years ago that she wanted but he kept. If he was having to make this choice, and if his sister was going to be told lies about him, he had to somehow let her know he loved her. Placing the little blue bear under her pillow he said a silent prayer that he wasn’t about to ruin her life, hoping that she found her path and stuck to it.

As he sat in their rented car he wished he had written her a note, but he knew his father would now be going through her room to remove any trace of him, a silly blue bear under her pillow would go unnoticed.

“I’ll only be a minute.” Dan assured between rushed sips of coffee.

“Take all the time you need.” Jean-Eric cooed.

Dan had been silent the entire way to Austria, they took turns to drive only swapping when they filled up on fuel. The air was tense in the car when they were both awake, the range of foreign radio stations providing the commentary of their journey that was supposed to be the start of a new adventure.

“This was supposed to be fun.” Jean-Eric was the first to speak when they pulled up outside the hotel Red Bull had provided them with. “Sorry.”

“For what?” Dan rasped, his voice scratchy from not being used.

“My father.”

“Don’t apologise for him.” Dan gritted his teeth when he answered.

Dan was distant with him when they checked in, and more so when the got to their room, and when he began changing for bed Dan locked himself in the bathroom. “Dan, Dan?” He knocked on the door. “Dan please.”

“Jev.”

“Dan.” He could hear him crying. “Open the door.”

They climbed into bed soon after, twin beds, they were sleeping apart in the same room and it made his heart ache, it was a physical pain that wouldn’t shift. It hung over them, the cloud of his choice darkened the few days they were supposed to be spending searching for an apartment. Instead they spent the days apart and the nights sleeping separately with their backs to each other.

Until Jean-Eric couldn’t bear it any longer, he waited for Dan to mumble something about needing a strong drink before running a bath. He made it hotter than usual so when he got in it scorched his skin, the burn soothed him, numbed him. He’d hurt Dan, his father’s words had hurt him, he’d messed it all up and dragged him down.

So it made sense the press the cool metal against his skin, he’d spent the day choosing the blade, making sure it was sharp enough to get the job done the moment he put the necessary pressure on it. And when he did relief was his first thought, Dan would be so much better off without him. He loved him but…

“Sorry about this, I promise…” Dan began.

“Dan, we’ve got all the time in the world.” Jean-Eric stated with faith.

He woke up in a hospital, his eyes opened to be faced with stark brightness. And Dan. As he acclimatised to his surroundings he turned his head to see Dan curled up in the chair beside him, watching over him with tired eyes ringed with red.

“Sorry.”

Dan didn’t reply but instead unfolded himself from the chair and clambered onto the bed, laying on his side he wrapped his arms around him. They stayed like that until the doctor appeared for rounds, then Dan respectfully took to his chair, but only long enough for the doctor to check him over.

“I love you.”

With those words Jean-Eric began to cry and Dan stayed there to soak each and every teardrop, there were plenty for him to catch as he realised what he had done. He hadn’t hurt himself, but hurt Dan, he’d just passed the pain on.

---

“Sorry.”

“What do you have to be sorry for?” Jean-Eric asked as they sat on a bench in the hospital grounds.

“You gave up your whole family for me, I caused you all of this pain.”

“Dan! No!” He grabbed at his shirt weakly, the bandage around his wrist covering up the painful wound beneath was visible from underneath his long sleeve shirt. “How could I stay there, how could I spend my life living a lie?”

“But it is not a good decision if you led you to do this, I…”

“I didn’t want to keep hurting you, what my father called you was disgusting.”

“Yes, it was, but it wasn’t you!” Tears were streaming down Dan’s face now. “I broke your family up.”

“My father did that, you...I was an idiot, I thought it would be easier if you didn’t have me around but...Dan I...we...I am so sorry. If we can still be together I will make up to you every day.”

Dan scooped his legs up and laid them over his own so he could bring him close. “This darkness is passing by us, we both have to allow it to pass by so we can enjoy this adventure we’ve got laid out in front of us.”

Jean-Eric laid his head on his shoulder and agreed. “I’m going to get some help, we can’t do this on our own.” He couldn’t burden Dan further.

“Okay, but I’m coming with you, we’re a team.”

Jean-Eric smiled at the memory of the therapy they went through, at the time it was terrifying but they emerged after the sessions all the better for it. It took a lot of time, months and months of hard work and digging around for the truth, however they were stronger. So much stronger.

He played with the silver ring Dan had bought him when they were travelling, when the sessions drew to a close Jean-Eric cooked dinner to celebrate. He took his ring off and promoted Dan to do the same.

"I promise that I will never keep a secret from you."

Jean-Eric had then handed his ring over to Dan who in turn made a deep promise and swapped it for his own. Tears were shed in each others arms but the bond in them had only grown stronger, grown more complex, but it was love that prevailed and Jean-Eric thanked every day for that.

“Done!” Dan sighed dramatically before slumping back into his chair. “That feels good.”

“Yeah?” Jean-Eric smiled with amusement lacing his voice. “How long have you been at this?” The plan had been to enjoy a rare early night with a film, but as they were trying to pick one to rent Dan suddenly had a flash of inspiration and started to tap it out on his phone. But as the film progressed Dan excused himself because he was being a distraction, Jean-Eric let him go firm in the knowledge he wouldn’t be coming back to bed any time soon.

“A few hours.”

“And the rest.” Jean-Eric chuckled.

“Thanks for the coffee.” Dan smiled.

“Anytime.” He grinned, his eyes glancing over the handwritten notes. “Can I read it?”

“Of course! I said I needed your brain, I want your input too.” Dan reached over to grasp Jean-Eric’s hand. “I’ve done my best with the marketing, but we all know you’re the best.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“Where else is there left to discover?” Dan gasped with faux dramatics. “Do you want something to eat?”

“I ate before I left.” Jean-Eric turned the laptop to face himself and scrolled up to the top, already seeing it was dense with text and graphics. Red Bull loved their graphics.

Dan watched his eyes scan over the text slowly, he could tell he was reading it properly which warmed him, Jean-Eric always took him seriously which always gave him the push he needed to excel. It was just who he was, a great part of him that allowed him to be himself.

He had always been that way since the first time he met him, he was quiet and shy retreating into the background, sitting away from everyone else, hardly speaking. But Dan saw something, felt something whenever he got close, he was drawn to Jean-Eric from some unspeakable reason. Even though they hadn’t shared a word it was if Jean-Eric filled in a hole in his life.

He made a beeline for the tall guy who had been virtually silent and plonked himself next to him in the canteen. “Hi. I’m Daniel, but call me Dan, it’s much easier to pronounce.” He held his hand out and for a few awkward moments it went unanswered.

“Jean-Eric.” He eventually held out his hand and shook it.

“I like your accent.” It was sexy as hell.

“Yours is nice too”

“Only nice? I put a lot of effort into this and all I get is ‘nice’. Time to go back to the drawing board I think.” Dan sighed dramatically as he made to get up.

“No! I…” Dan watched his face turn red. “Australian?”

“Got in it one.” Dan laughed. “Why are you so quiet?”

“What?”

His voice was wobbling but Dan ignored it. “I mean you’ve hardly said two words since you got here, why not?”

“My parents really didn’t want to come here, well my dad, I just want to work hard and prove to him I made the right choice.”

“If you are sure of the choices you make then they’re right, we’ve only got one go at this Jean-Eric, life isn’t a rehearsal.” Jean-Eric gave him a curious look.

“Ricciardo, Vergne! You’re not here to lounge around!”

“Alright!” Dan called back to the teacher rounding them up. “Jean-Eric Vergne.”

“Stick to Australian.” Jean-Eric chuckled at his poor attempt at a French accent, all the while Dan was thinking he’d like to stick closer to French.

“I will as long as you keep talking to me.”

He was eternally grateful he took the plunge and ambushed him, he spotted him at the induction and his first reaction was how cute he was, his messy hair, full lips, the way his eyes could lock onto his and make his stomach flip. He had a habit of doing that.

“Right, so we need to head north for two hundred yards.” Dan read the last clue again.

“You sure?” Jean-Eric reached his side breathing hard.

“Yeah, well…”

“Dan.”

“Jev.”

He leant against the tree as he tried to figure out if they were heading in the right direction, but in a flash winning didn’t matter anymore.

“Jev! Wait!”

He chased him down, after a couple of weeks in the British summer dreaming about kissing Jean-Eric, it was the shy Frenchman who kissed him first.

“Wait!”

“Sorry, I...sorry.”

“For what?” Dan grinned broadly.

“What I just did.” His head was bowed, his shoulders drawn in.

“You should be, it was no where near long enough.” He laughed before bringing Jean-Eric’s gaze off of the floor by cradling his head. And in the middle of the treasure hunt they kissed properly, tenderly and nervously but tingling with excitement and the desire for this to be the start of something more.

Dan watched Jean-Eric’s forehead crease then relax, it made him wonder what he was reading.

It was something more, and when they both revealed that Silverstone was their first choice so began a tentative relationship that soon blossomed. But it was far from easy going, university gave them to escape criticism, well it gave Jean-Eric the chance to escape and they were both foolish enough to believe it could continue after graduation.

Helping Jean-Eric move out so they could live in Austria was supposed to be a fresh start for him, an opportunity for him to step beyond the dark shadow of his father. But it wasn’t. Hearing the way Jean-Marie spoke to his own son made his blood run cold, and it was his fault. He couldn’t speak, and his inability to defend and protect Jean-Eric haunted him on their silent journey to Austria, he practiced what he should have said but every time he came up with a better scenario he remembered that he didn’t say a thing.

He left Jean-Eric on his own when he needed him the most.

Then when he came back to the hotel that fateful night he knew something was off, the air was thick with something he couldn’t put his finger on until he went to use the bathroom. Jean-Eric was laying in the bath surrounded by water that was the wrong colour, it was tinged with red, his blood. He was surrounded by his blood.

Blood.

Rushing over he dragged him out of the water, laying him down on the floor he tightly wrapped his wrist in a towel as he tried to get him to come around.

“Jev, please, come on, come on, say something. Jev. Jev! Please come on, please. I love you. I love you, please don’t leave me. I love you.”

He phoned for an ambulance but could barely answer the questions he was being asked, he just repeated the name of the hotel and the room number in between begging Jean-Eric to live. All he could do while he waited was to keep the pressure on the towel all the while praying this wasn’t his last memory.

“I’m so sorry, I broke up your family, I didn’t know what to say. I wrecked a whole family. I do love you, but I can only do that if you’re alive, so you have to fight. Fight for your life Jev, fight.” He made sure to cover his body in the rest of the towels to stop him from getting cold.

When the paramedics arrived they took over swiftly, checking his pulse and getting him warm, it was all a blur to Dan who just about managed to grab some clothes before bundling into the back of the ambulance. But Jean-Eric was alive, he was just hanging on.

It was all his fault. He drove Jean-Eric to do this with his silence.

Dan refused to leave his side at the hospital, sleeping in the chair regardless of the cramp in his legs and pain in his neck, he did it because Jean-Eric couldn’t be alone now. He would never leave him alone.

That was the promise he place on his ring before slipping it onto Jean-Eric’s finger, even if they couldn’t physically be together Dan would find a way to bridge the gap, with a note slipped into a wallet or using FaceTime. Something, anything. It took time and work but Dan did eventually trust Jean-Eric to tell him how he was feeling, and was ready to listen when things got tough.

That’s what he thought he did best, cradle Jean-Eric in his arms when he had a low day and was overcome with sadness from missing his family, even his father. They had tried to get in contact with Lea but they were sharply threatened and warned off. However Dan knew Jean-Eric kept sending cards and letters regardless.

“So, what’s the verdict?” Dan ventured.

“It’s great, there’s a few tweaks I could suggest but it’s...very you.” Jean-Eric let the smile slide over his mouth.

“So…” Dan prompted.

“Fun, exciting, completely focused, smart and funny.”

“Who can argue with the truth?” Dan scooted his chair closer so he could hold Jean-Eric’s hand without stretching over the table.

“No one.” Jean-Eric chuckled, but was drawn silent when Dan pressed his thumb against the scar on his wrist.

“I love you.”

Jean-Eric looked Dan in the eye and recognised the look and understood why he was tracing over the faint line he cut into his skin, he was thinking about it too. Sometimes it caught them unawares, the memory of that night, but they never let change their mood, they had learned to acknowledge what had happened as part of their past and not a determiner of their future.

“Je t'aime.”

Chapter Text

“Do you think I should call him?” Mark mused over a cup of tea.

“I don’t know, maybe you should try?” Fernando wasn’t entirely sure what to suggest, it was a strange situation to be in. “Leave a message.”

“Well, he said he was taking him to the hospital and knowing Jense he’s probably spending the day there with him until he gets answers.” He shrugged and took a long sip. “I just hope he doesn’t ruin things, David's smitten.”

“I know.” Fernando smiled. “When we were talking last night he wouldn’t stop asking me to tell stories about him.” Fernando finished up his coffee. “I think it’s going to get serious between them.” He got up to put his empty cup in the dishwasher before returning to Mark on the sofa.

“I hope it does, they just seem...right, you know?” Jenson shone around David, and vice versa.

“Hmm.” Fernando wrapped an arm around Mark. “Good idea of yours to set them up.” It had been a couple of months, but he recognised him and Mark in them, it only took him a few weeks after their first kiss for him to know.

“One of my best.” Mark triumphed by raising his cup to an imaginary audience.

“Ah, I don’t think so. I think your best idea was when you took me to the lake.” Fernando raised an eyebrow. “Remember that really hot day in Italy.”

“Remember it? I still dream about it.” Mark turned his head to kiss his grinning fiance. It was a spur of the moment trip, Mark had found the small lake whilst out on a ride and took Fernando with him on the next free day he had. With a picnic they lay on a blanket under the intense summer sun, eating until the heat forced them into the water, they dove in naked and splashed and messed about until they shared a look dripping in lust.

Checking they were alone they took to the blanket and slowly made love, being out in the open was exhilarating, and definitely dangerous but what they needed at the time. It was Mark’s way of letting Fernando talk about them in public, even if it was only whispered pleas for more. Despite it being a couple of years ago he remembered every detail, from the drops of water that clung to Fernando’s tanned skin to the way he bit down on his lip to keep quiet. The sound of the water rippling against the bank, the birds, the silence in between, heavy breathing, the intensity, everything.

“Me too.” Fernando smirked, he could tell Mark was reminiscing. “Call him.”

Mark finished his cup slowly, stalling because he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear what Jenson had to say. He obviously wanted good news and to find that Nico was essentially in good health, but deep down he knew that wasn’t going to be the case, and even if he was good physically, he was in a state mentally.

It was almost evening by the time Mark took the plunge and made the call, and each ring filled him with dread.

“Hi.”

Jenson sounded exhausted, completely and utterly drained. “Alright mate, I was just calling to see if everything’s alright.”

He had no idea how to respond, he had no idea how he could explain what he had heard. “I don’t know.”

“Jense.” The pain was so clear in his voice, it was a familiar one, a tone he’d heard before. “Jense if you need me there I’ll be there in a second, you just have to say.” He pleaded.

“Mark, I...I overheard things.” He brought his knees up to his chest and held them there with an arm. “It’s...shit Mark, I can’t even begin to understand how he’s still alive and it wasn’t even all of it.” Jenson took a deep breath.

“Are you still there, at the hospital?”

“Uh huh, he’s having tests at the minute, so many tests.” Several vials of blood had been taken to check for signs disease and illness, along with swabs. He was continuously being filled with bags of fluid and pain medication. “He’s in a bit of a state.”

“I bet, Jense, fuck, come stay with us tonight. Please.”

“This is...I don’t want to go back down there again Mark.” He whispered.

“You won’t.” He wouldn’t let it. “I won’t let that happen.” He steeled his voice which made Fernando turn his head.

Fernando had put his jacket on and was picking up Mark’s, with his keys in hand he was stood by the door waiting for his passenger. He knew by the tone of his voice that Jenson was in trouble and it didn’t take long for Mark to join him at the door.

“He doesn’t want any fuss, but they won’t let him stay overnight and the last thing he needs is to be alone.” Mark stated sadly.

“I’ve got the keys.” Fernando held them up as he opened the front door. “Let’s go.”

---

“Where do you reckon he’d be?” Mark asked out loud as they walked into the main entrance.

“No idea, we should ask.” Fernando drifted to reception and waited for his turn but as he predicted when he enquired about Nico he was shut down swiftly as he wasn’t family. “We’re not family, they won’t say.”

Mark ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I’ll call Jenson again.” This wasn’t right, Jenson had worked hard to get happy, he deserved an uncomplicated life. “Hey mate, we’re at the main entrance.” He was surprised when Jenson gave him the ward number without asking but didn’t question it. “Alright, we’ll be there.”

Figuring out where how to get there they entered the next available elevator together, Mark grabbed Fernando’s hand tightly as they climbed through the floors, needing the reassurance that he had Fernando. Carefully reading the signs they navigated their way to find Jenson sat on the row of benches outside the ward, he was slumped forward with his head in his hands sucking in deep breaths. It looked like he was crying.

“Jense?”

Hearing his name he looked up to see Mark and Fernando standing in the corridor. He told Mark not to come because it would encroach on their time together, but he was so glad of their unwavering support. Though if he was honest he would prefer to be laying in David’s arms. “Hey.” He stood up and allowed Mark to hug him and for Fernando to rub his arm.

“So, what’s going on?” Mark wanted to ask how Jenson was but knew this wasn’t the time or place to get him upset.

“The doctor’s trying to get him a space in a programme but it’s difficult, he’s resisting all the help, it’s like he doesn’t want to get through this.” Nico would just lay there, then he would speak a little, then he would fall silent.

“Then why would he come to see you?” Fernando asked.

“I have no idea, I really don’t.” Jenson replied glumly.

“Just tell us when you want to go and we’ll take you home.” Mark reassured as Jenson turned to face the doctor.

“Jenson?”

“Yes Dr Hartstein?” The doctor paused and Jenson spoke up. “It’s okay, they’re friends, they know.”

“Nico’s agreed to stay overnight before he starts the inpatient rehab, it’s going to take a while but I think somewhere in there is someone who wants to survive all of this and he’ll have you to thank for it.” He patted Jenson on the shoulder, he’d been here all day without question, just patiently waiting for everyone to do their job before sitting with Nico so he was never alone.

“You found somewhere?”

“Yes, I called in a favour.” It was a favour worth spending because he saw someone worth saving. “It’s a centre just on the outskirts of London, I’ll get the details emailed to you tonight. Have you got any questions for me?”

“Is he going to be okay here overnight?”

“Yeah, it’s not going to be easy, but I promise you he’s in good hands.”

“I mean, he’s not going to escape is he?” He couldn’t cope with the call telling him that Nico had skipped out of hospital.

“No, this is a high dependency unit remember, round the clock nursing.”

“Thanks.” Jenson sighed. “I’ll say goodbye and I’ll be off.”

“Okay, no rush.”

Leaving Mark and Fernando in the corridor he wandered back into the ward he’d spent most of the day in. “Hey.” Jenson walked over to Nico and took up the seat next to the bed. “I’m glad you agreed.”

“You would have been upset if I had said no.” Nico bowed his head, how on earth was he supposed to tell Jenson what he was planning to do, how he was intending to end his life.

“Nico I want you to go because you want to recover, it’s going to be really hard and if you don’t want to it’ll be even harder.”

Maybe there was a tiny part in him that wondered if he could do it, if somehow he could see his parents again. Parents.

“Are you okay?” Jenson could see tears well up in his eyes.

Nico gasped. “I miss my parents.”

Jenson hopped onto the bed and hugged Nico tightly. “Maybe if you get better you could go see them, I bet they miss you too.” They would have to, who wouldn't miss their only child?

“Maybe.” He could do this. “You don’t have to, but if I’m allowed, would you visit?” He wanted to prove to Jenson he could do it.

“Of course, I’ll give you my details.” Fishing out his wallet he extracted a business card and handed it over. “Anytime Nico.” It felt like goodbye. “I have something for you.” Reaching for the bag he packed he pulled out a photo, it was one Fernando had taken in Paris of all four of them. “Here.”

Nico took the photo and was shocked Jenson still had this. He had his arm around Jenson with the biggest grin on his face, he had a healthy tan and eyes that looked happy. Mark and Fernando were behind having only just gotten back together the night before. It was a photo of nothing but happiness and love, a lot of love.

“I thought you might want a reminder of who you really are, you’re capable of so many things, and this is one of them. I believe you can do this.” He hugged him again and held on until he felt Nico finally relax in his arms.

“Thank you.” Nico pulled back, he would stay in contact with Jenson, but whether they would see each other again was another matter. And he felt sad, but it was the best for Jenson and his partner, he had the right to a great life. “For everything, and thank Mark and Fernando too.”

“They’re here if you want to say it to them.” Jenson said without thinking. “Only if you want to, sorry.”

“Okay, just them though.” He had something to ask them.

“Alright. I’ll say goodbye now then.” Jenson gave him a firm hug and then left Nico’s side to retrieve the others. “Nico wants to see you both.”

“Really?” Mark replied in shock and Jenson nodded. “Okay.” They slowly entered the room and found Nico in the bed closest to the window looking markedly better than yesterday. “Hey.”

“I wanted to thank you.” He kept his gaze aimed squarely out of the window as he spoke. “For helping me. And I know I have no right to ask anything of you, more than you have already done, but please look after Jenson. Please make sure he’s happy with his partner, whoever they are, he deserves that.”

“Of course Nico.” Mark replied.

“Please.” Nico wiped the tears away, still not looking at them.

“We promise.” Fernando assured firmly. “But only if you promise to take care of yourself.”

“I’ll try.” He muttered.

“Please.” Mark echoed Nico’s plea. He looked so fragile in the bed, the gown only emphasising how skinny he had become. “We’ll see you soon.”

“Hmm.”

“We will, and we’ll take care of Jenson.” Mark affirmed.

“Thank you.” He waited for them to leave before curling up on his side, it would be worth getting through this to see his parents again, or maybe speak to them. He wasn’t sure if they’d keep him on the phone once they realised it was him. The memory of them finding out was as vivid as ever. It was his fault for getting tangled up with Nelson all over again, he should have moved out immediately.

He should have done a lot of things differently.

---

Mark had sat in the back on the way home with his arm around an incredibly down Jenson and as Fernando listened to Mark do his best to soothe and comfort him, he took the last corner to their place he saw exactly what sort of father he would be. Not that he didn’t already know, but he imagined him kissing grazed knees better, cuddling them when school wasn’t going well and then teaching them how to ride a bike.

Mark teaching a child, their child, to ride a bike was such a wonderful image to have playing in his head he almost missed a spot to park in, so smiling to himself as he reversed back into it swiftly.

“You should have taken me home.” Jenson mumbled as he saw where he was.

“If you really want to we’ll take you home, but I thought you could have something to eat and we could watch a film or something. Or you could just go to bed. I just got the feeling you don’t want to be on your own.” He unbuckled his seatbelt.

Mark knew him well. “I’m going to be that weird bloke that hangs around you guys even though you’re married.”

“Well you are weird, but I think that’s more to do with your obsession with pastry than anything else.” Fernando chuckled before opening his door.

“Thanks, I think.” He raised a weary smile before entering the cool night air. Following them in he realised it was too late to call David, but texted him anyway to let him know he was missed. A lot. It perhaps wasn’t the best time to start texting when he was emotionally raw, but once it had sent he felt a bit better. “I think I’m going to go straight upstairs.”

“If you’re sure.” Mark let him hear the concern he felt.

“Yeah. I’ll be up early to get to the bakery, so I’ll be quiet.”

“Shit I forgot, we should have taken you home.” Mark shook his head.

“No. No, Mark, Fernando, I think being alone would have been a bad idea. I don’t like being alone anymore.” He opened his mouth to thank them but his phone began to ring in his pocket, taking it out he saw it was David calling him.

“David?” Mark ventured as he saw a huge smile erupt on Jenson’s face.

“Yeah, you don’t mind?” The ringing phone was resting in his hand.

“If you don’t you’re going to have to watch us make out!” Mark teased in a sing-song voice.

Jenson rolled his eyes and answered the call as he headed upstairs, he was beyond lucky to be able to call them his friends. “Hey.”

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Yeah.” They weren’t long enough into the relationship for a big emotional outpouring.

“You don’t sound it, I just read your text…” David wasn’t sure how to tackle it, it was early in their relationship, but something was clearly eating at Jenson. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Jenson gently closed the bedroom door behind him, crossed over to the bed, and laid down on his back. “I didn’t want to do this over the phone.”

His stomach dropped violently. “Jenson?” David croaked.

“It’s…”

“You’re not stopping this, are you?” He had to ask, he didn’t want it to be drawn out.

“No, god no, David no! I love the time we have together. It’s just…”

“You’re not breaking up with me?” He needed, absolutely needed to hear him say they weren’t.

“Of course not, and I would not do it over the phone if for some crazy reason I wanted to.”

“Okay. Okay.” Relief poured over him. “What is it then? It is to do with last night?”

Jenson could hear the relief and inside him it manifested as a warm feeling in his heart. “Yeah, sorry for not being truthful, uh sorry...you know I mentioned someone called Nico?”

“Yeah.” They had discussed their previous relationships over dinner one night, it had been uncomfortable for both of them but it allowed them shake off the ghosts. How Nico could up and leave Jenson was unbelieveable, how anyone could pass up the chance to be with a handsome, funny, smart, passionate man was beyond him.

“He turned up at the restaurant, he tried to get in to see me but Ann didn’t let him in, I inadvertently made him a sandwich, and when I went outside for some air he was in the alleyway, I didn’t realise it was him though. I thought he was homeless, but then he said my name when I was trying to get him accept my help, then I looked, it was Nico. Sorry.” He took a deep breath.

It took him a few moments to process it all and what it could mean. Jenson’s ex was back on the scene, the one who had destroyed him, left him struggling to take a compliment, and prone to apologising for everything.

“David? I didn’t know it was him. But I had to help, I think he’s been homeless for a while, so, so, so…” What was David going to think of him?

“Jenson, hey, calm down. It’s okay.”

“But he stayed the night. In the spare room.”

“You’re not a bad person, I guess he had no where to go.” He couldn’t imagine Jenson turning anyone away who needed help.

“No, but he’s my ex.”

“So? He was in trouble, I would have thought less of you if you did nothing, which isn’t like you at all. I might have only known you for a couple of months, but I know how caring you are.” He soothed.

Jenson sighed, he had to tell him everything. “I spent today with him at hospital, it didn’t feel right to leave him there on his own, I had to make sure he took the help. And tomorrow he’s starting treatment at a clinic that I’m paying for.”

He was with him right up until he said he was paying for it, surely his parents should be doing that. “It’s not going to…”

David was concerned about him. “I can afford it, I know it’s weird, but he abandoned me when I wanted him, but I can’t abandon him when he needs help. He’s in a bad way David, it’s awful. Sorry.”

“You don’t need to apologise, I trust you, he’s lucky to have you.”

“Well, he doesn’t have me, I’m not sure I’ll see him again. You have me.”

Butterflies invaded David’s stomach. “I like the sound of that, you’ve got me too you know. Jense, you can tell me anything.”

Jenson let the words settle in his head for a moment. “I miss you.” Those words slipped out far too easily, it had only been a forty eight hours.

“Funny thing that, I miss you too.” David chuckled lightly and heard Jenson join in.

He felt like a teenager. “How’s Scotland?”

“Not bad, bit cold, but then it always is. And apart from being a superhero, how are you?”

“I’m having sleepover at Mark and Fernando’s.” Jenson admitted.

David breathed an internal sigh of relief. “Good. Told them to keep an eye on you.”

“I know.”

Jenson’s smile radiated down the line. “I’m going to have to leave you, not going to be blamed for keeping you up late on a school night.”

“Spoilsport.” Jenson grinned. “Am pretty tired.”

“You were at the hospital all day?” He couldn’t quite let him go.

“Yeah.” Switching to speakerphone Jenson dragged his shirt over his head and swiftly unzipped his trousers. “I wasn’t really doing anything.”

“You were doing a lot, you’re a good guy. Oh, I think the connection’s going.”

“I’ve put you on speakerphone, just getting undressed for bed.”

He flashed hot at the thought of Jenson naked, they hadn’t taken things much further than kissing, but it was getting increasingly heated. The memory of the last time made his crotch clench, Jenson was laying on top of him, and he had his hands splayed across his bare back, pushing his shirt ever higher. The breathy moans, his blown eyes and the positively sinful way Jenson rolled his hips. “That’s a nice image to give me before bed.”

They had engaged in a bit of dirty talk, it wasn’t particularly heavy, more along the lines of how hot they found each other. “Yeah?”

“Hmm. You’re gorgeous.”

“You’re not so bad yourself.” That was the worst time to yawn.

David smiled to himself. “Get to bed.”

“But…”

“But nothing, I’ll still be incredibly hot tomorrow.” David couldn't wait to get back. “Night Jense.”

“Night David.” He hung up reluctantly with a soppy grin plastered all over his face, pushing his face into the pillow he chuckled at how in love he felt. Love? A loving feeling, he concluded.

---

“So this making out?” Fernando enquired lightly.

“Yeah?” Mark wandered back from filling the dishwasher.

“How would that go?”

Mark had a soft spot for Fernando in coy mode, he knew it was a blatant attempt at manipulation but that was precisely what he liked about it. So stood in front of Fernando he held his head in his hands and teased his lips with his own, just brushing them against before kissing the corners. He kept it up until Fernando was squirming, his hands pawing at his chest, moaning softly when he purposely didn’t kiss him.

“Mark.” He whined.

And with that Mark kissed him hard, wrapping one arm around around his neck and the other around his waist to keep him close. Flicking his tongue against Fernando’s he felt the grip he had on his shirt tighten, moving languidly over each other, absolutely no rush. Pulling back to take a breath he gazed down in wonder.

“Fiance.” Mark whispered before dipping down to continue, gently sucking on his top lip before falling back into a passionate kiss.

“Bed?” Fernando asked softly.

“Yeah.” Mark nodded before playfully spanking Fernando’s ass.

They made no rush to get to their bedroom, Fernando immensely enjoying the light pressure of Mark’s hand and the small of his back, the gentle reminder that he was there. “Mark?”

“Yeah mate?” Mark replied as he pulled his tee shirt off.

“You know we were talking about children?” Fernando started.

“Uh huh, you said you wanted to be married first.” Mark remembered the conversation in the park.

"Si, we are getting married though…” He remarked lightly.

“Yeah, we really need to do some sort of planning for that you know.” Mark grinned as pulled back the covers. “Somehow I don’t think we’re going to be allowed to get away with a basic registry office.” His mother for one wouldn’t allow it, and in fact he was certain Fernando’s mother felt exactly the same.

“No, no, there would be no chance.” He climbed on the bed and pulled the covers up as soon as Mark joined him. “So...um…”

“Children.” Mark prompted.

“I was thinking about it, well I have been, quite a bit. A lot.” Fernando admitted, squirming a little he felt Mark push a hand under his shoulders to bring him onto his chest.

“Me too.” The agreement soothed the tension he felt in Fernando’s body. “Do you want children?”

“Si.” He drew little circles on Mark’s chest as the smile on his mouth grew wider.

“How many?” He could feel Fernando’s smile getting bigger.

“One, or two. Girls, boys I do not care.” Fernando shrugged. “You?”

Smiling Mark leant down to kiss the top of Fernando’s head. “Same, I just want happy, healthy kids.”

“Mark.” Fernando pushed himself up so he could look Mark in the eye. “You really want a child? With me?”

“Yes, and of course with you.” Mark brought their lips together for a sweet kiss. “I think you would make an amazing dad, you’re incredibly kind and gentle, capable of great love, and I know your perfectionist streak will translate into only wanting the best for him or her, or them.”

Fernando knew there were tears welling up in his eyes but chose to ignore them, although hearing Mark say dad and meaning him had them running down his face. Wiping them away messily he grinned. “You will make a great father too, you know exactly what to do to make everyone happy, you are calm and very caring. How you are with Jenson shows that.”

Mark kissed the happy tears away from Fernando’s cheeks. “I can’t believe we’re talking about having a child, it’s...terribly grown up.”

“But…”

“I definitely do, I used to think about it on the bike, when I was catching a slip stream I’d just think about going on a bike ride as a family. And teaching them how to ride, god Fernando, I grew up thinking children were an impossibility so I put it out of my mind.” He tenderly stroked Fernando’s hair. “But since coming out, again, it’s freed up a lot of things, committing to you was right at the top, but sharing what we have was up there too.”

Sharing our love. Curling up underneath Mark’s arm he hooked a leg over his lap and lay an arm over his stomach. “How?”

“I’ve only considered adoption to be honest, my childhood was so good and that was down to having fantastic parents, and to think there are children without any...we could hopefully give a kid a chance.”

Fernando could remember the countless times Mark said he was rubbish with words. “You say you struggle to find the right way to say things, Mark.” He paused to kiss his bare chest. “I know we can be good parents.”

Mark felt a huge swell of love pulse through his heart. Children. A whole family. A proper family. “Shit.”

“Scary?” Fernando whispered.

“Good scary.”

“The best scary.” He reached up to seal their decision with a kiss. “We need to do some research.”

“Uh...I might have done a little bit already.” Mark shuffled down to lay face to face with Fernando.

He loved the idea of Mark being that excited. “Oh really?”

“Yeah, just looking at other people’s experiences, the process, some agencies…sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, just tell me what you found out.” He snuggled in closer and relaxed into the gentle tones of Mark’s lilting accent as he explained the ins and outs of adoption. This time his dreams of holding a baby in his arms felt real because for the first time there was paperwork involved.

---

He learned from the last time he stayed not to listen in to Mark and Fernando when they were in bed, but they sounded excited and he swore he heard them talk about children. Things were wonderfully serious with them, and having been on the receiving end of their care, he had no doubts whatsoever about their parenting skills. He would fight for their side if they wanted to adopt.

Clinging onto a pillow and pretending it was David he drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

---

There was no way he could sleep, he had gotten to the point where he felt like he had to physically crawl out of his skin to find any sort of comfort. In the starkness of a hospital he mentally listed all of the abuse he had laid upon himself over the years, and wondered how he survived at all. He grabbed the photo Jenson had left for him and picked out the faces in the low light of the machines that surrounded him, back then he felt hopeful.

What he would do to get a hug off of his mum, eat her cooking, listen to his dad moan about the news. He was going to get better, he was going to go home and beg to be forgiven. He could do this. He had to do this.

“Nico, I just need to check your stats.”

Chapter Text

“Hey.” He grinned as he spotted his most favourite person in the world emerge from the rush hour crowds.

“Hey.” He smiled back before kissing him briefly on the lips. “Home?”

“No, I fancy another ten hours.” He replied wearily, but still managed to retain the show of happiness due to his proximity.

“Ah come on Nico, we’ve got a long weekend to enjoy in the middle of nowhere.” They had booked it ages ago, spent a couple of weeks finding a perfect place to go, making sure they were secluded, and spent months counting down the days.

“Very true.” Nico beamed, his stomach doing loops. “I’ve been crossing off the days.” He had been doing it manually, with the economy the way it was time off was infrequent and far between, so he bought a little calendar and scribbled out the numbers as soon as the working day was done.

“Haven’t we both.” Paul called over his shoulder as they squeezed themselves into the queue to get through the barriers for the tube. “Well earned.” His company was struggling, but he was doing his best with what he had at his disposal, so to escape the city and just having it be him and Nico was blessed relief.

“It’ll be alright.” Nico reached up in the confined space and clasped his shoulder.

They shuffled with the sea of suits into the carriages and enjoyed being squashed together, standing cheek to cheek Paul took the chance to revel in the freedom that lay ahead of them. As he counted off the stops Paul moved his head enough to brush his lips against his neck, there was a slither of skin visible between his jaw and suit jacket he couldn’t resist. And with his ear at Nico’s mouth he heard the hitch in his breath and then felt the long exhale.

Pressing a kiss to the soft skin of his neck he heard a contented sigh, it was one of his favourite sounds, it told him everything was fine and more importantly Nico was okay. He kissed him again and got that beautiful little sigh in return. With reluctance he pulled back but quickly realised his could fill the mild disappointment with his handsome face.

The glasses had gone with help from laser eye surgery several years ago which, if he was honest, wasn’t something he wanted. He liked the glasses, the way he looked over the top of them at him when he was reading, it hit him low in the stomach, and Nico didn’t miss this and kept them on one night.

“We have an audience.” Nico whispered lowly in Paul’s ear. He’d spotted her out of the corner of his eye when Paul’s breath fluttered over his neck.

“Oh really?” Paul tried to covertly spot who was watching and saw a keen set of eyes flicking around. “The girl?”

“Hmm.” He liked it and let Paul know with a subtle flex of his hips.

“Been a while.” Paul grinned before quickly kissing him. Already positioned to get off the train at the right stop they hopped onto the platform to get the train out of the city. Living further out gave them the opportunity to enjoy an, albeit small, garden, and some room to move. It also meant they had to commute. Nico complained about it lightheartedly, but Paul liked the intimacy of Nico falling asleep on his shoulder at the end of the week. He always tried to argue that he wasn’t sleeping but it was obvious he was, the snuffles were a dead give away.

“Come on sleepyhead.”

“Wasn’t sleeping.”

“Alright.” Paul sniggered. “Whatever you say.”

“Shut up.” Nico stalked off but allowed himself to be caught easily by Paul’s arms as he headed towards their car. “Just need to get home.”

Even after all the years of living together hearing the word ‘home’ always made him happy, especially after the trouble they had finding jobs in the same area. Nico had to move home after graduation and the year they spent apart living with their parents only spurred them on to bring themselves back together. Then after Christmas they both took a chance and spent a month in London hunting for jobs, Nico got there first with a great bank, then Paul got the call on the morning of the self-imposed deadline from a consultancy firm,

“Here you go.” It was a short drive home and when he pulled up outside their modest two bedroom house Nico practically bounced out of the car.

He was so glad to be home, he loved his job, it was exactly what he imagined doing after university, but it was highly stressful so it was important for him to destress as soon as possible. Leaving Paul behind he unlocked the door to their home, their sanctuary, and breathed deeply. “Ahh.”

Toeing off his shoes he lined them up neatly before taking the stairs two at a time, he heard Paul shut the door and his first thought was that they were home. It was bliss.

“Nico.”

His breathing slowed at Paul’s specific tone. Then he found his body naturally settling, his feet spaced a shoulder width apart just waiting. Waiting.

“Nico.” Paul reached their bedroom slowly, giving Nico the time to calm himself down, and when he entered he was pleased, as he knew he would be. Nico had a tremendous amount of self control. “Shirt off.”

Nico did as he was told and loosened his tie, slipping it over his head his handed it over to the waiting hand before unbuttoning his shirt, and once he had shrugged out of the silky cotton he draped it over Paul’s arm. Now he had to wait. He had to wait for Paul to put them down before he would return with what he desired.

“Kneel.”

He was thankful Paul was being quick tonight, and when his knees hit the deep pile of the carpet he could feel his body open up.

“Who do you belong to.” Paul asked as he wrapped Nico’s neck with leather.

“You.” Nico gazed up at Paul as he fixed the buckle snugly around his neck. He loved the narrow band of dark brown leather that signified who his owner was.

“Smart boy.” Paul stroked his hair gently.

Nico sighed and pressed into the touch, now he was home. Truly home, and truly himself.

“Let’s get dinner on the go.” Paul suggested as he began to strip himself of his work clothes, gesturing to Nico to do the same they changed in a comfortable silence. Paul chose a tee shirt and jeans, while Nico plumped for a tee shirt and a soft pair of jersey trousers to be comfortable. And as they went downstairs all that could be heard above their footsteps was the faint metallic jingle of the small round disc clipped to the front of Nico’s collar. The only inscription on it was a cursive ‘N’.

It didn’t take them long to put something simple together for dinner, they chopped up their own portion of the vegetables Paul took charge of the wok and threw the ingredients in sequence to create the stir-fry, he left Nico to sort out the noodles and watched him work methodically out of the corner of his eye. He was pleased with how settled Nico was, how controlled he was once the collar was on.

Ever since university things had progressed slowly, and for someone who was so against wearing a collar to begin with he was completely enthralled by it now and what it signified. He loved it too, the physical sign that he belonged to him and that he accepted his ownership.

Nico kept an eye on how quickly Paul was eating to make sure he didn’t finish before him, but was careful not to finish too much after him otherwise he would have his plate taken away. It had happened only once when he had been day dreaming about the night that lay ahead, Paul had asked him to hurry up twice but he hadn’t paid attention, and as a punishment he was sent to bed on his own. He never let it happen again.

It was a purposely light meal and sitting on the sofa after clearing up together Paul was waiting for their stomachs to settle before giving out any instructions. He had turned on a programme they had recorded which gave them a much needed hour.

“Go up stairs and prepare yourself.” He didn’t take his eyes off the screen as he stopped the recording and deleted it from their planner, he felt him get off the sofa and listened to him climb the stairs.

Next would come the padding around their bedroom before he moved to the bathroom to turn the shower on, cleaning himself in preparation was part of the ritual they had cemented. It was for the sole purpose of allowing Nico to slip into his headspace smoothly.

Patting his lower half dry he made sure to capture every single drop of water, but he wasn’t to rub, he wasn’t to leave red marks on his body as that would upset Paul. He knew he wasn’t to be rough with his body without Paul’s explicit permission. He also wasn’t allowed to rush, so taking his time to ensure he was completely ready he opened their wardrobe and took out the dark wooden box that could only be opened by Paul.

He placed it down on the coffee table and concentrated on relaxing his naked body, just wearing his collar he swallowed and felt the pleasant tightening around his neck.

“Present yourself to me.”

Nico took the couple of steps to stand in front of Paul, he was reclined on the sofa with his legs spread wide and gazing over his body. He knew he had to behave to go further and so he let his hands hang loosely by his side as he was inspected, it never felt degrading, it was how he knew he was doing things right. That’s what he took from it all, that’s what he craved, with Paul giving direction his mind was free of everything that once clouded it. He was free.

Paul leaned forward, making sure Nico could feel his breath. “Very neat.” He commented lightly.

Nico’s heart clenched, Paul was pleased.

“Turn around.” He watched Nico comply easily. “Bend over.”

He widened his legs first and bent over exactly how Paul liked, first he slid his hands down his thigh until they hit his knees, then he paused to arch his back.

“I see you prepared yourself well.” There was the tell tale signs of lube around his entrance which he allowed after Nico requested it, he explained it was down to liking to feel ready for whenever he was needed. “Eager puppy.” Nico’s self control was a wonder, but even he couldn’t hide the clench at the words.

Paul left him bent over, his cock visible from between his legs, long and thick he could just see a bead of pre-cum swelling at the tip. He totalled it up to a whole minute before reaching for the wooden box Nico had retrieved for him, laying it across his lap he made sure the opening of the catch was heard. Taking out the first item he placed them beside him on the sofa cushion before taking out the second, tugging on the drawstrings to the bag he extracted Nico’s favourite toy.

Rubbing the tip of it between Nico’s cheeks he knew he wasn’t going to make him wait too long, Nico was behaving perfectly and punishing him would be counter-productive and confusing. It wasn’t what their relationship was.

He could feel the coolness tease his hole, he loved this process, how Paul gave him exactly the right amount of time to slip away. Never rushed, never pushed, never forced. Nico could sense the stretch begin, where who he was to everyone else drifted away and who he was to Paul surfaced, so leaving the week behind he gave himself over.

“So ready for this aren’t you?” Paul remarked, lube now coated the plug he was holding, Nico had clearly been liberal which told him he needed this a lot. Hearing the careful whimper Paul positioned the rounded end of the plug at Nico’s entrance he added a little pressure, and it didn’t take long for his body to accept the intrusion, albeit a very welcome one.

His breaths were feathery, catching in his throat when the plug got to its widest point and then settled inside of him, Nico’s back arched even more and when his head bowed, arms got less straight, legs more bent. He was ready. Returning to the box he took out the last item, contained in its own special bag he undid it and immediately saw the softness that lay within.

“I want…” Nico huffed.

“Come on Nico.” Paul prompted.

“Can I show you?”

“Of course.” He knew Nico had wanted to ask for something for a while, he’d tried to tell him silently, hinting clumsily. All Paul knew was that it was important but Nico was unsure whether or not he would be accepting. So he sat on the sofa and watched Nico leave the living room only to return with something hidden behind his back.

“Please don’t laugh.”

“I promise.” Now he was intrigued. So with Nico stood in front of him he allowed him to hesitate and wonder on his own, and he was so glad he did. He pulled out a headband and place it on his head, and looking up at him he now had a pair of blonde ears to match his hair. “Oh.”

“Oh?”

“Oh god.” He gasped.

Nico beamed. “You like them?” He knelt down beside him on the sofa.

“Just a bit.” He raised a hand to ruffle his hair and fell into love with the little murmur of happiness. They had been flirting on the edges of puppy play for a while, but Paul had never imagined Nico would want to delve in further after what happened to him at school.

“I um...want more though.”

Paul patted his lap as a test and felt a swell of excitement when Nico lay down on the sofa and rested his head across his legs. “Talk to me.”

“I want to…” He buried his face in to Paul’s stomach and continued to mumble.

Gently pushing on his shoulder Paul moved Nico far enough away from his body to reveal his mouth. “Trust me.”

“Iwantatail.” He rushed.

“Did you say, um, tail?” Paul tentatively asked.

“Yeah, is that a bit weird? It is weird right?”

Nico continued to stutter and struggle to find the words but Paul had an idea as to what to do to calm his fears directly. Running a hand through his hair again he trailed his hand over his neck, down his back until he met the swell of his arse. “I could imagine you with one, I have before you know. Something long and thick.” He squeezed his arse firmly. “Fluffy.” Nico rutted against the sofa cushion. “It would look good on you, I can see it, brushing up against your skin.”

“Ugh.”

“You’d like that huh?” Paul began to massage his arse, pushing his crotch into the sofa. “Would you like to be my puppy?”

“Ja.” He cried out. “Ja.”

“My very handsome puppy Nico.”

With the plug in place he instructed Nico to submit with a kind hand on the small of his back, and once he was on all fours Paul scooted to the edge of the sofa and attached the furry tail to the plug, keeping his eyes on Nico to see the shudder. The shiver was followed by goosebumps and his shoulders dropped, and then his arse reached higher.

“Come on Nico, sit up.” He directed, and once he was kneeling in front of him Paul took the ears they had made months ago. Slipping the headband on Nico looked up at him adoringly, waiting for his next direction, so he gave it. “Stay.” He requested firmly.

Getting up off the sofa Paul felt his movements being watched when he went to retrieve his blanket and make sure the heating was at the right temperature, Nico was not to get cold. They had done a lot of work to get this point, there were a few fumbles where they collapsed laughing and other times where Nico used their safeword. India. But now they had a routine, nothing boring or staid, but something they understood and took from equally.

He watched the soft blanket being laid out on the sofa and knew he would be allowed up there soon if he was good, his master always looked after him.

“Up you get.” He patted the space beside him and with the invitation he climbed up and took up his usual position, curled up on his side with his head on his lap facing away from him, putting another programme on from their favourite series he felt Nico snuggle further into the cushions and his blanket.

“Yes you do need a blanket.” Paul answered Nico’s question.

“But why here? Shouldn’t we be at a pet store?" Nico shrugged.

“A pet store?” Gently circling Nico’s wrist he stopped him from walking any further. “Why would you think I would take you there?”

“Because.” Nico whispered. “I’m your pet.”

Paul smiled kindly. “Yes you are, but not some ordinary family pet.” Stood in the middle of the high-end department store he softly kissed him. “You are an incredibly special puppy.” People were milling about but no one was paying any attention to them, they had decided to make the trip at lunchtime, to spend their brief break from work doing something fun. And something that Nico would think about for the rest of the day. “You only deserve the best. You're a good boy.”

Nico blushed at the words, Paul’s voice could make him submit, even in public. His instincts told him to bow his head to show respect and as Paul started walking again he followed a pace behind, nodding at the vast array of options that were being picked up.

“I like this.” Paul spotted a subtle tartan, shades of green with a shot of dusky orange running through it. But before he could show it to Nico an assistant made his way over.

“That’s a very rare tartan, we’re the only supplier and the house that makes it only creates this pattern once every two years, and even then it’s a very limited amount.”

He was glad of the interruption. “Is that so.”

“Yes. let me get you the information.”

He returned with a thick piece of brown card with the details printed on it. “Thanks.” Paul read the brief history of the house before the details about the particular pattern. It was ideal. It was rare. Nico was rarer. “How big is it?”

The assistant unfolded the material and when he had spread it over the large central table of the department Paul gave the nod that he wanted it before stroking it. “It’s very soft. Nico, feel.”

Nico came around him and ran his hand over it, humming his agreement. He could imagine being curled up on it with Paul petting his hair, stroking his body, his tail…

His eyes felt heavy, master was rubbing the back of his neck, playing with his hair, petting him. Master was wonderful.

Gazing down the length of his body Paul noted the elegant way Nico had curled his long body up on the tartan blanket, his tail following the neat curve very naturally. He could remember the first time they used it and the transformation in Nico’s behaviour, as soon as the fur touched his skin his disposition sweetened and became very playful. But his abiding memory was the way Nico revered his tail, it wasn’t just a toy, it very quickly became a part of him. It was the way he shook his ass.

Master was playing with his tail.

Nico was squirming and so glancing away from the television screen he saw why, he was unconsciously stroking his tail and that could clearly be felt. Hot puffs of air were burning through his jeans as Nico continued to wiggle about, he had to keep an eye on the time because given the chance he would wear it all night.

“You’re getting very fidgety Nico.” He got a whine before Nico began to move with intent. Getting up onto his knees he leant into nuzzle Paul’s neck, tentatively flicking his tongue along his jaw, whimpering as he went.

“Do you want something then?” Paul cupped his face and fell into his eyes, Nico pleading with him to understand.

“Show me.” Paul asked playfully, getting Nico excited enough that he bounced on the sofa to get between his legs, pressing his face against his crotch and nuzzling him he stuck his ass up in the air, flicking his tail over his back.

His master smelt so good, he wanted to show him how much he loved him.

“Eager puppy.” He breathed. “I think we should go upstairs.” Nico's eyes widened and dilated, sex wasn't always involved with this but it was his responsibility to read what he needed. Tonight he needed release, his body told Paul that.

"Off the sofa now." He never told him to get on the floor explicitly, this was more to do with allowing Nico the opportunity to free himself from stress not to add to it. Gentle training, not punishment. But tonight Nico was misbehaving, pushing the boundaries for both of them.

"Nico, I said off." Paul firmed his voice and Nico got onto the floor, but instead of staying still he moved to the wooden box.

He had to show his master what he wanted.

"Stop." He warned, there were rules about the box, so kneeling on the floor beside Nico he began to empty it. "Do you want this?" He had picked out a small beanbag ball, and to indicate no Nico looked away.

"How about this?" Paul had an idea as to what Nico really wanted and made sure to leave it until last.

No he didn't want to play with the small rubber bone either.

"Oh, what about this Nico? Do you want me to use this?" He pulled out a long narrow leather lead and the reaction was immediate. He was up on knees, hands pawing at his thighs, tongue lapping at his face.

Paul laughed at his exuberance, and let him continue, he adored it when he got this excitable. He gave his everything to being a puppy. "You're a funny little thing." He chuckled as he scratched under his chin.

With the matching lead still in his hand he showed Nico the catch to confirm what he was about to do. They had spoke about this possibility at length, it was a huge step and an even bigger moment of trust. He would be lying if he said he wasn't a little nervous.

"Are you going to be good?" Paul asked as he clipped the lead on. The little woof he got told him everything, and so gathering up the blanket in one arm he slowly lead Nico upstairs. He was mindful of his pace and allowed Nico to get ahead at times to test his mindset. Nico tugged Paul along in true puppy style and with it being his first time he allowed the naughtiness, like he had previously when they tried things out. He was a puppy after all.

By the time they reached the bedroom Nico was a lot calmer and waited outside the bedroom door for Paul to open it, but still he had to be first in. It was something to train for in the future.

"Paws off the bed." He chastised, Nico knew better than that. But the excitement was palpable and that pleased him.

He didn't want to displease his master.

"That's better." He patted his head. "You're very good. Now stay." Unclipping the lead he kept it in view by placing it on the bedside table, before returning to lay the blanket over the bed. Nico got up onto bed and playfully wiggled his ass, swishing his tail about. That was his call.

“Someone’s frisky.” Paul grinned as he ran a hand up Nico’s flank and instead of stilling him it seemed to arouse him further, he hadn’t been hard until the lead came into play and now his cock was flushed and beginning to show how worked up he was getting. So worked up in fact he pounced on Paul as he moved up the bed, straddling him on all fours Nico buried his face in his neck, nipping his skin then licking it. Marking his territory.

He was his master.

The sight of Nico baring his teeth before biting at the waistband of his jeans went straight to his groin, Nico was free. “You want me to take these off huh?” Paul smirked.

Paul arched his body enough to ease his trousers over his hips and down his legs, Nico all the while helping by tugging them with his teeth. "You're a naughty puppy aren't you?"

He loved to make his master happy.

Paul knew what he wanted. "Nico. Nico." He caught his attention to stop him from nuzzling his cock, flicking his beautiful eyes up he wavered on the edge of obeying and being very naughty indeed. "Nico, no." Slipping a finger under his collar he pulled him out of his lap, whimpered and whining.

"If you carry on I won't let you hump my leg, and know you want that." The words had barely left his mouth before Nico was face down on his chest rutting against his bare leg.

"You a good little puppy?"

"You my good puppy?"

"Who's a good boy?"

Threading his fingers through his hair he stroked and petted him as his hips became more and more frantic. His cock glided through the pre-come smoothly, and knowing what the stuttering in his body and the whimpering meant he gripped his hair tightly, just behind his fluffy ears.

"You're a good boy."

He had pleased his master.

"Good boy Nico. Good boy." He was coming hard on him, the liquid heat spilled over his leg as Nico panted on his chest. “Good boy.” Releasing his hair Paul smoothed it down softly and let Nico come down in his own time, he was sensitive now and with them trying something new there was a possibility of panic.

“Roll over.” Carefully maneuvering Nico onto his side they coordinated so he was almost on his back making sure the plug wasn’t jostled, he loved to have his stomach rubbed. Getting comfortable, Paul’s hand automatically began to draw circles around his navel, it was soothing for both of them, a mellow and quiet path out of the scene.

Now was the time for silence.

Master was happy, he could feel it in the way he was humming and playing with his hair.

“Nico?” He got a shake of the head saying no. “You’ll get sore.” It had happened before and he wasn’t going to let that happen again. Trailing his hand down his back he paused just before he touched his tail. “Nico, I need you to relax.”

His voice was kind and soft. Paul was always good to him. Paul. Moving up his body he pressed his lips to Paul’s and let him know it was okay. That he was ready. Crossing his arms over Paul’s chest he hid his face as his tail was taken away, he hated this part. “Umpf.”

“You okay?”

“Uh huh.” He nodded. “Empty.” He moaned.

“This better?” Paul hooked a couple of fingers into Nico and felt him squeeze around him.

“Hmm.” He began to rock back on the digits, they felt so good.

“You’re insatiable.”

“For you.” Nico whined as he sat up, reaching behind he lined up Paul’s cock and lowered himself down and in one slick movement he took all of him.

“Fuck, you’re so open.”

“For you, for you. Always for you.”

---

“You fell asleep in your collar?” Paul mumbled into the pillow.

“I wanted to, but I didn’t.” He muttered in the early morning sunlight. “Put in box.” Nico yawned as he stretched his arms out. He’d been caught wearing it in the morning once having put it back on, needing it against his skin, but he was punished for it. It was not his place to disobey.

“Good.” He rolled over to kiss the first part of Nico he came into contact with which turned out to be his arm. “You know you barked last night.”

“Yeah.” Nico breathed.

“That’s new.” He kept his tone light. They always discussed what had gone on afterwards, Paul never wanted it to be an examination, but he had to be sure Nico was comfortable in the direction they were heading.

“It felt right.” He angled his body so Paul could spoon him properly. “I was excited by the lead.”

“It suited you.” Paul kissed the back of his neck tenderly. “Very cute.”

“I am?”

“Mmm, absolutely gorgeous especially when you’re shaking your tail.” There was a subtle roll in Nico’s hips, nothing wanton, just an acknowledgment. “You’re very precious to me Nico, incredibly precious.”

“I love you.” Nico pulled the covers around them to trap the warmth.

“Oh no.” Paul pulled them back. “Time to go on holiday.”

Chapter Text

He had it bad. He had it really bad. So bad he was driving from Scotland in the middle of the night. His sister was going to have a laugh over this, she had spent the day telling him to go back early and he had spent the exact same amount of time saying no. But he couldn’t sleep, he tossed and turned thinking about the phone call with Jenson a couple of nights ago. Of all the people to find him.

He would never admit to Jenson or his sister that’s why he was driving hundreds of miles, he really wished he was more secure in himself, but...no, he was past it. David was tempted to stop and turn around, but he was just entering England and somehow that fact calmed the panic rising within him. Hearing a voice of reason would help but everyone sane he knew would be asleep. So he was left with just his mind to keep him company.

The darkness stretched on ahead of him, but it was worth driving though to get to Jenson, he was like an anchor in the storm, and the serene peace after it. Allan was wrong from the start, David kept believing he was the one and with his heart on board he couldn’t see all the glaring reasons why he should have left him years before. Jenson had been so understanding when he revealed it all, the cheating, the random disappearing, the verbal abuse, he just reached over the table and held his hand.

David knew he fell easily, but after Allan he closed down completely, it was only when Mark slowly brought him around to the idea of loving someone worthy with a description of one of his friends. He was funny, smart, caring, kind, handsome, he’d been hurt but his cakes could cure anything, that was when he gave in to the set up. Once he had met Jenson then he thought of it less of a set up and more like….well something close to destiny.

Blasting the radio, keeping his window open and several cups of coffee kept him going non-stop until he was parked outside of Jenson’s house. Three stories of typical townhouse loveliness that was constantly scented with vanilla and brown sugar, it was his absolute favourite smell in the world because it symbolised Jenson perfectly. What on earth he was going to say once Jenson answered the door?

“Shit!” Someone had just tapped on the driver’s window.

“David?”

He turned to see Jenson looking at him quizzically through the glass, he couldn’t hide now so he unclipped himself and opened the door. “Hey.”

“What are you doing here?” He hugged him tightly. “I thought you were back at the end of the week.”

“I...um.” He pulled back to see his face. “I wanted to see you.” He murmured, embarrassed, this wasn’t exactly how he imagined the moment.

“Did you...you must have driven all night!” He would be astounded if he did.

“Yeah…”

“Wow.” Jenson breathed before kissing him lightly. “You must be exhausted.”

“I’m alright.” He did his best to keep the yawn behind his lips but Jenson was laughing at his foolish attempt.

“Come inside.” Jenson peered into his car. “Where are your bags?”

“Boot, I’ll get them.”

“No, take my keys and go in.” Jenson fished his house keys out of his brown leather shoulder bag and swapped with David. He took out the single holdall and added it to his shoulder before locking the car up and joining his boyfriend in his house. “Hey.” Jenson grinned after putting the bag down with his own. “God, I’m glad you’re here.” He walked over to him and embraced him warmly, kissing him tenderly.

“Were you off to work?” David mumbled between kisses.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “Stay, be here when I get back.” Jenson asked. “Please.”

“How about I get some sleep, and meet you for dinner.”

“Keep my key, we’ll eat here.” Jenson made him promise before darting out of the door. “See you later.” He beamed before disappearing.

He was in Jenson’s house. Alone. He wasn’t ready for Jenson being so okay with it, although giving himself a moment he knew he would trust Jenson in his own. Once calmed down he decided to go home for a shower and a change of clothes, he had a few things to sort out because he knew when Jenson finished work and resolved to get back to see him then.

There was no way he wasn’t wearing clean clothes, or smart clothes and he had neither in his bag.

As the work day stretched on he concentrated on decorating the large wedding cake that was due to go out first thing tomorrow morning. Sticking his earbuds in he turned on some Coldplay and settled down with his little bag of royal icing to delicately decorate the ivory cake with designs inspired by the bride’s wedding gown. Hanging strands of icing off the edges of the round layers he turned the cake around slowly on the base watching the ideas in his head be translated into something physical.

Hours passed and in between bouts of refrigeration he completed the grand creation, a simple vanilla madeira sponge sandwiched with layers of raspberry cream. The simplicity of the design got him thinking of the one he would be making for Mark and Fernando, it wouldn’t be the same seven layer tower, but it would be simple.

Roping in Kevin to put the cake back into the fridge in two sections pushed his nerves to the very edge of what they could cope with as they both found two separate splodges of buttercream on the floor. Swearing under his breath profusely Jenson then sought out a mop to clean it all up before there was an actual accident.

“Thanks Kev, I’ve got this. It’ll give me peace of mind if I do it.” Scrubbing the floor clean he hummed along with the music still playing, then he started singing, but only quietly. He threw in a couple of dance moves but as he spun around he caught the eye of Stoffel, one of his newest recruits.

“Oh, sorry Jenson.”

“It’s alright, what can I do you for?”

“I was just coming to tell you we could all hear you singing in the shop.” He bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from giggling.

“Fuck.” Jenson shook his head. “Well…” There was laughter bubbling up inside of him and he couldn't keep it inside. “I’ll keep it down.” Still chuckling away to himself he added another quick sketch to the wedding file before rounding off the day by helping close up the shop.

---

Arriving home he found the idea of knocking on his own front door surprisingly amusing, he’d never had to do it before, and so waiting on the doorstep he waited for David to welcome him in.

“Good evening.”

“Evening.” Without thinking Jenson, on instinct, kissed David like it was an everyday occurrence. Like he came home to him everyday.

I could get used to this. “How was work?” David breathed out as they parted.

“Good, although…” He sniggered at the memory. “Got caught singing, had my headphones in and...yeah...I think Chris Martin has some competition.”

“Wait, you like Coldplay?” He placed a hand on his chest.

“Uh huh.” Jenson took his jacket off and hung it up. “Problem?”

“Yes, they’re shit.” David declared.

Jenson headed into the kitchen to put the ingredients for dinner away. “Oi mate, they’re not, I’ve created some of my best stuff listening to them.” He retorted.

David followed his path. “Still not a good enough reason.” He couldn’t believe it. “I can’t believe this.”

“What, my excellent music taste or that I also have a heavenly singing voice.” He shrugged playfully after putting the fish and vegetables into the fridge.

David reached out with a hand and squeezed his waist which garnered a cute laugh, it prompted him to keep doing it until Jenson was batting his arms away begging for mercy. “Sorry, you just have the cutest laugh.” But before Jenson could form a response David swept him up in a kiss. “I’ll forgive the Coldplay thing.”

“Good, because I’m not giving them up.” He pouted. “Is that…” Jenson inhaled. “You’ve been baking.” It was such a lovely smell.

“Honey and pepper loaf.” It was an easy choice after finding out it was Jenson’s favourite.

“Perfect.” Jenson sighed.

“I didn’t know what we were going to be having for dinner, at worst you could have it for breakfast tomorrow.” He peered into the oven to check the crust.

“We could. Stay tonight.” Jenson suggested lightly. “Would be a shame for you not to see me gush over how good it is.”

“Okay.” David smiled. He was getting to fall asleep next to him. “The bread should be done.” Picking up the oven gloves he opened the door and slid the tin out while Jenson organised a trivet for him to put it on.

“Can’t believe I have a entire one of these, freshly baked, in my house.” Jenson practically salivated. “You’re spoiling me.”

“I have a feeling you’re worth spoiling.” David watched Jenson’s face explode into a beautiful smile and suddenly his stomach was invaded by butterflies. Jenson had done a number on him.

“Dinner?” Jenson breathed.

“Sure.” David nodded. “What are we doing?”

He adored the way it was always ‘we’ and ‘us’, even from early on, but it never scared him. “I’ve got some sea bass from the market, as well as some new potatoes.” Jenson gravitated back to the fridge. “And a few veggies.” He didn’t want anything heavy, especially as he wanted David to stay the night.

“Sounds great, shall we crack on?” David rubbed his back briefly.

David took charge of the potatoes and chopped them up while Jenson took out pots and pans and laid them out on the stovetop ready to be used. As Jenson slipped into the domesticity of cooking a meal with someone else his mind quickly flicked back to his own observation of Mark and Fernando in their kitchen, moving around each other naturally. They were both used to their own rhythm, and the rhythm of their workplaces, but not each others yet. But Jenson wasn’t going to complain about bumping into David, accidentally grazing his arm as he reached for something, making him laugh at his humming.

“You know you stick your tongue out when you chop.” Jenson remarked.

“I don’t.”

“You do.” Jenson smirked. “It’s cute, what?” David was frowning at him. “Okay, though if you did I would be forced to kiss you.”

“I know I stick my tongue out and I can’t stop it.” He admitted so he could gladly take the cheeky kiss Jenson offered him and let it warm his soul. “Right, let’s get these potatoes on.” David felt blood rushing to his face and changed the subject.

“Alright.” Jenson stated to laugh as he bumped his shoulder against David’s. “Instead of cute then, how about gorgeous, handsome, sexy?”

“I think that just about covers me.” David bluffed.

“Agreed.” Jenson stated before returning to his part of the meal to give David a break. Once the fish was on it didn’t take long for them to have plated up and be sat enjoying it. It was clear that Jenson’s invitation had created a hint of tension, a need to behave. But he didn’t mind the nerves.

“It’s official, we can make great food together.” David announced. “That was really good, that fish was so fresh.”

“Took a detour on the way to work.” Jenson revealed. “I’m really glad you came back early, I mean it. The last couple of days have been awful.”

“I bet.” David took the plates out of his hands and put them in the sink. “Let’s retire to the lounge.” Guiding him away from the mess David forced him to sit on the sofa and relax. “I’ll be back in a second.” Rushing back to the kitchen he quickly and quietly tidied up.

Jenson could hear the tinkering in the kitchen and when his brain made the connection he was too late, David was returning looking pleased with himself. “Film?” Jenson suggested.

“Okay. I’m picking though, if you like Coldplay, god knows what you’ll choose.” He rolled his eyes in jest.

“Fine.” He smiled, it felt natural to let David take the lead. Plus it gave him the opportunity to watch him David choose what they were going to watch, his jeans were fitted to perfection and a little on the snug side.

“Enjoying the view?”

“Yeah.” Jenson found himself flicking his tongue out against his lip just before David turned around with surprising choice in his hand. “Oh.” It was a romantic comedy his sisters had bought him as a joke. “A chick flick?”

“Problem?” He asked as he put the DVD on.

“No, I’m a bit surprised that’s all.” He grinned as David joined him on the sofa.

“Romance isn’t all bad.” He slipped an arm around Jenson’s shoulders and got comfortable. “You sure you’re alright now?” David kissed his temple and loved the way his body melted against his.

“Yeah, it was just so weird seeing him like that, such a mess. I’d never really seen him with a hair out of place, and he was homeless, homeless. Actually sleeping on the street.” He moved in closer to David, breathing the calm in. “The worst bit was leaving him at the hospital, I just hope he gets better and his parents welcome him back home.”

“I was wondering about his parents.” He must have done something pretty awful, but it wasn’t his place to ask and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“Yeah, they found out some things about him and banished him and blamed me, sent me into a spiral. If I didn’t have baking I would have probably joined him, but...Alain helped a lot.” He had been caught crying during his break and Alain demanded an explanation, which he gave and was immediately supported.

That would explain the closeness.

“I waited far too long before seeking help, but...christ without Mark and Fernando I would have drowned. Along with my parents they all pushed me to get into therapy and it worked, eventually.”

“Other people’s choices aren’t your doing.”

“Exactly, that’s it.” He sighed, happy that he didn’t need to be any more detailed.

“I’ve got some experience in that department.” He held onto Jenson tighter and nuzzled his face until their lips met. It was soft and searching, asking for a bit more with each breath. He adored kissing Jenson, it felt special every time.

“Mmm.” Jenson was too carried away with the way David felt on his lips to answer properly. But when he opened his eyes his mind focused completely, David was gazing at him seductively and he wanted more of that so grasping his shirt he pulled him down onto him.

Jenson shot him a wolfy grin before rolling his hips. “Jense.” He breathed as his body responded. Jenson was underneath him, one of his legs threatening to wrap around his waist and he knew then how things would play out. He pushed his crotch against Jenson’s and had his breath stolen, the beautiful whine that escaped his lips stopped time. He had to hear it again. So he angled his hips precisely and was rewarded. “Fuck.” He dived in for another kiss.

They had to move, their first time together was not going to be on his sofa. “Upstairs.” Jenson croaked.

“Yeah.” David just about managed to form a reply before dragging Jenson onto his feet and into his body. He had to steal another kiss before they moved and was gladdened to feel Jenson melt in his arms. “Fuck, you’re gorgeous.”

Jenson grabbed David’s hand and led him upstairs quickly, having someone truly desire him made the base of his skull buzz and feel heavy, then David’s free hand was on the small of his back before naughtily tracing down and over his arse. Someone wanted him for him. Once they were in his room there was a brief pause, just long enough to choose what piece of clothing was going first.

Two sets of hands stripped each other of their tops swiftly, revealing new sights they needed that pause once more. Lips were bitten at what was new, toned chests untouched by their professions, sweet skin begging to be licked and nibbled…

David dove in first, wrapping his arms around him and let his hands travel southwards to cup his firm cheeks before kissing along his collarbone up to his neck. He tasted so good, fresh and clean and so very Jenson. And when he tipped his head back he kept exploring to the other side of his neck, he just showed his teeth, just enough to garner a shiver.

“David.” He gasped, he could just feel his teeth, the merest hint. “Oh. God.”

“Bed.” David whispered before teasing his earlobe with his lips.

“Yeah.” Almost tripping over as he stumbled backwards he internally rolled his eyes at himself for not being smoother. “Yeah.”

Jenson was flushed and with his eyes darting about a bit he looked nervous, he didn’t want him to be nervous. He wanted Jenson to be relaxed and smiling, maybe not smiling, maybe open mouthed and moaning. Panting with need. “Hey.” David cupped his cheek before kissing him and slowing the pace.

As David kissed him Jenson let his hands wander to his waistband, running his fingers just underneath he felt the reaction immediately, so with their crotches straining against each other’s Jenson popped the button on his trousers. Then unzipped the fly before tugging him free rapidly, desperation seeping into his actions he was glad to feel the same urgency reciprocated when his jeans joined David’s on the floor.

Putting a hand on Jenson’s back he guided him back onto the bed, the pristine white sheets highlighting everything great about him, especially his miraculously toned body. “You’re a secret gym bunny.” David taunted lightheartedly as he began to map out a path down Jenson’s body with his lips.

“No.” Jenson breathed.

“Liar.” David flicked a tongue over a nipple to be rewarded with a squirm and a sigh.

“I...oh...bike. Cycle a bit.” His body was barely his own, wherever David touched him was perfect. “Run.”

“Outdoorsy.” Curious to see how sensitive Jenson was he breathed over his nipple and watched his body arch towards him. “Hmm.”

“What?” Jenson peeled an eye open and watched David’s gaze flit over his body.

“Just thinking about what I can do with that knowledge.” He grinned before kissing a line down the centre of Jenson’s smooth stomach, swirling his tongue around his navel the heat radiated from him.

“Oh, right.” Jenson moaned lightly to begin with but it deepened when he snuck his tongue under his boxers, he was getting close to being fully hard and on the verge of taking them off himself but was glad he didn’t. David’s hands followed the same path as his tongue, hooking them over the elastic he tugged on them gently. “Oh.” He lifted his hips and moaned again when David relieved him of the last of his clothes.

Fuck. He indulged himself with a leisurely look before cheekily flicking his tongue through his pre-come, hearing a breathy moan followed by a whine he looked up at Jenson’s face. His bottom lips was being chewed on heavily by his teeth, keeping the volume down, so wanting to hear him he reached up and freed his mouth with a thumb. “Let me hear you.”

“David.” He gasped.

He was only expecting a louder groan, not to hear his name spoken so deliciously. Moving up Jenson’s body he kissed that mouth hard. Pulling back he muttered, “Fucking hell Jense,” wetly against the soft skin of Jenson’s neck, he was groaning quietly, puffs of breath were laced with a sensual air. David had to share that with him, bracing his body over him, balancing on his forearms he pressed little fluttery kisses around his lips, bringing his own breathing in time with Jenson’s.

It was intimate. So intimate he could barely comprehend it all. So intimate he wanted to completely surrender himself. “Please.” He begged gently. He heard his own voice crack around the edge, not with fear or nerves but with pure want. He wanted David. He wanted David to take him. Have him. At least kiss him. Wrapping his arms around David’s neck he pulled him down and crushed their lips together, harsh and strumming with desire.

Bringing himself up onto his hands David looked down at the man who was now palming his cock, then at the man biting his bottom lip to a rosy red as he tugged at his boxers, at the man wriggling against the bed with lips spreading into a wicked smile. David eased himself out of the tight boxers and flung them aside, they were naked.

They were naked. Jenson was breathless, it had been so long, too long. Now David was holding him, their bodies brought together. “I…”

Jenson had begun to say something before clamming up. “What is it?” David dipped down to steal another kiss, unable to control the roll of his hips at the same time.

“Hmm.” Their cocks created the most amazing friction and he was rendered brainless for a moment. “Oh.”

“Jense, you okay?”

“I’ve...you’re...I’m fine. Really good.” Wrapping his legs around David’s waist he began a rhythm, just rocking together. Just swimming in pleasure. Jenson had made himself forget how good it was to lay himself bare to someone else, to stop hiding, to just be. “I’ve only ever been with one person.”

“Oh.” David was truly shocked, how could he have hidden himself away like this? For so long. But he wasn’t going to make a fuss, or shame him. It was nothing to be ashamed of. “Hey, look at me.” David nudged his nose playfully. “I don’t know why you look so worried, I’m the one under pressure now.” He smiled. “I can only be better or worse, no inbetween.”

Jenson let the chuckle escape. “Well I’m rooting for the former.” To ensure the tension was truly gone he reached around to squeeze David’s ass.

“Me too.” He took it slow, he’d had a couple of partners since his last relationship imploded. “I’m clean, been tested.”

David cared. “Me too.” That had been a horrid appointment to keep, there was nothing surer to bring anyone down to earth than trying to convince a nurse sex with a prostitute had been unknowing. But it wasn’t time to think about that, he was in love with David’s mouth. He lips made his skin quiver, react in all the ways he had forgotten, it made him yearn for more.

Weaving a slow trail from his neck, over his toned chest and down his smooth stomach David soaked up the whimpers and sighs that transformed into growls. Hearing ‘please’ moaned again made him light headed, but he had the presence of mind to give Jenson what he wanted, circling his cock with a hand he squeezed gently before stroking upwards.

Scrunching his hands into the sheets Jenson forced his body into the mattress, trying desperately not to thrust upwards into David’s hand, trying to calm himself, trying to hold everything back. But it felt so good to have someone else’s hand touching him, because David knew what he was doing, delicate pressure danced along his length before he brought his whole hand around, thumb resting just there… “Oh god.”

Jenson’s hips bucked upwards and to give him a moment he released him completely and brought his thumb up to his mouth, now it was his time to moan.

Daring to open his eyes he watched David lick his thumb clean, and that wasn’t helping at all, so he resorted to closing his eyes once more to try and think of something deeply unsexy, but all he could hear was hums of enjoyment. “Urgh...oh...oh god...David.” His mouth, his fucking mouth. Hot, wet, obscene heat enveloped his cock.

He tasted good, and now he felt good. But he could tell Jenson was struggling, his legs were trembling with tension either side of him so to make an attempt to relax him he used his free hand to rub his thigh soothingly.

“St...stop!”

David slowly released him, pressing his tongue firmly along the underside of his cock before swiping the tip over his head wickedly.

“Sorry, I just...you are...amazing.”

“Never apologise for making noises like that.” David knelt up with a soft grin playing on his lips, Jenson looked wrecked and gorgeous. Hair messy, lips bitten red, his cock hard and laying up his stomach, a filthy invitation for more.

His heavy breathing was all he could hear over his thumping heartbeat, laid out naked and panting below David he was waiting for a feeling of shame or vulnerability, but it never came. He was about to hook a leg around David’s waist to bring him in for a kiss but his target moved out of reach.

“Got any supplies?” He better had David thought, there was no way he could coordinate himself to go out and get some, Jenson nodded at the bedside cabinet and with relief he reached over.

No sooner as he indicated where David could find what he wanted he remembered what else was in that drawer, he went to stop him but he was already looking inside. Shit.

“Great, want something to make it...oh...hello.” He had opened the top drawer hoping to find a bottle of lube, he got that but he also found something far more exciting. “Please tell me that’s not for show.”

David was slicking his own cock up with lube as his gaze stayed with the contents of his drawer. “Um...yes.”

“Good, that’s good.” He replied in a breathy voice. The image of Jenson bent over on all fours, ass in the air, face down on the bed, working the dildo into his body was intoxicating. “That’s really good.” It wasn’t of cartoonish proportions, it was reassuringly realistic and expensive looking.

It had taken him so long to order it online he felt stupid when he eventually plucked up the courage to do it, and was instantly glad. That first evening was heaven. “Good?”

“Of course.” Taking more lube into his hand he spread it over Jenson’s cock before covering his body with his own, bring them together in a way that felt right for tonight.

With David so close he brought his legs around him and immediately started to rock his body, driven by desire. He could taste himself on David as they kissed again, the faintest hint serving as a reminder of him being between his legs moments ago. “Ohhh.” Their cocks were sliding against each other wonderfully, their rhythms working together fluidly to get them both panting and gasping.

“Jense. Jense. Jense.” David buried his face in Jenson’s neck as the first strong wave washed over him.

Holding on tightly with his arms around David’s body Jenson tried to up the pace, his body winding ever tighter with every second. The heat of his breath on his neck, the way he could feel his tongue dart out to lap at his skin, the heavy breaths, moans and groans. The strength he had over him was palpable and spurring him ever closer to the ecstasy he deserved. “David.” He gasped as his being crested the wave. “Fuck, oh god. David!”

He had to be witness to this, so holding out on his own climax he did his best to watch Jenson fall apart, head thrust back into the pillows, arms stretched out above his head, mouth open wide and letting the beautiful stream of whines and whimpers into the heated air between them. Holding on just long enough to take it all in he collapsed on Jenson’s chest and rutted against him with uncoordinated impulses, he couldn’t stop, the cries of pleasure from the man still clinging to him fuelling him onwards. “Jense.” He croaked.

Their shared silence was only broken by faint murmurs of fading arousal and sweet kisses, it was comfortable, it all felt so right. So easy. So familiar.

“Mmmm.” Jenson exhaled. Bringing his hands around to cradle David’s face he delivered a sensual kiss, slow and luxurious, yearning and loving.

“You’re something else.” David grinned dopily as he came up for air.

“Yeah?” He wasn’t sure if he was messing around or being serious, so his eyes slid over to his bedside cabinet wondering if he’d freaked him out.

“Jense.” He kissed him calmly. “How can you be embarrassed? It’s hot, and you’ve only got one. Next time you’re round mine you can see what a collection looks like.” David felt his face heat up.

“A collection?” Jenson failed to keep the chuckle inside.

“Yeah, I don’t really like sleeping around.” He mumbled.

“Well you know I don’t.” Jenson rolled his eyes at himself before closing them.

Even if Jenson wasn’t going to admit it David could tell he was beginning to feel regret for sharing so much, so he said something to make him laugh. “You know we’re stuck together with come.”

It took a few seconds for what David had said to compute but once it did he snorted before laughing. “What?!”

“Don’t regret what you said Jenson.” David kissed his cheek. “How about a shower?”

“Mmm.” He agreed, waiting for David to ease himself off his body, both sharing a childish smile at the sticky noises. Jenson was sated, truly satisfied in a bone-deep way that his memory couldn’t quite recollect.

Washing each other was an intimate experience, using just their hands the lather helped them glide until they had tangled themselves up in another kiss. The stream of water was cascading over Jenson’s back, the combination of the heat and David running his hands over his body was making him sleepy, his head felt heavy, swimming with nothing but relief.

By the time they dried off and crawled back into bed sleep was calling loudly to both of them, and as they snuggled down into the shared duvet David pulled Jenson towards him slowly. “Goodnight.”

“Night.” Jenson sighed, eyes already drawn closed he brushed his lips against David’s before slipping away completely.

---

His body clock was hard wired to wake early, and as soon as the morning began to creep through the curtains David blinked his eyes open to the day, but for once he wasn’t alone, far from it, he had another body pressed up against his. To wake with his vision filled with Jenson warmed him from the very core of his being, during the night he had positioned himself perfectly to have them spooning, back to chest.

David was about to kiss the back of his neck and begin to wake him up but Jenson had got there first, but in a slightly different way, he couldn’t tell if he was awake or not but his hips definitely were. Pressing his ass into his crotch left him hoping Jenson wasn’t just having a great dream, so resting his lips against the curve of his neck he waited for the response.

“Mmm morning.” Jenson breathed.

“Morning.” David reached to kiss behind his ear.

“Slept so good.” He mumbled.

“Me too.” David agreed, sleep still clouding his voice a little.

Jenson couldn’t stop smiling, waking up with someone else beside him was a huge comfort, even more so as it was someone he cared deeply for. And a little bit more on top as he could feel David’s arousal firmly against his ass, and when he wriggled his hips he picked up a few panted breaths from behind him. Then David’s hands were on his hips, helping them enjoy the same rhythm, and with his cock sliding between his cheeks lazily Jenson spoke. “I want you.”

David let the groan in his throat escape at the request. “Yeah?”

“Mmm.” He rocked back on instinct, because he did want more.

“Do you want me here?” David whispered huskily as he squeezed Jenson’s ass. “Or here?” He slipped the same hand over his hip to circle his cock.

Jenson let the moan building up in his chest go, and taking David’s wandering hand he brought it up to his mouth to suck on a finger, then to give his answer he reached back to press the digit to his entrance. “I want you here.”

“Ugh.” David growled. “Fucking hell.” He hissed. Jenson was his perfect man, kind, warm, handsome with a hidden naughty side. Sucking on his finger again he circled Jenson’s hole lazily, it was still early so there was no need to rush even though their need was building. Easing his index finger into him David stilled simply because of the reaction he got in return, Jenson was pushing back already, clenching, breathing heavily.

“Yes.” He knew David was teasing him, playfully almost hitting his prostate, and he knew he was squirming around far too much to be considered a dignified adult. “God ye...ooh...no.” Jenson felt David taking his finger back.

David leaned back away from Jenson to delve into that drawer again, his mind already taking him back to the discovery from last night, but instead of lingering on that he returned to who was laid out beside him, the present, and grabbed the bottle of lube and new box of condoms. Fiddling with the cellophane briefly he resorted to using his teeth to get at the contents and once he ripped a foil square off he discarded it to prepare Jenson a bit more thoroughly.

He felt the cool slick of lube at his entrance which made his breath hitch, bringing a knee up he invited the welcome breach, and when it came he wanted to cry out in gratitude, then a second fingers joined in. Allowing the arm to wrap around his chest to pull him closer Jenson angled his head to kiss David as he continued to be worked open, and he loved the feeling of fullness.

“Okay?”

“Yeah.”

David changed the angle of his fingers and hooked them up to drag the tips over his prostate and heard the most beautiful cry. “You like that huh?”

“Course...fuck...please...yes.” Jenson unashamedly rode David’s fingers as they began to stretch him with more purpose. “David. Please” He sighed as he teased his prostate again. “Please fuck me.”

“My pleasure.” He groaned as he felt Jenson clench around his fingers and he slowly withdrew them. Seeking out the condom he got earlier he took his arm back from around Jenson and ripped it open with urgency, he expected Jenson to stay where he was but while he rolled the rubber down he found his thighs being straddled. “Hello there.”

“Hi.” Jenson grinned before leaning down onto his hands once David was prepared, kissing him he allowed David to apply more lube to them both. He adored having his hands over him, he loved being touched full stop, and for it to be so intimate, so full of promise left him feeling light headed. Sitting up Jenson positioned himself and gazed down at David’s face as he lowered himself carefully, using a hand as a guide he brought the head of his cock to his entrance, breathing deeply he relaxed his body. “Oh. God.” Jenson choked out.

He had a lapful of Jenson and he could barely function, cock buried deep inside the scorching heat, the tightness left him unable to decide on whether to move or not, but as it turned out he didn’t need to make a decision at all. Jenson was circling his hips slowly, riding his cock, riding him. “Don’t stop.” He grabbed for Jenson’s waist and brought him down flush to his body so he could truly connect with him. “Fuck.” His body was divine.

Experimentally sitting up Jenson brought himself out of David’s lap before sitting back down, the exquisite friction he created left them both breathless, so he continued with help from the hips belonging to the man below. They rocked together, David was waiting for the right moment to flip Jenson onto his back, but for the time being he was more than content to watch the man above him, breathing heavily, moaning with every thrust, head tipped back.

“Jesus christ.” David muttered at the sight of Jenson pinching and rolling his nipple between a finger and thumb, then with his other hand tugging on his cock he forced himself not to blink to memorise it all. “So fucking hot.” Quickly realising he shouldn’t have said anything he tried hard to pretend he hadn’t, he had broken the moment Jenson was very much enjoying.

“Fuck me.” Jenson pleaded before leaning forward for a kiss, it had been a good idea to begin with, but he needed the touch, the close contact with David, his own wasn’t enough. Not anymore. “Ah.” David had slipped out of him carefully, but every single nerve ending was receptive to all stimulation.

Jenson arranged himself on the mattress ready to be taken, legs spread wide he was palming his cock wantonly, offering himself up to David to take what he wanted. David loomed over him with his cock in hand, Jenson lifted his feet up and waited for the pressure at his entrance to turn into the pure pleasure of being filled wholly and completely.

“Fuck you feel good.” David cried out as he delved into Jenson, legs were swiftly wrapped around him, not letting him pull back too far before thrusting forward.

“Hrgh.” His body was singing. David was buried right up to the hilt, his hips pressed hard against his ass, barely moving he was doing just enough to hold him over the edge, daring him to come. “Close.” He moaned loudly. “Fuck.”

“I want to watch you fall apart.” David called out as he slid a hand down his thigh. “You looked beautiful last night. Gorgeous.” Jenson was whimpering, blue eyes flashing brightly as David fisted his cock, long slow strokes in time with his thrusts.

“Ple...Dave...oh god...ngh...come...gonna…” With the last tendrils of sense he dragged David down onto his chest, kissing him, messy and open mouthed.

Jenson had taken him over, his legs had a vice-like grip around his waist forcing his thrusts to be short and intense, and it turned out to be enough to make his body tense sharply around him. He was clinging on for dear life, nails digging in to his skin that was already on fire, alternating between swearing and thanking him Jenson brought him over the edge so that they could fall together.

And they fell. Hard.

Hardly catching a breath before the next wave came Jenson shivered and shook as his orgasm thundered around his body, it was magnificent, overwhelming and mind-bendingly intense. He wasn’t alone. He wasn’t alone anymore. Struggling with skin that felt far too tight, hearing too sensitive and lungs too small Jenson kept hold of David, not caring at all about the weight on his chest. David was kissing him lightly with fluttery kisses along his jaw and down his neck.

Jenson was making little contented noises, something that had quickly become his new favourite sound. His legs were still around him too, and although the temptation to stay like this was strong David pulled away nonetheless, kneeling up he was very careful when he slipped out. “Aaah.” He sighed before peeling the condom off.

“Don’t go, not yet.” Jenson pleaded quietly. The mess on his stomach didn’t trouble him, nor the streaks of lube that were probably all over the sheets, he could change them, now he needed closeness, he wanted to be held.

“Wasn’t planning on going anywhere.” He assured kindly before taking up the space beside Jenson again, they began by laying face to face but as he moved closer and closer David pulled him onto his chest. Threading his fingers through his hair David gently stroked through the short blond strands.

“Good.” Jenson murmured, truly sated he allowed his body to melt into David’s. “Good.”

---

“David?” Jenson stretched out an arm to try and figure out why he was without his warmth. He found his bed empty so he resorted to opening his eyes to confirm his solitary state, but before he could panic he heard the unmistakable sound of someone in the kitchen. The domesticity of the situation made him smile. Getting out of bed, still naked, he stripped the bed of the sheets he replaced them with fresh ones before hopping in the shower.

Hearing the shower going David began to put the finishing touches to breakfast so he could bring it up, maybe it would be too much too soon, but perhaps the risk was worth it he pondered. Buttering the toast made from the honey pepper loaf Jenson had been salivating over yesterday he let his mind wander, last night had left a definite mark on him, the way he felt in his arms afterwards was nothing short of heaven.

Then this morning, the naughtiness, the noises, the sheer intimacy of physically connecting with Jenson, he was glad Mark forced the invitation on him and made him go to Fernando’s exhibition, because not making breakfast for him now wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be right.

“Hey.”

David turned with the heavily laden tray in his hand. “Morning. Again.”

Jenson returned the smile easily. “Looks like you’ve been busy.” He wandered over to look at the treats.

“Yeah...um…” He was contemplating whether or not to invite him back upstairs. “Where do you want to eat this?”

The tray. “Upstairs.” Jenson twigged that breakfast in bed was the intention and by going downstairs he had spoiled it a little. He didn’t let him escape straight away though, gesturing for him to put the tray down he waited until his hands were empty before wrapping his arms around David’s neck. “Last night and this morning.” Jenson kissed him slowly. “Was perfect.” He kissed him again, just teasing his lips with his tongue.

“It was Jense.” David agreed warmly. “Absolutely.”

Chapter Text

Dan huffed, their lunch break was almost over and he was about to go into a huge meeting to pitch his idea and he felt sick to his stomach.

“You alright?” Jean-Eric could see how tense Dan was.

“Nervous. I want this to go ahead because I’m out of ideas now. And they’re running out of patience with me.”

The weather was trying its best to get into summer, and although spring was holding on tightly it was warm enough to sit outside. “Dan.” He scooted closer. “This is what you do so well, you deserve to be confident about this proposal, so you should go in there knowing they’re going to say yes. It’s tailor made Red Bull.”

Jean-Eric could always work wonders with his mood. “I think they’re going to love the location.” Dan remarked, thinking over the main points of his presentation.

“Like I said, tailor made.” He grinned before leaning in to kiss his cheek. “Come find me afterwards, I won’t be able to wait until tonight, I’ve got to stay late.”

“If it all goes well, I will be too.” Dan stood up slowly and disposed of the container his sandwich had been in. “Thanks for listening.”

“Anytime, guess we should get back to it.”

“Spoilsport.”

“Won’t be calling me that when they’re handing you a thumbs up and a big budget to play with.” Jean-Eric grinned before playfully pushing Dan towards the large building. They did their best to keep their relationship turned down at work, but they were far from the only couple and Red Bull wasn’t the most strict company on the matter, as long as it wasn’t seen inside the offices they didn’t get involved.

---

No matter how hard he worked Jean-Eric found his eyes constantly looking at the time, searching for it on his watch, his phone and the computer screen. Even when his team were keeping him busy with questions and work to check he was calculating how long into the meeting Dan was, a no would be a shock.

---

“So that’s the concept, I know you are all wondering where this event will be held.” Dan stayed positive when he spoke, talking as if it was going ahead. Responding to the hums of yes and nodding heads he smiled himself. “Here, Austria. The Austrian Grand Prix is one of the premier Red Bull events in our calendar, together we’ve made it prestigious and so in order to exhibit our best selves, why not do it somewhere where we are the best?”

Dan unclipped the clasp on his briefcase and extracted the glossy booklets Jean-Eric’s department had made, they were slightly different to the usual Red Bull fare, they were high-end and elegant, Dan joked it was far too French. Handing them out to each of the board members he remembered to be purposeful and confident with each step.

The first meeting was with Sebastian, it was informal and Sebastian hadn’t waited long to tell him this was going in front of the board for final approval, it was a big deal. Keeping Mark with Red Bull when he was about to leave after a couple of dodgy calls put Dan’s name out into the company, everyone else had tried in vain to keep him from moving on to Nike, but it was only him who convinced him to stay.

It made him wonder if making him stay with Red Bull had a detrimental effect on his career, but he’d had some fantastic wins with them…

“So this is a general overview of the event as a whole, it’s not just a night, we can’t show anyone who we are in a night. We show them how hard we work during the race weekend.” He circled the table. “Dedication, precision, energy, excellence and success. A few select athletes will watch the team work in the garage for qualifying and race day, the ones we want, the ones we’ve all been hunting. Because, let’s be honest, there is a list we’re all aware of.”

Dan stood at the head of the table and surveyed the men and women all acknowledging the list of ideal athletes that were a mixture of up and comers and legends. It was all about getting them.

“What makes you think you can even get them to attend?”

“We’re using the grand prix as the cover, invite the unattached to saturday, then those we want to poach we get to come on sunday, they hear about the dinner, all the fun and so when we invite them to the big event on sunday night they will want to go. They don’t want to be left out.”

“That’s pretty sneaky Dan.”

Dietrich was keeping his cards close to his chest, but there was a glimmer of something in his eyes. “You could view it as that, or you could view it as Red Bull wanting everyone to have a good time, you said yourself Dietrich, Red Bull is inclusive. So what if they’re sponsored by Nike or some oil company, doesn’t matter, Red Bull can still be theirs.” He was bursting with excitement.

“So it’s a soft sell?"

“On the surface, yes, but we want Marquez and Espargaro and soft will get us nowhere.” Dan replied.

“You reckon we could get both of them?”

“Why the hell not?” Dan answered triumphantly which got a smattering of laughter, he just hoped it wasn’t disbelieving.

“Thanks for that Dan, if nothing else you’ve made us love Red Bull even more.”

Dan soaked up the positivity as he packed up his laptop and the notes that never got used, he shared a little small talk before excusing himself after being told they’d be in touch by the end of the day. Taking the long way back to his office he meandered through the large open plan marketing department to find Jean-Eric in furious conversation with one of the interns.

“...so when I say don’t send it until you’ve checked with me, that’s what I mean. Don’t worry, I’ll sort it.”

“Busy?”

“No, just need to stop an order for three hundred thousand flags.”

“Three hundred thousand?” Dan snorted.

“Yeah.” Jean-Eric rolled his eyes.

Dan grinned as Jean-Eric rolled his eyes, he waited for him to finish his phone call to the supplier which involved many apologies and by the end a little laughter, he knew how persuasive he could be which made him a show-in for the head of marketing role when it came up. It made him smile when he purposely thickened his accent, playing heavily on the flirty nature of French before delivering a killer blow, Dan had been on the end of that many times, just never in a professional setting. Apart from the last christmas office party…

“Dan!” Jean-Eric chuckled at the faraway look in his eyes after calling his name a couple of times.

“Huh?” Dan was snapped back from his memory.

“What on earth were you daydreaming about?”

Jean-Eric was laughing at him smugly, but he knew exactly how to wipe it off his face. “I was thinking about the last christmas party.”

“Oh.” It was wonderfully cliche. Dan pushed him into a storage cupboard, pulled his trousers down and nodded at him to get on his knees, Jean-Eric’s felt his face grow hot as he recollected how it felt to submit surrounded by boxes of pens and printer paper. “Right.”

“How about a repeat performance at home?”

“Please.”

“Ah yes, I definitely remember that.” Dan remarked in a low voice, practically purring. Jean-Eric had knelt in front of him begging him to come in his mouth, with that image fixed in his head he was glad they were in Jean-Eric’s private office instead of out on the floor.

“When are you going to find out?”

“Hopefully today. I really should get back to my desk.” He replied, still distracted by the images floating through his head.

“I have a desk, you have a palace.” Jean-Eric grinned. Dan’s office was like the other top agents’, glass everywhere, big enough to impress the clients, and littered with Red Bull paraphernalia. His own was more modest, but it didn’t matter to him, he was rarely in there. “Go, I want to find out.” He shooed him out and tried to find a distraction, which was soon given to him in the shape of his other intern.

Dan concentrated on tying up all the loose ends so he could leave the office in good shape for when he returned after the weekend, for once his weekend included saturday and sunday. Jean-Eric had to come in on Sunday so they only had tonight to enjoy properly, and that was going to be mostly eaten up with work.

“Daniel Ricciardo.”

“Hello Daniel.”

“Dietrich, how are you?” He knew what this phone call was about, and he had seen the owner of Red Bull not long ago at all.

“Fine. I was impressed with your presentation as a whole, it’s what we’ve come to expect from you.”

Something in his stomach twisted uncomfortably, to Dan it felt like this was the beginning of a gentle let down over the whole project. He should have spent more time on it, been more detailed, or less detailed, more enthusiastic, or less, he was spinning.

“That being said…”

Dan put his head into his free hand and readied himself to hear the word no.

“I was surprised by the direction you’re taking this event, not seen this killer spirit before. So I’ll be watching and waiting for the results Dan, Marquez and Espargaro would be great additions.”

“Me too.” Dan laughed. “They will be.”

“And I guess you have a plan for getting Mark back too. I was so disappointed that he left.”

Dan knew it was his fault that he turned his back on everything Red Bull, he didn’t anticipate Mark leaving it all behind. He knew retirement was coming up because he was suddenly so relaxed about everything, especially Fernando. Mark just turned up out of the blue one day with Fernando in tow, simply sat down and told him outright who he was to him, Dan knew then that Mark was going to retire. He should have worked harder at keeping him within the Red Bull family.

“I was too, I shouldn’t...I’ll get him back.” Now he had Dietrich on the phone he felt brave enough to reveal what he wanted to offer Mark. “I want to offer Mark something more than being a brand ambassador though. He’s a resource we can use, he has an eye for talent. Look at Mitch Evans, he’s smashing it. And Brendon Hartley too.”

“I like your thinking, go for it Dan, you’ve got my backing.”

“Thank you Dietrich, that means a lot.”

---

“So?” Jean-Eric had been waiting far too long to hear back from Dan.

“So, what?”

“Don’t play with me, I need to know.” He huffed.

“Yes.”

“Knew it.” Jean-Eric smirked “How big’s the budget?”

“Big as I want pretty much. They’re desperate to get Mark back. And I might have sort of promised them Espargaro and Marquez though.” He didn’t know if that going to pay off or not.

“Right then, best we find you some marketing guys to focus on this.” He smiled broadly.

“I want the best.”

“Kvyat’s got a hell of an eye for this sort of stuff.”

“Yeah?” He was hoping Jean-Eric would want to get a bit more involved, but he knew he couldn’t spare the time, this was a side project compared to everything else he managed. The youngest head of marketing at Red Bull ever.

“I’ll get your set up with a team Dan, but I might be able to stick my nose in from time to time.” He chuckled, managing all the time took him away from what he loved, so he saw this as a chance to get involved in what he was good at.

“You’re the best.”

“I know. Let me treat you to dinner tonight, no arguments.”

Dan huffed playfully. “Alright.”

“Get back to work, I should be done by eight.”

Quickly calculating how much work he had to do before then he gauged if he could do it. “Yeah, reckon I will be too. See you later.”

“See you later.” Jean-Eric hung up with a warm feeling in his heart, if his team got this right the Christmas bonus would give their savings a healthy boost. They were planning to go travelling again in the future, the length of time depended on their current level of sobriety, from a couple of months to the rest of their lives, but they kept coming back to six months. However they knew to take that much time off would be impossible with their careers, they had to time it right, but they wouldn’t be at Red Bull forever.

---

“Hey.” Jean-Eric greeted Dan as he exited the main entrance. “Done?” Dan had a habit of bringing his work home with him when he had a lot on, so he was making sure their night would just be them.

“Done.” He smiled before gently kissing him. “Giving myself the weekend off properly.”

“Good, things are going to get crazy.”

“When are they not?” Dan laughed before kissing Jean-Eric again. “Sounds like someone’s got engine trouble.” There was someone trying to start their car desperately around them but failing, walking around the corner they saw it was Sebastian having trouble. “You okay there Sebastian?” Dan called out as the driver side door was open.

“Yeah, just won’t start.” He sighed, closing his eyes he tilted his head back against the headrest.

Dan wandered over to his car. “You’re heading home right? Do you want a lift to the airport?”

He knew it was wrong to immediately find the silver lining, but a broken down car was a perfect reason to miss a flight. “No, I’ll sort something out tomorrow.”

“Oh right, lift home then?” Dan offered.

“Danke.” Locking up his car he followed Dan to his and sat in the back, Jean-Eric was driving their company car out the car park and away from another week of work. He was due to get back home late so he didn’t rush to get in contact with Hanna, deciding to send her a text once he got back to his weekday home.

“Are you hungry Sebastian?” Jean-Eric hoped he wouldn’t think he being pitied, but there was a chance to strengthen their working relationship to be taken.

“Um, yeah, guess so.” He was completely zoned out, thinking about having a weekend to himself filled his mind.

“Want to join us, we’re just going to grab something simple, think it’s well earned.”

Sebastian smiled. “Agreed, well done on the presentation Dan, they all loved it.” He knew Dietrich wouldn’t heap on the praise. “They were all really impressed, especially when you mentioned those two names.”

“Promised them Mark as well.” Jean-Eric chipped in.

“Webber? Thought he’d given it all up.” Sebastian replied confused. He remembered pouring over the reports when he came out, he made it look so easy, so effortless. Sebastian had studied that picture he used to reveal their relationship, as much as he hated Mark during their competitive year it was hard to feel anything other than admiration. That, and jealously.

“We let him slip away, he wanted a change of pace.” Dan rectified. “All part of the plan.”

Jean-Eric stopped outside a small restaurant Sebastian never been to before, it looked cosy, maybe not the right sort of place for him to join them, but he couldn’t say no now. And company that wasn’t going to pester him to have children would make a nice change, he would have to do something about it soon, he was running out of excuses and time.

“The only plans I want to hear about now is what we’re going to eat, because one I am starving and two, we’ve all clocked out.” Jean-Eric warned cheekily.

“Fine.” Dan quickly kissed his cheek before opening the door for them all. “Seb, this place does the most amazing burgers, I’m tempted to refuse that you order anything else.”

Sebastian paused for effect before creasing into a smile. “I’ll trust you.”

“Good stuff.” Dan beamed. “Table for three please.” Dan requested in flawless German.

They were all led to a booth at the side and they all quickly ordered something to drink, Dan opted for a bottle of beer which tempted Sebastian to copy him and Jean-Eric was happy with a coke. Falling into an easy conversation about things of nothing of great importance the three of them struggled to break apart to answer the waiter’s question for what they wanted to eat. But when they did manage it Sebastian took Dan’s advice and ordered a simple burger and marveled at the other orders, making it clear they had been here plenty of times before.

Sebastian could feel the tension that was permanently kept in his neck and shoulders seep out of him, not only were Dan and Jean-Eric fantastic company with a never ending litany of stories to entertain with it gave him to chance to be around a functioning relationship. And although it hurt to see them so free and happy, untouched by self-created baggage, it allowed him to imagine Kimi and him on a date. Eating dinner in public, maybe even holding hands, a kiss possibly. Watching them interact fluidly forced him to answer a question he had been avoiding, he had to divorce Hanna. He couldn’t force her to waste anymore of her life with a man who couldn’t love her they way she deserved.

“You alright Seb?” Jean-Eric enquired.

“Yeah, just thinking about a couple of things.” Although he was about to cause someone he cared about a great deal of pain, a huge weight had been shifted off of his shoulders. “It’s all good.”

“Was it good, the burger?”

“Yeah.” He grinned at Dan. “Knew I could trust your judgement.” Sebastian wondered if Dan had any inkling that he was going to be offered a promotion anytime soon, unless the event he was planning was a huge disaster, he was going to be handed a brilliant opportunity.

Dan watched Sebastian do his best to hide a yawn and so instead of ordering the desert he had been dreaming of since the last time he came here he asked to take it away, and it was hard not to miss the wave of relief on Sebastian’s face. “I’m fit for bed.” Dan said unprompted to let Jean-Eric know he was ready to go.

“Me too.” Jean-Eric wasn’t but he knew Dan wasn’t either, no one orders desert to eat the next day. “You alright to go Seb?”

“Ja.” He allowed the next yawn to come though unheeded.

Glancing up into his rearview mirror he could see Sebastian had fallen asleep, so to avoid causing him any embarrassment he gently tapped on the brakes whilst there was no one around before turning down the last street of the directions he had been given.

Making sure he hadn’t dribbled anywhere Sebastian sat up straight to make himself look presentable, he just prayed he had woken up before either of them noticed. “Thanks for the lift and the meal.” They had both refused to let him pay for any of it, saying that it was their offer.

“We should do it again, it was a laugh.” Dan had wound the window down as Sebastian made for the front door of his apartment block, they had looked at buying somewhere in there when they first moved but the prices were astronomical. In the end the choice of a small house gave Dan a garden he could show off his grilling skills in.

“Yeah, we should.” Sebastian gave a genuine smile before walking to the front door.

---

“He didn’t seem happy tonight.”

“Should be, I’m a delight to be around.” Dan joked lightly before turning serious. “I know, do you think it’s him and Hanna, whenever she’s mentioned he goes a bit weird.”

“I’ve noticed that too.” Jean-Eric agreed as he shifted to lie on his side and curl around Dan.

“You know there was that rumour back at university.” Dan brought it up.

“It wasn’t a rumour though, it was gossip, your gossip.” It was only ever shared between themselves but Dan swore he saw something.

“They were kissing, I swear it Jev, Seb and Kimi were definitely kissing.” Dan implored.

“If that’s true then maybe-”

“If? Maybe? Jev, I know what I saw.” It was hard to forget it, after the shock of seeing straight-laced Sebastian being pushed up against a wall subsided, he realised that it wasn’t a girl but a guy. And not just any guy but Kimi Raikkonen.

“Hmm.” He believed Dan, Kimi just seemed like one of those people who genuinely didn’t care about anyone else’s opinion, so it didn’t matter if he was attracted to men or women, attraction was attraction. Jean-Eric struggled to get Sebastian though, he seemed so down the line the thought of him even being a tiny bit subversive tickled him.

But he remembered how Sebastian had stood up for them, covertly, when office relationships were going to be banned, he persuaded the board members to vote against the action. Not that it would have stopped them, but it allowed them to relax at work. “Maybe, I don’t know, do you reckon he followed the Red Bull rules? The no relationship thing, and you know Marko was a bit iffy about us when it all got out.”

“Yeah, Red Bull was on a family kick a while back, christ you don’t think they were together and broke up so Seb could marry Hanna do you?” Dan asked knowing he would never give Jean-Eric up, and knowing that Jean-Eric would never leave him having proved it so surely.

“You never know, he needs to sort things out if that’s true, he can’t mess Hanna about like that.” Jean-Eric replied.

“It’s his mess.”

---

Sebastian sent the text message from his work phone and turned it onto silent along with his personal one, and deciding there was no need to get up for anything tomorrow he didn’t set any alarms. And as a final precaution Sebastian put them away out of sight so if anyone did call the light wouldn’t wake him up, not that he felt he could sleep anyway.

Like most lonely nights he spent the time awake just thinking over the state of his life, but this time he was contemplating really doing something about it, something practical. Divorce. He would give Hanna whatever she wanted and he would tell her the truth, there had to be a way of ensuring her silence but he didn’t want to buy it.

He’d have to get a lawyer, not to fight instead just to split everything up without contest, it was the least he could do. Grabbing his tablet he did a quick search for divorce procedures and wondered how quick it could all be over so Hanna could get on with her life properly, have the children she wanted and deserved. He’d stolen so much time from her. That was something he could never give her back.

But he couldn’t stop prolonging it.

Opening a new window he looked for the first flight out to Switzerland, booking it he then got onto organising transport to get him to the airport.

---

Hanna knew something was off immediately, she had known Sebastian for so long that seeing his face on the doorstep alerted her to how serious this visit was going to be. She could only call them visits because he barely stayed long enough to call this home anymore. “You said you weren’t coming home this weekend.”

“I thought about it and realised it wasn’t fair to just leave you...um...like that.” He chastised himself for the poor choice of words.

“Well come in then.” She noted his reluctance and promised herself to not let the impending conversation linger.

“Hanna…” He started but wasn’t sure how to begin.

“We need to talk? Yes, we do.” She wasn’t going to take the lead on this because Sebastian clearly had something on his mind to talk about about when he arrived.

“Ja.” He agreed as he walked into their living room. Sitting down in his usual seat Hanna sat down opposite him, a good thing because it meant he had to face her and not shy away. “I know we both know that we haven’t been right for a while, and it’s only getting worse.”

“Yes.” Hanna wasn’t going to fill in the blanks for him, she would take her chance to speak later.

“And it is nothing to do with you, only me, only I have made the mistakes, only I have changed things.” Sebastian slumped back into the seat more. “Only I haven’t been completely honest.”

Now she wasn’t so sure, Sebastian looked broken, holding her emotions tight to her chest she stayed silent.

“Hanna, I…” Tear welled up in her eyes, but she had to hear the truth, regardless of the consequences. If it all got out it would only be his own fault. “When I asked you to marry me, I had not long broken up with someone, someone I loved and cared for deeply. I ended it with them because…” He didn’t want it to sound like he purposely used Hanna, but he had. “Red Bull was piling on the pressure to present myself as a family man, and I couldn’t do that with them. And I do love you Hanna, very much so, but not in the same way, I deceived you from the start so I’m not here for forgiveness.”

“Who was it?” She asked through gritted teeth. Hanna wasn’t sure why she wanted to know, but something had to settle the questions she had held inside.

He wouldn’t give up his name because it wasn’t his fault. “Um...a...man.”

“Huh.” It was her turn to settle back into the sofa now. “I was kind of expecting that.” They was something in the way he touched her differently, they way he made love too, the way he gaze never landed on another women. But it had never been quite enough to raise her suspicions when things were better, it was only since they started trying for a baby that things got magnified.

“Wh-what?” He didn’t feel like he had the right to ask any questions.

“I don’t know, it was an inkling I had a while back but ignored. I thought you were having a rough time at work, but...was it Kimi?” There were plenty of photos of them on his Facebook, some looked a little cosier than others. The group photo was the one that piqued her interest, there was about ten guys all with their arms around each other’s shoulders, apart from Sebastian and Kimi, their arms were each other’s waists. Tightly.

“Yes.” It wasn’t as if he would ever see Kimi again. “Don’t blame him.”

“I blame you Sebastian!” She yelled. “You should have stood up for yourself. You should never have asked to marry me if you were in love with someone else, that was cruel. I thought you wanted to marry me, I thought you loved me, I thought we broke up when you went to Silverstone because the course was so full on.” Hanna didn’t want to give him any tears, but they had been married for five years, and large parts of it had been good, it was only recently that things had shifted. “I blame myself too, I should have thought more about the proposal.” They had not long got back together, she thought it was romantic at the time.

“None of this is down to you, you didn’t know.” Sebastian implored. “You can’t blame yourself.”

“I could have spoken up earlier.”

Sebastian threw his head into his hands and violent shook it. “Hanna, none of this if your fault, I was weak, I couldn’t stop it, I let him believe…”

“What are you getting at?” Hanna asked slowly.

“We didn’t stop, when we got married, that’s why…”

“That’s why we lived in Switzerland?!” She shouted. “That’s why you made me think this was a good idea?” Her voice grew stronger. “I can’t believe this, I can just about understand why you were acting strange now you told me about Kimi, but you carried on. He lived with you during the week, didn’t he?”

“Yes.” He muttered.

“You fucking bastard!” She launched herself onto her feet. “You heartless fucking bastard, Sebastian how long, how long? Is this why you...oh god Sebastian!” Picking up a cushion she threw at him. “Is this why you stay in Austria?”

“When we got married he moved out.” He had left almost everything behind, everything they had jointly bought and subsequently shared, just taking his personal things. He’d even left some clothes behind, and Sebastian had kept them, even now they were vacuum packed away in Austria ready to be taken out when the pain got too much.

“But you didn’t stop seeing him did you.” She bellowed. “We were married and what, you kept sleeping with him?” Hanna paced up and down the living room with her hands on her hips, trying to get the truth out of Sebastian.

“Yes.”

“Fuck you.” She spat which caused him to look up. “So all this time we’ve, well I’ve, been trying for a child that you didn’t want even though you promised me you did. What if I was pregnant now Sebastian?”

“You are?” He swallowed thickly.

“What if I was? What would you do, would you stay?”

“I...I would support you both, but I couldn’t stay. I wouldn’t want you to stay with someone who couldn’t give you their whole heart.” Sebastian peered up. “Are you?”

“No.” She shook her head. “What a fucking mess you’ve created.”

“I know.”

Taking a huge breath she sat down again. “I want the whole truth Sebastian, now.” Tilting her head back against the back of the sofa Hanna closed her eyes and listened to Sebastian pour his heart out from falling in love during his second year of university right up to Kimi disappearing to New York. It was soul-destroying to hear the man she loved talk about the man he loved, and still did. “I have no idea how I am going to explain this to my family and my friends, they think the only problem we have is conception.” She couldn’t open her eyes yet.

“I’ll do it.”

“No, for god’s sake, that would make everything so much worse. I won’t mention any of this in the divorce, I’ll leave it at differences, they say irreconcilable don’t they?”

“What?” He was shock, Hanna didn’t have a temper, not one that he had ever seen, and assumed she would want to tell her family the complete truth.

“How do you think I would look if the reason I was divorcing my husband was that I missed the fact he was gay, the stress of your job and the distance, not being able to conceive is easier to understand.”

Gay. He’d never considered himself that, he had left himself unlabelled. “Whatever you want. I’ll pay for it all, you can have what you want.”

“What I want is to have the last five years back.”

It was a fair comment. Completely fair and justified. “I wish I could give you that time back.”

“You can’t, fucking hell Sebastian.” She cried out, getting up again. “You cheated on me. You cheated!” Running a hand over her hair she walked out. “Just.” Hanna sighed. “Give me a couple of hours.”

“Whatever you want.” He repeated. He had no one to call, no one to ask advice from, not properly anyway. The friends he had through Red Bull couldn’t know yet, in an ideal world they would never know. In an ideal world I wouldn’t have left Kimi for Hanna. So all he could do was wait, and utterly exhausted he fell asleep.

Hanna lay down on the bed, she just needed to not look at Sebastian, she truly believed that he was the love of her life and now lying in their bed she prayed that he wasn’t, because if he was she knew he could never have him. Kimi was in her mind, she could just about recollect his features then cruelly her imagination slotted Sebastian in there, all she wanted to do was try and figure out why him. Why him and not her?

“Why him?”

Sebastian was jolted awake by Hanna barking at him. “I didn’t know to begin with.” He straightened himself out. “He just let me be, with all the stress Marko was piling on me Kimi took it away, but I was curious about him. I found him attractive…” She didn’t need to hear that, she wanted to know why he cheated.

“Ugh, why him, why did you go back? Why did you cheat?”

“I, um, it was when you told me I was the love of your life, I realised the mistake I made, it wasn’t your fault, but all the baby talk freaked me out too so I sought Kimi out. He knew I was married but you can’t blame him, he tried to stop me doing all this but I panicked. I messed up. I ruined two lives.”

“You certainly won’t ruin mine Sebastian. I might love you, but I certainly don’t like you. You can go back to Kimi now.”

“No, he left the continent to avoid me.” Shaking his head Sebastian tried to wipe away the tears. “I don’t deserve anyone.”

“Pity doesn’t suit you.” Hanna snapped as she looked down at him. “Divorce?”

Sebastian nodded instead of saying yes, he was losing control of his emotions and sounding desperate wasn’t going to help matters.

“Fifty fifty, that’s what we brought into this. I don’t need help, I want a clean break from all of this. From you.” Having Sebastian filling her bank account every month with money reeking of guilt and apology made her shudder. She had a great job, she didn’t want the help.

“Are you sure?” She should be taking him for all he was worth. “You keep this house, sell it, I’ll pay all the fees.”

“Fine. Shit Sebastian, this is fucked up. You’re supposed to be...I can’t look at you anymore.” The hurt was pouring in now.

“I’ll take my things and go.”

“Fine.” She sighed quietly. There was nothing else she wanted to say, there was no point fighting to keep him because she would be actively settling for a man who couldn’t love her. She was worth more than that.

There was surprisingly little of his in the house, Hanna had gone out while he scurried around and collected things in a couple of suitcases and a few boxes, and once he shoved his clothes into several bin bags he set about hiring a car to drive back to Austria. Paying extra to get it delivered to his house he waited for it to turn up, hoping that not everything in his life was about to fall apart. Not yet, not until he had spoken to Dietrich.

---

“Uh, hello, this is a surprise.” Fernando chuckled as he stood staring at the man on his doorstep.

“Can I come in?”

“Sure, of course!” He was tickled that Kimi was in London, he seemed to be content to wander the world at the moment. “Mark!” He called out. “We’ve got a visitor.”

Mark heard Fernando call out and leaving the builders to it he made his way downstairs to see who had turned up. “Alright mate.” Kimi was stood in their living room with a radiant Fernando milling about in the kitchen.

“Hey.”

“What are you doing in the country?” Mark went to wash his hands.

Kimi shrugged, the last time he turned up without notice he was in a state about Sebastian getting married.

“He’s…” He snivelled. “He’s…”

“Get in.” Fernando dragged him in out of the rain. “What’s wrong, what’s gone on?” Fernando was putting an arm around him to try and comfort him. “Mark! Get me some towels.”

Mark appeared with a stack of towels looking completely puzzled as to why there was a soaking wet Kimi in their apartment. “What’s gone on?”

“He’s...he’s...getting married.” He quickly found himself swathed in towel after towel, no more questions were asked as nothing else had to be said, they knew he meant Sebastian. He was given a fresh set of clothes and a warm bed for the night, and fell asleep in Italy wishing he wouldn’t wake up ever again. Nightmare after nightmare woke him up, and it was the same one Sebastian leaving him over and over again, walking out the door and slamming it shut.

When Fernando poked his head around the door in the morning he had barely slept more than a hour at a time, his heart flooding his body with pain with every minute movement he made. He was brought coffee and fed a steady stream of ice-cream all day, Fernando not leaving his side and for once he wasn’t fighting the company.

“He just left. He came home and told me, just said he was getting married to Hanna.”

“Hanna?”

“He was dating her before Silverstone.”

“Oh.”

“I didn’t know where else to go.”

“Is good you come here.”

Fernando slipped an arm around his shoulder and let Kimi rest on him. “I made him admit it was a mistake, but he kept going on about fucking Red Bull and their policies.” He really didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t stop the flood.

“Sebastian’s getting a divorce.”

“No way!” Fernando gasped. Finally seen sense.

“Christ.” Mark muttered as he picked out three glasses from the cupboard. “Juice or something stronger?”

“Juice will be fine.” Kimi replied softly. “Sorry for turning up like this.”

“It’s okay, we don’t see each other that much.” Fernando reassured him with a hand on his shoulder. “Is it just the Sebastian thing?”

“Everyone knows I’m in New York, needed a clean break and like you said, we haven’t seen each other that much.” Taking the glass of cool apple juice from Mark he looked around their house, realising very quickly that although he had their address he had never visited. “Is this all of it?” The living room was huge and bright, and it had the perfect canvas masquerading as a wall through the doors and outside.

“Pretty much, three bedrooms upstairs and a roof garden.” As Mark watched Kimi look up curiously the power tools started up again. “We’re having work done on it as we speak, want it ready for the summer.”

“Mark?”

“You sticking around for dinner?” Mark asked as he collected a couple of jugs of water before heading back up the stairs.

“Course he is.” Fernando answered for him.

“Right, see you in a bit.” Mark waved as he took the stairs two at a time shouting up to the builders.

“So, you have builders in?”

“Si, is not far from being ready. Mark is going to finish it off, needs something to do.” Fernando rolled his eyes with a smile.

“You’re not enough?” Kimi smirked.

“I have a job!” Fernando pouted.

“I’m sure you do.” Came the slick reply. “I’m not imposing?”

“No, why would you think that?” He shook his head. “Is great to see you. I need to go and get some things for dinner, come with me, it gets louder.” Fernando pointed upwards. “I’ll let Mark know we’re going out.”

While Kimi waited for Fernando to return he went to have a closer look at the plethora of photos hanging around the sizeable television, he instantly spotted the university ones, graduation and more formal events. Then plenty the two of them with a range of exotic backgrounds surrounding them, a couple of Mark racing, and some moody shots of Fernando holding a camera. It was their life so far. He spotted himself and Jenson too which made him wonder what he was up to.

Hearing that Fernando was on his way back down Kimi walked in the direction of the front door, but something he saw on the low coffee table stopped him, a stack of official looking papers and a glossy booklet. The Adoption Process.

“Is looking good up there…” Fernando could see where Kimi had quickly looked away from, he went to approach the subject but Kimi spoke first.

“Yeah?”

“Si, shall we go?”

The weather was certainly warming up, there was still the odd rainy day hanging about but May was giving a hint of what to expect in the summer. They walked the short distance to the nearest supermarket and feeling like he ought to try and be helpful Kimi intended to pick up a basket to carry whatever Fernando needed for dinner, but he was stopped from entering.

“That noise will still be going on if we shop now, is warm enough to sit outside.” Fernando nodded at the bar across the street.

Chuckling away at Fernando’s logic he gladly followed him over the road and despite the pretentious name, Kimi was pleasantly surprised to discover a distinct lack of the usually associated people inside, or out when they found a place in the sun to sit. Then came the silence, Kimi knew Fernando wanted to broach the Sebastian subject with him, and although it was pretty obvious why he found the adoption information, he was still interested.

Fernando could see the conflict in his eyes but after all the years of knowing Kimi he was highly aware of the consequences of pushing him, and he was quiet enough as it was. “So divorce, is not too much of a surprise.”

“No. Irreconcilable differences.”

“Hmm.” Fernando arched an eyebrow. “That is one way to put it. How are you coping with it though?”

“There’s nothing to cope with.” He shrugged.

“Then tell me why you are here.” Fernando took a mouthful of cider, a taste he acquired rather rapidly since living back in England, and gave Kimi a chance to answer.

Kimi avoided Fernando’s steady gaze and took great interest in the ivy covered brick wall to the left instead, it was because of the news that he felt the urge to both get closer but still remain hidden. Even more hidden was the plan. “It’s just, why now, why go through the bother?"

“You don’t think this is to do with you? Has anything happened between you?”

He took a cooling sip of his beer and as a thumbnail scratched at the condensation soaked label. “We kept in contact, when he was married, kept meeting up.” Saying it out loud sounded so sordid, he couldn’t believe he had been so willing to get involved in a married man. It didn’t matter that it was Sebastian.

“Oh.”

“I know it’s bad.”

“Is worse he married Hanna.” Fernando remarked.

Sweeping his eyes over the garden before continuing he told Fernando about the last phone call they had when Hanna came home and how desperate Sebastian was, his friend’s expression was placid throughout, never judging him. “It’s been hard.”

“Of course it had been Kimi, I thought something happened that made you go to America.” Kimi rarely bared himself so Fernando trod carefully, but the hurt was just visible. “He’s an idiot.”

“So am I.” The tattoo burst out of the confines he had strapped it under inside his head.

“Love makes you do some crazy things.”

“Like tattoo your initial on someone?” Kimi admitted at a low mumble.

Fernando quickly swallowed his mouthful of drink before slamming his half empty glass down. “Wha...Kimi, what are you on about?” He couldn’t be that stupid.

“He asked and I did it, I shouldn’t have done it, it’s...messed up.”

He was that stupid. “Like I said, love makes you do crazy things.” Fernando reiterated. “Kimi, are you going to go back to him?”

“No, this is why I moved.” There was no way Sebastian would find him here.

“I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I think Sebastian did all this with you in mind.” Fernando knew Sebastian well enough to know how intense he was about something he cared about, or wanted for that matter. “I know you probably didn’t want to hear that, but I suspect you’ve probably thought that already.” The sad sigh was all the answer he needed. “Do you want another, they are probably still at it?”

“Go on then.” He liked Fernando's directness, and the warmth of the mellow evening sun on his back was relaxing. In fact it was the first time he’d felt truly at ease in a long time, the caustic guilty weight around his neck had finally slipped free. “Thanks.” Another bottle of beer had been placed down in front of him and Fernando had got himself another bottle of cider. “What’s with the cider?”

“I like it.” He grinned. “Only certain ones though.”

Kimi chuckled. “So I saw something, at your place.”

“The photos or the adoption stuff?”

It was hard to miss the way Fernando’s face practically split in two at the mention. “Adoption, you and Mark going to do it then?”

“Uh huh, we’ve had a preliminary meeting with a couple of agencies, it’s so complicated, but we’ve picked one and now it’s filling out paperwork for them.”

“You’re adopting a kid.” Raising his bottle he clinked it against Fernando’s when he did the same.

“Yeah, it’s ama...oh…”

“What?” It was hard not to notice the flush of colour in Fernando’s face, and turning around he spotted the reason.

“Oi wench, you were supposed to be getting things for dinner, not pissing around in the sunshine. Drinking.”

Mark was stood with his arms crossed firmly against his chest staring daggers at Fernando, but Kimi could already see the corners of his mouth threatening to turn upwards. And when Fernando held up his untouched bottle as a peace offering Mark faltered.

“Is for you, I knew you would find us.” He tried to keep his voice level.

“Bullshit. Taking the bottle out of Fernando’s hand he took a swig before dragging an unoccupied seat over to the table.

Fernando’s eyes raked over the tee shirt and shorts Mark was wearing, the natural tan was taking over his skin again and it made him look even more handsome. It made him feel smug whenever anyone looked at him, Mark was his and his alone.

“I guess you’ve earned this mate.”

“Has been hard-”

“Not you.” Mark swatted Fernando’s thigh. “Kimi, you’ve got to be hanging after the flight, did you come right here?”

“Went to a hotel first.” Turning up with bags was far too presumptuous.

“Ah right, well you’re more than welcome to stay with us, although saying that Fernando might be begging to come with you.” Mark grinned. “Don’t like the noise do you champ?” Mark messed up Fernando’s hair, knowing it would irk him.

“Hey!”

Kimi snorted at Fernando’s attempts to sort his hair out. “It’s not that noisy.”

Settling back into the last of the sunshine Kimi slipped his sunglasses on as the sun got low and allowed himself to breathe. The flight from New York had felt twice as long as it should have, his mind completely filled with the articles he had read after chancing upon the first one in the business pages. It was just a couple of lines squeezed into the gossip and rumour column, initially he wished he had never allowed himself to get so bored to get to that section of the Sunday paper, but once he touched down at Heathrow he was glad. The last thing he wanted was for Sebastian to turn up out of the blue expecting him to be fine with it all.

He picked up some muttering from the side, loud enough to break his train of thought, but not quite loud enough to make out exactly what they were saying amongst the background noise. Picking up his bottle he brought the cool liquid to his lips and swallowed it down, Mark and Fernando were just focusing on each other which allowed him to enjoy having company without having to get involved. It should please Fernando that he was interacting with humans, he had bought a plant though and when he left it was alive, so he gave it to the tattoo shop as a leaving present.

“God, he keeps looking at me.”

Kimi finally deciphered what was being said and turned his head to look at who was saying it.

“Get him to stop it, he’s fucking creeping me out.”

“What?” Kimi sniped.

“He wants me, fucking disgusting. I’m not gay.”

Kimi followed where he was pointing and saw he was talking about Mark, and he didn’t know whether or not to get incredibly angry or laugh, the guy had no idea how in love Mark was. In fact Kimi was sure if he presented Mark with an oiled up stripper grinding in his lap he would have a panic attack. “I don’t think so.”

“Oi mate, stop fucking looking at me like you want me.”

“You talking to me?” Mark replied in confusion.

“Yeah.”

“You think I want you?” Mark replied calmly, simultaneously trying to calm Fernando too who had balled his fists. “Mate, you’re making a rather big assumption that I find you attractive.” He deadpanned. “And if you need the comfort, I don’t, I prefer my men with a bit of latin blood in them, a bit fiery.” Mark could sense the tension from Fernando and rubbed the back of his neck soothingly.

By now those sat around them were staring at the exchange, interested in whether or not the antagonist had a response, Kimi could barely hide his glee at Mark’s approach, smirking underneath his sunglasses he swung his head around to see the red face of the man glaring at Mark.

“Why were you staring at me then?” He was trying to retain the bluster he had before but the lack of immediate friction had deflated him.

“Didn’t realise I was mate, apologies.” Mark took a congratulatory swig from the bottle and set it back down.

“You apologised, is not right.” Fernando pouted.

“He looks like a dick.” Mark muttered under his breath. “And you look hot.” Craning his head around he softly kissed Fernando’s lips. “Win win for me mate.”

Over a year ago it would have unimaginable to be kissed surrounded by people and with that thought skipping around his head Fernando grinned and relaxed. There was something about seeing Mark be so dominant that sparked up his senses and made him feel protected.

“Right. Think it’s time for this one to get in the kitchen.” Mark stood up first and was quickly followed by Fernando and Kimi.

But Kimi couldn’t resist a parting shot, bending down he brought his mouth in line to the guy’s ear. “You’re lucky this was in public.” He made sure to sound as threatening as he truly felt. “Pathetic sack of shit.”

“Hey, Kimi.” Fernando was calling him from further down the road. “Thought you were right behind us.”

“Just had something to say.”

“I bet you did.” Mark grinned. “Dinner then, can I trust you two to figure it out, I really need a shower.” He pulled at his shirt to emphasise his point.

“Si.” Fernando huffed.

Kimi wandered into the small supermarket and picked up a basket as Mark spoke to Fernando outside, he hit the magazine stand first and not fighting the urge he glanced over the more serious titles.

What now for Red Bull?

Slipping a single copy out of the shelf looked at the front cover, there was a picture of the big names at Red Bull, Mateschitz, Marko and Sebastian. He couldn’t judge when it was taken, but he knew the cartoon zig-zag line splitting Sebastian from the group wouldn’t have been there at the shoot. Setting the empty basket down Kimi flicked through to the advertised page and the first two lines explained it all, Sebastian had left his position at the company and there was only speculation as to why beyond the official press statement.

Mr Vettel, vice CEO of Red Bull, has left his position with immediate effect for personal reasons and as we look to find a replacement we wish Mr Vettel all the best in his future endeavours.

It was so cold, so short considering what he had given the company, not only his time, but his love, his determination and talent. His life. Despite the hurt he had caused him Kimi felt angry for Sebastian, he had been cast aside so easily, as if he was a disposable cup, drained until empty and dumped in a bin. Feeling a presence beside him Kimi flipped the magazine shut but couldn’t let go of it even though he would find nothing good if he kept reading it.

Fernando took the glossy pages out of Kimi’s hand, and took a cursory look at the cover before putting it back when it belonged. “We need some chicken.” He wasn’t sure how Kimi was going to react if he launched into a conversation about it now, but it was clear he was hurting over it and not for himself.

Together they worked their around the shop with Fernando keeping an eye on the list Mark had given him, something he had forgotten to pick up on his first trip out. And when they rounded on the pharmacy section Kimi ended up laughing away as Fernando tried to be polite and discreet about picking up a bottle of lube. “I hope that’s not a part of the sauce.”

Sticking his tongue out in response he took advantage of the offer and picked up a more interesting bottle.

“That’s good, but handjobs only, you don’t want that anywhere else. And for the record, that’s doesn’t taste anything like strawberry, and banana is disgusting.”

It was Fernando’s time to snigger like a teenager, and they both fell apart when an elderly lady shuffled past and instead of showing her disapproval, joined in. “It’s the tingle one you want, works like a charm.”

“Uh, thanks.” Fernando couldn’t stop chuckling. “And how do you know banana is bad?”

“Perks of being with someone who liked to thoroughly research everything.” Kimi knew getting sentimental about Sebastian was a seriously foolish thing to do, but he couldn’t help but remember the way he would turn up with something new to play with and discover. They went through a lube stage, same with toys, light bondage, feathers, one messy night with food…

“Kimi, we’re done. Unless you want anything else?” Fernando interrupted the daydream.

He could sink a bottle of anything now, but he couldn’t drink enough to make him forget. It would only help him remember. But once they got to the front of the queue Kimi broke his silence. “I’ll pay.”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“I’ll pay, just not for these.” Picking up two bottles he flung them at Fernando. “I’m not getting involved in your sex life.”

He could die from embarrassment, there was a small queue behind him that saw it all, but to see Kimi smile and hear him laugh was worth it. Kimi was never far from his mind, they didn’t talk much over the phone, so chose email instead, and this meant they could keep up with each other fairly easily. So when he came to pay, he did take a little bit of satisfaction from not having to hide his sex life anymore, he had to pinch himself, it made their relationship feel new all over again.

Splitting the bags between them they walked home in the last tendrils of warmth left in the day, there was an uneasy silence between them, the fun had in the shop was marred by the magazine article.

“Are you okay?”

“I don’t know.” Kimi sighed. “Life’s supposed to be sorted by now, isn’t it? You and Mark are sorted.”

“Kimi, he came out last year, we’ve only been allowed to be together in public for a year, we’re getting sorted.” He explained kindly. “Some people get it all together when they’re young, some people I guess never get to that point.”

“Cheers.” He replied glumly.

“Sorry, but it depends what you want to sort out, you have a great career, you’re healthy, you have amazing friends.”

“But…”

The thought went unspoken but understood.

---

“I don’t think I can move.” Fernando whined.

“I already said I’ll sort the dishes.” Mark murmured quietly in Fernando’s ear so not to disturb Kimi who was gently snoozing in the corner of their sofa. Fernando had cooked a fantastic meal of chicken and vegetables that had soaked up the cheeky early evening drinks, and now it had left them satisfied and watching a football match.

"Tired."

Mark shifted so Fernando could cuddle in closer but he quickly took advantage of the situation to mould his fiance into a comfortable cushion until he was draped over him. Smiling, Mark kissed the top of his head and pooled his focus on the screen once again, his one fear about retiring was not having enough to fill his life, he still did the occasional race but it was low key stuff. Fernando was more than enough.

He wasn’t sure what woke him but Kimi was roused slowly from a much needed nap, peeling a single eye open his gaze landed on two people. The room was quiet apart from the television murmuring in the background, and not wanting to disturb the gentle atmosphere he didn’t look to see what was on, instead he was content to see the sort of relationship he once had.

Thoughts of Sebastian was not what he had in mind, it wasn’t the plan, but discovering that he had left Red Bull stuck with him, he loved his job. He loved it more than him. But now he had given it up. Clawing at what was left of his self-respect he admired the way Mark comforted Fernando, stroking his hair and completely ignoring the action on screen. He looked genuinely happy, that truly, madly deeply, right down to the core kind.

Sebastian.

Squeezing his eyes shut tightly he made attempt after attempt to banish him from his thoughts, but all he wanted to do was hold him, and that wasn’t going to happen. He couldn’t let it. How could he go back to man who walked out on him?

Checking up on Kimi he turned his head to look over at him, he didn’t look good, his face was twisted in conflict, and there was evidence that a few tears had broken through the usually stoic facade. He knew how it felt to be parted from the love of his life, but that had been a matter of months, for Kimi it had been years. Nudging Fernando awake he let him sleepily amble upstairs ahead of him whilst he tended to their guest.

With a blanket in hand Mark approached. “Kimi.”

“Mmm?”

“There’s a spare room upstairs-”

“I should go.” He croaked.

“It’s late, you can stay down here, but you’ll be more comfortable in a bed. It’s no trouble.” Guiding him upstairs and into the room was an easy task, it was a shame it had only been used for those needing to escape.

“Thanks.” He yawned.

“You’ll be alright Kimi.”

Chapter Text

“Sebastian?”

“Hmm.” It sounded distinctly like Fabian was on the other end of the line.

“Glad to hear you’re still alive.” He sighed, he had been trying for days to get hold of his older brother, so had the rest of the family but he had been the first to get through.

“Course I am.” It was Fabian.

“Well mum and dad are freaking out, divorce and quitting your job in the same week is a bit much for them to accept without question.” There had even been a family meeting over it where they had agreed that he needed the space, but they were close to all making the trip down to break his door down. If he was still at the same place.

“When did you get so grown up?”

“Yesterday, Seb seriously you need to talk to them, they just want to hear your side of it all.” This was so out of character for Sebastian. He looked up at his brother, he had always had his life in control, he knew what he wanted to do and he went out into the world and made it happen.

“They won’t want to hear it, it doesn’t make sense.” Sebastian was still trying to get a grasp on the situation.

“Try me, like you said, I’m grown up.”

“Are you happy Fabian?”

That was heavy. “Christ Seb, where are you?”

“Austria.”

“I mean, are you still at your apartment? Why don’t you come home, sure mum would love to feed you up, think they’d be just glad to see you. I kinda miss you. And Stef and Mel do too.” Maybe it would be too much to hear all those names, but he had to know he was loved and far from alone.

The thought of having that many people around him, asking questions and expecting sensible answers was overwhelming. “I can’t at the moment, I just need some time.”

“Fine. Just call mum and dad, please.”

“Okay.”

“Please Seb, I’ll come find you down there if I have to.”

“I promise.”

Sebastian hung up and curled back up under the duvet, he wasn’t mentally together enough to call home yet because he knew a simple ‘I’m fine’ wouldn’t do. They would want to ask questions he either didn’t have the answers too or couldn’t answer truthfully, they adored Hanna, having known her for so long...how would he tell his parents about Kimi?

No matter where his thoughts went they always came back to Kimi, wondering if he knew, or cared what he had done. Would he care that it was the thought of completely losing him that drove him to make all the changes? Breathing in the hot air trapped under the blanket he let the burn settle over his face as he continued to hide from the world, what he would do to turn back time.

“Hey.”

He couldn’t even bring himself to look at Kimi when he entered their home, he knew what he was here to do and even though he was utterly desperate to kiss and touch Kimi, strip down and lay with him, he knew he couldn’t. He shouldn’t.

He shouldn’t have kissed him because it gave it all away, tears ran down his face, his hands grasped Kimi’s tee shirt tightly and when the first sob escape his lips Kimi pulled back.

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t.” Sebastian wailed. “I don’t want to.” Kimi held him close, letting him cry the pain out until they were a crumpled heap on the floor, Sebastian unable to control his emotions. “Not fair.”

“Seb, what’s gone on?”

He couldn’t speak yet, he needed the closeness, he needed to feel the warmth of his body against his own before he turned his back on the years they had spent together. Purposely ruin the home they had created over several years. He didn’t want to do it, but he had left it so late the official announcement was going to be published tomorrow, and he’d already spent so much time cheating on him.

“Tell me you love me.”

“You’re scaring me Seb.”

“Tell me please, tell me Kimi, tell me you love me!” He cried out between sobs.

“For fucks sake Sebastian tell me what’s going on!”

“I’m getting married!” He screamed his heart out, the visceral pain breaking over every word.

“To who?!”

Kimi sounded angry and confused, like he hoped it wasn’t a proposal and wondered who on earth Sebastian was talking about.

“Hanna.” The single word uttered was enough for Kimi to push him away, he was sprawled on the floor when the yelling started, and he was unable to get up. He never wanted to get married, it was never in his plans amongst getting the career that he wanted, he wasn’t fussed about children but choosing Hanna made it seem like that was all he wanted.

“What was I to you then?”

“Kimi, I love you.”

“You can’t, if you did you would be marrying me!”

“I do, I do, it’s just Red Bull.”

“I am so fucking sick of hearing you say that! Come on Sebastian, how can you stay with a company that won’t let you be you.”

“It’s just how…”

“I can’t believe after all this time together you’re doing this, I thought...I thought what we had meant something.”

“It does! I love you!”

“Saying it and showing it are two different things! Anyone can say it, but you can’t and marry someone else. Is that these meetings you’ve been going to...oh fuck!”

Kimi was pacing back and forth above him, anger sparking around him like live wires, Sebastian could feel it like a physical weight on his chest, he had made him cry, he had hurt Kimi badly. He had wounded him.

“This is our home.”

“Kimi.” Sebastian gasped at his whisper.

“Sebastian this is our home, we built this together, and you’re telling me you want to destroy it for a company?”

“I…” Sebastian had no answer he wanted to say out loud.

“You’re going to marry her, stand up in front of your family and say those vows knowing each one is a lie.”

He had never told his family about Kimi, never told them he was in love with a man and this was the consequence, to them he was a university friend.

“You’re going to lie to her, and her family too, give them hope of a family. But Sebastian the biggest lie is the one you’re going to tell yourself every single day, lie about loving her, lie about who you are, all for a job. It’s just a job.”

The pleading in his voice made Sebastian want to disappear, evaporate, fade into nothing. This wasn’t like Kimi at all, the pure vulnerability in his face, the way his shoulders were sagging, the break in his voice.

“Don’t leave us Sebastian, don’t end this.”

“I don’t have a choice.”

“You do. You definitely do.” He firmed his voice up to try and convince Sebastian that there was another way. There were other options.

“I don’t…”

“Tell the truth one last time, you’re willingly going to live a lie.”

“Kimi…”

“Just do it, tell the truth!”

“I don’t want to.” He bit his lip.

“Too late.” Kimi spat. “Just don’t think of me when you’re fucking her.”

Picking himself off the floor he knew Kimi had closed himself off, using the hurt to build a barricade, so when he righted himself Sebastian walked to the door. Slumped against it he rested his head on the wood. “I can’t be happy without you.” He couldn’t bear to turn and see Kimi, he couldn’t bring himself to do anything other than walk through the door. He was a coward.

---

Another week had slipped by, barely eating, just surviving on glasses of water he filled up in the bathroom when he went to the toilet, he had a packet of half eaten crackers beside the bed because he couldn’t stomach anything else.

“Sebastian, this has gone on too long.”

He heard the voice and knew who it was immediately, Fabian was stood in his bedroom looking at the mess his life was.

“You’ve got ten seconds and then I’m taking the blanket off. Ten...nine...eight…” He put his hands on his hips truly frustrated with his older brother. “Seven...six...five...four...come on Sebastian.” Fabian huffed before yanking the covers back. “Get up.”

“Fuck off.”

With the covers piled up at the other side of the room Fabian strode over to whip the curtains back and open the window, the air inside was stale from inactivity and denial. Turning back around his saw the sad scene of Sebastian curled up.

“Shower.”

He was too weak to put up a fight and found himself unceremoniously pushed into his bathroom, the shower was turned on and then he was shoved into the cubicle still wearing the tee shirt he put on several days ago. But Fabian soon saw to that, he pulled it off his body before squeezing the shower gel closest to him over his body, on instinct he scrubbed it into a lather against his skin, the sharp citrus waking him up. Next came a large amount of shampoo being poured on the top of his head, and he had to scrub it into his hair to stop it from running into his eyes. He felt so pathetic to have his little brother standing over him to make sure he was clean, and so was glad he left after switching the water off and handing him a towel.

Leaving his boxers in the bottom of the cubicle Sebastian wrapped the towel around his waist before dragging another one over his hair to dry it, facing himself in the mirror he ran a hand over the untouched stubble that was now definitely a beard.

“Sorry.”

“You should be, mum and dad are so upset.”

“I…”

Fabian ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll go wait in the living room, get dressed.” The place was a mess, there was evidence of the broken man his brother was everywhere, abandoned mugs, clothes and pieces of work littered the apartment. So as he walked through he picked up as much as he could to tidy up, mugs and plates went into the sink, clothes were shoved in the washing machine and he piled up the sheets of paper on the desk. It didn’t take long for Sebastian to join him, and he wasn’t in the mood to go soft on him.

“I am so pissed off at you, we used to talk all the time and now when it’s clear you needed someone to listen you shut me out. Seb, what the hell happened?”

Sebastian mulled over his brother’s words, he was right, achingly so, they always found time to talk in one way or another, but everyone had said he was a good role model for Fabian and to reveal this would hurt him.

“Sebastian, it’s me now or the whole family will be here tonight. They want to stage an intervention.”

Sebastian sighed angrily. “I got a divorce.”

“Yes we all know this, but why, you and Hanna go way back.”

“Things didn’t work out.”

Fabian was getting irritated, he understood it was hard, but how hard was it to say they fell out of love? “I gathered that, I’m not going to judge you Seb, surely it’ll be better just to get it off your chest?”

He really had no idea, slumping back into the sofa he covered his face and contemplated how on earth he would broach the subject.

“Please Sebastian, you have officially freaked me out.”

“Before Hanna, before Hanna I was in love with someone else, someone from Silverstone, we lived together for a few years and...and then I married Hanna.”

“Wait...you were in love with someone else...why did you marry Hanna then?”

“He…” Sebastian cringed at the slip, he didn't want to reveal that.

“Kimi.”

“What?”

“He disappeared from your life, you stopped mentioning him, we never saw him again. Seb, why didn’t you say something, why the hell did you marry Hanna?”

Sebastian slowly let the story out to his brother, trying to gauge his response from the expression on his face, but there was nothing to see, he was completely placid. He stumbled over the ending, and lay back in the cushions and waited for the response, the revulsion. So he waited.

“Finally.” Fabian sighed. He could tell how much of a heartache it was for his brother to tell him this, it made a lot of sense. “You’re an idiot.” He pulled him into a long hug and held on until he felt Sebastian relax. "Right, you have two choices, you can sit here or you can help pack."

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Sebastian, you are coming home with me today, or you will be coming back with mum and dad."

Sebastian wanted Fabian to go, let him believe he was being stubborn, then flea, maybe to New York. "I'm not going."

"For fucks sake!" Fabian stalked off into Sebastian's room to find a bag to fill, dragging a holdall out of the bottom of his wardrobe he began throwing clothes in. Spotting his laptop he put that in to along with the charger. "Right Seb." He called out as he walked back into the living room. "Grab anything else you need, I've got your laptop already."

"Fabian, no!" He leapt up to wrestle the bag out of his hands.

"Right, listen to me. We found out about your divorce in the paper, same with you quitting Red Bull. Mum and dad are heart broken, so are Mel and Stef. I am so angry with you, so disappointed. You've changed into someone I don't know anymore, and I'm not sure I like this person." Fabian breathed, remembered the countless practice conversations he had during the drive to Austria. "And it's not the liking guys thing, that doesn't bother me, what does is how easily you lied to people you professed to love. And how selfish you've been. So get in the car." He gritted his teeth.

Sebastian wasn't given a choice, after picking up a few essentials Fabian manhandled him out of his apartment and into his car. As Fabian pulled away he wondered if he was making a mistake in going home, he could have resisted more, put up a fight but here he was, sat in his brother's car.

The scenery whipped past and it forced Sebastian to consider what was going to happen when he got home. By the time they saw the first sign for Heppenheim Sebastian knew the only thing he could do was apologise profusely and then tell them the truth, hiding anything wasn't going to help anyone.

"It's just mum and dad at home, I'm going straight back to uni."

"Yeah, how is that going?" He should have asked before.

Fabian knew Sebastian was stalling for time and not feeling particularly sympathetic he hit the car horn. "We'll catch up some time." He waved Sebastian off before beeping again, just so he couldn't escape any longer.

"Sebastian?!"

Turning around he saw his mum at the door to his childhood home, she was crying and his father looked relieved.

"You're so thin." She cried before running out to hug him. "Where...what..."

Guilt flooded over him, his parents had done nothing wrong, they had brought him up right, given him an idyllic childhood and he’d treated them so badly. His father ushered them both inside and shut the door with a slam Sebastian understood to be nothing but anger, well placed and well deserved.

“Why Sebastian, why did you do all of this?” Heike pleaded desperately. “Divorce, leaving Red Bull, then you don’t call, we can’t get hold of you.”

Once they had all sat down Sebastian prepared himself to reveal parts of himself he had always wanted to keep hidden from his parents. “Me and Hanna are divorcing, it’s down to me, it’s my fault.”

“They said in the paper it is infidelity.” His mother prompted warily.

Swallowing slowly he mentally prepared himself. “It was.”

“Sebastian!”

His mother screeched painfully as his father got out of his seat to leave the room, out of tears to cry Sebastian sunk into the cushions around him and avoided his mother’s despairing gaze.

“You’ve known Hanna for so many years, who was it?” Heike demanded.

“I don’t know if you remember them.” He started. “Kimi.”

“Kimi, the Finnish guy. You used to be friends with him.” She replied wondering what he was getting at.

He had a feeling she wasn’t going to make the connection, scratching at his beard he gave her a few more moments just in case. Nothing. “Mum, it’s Kimi, I was in love with him before I married Hanna, I married her because…” His mother was already out of the room before he could finish explaining, there was frantic talking in the kitchen and catching the odd word it was not complimentary.

“This is why I didn’t want to come back, I’ve made a huge mess of three people’s lives, I didn’t want to include yours.” With both of his parents looking at him with pure disappointment in their eyes he wanted nothing more than to escape. Completely disappear. “I’m going to go, I can’t apologise enough for what I did.”

“We just need some time to process this all, Sebastian you’ve dropped all this on us in a matter of moments.” His father broke his silence. “We just need a bit of time.”

Being honest with himself he just wanted to crawl back into bed and wake up when it was all over.

“Your room is made up, how about you get settled in?” His mother prompted quietly.

Sebastian took it for what it was and left them to collect his bag and returned to a place where he life was uncomplicated, where he was uncomplicated, where it was just about getting to Silverstone. It looked completely different, when he moved to Silverstone it was exactly how he left it whenever he returned, but now it had been redecorated and only a few things remained.

A handful of karting trophies where displayed on a shelf, along with a stack of paper he soon realised was all the writing his mother kept. Two halves of his life, the one he dreamt of having and the one he fell into, maybe if he had been stronger from the start he could have convinced his parents to let him continue with karting instead.

His life would be so much, more, he settle on. laying fully clothed on his bed he wondered where those trophies could have taken him, to rallying perhaps, or touring cars, Le Mans or Formula One. Formula One. With Red Bull supporting so many drivers he wondered if he could have been one of them, one of the chosen and select few with wings painted proudly on his helmet and stitched on his suit. But he would have never met Kimi, and Kimi gave him life.

Maybe his life was meant to turn out this way, maybe it was supposed to be messy and complicated...

---

Having slept for the rest of the day and through the night Sebastian quietly padded downstairs in the morning to discover if he was still a Vettel or not. His parents has raised him better than this. The kitchen was empty and not sure what to do he settled on making himself a cup of coffee, tea wouldn’t be strong enough for the day ahead. It was when he was sipping at the steaming liquid that both of his parents entered the room, neither of them looking particularly shocked to see him there.

“Morning.”

“Good morning Sebastian.” His father replied.

His skin itched from the tension, he just needed to know one way or another how they felt. “I’m sorry.”

“We know Sebastian, but a simple apology, no matter how heartfelt, can't absolve you from what you did. We thought you were trying for a baby, trying to start a family, we don’t expect to be told everything because you’re an adult. But for god’s sake, if you were that unhappy, you should have said something. To anyone, we wouldn’t have thought any less of you.” Norbert then turned to finish making a cup of tea.

“No?”

“No, if Hanna wasn’t the one for you that would have been fine.” His mother interjected. “But Kimi? Oh Sebastian, I can’t understand that, neither of us can, we thought he was just a friend. Was that why you brought him here?”

“No, I...um...want you to meet...him to meet you, uh, both. See here too. M-met his parents too.” Sebastian felt like he was under a microscope. “In Finland.”

“Did they know about you two?”

They were both sat across from him at the table in the kitchen he had once done his homework on. “Yes.” He admitted.

“I don’t understand.” Heike implored to her husband.

“I don’t either.” Norbert looked as his son. “Help us here Sebastian. We don’t want details, but you like...men now?”

He was clearly uncomfortable with asking the question and the implications, and Sebastian was nervous himself, he was going to have to say it out loud. “Yes, but...I’ve not thought about it too much. Maybe just Kimi though.” He’d been so caught up in focusing on Kimi he hadn’t considered what label to assign to himself, though he had been told once that labels weren’t important. “Labels aren’t important though.”

“They help.” His mum corrected. “Sebastian, I don’t know how I feel about all of this. We certainly didn’t raise you to behave like this, to treat Hanna how you did.”

It continued like that for hours, Sebastian trying to figure out the answers his parents wanted on the spot, but he understood pretty quickly that although cheating was the absolute worst thing he did they were highly uncomfortable that he did it with a man, and one that they had welcomed in their house. They never asked if they had done anything under their roof, but he could see in their eyes that they recollected the fact they had shared a room. Sebastian would have said no, and that would have been a lie.

By the time they had all talked themselves raw Sebastian took the last word. “I’m going to go away for a while, travel around for a bit, I’ve never been able to do that. Ever since Red Bull took more interest in my writing than my karting I’ve been put on a strict path, and I don’t resent you for it because it was an amazing opportunity. And you wouldn’t have been able to afford for me to go to a university like Silverstone, which was the sensible option, but I think I need to be alone.”

“I think that would be wise.” Norbert eventually agreed.

“I know it is the right choice, and even though I haven’t exactly covered myself in glory with my most recent decisions, this is the right one. I’ll figure something out tonight and go tomorrow.” He wished them both goodnight and promised to keep in touch, and it didn’t hurt when he saw the relief that he wasn’t going to be staying.

---

It would have been easier if he had a globe to spin, then he could close his eyes and jab his finger at his next destination, the internet didn’t offer him the same satisfaction of it being truly random. Looking up at the few books on his shelf he spotted an old atlas he used for homework so many years ago, so dragging it down he held all the pages and began to flick through them. Once he had let the pages part he opened his eyes. England.

Would going back to the start be a seriously bad idea? Glancing back up at the shelf he saw the trophies that once made him feel invincible. Silverstone had a famous race track, he remembered going to see a race there and marveling at the pure speed, how gorgeous the cars looked under the intense British summer sun, the pride in the victorious driver’s face as he sprayed the champagne on the podium.

Silverstone it was.

Chapter Text

“Good morning Nico, you’ll be glad to hear that I am officially discharging you.” Dr Hartstein stood beside Nico’s bed ready to hand him the signed papers, the original plan was to send him straight to the facility but his injuries were worse than first thought. Not serious, but the operation on his ribs required some gentle rehabilitation alongside a detox from a range of pain medication. Physically he was fine, but otherwise he was struggling, mentally he was in pieces, his experiences having truly broken him and it was hard to see. He wished he had more experience to offer, somehow help him beyond physically patching him up.

“Okay.” He brought his knees up to his chest experimentally. His ribs had been so sore after the operation, but so much better than before even without being self-medicated up to the eyeballs.

“So we’re organising transport at the moment to take you to Goodwood.”

Nico scratched at his cotton covered knee, the sheet pulled up to his chin, he felt safe at the hospital because there was no pressure to talk, or explain himself and now he was being turfed out. “Okay.”

Dr Hartstein sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Nico, you’ve survived so much already, I have no idea how you have, really, we all wonder how you managed for so long.”

“Nothing special.” He muttered.

He didn’t know what to say, he could only hope that the people at Goodwood were capable of helping him. “You should pack your things, I can’t imagine it being too much longer.”

“Mmm.” Nico nodded. He didn’t have much, just Jenson’s cookbook, the clothes Jenson’s leant him and the photograph. A fear struck him that he wouldn’t be allowed to keep them once he told them who Jenson was, he couldn’t lose the picture, it was the one thing that made him feel close to human, Jenson was right, it was proof that he…

Who was he kidding, he was sub-human at best.

Dressed in borrowed jeans and a tee shirt he noticed that he’d put on a little bit of weight, just enough to loosen the belt by a hole, he questioned why as he neatly folded up everything he owned into the backpack he was left with and only realised the reason when breakfast arrived.

“Here you go Nico, hear this is your last meal with us.”

“Thank you Suzie.” Nico took the small plate with two slices of toast. “It is, I’ve got to go today.”

“You don’t seem too excited about that.” She placed the cup of orange juice down on the tray. “Are you worried about leaving here?”

How did she know that? “Um, no.”

“It’s okay, we know we’re really nice here, but Goodwood is the best, I’ve had a couple of patients go there and when I saw them again, I mean it’s tough, but they said it was worth it.” Nico had become a part of her shift, if she could she’d pick up his meals to have an excuse to talk to him. Not that he did much talking, but slowly he had come out of his shell, and she found him to have a pretty dark sense of humour that matched her own.

“Can’t be any tougher than university.” He mumbled at the floor.

“You went to uni, which one?”

“Silverstone.”

“Wow, well then you’ll ace Goodwood then, you’re obviously good with the books, although I’m not sure if it’s that sort of place. Sorry.” She fumbled.

Nico allowed himself to smile. “Don’t say sorry to me, I’ll figure it out.” Taking a bite of his first slice of toast he thought back to all the meals he had missed previously, how he had been so hungry...so hungry he’d offered his body in payment. Suzie had left by the time he came back to the room, again wondering why he did it all to himself in the first place.

“Hello Mr Rosberg, I’ll be taking you to Goodwood this morning.”

Nico looked up to see a middle-aged looking man with a clipboard in his hand gazing at him from the foot of his bed, Dr Hartstein was stood next to him, and knowing his schedule pretty well by now Nico knew this wasn’t where he was at this time of the day. Getting off the bed he hooked the bag over his shoulder and walked towards the exit of the ward with the driver, but before he left completely he turned to face the doctor who had spent so much time with him.

“Thank you for what you’ve done.”

Technically it was his job, but he had felt something paternal once he realised that his parents weren’t interested, it didn’t matter that he was in his thirties, he needed some sort of constant and rightly or wrongly he tried to provide it. Much to his wife’s delight. “Just…” He put a hand on his shoulder to make him stop and look at him. “Look after yourself, focus on getting better, and I know it might sound like a cliche, but you are worth it. You’ve got a hell of a lot to give life Nico, give it your best shot.”

All Nico could do was nod, Suzie was right, he was worried, there were bound to be people in a worse place than he and those in charge at Goodwood would just tell him to get a grip. It was a nice enough day outside and climbing into the car he wondered how long he would be in there for, he hoped it would take him out of London but it was out of his control.

The scenery changed from dense inner city buildings surrounded by traffic into more residential areas and finally after some time on the motorway he saw green fields flash in front of his eyes. Green. It had felt like an age since he saw the countryside, England had plenty of it, and although he made an effort to spend time in London’s parks he knew it was harder to be invisible where people were trying to enjoy themselves.

“Here you go Mr Rosberg.”

Peering out of the door that had been opened for him he looked up at the rather grand house, it was old and imposing, nothing how he imagined a facility like it to be, he thought it would be clinical, a grey building. Maybe he could walk around the grounds.

“Thank you.” Clinging onto his bag across his chest he had a tight grip on the large brown envelope with his details in, Dr Hartstein trusted him to bring it along. There was someone stood the gravel before the stone steps, their face was relaxed but professional, not giving anything away.

“Good afternoon Mr Rosberg, I’m Dr Ross, welcome to Goodwood.”

---

“Stop fussing.” Mark batted Fernando’s hands away from his shirt. “I’m not wearing a tie.”

“Is important.” Fernando tried again to hook the material around his neck but ultimately failed.

“I know, but, Fernando.” Mark put a hand to his cheek. “They want to know us, and they said it was a relaxed meeting remember, they’ve approved the paperwork already.”

“Nervous.” Fernando whispered.

"And you think I'm not?" Mark soothed before hugging him tightly. "I want this to go well too."

"So..."

"Still not wearing a tie though." Mark mumbled into his hair with a smile.

Fernando relented, maybe it was a bit too serious considering they were going to be talking about children. "Okay, me either."

Mark loosened the tie from around his neck and slipped it over his head, then proceeded to undo a button. "Much better."

“But what if other people there do wear them? Then what will we do?”

Mark could hear the panic rising out from him, and knew the best way to calm him down, pulling him back to his body he cradled Fernando’s face in his hands and gently tilted his head back. Then before he could think of something else to worry about Mark pressed his lips to Fernando’s, just parting them enough to tease his lips with his tongue, using it as gentle persuasion for Fernando to accept the languid intrusion. It was slow and considered, giving Fernando the time to truly relax in his arms.

“Gracias.” Fernando sighed as they took a breath.

“No worries, shall we get going?”

“Si.” Fernando nodded enthusiastically, he couldn’t wait to finally get the process moving along beyond paperwork.

Mark drove them with Fernando arguing with the sat nav the entire way, making better suggestions as to quicker ways to the office even though neither of them had been there before. They had been to an older office, but the agency had switched locations between returning the forms and getting an appointment.

“I still think it would have been quicker the other way.” Fernando pouted.

Right.” Mark ducked back into the car to pick up their folder of notes. “We’ll try that way on the trip home.”

“And you will see then that I am right.” Puffing his chest out he put a hand on his hip triumphantly as he waited for Mark to lock the car.

“As you almost never are.” Mark grinned widely before walking across the car park beside Fernando.

“You are so mean.”

“No, just love you, that’s all.” Squeezing Fernando’s hand briefly they walked through the automatic doors side by side, and in the building that smelled faintly of new paint was a desk manned by a warm looking woman.

“Good morning, how can I help you both?

“Hola, we have an appointment with Ms Pinkham at half ten.” Fernando greeted the woman first.

“Okay then.” She clicked on her mouse a couple of times before looking back up at them. “Can I have your names please.”

“Um...Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.” Slightly panicked at the reality of the situation Mark stumbled over the most basic of questions.

“Okay then.” Smiling at the nervousness she tapped their names in and instantly saw the appointment booked in. “Yes, I have you both here, you’ve got about ten minutes so if you go through those doors there.” She pointed at the double set of door to her right. “You’ll find a waiting room, and Natalie will be down to see you when she’s done.” Signing them in she sent the alert to Natalie to let her know they had turned up.

“Thank you.” Fernando grinned before taking his turn to calm Mark with a hand to the small of his back. “Is okay.” He whispered.

“Por favor.” Mark returned.

The room was mostly empty, just two other couples sat silently, the same folder on one of their laps, the same expression of pretend calm, the same turmoil bubbling underneath a facade. Fernando found it strange that a room of people in the exact same situation no one was looking at each other, just forced smiles, a mere acknowledgement. But before Fernando could think of some way to break the ice Natalie was stood in the doorway.

“Hello you two, come on up.”

Getting out of their chairs they followed her through the brand new corridors. “Is looking good here.” Fernando couldn’t stand the silence.

“Yeah, much better than the old place, finally got air conditioning, as you’ve probably noticed, and it’s a nicer environment for the kids too. Better all around for everyone.” She lead them up the stairs towards her office noting the obvious nerves and ignoring them, it was normal, expected. A little show of nerves showed how much they cared.

“Yeah, the paintings are cute.” Mark pointed at the framed pictures on her desk.

“Ah, yes, that one was from Lauren, and this was by Lily.”

Mark couldn’t take his eyes off them as the conversation turned to the real reason they were there, he could remember bringing home countless pictures of bikes for his parents, these were in thanks for finding parents for them.

“Right then, we’ve got your paperwork here.” Natalie patted their file on the desk. “And it’s all been filled in correctly, which is great.” She tapped on the keyboard and brought their progress report up. “So that’s the first part done and dusted, and we’ve also got your references which made for some interesting reading.”

Mark and Fernando looked at each other automatically fearing the worst. “Yeah?” Mark croaked.

“The one from Stuart Fernando, he wasn’t afraid to point out a few of your flaws, same goes for you too Mark with the one by your sister.” Natalie looked up from the copies in her hand. “Oh, it’s good, I mean stubbornness and an inability to understand what giving up means, they aren’t exactly things to worry about. It makes a change to read something very honest.”

Fernando sighed with relief. “It sounded bad.”

“I should have worded it a bit better, it’s a good thing to take to the approval board. The one from Jenson, I’ll be honest, I cried, what you’ve done for him is amazing, same goes for Kimi. You’re both obviously good friends, and as you’ve not had children before it’s one of the best gauges we have for your suitability.”

Mark made a mental note to thank Jenson profusely, he hadn’t read it after Jenson asked him not to, but he assumed it was very personal and knowing it had made Natalie cry proved him right. “We’ve got great friends to begin with.”

“Glad to hear that, because that’s something the board are looking at, a strong support network, it’s not necessary, but it strengthens your case. Now before we go for the final approval I want to go over a few things.”

“Okay.” Fernando felt able to relax a little.

“There are a couple of things I think they’re going to focus on, you say you have been together for about thirteen years, with a brief spell of time apart early on in your relationship. Explain that one for me.”

Mark knew their relationship was going to come under some scrutiny as they had to prove their capability of providing a stable home. “It was down to me and my choice to hide my sexuality for my career.” He now felt able to be completely honest and open about himself since coming out publically, every day he was thankful he had done it.

“Yes, but I didn’t communicate how much it was affecting me, it was down to both of us, we were immature then, but it was not a problem when we got back together. It was only a couple of months, were were always destined to be together.” Fernando brought it back to cover his involvement too.

“Since that break we’ve been stronger than ever, I mean we’ve fought now and then, but that’s normal, but we never let things go unresolved. We talk, about everything. Anything. All the time.” Mark confirmed.

“Good.” Natalie quickly tapped out a few notes for herself before continuing. “Right, careers. Neither of your have standard jobs and they might find that hard to see that as stable. Fernando, you’re a photographer, you travel the world at a moments notice, how would having a career like that affect a child?” She decided to slip in a question she knew they would be asked.

His mind went blank, the question completely threw him. “Um…” Calm. “It wouldn’t, I mean I would do my best to make sure it wouldn’t. Lots of parents work, and I would keep working because I love it, but my time to go anywhere in the world is not so important to me, I have done that. I want to be at home with our child, my husband, is why we save so much, so when the time came we could be flexible and take time off.” Fernando tried to read Natalie’s face. “I want to be there for it all, I know Mark does too, is something we are serious about.”

“Thank you, that’s the kind of questions they will ask and you handled it really well.” Now it was Mark’s turn. “Mark, what are you doing now, you used to be a professional cyclist but you retired.”

Even though he was a bit more prepared than Fernando he was worried about coming across right. “I am...I am doing several things at present, I write for a couple of publications, I still participate in a few low key races but that is no where close to what I used to do, more to ease myself out of competing. But I retired because it was time for me to, I needed a change of pace, not to be travelling the world constantly. I like being at home, so I’m in charge of making a few renovations there too.”

“Renovations?”

“Yes, we’re almost done with our roof garden.” He knew leaving out the fact it was on their roof would only come across as them hiding something.

“Roof?” Natalie prompted as the board would, glad that Mark offered up the information freely.

“Yes, space is at a premium in London, and it’s safe, completely surrounded with a barrier, the door to it locks too so they couldn’t get up there without us.”

“Are you sure?” Natalie tested.

“Unless a child could take the key off of me and operate the lock, then no, they couldn’t.” Mark hoped it was enough. “It was installed with that in mind.”

“Thanks, great answers guys. I just wanted to see how you reacted to it, and you’ve got nothing to worry about, you come across genuine and sincere.” She knew they on edge about every little thing at the moment, every prospective parent was, so it was part of her job to reassure them.

“Okay, let’s have a look at the checklist, we’ve got your police and medical checks and they’re both fine, how are the preparation groups going?” Looking away from the computer screen she waited for the answer.
“They’ve been great.” Mark replied. It had been a real eye opener to sit in a room of people going through the exact same process, it had started a bit awkwardly, but once they has made their introductions things settled down.

And they learned so much from those who had adopted before, Fernando quizzed them about anything and everything to the point that Mark and the couple began to laugh. But they quickly made sure it was good-natured, they explained it usually took a couple of sessions before anyone plucked up the courage to be that direct. “We’ve learned so much, we’re meeting up with another one of the couples for coffee later in the week.”

“Oh brilliant, Tom and Hanne were impressed with Fernando’s enthusiasm.” Natalie grinned.

“I wanted to know things.” Fernando sighed.

Natalie wondered if she had gone too far, but Mark stepped in. “Nano, chill, it’s probably a good thing they remembered us.”

“Fernando, let me apologise.”

“Don’t Natalie, he can be a bit sensitive at times like these, artist’s prerogative.” Mark chuckled as he patted Fernando’s thigh.

“I just want it all to work out, we will be great parents, I know this, I want everyone to understand.” He thought he had made too much of a fuss, shown a weakness, something that could stop them from being approved.

“We do, Fernando, let me get that straight, all us here do. That’s why I was called lucky when I got to be your social worker.” They read through the initial applications together in a group meeting and Natalie saw something, and on a gut instinct she asked for them outright. Watching them now she knew she’d made the right decision. Born parents. “Right I have some good news for you, that’s your registration and checks completed. Next up is your assessment, I’ve touched on this before but this takes between two and four months.”

Neither of them could do much more than smile to begin with, the first stage was over and even though it was the easiest in comparison it meant they were a step closer to becoming parents. “Home visits, right?”

“Correct Fernando, it’s just to have a series of conversations, a chance to get a more indepth view of your childhoods, growing up, how you’ve dealt with things in your past, how they’ve helped you grow, and things like that. If it’s convenient I’d like to talk to some of your close friends and your family too.”

“We can organise something no problem.” Mark piped up. “Both of our parents live abroad, at home, Australia and Spain, but we can work around that.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. I know it might seem invasive, but we need a really well rounded view of who are are as people, and what sort of parents you want to become, then we can determine if you can withstand parenthood and everything it throws at you.”

“We understand that, is about finding a good home for children.” Fernando responded.

“Exactly, now you just need to relax, I know it’s hard, but you’ve got an exemplary file here, and I’m fully on your side. Also there’s no need to worry about not being married yet, I just hope you’re getting along with planning it, I want to see some photos.” She laughed which saw their shoulders drop and smiles emerge.

“Is getting organised.” Fernando beamed.

“Good to hear.” Natalie picked up the selection of pages she had printed out. “These are your updates.” She handed them over. Out of curiosity, which couple are you meeting up with?”

“Timo and Katharina Bernhard.”

“Oh lovely.” They were of a similar age, and Natalie knew they were being told the same news today as well, which she hoped would make for an enjoyable point of conversation. “So, last order of business before you go, let’s schedule these visits in.”

---

“This is your room Nico, and you’ll be sharing with another one of our other residents, Adrian.” Nico was still clinging onto his bag for protection as he was shepherded in to stand opposite a pointy-faced man who was laying on one of the beds. “Adrian, you should be downstairs.”

“I’m alright.” Adrian replied showing no intention of getting up.

“Come on, I’m settling Nico in.”

“Hi.” Nico wanted his voice to sound so much stronger, like he had some control over his life, but instead he sounded meek and got a huff in reply.

“Adrian, please.”

“I’m going.” He levered himself off the bed and sloughed off into the corridor.

“Downstairs Adrian.” Dr Ross implored. “I’ll go collect him in a minute.” He muttered under his breath. “So Nico, this is your bed, you’ve got this cabinet beside your bed, and the set of drawers over there.”

Nico followed where he was pointing and wondered what the use of it was, he didn’t have much more than what he was wearing. “Thank you.”

“That’s okay, you can put your things away and I’ll take you on the tour.”

Hesitantly he took a step towards the bed but stopped, he didn’t want to leave the few possessions he had out of his sight. “It’s fine.” He clung on tighter. It was his whole life and he didn’t want to leave it in a room anyone could come into, he couldn’t be expect to leave it here.

“That’s okay, bring it along.” Dr Ross didn’t push, now was a chance to see how Nico interacted with the new environment he was presented with, and after reading the file from the staff at King’s trust issues was a given. And proven.

Nico could barely take all in, there were so many areas, so many corridors and rooms, there were people milling about, sitting around, noises were new and echoing inside of him. Dr Ross kept on, pointing out places to relax, places to eat, places for group therapy, places for one on one sessions, places for family visits, places to read, places to make phone calls, places to go if they didn’t feel well, places to ask for help. He knew he needed that but he kept on, Dr Ross needed to show him all of this so he had to just get on with it, just hoping and praying that they would be going outside soon.

He was shocked at how much Nico was taking, so many others would become disinterested, ask to stop, or complain but he kept nodding along because he felt he should. “Nico, shall we have a look outside?”

Nico could have cried, he wanted to run and break out of the house and take a deep breath of fresh air, but that wasn’t proper behaviour so instead he nodded tightly. Though as soon as the door was opened Nico stood on the threshold wanting desperately to run into the grounds but at the same time worried about what the doctor would think.

“It’s a good day don’t you think?”

“Mmm.”

“Glad you agree, let’s go for a walk, over there to the bench.” He pointed it out in the near distance, he was aware of his operation and was mindful to take a slow pace.

By the time they reached the bench Nico’s ribs ached but he could have kept going, right up to the wall, and concentrating he could see the signs that this wasn’t some grand hotel, dotted along the line were security cameras. “Quite a lot to take in, isn’t it?”

“Yes Dr Ross.” Nico eventually answered.

“That’s fine, we can go over it again another time, that’s nothing to worry about.” He could easily view Nico as a frightened animal, on alert all the time, ready to bolt at the first sign of danger, which was easily explained by what he had gone through. Being homeless wasn’t something anyone could cure with a house and a job, there were scars left behind that deserved treatment to allow him to see the future.

With lungs filled with clean, country air Nico felt freer than he could remember, it reminded him of summer back at university where he would take his studying out in the fields and enjoy the serenity, the peace and the calm. “I’m sorry.”

Today was meant for acclimatisation, but if Nico wanted to talk he wouldn’t shut him down. “What for?”

“I know I am supposed to be, better at this. Here, sitting here, it reminds me of university, the fields, outside, I liked it there, but not all of it, made some bad decisions. Lots of bad decisions, but one good one, just one, but I…” His face flashed to the forefront of his mind. “Made another bad decision. I’m not very strong.”

Telling Nico he was strong because of what he had survived would do no good, he had to see these things for himself, come to the realisation that strength came in many versions. “What do you think of your good decision?”

“I shouldn’t have made it, I made them make a bad decision.” Nico hugged the bag before considering opening it.

Observing Nico covertly he saw him hesitate, fingers poised to open the bag, ready to take something out but panic seemed to creep in. “There’s no need to rush Nico, we’ve got a lot of time to talk during your stay with us.”

“Okay. You’re a doctor?”

“Yes, I’m a psychiatrist, I specialise in helping those with drug dependency issues.”

Nico squirmed, his head still aching from not being on any pain medication. “Me.”

“Do you think you have problems with drugs?”

“Don’t want to make excuses, but after I broke my ribs I couldn’t go to hospital, but someone told me I could have something to stop the pain and then…and then I...I couldn’t stop taking them, I didn’t want to be in pain.” He shuddered at the memory of what he had to do to keep getting them, more and more each time.

“How about we go back inside, get you something to eat.” After filling out a ream of paperwork and the conducting the tour they had landed neatly at dinner time. “Then you can relax until you want to go to bed. We’ll start properly tomorrow.”

The mere idea of a room full of people eating made his stomach lurch, it was just too much. “I...how many people?”

“There’s sixty residents currently, does the idea of that many people make you uncomfortable?”

“I’m used to being on my own.” He admitted. “I can try.”

“We’re not expecting you to plough on regardless, how about you just have a look.”

Nico was surprised, he thought they were expecting him to get on with it. “I don’t have to?”

“We expect you to work at getting better, but no way do we demand it be instant. Recovery takes time.”

“I’ll try.”

“That’s all we ask of you.”

Chapter Text

“You done yet?”

“No, have three more to do, stop bothering me.”

“Shut up and get on with it then sunshine.” Rob flicked a little ball of paper he had screwed up in Felipe’s direction.

“Stop it!” Felipe pouted, he was almost through with the last his reviews for his first year tutor group but Rob was obviously finished and doing his best to become a very tempting distraction. Relenting and looking up Felipe saw Rob doing his best to look nonchalant but failing miserably, the pout was ever so slightly exaggerated. “When I am finished we can go.”

Rob knew he had pushed his luck and resolved to get some of his own work done on his thesis, something he had recently been neglecting, but for all the right reasons he surmised as he opened his notebook. He liked to write ideas out longhand to get his thoughts in order before taking to his laptop, so scribbling down a couple of lines he could research later Rob smiled to himself at the noises Felipe was making.

It was the same little hums and sighs he had always made when he was working, something he had become more than accustomed to over the last decade after spending a good portion of it working side by side. Felipe was the one who encouraged him to see beyond the horizon and when he was offered a position at Ferrari a couple of years after graduation he followed him to Italy, and with the language already a part of his vocabulary finding a university to work at was relatively easy.

So without the whispers behind their backs about the nature of relationship, it blossomed in Italy during balmy days and cool nights over seven glorious years. Looking over at Felipe he was grateful for him to be the force of nature that he was, for knowing that there was a future for them both, that there was love to share between them.

He could feel Rob’s eyes on him and glancing up he was proven right. “You stare, I can not concentrate.” He huffed.

“Scusate.” Rob slipped into Italian with the knowledge that Felipe was a sucker for what it signified. “How many now?”

He knew exactly why Rob had done that and like it always did it softened him up. “Just finishing up the last one.” Their time in Italy was precious to him, and was so glad when Rob agreed so readily to follow him there after being offered the job of a life time. However it wasn’t meant to be forever and with a huge reshuffle at Ferrari he found himself without a job, unceremoniously dumped without an option to plead his case Rob picked him up and suggested they returned to somewhere more familiar.

“Alright, alright.” Felipe was a quick worker, and sensing his short mood Rob had the ace card to play to utterly break it. “I’m done for the day, so I’ll get out of your hair.”

“Good.” Felipe returned to typing on the keyboard as Rob packed up. He presumed he went to get a coffee or speak to someone else so was surprised when he was gone a while, but in that time Felipe managed to finish up all the reports and finally tick that off his to do list. Hearing the shuffling outside of his office door Felipe paused his packing and watched the door open.

“Ah look who we found.” Rob cooed.

“Papa!”

Crouching down Felipe let their eldest, Felipinho, toddle towards his outstretched hands, the sight of their children never failed to put an end to a stressful day. Rob quickly followed in with their youngest Frankie cradled in his arms, the newest addition by six months. Hoisting Felipinho up so he could perch on his hip Felipe stretched up to kiss Rob on the lips, in thanks for helping bring their family together.

“Time to go?” Rob tried in hope.

“Uh huh, all done.” Felipe replied triumphantly.

“Down.” Felipinho requested as he wriggled in Felipe’s arms.

“Okay, okay.” He granted his wish and at the same time relieving Rob of their eldest’s bag from nursery and hooking it over his shoulder alongside his own. “Is time to go home now.” Felipe stated joyously.

“I think so Mr Smedley.” Rob grinned proudly at his husband.

---

“Huh.”

“What’s that?” Daniel looked up from his phone.

“Look, recognise anyone?”

Jean-Eric held up the magazine he was reading and kept the pages apart so he could show Daniel the advertisement he had come across, a double page spread.

“Holy shit.” Daniel recognised the half naked body immediately and moved from the armchair to the sofa to get a closer look. “Wow, he’s bulked out a bit hasn’t he?”

“Yeah…” Flipping the magazine back around he handed it over to Daniel. “That art history degree looks good on him.” He chuckled.

In his lap lay Charles Pic and not for the first time, it had just been a while since their first year tryst. “I didn’t realise he was into this.” Charles was reclining artfully on some rocks, shot in black and white he was just about wearing a pair of jeans.

“Well, we didn’t exactly keep in touch did we?” They remained friendly during the rest of their time at Silverstone, but beyond graduation it fizzled out to occasional messages on Facebook, which then disappeared to nothing without either of them realising.

“Life gets in the way.” Daniel mused. “This might be worth congratulating though.”

“Not thinking of a repeat performance are we?” Jean-Eric jested before kissing Daniel’s cheek.

“He did have a truly spectacular ass if I remember correctly.” Daniel replied cheekily.

Jean-Eric chuckled and the memories of their first year began to filter though. “Shit...prom.”

Daniel’s eyes widened as his own particular memory played back hazily. “Oh god.” He couldn’t help but squirm.

“Oh you like remembering that, huh?” Jean-Eric pounced on the flicker of desire and shoved the magazine out of the way. “You like someone begging for you to touch them?” Grinding down in Daniel’s lap gifted him the most heavenly groan. “Please Daniel, please.” Playing on his French accent he circled his hips. “S'il vous plaît Daniel, baise moi.”

“Ugh, Jev.” Resting his head on the back of the sofa he snuck his hands under Jean-Eric’s top and circled his waist, his body completely tuned into Jean-Eric’s voice.

“I want you so badly, want you in me, fucking me.” Allowing Daniel to pull him into his body he made sure for his lips to brush against his ear as he spoke. “Please, you’d feel so good, I’m yours Dan, baise moi.”

He wasn’t sure if he could wait the distance to their bedroom, he wasn’t even sure if he could wait the time to undress, but Jean-Eric obviously could, he was out of his lap and standing in front of him slowly unzipping his trousers. “He liked to watch, didn’t he?” He spread the fly and gave a hint as to how excited he was. “I can remember how he used to touch himself when he watched us, like this wasn’t it?”

Daniel’s eyes followed Jean-Eric’s hand as it delved beneath his boxers. “Yeah.” He gasped as Jean-Eric’s mouth fell open.

Rocking into his own touch for a moment more he eased himself out of his trousers and boxers in one go before ridding himself of his tee shirt, standing naked before Daniel he stroked himself confidently, loving the way his teeth rake over his bottom lip before a dirty moan erupted from deep inside. Daniel was transfixed.

“How do you want me Daniel?”

The request was so filthy it’s all Daniel could do not to melt into the cushions he's sinking ever deeper into.

“Oh, do you want to watch?” Jean-Eric taunted sensually as he ambled over to Daniel.

Peering up through his lashes Jean-Eric was staring down at him, exuding tremendous power over him with a series of languid strokes. He couldn’t move if he wanted to, and was glad he didn’t because he quickly found himself with a lapful of Jean-Eric again, except this time he was completely naked, whispering filth into his ear as he jerked himself off. Pleading, begging, saying it was all for him, then promising to love him forever, and that tipped them both to the edge.

“Je t'aime. Tu es l'amour de ma vie. Je veux être avec toi pour toujours. J'ai besoin de toi.”

Jean-Eric kept babbling away in French, repeating himself over and over and Daniel could just about pick up what he meant, but most of it was lost in the haze of desire he was swimming in. Palming his own cock under his boxers Daniel felt Jean-Eric bury his head in his neck, still chanting in French between breathy moans claiming he was close. Turning his head Daniel pressed wet kisses to Jean-Eric’s cheek until their lips met messily.

“Come for me.” Daniel demanded as their kiss broke for air. “Come for me Jev, come for me, I love you.”

“Dan…” He cried out, his voice breaking. Daniel had hooked an arm around him, the contact enough to allow him to give in. “Dan!” It came over him so quickly, so swiftly he was prepared for the intensity and as the climax crashing into him he slumped into Daniel’s chest moaning with each wave.

“You’re beautiful.” Dan muttered as he squeezed himself, the whimpers Jean-Eric was breathing against his neck doing enough to bring his own orgasm to its peak. “Love you...so much.” He sighed as he body clenched taut and crying out himself he came heavily in his hand. “Jev…”

“Don’t leave me Dan, please, I want to be with you forever.” Nuzzling in close he tucking himself up into himself as Daniel’s arms circled him tightly.

“I’m here forever.”

---

“Oof!” Rob wasn’t prepared to have a three year old land on his stomach. “Alright there fella!”

“Daddy!”

Rob cuddled him close, loving hearing his new name being called out so joyfully. “Where’s papa?” He asked as he playfully messed his hair up to be delivered an almighty pout.

“Papa with Frankie.”

“Oh right, let’s go find them then.” Rob says before tickling Felipinho to a rousing chorus of giggles.

“Daddy, no! No tickles!”

“But I like to hear you laugh.” Rob countered but soon stopped to keep it fun, kissing his forehead tenderly he sat up with his son in his arms and carefully got off the sofa to seek out the other half of their family. He had always wanted children, one way or another, and was pleased to know Felipe wanted the same, but he was shocked at how ready he was younger than when he first considered it. And after careful research and taking their time they found a surrogate willing to help them, twice, meaning they were brothers through her, and a son to each of them.

He knew exactly where they were, he could hear Felipe signing to Frankie in the kitchen as he made up a feed for his dinner, he entered to see him shaking the bottle of milk up. Frankie was sat happily in his high chair patting his hands on the wooden table in front of him, they were about to embark on trying solids for the first time any day now, but the end of a busy week wasn’t the time.

“Hey.”

“Hello, now all my favourite boys are here.” Still shaking the bottle Felipe walked up to them both, giving a kiss to Felipinho’s cheek before landing one of Rob’s lips.

“Want to swap?” Rob suggested and Felipe gladly accepted the offer.

Seating Felipinho at the table on his booster seat Felipe proceeded to run through the pictures on the placemat, asking him questions about the animals and what they were doing, but it wasn’t long until it turned into a fantastical story that Felipinho soaked up eagerly as dinner cooked. Rob rolled his eyes the moment the story began because it always happened, Felipe was the one who wanted to get them ready for school but couldn’t help slipping into more fun things. He hadn’t changed, he could always switch between serious and fun in a second.

With Frankie in his arms he took the bottle easily, suckling the milk down hungrily with cute burbling noises filtering into the kitchen. He was well and truly in love with his family. “I heard a rumour today.” Rob began.

“Oh yes, about who?”

“You.”

“Oh, really?” Felipe wasn’t sure if Rob was being serious or not.

“Apparently Williams is after you.” He’d done good work with Ferrari, Rob always felt he wasn’t appreciated enough for the effort he put in day after day.

He hoped that wouldn’t have gotten around so quickly, the Williams team had only made a general enquiry about his availability, it was unfortunate that someone came to the university to do it. “Oh, I am not hiding, I have not had time to really think about it.”

“So you are thinking about it?” Rob only glanced up from Frankie to check Felipe’s expression.

“I might, I like teaching, is good to see young people so eager, but sometimes I do miss being practical.” Felipe owned up.

“I wondered how long it would take you.” He chuckled.

“Is okay I think about it?”

“Course it is! What did they say?” Now he was curious.

“They wanted to know if I was thinking about returning to Formula One.”

Rob grinned. “You are.”

“I said I do not want to travel very much, I have a family, but Grove is not so far.”

Making sure Frankie wasn’t drinking the milk too quickly Rob continued to smile away, he knew Felipe would be itching to dive back into it, despite the problems with Ferrari he loved it up to the moment they gave him his marching orders. “No, it’s not. You should find out about the position, I think it’s too good of an opportunity to miss.”

“Hmm.” Felipe mused, he wasn’t sure he wanted to be further away from his family, he liked that he could visit them at the university nursery at lunchtime, and when he had spare time, another job wouldn’t allow that.

“Remember, they came to you, they’re obviously interested in what you can bring to the table.” His confidence, although he wouldn’t admit it, had been dented by how he’d been treated so Rob always made sure to boost him up whenever the chance arose.

“That is true.”

“Pass me that would you.” Rob pointed at the cloth printed with multi coloured dots hanging over the back of the chair Felipinho was sat on, and once Felipe threw it over he flicked it over his shoulder so Frankie could be burped. “Oh, clean burp for once, nice one Frankie.” Rob praised him even though he knew he couldn’t understand.

Felipe couldn’t contain his laughter, Rob had assumed too quickly and was now needing to change his shirt, and when he saw his face he began to howl. “Is not so nice now?”

“Shut up!” Rob sighed but the laughter was infectious and when Felipinho began to join in, a smile wormed his way onto his face. “Help then.”

“I can help daddy.”

“Okay, let papa get you down though.” He tried not to cringe as he felt the damp soak through. “Quick.” Rob mouthed at Felipe who was still laughing away. He couldn’t love his family more.

---

“Sorry for being clingy.” Jean-Eric murmured as he left the bathroom ahead of Dan, scrubbing his hair dry.

“Jev, why would I complain about you wanting me to hold you?” He followed him out not being sure where that comment came from, Daniel loved to be needed like that.

“Because, it’s a bit...childish, isn’t it?” Dropping the towel down to his chest he started to dry his body off.

“No.” Daniel stated as he unwrapped the towel from around his waist to dry himself off too. “No, definitely not. I love it when you let your guard down and simply want me, does that make me selfish?”

“Of course not.” Jean-Eric shook his head.

“Then it can’t mean you’re childish, Jev, I could hold you forever, sometimes I think I prefer it to sex you know. Sometimes, not always, it feels more intimate, more powerful, because it’s so simple. It says me and you are enough, just being together is enough.”

Jean-Eric was knocked sideways by Daniel’s words.

“Oh Jev.” Daniel wrapped his arms around him the moment he saw the first tear fall. “I know I’m shit with this sort of stuff.”

“Non, non, non. Perfection.” Jean-Eric gasped quietly.

Without saying a word Daniel guided him onto the bed, lay him down gently before cradling him against his body, he wasn’t crying hard, but enough to worry him. “Jev, talk to me.”

He didn’t want to embarrass himself any further but he knew Daniel wouldn’t let it go until he revealed what was bothering him. “Um...it’s what’s happened with Sebastian, it’s all screwed up because he can’t be with the man he loves.”

“I swear to you Jean-Eric Vergne.” Getting up Daniel leant across him, hands either side of his chest making sure their eyes connected. “That I have no intention of leaving you, or stopping loving you, because you are the reason I get up in the morning, why I smile even when I’m feeling shit, how I have the energy at work to do well. I love you so much, I beg of you not to think I’ll ever want to leave.” Dipping down he kissed Jean-Eric passionately to let him know it was the truth. “I think we need to take some time off, once this event is done we’ll get away.”

“I’d like that. Sorry. I just...shit Dan, I know you won’t leave, I won’t either. I’m committed to you. To us.” Jean-Eric reached up to cup Daniel’s cheek tenderly, the next kiss was slower, more considered and allowed them to melt into each other, laying side by side they relaxed to the edge of sleep.

“I think we should find out where the nearest nudist beach is then.” Daniel grinned naughtily.

“Monsieur Ricciardo, you are a very wicked man.”

---

"I think it's someone's bedtime." Rob could see his eyes sliding closed.

"Mmm, is asleep."

"I know he is, I was talking about you." He began to laugh, he was exactly the same whenever he held their sons before a nap or bedtime, their rhythmic breaths calming every cell in his being. "Felipe, bedtime."

Rob watching his body slowly come to life, peeling away from the sofa with a heavily asleep Felipinho cradled in his arms, but with Felipe so dozy he got up and retrieved their eldest to save him from the extra effort. "I got you." He cooed as he headed upstairs.

He loved this time of night, where everything was muted and calm, hazy and quiet, it gave him the ideal opportunity to reflect on the time they had spent together so far and dream about their next adventure. He couldn't wait for the summer to properly begin so they could get away and he was excited at the prospect of going to Brazil to see Felipe's parents, they last time they had seen each other Felipinho was just a year old. It was time to go back.

"There you go." He was already dressed for bed, and probably should have been in his own, but he was being fussy and Rob wasn't in the mood to argue. Neither was Felipe, and with it being a rare occasion they were happy to let it slide. "Love you little one." Rob whispered before switching the night light on and leaving the door ajar.

"Hey." Now it was time to put Felipe to bed, and although Rob knew he hated the notion, he also knew he liked it. A lot. He liked to be cared for, and so did Rob to an extent, but there was something very endearing about Felipe's face as he pulled the duvet around him. "There you go champ, or next Williams' saviour I should say." He gave Rob a winning smile that melted away into peace as Felipe gave up the fight, but not Rob, with a hand clenched in his tee shirt Felipe made sure Rob wasn't tempted by a before-bed cigarette.

Chapter Text

“Arch your back more.”

Charles was barely concentrating on the photographer, he had been doing it for so long he knew exactly what they wanted, something effortlessly athletic topped off with a mysterious pout and intense gaze. It was just another part of the campaign he was a part of, a series of magazine and billboards adverts slowly getting undressed. Today was reshoots for the final one.

Even he had to admit it had worked rather well, the media had gone wild over the promise of more, there were demands for the next one to be released earlier, plenty of complaints for it being too sexual, and a petition for one of him to be completely naked. He had even gotten several interviews off of the back of it, including a few chat shows.

But as one of the assistants tugged the boxers down slightly so there was the barest hint of pubic hair above the wide elastic waistband, Charles knew he was running out of time massively, there was only a limited amount at hand he could spend as a model and he was already passed the average. He had to find a new direction, and soon.

“Merci Charles”

Nodding at the photographer he took the bright white dressing gown eagerly to cover up, he was twenty nine now, he couldn’t go on forever. Thanking everyone as he headed back to the makeshift dressing room to change into his own clothes, Charles wondered what his new direction should be. He had found it easy to drift about in modelling, the next opportunity only a click away.

He lit a cigarette as soon as he stepped out onto the sidewalk and the heat of the summer took his breath away, he had been surrounded by the luxury of air conditioning in the studio so he had conveniently forgotten the ferocity of a New York summer. Charles checked his phone and saw he had a couple of messages ready to be replied he stuck his arm out and hailed a cab, and as soon as he gave the address to his next destination he began to sift through his emails.

There was nothing to worry about, nothing that couldn’t be sorted later, although he replied to the ones from his agent and manager, then one from his brother. Then he had an idea, speaking to the driver he diverted them from the original route and he found a smile creeping onto his lips, his schedule was clear until his flight that evening.

“Merci.” Handing over enough notes plus a tip he practically skipped across the sidewalk until he reached the large glass doors, a breath later and he was inside yet more beautiful air conditioning. Praising the invention he paid for a ticket and set about on a couple of stress-free hours of exploring the museum and all the art it held inside its walls.

As he wandered upstairs to the first floor to see the permanent collection of Andy Warhol it reminded him of the university trip in his third year to the Louvre. He had been contemplating a tiny oil painting when he had been approached by an off-duty ‘spotter’. He visited the agency before he left to return to Silverstone, but they never let up, they got him to contact their London office and photos for a portfolio soon followed. He thought nothing of it, he was concentrating on his dissertation, ignoring calls from them, just aiming for the best result.

Slipping on a pair of glasses he strolled around the floor anonymously, taking in the crowds of people, the odd school trip, couples, single people, families too. He had muted his phone with the intention of turning it off, but glancing around the room he caught a glimpse of a painting he recognised and knew what he had to do. Switching his phone to the camera function he flipped it around so he get himself in shot along with the painting. He would get it, he had a print at his home.

Saw this and thought of you :D xxxxx

He sent the photo off and continued to walk around until his breath was taken away by a single oil painting he had only ever seen in books, cursing himself for not coming here before he stood still in awe of the colour, composition, artistry, the history, and the man who put paintbrush to canvas. Starry Night.

- You still think of me then, I thought you had forgotten all about me! xxxxx

Charles smiled to himself as he stepped aside to allow someone else to see the work of art as he connected back to France.

How could I forget, I am offended you think these things! xxxxx

It took a while to get a reply, but Charles knew how busy things could get, how the hours could slip away in a blink of an eye and turn into days, but neither of them cared, it was mutually understood it was a part of their relationship. It was when he was outside lighting up another cigarette that he felt his phone buzz against his leg, extracting it out of the tight confines he had shoved it in he grinned at the name flashing at him.

“Bonjour.” He answered sunnily before dragging another breath through the cigarette.

“I had forgotten your voice.”

Charles chuckled at the drama he put into his response. “I had forgotten yours too!” He was lying.

“Lies! You can hear mine so often.”

“I know.” Charles relented. “How is everything going?” The sun was beating down on his back mercilessly as cab after cab ignored him.

“Good, last bit of work before we’re in England. Are you...how long are you in New York for?”

“Plane’s tonight. Sydney I think. Don’t worry, I’m coming.” Charles breathed. They struggled with making concrete commitments because of the nature of their chosen paths, but there were a couple of times a year they made a concerted effort. “Promise.”

“Don’t promise if you can’t.”

Before he would understand the immediate reservation, but not this time. “I’ve made it very clear I can not doing anything else then, it is all about you, plus it’s not like I won’t be working then. My face looks very good on television.” Charles got a gorgeous laugh in response that halted his search for a ride back to the hotel.

“It looks good everywhere.”

He had such a way with words, he didn’t have to do much, or say much to render Charles speechless, and he loved the effect he had on him. “You have me grinning like an idiot, people are staring!” He whispered. Having changed from reading glasses to sunglasses Charles hoped he wouldn’t be recognised, but out of the corner of his eyes he caught a couple of lens pointed at him, maybe the tweet about falling in love with the Museum of Modern Art wasn’t such a good idea.

“I can see.”

“How, oh.” He quickly remembered how swiftly paparazzi photos got uploaded now, a search for his name would be bringing up everything a few seconds behind real time. “This is one for you then.” Charles turned and blew a kiss at the two guys stood there.

“Merci.” Came the sigh.

“I won’t be long, I can’t wait to see you, has been too long. Wait a minute.” Depositing the end of his cigarette in the trash he caught an empty cab heading in the right direction and asked to be taken to his hotel.

“Two months.”

“Much too long, I’ll try and steal a couple of days.” Charles knew he could make an attempt but would probably fail, but he would try hard.

“For afterwards?”

“Of course, I want to bury myself in you.” He heard a little groan that tested his resolve to return it.

“Get those days off and I will let you.”

Charles couldn’t keep the whimper in, he had to squirm in his seat to subtly adjust his jeans, cursing his decision to wear something so tight.

“I’m going to make you make that noise again.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

“I do whatever I need to.” Charles could fake exhaustion, by the time they were due to meet up he would have been working for over three months straight around the world. “I’ll do it.”

“Good, I’ll do better knowing that. Oh okay, yeah, sure. I’ll be right there.”

It was only if they were sharing the same night that their phone calls ended mutually with mumbled goodnights and wishes that they were together. “You need to go?” Charles suppressed his disappointment.

“Oui, can not wait to see you.”

“Me either. Go, go, I can not hold you up any longer!”

“I called you.”

Charles soaked up the gentle laughter before they said goodbye once more and hung up at the same time, and once he had stopped staring at the photo he had taken that was his wallpaper he was being brought to the front of his hotel. “Thank you.” He counted out the dollars and handed it over without waiting for his change, he had an hour before he needed to be making his way to the airport.

“Can you book me a cab to JFK for an hour’s time?”

“Of course Monsieur Pic.”

Giving a small smile in thanks he headed up to his room to make sure he had packed everything, but first he had to take a couple of snaps to upload to Twitter, he knew the agency would be pleased with that. So he took one of the view to say goodbye to New York, one of his neatly packed suitcase praising his professional talents, then one of his chosen outfit for travel onto Australia with a cheeky reference to ‘Down Under’.

He was sick of putting up the pretence, he was unsure as to who was remotely interesting in what he was doing, but when he forgot for a week he actually had to face a phone call explaining exactly how important it was. Apparently his followers were bereft. So Charles made a conscious effort to post three or four times a week, and it was easy when he was travelling, countless hotel room views and airports, with the occasional on set shot thrown in.

Another airport on the way to another country, he was definitely calling his manager and demanding the time off without exception, and with the confidence bubbling through him stronger than ever because he was feeling in control of his future he called them. Even though his flight was being called he held on the line for it to be answered.

“Charles! How was New York?"

“Good, went really well.”

“We saw, great use of Twitter, your follower count is rising all the time.”

Charles rolled his eyes. “Hmm, great.”

“So what can I do you for?”

“I need some time off, soon, I’m exhausted. I’m going to Silverstone in a couple of weeks, end of July, I want the following week off, I need it.”

“Oh, I was booking some shoots in, and an interview. We need to capitalise on this Calvin Klein campaign.”

“Cancel it, I can’t keep going on like this. After that week off it’s another week before the next picture gets released. Don’t want to be over-exposed, do I?” He just had to take the right angle.

“Oh, well, that’s a fair point, about three months. Alright, I’ll swing it for you.”

I fucking deserve it! He hated the way he was made to feel incredibly demanding when in fact he knew he gave them very little trouble. “Merci, I’ll visit before Silverstone. Please don’t book anything, nothing is more important than this. I want to see my family, remind them who I am.” He felt guilty for playing the family card, but it strengthened his case.

“Alright, I get it. A week off after Silverstone.”

“I've got to board.”

“See you soon Charles.”

He realised he should probably see his parents at some point, but a whole week to get completely and utterly buried in the most beautiful man in the world was beyond tempting. But he was going to keep it a surprise.

---

“Are you okay?”

“Mmm.”

“Come on Paul, you’ve been really quiet recently, I don’t like it.” Nico put his coffee cup down and moved to cup Paul’s cheek tenderly.

“Work’s just getting to me, things aren’t great.”

“Oh, why didn’t you say?” Nico enveloped him in a bone-crushing hug. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Paul knew exactly why, he was the dominant one in their relationship, he could make Nico submit with a couple of words, so to be faced with losing his job didn’t fit the image. “I…”

“Paul.” Nico cooed, putting his hands on his shoulders. “We’re a team, we’re here for each other, one of us not more than the other. I think it’s time I look after you a bit.”

“You do.” Allowing himself to be pulled into Nico’s body again he buried his face in his neck and breathed in deeply, taking his scent in deeply, letting it filter throughout his body. “Being here is enough.”

“No it’s not.” Nico replied softly. “We’ve got a bit of time before we have to go.” Checking his phone to make sure he saw they had twenty minutes before they were due to leave for their commute. “Take your shirt off and sit.”

A protest bubbled up inside but he failed to voice it and instead did as he was asked. And he was so glad he did because in a moment Nico’s nimble fingers were seeking out the tension his was holding in his shoulder and digging them out. He used the heel of his palm, knuckles, and fingers to get him to relax.

“How is that?”

“Perfect.” He sighed.

Smiling Nico continued with one eye on the time, the slickness of the oil allowed him to be firm and use all of his strength. He was worried though, Paul didn’t just seem stressed there was something else mixed up in there as well and Nico knew it was on their horizon. Ignoring it wasn’t an option. “That better?”

“Yeah.” Tipping his head back he saw the concern on Nico’s face so clearly.

“We’ll talk about it properly tonight.” Nico stated before he leant over to kiss Paul. “We hide nothing.”

He knew Nico was right, it was the centerpiece to their relationship, so he nodded in agreement unable to process the implications of what he would have to reveal. “Alright, tonight.”

“Good.” Nico sighed with relief before retrieving a wipe to clean Paul’s back so he could put his shirt back on. Cleaning the light sheen of oil off of his back he could see the tension return, he wished he could call into work for both of them and spend the day talking this through. But it wasn't an option, especially as work was the issue for Paul, not going in clearly wasn't going to solve it.

They took their usual route to the station in an unusual silence, until it be unbearable for them both but Paul cracked first. Locking the door up after he walked around to Nico and kissed him harshly, too harshly for the time of day and it left Nico floundering and looking for direction.

"Paul?" Nico croaked, submission already so apparent.

Realising his mistake Paul felt a flood of guilt crash over him, he had taken so much from Nico last night, demanding he gave more and more, trust him as he pushed him onto his knees, forced his cock deep into his mouth until his gagged. But he had held firm, eyes streaming with tears, cheeks flushed from the effort but he hadn't let up, Paul kept him there until the wealth of power he had in that situation filled the void he had at work.

"Nico, I'm sorry." Pecking his lips gently he brought him round, stopping the spiral. "I'll explain everything tonight, promise."

"Okay." Nico nodded before enveloping Paul in a comforting embrace, holding onto him tightly as their train pulled into the station. Quickly jogging over the pair boarded just in time, the door closing swiftly behind Paul as he made sure Nico got in with a guiding hand in the small of his back. Sensing Paul was the one in need of reassurance Nico gripped his hand and held onto it firmly as they were shuttled into the centre of London.

Paul just hoped he would still have a job at the end of it.

---

Stood at baggage claim he took in his surroundings carefully, the last thing he wanted to happen was to be recognised by any of the businessmen stood around impatiently waiting for their suitcases to make their way around. He mused that they must be here for a longer stay if they weren’t relying on hand luggage which he always did where he could to avoid the extra wait. They were tapping their feet and sighing at the watches the grumbling at the screen showing that the plane hadn’t been emptied of cargo yet, he had been like that, he had spent a great deal of time tutting and bemoaning the lack of punctuality.

However today was different, there was no need to be stressing over time because he had a limitless supply, he had no job, he had no place to go, he just had a bag full of clothes and a healthy bank balance. As the conveyor belt sprung into life Sebastian realised that for the first time in his life there was absolutely no expectations on his shoulders, no one was expecting an award winning article, or a ground-breaking idea, he was just Sebastian Vettel, some guy. Liberated.

Even though he was very much alone in the world, his parents had made their feelings clear about his actions and he understood their disappointment, Kimi was somewhere in the world and he had left his friends behind. He had gotten halfway through composing an email to Daniel and Jean-Eric, to thank them for their kind words and support even if they didn’t know what they had done.

Hoisting his case off the belt Sebastian began to wheel it through departures and into England with his thoughts focused solely on what he was going to do now he was here. Silverstone had seemed such a good idea at the time when he was hundreds of miles away, but here it began to look idiotic even if it was the last time he was truly happy with himself.

Stood at the line for a taxi he calculated how long it should take him to find a job, and knowing his CV inside and out he knew it wouldn’t be long apart from the little issue of his private life being splashed over the business pages. How he would explain why he suddenly left his position made him shuddered, there was no way he could do it convincingly.

“Silverstone please, Becketts Hotel.”

“No problem mate.”

Sebastian clambered into the back of the taxi and resolved to keep calm as he pulled away from the urban sprawl of London and into the welcoming countryside of the first place he lived alone, even if it came with a strict set of rules to live by. The weather was perfect and with it being summer he knew the place would be quiet meaning he could wander about without worrying about bumping into anyone he knew from the university.

“That’ll be two hundred and sixty quid mate.”

Sebastian had already checked the fare before he left Germany so was prepared for the cost when he slotted his card into the machine and tapped his pin number in. “Thanks.”

“Thanks for the tip, enjoy your stay.”

He felt bad for not chatting and instead choosing to stare out of the window for the duration of the journey and tapped in a tip to hopefully compensate him for the silence. “I’m sure I will.” Dragging his suitcase out behind him he wheeled it behind him as he walked into reception to check in, and once the card was in his hand he knew that despite the weather he wouldn’t be leaving for the rest of the day. The fresh sheets were the perfect foil and practically begged to be luxuriated in and he did just that, refusing for the time being to feel sorry for himself, just giving his mind a rest from the self-inflicted abuse.

He ordered room service and watched films, laughing at the silly plots and ridiculous premise of love they displayed so as the day turned into night he put on an action film and curled up around a pillow and fought alongside the good guys as they strived to save the earth.

“Ugh.” The bright sunlight was exploiting a gap in the curtains and hitting him directly in the face, so he was forced to get up and hit the shower to begin his day, but when he was rooting through his case for something to wear he spotted his running gear. It had been so long since he’d stretched his legs like that he changed into it and tied up his trainers, he wanted his watch too but it took a good couple of minutes to discover it hidden in his sole pair of smart shoes.

Leaving his room card at reception his slotted in a pair of headphones and set about taking advantage of the surprisingly early hour and pounding the streets and roads until he couldn’t go any further.

---

He had fallen into a simple routine during his stay, he would run for several miles before returning back for a shower followed by breakfast, then if he felt up for it he’d trundle off to the gym for a couple of hours before lunch, then he’d catch up on some reading, the news before dinner, then finally some television before bed. He kept it uncomplicated on purpose but today he felt the need to be a little more proactive, achieve something other than improving his time over a five kilometer run.

So over a breakfast that didn’t follow a run he scrolled through things to do locally on his phone, casually ignoring the need to find a job, until he landed on the details of a karting track several miles away. As he had sorted out a hire car he took himself to the address provided and with the window down he could hear the high whine of the kart engines as he pulled in the designated car park. Part of the Silverstone race circuit a shiver ran down his spine as he sat close to the most magical memory from his childhood.

The car park was busy, as it should be on a saturday but he still managed to find a space to leave his car in, parking was easy enough, getting out wasn’t. Staring at the entrance he watched a group of teenagers burst out grinning from ear to ear, and the winner from the group holding his trophy over his head proudly before falling instep with his friends laughing over a private joke only they got.

After extracting himself from the car he wandered over as nonchalantly as possible highly aware that he was going in alone, it was odd but he had no choice. He had to get out of the hotel grounds.

“We’re full for the day, sorry.”

The women at the front desk apologised before he had a chance to open his mouth. “Oh okay. No worries.” He gave the place a once over and spotted a poster offering positions to work there. “I was actually wondering if you had any jobs going.”

“Oh well, we do as a matter of fact. Just let me grab you a form.” She turned to open a large filing cabinet to her left to retrieve the form consisting of a couple of sheets stapled together. “We’re searching for some marshalls and instructors at the moment, so any experience in those fields would be great.” She handed it over and caught the flash of disappointment on his face. “We provide marshal training.”

“I used to kart a lot in Germany.”

“Ah right, well that would be handy.” She smiled and got back to her stack of paperwork.

Taking a pen out of the pot he sat in an empty seat and filled it out, not overthinking but not rushing either Sebastian made sure his passion came across, and wasn’t afraid to mention his past, but was careful not to oversell himself out of a chance. “Um, I’ve filled it in.”

“Oh, thanks. Well, we appreciate speed here.” She took it off of his hands and slotted it into the box the boss would be thumbing through later. “Hopefully I’ll see you around soon.” Knowing that they were crying out for new staff members as the students had left for the summer she had a sneaking suspicion he would be hearing from them very soon.

“Hope so.” A bit disappointed that he couldn’t get the chance to blow the cobwebs away with a few laps around the track Sebastian bid the woman goodbye before heading back out into the sunshine he left behind. Except it wasn’t shining anymore, it was absolutely tipping it down, big fat heavy drops of rain were pounding the tarmac of the car park and Sebastian was left contemplating how fast he would have to run to avoid the worst.

“I give up, we’re going to have to find someone to help out, I can’t hold this place together on my own all the time.”

“Check your inbox then.” She had given Sebastian’s application a once over, and despite him having no specific experience she was touched by his love of racing, even if he wouldn’t be doing that at all.

“When was that put here?” Giving it a once over it was the name at the top that caught his eye.

“He’s just left, you might be able to catch him.” She gave him a small shrug before watching him jog out into the rain calling out for Sebastian.

“Sebastian! Seb?”

“Uh, yeah?” He had watched the guy dart out of the building. “Heikki?” He didn’t look much different, he had just bulked out a bit more.

“Could have stopped me from running out into this.” He grinned as he jogged back to the overhang to get out of the rain. “What on earth are you doing here applying for a job?”

“I…” Sebastian swiftly came to the conclusion that Heikki had no idea, and he wasn’t ready to take himself back there quite yet, he was determined to continue giving himself a break.

“Come inside, might as well get the interview out of the way.” Whatever the reason was he knew he could trust Sebastian, and that was half the battle. “Do you want something to drink?” Shaking his hair he tried to squeeze as much of the moisture out of it before it went too curly.

“Tea?” Sebastian replied meekly, he wasn’t supposed to know anyone here.

“Right then, let’s see if I can dig out some clean mugs.” Heikki heard laughter from the front desk. “I know it was my turn Babs.” Guiding Sebastian into the back office he gestured at him to sit in one of the free chairs before tackling the mug situation.

Sebastian settled back and observed Heikki work his way around the office trying to discover a secret stash somewhere, it made him smile faintly to see him a little dishevelled, a bit unorganised because it meant not everyone was perfect. But there came a point where it became frustrating and he had to get up and help him out, grabbing two of the least disgusting offenders he ignored Heikki’s pleas to sit and sought out the small staff room that had been pointed out. “It’s fine, it’s fine.”

Allowing Heikki to make the tea Sebastian took up the same chair again, but he brought his knees up to his chest to try and keep himself warm. “Typical English summer huh?” He broke the silence he couldn’t bear.

“Yeah, never get used to it.” Heikki muttered whilst concentrating on not spilling boiling water over himself.

“Thanks.” Sebastian gladly accepted the hot drink. “How long have you been here?”

“A few years, I travelled around the world for a bit, then went back to Finland, but Silverstone kinda has a pull.” Heikki sat down at his cluttered desk.

“Yeah.” He agreed quietly before taking his first sip.

“What about yourself?” As soon as he asked he saw exactly how little Sebastian wanted to talk about it. “I just want to know if you’re going to sticking around for a while.”

“I think so, don’t have much else to go back to in Austria.” His shoulders sagged. “Guess you don’t keep up to date with business news.”

“No, not really, just karting and Formula One really. And ice hockey.” Heikki chuckled at the memory of boring Sebastian to death with hockey statistics of his favourite team.

Sebastian shot him a pointed look when he mentioned ice hockey, by the end of university he knew as much as Heikki did. “I...um...was working at Red Bull but it all got a bit much at home, I’m going through a divorce.”

“You got married to Kimi?” The longer they were together Sebastian calmed down and grew in confidence, to hear their relationship had ended explained why he was at such a low ebb. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, I did genuinely like him.”

“No, it wasn’t him...Hanna, girl from home.” Sebastian muttered darkly before staring resolutely at the steaming milky tea in his mug.

“Oh.”

“It got a bit...complicated.”

“Ah.” He guessed that Kimi had stayed on the scene. “Red Bull rules and regs?”

“Something like that, and my own stupid fault. Actually it’s all my fault, not a great interview is it?”

“I know I shouldn’t be basing employment on what I already know, but to be honest Seb I’m ready to give you a job right now. I’m snowed under, and I can trust you.”

“Oh, right, but I have no experience.” Sebastian stuttered.

Heikki laughed heartily. “Seb, you seem able to turn your hand to anything. But I wouldn’t mind knowing why here?”

The mouthful of hot tea burned pleasantly down his throat before he answered, the heat filtering out from his stomach to warm his bones. “I was actually coming here to get a few laps in.”

“Now I’m offended!” Heikki made sure to let Sebastian know he was joking.

“I do need a job though. I always wanted to race you know, I was karting, winning a bit. But my school entered me into a writing contest sponsored by Red Bull and when I won that that was all they were interested in, my parents stopped funding racing. Then it was all about school and university and all I wanted to was race. That was my dream.” Seeking refuge in the drink again he supped at it hoping that was the end of the questions.

“No wonder you were so unhappy, I thought you were the luckiest guy in the world, on the fast track to success. Shit.” He considered Sebastian for a moment, he was definitely older, more so that the ten years he had known him, it was etched onto his face. “The job’s yours if you want it.”

“Heikki.”

“Look, you can not be worse than they last three guys.”

Giving him a small smile he nodded in agreement. “But what job, marshalling?”

“Anything and everything. But first I must see you kart.”

In the brief lull of the rest of lunch time Heikki watched in awe of how quickly Sebastian took to the track and learnt the racing line. In less than twenty minutes he had broken the lap record and it was beautiful to see, he could tell how much he was enjoying it from the way he was chucking into each corner lap after lap. He could have happily watched him for the rest of the day but a quick glance at the clock told him the next wave was on its way, with a heaviness in his heart he picked up the chequered flag and waved him in.

He didn’t want to take the helmet off, he really didn’t want to give up the feeling of being utterly free straight away but he had no choice. For the first time in years he felt like himself, his true self, the one he always dreamt of being, nothing but racing. He raised a sad smile when he hauled the borrowed helmet off, his younger self would be seriously disappointed in a handful of laps giving him so much pleasure. He was supposed to be a world champion several times over by now.

“Enjoy yourself?”

“A bit.” Sebastian replied lightly, doing his best to hide exactly how freeing he found the whole experience.

“You look better for it.” He’d lost a couple of years off his face. “Are you free for the rest of the day, we’ve got a big birthday party in…” Heikki glanced at his watch. “In half an hour. Shit.”

“Yeah, what do we need to do then?”

Sebastian loved the afternoon, every single moment of it breathed more life into him, the moment he handed the helmet back he didn’t stop, he barely paused for breath. Following Heikki’s lead he got the group of fifteen men through their day successfully, he sized up and handed out race suits and helmets, memorised the briefing speech. He had to jump on the track to turn around those who had spun, pushed tyres back into place that had been hit in collisions, tempered a racing incident related spat with an impromptu game of rock-paper-scissor because it had been equally their fault.

Slumped on the floor leaning against the sponsor boarding on the track Heikki appeared with a chilled bottle of water beside him, taking it he rested is against his neck to cool himself down. It made a change to be completely physically exhausted instead of leaving the office mentally tired with a body bursting with energy. “Thanks.”

Heikki joined him on the track and chuckled as he did so.

“What’s so funny?” Sebastian broke the seal on the bottle and drank half of it down.

“When he worked together before you hardly ever thanked me, now you sounds like you mean it.”

“I do, Heikki, today I felt…” He mused upon what he really wanted to say. “I felt like me, not me at university, but...who I wanted to be as a kid. I wanted to race, be in a garage, run on instincts, but I got tangled up in a life everyone else wanted for me, and I made catastrophic mistakes.”

Heikki hummed in understanding but let him continue on his own whilst sipping at the water.

“If I had been honest from the start then maybe I might have had a chance, I probably never would have been a world champion, but I could at least tried.” He thumped his fist against his thigh in frustration. “My parents were so relieved when I got given a scholarship for Silverstone, we never had much money, I just went along with it because it made them happy, and I only ever wanted them to be proud of my achievements.”

“I went and I was horrid to Mark in my first year, but look at him now, he was only ever himself and now he’s got Fernando. He came out and tackled it all head on, took all of the criticism because he loved Fernando so much.” He still had the clippings from the magazines, ones he had cut out in an effort to boost his confidence, spur him on to do the same, but they got filed away and hidden. “I could never do that for Kimi, and so I wasted Hanna’s life, hurt her family and mine and worst of all Kimi.”

“Worst of all you, lying to yourself is the worst crime.” Heikki corrected. “I should know, I can’t say why, but forgive yourself Sebastian. You’ve punished yourself enough now. Give up, call it a day on the self-flagellation, move forward.”

Sebastian was left gobsmacked by Heikki’s words, maybe it had something to do with him not being part of Red Bull, something he knew he should have found out when he was still there. “Okay. Okay. I’m done.”

“Good. Right up next is for you to get a criminal check so you can work with kids, but in the meantime you can learn the ropes of the back office, reception and help out with the adult groups. How does that sound?” He saw Sebastian nod, and getting a proper look Heikki saw the emotion in his face. “We’ll start tomorrow with the paperwork.”

“Okay.” Wiping his eyes as subtly as he could Sebastian hauled himself off the floor and then offered Heikki the assistance to do the same. “Um...I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Looking forward to it, finally I have someone to work beside who actually gets this.” Heikki sighed happily. “Get here about seven and I’ll run through start of day, all the boring stuff.”

“About seven? I’m German.” Sebastian smiled.

“Exactly seven then.”

---

“Now that’s a face I haven’t seen in far too long.”

“Hey.” Kimi stood at the makeshift reception feeling a little awkward to be stood there unannounced.

“Hey yourself.” Putting the tattoo machine down he waved Kimi over warmly. “I wondered where you got to, New York has been missing you.”

He couldn’t help but give the piece of work Mika was working on the once over. “Good.”

Mika smirked. “What improvements do you suggest?” He knew Kimi far too well.

“Maybe a bit more shading over here.” He gestured at the tail of the koi.

“You interrupted me.” Mika shot back without venom.

“I’ll wait.” Kimi replied softly and took up a seat on the sofa by the window, he was grateful that was one of the things they had changed, the one they had when he left was on its last legs. The high-pitched buzz of the machine going to work soothed him, the noise signified he was doing what he loved, doing what he was good at. He waited until Mika washed the excess ink away and slathered on the protective gel before sending the client on his way with a list of instructions for after-care, and an appointment to finish the piece off.

“And what can I do for you?” Mika grinned as he stood in front of the travelling Finn.

“Got a spare chair?”

Mika nodded and pointed at the one Kimi had occupied many years ago. “It’s yours if you want it, which I guess you do because you’re sat in my shop.”

“Hmm. I was surprised that you were here.”

“Putting down roots is a good thing, plus I don’t think my girlfriend would be too chuffed, or the children, if I moved around all the time.” He took up the seat next to Kimi.

Kimi raised an eyebrow. “But you were married.”

“Divorce is pretty common, we weren’t right anymore. We didn’t fit.” Mika gave a noncommittal shrug, it wasn’t a big deal in the end, they ended it on mutual terms.

The words hit Kimi harder than he imagined they could, it was a short, sharp reminder of the mess with Sebastian. He had been letting it circulate on a continual loop, how he could have gotten out sooner, or never got involved in the first place, or made him see sense. He was sick of living in the past. “I get that.”

“You do?” Mika was unsure.

“Yeah, married man, ended badly.” He waved the thought away with a hand, into the past with it.

“Ah, well, I guess that’s over now. Onwards and upwards is what the Brits say, isn’t it?” Mika leant back, and watched one of the newer recruits do a small piece on a regular client.

“I guess.”

Mika smirked. “Welcome back, more Finns the better I say.”

Kimi shook his hand to seal the agreement and thought about finding somewhere permanent to live, he had split his time between the hotel and Mark and Fernando’s, but London wasn’t his thing. He craved the outdoors, and not some patch of ground that was lucky enough not to have been built on yet, that was why he chose Silverstone. It was right in the middle of the countryside, rolling green fields, peace and quiet. Perfect.

Chapter Text

"Hey."

Charles could hear the tiredness in his voice. "I think you should be in bed, not calling me." He chastised kindly.

"Miss you."

He knew night time was the worst, he had lost count of the number of pillows he hugged wishing it held him back, or at least had some warmth to offer. "Miss you too."

"No, I really miss you."

"I do too, I wish you were here, the sun feels so good on my skin." He stretched out on the lounger of the hotel, even under the shade the heat was verging on the unbearable, staring longingly at the pool he was about to jump into he did his best to think himself cool.

"Oui?"

"Of course, you should sleep, is no good for your training." He worked too hard to be staying up late to call him.

"But I miss you."

Charles heard the break in his worn out voice and felt a lump rise in his own throat. "Please don't get upset, please, not if I'm not there." He pleaded, not wanting to get upset himself.

"Been too long."

"I know." He wanted it to be a surprise, but now it wasn't right to keep it from him. "I got that time off, a week, I need to see my family, but you could come with me, they...um...sort of know about you. I know this was meant to be casual..." The raw emotion in his voice had Charles pouring his heart out. "It isn't is it? Not anymore."

"Non, non, I love you."

"What?!" The words took his breath away. Gasping his response he sat bolt upright in shock, no one had ever uttered those precious world to him before, not meaningfully anyway. It doesn't count when it's screamed by a crowd of girls, or as a catcall by older women, or creepily whispered in ears by men as they grab at what they want. He meant it, truly meant it.

"I love you."

Charles let the smile on his face broaden. He was loved. "I love you too, you have no idea how long I wanted to tell you."

"So tired."

Charles chuckled lightly at his yawn. "Then get to bed."

"Love you."

"I love you." It left him feeling giddy, and invincible. And ready to make a decision to stop modelling, the urge to seek out stability in his life swarmed around him closer then the heat. Stowing his phone away safely he slipped into the pool without a splash and got some laps in to work the travelling out of his system, each time he touched the end another idea came to him. But what made him feel the most content was whenever he thought about any visit to an art museum, the impromptu trip in New York, or the tiny hidden away one in Spain, his first visit to the Louvre. Now he just had to figure out what steps to take.

But he was loved.

---

Sorry I'm going to be late, don't wait, I'll be back soon.

Nico had read similar messages to that before, and ordinarily it wouldn't bother him, but today it concerned him deeply. Paul was going to drop a bombshell on him imminently and the fact he was was going to be late was somehow tied up in that development. So doing his best to distract himself he quickly tapped out a reply and kept his eyes peeled for the next available empty seat, his legs were already feeling weak from what was about to happen when Paul eventually got home.

- Okay, see you at home x

The closer he got, the worse he felt until he had to rest his head about against the door he was crammed against in an attempt to cool himself down. He was certain they could cope with whatever was thrown at them, but Paul seemed so reluctant to accept any form of help from him he felt powerless.

On the limit of the speed restrictions the moment he pulled out of the car park he reached their home in record time, clambering through the door as tiredly as he felt he was unnerved by the feeling someone was already inside.

"Hello?"

"Nico, hey." Paul emerged from the kitchen clutching two cups of tea.

"Paul, what are you...home. You said...what's gone on?" Dumbstruck he allowed himself to be directed to the sofa and slumped down into it. "You're not in your suit." He always wore his suit to work.

"I said that things at work weren't great."

"Yeah." Nico's head felt stuffed, like the carriage he had not long extracted himself from.

"Well, the company's struggling big time, and they've been making cuts, loads of them, and I've been surviving each round, but..." The words got stuck in his throat. "My team was given a deadline to hit for clients and we missed it, I negotiated more time, but we still failed. Ever since it started I've been looking for a job, but no one wants to hire me, I tried."

"That's why we weren't' meeting up for lunch anymore." Nico's mind was filled with all the little moments he had been able to reason away.

"Exactly."

"Why they hell didn't you tell me? I could have helped." He could see the pain and hurt in his eyes.

"I don't need you to find me a job." He spat.

"No, to support you." Nico sighed. "Given you the chance to share the burden, for Christ's sake Paul, we're supposed to be in a relationship. Just because you're the dom, doesn't mean I'm completely without my uses."

"Nico, I...that's not what.." He saw the hurt in Nico's eyes and cut to the chase. "I've lost my job, I've been made redundant."

"Shit." He had guessed as much when Paul began to explain, but he knew how cutthroat things were. "You really should have told me, we've got a home to consider."

"The redundancy package is alright, I mean, we could go on holiday with it. Or replace the car."

"Are you kidding me?" Nico baulked. "We have one salary coming in and you want to spend what will become our safety net fucking about?" Standing up he paced the floor. "I get that you must be pissed off, but we can't be hasty."

"It's my money."

"Fuck you!" Nico shouted. "Fuck. You. Don't follow me." He barked as he stomped upstairs. They shared everything, they had one bank account, he put his bonuses into a joint savings account, everything was each others. He loved it, whenever they bought something it was theirs. Nico put money aside for little surprises, but so did Paul, it was just too hurtful to hear him consider it his, and only his. But... "Paul?" Nico called out from the top of the stairs, he had barely stepped into their bedroom.

"Yeah?" Came the tired response.

"I'm sorry for reacting like that, it just hurts to hear...I'm sorry okay. I know how much you liked your job, I only wish you told me." Nico sighed as he plodded down the stairs he had not long ago thumped up. Walking back into the lounge Nico's heart clenched at the sight of Paul crumpled in the sofa, his head in his hands and gently sobbing. "Paul." He gasped before rushing to join him, wrapping his arms around him tightly Nico did his best to comfort him, whispering anything soothing that came to mind.

"It'll be okay, there's a job out there for you, there's another company that will want you, desperate for you, dying for your talent. That's a fact you know. An absolute fact." Nico chanted over and over until the tears began to subside.

"Sorry."

"For what?" Nico cooed, his arms still cradling him. "The economy sucks, it's not your fault."

"For the other night, for what I did. I look advantage, I forced it all on you, you were struggling and I didn't care, I saw panic and continued, I..." Paul untangled himself from Nico's arms and sat away. "I have a very strict set of rules I live to regards your care, and I ignored too many of them, just because I wanted to feel like a man." Burying his head into his hands he tried to take a deep breath but the air wouldn't fill his lungs properly.

Nico knew forgiveness wouldn't make Paul feel better. "Yes I was at my limit." Honesty was the only thing that could mend this. "That panic you saw was my limit, and I could have given the signal, but I didn't and that was because I trusted you, there was no doubt in my mind." All he had to do was raise his arm and hold up three fingers to stop, two was a warning his was close and one was the okay if Paul asked.

"Why didn't you?" Paul implored.

"It wasn't because I thought you needed it, I like testing my limits, and we haven't done a session like that in so long, just rough and rushed." He could feel that familiar ball of heat begin to build in the pit of his stomach. "You can demand anything of me Paul, I know you won't hurt me. You know I can still remember that first night, that chance meeting at the union. That ice cube."

"Me too, I was so nervous, I just assumed I could get away with it because it was a one time thing."

"Exactly what I thought, I always fantasised about being told what to do in bed, or in public." Nico tried to keep his breathing level but was struggling with the images running riot in his head.

"Hmm, we haven't done that in a while have we?" Out of the corner of his eye he could see Nico struggling to maintain his composure. "Nico." Paul used his warning tone to calm Nico down and waited for it to have its usual effect. "Would you like to explore that again."

Nico pushed all the thoughts of him being publicly humiliated and trained his gaze on Paul's face. "Yes. But we need to talk first."

"Of course." Relief flooded through Paul, this was talk he could handle.

"About your job situation, we need to discuss a strategy, you're not wasting your talents lounging around at home." Nico pointed out.

Sighing heavily Paul fell back into the cushions. "I'd let you stay at home."

"I know you would, bound up, gagged, with my ass already prepared for you." Nico smirked, his nerves calmed enough to crack a joke.

"Exactly." Paul knew he had to tell Nico everything. "There is one option I was offered."

"Huh? Why keep that back?" A flicker of angry struck through his voice.

"Because it would be too disruptive to our lives, to yours."

"Try me." Resisting the urge to fold his arms across his chest Nico left himself open to listen.

"Germany." Paul blurted out, cringing he tried to form a proper thought out loud. "I got a job offer in Germany, you know DTM?"

"Yeah, racing isn't it?"

"Yes, Mercedes offered me a position, a little different to what I'm doing now, but there's lots of similarities." Paul felt defeated by the position, he liked the life they had here, their friends, their home, his grasp of the language. He had a decent amount of German under his belt, more than enough to get by, but it was the technical terminology he was going to struggle with.

"That's awesome, I mean Mercedes is a huge brand, god knows where that could lead. Why is it a bad thing?" Not only could he feel the tension he could hear it in his voice.

Slipping his fingers between Nico he held onto his hand tightly. "I love the life we have here, I love the home we've created."

"Oh Paul, I do too, I'm proud of what we've done, but we didn't have until we started. I hate seeing you like this, maybe talk to your cousin about it, he took his family to America, he might have some better advice." He had only met Dario a couple of times, but he liked him a lot, he had a warm personality that could draw anyone in.

Nico did have a point. "Alright." But something began to nag immediately. "What about you in this, how can you be so calm?"

"Because things will work out, they always do. If I have to relocate then so be it, Germany has a pretty good banking industry, it's all about Berlin at the moment." He grinned the moment he saw Paul relax.

"I'm not one hundred percent sure where the office would be."

He saw the tension creep back in. "That's enough for tonight, let me get changed into something more comfortable. You can talk to Dario, then get onto Mercedes and find out everything you need to know." Leaning across Nico brushed his lips softly against Paul's before pressing them more firmly to initiate a loving kiss. Even though he started it Nico let his body be guided by a set of strong hands so he was straddling Paul's lap, his head being held as his tongue was massaged insistently. "I love you." Nico gasped as he pulled back enough to take a breath.

"Ich liebe dich." Paul croaked, meaning every single word. Nico had the wonderful ability to pull out the silver lining no matter how dark things seem to get.

Chapter Text

“How are we today Nico?”

“Alright.” He folded his arms across his chest and settled back into the chair. “Dr Musconi.”

“You know you can call me Riccardo.”

“Sorry.” He huffed. He wasn’t in the mood for another session, Adrian had been poking around in his things again, messing up his bed, he had his photograph in his hands when he entered their shared room. He tried to ask him not to touch his things but it always fell on deaf ears.

“Why do you think you have to apologise for that?” Resting his notebook on the wide armrest he let the words flow.

“Because…” He began. “Because, one way or another I have to apologise, somehow I always manage to fuck it up.”

“This is what we touched on last time, we started to talk about your family didn’t we?” He understood how Nico liked to approach the sessions, he preferred it to be informal, conversational but Riccardo had to be the one to prompt and push with questions otherwise they circled into silence.

“Yeah, and look what I did to them. I thought I was so clever and sophisticated being a prostitute, I shouldn’t have been so selfish, if I didn’t...god, if I had stayed in Germany, if I didn’t have to go to Silverstone then I would be speaking to my mum and dad. I’m their only child.” Nico fizzled out to a whisper. “See this is how bad, how evil I am, I did something so bad they couldn’t face me. When they found out…”

Nico fell silent and then it stretched on, Riccardo allowed him some to time to collect his thoughts but knew how easily he could bring the walls up around himself. “What happened when they found out?”

“I didn’t tell them, Nelson did, he was the one who got me involved to begin with. In my first year. We shared a flat with some others in halls, he kept weird hours but always had money to hand and I mentioned once that I couldn’t keep up with tuition, that’s when he started to pay attention to me. We started dating, he’d treat me to things, then after a month or so he encouraged me into a...um...threesome, but afterwards he gave me half of the money.”

Nico had to breathe, it was reminding him too much about the only other person he had told, but he blinked the tears away and ploughed on hoping he would get some relief from opening himself up. “I was disgusted, I stayed away, but the money, I paid off some debts, but they banked up again and even though I hated him, I hated myself more, but I asked anyway. He sent me out, and I made a killing, apparently blond virgins were all the rage. Probably still are.”

“So I went it alone, keeping all the money for myself, but Nelson got shitty with me, we clashed big time, but he ended up being kicked out of uni for cheating and plagiarism. But I carried on, I managed to figure it out myself and build up a contact list, I did really well for myself, upped the prices. I had options for another job, a normal one, but it would cut into my studying.” Nico growled at himself. “Mein gott, I’m so fucking stupid, why couldn’t I see how bad it was?!”

“Why do you think you didn’t recognise that?”

“I thought I had it under control.” Nico retorted.

“But you were willingly selling your body, why did you think that was okay?” He had to dig deep into the uncomfortable territory.

“I...I just wanted the money, I didn’t want to go back to my parents, admit failure. At home I was the pretty boy, and I played up to it, flirted my way around, so when I realised I could make serious money from it I jumped at it.” That must be it.

“That doesn’t tell me why you sold yourself.”

“I don’t know!” Nico shouted. “I DON’T KNOW!” He leapt out of out his seat. “I’m worthless, I am only worth what someone will pay for me.”

Riccardo was glad they were getting somewhere, to see some emotion from Nico other than complete disdain or aloofness was a breakthrough.

“Would pay for me. Would.” He had to remember it was in the past and pacing about was doing little to calm him down, but it felt better than being rooted to the spot. He wasn’t used to being so still. “Then Jenson. I met him in my first year and I fancied him.” Nico desperately opened the window, it was the sort you could barely get a hand through, but he needed to feel the fresh air against his skin, be able to breath it in. “But I managed to mess that up, I annoyed him, stole a friend away from him, not on purpose. Then he saved my life. Even though he hated me, he stopped me from being beaten up by a client.”

“How did that make you feel, when he saved you.”

“It felt like he pulled me out of the sea I was drowning in, and I tried to stop him, but we fell in love. And it worked, it was magical.” Resting his head against the cool glass he forcibly forced his breathing to slow. “And even though he moved to Paris for his baking it worked. I visited on his rare day off and it was beautiful, us and Paris. He is a true gentleman, one of the ones from the movies, the fifties. He makes you feel whole even when you’re not.”

“Then once I graduated I got a great job, the perfect job, and it was all perfect, I felt invincible. But during a client conference...I didn’t realise Nelson was there, he was there and the gossip started. He told everyone what I used to do, he had pictures. Video, he taped the first time. All these people I had impressed with my ideas were looking at me in disgust, I was the whore, the boy who sold his cock for cash. My degree was worthless, all that hard work for absolutely nothing.” Wiping the tears away Nico returned to the comfy chair and curled up.

“Naturally it got back to my parents, and my dad runs dealerships, his whole livelihood rests on his reputation and I damn near ruined it all. He was the guy with a hooker for a son. So there was the phonecall, but I ignored it, I went home instead and they already had everything of mine packed up in bags. They were right to do it, they screamed and shouted at me...and...and I didn’t do anything, everything they said was true.”

“You did nothing?”

“No, let them say their piece and I left, there was no point. How could I defend myself. What could I say. Oh yeah I’m sorry for your only son turning out to be a whore? Get real would you.” He spat venomously.

“Nico, I think we should leave it here for today, what do you think?”

He contemplated Dr Musconi for a couple of moments, he could escape and go sit in the garden and enjoy the sun, but this would always be here hanging over his head until he talked. Sighing heavily he took to the window again, speaking against the warm breeze and pushed and squeezed the words out of himself. “I went home, but someone from the office had been, they spraypainted my door, told all of my neighbours what I was so I knew I had to leave. I went to Nelson, because at the time I didn’t know it was him who had told everyone, I hadn’t realised he was at the conference.”

Riccardo felt sick, he had heard a range of experiences, some much more graphic, this was just so sad, such a waste of a promising life. But he kept jotting notes down in shorthand as Nico continued to pour his heart out.

“So I worked for him again, immediately, I had to pay rent upfront so he sold everything I owned, everything except Jenson’s book.” Knowing what was inside had his throat close up. “I can’t…”

“That’s fine Nico, let me get you a glass of water, come sit down.” Riccardo gently encouraged him to sit on the edge of the chair.

Sipping at the water that had been put into his hands he tried to clear his mind, but it was full and getting fuller by the second, it was as if pieces of his past were fighting to fill all the free space in his brain until it became physically painful to think. Nico closed his eyes and felt back into the chair, just about keeping the water in the glass.

“Nico?” Riccardo hopped up, it looked like Nico had passed out.

“Head hurts.”

“Alright, let me shut the curtains.”

“No! No, don’t shut it out.” With one hand over his eyes he reached out with his other one to stop the doctor from moving. “Just give me a minute.”

“Alright, Nico listen to me. I want you to imagine a truly happy space, somewhere calm and peaceful. Can you do that?”

“Hard.” He was having to push the shards of darkness out of the way to make an area.

“Okay, think of the colour green. A soft green, fuzzy around the edges. Just bring that colour to the front of your mind.”

That was easier for Nico to accomplish, he knew the colour he wanted, that one of spring grass, vibrant, not soft at all. Green. “Ja.”

“Now turn that colour into a space, make it bigger bit by bit.” Riccardo took the glass from Nico’s hand and put it aside and out of the way.

Nico rolled out the carpet of lush, deep grass further and further, kicking it out with his bare feet, then he got onto his knees and lay out on it, the warmth of the sun on his stomach as he dug his toes into the cool blades. “Ahhhh.” He exhaled softly.

“Better?”

“Ja, thanks.”

“No, don’t open your eyes yet, just relax, wait.” They sat in silence for five minute, waiting for Nico to make the next move.

“Thank you, that was...it worked.” Bit by bit Nico peeled his eyes opened, adjusting to the sunshine streaming into the room.

“Glad to hear it, now would you say that helped you cope with what was going on inside?”

“Ja, I just saw grass. It went on forever.” He could feel it under his toes.

“So the next time you feel yourself getting stressed or worried, I would like you to try and use that technique again. Do you think you could do that, start with the colour first, don’t rush to the end straight away. Colour, expand and then fill in the details.”

“I can do that.” He was certain of it.

“I’m really proud of your progress today Nico, you’ve shared a lot and eventually you’ll see how important this all is.”

Nico was not convinced, but there was a twinge of relief that someone qualified was listening and helping. “If you say so.”

“I do.” Riccardo smiled broadly. “I truly do.” Nico responded well to overt positivity.

“I think that I might be making some progress, I went to have dinner with everyone last night, I didn’t last the whole time, I left before dessert.”

“Excellent, you’re the best judge of when it’s time to push yourself, and when to take a break.”

Nico nodded to himself. “Hmm, I don’t make great decisions.”

“We’re not talking life decisions here though, just small steps.” Riccardo stood up after Nico did and shook his hand. “Remember your journal, and that new technique and I shall see you in a couple of days.”

“Thank you.” Nico replied completely sincerely.

“Ooh imagining your colours again Nico?” Adrian greeted Nico as he entered their room. “Riccardo is full of shit, he’s always like, imagine a colour, pick a colour Adrian, now expand it. Hippy bullshit.” He laughed darkly.

---

He wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be dealing with Adrian today, he had a habit of always being there after he had finished a private session with Tony or Riccardo. And today was no different, on instinct he went to his private drawer. “Stop moving my things.” Nico sighed.

"I got bored." He huffed.

"I don't go through your things." Nico mumbled quietly knowing Adrian wasn’t going to suddenly see sense and apologise.

"God you're such a fucking diva." Adrian sat up sharply. "I always get stuck with the same ones, bet you're gay too." He paused. “Of course you are, sticking your ass at anything that moves. Bet that’s why you’re in here, parents want you cured?” Adrian taunted.

Nico busied himself with reorganising the few things in the drawer, resigning himself to having to carry it all around with him again. "Did you touch the book?" Nico whispered.

"No, Christ, it should be thrown away, it's disgusting." Getting bored of the conversation Adrian levered his body off his bed and wandered off into the house.

They frowned upon residents being in bed during the day Nico felt unable to do anything other than climb under the covers and wait for inspiration to strike. He was scared. Scared of what lay within himself, the darkness that he wouldn't be able to leave behind. Nico could see the bottomless pit of darkness, endless and all consuming, contagious and malignant. Every muscle in him tensed, trying to fight off the monster crawling over him, scratching at his his insides, clawing at his flesh.

“Green.” He choked out from beneath the tears. “Green.” He tried but he could make the colour appear behind his eyes. There was nothing green in the room apart from the view from the window, but he couldn’t unclench his muscles long enough to move. “Green.” Nico chanted over and over but it didn’t work. He had nothing to take to calm himself down and take away the pain, he would do anything for a pill to take the edge off.

Snivelling into the pillow he reacted to the session he had today with the drug councillor, it wasn’t just about the pain from his ribs that kept him going back for more, after he had paid by pulling down his trousers he took the pills, whatever they were and scurried off. He had a couple of spots he frequented to take them, because when he did he would fade into nothingness, they were strong, they made his head swim and resort to basic functions. The small, almost imperceptible scrap of self-preservation he had left ensured he was as safe as he could be before he flew away from the life he was surviving through.

It was escape and he couldn’t escape anymore, there was nowhere to hide.

“Green.” He wailed. “Green.” Screwing his eyes up he tried again, tried to pick out the colour amongst the endless black and he gasped for a breath when he couldn’t.

---

“Adrian, have you seen Nico?” Tony asked nonchalantly as they passed in the corridor, being time for dinner the majority of the residents were heading to the canteen to eat.

“He was moaning at me like usual, he’s in my room.”

“No one has their own room Adrian.” Tony reminded him, again. The session today had been a tough one but he believed Nico had taken it well. “Nico?” Pushing the door open he looked inside and it looked empty but then came a groan. “Nico.” He said evenly as he walked into the room.

“Gr...gr.”

“Nico, it’s Tony.” The only response he got was a burst of desperate crying.

Crouching down next to the bed Tony peeled the covers off of the tense body that lay beneath, Nico was tightly coiled in the foetal position trying to say something.

“Gre...green!”

“It’s okay Nico, it’s going to be okay.” Pulling his phone free he called for some help, and within a couple of minutes he was sedated and being transported to the small medical ward on the grounds.

---

“Hurumpf.” Everything was so heavy.

“Nico?”

There was a friendly voice speaking to him. “Yea...hmm?”

“You’re okay, you’re just coming around from some sedation, keep breathing normally, you’re doing really well.”

The voice was so lovely, so warm and friendly Nico did as he was told, doing his best to get his brain to wake the rest of his body up, but it was hard when his arms and legs felt like lead. “Hard.”

“I know, keep going.”

“Sorry.” He rasped.

“Sorry for what Nico?”

“For the fuss.” He tried to get his limbs working.

“Oh, we don’t mind a bit of fuss around here, keeps us fresh. It’s no trouble.”

“I want to get better.” He really did, he had to now. He wasn't going to give himself another option.

“That’s great to hear.”

“But there’s, there’s something stopping me.” The dream he had centered on one thing.

“All of us believe in you, you know that right, everyone believes.”

It took some more time but eventually Nico came around from the light sedation and found himself in the company of Dr Musconi, staying quiet he watched him flick through some notes, he assumed they were his. Trying to recollect the moments leading up to first waking up he could just touch on feeling out of control, wanting help, any help.

“Nico?” Riccardo knew he was awake but was waiting for him to want to talk before approaching him.

“Ja.”

“How are you feeling?” He asked evenly.

“My head feels heavy.” He tried to lift it up, but it was too much of an effort to sustain so he let it fall back onto the pillows.

“That’s normal.”

“I used to like feeling this way, when I took drugs, I liked it. I liked not having to think, not being in pain, not caring about my life, not caring about my family, what I had done. But the comedown amplified it all, like now, all I can think about is what happened before and I really want to be sedated again.”

Riccardo wanted to hear the ‘but’ to gauge his progress, he was curious if Nico could say why that was a bad idea. However miracles don’t happen overnight and he would have been more surprised, and in fact shocked if Nico had that level of clarity following his recent experience. “Why’s that?”

“I know I shouldn’t, I do want to get better, but it’s too much. I tried to use that technique, but I couldn’t think of the colour green, there was too much in the way. I promise I tried.”

“I know you did, Tony told me he could hear you trying to say the word.” He wasn’t intending for this to become a session because of Nico still being hazy from the drugs. “Nico, you’re still a bit out of sorts after the sedation, I don’t think it’s the right time to be getting into anything right now.”

“I’m fine, I’m scared I want to be sedated, I have made some progress, haven’t I?”

“You’ve made more progress than you probably realise, regards opening up especially. These little setbacks are part of recovery, it’s normal, it lets you know you have moved forward. Not a particularly great way of finding out, but it’s proof.” He explained as simply as he could.

Nico hadn’t looked at it like that. “Oh, tell me what happened, I need to know.” He pressed the doctor until he relented. “I like to have all the facts, somewhere inside me is an engineer, and problems can be fixed when all the facts are laid out.” He had found a thread of himself inside and was clinging onto it desperately. So his listened intently and worked hard to push the haze away to understand.

“I remember why, Adrian was going through my stuff again and I can’t cope with that, he keeps going through my drawer and I want to keep my things in there, trust. But it’s rude, so rude, I would never think to do that. And I don’t have much, just my book and a photo. But he looked at the photo. It’s private.” He could hear his voice quicken so Nico took a deep breath and calmed himself down.

“You understand why we can’t give you any storage that is lockable.” Riccardo made a mental note to escalate the incident, Adrian was the only one without a roommate, but something had to change.

“Of course, I know that, I just don’t think it’s fair he does it.”

“That’s true.” Riccardo agreed firmly.

“I think it’s the book.” He muttered.

“What's that?”

“Never mind.” He hadn’t meant to be heard. But he was sure. He was certain.

Chapter Text

"Am I ever going to see what's on the roof?"

"No, I've turned it into my secret lair." Mark laughed down the phone at Fernando's very obvious pout.

Fernando huffed, he wasn't having the best day, an hour meeting in Silverstone about the series of talks he was going to be given was becoming more and more complicated to the point where they were suggesting he just become a lecturer. It was too much on top of the adoption. "Mark, I'm not in the mood."

"How about I do my best housewife impression and have dinner ready for my working man when he gets home?"

He really wanted to keep his bad mood intact, but the flirty tone Mark was using made it evaporate, replacing it with an image of him in an apron. Just an apron. "Alright." He muttered, trying to disguise the happiness in his voice.

"Good, keep your chin up mate, I'm really proud of you."

Fernando spotted Andrea come out of the conference room they were using. "Te amo."

"Love you too, see you later." Mark hung up and already assuming they would want more from Fernando than a handful of lectures he wasn't in a rush to get dinner on, he had more to worry about than a bit of cooking.

---

"It's not as simple as that, I can't just suddenly become a lecturer, I know nothing about teaching." He exasperated.

"Fernando, we like to offer the students the best."

He wished Stefano was still in charge, or Andrea, because he deserved it, Fernando wasn't sold on Marco yet, he didn't quite seem to have the passion that inspired him all those years ago. It was definitely more of a business venture for him. "Does not mean I have to agree. I have other commitments in my life." He wasn't sure if he could cope with having to drive away from his family every morning.

"Let's get out of this room yes, have a look around the new department." Andrea suggested sensing Fernando's dissatisfaction.

"Good idea Andrea." Marco agreed enthusiastically.

Fernando let himself be led around the new building, but it was clinical, soulless, there wasn't enough colour or creativity on show. He was really disappointed with what he was seeing, how were students supposed to get excited when there was nothing but blank white spaces to look at.

"Something wrong Fernando?" Macro frowned when he wasn't immediately faced with an enthusiastic response.

"Who designed this?" He couldn't begin to imagine who approved this, Stefano would have said no straight away.

"You don't like it?"

He hated being answered with a question, it led to nowhere. "No, is without a soul." Fernando whipped his head around when he heard Andrea snigger. "Who designed it?" He had a sudden feeling he had put his foot in it.

"I did."

It had to be Marco, Fernando cringed. "Sorry, is my opinion." He shrugged thinking he might be left alone now. "I'll do the talks, but not commit to anything else."

"Fernando..." Marco began.

"No! If you continue I will say no to everything, I have important things going in in my life, I am trying to adopt with my fiancé, as well as a wedding, so this is too much."

Marco eyed Fernando suspiciously before catching Andrea's unimpressed gaze. "Alright, alright, and I guess congratulations are in order for you both." This wasn't what he wanted at all, Bernie had been explicit in his desire to have a big name lecturing at Silverstone, the first department to secure it would get a bonus in funding.

"Thank you, I'll pass that on to Mark."

"Mark?" He thought it was odd when Fernando said he was adopting, but quickly dismissed it as fertility problems. He didn't expect Fernando to be gay, he never got the impression that he was.

"Yes, my fiancé." Fernando answered plainly, taking a little pleasure in getting Marco flustered.

"How is he?" Andrea pulled Fernando's amused attention away from Marco's complete shock.

Chuckling as he went Fernando let Andrea walk him away. "Good, he's really good." They were in such a good place.

"So adoption huh?"

"Si, sorry, I wanted to tell you privately, maybe not yet, but I think is the only way he understands. Our parents don't know, if it doesn't work out we can't cope with their disappointment too."

"That is understandable, but Fernando, is wonderful news. So wonderful, is a cause to celebrate!" Andrea enveloped Fernando in a huge hug, and held on tightly. He had worked so hard, they both had in life, so they deserved every ounce of happiness.

"Has not happened yet."

"Not yet, but it will. You and Mark are good people."

Pulling back to stop the tears Fernando smiled hard. "You should have his job Andrea."

"I know." He laughed. "Go get home, I am sure Mark is wondering where you are."

"Thank you for the help, will be good to work with you again." Another brief hug and they parted ways in the foyer of the new arts building.

"Yes, maybe you can help influence the way this place looks." Andrea waved him off with a wink and feeling better knowing Fernando had gotten what he wanted.

---

As he pulled up to his spot Fernando was fully immersed in his bad mood again, he wanted to check with Mark if he wanted him to pick up a bottle of wine. But he wasn't answering. Every time he tried it eventually went to answer phone, and it was infuriating. "Mark!" He yelled out after yanking the door open and slamming it shut, he knew it was silly to get worked up over it, but after the day he had he wanted something to be simple and without a fight.

But he got nothing in response, the house didn't smell like cooking, it was dark. The whole house was dark, apart from a single candle flickering on the table. Chucking his bag down he slammed the kitchen lights on to get himself a drink, a glass of water probably wouldn't do much good he thought but as he searched through the cupboards there wasn't a bottle of wine to be had. He rarely drunk, but the day warranted it, everything about the day warranted it, from the constant nagging to Mark's silence. So without something stronger to calm his temper he slumped messily on the couch with his glass of water and let the anger bubble over.

"Fuck them all." Fernando muttered bitterly as he slammed the glass down in the wooden coffee table next to the pathetically solitary candle. "Ugh." He huffed knowing that a bath would probably be the only cure left, a ridiculous amount of bubbles and some good music part of the prescription too.

Sighing when he eventually levered himself out of the chair Fernando hesitated over tidying the glass away as he stood over it, but decided to anyway picking up a piece of paper clinging to the condensation too. Peeling it off he read the familiar handwriting in the soft haze of the candlelight.

Meet me on the rooftop xxx

Realising his haste Fernando prayed Mark had somehow missed the anger in his voice when he came home, dismissed the slamming and huffing for something happening next door or outside. And as Fernando climbed the first flight of stairs he wondered if he was lucky enough to have gotten away with it all and maybe Mark had not heard a thing. To see the door open was so odd, it was either locked shut or had a plastic sheet taped over it, leaving just a flap for the builders to traipse dirt and dust throughout the house.

Taking the steps carefully he loved the distressed look to them, the whitewashed beachy appearance that reminded him of the coast at home and going to visit Mark's parents in Australia. Maybe Mark had gotten sick of his whining and had made it just for him, the thought stuck until he was able to see what had been created by the man knelt between blankets and cushions looking expectantly at him.

"Mark." Fernando gasped in shock at how beautiful it all looked. "Candle."

"Huh?" Mark asked quietly as he got up to sweep Fernando into an adoring kiss.

"Candle, downstairs."

"I'll get it." Quickly pecking his cheek Mark darted off to blow the single candle out.

The air was so warm around him the anger he felt earlier was now nothing more than a whisper of a memory, the space was completely different, it was surrounded by plants to shield them. And as he turned around to take everything in he was faced with Mark, his handsome features highlighted by the candlelight.

"I've been careful with all the plants, I don't want to block the view, but then again I didn't want anyone looking in on us. This is a place for us, together or alone." Mark explained as he wrapped his arms around Fernando, resting a head on his shoulder they both looked out over the illuminated London skyline. "We're both country boys at heart, so I thought I would do my best to give us a bit." He knew Fernando was dying to get up and truth be told it could have been ready last week, but he wanted it to be perfect.

"I love you." Fernando croaked. "Is...is..."

Mark knew the gratitude was there, he didn't need to hear it. "Thank you." Placing a few playful kisses along the sensitive skin on his neck Mark drank in the feathery sighs he positively adored. "Worth the wait?"

"Si, of course!" Fernando turned in his arms to face him. "You design all of this?"

"Most, had a bit of help to make sure it was structurally sound, I did it for you." Mark watched Fernando's head tip back and his eyes slide close. "I want to give you the world."

"Mark." Fernando whined before attacking Mark's mouth with his own desperately, he had to feel him. Hearing he had done it for him reminded him how lucky he was to have him in his life.

"I did cook dinner for you, you know." When Fernando released his mouth he nodded over to where he had been sat waiting.

"Just want you."

"You have me forever." Mark assured as he rubbed his nose alongside Fernando's. "But I bet you haven't eaten properly all day, let's eat huh?" Running his fingers through Fernando's growing hair he cradled his head tenderly as his thumb traced his cheekbone. "You're so handsome." He already felt at peace up here, the nerves over what Fernando would think about it having long disappeared.

"Okay." His stomach growled too loudly for him to protest anymore.

Sitting down amongst all of the cushions and blankets Fernando quickly got comfortable and allowed Mark to make a fuss over him, handing him a plate and napkin as he unveiled little bowls of tapas from inside a box to keep it all warm. There were huge prawns that were coated in something that looked spicy, sausage, potatoes, rice, flatbread, and chorizo. Under the stars and in the candlelight they ate quietly, only the noise of traffic that managed to filter through the plants mixed in with muted chatter from the neighbours and shared hums of enjoyment.

"Good?" Mark mumbled as he bit a prawn in half.

"I think I will leave the cooking for you when we have children." Fernando grinned cheekily.

The word stopped Mark dead, there was something about hearing Fernando talk about it so sincerely, so convincingly, like it was imminently about to happen. "Say that again." He quickly swallowed his mouthful and set the rest down to wipe his hands clean.

"Say what?" As he spoke he saw the tears welling up in Mark's eyes and knew immediately what had him so emotional. "We're going to have children Mark, we're going to have an awesome family, is not going to be long, is soon. We'll be parents soon." Reaching across to wipe the tears that had spilled onto his cheek Fernando used his free hand to move the dishes out of the way to get closer. "Happy tears?"

"Yeah, I'm just finding all the sessions at the home stressful, it feels...feels like..."

"We're shopping?"

"Yes! Thank god you feel the same." Mark hugged Fernando tightly. He loved spending the time with them all, but he couldn't escape the feeling he was essentially trying to pick a child to come home with them, and it was soul destroying when it came time to leave. And with it only being two sessions Mark felt out of his depth with it all, something he mentioned to Natalie, apparently it was normal, but that didn't stop him stressing over it.

"The right child will choose us." Fernando emphasised each word with conviction. “I have no doubt in my heart.”

With the blanket clear of the remnants of their alfresco dinner Mark left an arm wrapped around his back to lay Fernando down gently. He still couldn’t believe how lucky he was to be with his soulmate, something he never believed in and even dismissed, after all they had been through, after all the obstacles that should have ended it all.

“What are you thinking about?” Fernando whispered as he stroked Mark’s face, he looked so deep in thought as he gazed down at him.

“You.” Mark matched Fernando’s broad grin before leaning down to kiss him lightly. “I’m glad we’re here.”

Mark was too far away from him even though he was only propped up on an elbow, so repositioning himself Fernando brought him down onto his body, bracketed by his legs. “Is the only place we can be.” The slightest shift from Mark transferred the perfect amount of weight onto his crotch which caused his hips to jerk up on instinct.

That wasn’t part of the plan tonight, he didn’t do it to seduce Fernando as he just wanted to make him smile, but Mark was practically incapable of saying no to him when he the made wanton noises he was now making below him. So to hear it again and louder he ground his hips down, fingers were digging into his back letting him know it felt good, then his eyes fluttered to a close, and to beckon Mark into another kiss he dragged his teeth over his bottom lip.

A kiss wasn’t enough so with Mark gently rutting against him Fernando began to peel his tee shirt off, dragging it up from the hem giving him all the information he needed to lean up to let him finish the job. He didn’t let up and once the shirt was disposed of he tackled his jeans, tugging on the zip he panted with desperation when it got caught.

“Someone’s a little eager.” Mark groaned when he had to kneel up to do it himself.

“Want you.” Fernando demanded when he scrambled to sit up to tear at his own clothes, but Mark was there the instant he was finished stripping himself. “Joder.” He was stood there completely naked in the night air. “No one can see?” Fernando asked breathlessly.

“No.” Mark smirked, he had made several trips to their surrounding neighbours houses, under the guise that it was for their benefit, to make sure.

“Good.” The idea of anyone getting to see Mark naked drove him wild.

He knew that look, that animalistic glint that shot wave after wave of desire through his body, seeing him be so utter possessive over him did something to his mind he never expected. And the desire was getting stronger for Fernando to act on it.

“No one can have you.” Mark had been stroking his cock brazenly but he wanted to try something out, there had been a few words Mark had uttered that had stuck with him.

“What?” Mark choked out helplessly.

“No one, can have you. You’re mine.” He repeated.

“Nano.” Mark complied with the finger pointing to the blanket and knelt down.

“No other person can touch you.” Fernando could see the effect he was having on Mark, his chest was rising quicker and quicker, even in the low light that surrounded them he could easily see his eyes widen.

“No.” Came the sigh.

“Only I can.”

“Yeah.” Mark crawled closer, tracing his fingers up Fernando’s body as he went.

“Only I’m allowed.”

It was all Mark could do to nod when he was eventually face to face with Fernando, but then there was a flicker of hesitation and Mark knew he wasn’t sure what to do next, but that was fine. “You’re ridiculously hot when you’re domineering.”

He had suddenly felt so silly when Mark was above him, the words he wanted to say got stuck in his throat. “Si?”

Mark nodded slowly. “You must feel what you’ve done to me.”

He grinned when he felt Mark’s arousal brush up against his own. “I like it.”

“I’m learning to.” Mark admitted out loud for the first time. “I am.”

Left dumbfounded by him Fernando wrapped his arms around Mark’s neck and encouraged him down to lay on his body, he loved the first moment they connected like this, skin on skin. But there was something more, the simple sensation on the soft summer air lapping over their skin made him feel that they were closer by being so exposed. “Make love to me.”

Fernando’s voice was so pure it took a great deal of self-control not to whimper, that would be too much tonight. “Let me go get some supplies.”

“You didn’t already?” Fernando was perplexed.

“I wasn’t doing this to get into your pants.” Mark sighed lightheartedly before getting up reluctantly. “But I’m glad it worked.” He wished he had assumed and been more prepared.

The moment Mark disappeared Fernando began to rearrange the cushions better so they could be comfortable, but he was caught in the act, hearing the barefooted steps approach he turned to see the love of his life armed for action.

“Think it’s impossible for you to look bad.” Mark growled lowly as he approached. “Lay on your back.”

“We’re outside.” Fernando chuckled as Mark dragged his lips up his body. “We’re being bad.”

“I’m sure we can be naughtier.” Mark teased a nipple with his teeth.

Fernando spread his legs wide and arched his back to give Mark all the acces he wanted to his body, and he could have it all, he couldn’t get enough of how Mark’s hands felt on him, big and powerful. And it was just like that now as Mark pressed a palm against his thigh and pushed him even more open, exposing him to the world. “Por favor.” He whined.

He was some sort of fallen angel, moaning and begging for release in any form whilst looking up at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Anything for you.” Mark circled his entrance with a slick finger to a chorus of sighs.

“More, now, Mark. Come on.” He begged. Yes he wanted tender and loving, but he wanted it now too, Mark took incredible care of him.

“You really don’t have much patience do you?” Mark smirked as he dipped his finger inside Fernando. He immediately moaned, that breathy high-pitched whine that Mark loved, it made everything inside of him clench with desire.

“No, now!” He had to have more of Mark, the slow drag of the single finger in and out, barely making an attempt to get close to his prostate. “Por favor.” He sighed.

“How about this?” Mark asked quietly as he slipped another finger in, he was going to take his time with Fernando tonight, the air was still holding onto the heat of the day and the candles were highlighting the bronze of their skin. Knowing the spot he was searching for he felt Fernando melt around him as he stroked and teased it briefly.

Stretching his body out to soak it all up Fernando didn’t care when Mark went back to purposely avoiding his prostate, the ripples kept coming as another finger was added slowly, stretching him just enough, just perfectly. Sitting up and propping himself on an elbow Fernando reached down to grip his lover’s forearm, feeling the firm, tense muscles flexing as his fingers worked him into giving up another gasp.

“Fernando.” Mark smiled before kissing him. “I’m not going to rush making love to my fiance, especially when I get to do it on top of our house.”

He couldn’t argue with that, but he wanted to. He really wanted Mark to fuck him. “Te amo.”

“Love you too. Still not going to hurry up though.” He chuckled before slowly withdrawing his fingers, but not before brushing over his prostate.

“Mark.” Fernando yelped.

“We’re shielded, not soundproofed.” Mark noted as he leaned back on his heels to gaze down at the writhing form of Fernando, now silently begging for his touch. “Now now, don’t clam up, I want to hear you.” Mark crouched over him. “I’m just not sure our neighbours would be able to handle it.” Kissing him swiftly as he stroked lube down his length in preparation. “You’re utter filth when you get going.” Mark panted as he wedged a cushion under Fernando’s hips to tilt them up to a better angle.

“Your. Fault.”

“Glad to hear it.” Mark sighed as he pressed the head of his cock to Fernando’s heavily lubed hole.

He didn’t want to put up any resistance so when Mark began to push into him he bore down, opening himself up to the indescribably delicious stretch he craved more often than not. Mark was running his hand up the back of his thigh and ready the sign Fernando brought his own legs up, bringing them higher than Mark’s waist, asking for him to move but he ignored it.

Mark carefully delved into Fernando until he was buried as deeply as he could manage, then balancing on his arms he stilled, there was absolutely nothing separating them, skin to skin inside and out. As their breathing fell into synchronicity the intensity ramped up, it was just them in the world, the traffic having faded out to nothingness, it was only them. Eyes connected they both took a feathery breath and passed a look that said they were more than ready.

Cupping his face tenderly Fernando’s grip slipped around to grip his neck firmly as Mark began to pull out, his cries filtered into the night air as he scrabbled up and down Mark’s back for purchase. It was slow, so painfully slow all the minute sensations scratched at the inside of his head, he could feel Mark, feel every single inch. The burn, the stretch, the never ending orchestration of friction.

Having him keen away so helplessly beneath him captured Mark’s full attention, Fernando was chewing on his bottom lip heavily, dragging his teeth over the plump and reddening flesh every time he thrusted into him, forcing a beautiful groan from his lips. Unguarded and genuine it plucked at Mark’s heart strings. “I love you.”

With that Fernando formed a vice-like grip on Mark, clamping his legs around his waist, digging his fingers into his biceps. “Mark.” He sobbed. “Faster.” He was still delivering long, considered thrusts that were mindbending, he couldn’t fully grasp onto anything.

Stroking the smooth skin of Fernando’s leg he firmed up his grip on his waist with his other hand and fulfilled his request, flexing his hips properly he whimpered himself as he felt Fernando clench, getting his own back best he can. “Cheeky.”

“Feels good no?” Came the gasped response as Mark slammed into him.

“Great.” Mark smiled, but is slipped away as Fernando began to wriggle below him. “What are you doing?” He sighed kindly.

“What to be closer.” Fernando explained in a whisper as he slowly manouvered himself onto his knees and bent over, Mark clearly approved as he felt a kiss on a cheek that was quickly followed up with a graze of his teeth. He kept switching between the two as he worked more lube into him, Mark was teasing him with a couple of fingers, the cool slick was worked carefully into him until his patience had well and truly worn out. “Por favor. Por favor.”

Kneeling behind Fernando he stroked over his back, down over his ass, cheekily parting him to watch the arch in his back exaggerate. He knew Fernando would be cursing him right now, so to stop the tease Mark plunge into him meeting little resistance to bring them together again. But Fernando wanted them to be closer so scooping him up by putting an arm over his shoulder and diagonally across his chest, he read what Mark was trying to do and knelt up.

He was so deep inside of him, and to ensure he was he wriggled his hips in a couple of circles to take every single inch of Mark into his body, his actions made Mark squirm and gasp from behind so he did it again. And again.

“Oh fuck, I’m gonna come if you’re not careful!” Mark warned through gritted teeth as Fernando swirled again. “And I’m not done with you yet.” And with that promise Fernando stilled completely, giving him the time to claw back the control he needed to continue.

Mark had now wrapped an arm around his stomach too, the hint of roughness he truly liked now seeping through into his movements, strong thrusts were coupled with his nipples being tugged and teased in tandem. The pad of his thumb swept over and over the increasingly sensitive flesh, the flutter of sensations traveled down his chest to the pit of his stomach, deep into his groin. Tilting his head back to rest on Mark’s shoulder he met every thrust with a sigh, then needing even more Fernando turned his head to meet a set of impatient lips. They kissed between gasps of air, desperate for contact and reassurance from each other.

It was getting messy and uncoordinated so they gave up on the kiss, Fernando pitching forward onto his hands, still taking everything Mark was giving. “Mark, stop.” He cried out.

“You okay?” He sounded strained and it immediately worried him, even through the haze of lust.

“Si, back. On your back.” Slowly moving forward he sighed as he felt Mark’s cock slip out of him. “Uh, Mark.” He felt empty.

“Yeah?” Mark shuffled around so he was finally laying on his back, propped up slightly by the mountain of cushions he had bought.

“Want you.” He whined.

“Then have me.” Mark soothed as Fernando moved to straddle him, his breathing hitched as his mind conjured up the realisation he was going to be ridden. Fernando always looked so sexy when he rode him with abandon, head flung back, chanting obscenities in Spanish, playing with himself. Holding onto his aching cock he helped Fernando take him all in one hedonistically smooth slide. “Fuck. Fuck Nano.” Mark growled as he was enveloped in the deep, wet heat of Fernando's body. Now he was close.

Running a hand down his body Fernando passed over his chest, pinching his nipples roughly to get an audible whine from Mark in response. He knew he loved to watch him, he knew how dark his eyes got when they were in the shower and he was washing himself, it never took long for Mark to start directing his hands. Grasping his cock he stroked his whole length from base to head before teasing his slit, spreading the pool of pre-come all over.

It was just about in reach but Fernando kept distracting him with sneaky clenches and angle changes, so to still him for just a moment Mark thrust up sharply and made a grab for the small bottle. Flicking the lid open with one hand he secured Fernando’s wrist in the other, palm up he squeezed a small amount of lube onto it accompanied by a wicked grin. “Try this.”

The silky texture made it feel even better as he jerked himself off in rhythm with Mark’s sighs and moans, making a show of the act he arched his back, flung his head back and reveled in the night. From the hard work Mark had put into the roof, the kindness of his cooking, the way he looked at him throughout, the reverence, then undressing in the open air so freely, Mark’s touch, his wonderful touch. “Te amo.” He whispered. He wanted his touch forever. “Mark.” He choked out a sob as a faint wave of an impending climax broke over him.

Blinking up at Fernando he could see he was teetering at the edge, and he was right there with him. “Nano. Oh god.” He bucked up to exaggerate the feeling. “Come here.” He encouraged Fernando to lean on his chest as he brought his legs up to facilitate him, kissing him softly he wanted to surround them with warm love as they crested the cliff together.

It was intense. Mark felt the pull as he pushed up into Fernando and there was no way he could stop it from breaking over him, so he grabbed for his hand and laced their fingers together, then Fernando entwined their other hands leaving them completely connected.

“Mi vida.” Fernando keened. He tried to look at Mark, he wanted to gaze into his hazel eyes but his vision was blurry, tears had welled up from the enormity of the closeness they had built up tonight and over the years. “Mark.” He cried out, tears now threatening to flood down his cheeks.

“It’s okay.” Mark gasped, realising they were both getting in a state. He was struggling to keep himself in check, and then hearing a sniff from the man buried in his chest followed by the unmistakable dampness of tears sent his own flowing. They streamed down the side of his face, soaking into the cushions, giving himself away. “It’s okay.” he told them both, kissing Fernando’s temple tenderly to comfort him. “Oh god.” Relaxing for just a moment sent him flying over the edge. “I love you Nano.” He gritted out before sniffing away like Fernando had been, the climax seeping out from his cock all the way down to his toes that were curling into the blanket, right up to the base of his head which left it fuzzy and left him feeling dizzy.

Fernando couldn’t take it, he couldn’t take Mark sounding so broken and gone. And with him sending his hips snapping upwards into him without mercy Fernando’s orgasm was ripped from him, his shouts and howls mingling with Mark’s quieter growls and sighs. It shook him from the very centre of his being, the heat uncoiled within him, flooded every sense, overtook his mind. He could vaguely feel himself claw at Mark wanting yet more of him, more of the way he tasted, the way he felt, the way he was. Him. “Vida, mi vida.” Fernando chanted over and over until he ran out of breath, until all he could manage was to wetly mouth at his skin, the hairs tickling his nose gently.

They lay in a silence only punctuated by their panting and the rest of the world coming back to them, the occasional car passing below, some people noisily heading back from the pub, a dog barking. There was a gorgeous sigh that escaped from Fernando’s lips that brushed against Mark’s skin as they eventually separated, Mark having carefully cupped his ass and lifted him off of his cock.

There was an emptiness he didn’t like, so snuggling closer to Mark he soon found his strong arms holding him tightly, providing all the comfort and reassurance he was craving at that moment. Not long afterwards there was a soft blanket being dragged over them both, he smiled at Mark having that planned for. He was always in good hands.

“Hey, look at me would you.” Mark whispered, he had to see those eyes, he had to make sure he was okay.

Propping himself up with considerable effort to get his boneless body working he gazed at Mark sleepily, he couldn’t fight the smile tugging at his lips, the man he loved had pink rimmed eyes, so realising he had cried just like him he reached a little further to kiss his still flushed lips.

Stroking through Fernando’s ever growing hair Mark loved the little mewls traveling into his mouth. “Are you okay?” He sighed, needing more than a smile.

“Si. Perfect.” Fernando shifted and hissed as the movement sending vibrations through his still too sensitive cock. “Am okay.” He kissed the dip at the base of Mark’s throat.

As Fernando slid off of his body he let out a breathy chuckle as the evidence of their night tugged dryly at his stomach. “We’ve made a right mess.” As he spoke he could feel the excess of lube that had coated his balls.

“I am more.” He hooked a leg over one of Mark’s and draped an arm over his chest to stay tight to the warmth of his body. Fernando could feel his own come drying on his stomach, and through his moving he could feel Mark’s dribble out of him, it was something fairly new for them and he loved it. He just wished he was brave enough to ask to take it further and help with the clean up.

“You are.” Mark comments as he fingers dipped between his cheeks, the slickness proving incredibly tempting. So much that when Fernando pushed back just a fraction he obliged with his index finger, groaning at the absence of any resistance, letting him mind drift off to future possibilities. Being told to clean him up.

“We should get cleaned up.” Fernando felt the shiver at the words from Mark, and knew in an instant that his request would be received well when and if he made it. The idea of Mark submitting to him lit something dark up inside him, his mind ready to go to work on the fantasy in time.

“Yeah.” Those words and the way Fernando said it left him feeling squirmy, the possibility and anticipation crawling over his skin. “Yeah we should.” he had intended for them to sleep outside in the warm air, but their exertions rendered that impossible, but he wasn’t going to argue with a shared shower. “In a minute.” Mark asked, he wanted him in his arms for a bit longer.

“We’re outside.” Fernando giggled and loved to hear Mark laugh along with him.

“We most definitely are.” Mark kissed the top of his head, breathing his man in knowing it wouldn’t be long until they shared more than this.

Chapter Text

Smoothing down the non-existent creases in his shirt Jenson peered into the mirror and passed judgement over his shaving effort, running a hand down his jaw he was happy with his work. Smooth skin, smooth shirt, he was ready to go. David was really into dating, and Jenson adored the reason he gave, apparently he loved to spoil him.

“I love spoiling someone who deserves it Jense, and you deserve all of it, everything.”

And it was proper dating, sometimes they met up at the place, and other times, like tonight, David would come pick him up in a taxi, knocking on the door and sweeping him away for a decadent night that would just be them regardless of where they ended up.

The moment the firm knock sounded through his house he was fussing over his hair in the mirror, he couldn’t quite get it looking how he would like it but Jenson put that down to nerves. Now matter how much time he spent with David he kept the fluttery first date feeling, it never went away, he hoped it never would. “Hey.” He breathed after answering the door to see David stood on the doorstep dressed in a simple suit.

“Hey to you too.” David smiled softly before kissing Jenson’s cheek. “Ready?”

“Mmm.” Locking the door behind him Jenson followed David down the steps and into the taxi, thanking him for holding the door open. It was things like that which had Jenson tied up in knots inside, constantly trying to believe David wasn’t going to abandon him. “I’d wish you’d let me take you out.”

“I will, I promise, the day I get sick of walking into a restaurant with you on my arm.” It was a selfish act, he absolutely adored spending the time organising the date, thinking of all the ways to make it special. It made a change to be appreciated, he tried a variety of dates with Allan but he’d be lucky to have him turn up, he loved nothing more than to humiliate him by standing him up. Then just before it hit an hour he’d get a text with a reason why he couldn’t be there, no phone call, no chance to explain in public that there was an emergency meeting. He was always left as that sad bloke probably stood up by a girl.

“I hope it’s soon then, you’re spoiling me.” Sometimes it was too much, but Mark told him he needed to relax and learn to understand it was David's way of showing he cared. It seemed so foreign, so dangerous to believe it, but Mark was right, he had to trust him.

“Alright, the next time it’s your turn.” David relented. "But tonight is mine."

“Okay.” Jenson smiled, feeling a burst of warmth flit through his body as the taxi pulled away. Sat by the window he often used it as an excuse to turn away and stare out it, imagining stories for the people he passed, but not tonight. Instead he turned to David, taking a hand in his he held on tight as they travelled further into the centre. They usually stayed in small places on the outskirts, but apparently tonight warranted something bigger which made him nervous.

“You look so handsome.” David whispered before dipping forward to kiss Jenson softly.

“You always are.” Jenson’s reply came with a kiss too, just a little more insistent.

“We should be there soon.” David caught a glimpse of the passing landmarks, he hoped it wasn’t too much, there was no particular anniversary, or special questions to ask, he just wanted to treat Jenson to something he hopefully hadn’t done before.

“Is this…”

“Yeah, this is us.” David beamed as he took his wallet out to pay the driver, then opening the door he had to restrain himself from offering out a hand to Jenson, that would be too much.

“The Savoy?” Jenson asked in wonder.

“Mmm, like I said, I like spoiling you.”

“Yeah, but…”

“It’s not too much.” David reassured with a quick squeeze of his hand

Jenson broke out into a relaxed smile, for once he wasn’t feeling off balance. “I learning to accept that. But now I feel underdressed.”

“Impossible.” His suit couldn’t be more perfectly cut, it accentuated his body shape so that no one would be under the illusion how good it was. “I love that suit on you.”

He didn’t want to admit he bought it specifically for the date but what did it matter when David liked it, and it didn’t hurt that they were matching, dark blue and dark grey. Taking a couple of steps to stand in front of David he ran a couple of fingers down his lapel to buttoned his suit jacket up before doing his own. “I’m excited.”

“Glad to hear it.” Leading Jenson in they walked through the revolving door separately but found each others hands briefly as David walked towards the restaurant.

“Welcome to the Savoy Grill sirs, how can I assist you?”

“I have a reservation for two under the name of Coulthard.” He said proudly.

“Of course, this way Mr Coulthard.”

They got led through the twenties style room and Jenson could barely breathe at how magnificent it all looked, the lighting was low and the gentle buzz of conversation only added to the intimate atmosphere. Walking between the full tables Jenson couldn’t quite see where they were going to sit so let his eyes linger on the abundance of gold and deep ruby red.

“I hope this table fulfils your wishes sir.” He presented them with the booth.

“It does, thank you.” David gestured for Jenson to sit, it was a neatly sized table, perfect for two and no more, the small booth seating was curved enough so they could see each other.

They were in the middle of the room, which meant pretty much everyone could see them, and he was okay with that, more than okay. “I’m guessing it’s not the done thing to tweet, is it?”

“Oh, I guess not, what did you want to say?” He was curious about why that was Jenson’s first thought.

“I was hoping to show off a little.” Jenson admitted quietly.

“You haven’t been here before?” David has his hopes set high.

“No, never.” He smiled shyly. “But I was perhaps more interested in showing you off.” His family and friends knew about David, they were the most important people to him, but with interest still high in his books and the repeats of his show on, he wanted to make it official on his own terms.

“Ah well, you should have said.” Patting Jenson’s leg gently he scooted a little closer. “We can figure something out later.”

“Definitely.” Jenson agreed. “I can’t get over how beautiful this place is, it sort of reminds me of Paris. I have show you around when we go.”

“You won’t hear an argument from me.”

“The twenties was such a glamourous decade.” Jenson remarked airily as the waiter approached with menus tucked under his arm.

“You’d fit right in.”

“Not with this hair.” Jenson laughed freely as he took the offered menu.

They dined in complete luxury, the food was great, the wine better and the company beyond compare, finding endless topics to talk about they glided through the hours effortlessly, it was only when they took a mutual pause to finish off the single bottle of wine they had only managed to get through, that they realised the time. David thought more would have been needed to take the edge off of Jenson’s nerves, but he shone under the crystal lights, his eyes dancing as he spoke.

Placing his hand over the one Jenson had rested on the table, David gripped it slightly which had him put his wine glass down. “I wanted to thank you tonight.”

“For what?” Relinquishing his glass he swiveled his body so he could look at David properly, but he kept his hand exactly where it was, loving the warmth and security it gave him.

“For reminding me that loving someone shouldn’t hurt.”

He couldn’t breathe after hearing words like that, David was sincere, he could read that in his eyes, his fathomless grey eyes. “David.” He gasped reaching over the small gap between them to kiss him, their hands now linked properly Jenson used his free one to cradle David’s cheek. “You did the same for me. You have no idea.”

“I do, I promise you, I do.” He had seen the change in them both to make the statement in full faith. “Let’s go to the bar for a nightcap.” This was part of the plan too, if Jenson thought the restaurant was stunning, then he was going to love the bar in all it’s roaring glory.

Biting his tongue when David paid Jenson again allowed himself to be led through the grand hotel to the gilt edged mirror-walled bar. The lighting was even dimmer in here, making him want to be as close to David as possible and as they headed towards the lone bartender Jenson took his hand in his own. And David didn’t let go.

“Jenson?”

He heard his named said tentatively and in a Scottish accent that definitely wasn’t David’s, so he turned to instantly recognise the man who was saying it. “Paul? Oh god, it’s been years!” Releasing David’s hand he turned to shake Paul’s but soon they relented into a friendly hug.

“I know, far too long, especially if this is your local.” He laughed. “You remember Nico?”

“Of course, how are you?” It warmed him to know they were another relationship that had survived, Paul looked in good health and so did Nico, it was heartening.

“Great thanks.”

“Paul, Nico, this is David, my partner. David this is Paul, I used to live with him in my third year, and Nico his partner.”

“Nice to meet you both, want to join us for a drink?”

They were about to leave but it would seem churlish to turn them down, and when Nico whispered he would get the cab Paul answered for them both. “Of course.”

With the last drinks the bartender would make that night in their hands they wandered over to a table so they could talk, the gentle background music the perfect backdrop for their reunion. “So what have you two been up to?” Jenson began.

“We’ve been working in London pretty much straight out of uni.” Paul replied first.

“We got quite lucky with that.” Nico chipped in. “But on to bigger and better things.” He rubbed Paul’s shoulder.

“Yeah?”

“We’re moving to Germany.”

Nico’s smile was so wonderfully broad. “Wow, back home for you then?” David asked, picking up on his accent.

“Ja.” Nico laughed.

“It’s my fault, I got made redundant.” Paul added glumly.

“The economy is shit.” Nico stated before kissing his cheek, then returned to Jenson and David. “It’s quite exciting actually, I’m just transferring, but Paul’s going to working for Mercedes.”

“DTM.” Paul brightened up when he saw how positively Jenson and David reacted.

“Nice, we’ll be coming to you for tickets then.” Jenson joked.

“So I guess your parents are chuffed then?” Mindful not to get too involved David didn’t just want to nod and leave it all up to Jenson.

Nodding Nico answered. “My parents are beside themselves, we’re not that far from them actually."

“Oh, so what part?” Jenson could easily see the discomfort in Paul’s face the more it was discussed, but Nico was beside himself with excitement.

“Frankfurt.” Paul explained before sipping at his whiskey.

“Wow, I’ve been there a few times when I was racing, crazy night life. You’re going to have fun.” David chuckled.

“Racing?”

“Oh sorry, I should have said.”

“It’s alright.” David soothed Jenson's concern. “I used to race bikes, road races.”

“Like Tour de France?” Paul hoped it was because although he knew nothing about that, he knew even less about that type they did on a track.

“Spot on.”

Feeling a bit more confident on the matter he offered up the only thing he knew about it. “I guess Jenson already told you, but someone we went to uni with, his friend Mark, won it.”

“I know, I was on his team when he did.” He beamed. “Bloody good race.”

“So you…” Nico flicked a finger between them.

“He set us up.” Jenson revealed. “Well, him and Fernando.”

“I read about them in the paper, glad they did it. You’re still in touch then?”

“Yeah, they’re really good.” They were seriously good.

Finishing his drink David set it down on the small table they were sharing. “What part of Scotland are you from by the way?”

“Uphall, close to Edinburgh. How about yourself?”

“Twynholm…”

“Castle Douglas?”

“Yeah, just a bit further down. Surprised you knew that.”

“Someone on my course was from around there, glad to see Jenson has good taste.” Paul cheekily raised his glass.

“Hear hear, can’t go wrong with a Scot.” David picked up his empty one to tip it at Paul.

This was fun, Jenson thought as he was hit with the sadness that they were leaving. “When are you both off to Germany?”

“Well, it was supposed to before the end of August, but Mercedes want me to spend some time with their Formula One team first, then some of their other racing teams. So now we’re heading over just before Christmas.”

Both Jenson and David struggled not to laugh at the enthusiasm Nico exuded when he heard the mention of Christmas.

“I can’t wait to show him a proper German Christmas.” He fizzed, but was thankfully stopped from going overboard when Paul wrapped an arm around his shoulders and kissed his temple.

“It’s going to be an adventure.”

“Cheers to adventure then.” David proposed and raised his glass again, his other hand resting comfortably on Jenson’s leg. They were on their own adventure, it was just a more intimate and quiet one. A round of cheers went up respectfully, giving the rest of the permission to finish their respective drinks and leave before the bartender slipped out from behind the bar to send them on.

“We should do this again, but maybe you should come to ours.” Paul suggested lightly.

“We’d love that.” Jenson confidently answered for both of them.

“How about next week, next friday?” Nico knew they weren’t busy that night and it would be a shame to drag it out unnecessarily.

“Perfect, how about we bring drinks and dessert?” David joined in knowing Jenson would be disappointed if he didn’t get to bake something special.

“Sounds great.” Paul produced his phone and they all set about swapping numbers before saying their goodbyes and hailing two separate cabs.

---

“I’d thought he’d be with Nico still.” Paul commented out of the blue as they headed out of the city.

“Yeah, they seemed a good match, but he went to Paris didn’t he, Jenson I mean.” Nico made an attempt on trying to remember what he read on Facebook all those years ago.

“I think so, hmm, but David’s clearly good for him.”

“Older.” Nico remarked cattily with a twinkle in his eye.

“Looking good for it though.” Paul wanted to catch Nico’s attention just enough so when he went to cup his crotch to push into the exhibitionist kick they were on at the moment, he was suitably off-guard.

“Not as good as you.” He flexed his hips up as high as he dared, rubbing himself on Paul's hand knowing full well the driver could throw them out of the cab if they were caught, but that thought only turned him on more.

---

“They seem like a fun couple. Serious jobs though.”

“If only you know what they did to relax.” Immediately his clamped his hands over his mouth. “Shit, shouldn’t have said that.”

“I gathered. Got their kinks then?”

“Uh huh.” Jenson nodded. “Nothing weird.”

“Paul likes to be in control.” Came David’s educated guess.

“How did you know that?” Jenson was puzzled, but when he caught a look at David’s face he realised that it was a sore subject. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine, it was from my past, but it’s clearly consensual with them, that’s what matters.” He thought it was consensual with Allan, but when he got out he realised how bad things had got, and Jenson only highlighted that further.

“Of course.”

“And if you’re thinking if I have any kinks.” David whispered against Jenson’s ear. “I do, but they all revolve about ways to make you come. Loudly.”

“Fuck.” Jenson’s sigh came out shakily.

“That’s one way.”

“Urgh.” David’s voice could be so sensual.

Come on then Jense, this is you.”

“You too.” Jenson breathed as he slipped the driver enough money and practically dragged David out of the cab. Stopping him from taking a step Jenson waited for the street to grow quiet once the taxi pulled away. “Iloveyoumoveinwithme.”

“What?” David picked out a few words but needed to hear them separately to make sure he wasn’t fooling himself. “Say it again, slowly.”

“I love you.” Jenson took his time with each word and was gladdened to just make out exactly how much David was smiling. “And…” He needed to stay brave. “Would you move in with me?” But the nerves kicked in while David paused. “It’s closer to work for you, and you’ve got quite a lot of your stuff here already, and it’s quite a big house for one person, and...and…”

Whisking Jenson into his arms David kissed him passionately, Jenson loved him, he loved him enough to say those words out loud, and he loved him enough to want him to move in. “I love you too, so much.” He kissed him again, an arm around his waist and another around his neck to keep him close. “Are you sure you want me to move in?”

“Yes.” He sighed.

“Then, yes, I’d love to.” David knew they would have to talk it through properly, but now wasn’t the time at all, now was the time to fall into bed in each others arms and wake up in exactly the same position.

---

Jenson woke with a yawn that slid into an easy smile when he craned his neck to see David sprawled out over most of the bed. Their bed. His heart raced at the memory of last night, being truly wined and dined in spectacular fashion and then the words he had been fretting over, obsessing over were suddenly so easy to say. He had dreamt about living with David for a while, and perhaps it was too early, too much of a risk but as Jenson carefully turned onto his side to watch him sleep it felt more than right. All Jenson wanted was to wake up to his face for the rest of his life.

“You’re a very sexy stalker.” David slurred sleepily as he woke up.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be, I got to wake up to your face.” Sliding his hand over Jenson’s waist he felt him roll onto his stomach so left his hand on the small of his back. “You skin’s so soft.”

David was rubbing his thumb in little circles into his back and it was soothing him back to sleep. “David.”

“I know, we should be adults about this and talk about it.” Just about managing to scoop Jenson into his arms he waited for him to curl around his body before bringing the covers over them, today was their only day off they shared and although he had errands to run, the was far more important.

“I know. Sorry if I sprung it on you.”

“Never be sorry, I love you too, you know that right?” He moved his hand up Jenson’s back until it was cradling the back of his head, his fingers combing through his hair.

“Uh huh.” Jenson agreed trying not to get lost in the heavy fuzzy feeling at the base of his skull.

“You made some good points last night, but are you sure you want me moving in here?” Jenson had worked hard to create this home for himself.

“When I moved here I always imagined sharing it with someone, that’s why I have the extra room.”

“Oh.” He did prefer spending time with Jenson at his place, his one bedroom rented apartment paled in comparison when he had to return, it always felt homely here. “So you want to share it with me?”

“More than anything.” Jenson pecked his lips. “You still want to right?”

“Of course, I would love to wake up to you every morning.” Their next kiss put a firm seal on the agreement, before laying in a companionably silence to revel in what lay out ahead of them in the near future. Shifting slightly every now and then to get comfortable. “Guess I should let my landlord know.”

“Yeah, whenever you’re ready.”

“We’ll split everything fifty-fifty, bills, the mortgage, and council tax.”

“Okay.” Jenson grinned, they were big words. Big adult words. “But that includes me helping with the cost of changing your address on everything too.” It wasn’t going to be a one way thing.

“Just wander around naked for a bit.” David chuckled.

“I was trying to be serious, but I guess it means you can join in on naked tuesdays now.” Jenson giggled at the way David’s eyes widened beyond the residual sleep.

“Please tell me you’re not joking.”

“I was, but we can make it a thing if you want.” Jenson sat up, then swung a leg over him to straddle his waist, the sheets pulled around his waist to keep them warm.

“Today is Tuesday.” David raised an eyebrow.

“Ah.” A little shift of weight and David was gasping his name.

“Wait, wait.” Holding his hands up in defeat he reached out for his phone. “Hey mate, yeah I’m good, you?”

Jenson ran his fingers lightly down David’s chest as he spoke enjoying the reactions of his muscles beneath his skin, the twitches and jerks persisted as he desperately tried to concentrate on the person he was talking to. So feeling sorry for him Jenson got up to head into the bathroom for a shower, however he wasn’t a completely perfect person.

“So yeah, a month maximum then. Cheers.”

David was talking about the notice period, in a month he would be here all the time.

“Oi you.” David swung his legs over the side of the bed. “You can’t be walking around like that and expect to get away with it.” No one who created masterpieces out of flour, sugar, eggs and butter should have a body that toned.

“You’ll have to catch me first!” Jenson challenged as he darted towards the door, he expected David to be a bit slower off the mark but as he opened the bathroom door he was right behind, his hands on him.

“Got you.” David kissed the back of his neck before trailing his lips along his shoulder, pressing kisses onto his skin to a chorus of sweet sighs, until Jenson turned in his arms

“Yeah, you do.” He was safe, he was home. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

“What was that about?” Heikki had been intently watching the conversation Sebastian was having with one of the people from the circuit outside the karting centre, he was trying to fill in the blanks for himself but got stumped when a surprised look sprang onto his face.

“He wanted to know if I wanted to work over the race weekend.” He had never managed to get to a race and watch it live, even when it was at Austria he always seemed to be the other side of the world.

“For the circuit?”

“Yeah, the British Grand Prix.” Sebastian was up in the clouds, he worked for Red Bull for what seemed a lifetime, and all he had to do to get to a race was work at a karting circuit.

The way Sebastian’s face lit up at the mention made him melt a little. “How did you manage that then?”

“I got talking to him over lunch one day, I was watching some people go around on a track day and he approached, said he recognised me from here.” Sebastian nodded at the indoor circuit. “I thought I embarrassed myself by gushing over all things motorsport, but apparently he found it refreshing.” He chuckled.

“So drinks duty then?” Heikki laughed kindly whilst Sebastian stuck his tongue out.

“No, he wants me to man the twitter account, I’ll have full access to the garages, the pits, paddock, the grid...the whole damn race.” Sebastian was still reeling.

Sebastian was grinning from ear to ear at the prospect, he looked exactly the same as when he knew he was going to be racing, and there he was absolutely thrashing everyone in the league, so much so there were calls of it being a fix.

“And what did you tell him?” Heikki already knew what the answer would be.

“I said I had to check with you.”

“Seb, are you crazy?” He sighed. “As if I would ever stop you, you’ll be amazing at it, you know so much you’ll be able to give everyone at home the best insight. I’ll give one of the other lads a call to cover you. What?”

“We’re going to be open on Thursday, right?”

“Yeah. What? Come on Seb, give it up.” He had his ‘idea’ face on.

“We’ll have to get on it sharpish, but how about we tempt some of the drivers down here for a race, or whenever they can and then challenge the public to try and beat their times. For charity, they could pay a tenner for five laps, plus if we get the drivers to sign a stack of card they could have one of those too.”

Heikki sat back as Sebastian began to scribble furiously on the nearest bits of paper he could get his hands on, lists were mixed with diagrams, and numbers as he figured out the costs. It was a marvel to see exactly how his brain worked as he pieced the whole event together.

“I know it’s last minute but I think I still have a contact at Red Bull that could help with their drivers, we could run it for the week afterwards too, try and persuade some of the celebrities they fill the grid with to have a go too.”

“Seb, where the hell do you keep all this stuff in your head?” He was dumbfounded.

“I just...I don’t know.” He shrugged, it was just in there, he never felt the need to question it. “But…”

The struggle on his face was so clear, Sebastian liked to excel in whatever he did, but he wanted his heart to rule over his head ultimately. “You want to race, not market?”

“Exactly.”

“Then use this as a chance to make a few contacts. These people you know at Red Bull, they should know a back door they could sneak you into a test.” He knew that Sebastian wouldn’t want to be given anything other than a chance.

“I abandoned them.”

Typical Sebastian, trying to please everyone and forgetting about himself. “Did they fight to keep you?”

“No.” When he handed his notice in there was no fuss, once his divorce got out Red Bull didn’t care.

“Then for gods sake Sebastian, go for it. Give Damon a call.” He offered up his phone but wasn’t surprised that Sebastian already had the circuit manager’s number.

Damon was prepared for Sebastian to call, and was complimentary about him asking Heikki, but Sebastian was curious as to why he said ‘Heikki was right about you’. “What did you say to Damon?”

“About what?”

“About me.”

“Oh.” He was hoping Damon would keep his mouth shut. “Just that you’re a really hard worker, super knowledgeable about anything on wheels, and I might have dropped in something about him an idiot if he didn’t use you for something more than running this place.” It was almost right, he was perhaps a little more open about his feelings, that Sebastian was too good to let go to waste.

He was taken aback by Heikki’s kindness, he had given so much to him in such a short space of time, if it wasn’t for him he’d have no friends and a boring office job. Heikki’s friends were a band of Finnish guys who were daunting to meet first time around but soon enough he was welcomed into the group and he was dropped in the deep end with his Finnish language lessons. He was coping and enjoying the challenge, even though there weren’t afraid to make fun of him a little with his pronunciation, but that only meant they knew he wouldn’t be offended.

“I’ve got a meeting with him tomorrow, so I guess I know what I’m doing this evening.” It was the sort of thing he did back in Austria, but this time it didn’t need a huge marketing department, it was him, all him.

“Okay.”

“What?” Sebastian asked slowly, there was a hint of disappointment in Heikki’s voice.

“It’s nothing.” He dismissed quickly.

“It’s something.” Sebastian poked his chest teasingly. “Tell me.”

“I was only going to suggest we had dinner or something, nothing special, pizza maybe.” Heikki shrugged.

“Cool, be round mine at seven then.” That would give him enough time to tidy up and make his small house somewhat more presentable. Not enough time to sort his lawn out though, the combination of the warm sun and the odd shower of rain had left the grass a little on the long side. Hopefully Heikki wouldn’t judge him too harshly on that.

“Oh, okay then.” He was surprised that Sebastian agreed to it. “I don’t want to interrupt your genius.” Why the hell did I say that?!

“You won’t be interrupting much!” He threw his head back and laughed. “If I was a genius, I would not have gotten myself in this mess, although…”

“Yeah?”

“Not that I wanted to hurt so many people, but I’m finally happy Heikki, I’m me again.” He hated himself still for hurting Hanna and Kimi as badly as he did, he could have left Red Bull for Kimi or he could have stayed with Hanna and had a family. But either way he wouldn’t be where he was at the present time.

“And you look good for it.” He needed to get a grip.

“Oh, I feel good.” That was true, he was taking a bit more care of himself, shaving was on the agenda now but he kept the stubble because if he was truly honest with himself, he liked the fact it made him look older. “Right then, seven at mine?”

“Yes.” He left it as a single politely spoken word and breathed out in relief when Sebastian left the office. He couldn’t find Sebastian attractive.

“Oh, and Heikki.” He had to say it.

“Huh?” He turned to see Sebastian had poked his head around the door.

“I’m gay, definitely gay.” He laughed to himself as he stood in the room properly. “Sorry, I just needed to say it out loud to someone, finally.” He couldn’t stop laughing and was worried he was coming across as manic.

“I get that, I’m bisexual, if that helps.” It took him a long time to come to that conclusion, a lot of one night stands he tried to forget in the morning, but eventually he had to come to terms with it.

“Cool. Seven, sharp!”

Cool. Heikki shook his head with a small smile and collected the rest of his things and headed home to freshen up, it wasn’t fair to project all of his feelings onto Sebastian, he’d just got his head around who he was, telling him that he had a crush on him when he was university was a bit much.

Driving home he couldn’t get the image of Heikki with a woman and a man out of his head, the woman was faceless, just a generic body. But he failed to pull away from a traffic light when the man he imagined was himself, the blast of the horn from the driver behind him jerked him out of his daydream.

Him and Heikki?

Maybe he had to admit to his thing about Finns, Heikki wasn’t ever going to find out about his thing for the Finnish national hockey team, and the absolutely filthy dreams he had about all of them. All of them and him. Him and all of them.

Shaking himself free of last night’s entertainment he unlocked his front door and set about tidying his house up, he knew he had to getting into some sort of rhythm regards cleaning but knowing no one came to visit took away the impulse. It was just clutter, piles of paper everywhere, magazines, a pile of clean laundry that was slowly making its way upstairs. So he sorted it all until he was happy enough to open the door when Heikki knocked.

“Hey.” Sebastian greeted him at the door as he moved aside to let him in. “Sorry about earlier, my outburst, I knew I could trust you but I had to say it.”

“I know the feeling well.” Expect he wasn’t quite so eloquent about it when he blurted it out over dinner with his parents. “So don’t apologise.”

“Might have to though, to my parents, they didn’t seem too enamoured with it.” He’d had a couple of awkward phone calls since his last visit, they purposely avoided asking anything about his personal life and focused on where he was living. They were obsessed with his house, and Sebastian knew it was because he lived their alone, no chance of mentioning a man. “Fabian’s fine about it though.” They spoke about once a week now and he actively looked forward to thursdays.

“Parents are from another generation.”

“Think it’s more to do with the circumstances though, anyway...pizza?” He wanted to keep the mood light. “You better not like pineapple.”

“Not on pizza, it’s weird.” Heikki screwed his face up which got an agreeable nod from Sebastian as he brought up the website to order from. They eventually decided upon pepperoni and the moment Sebastian clicked to order Heikki was ushering him off to work.

“This is like old times.” Sebastian chuckled.

“Sorry, I just don’t want to be in the way.”

“No, it’s good, as soon as I get it done we can enjoy, shouldn’t take me long.” Grabbing his notepad and pen Sebastian took up a once very familiar position and curled up in his chair to begin scribbling. Knowing that if he got down the basic outline he could expand it easily, but when the door rang for the pizza Heikki got up to get it as he hadn’t moved since he’d first sat down.

“Seb, you need a break, I’m not going to feed you.” Heikki gently tugged on his notepad to catch his attention.

“Oh god, I’ve completely ignored you.” Sebastian slowly started to unravel himself.

“And for good reason.” He reassured genuinely. “I don’t mind at all, it’s nice to have company.” He’d lost count of the evenings he’d spent slumped in front of the television, or gone to bed early because he was on his own.

“It is.” How many nights had been cut short because he’d couldn’t be bothered to stay up and be alone any more? “Come on then, you open the dips and I’ll get some glasses for the coke.” He’d ordered a few extras because he didn’t want Heikki to realise how little he had in the house, his fridge was embarrassingly empty.

“I hope you’re going shopping tomorrow!” Heikki remarked as he came in to see if he could help.

Slamming the door shut Sebastian knew he was turning red. “I...I’m not great at domestic stuff.”

“This is not domestic Seb, it’s general survival.”

They both paused for a moment, staring at each other before collapsing into a fit of giggles. “Alright I’m clearly not good at that either.”

“How did you ever cope on your own?” Heikki tutted.

“Ate out a lot.” Sebastian thought back to it, in Switzerland Hanna took care of it and Kimi dealt with most of it in Austria. Things had to change now.

“That explains it, please go shopping though.”

“I promise, but first let’s eat.” He paused to think what he had come into the kitchen for in the first place. “Think I might have to leave some for breakfast.” Sebastian joked.

“Seb!”

“I’m kidding, I’m not that down and out, just unorganised.” Sebastian felt a little burst of warmth unfurl inside him at the concern Heikki was showing.

“I feel better about myself now.” Heikki laughed and began to search through cupboards for the illusive glasses. “Right, now I’m starving.”

They eat whilst noisily discussing the state of Finnish hockey after Sebastian let slip he still kept up with it all, blaming Heikki for the increasing volume as he forced him to become obsessed with it back at university. Between them they covered it all from players, teams, who needed to move where and who needed to retire, but where they were happy to disagree on a few points they couldn’t agree on the configuration of the national squad.

“We need to stop this before it becomes violent.” Heikki smiled as Sebastian reached for a cushion.

“Okay, but you have to agree my line-up would work.”

“Yes, but not as well as mine.” Poking out his tongue Heikki could contain his glee at causing the pout he got in return. “Give it up Seb.”

Sebastian huffed, Heikki wasn’t getting the satisfaction. “Fine, but I’m right.” He was taking the last word.

“Let’s change the subject then, you kept in touch with anyone from uni?” Heikki cringed because he really didn’t want to refer to Kimi in anyway.

Seeing the way Heikki reacted to his own words Sebastian knew it wasn’t intentional. “Not really, I worked with Dan and Jev, they’re together, but that’s it. And you of course.” He smiled. “I saw Mark a couple of times at events. How about you?”

“Just you.”

“What happened? When I left Silverstone you just disappeared of the face of the planet.” It had troubled him for ages, there had been a promise to keep in touch because of how much time they had spent together but it didn’t materialise. Sebastian tried but his calls went unanswered, and attempts to find him within Red Bull fell on deaf ears, no one could give him an answer.

“I don’t want to talk about it Seb, it’s ancient history now.”

“Sorry, was it something I did?”

“God no, would have tackled you on it instead.” Heikki abandoned the crust in the box and sat back to regret eating the extra slice.

“Who did you tackle then?” Taking the last slice after offering it to Heikki, Sebastian tried to act as nonchalant as possible.

Closing his eyes Heikki damned Sebastian’s sharpness, nothing got past him. “I don’t you making a big deal over this, it was my decision.”

“Okay.” Relinquishing his hold on the last piece Sebastian put it down on the cardboard slowly, unsure as to what Heikki was about to reveal.

“You, it was about you. I might have had a go at Marko over how he treated you in your final year.”

“What?” His voice got strangled in his throat.

“Seb, I chose to do it, but seeing the amount of pressure he was putting on you to win yet again, I thought you were going to break, it was inhuman.” Marko would never let up, he wanted weekly updates on his dissertation, then it was his championship piece, and his behaviour. “I don’t know how you coped with it all, I still don’t.”

“Kimi helped a lot, but so did you, I don’t know what I would have done without you.” Sebastian sat back into the sofa as far as he could. “Sorry.”

“No, won’t accept that. It is not your fault. I couldn’t stand being part of all that stress, and when Marko was talking about bringing this young kid out of school and into uni a couple of years early I snapped.”

“Snapped, like yelled at him.”

“Just a bit, thing is it was in a meeting with a lot of higher ups, not a smart move. I was fired immediately afterwards.”

“You shouldn’t have done that, you could be really high up in Red Bull now.”

“And why would I want that? Seb, I couldn’t let him do it, but he did anyway, and that poor Max kid suffered. But I know I tried. Trying is all we can do.” Reaching for his drink he sipped at the cool fizz.

“Thank you.”

He was touched. “It’s okay.”

“It’s more than that, think if Max knew, he’d thank you too.”

Not sure how to respond Heikki nudged Sebastian with his shoulder.

“And I can’t imagine you yelling like that, you always came across as unflappable.”

“I am really not.”

“You were around me when I needed it.” There was only so many time he could cry on Kimi’s shoulder about university work and Heikki was always there when he needed him, and knowing it would never get back to Helmut allowed him to let it all out.

“Glad to hear that.” That was his job, but knowing Sebastian appreciated it made it all worthwhile.

“Right, before we get too deep, let’s decide on the rest of the night...ah, maybe not, have you noticed the time?”

Heikki glanced at his watch and nodded. “I need to get a move on.” It wasn’t that late, but it was too late to start another film without having to stay over. “Thanks for the pizza, I’ll have to return the favour.”

“How about next week? We could make it a regular thing…” Sebastian wasn’t sure where the suggestion came from and was about to backtrack until Heikki answered.

“Sounds good, means we’re not cooped up for every meal.” The look of relief wasn’t wasted on Heikki, he guessed Sebastian had a few issues about putting himself out there personally. “I had a great time tonight.”

“Me too.” Sebastian agreed sunnily. “And I promise I’ll go shopping tomorrow.”

"You better." Heikki warned jokingly, already planning the lighthearted text to make sure he had.

---

"Hi, is Kimi Raikkonen working today?” Having spent a good ten minutes outside trying to walk in when he was in the studio, but he never materialised so he had to give in and enter regardless. He had seen plenty of pictures of Kimi from various events, and had to admit to himself that he really wanted to see him in the flesh.

“He’s about, busy, but about.” She glanced at the back room.

Helpful he thought. “Can I see him, I would like to discuss a tattoo with him.”

“His schedule is pretty full.” She flicked through the diary, and for once Kimi was gladly accepting work whenever it came in, and hearing all the stories from Mika she guessed he was going to be leaving in a few months. “But you never know. I’ll go get him.” Wandering into the break room she knocked on the door before entering, that one time he caught him with his trousers unzipped and a girl with his dress hitched up around her waist was one time too many. “Hey, Kimi, you’ve got a prospective client out here for you.”

“Okay.” Taking his freshly made mug of tea with him he followed Jenni into the shop. “Still scarred from that last time?” He chuckled.

“Shut up, he’s the blonde over there.” She pointed at the man who had interrupted her sketching.

Great, he was flipping through one of the books, and looking at the kid he could imagine the tattoo he wanted, something a celebrity just had done. Containing the roll of his eyes Kimi wandered over, sipping at his tea as he went. “Picking something you want?”

“Of course not, you think I spent all this time waiting, all this time tracking you down, waste all this effort to get something someone else has got? When you invest in art and you have a choice between the original and a print, a smart person always goes for the original.”

He wasn’t expecting that at all. “That’s good to hear.”

“It should be, investments may cost more, but it is a lifetime commitment, so it should be considered.” Putting the book down he turned to look at Kimi properly, and he was definitely giving him the once over.

Kimi realised he might have to reconsider the ‘kid’ tag. “You can get tattoos lasered off.”

“Then what would be the point of getting one in the first place?”

Kimi smirked, he was young, and arrogant, but it wasn’t the sort of arrogance that irked him. “I’m booked solid.”

“I can wait...well…”

“Hmm?” He was already prepared for the list of reasons of why he had to have it right now.

“I’ve got a pretty busy schedule myself, I can’t do anything on the weekends and I’m only in Europe until the middle of September.” He mentally went through the dates. “Yeah, middle of September.”

“Right, well that doesn’t change anything for me.” Kimi shook his head.

“No worries, I’ve been waiting eight years, a little more time won’t hurt.” He assured.

“Eight years?”

“Mmm, I saw a tattoo you did, it was on the cover of a magazine, a back piece on a girl, a phoenix.” He could still remember seeing it in the shop, he had to pretend he wasn’t looking at it because his dad was so against tattoos, but he became fascinated in an instant. “I always thought tattoos were cool, but that’s when I realised they were more than that. They are a way to externalise who you are inside.”

Shit. Kimi had to stop himself from gawping at the self-assured man stood in front of him looking at him evenly. “Right.”

“Is that a ‘right, let’s do this’, or a ‘right, you’re mental’? Because I’ve heard both in my life.”

Kimi laughed. “It’s a ‘right, let’s hear your idea’.” Gesturing at the sofa in the window Kimi ignored the wide-eyed look Jenni was giving him over the desk, choosing to leave the mug there he slumped into into the soft cushions first. “Uh…”

“Kevin.” It was going to be so much easier if he had no idea who he was.

“Kimi.”

“I know that.” Kevin chuckled. “So what do you need to know?”

“Everything would be a good place to start.”

“You don’t ask for much do you?”

“Never.” Kimi finished triumphantly as Kevin delivered the sort of laugh that made him feel happy, it was genuine and unguarded. And once it came to an end Kevin dove into a explanation that proved exactly how long he had been waiting, it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, it couldn’t be when he used emotion to describe it. Strength, power, freedom…

“You remind me of someone I tattooed a few years ago.” Pushing himself onto his feet Kimi went to get his personal portfolio, it was like listening to Fernando all over again. “Here.”

As the book landed in his lap he was surprised. “Woah.” It wasn’t what he expected to see.

“He has a thing for samurai’s, it was my first big piece, and I pretty much designed it myself.” He was still proud of it. “So where were you thinking of having yours?”

“On my chest.” Dropping the edges of the book onto his lap Kevin traced the area he was thinking of. “I thought the wings could go to here.”

“That’s big.”

“Really?” Kevin responded with a gasp. “Shit…”

“Fuck off.” Kimi grinned.

“Swearing at a prospective client...tut tut Mr Raikkonen.” He clucked with an equally big smile on his face.

It would take a while, it wasn’t a simple job at all, but he had was Kevin’s idea’s swirling around his head already and despite being busy he could feel it burrow into his mind. Kimi was left without a choice, he was intrigued.

“Maybe think on it then, I need to get going, work beckons for some people.” Kevin gave Kimi a cheeky look, he wasn’t working when he came in and still wasn’t.

“Just remember who’s the one making a decision.”

“I know it’s you, I can’t draw to save my life.”

“You’re not doing yourself any favours Kevin.” Kimi warned.

“How about I make it up to you by giving you my number, then you can tell when you can fit me in.”

“Do you always assume you’ll get your own way?” Kimi got up and picked the book off of Kevin’s lap.

“No, I don’t, but when I do get what I want it’s because I’ve worked bloody hard for it.”

The seriousness in his voice made Kimi pause, and return to look at him, he was still sat down, his hands resting casually in his lap. “Same here.”

“Glad to hear that Mr Raikkonen.” Picking himself up he reached out to shake Kimi’s hand. “Thanks for seeing me today, I understand you’re very busy.”

“Sod off.”

“Oh my, the customer service here is wonderful.” Kevin sighed.

He wasn’t sure how to take Kevin, but he knew other people being like this would have him wanting to claw his face off in irritation. So without an explanation he quickly blamed it on his obvious passion for what he loved to do. “It reflects the type of customers we get.”

“Ah ha, touché.” Digging out his wallet Kevin went to pluck out a business card out, but feeling quite self-conscious about it he asked for a pen instead, if he handed it over he’d stop being anonymous. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

“I wouldn’t count on it.”

“Really?” Kevin couldn’t help but notice that Kimi was staring at his chest, precisely where he had mapped out where he wanted the ink to go.

“Just in case I get bored, I’ll take a trace of your chest.”

“Right.”

“Now is that a ‘right, that’s okay’, or a ‘right, I’ve got him’?”

“Definitely the latter, do I need to strip for you?” Kevin snickered, the moment Kimi’s eyes landed on his shirt he knew he’d managed it.

“Would you prefer music, or can you go it alone?”

The banter came so easily to him, he just got to be Kevin. “I can figure something out, here okay?”

“Yeah, let me grab some paper.” As he rounded on the wooden desk they used for reception, Jenni already had her arms outstretched, one was holding a pen and the other had a strip of tracing paper ready for him. “Thanks.” He hissed at her smug face.

“Genuinely though, do you need me to take my shirt off?” Kevin asked lowly. There were a couple of other people getting tattoos but they weren’t taking any notice of them.

“It would make things easier.” Within a moment Kevin dragged his tee shirt over his head in the middle of the shop, presently himself silently. Kimi pressed the paper to his chest and began to outline the area that would work best for the ideas that were already circulating.

“Cheers Kimi. See you soon.”

“I said I’m busy.”

“Yeah, you look it.” Laughing as he went Kevin exited the shop, and he couldn’t help but touch his chest, finally. Finally.

“Oh Kimi...you’ve got it bad.” Jenni taunted freely below the buzz of the machines.

“Shut up.”

“Alright.” She shrugged, but Kevin was in the same boat, she had seen him wandering about outside a couple of times before, the shock of bright blonde hair was hard to miss. And now so were the sculpted muscles of his torso, the light six-pack was burned into her mind. He was hot.

Chapter Text

“Good afternoon Riccardo.”

“Ah, hello Nico, I trust you’re well.”

“Yeah, not bad, just been the the book club meeting.” He was glad that not everything was therapy in here.

“How did that go?” He noticed Nico was holding the book he only referred to as ‘Jenson’s’ with him again.

“The book is god awful, I mean, truly bad. How it got published was a wonder, but it’s not watercolours, so...” Nico laughed lightly before placing the book he had been past his room to collect on the coffee table. “I can’t complain too much.”

He wasn’t sure if he had every heard a genuine laugh from Nico that wasn’t tinged with sarcasm or bitterness, to Riccardo it opened up the possibility of a more in depth session. “I guess not. I see you’ve brought the book.”

“Yeah, I want to...I don’t think I want it in the room anymore.”

“And why’s that?”

Taking a deep breath to steady himself Nico leant forward and flipped the cover open to reveal the first page. “Because of this, I’m past feeling this desperate.”

“That’s great to hear.” He made a point of not looking down so it was taken at Nico’s pace.

“You can read it, I don’t mind.” He was absolutely sure about trusting Riccardo.

“How about you read it to me?” It would allow Nico to exorcise it from his past, make it a physical act instead of passively handing it over.

“Oh.”

“Maybe not yet then, but how about instead tell me about the book. You’ve been bringing it in here quite a bit recently, and it was one of the few things in your possession when you came to stay with us.” The importance of it was tangible, the fact that Adrian had moved it put him into the hospital wing.

“Okay.” He could do that. “It’s Jenson’s first book, it was one of the first ones he got from the publishers, and it signed it straight out of the box, even though there’s a dedication in there for me.” Flicking over a couple of pages he ran a finger over the words. “To Nico, for believing in me through the impossible.”

“Strong words.”

“Yes, he did that for me too thinking about it. Getting me here. I just wished I spoke to him back then, but I can’t change that, all I can do is take this opportunity and make sure I appreciate it fully.” Scratching his arm absently Nico glanced down at the open book, the pages far beyond the pristine condition he promised it would always be. “Look how I’ve treated it, it’s not right. It was a huge achievement for him and...it’s like how I treated him.”

“Jenson’s a big part of your life.”

“Was. I mean he is because of this, and I’m far from ungrateful, but he’s got someone in his life who’s making him smile. It might sound weird but I am truly happy for him, he’s such a good person. And that’s why I need to let go of this book. I can’t hold onto the past any more, I need to figure out my own future.” For the first time in ages he felt like he had a chance at a future, a proper one.

“Future, that’s one of the first times I’ve heard you talk about that seriously. Have you given it any thought?”

He had at night, usually just before dropping off he would allow himself to think about living in a little flat and having a steady job, nothing special or grand, but something to call his own. “A little bit, I would like to live on my own place and more than I would really love to have a job, a proper one.”

“I believe you could do that Nico, that’s a manageable goal to have for yourself.” Making a specific note, quoting Nico directly, Riccardo knew that Nico probably didn’t realise how momentous his words were. He wasn’t making wild and over the top plans, they were achievable and spoke directly to his mental state. Nico didn’t want a job to get out of here, he wanted to sustain a life.

“And…” There was no point in hiding things. “I want to write a letter to my parents, or at least start, my head’s a bit clearer, I think I could explain things a bit better, maybe.”

He could see the future well enough, but there was still plenty to work on. “I think writing has helped you so far, keep it in your journal and that’ll be something we can work through in here.”

“Oh, right, I want them to understand.”

“I’m not disputing that Nico, I don’t want to stop you, but I want you to think it all through.”

“What do you mean? I want to write them a letter to apologise.” He couldn’t see what Riccardo was getting at.

“Take me through the whole process, from start to finish.” Regardless of what had happened, the very core of Nico was that engineer who liked routine and processes.

“I write the letter, I send it, they read it.”

“What do you think will happen if they read it?” He had to push Nico to think through to the consequences.

“I want them to know how sorry I am. I don’t need forgiveness, I don’t think I deserve it, but I would like a reply.” Surely they would send one back?

They hadn’t spent a long time concentrating on his parents and now he knew it was the next obstacle they would to work through. “What do you think your reaction would be if you got a reply?”

“I’d be excited and relieved...if it was positive.” Now he saw what Riccardo was getting at. “Ah, I couldn’t see that.”

“That’s fine Nico, but I think your idea was a good one, we can work towards sending something.”

“More work, reminds me of university.” He chuckled at the memory of falling asleep in the library from cramming for exams. “I miss that, the studying I mean, I love learning because it makes me feel productive, it kept my brain ticking over.”

It was clear that Nico liked to fill his time. “How about you think about how you feel when you’re not doing anything?”

“I…” He wanted to say he was fine when he was on his own. “I’m an adult, I should be able to do it.”

“I’m not saying you should like doing nothing, or actively seek out doing nothing, but maybe finding a balance in which you are okay with quiet moments would help you cope.”

“Huh.” It made panic claw at his throat, whenever things got quiet his mind took over unless he concentrated on something specific. “That’s when the dark part of my brain takes over. I don’t like that. But it’s getting a bit easier to not think really dark thoughts. That’s why I brought the book.”

The fact that Nico had mentioned the book again made Riccardo take notice, usually there would be a token hint before it got forgotten. “Tell me why you brought it.”

“I want it out of my life. I want it gone because I wrote my suicide note in it. And I’m not suicidal, so I don’t need that hanging around me. I don’t want it.” Uncomfortable was what he felt, he had never revealed that to anyone, unless Adrian had read it, but there was a tingling of relief too. “I wrote it to Jenson.” Sliding it off the table he rested it on his lap, the caked on dirt was ingrained in the fabric covering, something he should have never let happen. “To Jenson…” It took him right back to the alley way.

“I was in the alleyway when I wrote it, outside Jenson’s book launch, I saw it on posters.” He felt like he should explain the whole situation. “I can’t believe I was going to be so selfish and do that on such a special night.”

“Do what?”

“Commit suicide, I just thought there was nothing worth living for, I was on so many drugs, in so much pain that it felt easier to end it all. I genuinely thought there was no other option, but Jenson saved me. And Mark and Fernando too. Mark was so angry with me, he told Jense to put me in a shelter, but he was trying to protect him from me, it told me how much I’d hurt him.” The whole night was flooding back. “I was a mess, someone gave me a sandwich, before Jenson found me, and I ate it, looking back it was a silly thing to do, I mean who commits suicide on a full stomach?”

“Perhaps someone who wasn’t fully committed to ending his life?” He offered. “Or someone who wanted to tie up loose ends before he ended it all?”

“I think it was the latter, because I only wrote the note to Jenson, I wanted to leave an explanation so he wouldn’t feel guilty. At that point all I could focus on was making sure Jense was free to live the good life he deserves.”

“Okay.”

“To Jenson, I’m sorry that you’ve found this because it means I couldn’t carry on anymore, and it’s nothing to do with you. Please believe it’s nothing to do with you, you’re wonderful and kind and perfect. You saved me once but this is a mess of only my own doing, I couldn’t outrun my past any longer. Tell my parents I’m sorry for disappointing them. I’m so sorry. Let someone fall in love with you because you deserve it. Sorry, Nico.” Slamming the cover shut he dropped it to the floor. Tears were blurring his vision but he easily found the tissue Riccardo was handing him. “Thanks.”

Taking in big gulps of air wasn’t doing much for him. “Woah, I wasn’t expecting that.”

Putting the box of tissues closer to Nico he allowed him the space to express his emotions without feeling judged, he sobbed gently into a couple of tissues before mopping himself up surprisingly gracefully. “Expecting what?”

“This.” He wiggled the tissues between his fingers. “It just brought it all back, sitting in the alley, the rain, the way Jenson looked, how desperate I was feeling. It’s scary how okay I was with dying, I think that’s what’s got me like this, I wanted to die.” Slouching back into the soft chair Nico contemplated that notion for a moment. “I do not want to die, I want old age to take me. I want to actually live a good life. I can do that, right?”

“I see no reason why you can’t. I’m astounded Nico, you give so much in these sessions.”

“I’m going to fight until I reach those goals, then I’m going to enjoy it, then...I don’t know. Maybe go on holiday.” He laughed out of sheer relief. “Can you keep this book somewhere?”

“We have a storage room I can put it in, it’ll be locked away safely.” Riccardo assured, there was a section for patient belongings he would be able to keep it in.

“Good, good.”

“How are you feeling?”

“A bit nervous, it’s a bit weird to want to give the book up because I invested a lot into it, but...I feel I need to so I can move on with my life.” Running a hand over his face Nico got out of the chair he had spent hours in since he arrived and wandered over to the window.

“Is there anything else you’d like to discuss before I wrap this session up?”

“I want a hug.” Blushing a furious red Nico opened the window to get some fresh air around him. “I mean, I miss having human contact. I don’t want sex, and I know that relationships are obvious forbidden, and it’s not that I want, I couldn’t think of anything worse. Ugh.” He wasn’t getting it across right. “I just want a hug, like one from my mum.”

“Some physical comfort?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm.” Riccardo thought on it for a moment. “I know it’s a bit warm at night, but I think we can trust you to have a hot water bottle at night. Granted it’s not a hug, but…”

“I’d like that.” To have another source of warmth in his bed would be nice. “Thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll get that sorted for you for tonight. Are things with Adrian improving?” There had been a moment where they were going to be separated, but things seemed to be improving after Adrian had been taken to task.

“Yes, we had a discussion about it all, it got a bit heated, but we managed to sort things out. Actually we’ve spent a bit of time together at dinner, and I’ve been staying the whole time all week.” It was hard, he had gotten very used to being on his own and defending for himself, and still by the time dessert arrived Nico could feel the urge begin. However once he struck up a conversation with someone he felt a bit better because he was forced out of his own head.

“I’ve been told, and that’s great. More progress to be proud of.” He was pleased to see a genuine smile appear on Nico’s face, one that was no longer gaunt and drawn. “Are you happy to wrap this session up?”

“Yeah, I’m exhausted.”

“You’ve done some excellent work this afternoon, so take it easy for the rest of the day. And are you comfortable doing some work in your journal?”

“Uh huh, that letter, I need to start thinking about my parents.”

“There’s no rush to get a first draft done, or any thing that formal. Work through the feelings first.” It was important Nico learned to deal with his emotions because now he didn’t have drugs to cloud his mind.

“Thank you.” Nico gave the book one last look before leaving the cosy therapy room, it was such a nice place to be, he always felt comfortable amongst the safety of the soft cushions and warm colours. “Really, thanks. And I’m going to take it easy. Promise.”

Like usual Nico took himself back to his own room to decompress for a while, it had become a part of his routine to calm down after off-loading, and it didn’t even matter if Adrian had been there. After their spat the air had been cleared well enough for them to chat whilst in the room, and one night Adrian had even began to open up as to why he was in there. But instead of languishing in there for a couple of hours he got to forty minutes and actually wanted to go down to the common room.

“Hey.”

“Alright, how did it go?”

“Fine, did some good stuff.” Nico replied quietly before slotting himself between Will and Scott, there was some inane quiz show on that they all got far too involved in.

“We got someone new today.” Will revealed before following it up with the apparent answer to the question in screen. “Aquaplane!”

“Who?” Adrian piped up.

“A celebrity, it’s been a while. We were due.” Will was staring at the television. “Star Wars, no Star Trek, Star Trek.”

Nico listened intently the developing conversation around him, he wondered if they had a similar one about him. And as if he had said it out loud Adrian answered his question.

“Yeah, we had the same conversation about you. Nothing much happens here, you’ll get used to it.” He realised quite quickly that Nico hadn’t been downstairs when a new person got admitted, he was always keeping busy in the poor excuse for a library they had in the corner of the room. “We just thought you were too young and too skinny, you’re still too young, but thankfully you’re looking healthier now. I hope that didn’t cross a line?”

“That’s fine, I love eating.” Nico grinned. “I mean, I’ve never had an issue with it.”

“Right then brain box, who is it?” Adrian directed the conversation back to Will who was beginning to shout the answers out. “And shut it with the answers okay, we all know them, they’re fucking easy.” He was trying to keep his anger under control, but some of the people just got on his nerves.

“Lewis Hamilton.” Nico gulped. “Shit.”

“Fuck.” Adrian hissed.

They both vacated their seats simultaneously, barely pausing before quick marching themselves out of the room and along the corridor, taking the exact same path they always did to their shared room. Slamming the door behind them Nico sighed with relief that Lewis hadn’t seen him.

“Mein gott.” Nico cried out.

“How the hell do you know him?” Adrian shot at Nico.

“I went to university with him, we were friends.” Throwing himself at his bed he pulled his pillow over his head and started muttering to himself about how it wasn’t fair to have this spanner thrown into the works, he had been grinding away at his issues for ages… “What about you then?” Poking his head up Nico immediately began to smooth his hair down, it had taken a while to allow them to get his hair cut, but now he loved fiddling with the short strands. “How do you know Lewis?”

“We met a little while ago, we crossed paths...a lot.” He guessed Lewis had finally been caught out, they didn’t have access to newspapers and the internet and the news channels were blocked, but knowing him like he did, Adrian assumed he’d gotten too arrogant.

“Oh, okay.” He wasn’t sure how to take Adrian’s tone, it clearly suggested a lot more than he said and also didn’t invite any questions. “They’re going to come drag us out of here.”

“Yeah, probably think we’re getting up to no good.” Adrian rolled onto his back to stare at the ceiling.

“Well we both know that’s not an issue.” The idea of being intimate with someone repulsed Nico, having someone touching him, wanting sex, it made him shudder. Although he wouldn’t mind a hug, a friendly one. And as they shared a quiet laugh a knock was heard at their door.

“Nico, Adrian.”

The knock was quickly followed by their door being opened, Nico slowly sat up and it became apparent very quickly that Tony had thought they were escaping to have sex. He didn’t look surprised, or relieved, Nico couldn’t quite read his drug councillor’s expression.

“Care to explain?”

“We both know Lewis.” Adrian chipped in as he scooted to the edge of his bed. “It took us by surprise.”

Nico nodded in agreement but got up regardless, they were ten minutes away from dinner and he was hungry. “Sorry, he’s a blast from the past, I never expected to see him here.” Last he heard he was still raking in the money from singing, he’d seen a couple of billboards advertising his new album when he was wandering the streets of London. “I’ll be down now for dinner.” The first thing he noticed was that Lewis wasn’t there, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to escape him for long, maybe if he was really lucky he would have forgotten all about him.

---

“Uh, Nico?”

Lifting his gaze up from his journal he saw Lewis stood in front of him looking sheepish. “Hi, how are you?”

Lewis took him speaking as an invitation to sit down on the bench beside him, it was good to see a friendly face because it meant his time in this place would be so much easier. He could hang out with Nico and count down the days until he got to leave. “I’m good man, got to stick this out for a month and I can get out of here.” It was a stupid punishment.

“Right, just a month?”

“Yeah, saves me from an expensive divorce.”

“Alright.” He was avoiding asking questions because he didn’t want Lewis to return the favour.

“Man it’s good to see you, what the hell are you doing in a place like this?” He couldn’t begin to imagine what Nico had gotten up to to have to come here.

He didn’t want to questions, but there had to come a time where he was comfortable with what had happened, and if he wanted to rebuild the bridge between him and his parents he was going to have to explain in relative detail. “I got messed up with a few things, I’m working through a lot of things and I don’t find it easy to talk about it.”

“Oh, you’re taking this seriously?”

“Why wouldn’t I? I want to get better.” The way Lewis was talking was starting to make him feel uncomfortable. “Don’t you?”

“I’m fine, Nicole just overreacted.”

Nico didn’t want to know, and he definitely did not want to know how Adrian fitted into it, although his mind was beginning to fill in the blanks. “It’s a good place, the people, the doctors, really want to help and they’re good too. They got me here.” He felt proud to be sat on the bench, his body was clean and his mind was clearing, he had put on weight and he was off the drugs. For the first time in years he felt healthy. The eating vegetables kind. That was what he mostly ate now, he loved anything fresh, the greener the better.

“Here?” From what he could see Nico was fine.

“Urgh, I can’t give you much, I haven’t really discussed this with Riccardo yet.”

This wasn’t the Nico he knew, this Nico was shrinking into himself, his shoulders were curved inwards, eyes darting about. “Nico, what’s gone on?”

“Back at uni I got tangled up...no.” He was going to leave out the ‘maybes’. “I was an escort. But I eventually stopped with some help, but things happened and I ended up homeless. So I’m here to get clean and to rebuild my life.” With his breaths coming out shakily Nico sat up straight and closed his eyes, repeating ‘green’ over and over he created the space inside his mind to calm down.

“Woah man, no wonder you’re in here. That sucks.” He just thought it would be something simple like drugs.

“Yeah. It sucks.” Nico replied glumly. He couldn’t believe he opened up to Lewis so easily.

“Well Nicole caught me cheating, it’s not like I don’t love her or anything, but with her staying home with Grace I got lonely on tour, she didn’t want to come...shit, is that...”

“What is it?” Nico asked absently, not really taking any notice as to where Lewis was looking.

“Nothing.” Tilting his head to check, he was absolutely sure it was Adrian, now that was going to be awkward. “It’s nothing.”

Nico subtly figured out where his eyes were aimed and saw Adrian wandering about with Scott, he hoped Lewis wasn’t about to spill his guts, but he lived in the limelight, boundaries were bound to be different. “Okay.”

“We hooked up a lot, things got complicated. Nicole found us-”

“That’s enough, I don’t want to hear any more if that’s alright.” Edging himself forward Nico slowly stood up. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I need to go.”

“I thought this place was all about talking things through.” He shrugged, Nico wasn’t the same person, usually he would happily listen to his conquests. At university things were so much easier.

“To the counsellors, not me. I’m not...I’m not quite strong enough to cope with someone else’s issues yet.” It wasn’t escapism to listen to Lewis, it was amplifying his own because his was very real reminder of where it all started. Something else to regale Riccardo with no doubt. “I’ll see you around.” He had to protect himself.

---

“Anything you’d like to focus on today?”

“Yes, Lewis Hamilton.”

“Our new resident?” Tony had warned him about the reaction both Nico and Adrian had, but whereas Adrian and Lewis had pretty much clammed up on the matter he was glad to see Nico wanting to talk.

“Yes, I want to discuss the letter I’m writing too, but this is more immediate. I know he wants to talk about university, and he tried to discuss Adrian with me, but…” Gritting his teeth he took a moment to sort through his thoughts to get them out properly. “He’s a reminder of how things started with Jenson, me being friends with Lewis was a way to get closer to him, but instead it ended their friendship. I was so destructive, so having him here makes it even more real. I told him a little about why I’m here, but I started to panic.”

“How did you deal with that?”

“I used the colour green.” Nico smirked. “I felt okay, but when Lewis started to talk about Adrian I sensed he was going to talk about sex, it makes me feel sick even thinking about it, so I ended it and walked away.” He knew he was doing better with his communication.

“How did it feel to walk away?”

“It was tough, but I know I’ve got to focus on getting better, it’s a different sort of selfish, I mean Lewis won’t get the help he needs from me, he needs to talk to you guys.”

“Remember our silent sessions.”

“Yeah.” He started by hugging his knees to his chest, burying his head to avoiding having to look at Riccardo and face the fact that he was at rock bottom. “I don’t mind talking now.”

“I’ve noticed.” Riccardo was confident Nico would see it as a joke and nothing more.

“Get used to it.” Nico beamed.

“I’m more than ready for it. So, shall we carry on discussing Lewis?”

“Yeah, bring it on.” He wanted to know what he had beyond the walled garden.

Chapter Text

"How do you think it's going?" Mark rubbed the edge of his mug with a thumb as he looked at the time.

"Will be fine. It will be fine." Fernando murmured as he stared at the time on his wrist.

---

"Hello Mr and Mrs Alonso, my name's Natalie Pinkham and I'm Mark and Fernando's social worker."

To say they were nervous was an understatement, they didn't want to let them down or mess it up.

"Hola mama, papa." Fernando called through his childhood home as he unlocked the door.

"Kitchen!"

One nervous look was shared before they walked through the house knowing they were there to reveal a life changing decision.

Ana took one look at her son to know there was something behind the visit. "Tell me." Wiping her hands on a towel from the washing up she leant against the counter. "You better not have eloped!" She warned with a wag of her index finger.

"No mama, is not that, when we have figured out a date we will tell you." He assured.

"But it is a good reason though." Mark jumped in. "Really good." Smiling he put a hand on Fernando's shoulder to prompt him, he wanted to be the one to tell his parents.

"Come on now son." The nerves were kicking in for himself now.

"We're...we want to adopt. We're going to start the adoption process."

"Children?" Ana gasped.

"Grandchildren." Jose broke out with a sob before bringing his son for a hug, and grabbing Mark to join in. "Grandchildren."

Ana wrapped her arms around Fernando's neck and kissed his cheek, then she coped her actions with Mark. "Whatever you need from us we will give you."

"Hola Natalie, Fernando and Mark told us lots about you, we've been excited to meet you." Ana started as he adjusted her seat to be fully captured by the webcam.

"Yes, we've been waiting for this day since the boys told us." Jose could hear his voice starting to shake.

“I can imagine, but this is just a conversation, we’re just trying find out about Mark and Fernando’s suitability for adoption, and what they can bring to a child’s life.” She explained to the two worried looking faces looking at her on the screen. “I’m not here to find reasons why they can’t adopt, it’s the opposite in fact, I want to find reasons why they’d be great parents.”

“Is easy then, they will be.” Jose stated.

“Why’s that? What’s Fernando like?” She was going through the exact same sort of questions as she did with Mark’s parents, and if she was being honest with herself she was expecting the same sort of answers.

“Fernando...um…” She didn’t want to get the answer wrong. “He was always a bit quiet growing up, but not in a bad way, he was always more interested in school, books and reading. And of course photography.”

“He loved taking my camera out, we went through so much film, it was so expensive back then.” He smiled. “But he was so passionate about it, so dedicated to getting better. He doesn’t stop, if it’s something he loves he won’t give up, and that’s the same for people he loves.”

“So he’s a bit of a perfectionist?” Natalie pushed.

“He used to be, and still is to a degree, but Mark helped him there.” Jose returned, Fernando had asked him to be honest.

“How’s that?”

“There was a change in Fernando not long after he went to university, in his first term he was so stressed about getting everything right, but then after Christmas he started to mention someone called Mark, and he relaxed, still determined, but he began to understand the use of not being so busy.”

“Little did we know that is was beyond friendship.” Ana laughed. “But am so happy it was, we have never known Fernando so happy and settled, is why we are confident they will be such good parents.”

“They don’t have any family nearby to help them though, you’re in Spain and Mark’s parents are in Australia, most people have their family close to help them with a new arrival. Don’t you think this will be a problem?”

“No, but they were successful with us all away, but I know we all will, us and Alan and Diane, help them in any way they need. But I have faith in them, Jose does too.” Ana knew Natalie wasn’t trying to catch them out, but she hated the idea of anyone doubting her son.

“We know that bringing up children is hard, but we always told Fernando that it is an honour to raise him and his sister, the greatest, no matter how hard things got.”

Natalie nodded her head and smiled kindly, is was just like talking to Alan and Diane again, they were equally straightforward, both bringing their children up in stable and realistic environments, explaining the pair of them completely. They continued to talk a little more, swapping stories until things naturally came to an end. “Thanks for your time Jose and Ana.”

“Is no problem, just hope we have been helpful.”

“You have been, I’m sure Fernando will be wanting to hear from you.” Natalie knew they had been trying to play it cool, but it was all so understandable because of what they were dealing with. “No doubt we’ll speak again.”

“Adios!” They bid her goodbye and immediately reached for the phone to call Fernando to tell them exactly what they said as promised.

---

“Just call him, he won’t turn you down Dan.”

“He said the last time he wanted to go have a life, I’m not sure my great idea will work.”

“And how will you know if you don’t try?” Jean-Eric busied himself with a bit of tidying as Dan chewed on his thumbnail. “Dan, come on.” Slipping the phone out of his hand Jean-Eric dialed for Mark and waited for it to begin ringing before handing it back. “There.”

“Jev!” He cried. There was not going back now, Mark would see that he had called and would call back, he always did.

“Dan, long time no hear.” Mark laughed down the phone. “What can I do for you for buddy?”

“Uh, quite a bit if I’m honest, have you got some time for a chat?” He found himself holding a breath as he waited for a response.

“Um, I guess, sounds pretty serious though.” Mark was taken aback by the tone Dan was using, he was used to bubbly and excited Dan, not focused and cool Dan.

“Not serious, but…”

“I’m not looking to race again Dan, if that’s what you’re going to ask. I’m getting married, starting a family, I don’t want to be away from home for weeks on end.” The idea of leaving a husband and children at home for the time he used to was unthinkable, he would miss out on far too much.

Jean-Eric watched Dan break out into a huge smile and wondered what Mark had said. “Wow, that’s totally understandable, so congratulations are definitely in order.”

“Thanks, just don’t go spreading it around.” He asked firmly.

“Of course, but I wasn’t asking you to race, I was wondering if you wanted to return to Red Bull under an ambassador role, helping to bring on the next generation. Talks, exhibitions, stuff like that?”

“Huh, well to be honest I did used to think about setting up a mentoring programme, helping young kids get noticed. It’s one thing getting into it, longevity is another thing altogether. Take Mitch Evans for example, he’s got the speed and race craft, it’s sponsorship he’s struggling with.”

Dan knew Mark well, he came across as the typical laid back Aussie bloke, but he was far from it in certain circumstances, and this was rapidly turning into one. “Why does no one want to sponsor him?”

“He hasn’t got a good background in Europe, same issues I had, no one wanted to know because they didn’t know me. Loads of overseas kids are in the same boat.”

Dan thought of the chance Red Bull gave him with their programme. “I think we need a proper face to face talk don’t we?”

“Which is what you wanted anyway…”

He heard Mark laughing because he knew he was right. “Yes, you caught me red handed, how about I send you the details?”

Why would Dan need to send details, surely they could set something up now? “You’re making this sound complicated.”

“No, promise you it’s not. I just want a decent chance to woo you back.”

Fernando wondered what had Mark laughing so loudly as he dumped his bag on the sofa, sidling up to his side he wrapped an arm around his waist before turning it into a proper hug.

“Hey.” Mark whispered before kissing the top of his head, pulling him tight to his body to waiting out the rest of the phone call. “Fair enough, I’m feeling quite wooable.” That had Fernando looking at him conspiratorially.

“Well, get ready. Hope you’re free in a couple of weekends. Bye!” Dan hung up before Mark had a chance to reply.

“You’re trying to woo Mark?”

“In a business sense, every other sense I would have absolutely no chance, plus there’s you.”

“Yeah, little old me.” Jean-Eric stuck his tongue out playfully.

“Fancy a little bit of gossip?”

“Did Mark ask you not to tell anyone?” Raising an eyebrow he saw the tell-tale signs that he was right, the faint blush, his teeth running over his bottom lip, and the nervous play with his hands.

“No...but maybe definitely yes. He asked me not to spread it around, he knows I would tell you. It’s great news for them, it’s awesome.”

“Go on then, but it goes no further.”

“They’re starting a family.” There was no way he could contain his grin, he was a sucker for a happy ending. “And they’re getting married.”

“Romantic.” Jean-Eric closed the distance between them and kissed Dan gently, but his mind was filled with the word ‘family’, he tried not to but recently his sister had been on his mind, he just didn’t want to mention it to Dan because it was such a painful time for them.

“And that’s why you love me.”

“Dan, you are not romantic with me, but I love you for many other reasons beside that.” He laughed at Dan’s pout, but it died away as he focused on how great it made his already full lips look. “There are millions of reasons to love you.”

“Good.” Dan replied triumphantly.

---

“Who is this who thinks they have you?” Sighing deeply he slumped against the sofa and further into Mark.

“Dan, he wants me back at Red Bull.”

“Oh.”

“See, no need to worry.” Digging his fingers into Fernando’s waist Mark tickled him until the pout disappeared. “Why on earth would I want anyone else when I’ve got my hands full with you?”

“Stop!” Eventually wrestling Mark’s hands off of him Fernando rested his head on Mark’s arm and closed his eyes, he had spent another stressful day trying to organise a charity exhibition.

Kissing the top of his head as an apology Mark took a moment to breathe him in. “How did it go today?”

“Today there is a problem with the lighting, I want it too dark apparently.”

“They’ll come around to your way of thinking eventually Nano, I gather you’re completely in the right?” Even though he was trying to boost Fernando's spirit, it would be a rare day when he was wrong about anything artistic.

“Of course!”

“It’s only a matter of time then buddy.” Mark assured. “This Red Bull thing...I just thought it might be a chance for me to get Mitch some decent sponsorship, I want to leave a legacy in cycling, and helping a generation of Aussie racers might be the ticket.”

“Do it.” Fernando knew he had already left one in the sport, but if he felt he needed to do it he would never dream of holding him back.

“Depends on the level of commitment they want. Our family is coming first.”

“And talking of that we better go get ready, we need to leave in half an hour.” Glancing at his watch Fernando made to get up but Mark had sneakily slipped an arm around him to stop him getting away.

“One minute.”

He gave Mark that time, but wanting to jump in the shower Fernando wriggled free and dashed upstairs to get himself ready, stripping as he went he left a messy pile on the floor, and with one eye on the time he didn’t linger any longer than he needed to. Being late wasn’t an option.

“How’s this?" Fernando asked as he walked down the stairs.

“You look gorgeous.” It was the first thing that came to mind.

“That’s not important.”

“I know, but it’s true.” Mark shrugged as he levered himself off the couch, heading towards the door he thought about what trainers to wear.

“No, don’t even think about it. We’re going to Dinner with Timo and Katharina afterwards, smart shoes please.”

“Alright.” Mark huffed, as he tried to figure out the best compromise for the both of them, so with Fernando easily straddling the smart casual line he tried to find the pair of brown suede lace ups.

“I really don’t want to be late.” Fernando warned as he watched Mark scrabble around for something other than trainers.

“I know, but I can’t find the suede boots.”

“Mark.” He sighed dramatically, it had taken so long to find something Mark would wear that was smart enough to be considered such.

“It’s better than being late.” Came the explanation as he slipped his feet into his newest pair of trainers.

“I suppose.” Holding the door open Fernando waited for Mark to finish tying his shoes before heading out to the car. “You look handsome.” Briefly slipping his hand into Mark’s calmed his nerves. “Bright orange though?”

It was Fernando’s turn to drive and even with the radio on the atmosphere thickened until Mark couldn’t take it anymore, they went into too many sessions wrought with nerves and fears it stopped them relaxing properly. But talking through things wasn’t going to work, he knew only something truly drastic would work, so flicking through the radio stations he stopped when he recognised a song enough to sing along. Badly.

“What are you…” Fernando was forced to stop and give into laughter as Mark failed to hit a high note. “Mark!” He made himself look at the road because now he was dancing along, bobbing his head and making wild shapes with his hands. He didn’t let up until he switched the engine off, and even then he was still humming along to the last song. “You are in a strange mood.”

“I want us to go in relaxed instead leaving that way.” Mark explained as he unclipped his seatbelt. “Did it work?”

“Si, but don’t do that inside.” Fernando chuckled before opening the door. “They will not let us adopt if they hear your singing.”

“It wasn’t that bad.” Mark frowned.

Fernando sniggered. “But I like it.” He smiled easily, and his body followed.

“Alright guys.” Natalie greeted them at the door. “You both look happy.”

“Mark sung to me the whole way here, I am in love all over again.” He teased as he wrote his name on the brightly coloured sticker.

“It really wasn’t that bad.” Mark implored.

“I’m sure it wasn’t.” Natalie soothed as she handed over a sticker for Mark. “You know the drill by now.”

They did, they knew it inside out, they put the stickers on and went to the playroom because it meant the children were somewhere they felt comfortable, they mingled with the other prospective parents for a while before the children arrived. They had been to a mixture of sessions at Natalie’s suggestion, the ones with the youngest children were quiet and calm, and the older they were the more chaotic is was. Mark and Fernando grinned in unison when they recognised the sound of lots of small feet scuffling about.

“I don’t see Timo.”

“Maybe they couldn’t make it.” Fernando mused aloud.

“Yeah...oof!” Mark was almost knocked off his feet by the herd of stampeding children. “Almost got me this time.” He called out with a laugh. There was a round of giggles that Mark adored. “What are we colouring today?”

“Cars.”

“Pony.”

“Kitties.”

“Truck.”

“Can we join in?” Mark asked and indicated Fernando.

“But what are you going to draw?” A slight boy girl asked.

“I like bikes. I’ll draw the one that I ride.” Mark explained as he sat down in a space the children had made.

“You sit by me, I like your beard.” The wide eyed brunette girls tapped insistently on the table beside her piece of paper.

“Thank you, you have a very pretty dress.” Fernando glanced over at Mark when she giggled with her hands over her mouth. Together they sat and doodled with crayons, trading compliments and explaining what they were drawing. “Is a camera, that’s what I use to do my job.” With a couple of confused faces Fernando did his best to explain. “I take photos for people who ask me to.”

“Of what?”

“Lots of things, sometimes people, buildings, animals, lots of things.”

“Why?”

“Because I like it, and it makes me happy to do it. What do you like to do?”

“I like running, I’m the fastest!” He beamed before deciding to give a demonstration around the room, darting and weaving amongst the other children and adults.

“And so you are.” Fernando praised to stop him from hurting himself. “How about you draw yourself running.”

“You both talk funny.” The brunette girl called Sarah stated. “Why’s that?” And with that the other children at the table stopped drawing.

“It’s our accents, I come from Australia.” Mark explained. “That’s the other side of the world.” Spotting a map of the world he unfolded himself from sitting on the floor and walked over to it. “Here is where we are now.” Tracing a line across the ocean he then pointed at his home country. “And this is where I was born, Australia.” He got a chorus of oohs that made him smile.

“And this is Spain, is where I am from.”

“Are you married?” That question came from a willowy boy called Sam.

“Not yet.” Fernando replied. “But we are soon.”

“That’s because you love each other.” Sarah triumphed.

“It is.” Mark agreed with a broad grin. “That’s exactly right.”

As was customary they made sure not to monopolise anyone’s time alternating between groups of children, enjoying their company, that was fine, but it was when they found themselves cornered by a group of adults after the session had drawn to a close that things got a bit overwhelming. One couple in particular were very competitive about the whole situation, and Mark and Fernando were forced to defend themselves.

“What exactly do you do for a job then?”

“Photography, that’s not very stable is it?”

“You did bikes yeah, must be handy being well known, helps get through the process a bit quicker.”

“And of course, you two being a niche couple…”

Fernando was dealing with it much better than he was, that eerie calm taking over enabling him to brush off the obvious slights with ease. But Mark felt his blood boiling, and he had to excuse himself before he said something he would regret. “I’m just going to get some fresh air.” Fernando gave him a knowing nod and he escaped into the corridor.

“Thank fuck.” He breathed under his breath. “Oh.” He almost swore again when he spotted the boy sat on the floor. “Hello.”

“You swore.”

“I know, I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry about swearing.” Mark started to scream internally.

“You’re from Australia.”

“I am, how did you know that?” If he wasn’t going to mention it again Mark decided to ignore it completely.

“I watch television.”

Mark was taken aback by the way he deadpanned the reply, he thought he was too young to be that smart mouthed. “Shouldn’t you be back with the other children? I didn’t see you inside earlier.”

“I escaped.”

“That makes two of us then, so have I. Can I sit down?”

“Sure.”

Mark mirrored him and sat down his his legs stretched out. “I’m Mark, what’s your name?”

“Sebastian.”

He chuckled. “I knew someone at school called Sebastian, he’s very smart, and very successful.” He glanced over and saw Sebastian looking at his feet.

“Why orange?”

“Why not?” This time it was Sebastian who was laughing. “So how old are you Seb?”

He preferred Seb to Sebastian, and it was definitely better than Sebby. “Six. I know you’re old.”

“Old?” Mark gave a comedic gasp. “Well thanks very much, and I was being nice to you. I’m thirty-”

“Very old.” He giggled from behind his hands.

“Oi.” Mark nudged him gently and joined in with the fun. “Cheeky.”

“This is where you are hiding?” Fernando stood in front of Mark with his hands on his hips, he was only supposed to be a couple of minutes. “Oh, hello.”

“This is Sebastian.”

“Seb.” He wanted to only be called Seb from now on.

Mark looked at him with a mild look of surprise at how determined he sounded about his name. “Seb, this is my partner Fernando, Seb’s six.”

“Nice to meet you Seb.”

“You can sit too.” Sebastian patted the floor beside him and was glad when Fernando sat down. “Where are you from?”

“Spain.”

“Hmm, Australia and Spain.” Sebastian mused aloud before getting up. “That is a long way.” Going into the playroom he walked over to the map he loved to look at. “Really far apart.” Turning around he saw Mark and Fernando were stood behind him.

“Yeah, we met at university.”

“I want to go to university. You have to if you want to be a doctor.” He tilted his head back to see them both smiling.

“That’s very cool.” Mark commented.

“Yeah?” Everyone else made fun of him. “It’s hard.”

“Si, but is not so hard when you want to do it. Is hard to be a photographer, but that is what I do. Mark used to race on bikes, that is super hard, but he was very successful.”

“Why did you stop then?”

“For many reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to start a family. Not because I wasn’t good enough.”

“That’s okay then.” Sebastian nodded earnestly.

“Sebby, that’s where you are, we were worried about you!” One of the members of staff came in clutching a clipboard.

“Seb.” He muttered lowly at Jenny.

“Okay, say goodbye Sebby, it’s time to start getting ready for bed.” She persisted.

“No, I want to stay with Mark and Fernando.” He stuck his lip out.

“You can’t, they’re busy, they need to go.” She explained in a sing-song voice.

Mark knew it wasn’t his place to disagree, but he didn’t want Sebastian thinking they wanted to leave so easily. “It is pretty late mate, and we can’t have you tired if you want to be a doctor, you need to be awake and alert for school.”

Fernando nodded. “You don’t want to fall asleep on your books, maybe you can show them to us another time.”

“Alright.” He mumbled as he followed Jenny back to everyone else.

“Bye Seb.” Both Mark and Fernando found themselves saying in unison. Waiting until the door shut Mark wrapped Fernando up in his arms, he just needed a bit of security and it was obvious Fernando did too.

“That was surprisingly painful.” Mark whispered. “I’ve not felt like that before.”

“Me either.” Fernando agreed. “We should speak to Natalie, we said we’ll see him again, we can’t be liars.”

“There’s something there, isn’t there? It’s not just me.”

“No, is a connection, definitely.” Fernando grinned into Mark’s shirt before looking up at him. “It felt natural.”

“I’ll give Nat a call tomorrow.” Mark assured with a gentle kiss to the Fernando’s forehead, and with an arm around his shoulder they walked out together feeling excited. But before they reached the car a familiar voice called them.

“Guys, hey, can I grab you for a minute?” Natalie called out.

“Sure, actually I was going to call you tomorrow.”

“And I hope it's about the same thing.” She smiled heartily. “Jenny cornered me, I understand you met Sebastian tonight, although not entirely officially.” He wasn’t the most well behaved child.

“We did, we didn’t spend that much time with him.” Fernando started. “But we both feel the same, is a connection.”

“Jenny agrees, she sends her apologies for breaking it up, but routines are routines.” She explained.

“Of course.” Mark replied. “But we did say we would see him again, we want to keep that promise.”

“And that’s exactly what I’m here to talk about, he clearly likes you, and that’s no mean feat let me tell you. When are you both free next?”

“Whenever is convenient.” Fernando answered for both of them, excitement fizzing off of his tongue.

“It’s Friday today, so...how about Wednesday?”

“Great, fine, good.” Mark babbled. “I’m so sorry, it’s just after all these sessions and this is the first time we’ve felt like this.”

“I know you’ve found it tough, and I know you’re both sensible enough not to get over excited. But it’s good to see you smiling, so go enjoy the weekend. I’ll be in touch.” Natalie had to rein herself in too, she was getting a bit worried about them, she knew they could easily entertain a whole room of children, but they had never made a specific connection. Sebastian wasn’t the easiest child, but then again he had never really wanted to see any prospective parents, and he had asked politely, to see Mark and Fernando again.

She just hoped the longer meeting would be a positive one, so many had fallen through for Sebastian when things began to get serious, and now she was left knowing she was going to have to divulge his past and hope they wouldn’t be spooked by it.

“I know, I know.” Mark saw the way Fernando was looking at him out of the corner of his eye despite driving. “I know I shouldn’t be getting this excited, but he’s just this little cool kid who needs a family. We can be that family.”

Fernando reached over and squeezed his thigh because he knew if he joined in they would talk themselves into a frenzy, so for once he had to be the calm one. He had to stop them diving into a future that wasn’t theirs to dream of yet. “How about you sing to me again?”

Mark laughed. “I don’t think that’s wise, just get to the restaurant yeah? I’ll entertain you later.”

“That better be a promise.”

“Course it is.” Mark just dipped his hand between Fernando’s legs as they were waiting at a red light. The cheeky act broke them out over thinking the new situation they found themselves in, and got them to the restaurant without either of them getting too worked up.

“Hey, we didn’t see you today.”

“Sorry about that, we’ve...we’ve got some great news.” Timo got up from the table and greeted them both with a hug, they returned the favour and included Katharina.

“Do tell.” Mark shoved his feet under the table and out of the way of Fernando’s disapproving stare.

“We’re pregnant.” Katharina revealed with a huge grin.

“I thought the doctors said you couldn’t have any.” Mark replied in wonder.

“I know.” She could barely speak from the happiness.

“It’s a shock, but we couldn’t be happier.” Timo grasped her hand, his thumb rubbing circles softly into her skin.

“Is time for congratulations then.” Fernando poured himself a glass of water and raised it at the couple. “Congratulations.” Mark joined him as they celebrated their good fortune.

“We’re not going to stop adopting though, why we wanted to do it is still true. It was never just some alternative for us, everyone deserves a chance, so we’ve just decided to put a pause on it until we’ve had this little one.” Katharina cupped her stomach tenderly.

“That makes sense.” Mark thought it was wonderful that they were still going to adopt, they had all traded stories not long after they first met so he already knew how passionate they were. It came as no surprise that their pregnancy wouldn’t stop them.

“We’re so lucky.” Timo sighed. “They’ll have a brother or sister in no time.”

“We’ll cheers to that as well.” Mark raised his glass again with Fernando in tandem, their news was too fresh to share, although they would be one of the first to know.

---

“Oh god you’re gorgeous.” Mark breathed hotly against Fernando’s ear. “Especially when you unbutton your shirt.” He tugged on the highest button still done up.

Mark had pressed him to their front door, Fernando still had the key in his hand but his back was pressed against the cherry red wood firmly, his wrist bound tightly in fists. “Someone might see.” He whined quietly.

“Maybe I want them to see how lucky I am.” Nipping at his ear Mark heard footsteps not far away. “But then again I might want to hide you away for myself.”

“Then let me go, and I will show you how much I am yours.” Wiggling his fingers Fernando jangled the keys to move Mark along. “Release me.” He demanded and Mark did so immediately, but he didn’t give him much space, their bodies in constant contact the whole time. “Mark.” Fernando muttered in a warning tone.

The way he was using his voice was doing things to him again. “Shit, get us inside.”

---

“Nano, you asleep?”

“Was I that good?”

Mark grinned lazily. “I should be asleep if you were that good.”

“No, I was that good you can’t stop thinking about a repeat performance, and that is keeping you up.” He deflected with precision.

“Touche.” Mark relented in the end, because it was amazing. He let Fernando dominate the evening, it wasn’t over the top he just gently pushed at his boundaries. Doing enough to make him feel more comfortable in relinquishing a little more control. "It was awesome by the way." Mark answered the silent question resting on Fernando's lips.

"I know this." He murmured sleepily. "So why are you up?" Mark's silence gave him a hint as to what was keeping him up. "Is it Sebastian?"

"Yeah, and I know I shouldn't be dwelling on it, it’s so stupid.” He sighed.

“It’s not.” Moving onto his side he could just about make out the profile of Mark’s face. “I think it is why you are going to make a good father, you care deeply and openly.” Draping an arm over Mark’s stomach he brought himself closer despite the heat.

“Thank you.” Kissing the top of Fernando’s head Mark curled around him. “I promise to relax.”

“Is only wednesday we have to wait for.” He reassured with a gentle rub to his stomach. “And I am excited too Mark, something feels right.”

“Wednesday.” Mark repeated out loud.

“Si, but now is time to sleep.” He exhaled slowly. “Sleep is good.”

“Sure is buddy.”

---

Mark watched Fernando pace up and down the living room, safely sat at the dining room table he rested his head in a hand and listened to one half of the conversation. It was about the exhibition again and he knew he was stressing over the lack of control he seemed to have, someone there had their own ideas about it and was doing their best to make sure it was going their way.

“No, there is a specific order, you can’t just...it won’t make sense, this is not my first show.”

“Of course I want to be involved, but if it keeps going this way it does not seem to worth my time...not in that way, this charity means a lot to me but you ask me for an exhibition, you want me not this other person.”

Mark smirked to himself, he was worried about how much this was affecting him, but knew that at the end of the day he would, through sheer will, get his own way.

“I do not want to be any trouble, I just want to give you my very best, is all I want.”

“Thank you, I will not disappoint.” Grinning he hung up the phone and turned to see Mark wearing a similar expression.

“Better?”

“Si, I think I am getting somewhere with them, the other guy needs to leave me alone.”

“Well if he doesn’t I’ll go down there and sort him out myself.” Mark chuckled. “So, you good to go?”

“Yeah, am nervous.”

“It’s going to be fine, we just need to go with the flow on this one. Take whatever comes at us and go with it.” After getting so worked up over it to begin with, over the weekend it all faded away when he realised that it would all work out one way or another.

“You might need to remind me of that later.”

Mark knew he wouldn’t have to, but to make sure he serenaded him badly in the car with songs he didn’t knew the lyrics to, making them up as he went along he drove them to the centre.

“I think I like it when you sing now.” Fernando commented as he unclipped his seatbelt.

“Why? It’s atrocious.” He shot back with a snort before getting out of the car.

“Because you do it to make me calm.”

“Does it work?”

“Uh huh, is why I like it.” Grinning triumphantly Fernando led them across the carpark, feeling buoyed up by Mark’s peacefulness he kept his chin up when he caught sight of Natalie in reception.

“Hey guys!” She had been waiting since the last time they all saw each other to see them again, Sebastian had asked a couple of times to make sure they were coming back, but nothing else. But she wasn’t surprised by that, what had caught them all out was that he had been a bit better behaved at school and at the home, not perfect by any means, but markedly different. “We’re actually going to go to the home instead, but we’ll have a chat before.”

“Oh, okay.” Mark was unsure what that meant. “So it’s less disruptive for him?”

“Exactly, it’s nothing to worry about.” She reassured.

“Is not finished from school yet.” Fernando noted the time.

“Yeah, he’ll need a bit of time afterwards, but then we’ll be good to go.” Natalie nodded. “Right, I know we covered one to one meetings before, but let’s just refresh what’s going to happen.” She went on to explain how they would be in a quieter room, that their initial meeting would be for an hour and that she would be supervising. “It’s all standard, there isn’t anything planned to do though.”

“Is fine, I’m sure we can figure something out when we get there.” Patting Mark’s knee he settled back and they all began to discuss things in a bit more depth, Natalie talked to them about the emotional side of the meeting and what that would entail.

“It’s going to be harder for you two than it is on Sebastian, he’s a bit more used to this than you are because he’s gone through it before.” She began. “I can already tell you’re both invested, and that’s great, but you need to be aware not to transfer that to Sebastian, okay?”

“Yeah.” Mark agreed. “This is harder than I imagined.”

“I get that, this is a normal reaction though, you’re not the first to feel this way.” Natalie saw the concern on their faces. “And we’ll talk afterwards, alright?”

“I think so.” Fernando agreed for the both of them.

“And I believe we can get going.”

“Shall I drive us all?” Mark offered.

“Thanks, but I’ve got an appointment a bit later.” Handing over the address in case they got separated the three of them took off to the children’s home, hopes high despite needing to be cautious. “Right then guys, this is where we’ll be, I’ll stay out of the way, and like I said this is all standard stuff.” She just needed to see how it went, how they interacted, and most importantly that Sebastian was comfortable with the situation.

Mark heard Fernando take the same deep breath he was about to, at least they were in sync he thought as he looked around the room, it was decorated in drawings and paintings by the kids and the odd piece of schoolwork they were proud of. But before he could look at it in any detail the door opened behind them and in walked Sebastian, accompanied by Natalie who had gone off to collect him

Mark steeled himself to sounds normal. “Hey Seb.”

“Hola Sebastian.” Fernando followed up.

“I like Seb better.” He pointed out as he walked up to the table with a book.

“Oh, then I am sorry Seb.”

“That’s okay, I make everyone call me Seb now, because Mark said it.”

“I will remember that.” Fernando nodded. “What is that book?”

“Homework.” He admitted. “You haven’t got your orange shoes on.”

“Not this time, fancied wearing green today.” Mark glanced down at his trainers.

“Hmm, I don’t like green, it’s not my favourite colour.” Sebastian sat down at the table and looked at his book. “You can sit too, but you will be too tall.” He pointed at Mark but then giggled when he sat down, his knees were really high. “Is okay for me and Fernando because we are smaller.”

The smile he got for being shorter was golden, it made his heart skip. “What is your favourite colour, mine is red.”

“Red is mine too, is the best colour!” He raised his hand so he could high five Fernando. “What is your favourite colour?” He directed at Mark.

“Blue.”

“Not as good as red.”

“I agree with Seb.” Fernando announced. “I keep telling Mark that red’s the best, but he doesn’t believe me.” He talked to Sebastian with a kind smile, his wide brown eyes looking intently at him, staring right into him.

“It’s okay to like another colour.” He didn’t want to Mark and Fernando to disagree.

“We know that Seb.” Mark said kindly to ease the hint of worry on his face. “But blue is the best.”

“Nooo.” Seb laughed. “Red!”

“See. We are both right.” Fernando grinned.

Sebastian liked that he could make them both laugh, and that they made him feel happy.

“So what homework have you got to do?” Mark tapped the book.

“Spellings. It’s boring.”

“But important, you need to know how to spell all the parts of the body to be a doctor.” Fernando tried to be positive.

“Hmm.”

“So how do you do your spellings?” Sliding the exercise book towards them from where Sebastian left it he saw that there was a small packet of words clipped to the outside.

“Someone has to read them out, and then I write them down.” He flicked through the pages to find a blank one. “I didn’t do them yesterday, so I have to do them today.”

“Ah, well then, that’s not very good is it?” Mark sighed. “We’ll help you now though.”

“No, I’ll do it later, afterwards.” He pleaded. “I want to play.”

“Mark is right, and it will be more fun if we all do it together Seb.” Fernando slipped the packet off of the cover and opened it up. “I bet you can do them all.”

“But it’s boring.”

“Why do you think that?” Mark took half of the little pieces of laminated card that Fernando hand split up and waited for the answer from Sebastian.

“Because it’s not exciting.” He pouted.

“Not everything in life is mate, sorry about that, but doing these little boring things means you get to do really exciting things later on.” Mark watched Sebastian mull over what he had said. “I mean me and Fernando have to wash dishes and clean our house, which is really boring, but because we do that we can go do fun things like meeting you.”

“Helping me do homework is fun?”

“Si.”

“What does that mean?” Sebastian looked at Fernando.

“It means yes in Spanish.” Fernando explained.

“Cool. What other words are there in Spanish?” That was far more interesting.

“We all do the homework, then I will teach you some more.” He challenged hoping to appeal to a competitive part of him.

“Hmpf.” Crossing his arms against his chest he slumped into his chair.

“First one then, said. Get your pencil.” Mark asked gently. “Said.”

Natalie quietly observed them all work through the spellings he had point blank refused to do according to his teachers, she had his file out to read and saw that homework was a contentious subject. It was rarely done, despite having the aptitude to achieve better across all subjects, but with a little cajoling Sebastian was trying really hard to impress Mark and Fernando by getting them right. Jenny had slipped in unnoticed by the three at the table and was enjoying what she was seeing, exactly what she was knew was underneath all the fight and disobedience.

“And we are done.” Fernando declared. “How can you find that boring, being good at something is never boring.”

Maybe Fernando was right. “I did good?”

“You did excellent buddy, we’re both really proud of how hard you worked.” Sebastian looked at him before turning to Fernando to see them both nodding in mutual agreement. “So now you’ve done that, we can do something fun, what do you reckon?”

“Si!”

Mark knew how pleased Fernando would be to hear Sebastian use Spanish and seeing the slight shine in his eyes only confirmed it. “I’ve got my eye on the Lego.” He offered up as an option.

“Yeah! But…”

“What’s up?” Fernando asked after the pause turned into silence.

“Is this going to be the only time you visit, I want to do both.”

For the first time since Sebastian arrived in the room Fernando remembered that Natalie was there too, but he saw Jenny as well when he looked over to seek guidance, and getting a small nod he got to give him the good news. “Yes, we will be coming back again, so how about we mess about with the Lego this time.”

“You mean, si?”

“I do, we both do.” Hearing Sebastian use that very simple word in Spanish made him emotional because he taught him it.

“Okay, the best Lego is underneath the yellow box.” He dashed after Mark who was going to bring the wrong one over.

“Cheers, let’s play with the good stuff then.” They had a little under half and hour left which was plenty, but also no where near enough.

Nudging Natalie gently Jenny nodded towards the door, there was a glass panel they would be able see through to meet the criteria. “You’re going to talk to them afterwards aren’t you?”

“Yes, this is their first one to one.”

“Really? Hmm.” She was even more impressed now. “They got him to do homework.”

“Told you they were naturals.”

“You did, but we’ve decided that Sebastian needs an experienced family, people that have had children, or have adopted before, as lovely as these two are, they have no experience.”

“True, but…” Natalie looked into the room to see all of them all working together to build something. “We’ve had those sort in here with him before and he hasn’t really responded to them, this is the first time he’s looked that happy and relaxed. Christ, they’ve got him to do his homework.”

“I know.” Jenny sighed. “I know, but we’ve done this before and it’s backfired.”

“Do think this would backfire? They’re building a bloody house for christ’s sake.” Raising an eyebrow at her Natalie endeavoured to press the challenge until she got an answer.

“No, but...no.” She had been in the business long enough to recognise a good match, and this was possible one of them. “Are they really like this, this isn’t a show?”

“No, they are so genuine, they just want to start a family and to quote them, to give a kid a chance. They’re settled, they’re getting married and they’re prepared to work hard at getting it all right.”

“Shortcuts?”

“Never asked.” She replied quickly while shaking her head.

“Then perhaps you should tell them a bit more about Sebastian, let them know what they could be letting themselves in for.”

Natalie had an inkling that no matter what she told them Mark and Fernando would follow their hearts over the matter. By she didn't have to wait for long as the hour was up on their meeting. "Hey guys, time's up I'm afraid." She said as she opened the door.

"No!" Sebastian called out. "Not long enough." He huffed.

"I'm sorry Sebastian, but you know how things work." Jenny cut in to explain.

"It's not fair." He pouted. "They can stay for tea."

"Seb, it's just a short meeting this time to make sure everything is okay." Mark crouched down to be face to face with him. "We'll be coming back."

"Promise?"

"We promise." Fernando agreed with a broad smile. "I have to teach you some more Spanish."

"Okay." Sebastian wanted to go with them.

"But how about I teach you how to say goodbye in Spanish before we go?"

"Si!"

"We say, adios. Adi...os." Fernando split it up and said it slowly to give Sebastian a chance to get it.

"Addyoz."

"Almost perfect."

"Addyoss. Say it again for me please." He wanted to get it completely right before they left.

"Adios."

Saying it in his head first he tried really hard to sound like Fernando. "Adios?"

"Brilliant, you are very clever." He praised warmly with a pat on the back.

"Very impressive buddy." Mark joined in. "See if you can remember that for next time, huh?"

"You are coming back?"

"Yes Seb, we really want to see you again."

Jenny liked what she was seeing, both Mark and Fernando were working together to soothe his worries, in fact everything she had seen of them was calm. Sebastian needed that sort of influence in his life, but he needed more too. "Sebby, it's time to go now."

"Seb!" He knew he shouldn't have shouted, but it was her fault for calling him a baby name. "Am too old to be called Sebby." Shoving the spellings into the pocket he clipped them to the front of his book.

"Okay, but there is no need to shout."

"Sorry." Sebastian huffed.

"Properly." The word was out of his mouth before he gave it much thought, and Mark hoped he hasn't made a mistake.

"Sorry. But I'm not a baby."

"No you're not. But we still must go, say goodbye to Fernando and Mark." Jenny could see the attachment and wanted to get Sebastian back into his routine before things got stressful. "Come on now." She promoted.

"But they are coming back?" Sebastian asked Jenny quietly.

"Yes, that's they will talk about once we've gone."

"Adios Fernando, adios Mark." He tried to smile but he wasn't sure if he'd see them again, everyone else said they would come back and never did.

"Adios. We really are coming back."

"Bye Seb." Mark waved as he was taken out of the room gently with Jenny by his side. He was glad Natalie was here because questions were flooding his mind, and seeing the frown on Fernando's face suggested he was in the same position.

"Right, let's start with a few things about Sebastian, or should I say Seb?" She chuckled.

"Yeah, that might be my fault." Mark admitted. "When we had that accidental first meeting I called him Seb out of habit, I knew a Sebastian back at university."

"I'll pass that on to the guys here, he's been demanding that everyone calls him Seb now." Natalie grinned.

"Pass on my apologies."

"There's no need, it was a surprise because it's new behaviour, let's go to one of the rooms with proper sized furniture shall we?" Once they were all settled she began to explain more about Sebastian. "Starting from the beginning, Sebastian's mother passed away when he was two, he then went to stay with family for a couple of years, but he was passed around a lot when it suited them."

It became achingly clear why he was so anxious over whether or not they were coming back Fernando thought at he reached for Mark's hand.

"And a couple of days after his fourth birthday he was given up for adoption, they couldn't care for him any longer."

"His family just gave him up?" Mark asked quietly, his voice on the verge of breaking, he couldn't contemplate a family doing that to one of its own.

"Yes, so I've guessed you've seen a few consequences of that, he's got separation anxiety, and abandonment issues. And that's fed into a need to please, but it's as if he sometimes aware of that and retreats."

"That's understandable." Fernando muttered, he couldn't believe that a family could do that to such a sweet child. To their own family.

"So...you're trying to tell us?" Mark wanted to know outright.

"That the Seb you see, he's not the Seb they deal with day to day."

"We gathered that, we've talked about it, wondering why he hasn't been adopted yet. Not to say there's anything 'wrong' with him..."

"Is more like curiosity." Fernando finished.

"Does this change anything?" She had never doubted them, but there was an air of concern about them that was new.

"Well."

Mark began and Natalie's heart sunk.

"Does this mean they won't consider us, because we've never had kids?" Natalie beamed at him and he wasn't sure why. "What is it?"

"That's your concern?"

"Yes.” Fernando nodded. “I know is not going to be an easy thing for any of us, and harder for Seb as he has been through so much. But me and Mark, we discuss this and now we know his own family do this to him, makes me angry." Fernando balled his fists up for a moment before forcing himself to relax. "He is so kind and smart, they are...maybe there were reasons...but they should have...we will always fight for him. He deserves to be loved, so much." He felt Mark's hand rub circles over his back to calm him down. "Sorry."

"Fernando, this sort of passion is going to keep you strong through this process. It's going to be tough, really tough."

"But so worth it, I hope Seb will like us enough to let us be his new family." He was beginning to feel helpless.

"We'd know if he didn't like you." Natalie smiled. "He's quite opinionated."

"We've noticed." Mark chuckled, feeling a bit more at ease. "Do we have a fighting chance?"

"There's not guarantees guys, and I'll always be honest with you, so yes there are maybe a few questions about your experience. But we've had parents in here before that couldn't quite get in with Seb, so in my opinion you have a good a chance as anyone." She had to be guarded, she had no option.

"That's all we needed to hear." Mark smiled shyly. "That's all we need." Rubbing Fernando's leg he waited until he saw his features soften. "Thank you for this Nat, so I guess we should ask where we go from here."

"Top of the agenda is the next meeting, same set-up, same length."

"Next week?" Mark asked hopefully.

"Yes." She replied to two hugely relieved faces. “Things are moving along now, aren’t they?”

Chapter Text

“Hey. Is Jenson about?” Breathing a little harder than usual from jogging around from Rothmans he waited for one of the guys running around to shout an answer in his direction.

“Yeah. Back.”

“Cheers.” Slipping under the gap in the counter David weaved his way carefully amongst the gaggle of workers until he found Jenson, in the kitchen and looking like he had been dipped in chocolate. “Hey.”

“Oh, hey, this is a surprise.” Leaning across he made sure to avoid transferring the spray of cocoa powder his had all over his shirt he kissed David firmly.

“A nice one?”

“Always.”

“What are you making?”

“Truffles, need enough to coat that monstrosity over there.” Nodding his head at the eight layer cake in the glass fronted fridge he heard David groan. “Exactly, I’ve tried to persuade her otherwise, but the customer is always right.”

“Wedding?” David asked.

“Welcome home party, it’s for someone I know actually, weird twist of fate.” When Nicole rang him up he guessed it would be a wedding consultation, it was the typical time of year that his books started to get filled up with white, ivory, ecru, and eggshell toned multi-layer cakes. Chocolate wasn’t unusual, but when he got a very sharp reply after he enquired whether or not it was a wedding cake he then got a softer explanation. Lewis was getting out of rehab. He didn’t bother asking why, mainly because it wasn’t his place to, and he didn’t look into it, simply because he want to know why someone else he knew was in rehab.

“Oh right, guess you can’t tell me.”

“Not really, not here anyway.” Turning his head he kissed David again with a smile. “Guess I can’t persuade you to help out, can I?”

“Not without breaking several health and safety protocols.” David whispered into his ear.

“Naked, huh? Hmm. Oliver, you ready for your next delivery?” Jenson called out as soon as he heard the back door go.

Jenson switched between personal and professional so easily it knocked David back for a moment, but after a few moments they were back to being alone in their corner of the kitchen.

“Naked and covered in chocolate? Or naked and making chocolates?”

“Jense.” David whined under his breath. “Jesus christ.”

“Yes?” Jenson cooed with a very definite twinkle in his eye.

“Shut up before I’m late back.”

“Alright.” He swatted David’s arm instantly regretting it because it left a chocolatey handprint behind. “And not that I’m complaining that you’re here, but was there a particular reason?”

“Uh, yeah, it’s two things. I was thinking that we should invite Paul and Nico over finally, and Mark and Fernando as well for a dinner party. Celebrate us moving in together.” He began.

“Hey, that’s a great idea.” He wondered why he hadn’t thought of it before, but then remembered how much he loved the bubble of just going home to David, chatting about their day, mooching around and then cooking dinner together. Now they moved in time, no bumping into each other, passing ingredients and knives between themselves with ease. “That’s number one, what’s the other thing?”

“Ah, yeah, well, um…”

“Come on now, don’t leave a man waiting.” Bumping his shoulder into David he tried to wipe the worry off of his face.

“We’ve both got this weekend free right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to come up to Scotland with me and meet my family, I just thought that with us moving in together it would make sense, and they pretty much think that you’re make-believe. So it would be great to prove that you are definitely real.”

Chuckling Jenson nodded. “Of course, you’ve met mine several times now, it’s only fair. Haven’t you shown them any photos?”

“Uh huh, but with you being on tv they just think I’m a delusional stalker.”

“Oh that won’t do.” Making a bad attempt to brush the cocoa powder off David’s shirt with a tea towel, Jenson eventually gave up and apologised with a kiss when he saw him glance at his watch. “How long you got left for lunch?”

“A little bit.”

“Good.” He muttered as he washed his hands clean, and the moment they were dry he dragged David outside by his shirt.

“Have you had a break today?”

“Truffles won’t make themselves.” Jenson grinned. “I’ve stopped for a cup of tea.” He knew that worried look. “But...now I fancy something else, something a little sweeter.” Popping a fresh truffle into his mouth he rolled it around to warm it up and to start melting it.

“You brought me out here to watch you eat?” All he got was a slow shake of the head to suggest there was something else going on. Then Jenson revealed all by bringing him in for a deep kiss, wrapping his arms around his neck he licked his way into his mouth, the rich sweetness heightening his senses. There was a buzz from the sugar now coating his tongue, the quality good enough to stop it from being sickly, and it had him coming back for more, until a need for oxygen broke them apart. “I like this side of you.”

“Yeah?” He just had the idea while he was making them, the repetitive motion letting his mind drift off.

“Yeah, of course, this little kinky side tucked away inside has me all kinds of intrigued.”

“I’m not...yeah...really not like that.” There was no hope for him, his face was burning hot.

“Sorry for pushing. It was meant as a compliment, I like trying out new things with you.” He consoled. “Seriously, it’s so refreshing.” Surprises for him used to mean all manner of things, but it was never good, or it started out feeling that way until it took a dark turn.

“I don’t want to be a prude.”

“You’re not, and it’s not a bad thing if you were. Jense, yeah we’ve gone a little faster with our commitment to each other, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with going slower elsewhere.” After a brief pause Jenson flashed him the most gorgeous smile. “I mean what’s wrong with spending a little extra time in bed figuring out what we like, what we’re good at, what we do extremely well.”

“Sorry, I just get a bit inside my head with sex sometimes.”

“You certainly didn’t with the chocolate, and that definitely worked.” Kissing him again he tied to chase the lingering hints of dark chocolate. “You can’t do anything wrong okay, just...chill out and keep making truffles.” His watch was calling to him and giving in he knew he had to go. “See you at home.”

“Yeah, home.”

And the smile that little word caused left them both smiling until it was time to clock off.

---

Now he was regretting listening to himself because doing so had left him reclining on the sofa topless, a few treats from the bakery in arms reach just waiting to hear the door open. And the more the seconds turned into minutes the panic began to rise, but Jenson knew he had to trust his instincts, just like David suggested.

“Jense, you about?”

“Yeah, living room.” Cursing himself loudly in his head he reached out to pick up a less than perfect truffle, ones he had to categorise as a factory second, and nervously placed it on his body.

“Hey...oh...hello.” Jenson was reclining on the bigger sofa, legs slightly spread, a chocolate nestled in his navel. “For the record I love experimenting.” Bending over he braced one arm on the back on the sofa and dipped down low enough to flick his tongue around the sweet treat.

“David...I...please.” He couldn’t believe how wrecked he was sounding already. “Oh!” David had sucked the chocolate into his mouth, just letting his teeth graze the sensitive skin around his navel.

“Hmm, suddenly I'm craving sweet things." David remarked nonchalantly. "I think we best go upstairs and really sort me out." Getting up first he darted into the kitchen and grabbed the bottle of chocolate sauce usually reserved for ice cream.

"David?" Jenson peeked into the kitchen to see David waving a bottle at him. "What is...oh." He grinned at what was about to happen and let himself be dragged upstairs to be devoured.

---

"I can still smell chocolate." Jenson whispered hoarsely.

"That's not a bad thing." David replied as they found their seats.

"I hope your family think the same."

"They won't get close enough to notice." Leaning in he pressed his nose against Jenson's neck and breathed in deeply. "And you're being paranoid, unfortunately I can't smell a thing."

"But it went everywhere." Jenson smirked. The silk thin threads were followed by David's tongue, and the thicker they got the more he lapped at his skin. There was a pool in his navel that was sucked and nibbled clean, his nipples were teased and tormented when David used the coolness of the sticky liquid to make them sensitive.

"Maybe we should use caramel flavoured next time, switch it up?" He was hopeful it wasn't going to be a one time thing.

"Your turn next." Jenson sniggered as they were shot a curious look from the woman sat across the aisle from them.

Listening to the safety announcement as it was acted out by a stewardess Jenson held onto David's hand, it was all the safety he needed. And a little over an hour later they were touching down in Scotland and heading towards the hire car desk to pick up their ride for the weekend.

"I'm driving." Jenson hooked the keys onto a finger. "You programme the sat nav." He knew David was exhausted from a busy week and left him without a chance to argue.

"Cheers." He had been rushed off his feet all week and to be able to sleep a little longer would do him the world of good.

Keeping himself entertained by silently mouthing along to the radio Jenson snuck a couple of glances at David as he slept, head tilted back he was snoring gently, barely audible above the noise of the engine. The scenery was beautiful, and with the wedding season in full swing at the shop he couldn’t stop himself thinking about marriage. Maybe David was the one, maybe after the years of hurt and therapy he had found the love of his life, after years of wondering whether it was boys or girls. It was him. Maybe they could get married up here?

“You should get some lessons if you’re planning on singing me to sleep.” David mumbled.

“I wasn’t singing.” He was doing it in his head, wasn’t he?

“You were Jense, it was sweet.” Feeling more awake he looked around properly to see where they were. “Take the next right.”

“But the sat nav says left.”

“By all means ignore the man who grew up here.” He huffed with a knowing smile.

“Smart arse.” Jense shot back with a glint in his eye as he flicked the indicator up to go right, a quick check in the mirrors and he turned off, David took care of the turning the digital map off and proceeded to give him the directions to and eventual stop.

“Here we are.”

“Okay, I’m nervous now.” Jenson admitted, he had been fine and looking forward to it, but it was very different actually being here.

“Why, just proving you’re real makes you a winner.” He laughed while unclipping his seatbelt. “Seriously Jense, just be you, that’s all.” Leaning across he kissed his cheek before getting out, they had only brought one suitcase between them and with Jenson still sat in the driving seat he retrieve their shared bag.

“David!”

“Hey!” His mum must have heard them arrive, and going to reassure Jenson he found that Jenson had done it himself and was getting out of the car with a cautious smile on his face.

“And you must be the famous Jenson Button we’ve been hearing about, so glad to finally meet you.” She warmly embraced Jenson and was glad he returned the action, Allan was so standoffish when they finally met, this was a breath of fresh air.

“Hi Mrs Coulthard.”

She laughed softly at how timid he sounded, he didn’t come across that way on television. “Please call me Joyce. And come inside, David will deal with your bags.”

“Bag.” David corrected.

Choosing not to remark on that Joyce left the awww inside and showed Jenson to the living room, she had heard plenty of things from David about what he was like, but she wanted to figure some things out herself. And she wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as last time, no matter how happy David seemed, she would never forgive herself for not speaking up before.

“So Jenson, David never really gives me any details…”

Jenson filled in as much information in the supposed gaps David had left open, but there weren’t really may to fill in, and that had him smiling to himself because it meant he talked a lot about him. It meant they were acting the same, his mum had spent ages on and off drilling him, and he got it because it was a complete turnaround from the phone calls he made before either crying or saying nothing at all. And it must be the same for Joyce.

“Where’s the toilet?” Jenson muttered to David under his breath.

“Top of the stairs, right in front of you.” Rubbing his back softly he let his hand drift up with him as he got off the sofa and place the empty mug on a coaster. He could see how desperate his mum was to give her opinion and gave Jenson half the flight of stairs before giving her the opportunity. “So?”

“I like him, he’s a lot shier than I imagined though, with him being on television I’d thought he’d be, you know, louder.” She went to continue but David was blushing. “What is it?”

“That’s how he is, he’s shy and gentle, and so kind. And he’s not doing so much television anymore, focusing on the shop instead.”

“And spending more time with you I hope.” Joyce grinned. “Oh I recorded all of the series on the plus box thingy, me and the girls watched it together, he’s very handsome.”

“Mum.” He sighed lightheartedly.

“It’s true, those freckles are dashing.”

Jenson heard the word dashing and the look of bemusement on David’s face and wondered what was going on, but he didn’t say anything when he sat down so he ignored it.

“Ah, here’s your dad.” Getting up Joyce went to greet her husband at the door.

“Otherwise known as Duncan.” David informed. “And mum thinks your freckles are dashing.” He chuckled just as he dad came into the room.

“Right then, let me meet the man who has my son smiling from ear to ear.” Duncan announced.

“Hello...sir.” Jenson stammered, unsure how to act, the last time he met parents he was young enough to definitely get away with being formal.

“Ach, call me Duncan.” Sticking his hand out to Jenson he was glad he shook it firmly, it said a lot about a person, Allan almost wrenched his arm off trying to prove himself. “Sorry I wasn’t back earlier, Jack brought his son with him, and he supports the wrong team.”

“No worries dad, we’re here for the weekend remember.”

“Good stuff, you can come with me tomorrow.” Patting the arm of his chair happily he was thankful Jenson had impressed his wife, she had given him a quick thumbs up at the door, and after their experience of Allan and the chaos he caused it was a welcome change.

“That sounds like fun.” Jenson agreed for the both of them.

“Wait until you get there, we’ll be the youngest.” David grumbled, his father had been trying to get him to go for years, every time he went home it was the first thing out of his mouth.

“I might be.” He shot back with a cheeky grin. “You, perhaps not.”

Joyce looked on in wonder as they gently bickered over the age gap, and shooting Duncan that look they both were content to listen in quietly and experience the easy way they interacted. It was kind and loving. It was so welcome.

“I better get on with dinner then.”

“I’ll help.” Jenson let go of David’s hand to stand up.

“Don’t be silly Jenson, sit sit.” She shooed him away with her hands, there was no need for him to help out. “You’ve been travelling.”

“That’s no excuse.” He shot her a smile and followed Joyce out into their kitchen, and immediately saw why David had a love for cooking. It was so homely and cosy, there was bread proving and fresh bread ready to be eaten, a huge victoria sponge with a couple of slices cut out of it too.

“Sorry about the mess.”

“What mess, kitchens are meant to be used, it’s the heart of the home.” He shook his head.

She carefully watched him look around, doing his best to be as subtle as he could. “I’ve always thought that, although David never did.”

“Yeah?” He took the knife he was handed and waited for his next instruction.

“Carrots or leeks?”

“I can do both, sliced?” Taking the bundle of vegetables out of the tray he placed them next to the thick wooden chopping board, but waited because he wanted to hear the story behind her comment about David.

“That would be lovely. Yes, so David hated cooking, refused to help me unless he was force to, he’d do any other chore but help me out. It was all about cycling, training and racing, for years and years.” She chuckled lightly along with Jenson. “It was only when he was considering retirement that he realised he needed another job!”

“He said that you were his inspiration.”

She felt her cheeks flush. “Well, I didn’t do anything.”

“David said you made him make a loaf of bread, that it was during the proving time that he was forced to slow down and properly think about something other than cycling for once. He said he was feeling a bit lost until his mum set him right.”

“That was nice of him to say.” Things had gotten a bit heated as when he initially refused to discuss his future, instead focusing on cycling. “Afterwards he visited a few bakeries, mentioned called Prost’s in Paris.”

“Really? That’s where I did my apprenticeship.” Excusing himself silently he poked his head into the living room to see David and his dad deep in conversation. “You never told me about Prost’s.” Grinning after seeing David getting embarrassed he returned to Joyce.

“He seems like a good guy, he is, isn’t he?”

David had just about managed to avoid talking about Jenson, thinking it wasn’t something his dad would have been too keen on, so it came as a bit of a surprise when he brought it up. “Yeah, he really is.”

“He does treat you right?”

“Dad.” His face was showing concern that he wanted to get rid of.

“Look, I do not want to ever have to visit my son in hospital again.” The phone call at work was bad enough, but then seeing him with his face bruised, his nose broken and arm in a cast still haunted them.

“Dad, Jenson...he went through a rough time too with his last partner. He um...just upped and left one day.”

“God, left?”

“Yeah, I don’t want to go into details, but, I mean we’re still not sure what happened, he’s in rehab at the moment.”

“Huh?”

“He resurfaced earlier in the year, Jenson’s paying for it.”

“And…” He could tell David wasn’t entirely okay with it.

“It’s such a kind thing he’s doing, and I was really fine with it, but...it doesn’t matter. What does is that me and Jenson are good, he’s amazing, and our life is great and it’s so easy. Actually easy, I don’t need to think about what I say, or the tone I use, when I can call, when I can’t call.”

“Life is good?” He didn’t need to ask, but he wanted to hear the confirmation.

“Life is brilliant.” David replied heartily.

---

“You don’t have to come.”

Jenson looked out across the full car park before coming back to David. “I came here to meet your family, your sister is family.” Squeezing his hand he took it into his own and held it for a few moments. “But only if she’s up for visitors, if not I’ll wait outside.”

“Okay then, I’ll go in first.” Locking the hire car up they went to go into the main entrance, he already knew which ward she was one and led Jenson through the lifts and corridors until they were in the oncology wing.

Jenson knew things weren’t good with his sister, but he was always so positive and optimistic so he wasn’t too worried about the future, with what happened with his father he realised it didn’t do much good to dwell on the ‘what ifs’. “I’ll wait here, come get me if you want.” Kissing David lightly on the cheek he tucked himself out of sight of the ward David walked into and out of the way of the nurses who were dashing about.

“Jense, hey, you can come in if you want.”

David’s face came into view to break him out of his daydream. “Okay.” Keeping his voice down Jenson followed him to the bedside of a pale, but pretty woman.

“Ah, so you are the infamous Jenson Button.” She smiled.

“I am indeed.” Returning the smile he took up one of the chairs beside the bed, but he quickly found himself alone.

“David could you get me some apple juice please? The good stuff is in the shop just outside the main entrance."

“Of course, and play nice.” He warned with a grin before leaving them both behind.

“He’ll be a while, means I can tackle you.”

“Oh, um, okay." Jenson stumbled before realising it was her way of saying what his own sisters had already done. "Sisterly duty?"

"Of course."

"David had the same treatment with mine. It’s only fair.” Jenson laughed quietly to avoid disturbing the women opposite who was sleeping.

“It’s just that after…” She realised quickly that she wasn’t entirely sure what Jenson knew.

“Allen.”

The way Jenson flinched at speaking his name spoke volumes. “Yeah, him, after what he did to David, I have to make sure that doesn’t happen again. I can’t see him back in hospital…”

Jenson completely zoned out, white noise filled his head as he tried to process what Lynsey had just said, had Allen put him in hospital? Was it by his own hand, or did David do something in reaction?

“...so you can understand why I’m being protective.”

Jenson had to come around. “Yeah, of course Lynsey, I won’t hurt David, I don’t want to, I couldn’t. I couldn’t so that to him, I love him, and maybe you’ve heard it before, but I do, he...he made me see the possibility of a future, a real one.”

“Allen never told any of us that he loved David, he ‘really liked him’, ‘appreciated him being around’, ‘that his presence was useful’. That’s not how you describe someone important to your life.”

“No, I guess not.” He was still trying to figure out the hospital comment and so numbly shrugged.

“You had a rough time of it too?” There was a careworn look that flashed across his face.

“Yeah, my ex-partner left me, well, I think a more appropriate term is abandon. That’s why I cherish David so much, he’s such a great man, he deserves to be treated right.”

Lynsey felt overwhelmed by the way Jenson looked when he spoke so beautifully about her brother. “I won’t disagree there. So how the hell did a tv chef meet my dorky little brother?” She had heard the story in parts, but she wanted the full version to make sure she wasn’t missing out.

Jenson beamed, how could he not love telling the story, he was just having to repress the new information until they were back in London. “It’s through a university friend of mine, Mark, he wanted to get me ‘back into the field’ and set me up on a blind date with David at his partner’s exhibition.”

“I’ve already know that.” She dismissed lightheartedly. “I want the rest.”

“We chatted for a bit, but appetisers do not stop you from being hungry, so we skipped out and I took him to a place down the road, a late night cafe run by a friend. And we talked some more, and it was great, I wasn’t feeling up to dating but, my god, if I hadn’t met David...I dread to think!” He chuckled.

“Love at first sight?”

“Oh no, I don’t be...well I guess yeah, actually….maybe I have to. We kissed that night too, first time I had since Nico.”

“Is that a girl’s name?”

“No, male. The only other serious relationship I’ve had actually.” Noticing that Lynsey was licking her lips Jenson poured some water into beaker. “Are you thirsty?”

“A little, I’m not usually this pathetic, but the chemo is kicking my ass at the moment.” Accepting the cup she sipped at it carefully before putting it back down.

“You’re not pathetic, and although I’ve only just met you I gathered you’re not the sort to lay in bed all day. I’ve learned that Coulthards don’t do still very well.”

“Again, I can’t argue with you.” Smiling she heard David chatting to the nurses outside. “Just look after him.”

“I promise.” He replied solemnly, moments before David returned to his seat, juice in hand ready to give it over.

“You know, if you just wanted me gone to chat to Jense, you only had to say.”

“I do know that David, but this got you out of the way and now I have something tasty to drink.” Grinning as widely as she could manage she poured herself a little bit. “And if you want to know, Jenson passed. You can keep him.” She never would have thought to attempt such a joke, but with Jenson laughing away her fears were abated.

“Good to hear, makes moving in a bit easier.” Trying to keep his voice down was hard, but David was relieved she liked him, his sister could be quite cutting when she was up to it. She never liked Allen.

“You’ve moved in?” That was a bit soon.

“Uh huh, into Jenson’s, he has a proper house rather than some piddly little flat, and there’s less chance of being mugged at night too, it’s good.” David knew his sister thought they were being hasty, it was just her being cautious.

“Come on, tell me about it.”

Jenson began with how nervous he had been when he asked David to begin with.

“Mark?”

“Yeah?” He sounded wrecked. “What’s up mate?”

“I told David I love him.”

“And about time too, why do you sound so worked up about it?” Now Jenson sounded like he was about to be sick.

He was going to throw up. “I asked him to move in as well.”

“Woah, well it was going to happen eventually, wasn’t it?” David practically lived there anyway, and by what he had seen they had their own routine, so making it official was the only thing left. But he was so proud that it was Jenson who asked. “Scared?”

“Terrified.”

“Mate, as long as it’s the right sort of terrified, it’s all good.”

“There’s a right kind?” Jenson implored.

“Yeah, butterflies and being worried about what would have happened if you hadn’t asked, and wondering if it’ll be the same, and thinking how cool it’ll be to wake up to him every morning, see his favourite cup in the cupboard and knowing you never want it gone.”

“Your vows are going to be heartbreaking.” Jenson whispered and then gulped a huge breath before continuing. “I’m going to get a new key cut for him today.”

“Atta boy, I bet he feels the same, just talk it out mate. And let us know if you need a spare pair of hands.”

“I will definitely take you up on that.”

-

Making space was easy, throwing away old clothes and clutter was verging on fun because each thing that was put into a bag or cardboard box meant that David could fill it with something of his own. More of his own things anyway, because there were a few things already about that always made him smile, a bottle of cologne on the side that he wasn’t embarrassed to smell occasionally, tee shirts in the drawers, shoes in the hallway.

Now they were always going to be here, and he was grinning because of the security he felt because of that fact.

“Oh.” Rooting through the wardrobe to finally get rid of things he hadn’t worn since university he landed on a tee shirt that once belonged to Nico. Picking it out he already knew the material was going to be soft from being worn to death, it obviously wasn’t going to smell like him because it had been so long, but he couldn’t really remember keeping it. And he couldn’t recollect why he had hung it up like he lived in the house, now it seemed like a ghostly reminder he didn’t need or want.

But it wasn’t his to throw away, it belonged to Nico and Nico could have it back. Putting it aside in a carrier bag he stuck a post it to so he would remember to mail it to the clinic.

“No way.” He muttered to himself as he dragged out a shoebox he knew were filled with photos. Popping the lid off he saw the images he had stuck to the wall of the flat in Paris, he missed so many of his friends so to ease the occasional bouts of loneliness he started printing his favourite ones out. Plucking a bunch out he flicked through flashes of life at university, heady nights out at the union, trips to the beach, and boring study days in the library.

- Got some great pictures from uni of you and Fernando

* Can’t wait to see them :)

-

“So here’s your key.”

“I already have one.”

“I know, but that one was a spare, this one.” He swapped the keys around in David’s hand. “This one is brand new, specifically yours.”

“Thanks.” Putting it into the lock he opened the door to their home. “This is ours.”

“Yeah, it is.” The moment they were inside Jenson cradled David’s hands in his face, taking his time to bring their lips together into a teasing kiss. “Let’s get you moved in.”

---

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” David knew that was something up with Jenson, it was after they had visited his sister he found him to be a bit quieter than usual. “I know there is, my sister’s going to be fine you know.”

Jenson sighed as he put his bag back down. “Why didn’t you tell me that Allen put you in hospital?”

“What?” His throat clenched tight.

“Your sister mentioned that he put you in hospital, she said she didn’t want to see you back in hospital again.” Walking off into the living room he heard David following him. “That’s a big thing, huge, you know everything about me, everything, and you keep this from me.” He pleaded.

“Can't you guess why?” David shot back with heat in his voice. “Christ, the only reason my family found out was because I had ID on me. I didn’t want anyone to find out, I certainly didn’t want you to know.” His skin crawled with the same feeling of shame when he opened his eyes to see his parents sat next to his bed.

“David.” He reached out to hold his shoulders but Jenson recoiled when David flinched away. “David, please.”

“No, you can’t just demand this of me.”

“I’m not...not trying to. I just can’t deal with secrets.” His head was beginning to pound. “Sorry, David I’m so sorry.” Understanding he sometimes couldn’t deal with being crowded he didn't rush to hug him. “I don’t want to argue.”

“Jense.” David exhaled heavily as he fell into the sofa. “I don’t want you to think any less of me.”

“David.” Kneeling next to him Jenson rubbed his stomach softly. “That I can promise you.”

“Yeah, until you find out that I was making excuses for him while I was in hospital.” There wasn’t a way he could forget the horror on his mother’s face when he told her it was his fault.

“He abused you, he wanted you to feel like that. But that didn’t last forever did it?”

“It took far too long, Mark doesn’t know…”

“And I won’t tell him.” Cupping his cheek Jenson brought his face around gently so they could look each other in the eye before shutting his own to allow David some privacy.

So grateful that Jenson had done it David shut his eyes too. “He made me believe I wanted it. He told me...told me how hot it would be if he spanked me, so I let him but it wasn't fun, I hated it and asked him to stop." Slowly opening one eye he saw Jenson still had his eyes lightly shut. "He wouldn't. He wouldn't stop and I asked again and he punched me, he wouldn't stop, he never stopped."

Hearing David gasp Jenson reacted on instinct an developed him tightly in his arms. "I've got you." Rubbing circles on his back Jenson simply held him close, whispering endless reassurance until his breathing calmed down.

"I did leave though, I went back when he wasn't there, when I got out of hospital and grabbed whatever I could."

"You're so brave."

Jenson still had his eyes shut. "Jenson, look at me." He watched him flutter them open, the gorgeous blue coming into view, surprisingly without any pity. “If I was brave I would have pressed charges…but it was when I was low about having to retire.”

“Exactly, he took advantage of you, where he should have been supporting and helping you figure things out, he…” Jenson took a deep breath. “He treated you disgustingly, and yes you are brave because you did get out, you did stop it. You.” Stroking his face with a couple of fingers Jenson wondered what else he could say, but as he saw David’s eyes go shiny he knew. “Sorry.”

“Thank you.” He adored the way Jenson was slowly wrapping himself around him, pulling him close, calming him down quietly.

“Let’s forget about unpacking and get comfy.” When David nodded against him they both slowly untangled themselves from each other and slowly drifted upstairs, leaving the suitcase downstairs on purpose. Not needing to rush they took their time to change into a set of fresh pajamas, their eyes lingering on the pristinely made bed.

“We’re going to give in, aren’t we?” David asked.

“Uh huh, too good to resist.” Jenson nodded with a yawn. "I'll put a film on in the background, not that we'll see any of it." Laughing lightly he slipped into bed and held the covers back for David.

"Maybe it was worth getting it off my chest."

"I shouldn't have done it like that though, I should have thought about you. Fuck, David I really am sorry."

"I know you are." Snuggling down he buried into the pillow and exhaled slowly, letting his body relax. “Jense, that’s it you know, that’s all the dirty secrets I have.”

“It’s your past, we both definitely have one, but we are moving past them together, I hope.” Jenson wrapped his arms around David’s waist and spooned him. “I want to move past it all, I really want a future with you.”

“I’m still annoyed.” He whispered.

“I know, I’m still sorry.” Pressing his lips to the back of David’s neck Jenson tried to show exactly how sorry he was. “Truly sorry.”

“I wasn’t ever planning on telling you, I wish I had been, I can’t believe how well you’ve taken it.”

“You were never going to tell me?” Jenson muttered against his neck.

“No, why would I. I want to forget it ever happened.”

“Oh.” Jenson was torn, he knew he couldn’t be angry because of what David had survived, but a part of him was now wondering what else he was hiding. But it was something they were going to have to sort out between themselves, he couldn’t call in reinforcements now. “Is that it? Is there anything else?”

“What do you mean?” He huffed not bothering to try and turn over, Jenson should just get why he didn’t want to talk about it.

“Is there anything else you’re not telling me?”

“Why…” He could feel Jenson’s heart begin to race. “Why are you panicking?”

“I’m a bad person.” Jenson admitted. “I can’t get past it in my head, I don’t want to fight over our pasts, but...David I want to support you. I want you to know you can talk to me about this sort of stuff. I want to be there for the crap and the great.”

Jenson was squeezing him to the point of being painful. “Jense, let go.” Prising his arms apart he turned over, running a hand through his messy hair a couple of times. “I’m not going to leave you, okay, I’m not going to disappear on you.” Closing his eyes he dug deep. “I never got help, I’ve ignored it for so long. I just got into baking, learning all about it allowed me to ignore what happened. I buried it inside, and maybe that wasn’t the smartest decision but giving into Mark was.”

“Sorry.”

“No, neither of us is going to apologise anymore for this sort of shit, we’ve spent far too long doing it. I know you didn’t mean to Jense, I do.” Nuzzling close into him David kissed his lips gently. “I can’t bear the idea of him being anywhere close to what we have, it’s too good, too precious to me.”

“But I spanked your ass when we’ve had sex before.”

“You’re Jenson Alexander Lyons Button, kind, gentle, beautiful, fun, naughty, and surprising. You’ve never scared me, and I’m not frightened of you.”

He couldn’t imagine David being frightened of anything. “Please know you can talk to me about the difficult stuff, we’re a team.” Cupping David’s cheek he rubbed his thumb over his cheek. “The dark doesn’t scare me.” Launching into a heated kiss he had to show David how passionate he was about sharing.

“It is to me sometimes.” Admitting it was painful, more painful than almost anything he had done before.

“Good thing I eat a lot of carrots then.” Pecking the tip of David’s nose he caught a glimmer of a smile on his lips. “David, I’ve got you, know that please. I’ve got you.”

“I do. Still don’t want to talk about it though.”

“Okay, how about some sleep?” Jenson suggested through a yawn.

“Uh huh, I’m exhausted.” Wriggling down a bit he silently asked to put his head on Jenson’s chest, usually it was the other way round, but the feeling of vulnerability was starting to creep up on him. However it wasn’t given enough time to latch onto him as Jenson arms were surrounding him, and together they fell asleep, the film finishing long after sleep took them.

Chapter Text

“I’m looking forward to this, Jenson and David are the cutest couple.” Pottering around in the kitchen Nico busied himself with tidying up a few things from the draining board.

“What about us?” Paul snorted.

“We’re not cute, there is nothing cute and fluffy about tying me to a bed and torturing me with a feather until I come.” With a smile curling his lips Nico turned around to face Paul with his hands on his hips.

“Don’t you dare tell me my puppy isn’t cute and fluffy.” Paul warned with a devilish grin. “Because he is, so adorable when I pet him.” He took slow sips of tea to watch Nico’s reaction. “And he had a beautiful tail, so long and thick. And he looks so handsome in his collar.” Nico whimpered as he used the side to brace himself. “He so fun to train, I love how excited he gets when he knows he’s been well behaved.”

“Paul.” Nico warned as best as he could. “We’re going to be late.” He groaned.

“As ever, you’re right.” Paul smirked. “But don’t ever say you’re not cute.”

“Hmm, if it gets you talking like that again I might have to deny a few things.” Rearranging himself Nico made sure he was good to go and followed Paul out to the car. With the bottle of wine in hand Nico wedged it between his feet to set up the sat nav to give them the directions to Jenson’s house. “It shouldn’t take us long.”

---

“Hey guys.” Jenson greeted Nico and Paul on the doorstep. “Come in, come in.” Ushering the pair of them in Jenson stood aside. “David’s slaving away in the kitchen.”

“I hope you haven’t gone to too much trouble.” Paul started.

“No, it’s nothing.” Jenson laughed. “We’ve been looking forward to our first dinner party.” He wasn’t going to reveal how long they had been pouring over recipes to decide the perfect menu, for the last week they had spent every free moment discussing it.

“Here.” Nico handed over the bottle of red wine. “I don’t know if it’ll go with anything we’re having tonight.”

“I’ll check with the chef.” Smiling he brought them along with him so they all make their introductions again with David. He smiled at how grown up they were all being, and seeing Paul again reminded him of all the stupid things they got up to at university, hideous hangovers and the nights that caused them, endless hours in the library and heartbreaking exams.

“Any word from Mark and Fernando?” David asked as he checked on the contents of the oven, now he was beginning to worry about over cooking it all.

“No, probably caught up with something or other.” Jenson replied, but he knew what David would be thinking about the timings. “I’ll go see what’s up.” Stepping outside the kitchen he called but didn’t get an answer, he left a brief message and left it as that. “No answer, I’m sure they’ll be here soon. They would have said otherwise.”

“True.” David agreed. “So am I going to hear lots of incredibly embarrassing stories about Jenson at uni, because I get the feeling the other two held back on me.” Checking on the progress of the sauce David turned to chuckle at Jenson sour face. “Hey. I need to know these things. And Mark has told you everything about me, my wardrobe of skeletons is completely empty.”

“Good stories?” Paul quipped.

“The best, I think my favourite was the one where David rode through a town naked signing the Scottish national anthem, not because he lost a bet, or was dared to, but because he wasn’t feeling Scottish enough that day.” Mark had barely got the story out between fits of laughter, and then they were all howling when he produced a video. “So is that a thing, not feeling Scottish enough?” He aimed at Paul.

“Not that I’m aware of.” He grinned. “But you never know when the feeling could strike.”

“See, it’s not weird.”

“I never said it was, all I said was that I was jealous I didn’t get to see it in the flesh.”

“Give me that bottle and you might get lucky.” David shot back to a room full of laughter.

“Is it alright?” Nico asked.

“It’s perfect actually, we’re having steak. House full of men, had to be done.” He had to stop Jenson stressing over it and suggested the simple dish so they could spend proper time together.

“Sounds and smell great.” Nico nodded and he breathed in through his nose, between them they cooked well, but now Nico was wondering if he and Paul should take some cooking lessons. Watching Jenson and David work around each other was...cute. “They are cute.” He whispered to Paul.

“Fine, they can be cute, we’re adorable.”

Nico laughed before kissing Paul on the cheek. “Alright, argument settled.”

“What are you two conspiring over?” Jenson heard them giggling amongst themselves.

“Nothing.” Paul smiled.

“Ah, stop it with the cute.” Warning with a wag of his finger Jenson went to return to chopping vegetables but the eruption of sniggering stopped him. “I’m not going to ask.” Shaking his head they all began chatting about general things, mainly focusing on Paul and Nico’s impending move to Germany, and the more they talked about it the more excited they all got. Even to the point of invitations being given to come visit.

“I’ll say it again, it’s typical we’ve reconnected now.” Paul sighed with a smile as he sipped at the glass of wine.

“Always the way, but at least we have, and you never know how long it’ll be for.” David offered. “Travelling for work isn’t all bad, not often you get paid for seeing the world.”

Paul mused on what David had said, he knew it had come from a place of experience, and hearing how buoyed Nico was at the prospect of being in own country he had to give up feeling like he was at fault. “Good point, well made.” Raising his glass they all clinked them together.

“And at least you’re doing it the right way round, you’ve already got the man you love beside you.” David had imagined how differently his career would have been if he hadn’t have been forced to drop out of races to cover up what Allan had done to him.

“Absolutely, I know how lucky I am.” Paul squeezed Nico’s hand under the table. “But you’ve got Jenson now.”

“And I’m thankful for that.” Checking the time on his watch he glanced nervously at the food.

“I’ll call again.” Jenson reassured with a pat to his shoulder, but this time he went downstairs to be out of the way, he didn’t want David overhearing if he didn’t get an answer. But as he found Mark’s number in his phonebook he heard chatter the other side of the door, and recognising the voices he opened it to see Mark and Fernando being very animated. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Mark answered before turning back to Fernando. “We just need to keep strong.” Turning back to Jenson he hugged him. “Sorry for being late, we’ve had a bit of a nightmare today.”

“It’s okay, I’m guessing it’s serious.” Jenson shut the door behind them both and followed them into the living room.

“Uh huh.” Fernando nodded before shooting a look at Mark, and when he saw the silent agreement he began to explain. “It’s to do with the adoption, we have been visiting a boy, Sebastian, but things got a bit heated today.”

“Oh.” They hadn’t mentioned Sebastian before.

“He’s worried that we’re not going to adopt him, he’s had loads of false starts with other people, but he’s amazing, so smart and funny.” Mark sighed. “He didn’t want to see us today, and we were prepared for this to happen, so we stuck around for a bit to chat to the people there, and then he wanted to see us but it was too late.” Fernando slipped an arm around his waist, and took over.

“We heard him crying, he wanted to see us, I think he hear us talking outside. But they wouldn’t let him because it was time for bed.” The sound of him crying played again in his head. “We asked to go see him, to help him calm down, but they wouldn’t. But we couldn't risk pushing too hard, but we tried for him.” Mark kissed the top of his head softly.

Jenson felt his heart clench at how crushed they sounded, clearly this little boy had a tight hold on their hearts already. No wonder they looked so wrecked.

“But he slipped out and, my god if we’d left, we were trying to sort each other out and Seb was clinging onto us, begging us not to leave him alone.”

“What happened?” Jenson asked desperately.

“That’s why we’re late, they gave us a bit of time to help calm him down.” And all that involved for them was reading him a story, Seb sat on Fernando’s lap as they both read to him, making up voices as they went, not happy until they got a giggle out of him. “Sorry.”

“Are you serious, don’t you dare apologise for that, jesus guys, this is...you can always be late if...come here.” Jenson hugged them both in turn. “This is family related, that’s above and beyond anything else.” Hugging them again he smiled. “So he’s okay?”

“Yeah, think so, I think it’s shaken us a bit, we’re starting to see what they meant, but it’s not scary, we just know how much love and protection he needs.” Mark exhaled happily.

Jenson could have died from how loved up they both looked, despite everything that had happened to them, they were grinning at each other peacefully. “You still hungry?”

“Yeah.” They replied in unison.

“We have not kept you waiting, have we?” Fernando asked at they followed him to the kitchen.

“No, not at all.” Jenson reassured as he sent a look to David to ask him not to question why they were late. “You know Nico and Paul.”

“Silverstone, right?”

“Yeah.” Nico nodded. “David’s the odd one out there, but he's got you on his side there, hasn’t he Mark.”

“No!” David interjected. “Not when he’s telling Jenson everything.”

“You’ve more than got your own back.” Mark reminded him.

“Ah yes, tears on your pillow…” David started to sing.

“Dare we ask?” Paul started quietly.

Mark sighed, but he was glad of the distraction after today. “No one knew about me and Fernando, but David always thought there was something between us, and Fernando was away for ages and we were fighting.” Mark waved his hand, that didn’t need explaining. “But from the middle of a warzone Fernando sent me a memory card with a video on it. David caught me watching it.”

“It was rather sweet, and I was right. How the hell no one else noticed, I don’t know, that’s the biggest surprise out of the whole thing.” David tasted the sauce and hummed, it was just right. “This is just about ready, shall we sit?”

“Yeah, the dining room is set up.” Jenson showed them to the table he had carefully set up, he had managed to contain himself and not use a tablecloth but he had used the best plates, beautiful hand decorated ones he had collected when he had been working in France. They were all different, but somehow they all worked together.

“So how are the pair of you, what have you been up to?” Fernando asked as they all sat down, Jenson had left them to it as he returned to the kitchen.

“Nothing much, just working.” Nico laughed. “Sorry it’s nothing as exciting as you two.”

“I suspect it’s more exciting than being retired.” Mark pointed out. “What do you do?”

“I’m a stockbroker.”

“And I’m soon to be unemployed.” Paul chuckled. “Soon to be transferred, to Germany in fact.”

“Wow, is an adventure.” Fernando beamed. “You are both going?”

“Uh huh, Nico wants to show me what a proper German Christmas is.”

“It’s amazing, you’ll stop with all the jokes when you see the markets.” Nico arched an eyebrow as he nudged him playfully.

“Here we go lads.” Jenson and David announced the start of dinner with their arms laden with plates. “Scallops with chorizo.”

Nico was careful with the wine but he loved listening to all the stories being traded around, especially the ones from Jenson about Paul before they met, the drunken singing that eventually turned into talk about how nervous he was when they were getting together. Nico thanked Jenson for giving such great advice after finishing his perfectly cooked steak, the sauce was divine and now his mind was made up. “We need to take cooking lessons.”

“I was thinking that too.” Paul mumbled before feeding himself the last piece of asparagus on his plate. “We should have a look at some deals.”

“Are you two married?” Nico noticed the rings.

“No, not yet. We haven’t got a date yet, just a lot going on at the moment, hopefully this year though.” He hoped it was going to be this year, he ached to be married to Mark, he wanted to take his name, become a Webber.

“Yeah, this year.” Mark backed him up. “We’ve agreed a few bits.”

Fernando huffed in good humour. “Apart from where, when, colours, the honeymoon. We have decided who's coming though, and Jenson is doing the cake.”

“And as soon as I get a date I’ll be able to finalise the design.” Jenson teased.

“Then we’ll do it soon, right Mark?”

“Sure buddy.” Wrapping an arm around his shoulder he squeezed him with a hand. “We will.”

“Anyone got room for dessert?” Jenson asked hopefully.

“I’m glad I’m not training anymore.” Mark rubbed his stomach.

“I second that.” David agreed knowing what Jenson was going to be bringing out.

“Por favor Jenson, I think we are ready.”

Tucking into the rich chocolate torte focus fell back to Paul and Nico's change of scenery. “It was Mercedes right?”

“Yeah, for their DTM team.”

“Woah.” Mark whistled. “That’s awesome. Doing what?”

Paul did his best to explain the ins and outs of what he was going to be doing, but he still wasn’t completely sure of his role, but he would be once he went over to finalise things. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I don’t have a lot of options.”

“It’s not a bad option to have mate, be grateful you have one.” Mark cautioned in a friendly manner. “And talking of racing, me and Nano are off to Silverstone courtesy of Red Bull.”

“Show off.” David grinned.

“They’re angling for something but Dan won’t tell me until I turn up.”

“He’s nobody’s fool.” David shot back, he’d met Dan a couple of times, he was a shark with a dazzling smile.

“This is when I zone out.” Fernando chuckled at Nico and Paul, and as they finished off their slice of cake they talked amongst themselves and dragged Jenson in too whilst Mark and David talked bikes. And Fernando found himself really enjoying their company, they all had plenty of time at Silverstone to fall back on but they didn’t need it. They spent a good few hours chatting about anything that came into the conversation, whether it was related or not, a couple of debates had to be settled with Google, but when they realised the time they were all shocked about how quickly the evening had disappeared.

“We have to do this again.” Paul suggested. “Come to ours.”

“Sounds brilliant.” Jenson gave his thumbs up.

“Count us in too.” Fernando agreed for him and Mark.

“We better be off, got a bit of a drive home.” Nico explained. “But we definitely need to pick a date, how about in a couple of weeks?” Next week would have been fine, but he picked up on a strange vibe with Mark and Fernando about why they were late.

“Sure.” Came the consensus.

“See you later.” They shared their goodbyes and whilst Paul and Nico left, Mark and Fernando stayed behind on Jenson’s request.

“Just a minute guys.” Jenson wanted to make sure they were alright. “Are you sure everything is good between you?”

David could hear the hushed toned downstairs, and it was obvious that something was up with the pair of them, they were a little more reserved than usual and when he was talking to Mark that he was struggling with something, and that his mind was elsewhere. But tonight wasn’t the time to push him on it.

“Yeah, it’s just tough because there’s talk of them stopping the adoption because of our lack of experience, but Nat’s fighting for us, and I think we’ve got a good chance. We’ve got him doing his homework.”

“Guess I shouldn’t ever tell him how reluctant you were to do yours.” Raising an eyebrow Jenson was glad to at least see a small smile on their faces.

“No.” Mark shrugged.

“Hey, you need to keep strong on this okay. Sebastian needs that.”

“We know.” Fernando pursed his lips. “Is not fair though, we just want…” He could feel himself getting emotional. “Is not how we end tonight, it was great Jenson. Nico and Paul are lots of fun, will be good to see them again.”

“Definitely. Take it easy guys.” They hugged it out before parting ways for the evening.

“Are they alright?”

“Not really, this adoption stuff is getting to them more than they’re admitting, but they’re strong, and they deserve it so much.”

“They’ve found a kid haven’t they?” David guessed.

“Yeah. A tricky one by the sounds of it, I just wish there was something I could do.” Picking up plates as he went he piled them above the dishwasher David was filling up. “Something practical.”

“I think the best thing you could do is give them someone else to talk to, they’re destined to be parents.” David finished putting the used dishes away. “Mark always looked after the rookies.”

“They’ve fallen hard for Sebastian, I’m just worried what will happen if it doesn’t go through.” He mused aloud.

“Best not think about that, I’m sure it’s everyone be super cautious.” David didn’t want to think about the implications.

“True, how about we take the rest of the bottle upstairs and relax?” Without waiting for a reply Jenson took the bottle in one hand and two clean glasses in the other before sauntering off to their bedroom. He heard a sultry groan behind him and Jenson knew that the kiss David placed on the back of his neck wouldn’t be the last of the night. Nor would the hand that was resting on his stomach stay there. Their clothes would stay on the floor until tomorrow and their bodies would be wrapped around each other for hours.

---

“How lovely were Fernando and Mark?” Paul commented as they headed away from Jenson’s house.

“Yeah, very much in love.” Nico agreed, he was trying to imagine what their wedding would be like, but it wasn’t Mark and Fernando he saw walking down the aisle, or swapping vows, or kissing in front of their friends and family. But now wasn’t the time, their lives were about to be turned on its head and throwing an engagement into the mix wasn’t the most intelligent idea.

“It’s good to be around people like that, all of us...and we’re leaving.”

“You have seriously got to lose this chip on your shoulder about this, Paul, for gods sake Germany isn’t the other side of the world, we’ll make a home their. I’m sick of hearing you put yourself down around other people, at home you can control me with a couple of words, you are so powerful, so in control.” Lifting his hips up he wanted to tease Paul into taking over. “Look, if you had been head hunted you would be holding your head up and spanking me.”

“How did I get so lucky?”

“What do you mean?” NIco knew he wasn’t that good with words to turn things around that quickly.

“Finding you, sometimes I wonder if I would have ever found you if it wasn’t for that night.”

Nico laughed. “Ja, if you hadn’t punched me in the face and then tempted me back to yours, who knows. But then it proves it was destiny, like this is. Who knows what we’ll find in Germany, and where that could lead?”

Reaching over Paul patted Nico’s leg. “Thanks.”

“Danke, it’s pronounced danke.”

“Cheeky little shit.” Paul huffed before they both began to laugh together. Tonight he was happy to share and when they got back he would kiss Nico tenderly, holding him tightly to his chest as they lay in bed, happy to fall asleep like that, simply them.

---

“Am exhausted.” Fernando mumbled as he locked the front door.

“Me too buddy.” Remembering Jenson’s great advice he took Fernando into his arms and held onto him tightly. “But we’re doing good, we just need to keep going.”

“I know.” Tucking himself up into Mark’s embrace he felt calmer. “I know.”

With his chin resting on the top of Fernando’s head he enjoyed the simplicity of it all. “Fancy a film in bed?” Feeling the man below him nod slowly they waited a while before moving.

“I can’t wait for it to be more than us.”

Chapter Text

It felt like he was hovering a foot off the ground being as busy as he was, it had been non stop since he began to get the karting competition off the ground, they had received a fair few agreements from the teams, and as soon as it hit twitter the requests came flooding in.

“Seb!”

“What?” Sebastian shouted out of the office back at Heikki.

“Ferrari are here.” Jogging into the office he saw the look he knew Sebastian would be wearing. “I know, I think you’ll have my job after this.” Grinning he walked over and gave him a brief hug, apologising for being a bit sweaty. “Some of us have been working.” He smirked.

“I don’t want your job, it’s yours Heikki, you earned it.” He didn’t need that sort of turmoil in his life, the thought of it made his stomach churn.

“Hey, it’s alright, I was only joking.” Sebastian’s face twisted up a little and he hated him feeling like that, he hated seeing that look on him at university. “You’ll have to wrestle it off me.”

“I’m no good at wrestling.”

“Alright then, Ferrari.” Heikki reminded with a smile.

“Shit, yes, do I look alright?”

“You look...great. Go on.” It would have been a mistake to call him gorgeous, even though he was. They had kept up their regular dinner date at each other’s house over the months, more often than not at his place due to Sebastian rarely having any food for them both to eat. But sometimes Heikki wondered if it was done on purpose because Sebastian always seemed so relaxed and comfortable curled up on the sofa as they watched another film. That could just be him though, it could be him wanting Sebastian to like spending time with him.

Trying to remain calm he used Heikki’s presence to keep himself that way as the current Ferrari star came into view, Jules Bianchi. Handsome, daringly fast and definitely one of the nice guys. “Hello Jules.” He had risked being informal from the first driver because he thought as they were here to kart, they were here to have a bit of fun. “I’m Sebastian, and I help run this place with Heikki who’s my boss.”

“Bonjour Sebastian, Heikki, I had to do this, when I see all the things on Twitter, I know I have to. I need to beat Kevin again!” He laughed, Ferrari hadn’t been particularly enamoured with the idea, but Jules felt able to put his foot down and tell them he was going regardless. “But first I need to ask who is fastest.” He felt like a child at christmas.

“I can show you the leaderboard, we haven’t had Kevin in yet though, you can set down a marker if you want.”

“Is he going to?”

“McLaren seemed interested.” Although it wasn’t the sort of interested where the drivers would be sent, he knew when he was being given the run around, so he had decided to stop pressing the issue. But Jules didn’t need to know that.

“You need to get to the drivers Sebastian, you put me top I will call them all!” Holding his kit bag up he was eager to get on. “Where can I change?”

“It’s not very glamourous, but you can use our office.”

“Is fine, there is not much glamour in racing, is all a lie.” Grinning he let himself be led by Sebastian into the building, all the memories of when he first started to race came flooding back, he had come such a long way since then. He had already tweeted a photo of himself out of the front telling everyone how excited he was about going karting again, and knowing that Kevin followed him he continued to tweet through the process.

Sebastian had taken him through the safety talk even though he knew he was more than capable, but being part of the insurance agreement, he never missed it. “I hope that wasn’t too patronising.”

“It reminds me of when I was a child, actually made me more excited, things are very serious now.”

“I was being serious.” Sebastian laughed.

“I know.” Jules patted him on the back. “So is five laps in total?”

“Yeah, like Top Gear, four warm up and then we use your final one.”

“Tough.”

“Fair.” Sebastian shot back with a cheeky smirk.

“Alright, now is time to set the fastest lap!” It felt so good to climb into a kart, there was so much space and freedom, so much so that when he pulled up the start line to start his last lap the pang of nostalgia actually pained him. Sometimes he wouldn’t mind a bit more simplicity in his life. But he cleared his mind and focused on the task in hand, thinking about the other part of his life was not going to beat Kevin.

Sebastian watched on in awe as Jules threaded the laps together, learning about the track each time until his final lap naturally went right to the top, knocking three tenths off the leading time. He had such a smooth style on track, gliding through corners and powering down the straights so elegantly, Sebastian wondered if he could have raced like that.

“So?” Jules shouted as he hopped out of the car, helmet still on he realised his voice was muffled, so taking it off he jogged over to the leaderboard where Sebastian was stood. “So? How did I do?”

He couldn’t help but be buoyed by the purity of Jules’ excitement, sometimes racing against yourself was the toughest challenge. “Not bad at all.” Sebastian had already written his name and time down on the magnetic strip and was giving pause to raise the tension.

“Stop teasing!” Jules was wriggling from the need to find out.

Instead of telling him Sebastian turned to stick the strip on the board, starting low to a gasp he moved it up and up until he reached the top sport, just a small waver and he slapped it above all the other times.

“Oui!” Punching the air with his fist he jumped off the ground before hugging Sebastian tightly. “Come, come.” Sebastian was trying to step away, but he wasn’t having any of it. “I need a photo of us to tempt Kevin!” Swinging an arm around Sebastian’s neck he pulled him in for a selfie. “Now I must ask how fast you go.” Releasing him he scanned the board but couldn’t see his name.

“I haven’t set a time.”

“And you let him get away with this Heikki?” Jules could see his name in the middle. “You are the boss!”

“I’ve tried.” Heikki called from the other side of the track, this was Sebastian’s moment and he didn’t want to take anything from it, although encouraging him to actually set a time was a top priority.

“Not hard enough.” Jules shot back before returning to Sebastian. “Wear my suit and drive, we are the same size.”

He wasn’t exactly sure how it was happening but he had been swept back into his office and was now watching Jules Bianchi, Ferrari world champion, strip in the office, right in front of him. He had a great body, and of course he would because of how hard he trained, but he wasn’t broad enough to spark him up like Heikki did. Heikki was bigger than him, broad and powerful, strong and tough.

“Sebastian?” Holding his suit out Jules jiggled it to catch his attention.

“Oh, sorry, thanks.” He pulled on the suit and had to remind himself several times to breathe, but it was hard because it was a Ferrari suit. A Ferrari race suit. Scarlet. The team he dreamt of racing of when he karted. The dream that was ripped away from him because his could write.

“I think maybe you do not need the safety talk, you give it all the time.” Chuckling a little he followed Sebastian back to the track once he had dressed, he was already sat in the kart, his own helmet planted firmly on his head, with the neck brace in place. It only took him a couple of moments to be left wondering why on earth why Sebastian working here and not out on a track, he was such a natural, so graceful, there was no struggle to put the kart where it needed to be.

He had enjoyed some time on the track, but it wasn’t excessive because he rarely had the time. But he loved it. He loved the way his mind forget everything apart from racing, his focus pulled down into a laser point where it was him, the kart and the track. His last lap felt the most on the edge, the one where he put it all out there, left nothing in reserve and when he crossed the line he felt a little silly. It was only karting.

“Is this how he normally drives?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow, I do not mean this with any offense, but why is he here, why is he not driving, racing?”

“It’s a long story, but it’s down to timing and funding.”

“Can I borrow a suit?”

“Of course, I’ll get a kart sorted too.” They were supposed to be catching up on all manner of paperwork today in between sessions, and there was going to a be a batch public one to compete against the times for competition winners, but he was happy to prepare to tell them there was delay. A quick check on the tanks and he set them off to race, beginning side by side on the start line he commenced the countdown and set a camera up to record it all. Sebastian was racing Jules, he knew he’d want proof of this. As it was only ten laps he left them to it as he went in search of the batch of excited people to start getting them ready.

Poking his head into the circuit he saw a rather glum looking Jules and a shocked Sebastian.

“I won.” He whispered to himself just to make sure.

“Congratulations Seb.” He slapped his shoulder. “You need to race.” He was so quietly aggressive and smooth it was hard to get past him, or even attempt to. “I mean, how can you be happy here, when you are this happy racing?”

“Because…” He started, not knowing exactly how to finish. “It’s not that easy, I’m almost thirty, you don’t pick it up again this late.”

“You raced before?” They had stopped to lean against the railing in the viewing area.

“Yeah, only karts though, I wanted to get to Formula one.”

“Formula one isn’t everything, there is an open day at Maranello in the summer break for drivers, is not well known, but if you want to go, I will vouch for you.” Jules offered freely, there was something in the way Sebastian drove that had him excited.

“Are you serious?” He was taken aback.

“Of course, I want to see how you get on in something more powerful.” He smiled. “I need to go, but I have somethings you wanted, for the others, I signed some cards. But I can sign the suit too and leave that.” He tugged on the open zip.

“That would be amazing.” Sebastian beamed. “Thank you so much.”

They returned to the office to change back into their usual clothes and both shared a smile when they heard the excited chatter of everyone pouring into the circuit. They both knew how that felt. And in a few short moments they were back to how they were an hour ago.

“Even though you have beaten me on track twice, I have enjoyed this.”

“Twice?”

“You have the fastest lap, you need to put yourself on the board. Heikki has your time.”

“Wow.” He exhaled. “That board is for celebrities and sports stars, not me!” He shook his head.

“Who knows, maybe next year you will be the latter.” Jules gave him a final hug. “So I could bring someone here to have a go if they are well known?”

“The more the merrier.” Sebastian replied.

“Charles Pic, is that alright?”

“The model? Yeah, of course.” There were a lot of attractive French men about.

“He went to the university here, Silverstone, you know it?”

“Yeah, I did too.”

“After the race then, you better be cheering for me now Seb.”

“Win then.” Sebastian laughed as Jules slipped away unnoticed after scribbling his name on the race suit they’d both worn.

“Oh, I almost forgot, I need your details for Maranello.” Jules took his email and phone number, and as he walked back to his car he tapped in a reminder to get it all sorted with Ferrari before it was too late.

Jules Bianchi had his number and his email. They raced and he was won, and he had gone fastest. He had worn a Ferrari race suit. But he had a job to do, and it was unfair to stand in the office daydreaming and leave Heikki to do all the hard graft.

Heikki watched Sebastian appear at the other end of the room as he was organising the session, he was glowing.

---

Stepping off the plane he was heartened to see the weather was playing ball, the heat radiated down onto his travel weary body woke him up a little and knew he could make it to his final destination without falling asleep. Three months of working solidly had definitely taken its toll, and the trip from the other side of the world was the final straw for his stamina and resolve. Things were definitely going to change.

Passing through customs required him to have to give up the sunglasses that were sparing his blushes, his hair was a complete mess too through his own choice because he couldn’t be bothered to do it before getting off the plane. So stood making small chat he ran his fingers through his hair a couple of times to straighten it all out, crouching down a little he checked himself out in the reflective surface of the scanner, the bags under his eyes were telling.

The minute he was free to go he pushed the sunglasses off from his head and down his face, hiding his eyes from the world he kept them open enough to seek out the quickest way to the nearest taxi, with the address in his pocket he’d be there soon. But as he walking into arrivals with the throngs of other people glad to finally be at their destination Charles caught a glimpse at what he thought was his name, and doing a double take he saw he was right.

There was his name written in very familiar handwriting, with a smattering of smiley faces decorating the edges for good measure. It left him grinning despite the exhaustion, and tracking his gaze upwards he recognised the beautiful lips stretched into a gorgeous smile. Heart skipping a beat he dragged his bag behind him as he ducked under the barrier quickly, his feet skidding on the smooth floor thanks to his old trainers. He couldn’t say his name just in case someone heard, nor could he kiss him, but he could hug him, he could feel his warmth, he could breathe him in.

“Car is waiting outside.” He whispered, his lips purposely grazing Charles’ ear.

“Alright.” Charles nodded before eagerly following him outside, the heat again piercing his clothes easily as they tracked the car down. He didn’t want to speak again until they were alone properly, shut away in the car so he could hold his hand. But once they reached it, the brief time in the sun had raised the temperature inside, so watching the man he loved switch the engine on to dial up the air conditioning he stowed his suitcase away. “Jules.”

“Oui.”

His head popped up adorably.

“I’ve missed you.”

Jules beamed at hearing the sincerity in his voice, and actually hearing the words for real instead of across far too many time zones to count, but he wanted privacy to indulge in his every whim. “I have missed you too Charles, I think we can both stand the heat.” Slipping into the front seat he waited for Charles to slide in beside him, and once he was safely belted in he drove out and away.

The scenery held no fascination for him, he had Jules set firmly in his sights, leaning back on the headrest he turned to simply stare at him, his profile was utterly stunning, like something that should be studied and hung up in a gallery, a museum.

Checking up on Charles he chuckled to himself when he saw how crashed out his was, his lips were parted and slack from being truly relaxed. And that was good enough for him because Charles was here, finally here.

“Wake up sleepy head.” Jules whispered. “Charles.” Kissing little feathery ones up his nose, he trailed his lips along his killer cheekbones before teasing the edges of his mouth.

“Mmmm.” It all felt so good. “Jules?”

“Yes, my love.”

“Jules.” He sighed as he opened his eyes. “I love you.” His smile was radiant.

“I love you too.” It was the first time they had said it to each other in person and it felt magical. “You are tired.” He wasn’t going to give him a chance to argue the point as he often did. “You need to sleep.”

“You too, you race.”

“Tomorrow.” Jules asserted. “Today I look after you.” He wanted nothing more to put Charles to bed and watch him sleep, he had rushed through the last of his interviews to make sure he was on time to pick him up. Nothing was ever set in stone because he knew what his press officer was like, and not saying anything meant it was more likely to happen.

“Am tired.” All the nervous anticipation, the excitement, and adrenalin had drained him.

“Is fine, come on, time for bed.” Patting his leg Jules encouraged him to get out of the car, he had parked outside the small cottage he had rented for the weekend, as soon as Charles revealed that he had a week off he spent hours hunting down somewhere private for them both. They needed it.

Cheekily pushing Charles into the house he returned for his luggage, the bag was far heavier than Jules anticipated and he almost toppled over to which he garnered a sleepy little giggle from behind. “What do you have in here?”

“Presents.” Charles mumbled. “Come inside, I want to kiss you.”

Grinning Jules locked the car and tugged the case inside towards Charles who was leaning against the doorframe looking impossible handsome. “How do you do that? I look like a mess when I get off a plane!” Letting go of the case he wrapped his arms around Charles’ neck and tangled a hand in his hair.

“Am a mess.” Nuzzling in close Charles breathed him in deeply.

“Non! Not at all.” He could feel how tired Charles was, but they both needed the reassurance of a deep and all consuming kiss.

It began tentatively, where their lips simply rested on each others, the sensation enough until it wasn’t any more, until they had to have friction, proof that it wasn’t a dream, that they were together. Lips were nibbled, tugged on slowly, languid licks of their tongues opened their mouths to each other, and as they fell more into it their fingers traced out the lines of the faces they had been so desperate to see.

“Take me to bed.” Charles mumbled clumsily against Jules’ lips.

“Your wish is my command.” Jules replied sensually as they kiss again. “I love having you in my arms.” It didn’t take much effort to get Charles upstairs and into bed. He couldn’t stop smiling as he peeled his clothes off the dead weight of his body, his limbs completely uncoordinated and lacking the huge amount of elegance they usually possessed. It made him remember how they first met, in Monaco at the Amber Lounge fashion show, he had been roped in to wear some god awful outfit and Charles was one of the actual models.

He had been loitering out the back, desperate to get out of it when Charles paraded into view topless, he doubled back and stared at him with an amused look. And after a few bemused comments in French from Charles about what he was being forced to wear, Jules shot back to let him know he understood exactly what he had said. That left them laughing at each other for a short while before Charles disappeared, Jules thought he had missed his chance until he returned with a much better selection of clothes. Then they had a drink after the show, then they followed each other on Twitter, shared a couple of sharp tweets, a cup of coffee, then dinner, then an official date followed.

As he pulled the covers over Jules lay on top to make sure he was properly asleep before going out for a run, just something easy to wind down after a busy day. Charles was so peaceful, so relaxed it was hard to leave, so much so he gave up, the run could wait he decided, there was a far more important task in hand, or in his arms. Sneaking under the covers he scooped Charles up and adored the way he snuggled onto his chest, then how he wriggled up into the nook of his shoulder, it made his heart feel light when little contented snuffles escaped into the air.

He was a lost cause for the next hour, he wished it could be for the rest of the night, but he had a schedule to keep to. But he would give them one uninterrupted hour. He stayed awake to avoid having to set an alarm that would wake Charles up, when he went for a run later he wanted to come back and cook before waking him up. So Jules got to simply enjoy being close to the man he loved, and he loved him dearly, cherished the small snatches of time they got to spend with each other, but he was wanting more.

Jules would never ask him to change his job because that was completely unfair, and he couldn’t stop now either, they were riding a wonderful crest in their careers, and it had taken too much time to get there. Although that fact didn’t stop him needing more. It had definitely become a need. So when the only noise was the pounding of his feet on ground of the fields surrounding the cottage he wondered what would happen if their relationship had become public.

His mind focused on being able to hug him without worrying about them seeming to be more than friends. It was always friendly and brief, but he wanted it to be long, to bury his face into his neck before pulling back to kiss him. Kiss his Charles for all the world to see. But he made a career out of women fancying him according to his agent.

And the hottest model of the moment was still asleep when he returned to the house, after he had a shower and even when he had finished cooking dinner. “Charles?”

Nothing.

“Charles?” He tried again, a touch louder.

Nothing.

Not wanting to let dinner go to waste he padded back to the kitchen to make a decision as to what to do, he needed to eat now, but really did want to eat it with Charles. Their first meal together in months.

“Hello.”

Jules turned around to be faced with an almost naked Charles, the starkness of the white skintight boxers leaving little to the imagination.

“Oh.”

“That smells wonderful.” Sauntering over under Jules’ intense gaze he let a hand drift suggestively low.

“Charles.” He croaked, he resolve faltering with every step.

“We eat.” Charles knew better than to mess with his schedule before a race. “Then I take you to bed.” Bridging the gap between them he tugged the tee shirt Jules was wearing over his head, then he tackled the jeans with fervor. “Oh Jules.” He smelt fresh out of the shower and clearly he hadn’t bothered to get fully dressed. “Jules, mon amour.” Charles wanted to press him up against the kitchen cupboards and do all the things he imagined doing when he spent another night alone in a hotel.

“Eat?” Jules broke the tension desperately.

“Oui.”

Doing their best to pace themselves they ate in silence knowing that any talk would result in them taking off to bed and burying themselves in each other, and it was a struggle because both of them were highly aware of how naked Jules was and Charles’ hums of enjoyment were getting increasingly sexual. So they left the empty plates and glasses behind and Jules let Charles lead him upstairs by the hand, their fingers tightly interlinked even when the door was closed.

It wasn’t long until Jules had stripped Charles of his boxers, taking the opportunity to kiss up his thigh, a hand stroked up his other leg, pressing his fingertips into the muscles working overtime.

“Jules, non.” It felt so good but it wasn’t the time for Jules to be wasting energy. “Is all for you tonight.” Picking him up he kissed him tenderly, stroking his face gently Charles had the choice made for him, he didn’t want to be away for months at a time at the opposite ends of the world. “I love you.”

Trusting Charles to not let him fall Jules let himself be laid down on the bed, it was gentle to begin with, searching touches and fingertip grazes, but it didn’t last, it couldn’t and neither could they. Covering Jules with his body Charles raised himself up on his forearms to see the look on his face when he flexed his hips forward. Gasps fell from his mouth as he arched his body up to search out for more friction, pressing his head into the pillows he offered up his neck and Charles took full advantage. Kissing up the soft, and oh so sensitive skin he loved the little mewls Jules breathed out, and then he joined in the moment his own lips brushed against the stubble.

“Missed you so much.” Charles kissed the words into his skin, up his throat and along his jaw first, then as Jules brought his head down he nibbled on his earlobe, teasing it with his teeth just they way that always made him groan. When their eyes met again Charles shuffled about so he could thread his fingers into Jules’ hair before they dived in for a passionate kiss, all consuming and heated, barely breaking for breath as they rutted against each other. Messy and uncoordinated they weren’t trying to make it last, there was more time for that next week, now it was just for sheer relief and release.

“Charles.” Jules moaned loudly. He didn’t have to whisper now, he didn’t need to hide now. “Charles!” As he clung on to his man, wrapping his arms around him and widening his legs, he felt Charles’ hand delve between them to circle their cocks and bring them together. “Mon dieu!” Everything was flashing brilliantly in front of his eyes, Charles was here in his arms. “Je t’aime.” He chanted in rhythm with their rocking. He was falling apart in the most delicious way possible.

“Jules.” Charles gasped as everything within him drew tight, he had Jules below him looking like a piece of heaven. “Jules. Je t’aime. Je t’aime.” Smearing a kiss across his lips Charles collapsed down, burying his face in his neck, the feeling the hot spurts of come between their stomachs triggered his own climax. Knowing he had pleasured Jules so thoroughly always made him feel good, it made him feel like a man, a good partner, a better lover. “Jules.”

“Mon amour.” He was feeling so light, so extraordinary, so complete. Pressing tiny, fluttery kisses to the closest parts of Charles he could reach. “Charles.” Wriggling a little he could feel pins and needles begin to start in one leg.

“Ooh sorry.” Sliding off of Jules very carefully Charles still stayed close, he recognised the tone and knew he was getting a little uncomfortable. “I have missed you so much.”

“I know this, I do too my love.” Caressing his face with feathery strokes Jules absolutely adored the way his breathing hitched and how his eyes softened. “More and more the days we are apart.”

Charles really wanted to reveal his plans to Jules, he was desperate to find out his reaction, what he thought about him being around more, that he wanted them to move in together. But he couldn’t do that before a race. “Me too. But we are together now.” Feeling a little more together Charles sat up, leaving a few kisses in his wake first. “And next week.”

“To meet your family?”

“Of course.” Charles grinned broadly. “I can’t wait.” Slipping from the bed reluctantly he went to clean himself off before returning to do the same to Jules, but his man had other ideas and was now circling his waist loosely with his arms. His lips pressed to a shoulder, eyes connecting in the mirror, he whispered the single word ‘shower’ before dragged him into the cubicle.

Clean and fresh once more they snuggled under the sheets together trading sweet kisses until they fell asleep, not too late, because Charles was keeping an eye on the time. Nothing was more important than Jules in this moment.

---

“Don’t think you’re getting away from me.” Dan called across the room, he had caught a couple of glimpses of Mark as he made his way to the Paddock Club.

“I wasn’t trying to.” But he was, he wasn’t really in the mood for listening today, but Fernando had cajoled him enough to turn up with promises of something far too filthy to think about in public.

“You were, known you long enough mate.” Mark was never really into the flashier side of being a well known sportsman, when he was on the up he did it with good humour but the shine wore off quickly. And he understood, because sometimes he cringed when he was telling Mark down the phone what he had to do next for Red Bull.

“Shall we get this over and done with then?” He huffed.

“Mark!” Fernando sighed, fully exasperated with his attitude. “Give us a minute Daniel.” He just wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

Glad for the offer to escape he eyed up Jean-Eric to follow him away from the situation as he watched Fernando’s face turn dark.

“What is your problem?”

“We’ve got better things to be doing with our time than hanging about in VIP sections.” He thought he was done with all of this.

“I know we do, but we’re...fraying a bit.” Putting a hand on Mark’s waist he lead them to the large windows overlooking where the action was going to be soon enough.

The admission stopped Mark from retaliating with a sharp comment. “Oh, we’re not.” Closing the small gap between them he held Fernando close briefly. “We’re not.” He repeated again, mainly to himself.

“We are fighting about silly things, I don’t like doing that. I think maybe at the moment you are spending too much time at home, now you have finished the roof you don’t have a project.” Fernando rubbed Mark’s upper arm. “You should listen to Dan, you have a legacy to give Mark, he is offering you that.”

Leaning forward Mark kissed Fernando gently. “Sorry.” He mumbled.

“Don’t apologise to me, you need to say it to Dan, is only doing his job.” He could see him hovering about in the background. “Dan, is safe now.” He chuckled much to Mark’s chargin.

“Sorry mate, I clearly don’t do boredom very well.” Feeling stupid he apologised quickly.

“And how about that, I have the very cure you’re looking for.” Dan grinned broadly.

“Fancy that.” Mark rolled his eyes, but his smile showed that his bad mood has passed.

“Shall we sit?” Dan gestured at the table he had booked for them all, and a few others. “And I know there’s no point in trying to sweet talk you, because one you’re not a fool and two, I’m a little bit scared for Fernando.” It broke the tension completely and the four of them accepted a well timed glass of champagne. “So let’s get down to it, you want to help young riders and let’s be honest we need to replenish the stocks.”

“As long as we’re both getting something about it.” Mark quipped.

“Like we would have it any other way.” Dan retorted with a cheeky sip of his drink.

“I want to leave some sort of legacy.” Mark admitted.

“I can arrange that.” Dan nodded. “You can be a figurehead if you like, a mentor, help choose a selection of young and unsponsored riders we could invest in for, let’s say a season, then whittle them down for a full seat?”

Mark mulled over it for a few moments, he knew the sport was cutthroat, devastatingly so, young riders needed a chance to mature. “What would be wrong with a junior team to Red Bull?”

“Create a whole new team?”

“Yeah, that’s a real target for these riders, they can be taught and monitored together, go on training camps. Actually get the feel for the sport whilst competing in it. There’s loads of races that would be ideal for a smaller team, it’ll lessen the leap and the shock to the big leagues. More chance of long term success.” More ideas came flooding to him the more he spoke, but Mark knew he couldn’t keep asking for the world. It wasn’t his time and money going into this. “But you know my time would eventually become limited, you know the changes we’re going to be making are going to take priority.”

“A team, you want us to set a new team up?” Dan asked incredulously, having to take the screech out of his voice.

“Think of all the new talent you could snatch up, you might even get a few surprise results in there, but essentially you could use the reputation of Red Bull to stop other teams from building a foundation for their next generation.” Mark knew how Dan worked, he had a wonderfully carefree exterior and used it to his advantage many times, but underneath was a ruthless business man. A strategist, a negotiator, an utter demon.

“You’re a clever shit.” Shaking his head Dan downed the rest of the champagne. “And you think that will work, you think I can take that back to headquarters?”

“Yeah, it’s a model that’s worked pretty well in Formula One.” Sitting back Mark hoped that would be enough for Dan to see it was a viable plan.

“Right, so what are you offering us then? Say we build a team, that’s a good one or two years minimum. And you’re going to be off…”

“Being a parent.” Mark finished for him, telling him it was okay to mention it.

“Yeah, so…”

“I would, I would be helping getting the funding together so you can build the team. It’s the only long term and sustainable plan I can see, and it’ll be easier getting sponsors tied into the Red Bull brand rather than slotting riders in where ever we can fit them.”

Brand stability.”

“Yeah, something like that.” Mark had a soft spot for the corporate speak when Dan used it, never seriously, even in the middle of a make-it-or-break-it meeting.

“So you get your face out there, talking it up, interviews, industry events...we might have a shot at that you know. There were rumblings of a secondary team a few years ago, but there was never enough momentum to get it off the ground. You could be that momentum. It’ll help Jev out.”

“It will, a lot, sponsors love a reliable face.” Jean-Eric loved watching Dan get passionate about something, the way his eyes lit up made them seem more golden, the flecks glowing as his smile broadened. And he saw the same appreciation in Fernando’s face too, taking sneaky glances of Mark when he was talking.

“I’m feeling a bit momentous.”

“You know what, that’s one thing I will never miss, the arrogance of sports stars.”

“Ah, even you admit I am a star.” Mark beamed.

“A retired one.” Dan stuck his tongue out. “We need a little more discussion about this before I go back, details about how many hours you can contribute to this, you know, all that sort of shit.”

“How long you sticking around for?”

“A few days.”

“Come to ours then, for dinner, we can hash it out then. Fernando will cook because then you’ll enjoy it.” Mark offered so he could enjoy the rest of the day then.

“Done.” Dan agreed as he knew how good home cooking was on trips away. “Thanks.”

“Do you know anything about this karting competition?” Mark saw the chance to change the conversation away from work related topics and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“Yeah, it’s at the indoor karting track down the road, I’ve been meaning to drop in.” He heard through the grapevine that Sebastian was involved somehow and he was curious as to how he was doing.

“Is going to be a couple of hours before it all really starts, maybe we could go now?” Jean-Eric suggested, he wanted to check in on Sebastian.

“Up for it?” Dan taunted.

“You know it.” Mark grinned, but it soon faded when he realised how much he had just ignored Fernando. “Sorry.” Kissing him chastely he went to apologise again but Fernando was shaking his head.

“No, you need to do this, I love watching you.” He wished he had his camera on him, but with Dan and Jean-Eric coming to theirs, he could sneak a couple of shots then. “Now I can watch you race.”

“You’re not getting away with that, you’re racing too matey.” Hooking Fernando close to him with an arm around his neck he playfully dragged him out of the room, his arms batting at him gently. With Dan and Jean-Eric knowing exactly where they were going Mark and Fernando were happy to take a back seat and simply followed them there, the sun beating down on them the moment they exited the track courtesy car.

“How did we not know about this place?” Fernando asked as looked up the welcome sign.

“I lived in the gym, you were lucky I met you.” Mark gave him a lopsided grin.

“You were the lucky one.” Fernando remarked airily before followed Dan and Jean-Eric into the air conditioning of the karting centre.

And I still am Mark thought to himself as he took the same path inside, the wash of cool air most welcome as it settled on his skin through his thing tee shirt. And as he watched Fernando talk to the petite brunette women at the desk he noticed he was definitely feeling the change in temperature too, as he breathed his nipples grazed the material. And the flush of colour on his cheeks wasn’t stopping the sexual look either, he sported a look like that on the roof a couple of days ago. Prime sunbathing spot.

“Mark?”

“Uh, yeah?” Fernando rolled his eyes at him before beckoning further into the building with a hand.

“I’ll grab Seb and he’ll get you sorted, you timed it well, we’re about to shut down until after the race.” The women led them on, knowing that Sebastian would be raring to get out to the track.

“Sebastian?” Mark called out in complete surprise.

He heard his name being called and whipping his head up from tending to one of the karts he saw Dan, then Jean-Eric first. Then as he stood up, his mouth open in shock he then saw Fernando. “Mark?”

“What on earth are you doing here?” Mark smiled easily as he leaned on the metal barrier briefly before walking out onto the track to meet him, he had heard he’d left Red Bull and why, but the last place he expected to see him was at a karting track.

Mark was walking towards him and he was panicking, he must look such a failure, especially after everything that happened at university. He couldn’t stop his head dipping, Mark was renown in the sporting world and he helped run a karting track. He was supposed to be running Red Bull by now.

“Hey.” Mark said softly as he gave him a hug. “What’s with the look?”

Heikki looked on and his heart was aching, he wanted to go over and comfort him, but Mark was talking to him and rubbing his arm.

“Seb, you don’t need to apologise for anything, god that was a lifetime ago. It was school, we were still kids really.” Mark tried to soothe Sebastian’s babbling.

“But I was awful to you.”

“And I was the same, I thought we drew a line under that when I left. And clearly something’s gone down at Red Bull, that you don’t need to explain. But you look good, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look healthy come to think of it, Marko must have worked you to the bone.”

Sebastian nodded because he knew Mark got it. “Bet I made for great gossip.” He huffed.

“So what if you did mate, some people are always going to gossip, but fuck them. Really Seb, you’ve made mistakes, but you’ve got to live your own life.”

He couldn’t stop himself smiling at Mark’s attitude. “I was so jealous when you came out, it was so perfect.” He still had that picture they used saved on his computer.

“It wasn’t easy. But worth it, it was so exhausting trying to pretend all the time.” He had hit his limit of minding how many times he mentioned Fernando as a friend to avoid raising suspicion.

“I know.” He replied knowingly.

“They really did a number on you, Heikki, he was the one who worked with you at uni?” He thought he looked familiar.

“Yeah, he’s amazing.” Glancing over he saw him handing out race suits to the others.

So?”

“What?”

“You and Heikki?” He arched an eyebrow.

“No, definitely not, he doesn’t like me.” Heikki didn't deserve his tainited attention, they were both in better places now.

Looking over his shoulder he saw that Fernando was missing and he knew why instantly, Kimi. He felt treacherous, but Mark could see the other side, he knew how hard Sebastian was worked. Put in a pressure cooker and left until he was completely dried out and empty. But Kimi and Fernando were so close, brought together by their great passion in life.

“I think you’d be surprised. I think I just need to nip out.” He couldn't cope with fighting with Fernando at the moment.

Sebastian was about to ask if he was okay but then he remembered. “Shit, go, it’s fine, I understand. I’m sorry.”

“Seb, we all make mistakes. Don’t be scared of them, just learn from them.” Making his apologies to Dan and Jean-Eric he jogged outside to find Fernando. “Nano?”

He had chosen to sit in the shade to cool down properly, seeing Sebastian brought back the pain he had seen Kimi in. Catching Mark jogging out beside him from the entrance he called out before he disappeared. “Why?” They were supposed to be enjoying a bit of luxury today.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, not you.” Fernando sighed. “I don’t want to see him, what he did to Kimi. Why does he get to be happy?”

“I don’t know, I’m not sure if he is to be honest mate." Offering his hands out he picked Fernando up and wrapped him up in his arms straight away. "How about we go for a wander back to the circuit?” There was no way he was going to suggest going back inside.

“Si, is a good idea.” Nodding his head he adjusted his cap, the weather was heating up now, the sun taking full advantage of the clear blue sky. It reminded him of the hours they spent sunbathing on the roof, his favourite part wasn’t wholly appropriate for here however. “Shame we have to wear so much.”

“I know.” Mark agreed with a wicked glint in his eye. “Something to look forward to later.”

---

“Kevin, you have a guest.”

The amusement in her voice was clear, but he knew who had arrived and his stomach flipped with sheer terror mixed up with a heavy dose of nerves. He was the only personal guest he had invited to the race, and he wasn’t going to be the easier one to introduce, ‘hey this is a guy who may or may not be doing a tattoo I don’t want anyone else to see’. Chuckling to himself he double checked his hair in the mirror, sweeping a few loose strands back into place Kevin went out into the motorhome to see Kimi looking nonplussed in amongst the other guests. With a book in his hands.

He wasn’t exactly sure why he was here, it was a nice offer for Kevin to have made, and in a roundabout way it afforded him the chance to show him a few sketches that he had been doing. Although if he was telling himself the truth he was nervous because he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Kevin, it was his confidence, his lack of need to please, his ability to just be himself. And it didn’t hurt that he was very good looking either, the way he did his hair just so was imprinted in his memory.

Kimi looked up and saw the girl he spoke to a few minutes ago walk through the other people, then came Kevin looking very professional. At least his assumption was right, he did work for McLaren.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” Everyone was looking at Kevin eagerly. “Why is everyone staring at you?”

“Maybe I need to explain a few things, come back here with me.” When he popped back to the shop to ask Kimi to come along he was aiming to tell him there gently so it wasn’t a surprise, but he loved being anonymous. He loved that Kimi gave him a hard time and that they traded banter without apology, it did lead him to question whether or not he should even invite him at all. But he wanted to get a yes on the ink so it could be done straight after the Hungarian race to give himself the maximum healing time before the next one.

“You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?”

“Tempting, but no.” Kevin grinned as he pushed the door open to his cool down room.

Kimi’s eyes were immediately drawn to the huge text on the wall. “Is that in case you forget who you are?”

Laughing quietly Kevin turned to look at him, taking off his jacket he threw it onto the chair partially tucked under the functional desk. “Makes for a great photoshoot apparently.” He shrugged.

“I wouldn’t have taken you for a driver.” Kimi eventually said.

“Why not?” Kevin blustered with a faux annoyance in his voice.

“Because, I don’t know, you don’t really look like one, or act like one.” Kimi wasn’t even sure if that was true. “But I’ve never seen a race, so what so I know?”

“Never?”

“No, just going round in circles isn’t it?”

“Oi!” Kevin shoved his arm. “If it was that easy then anyone could do it?” He pouted.

“I gathered that.” Kimi relaxed into a smile. “Sorry I didn’t mean to piss you off.”

“You, um, didn’t.” He could feel a little heat rise in his face “Make it up to me by showing me what’s in that book.” Kevin changed the subject quickly.

“You have enough time?”

“Yeah, plus it’ll be better than doing pointless interviews.” Nodding over to the sofa Kevin sat down first and waited for Kimi to come over, he was flicking through the pages of the hardcover book, the silence between them amplifying the noise of paper moving.

“Here.” Finally sitting down he presented his first idea and slid the book over onto Kevin’s lap.

Kevin was speechless, it was more he ever imagined it could ever be. The pictures he had in his head were nothing compared to this.

“There’s more.”

“No, this is it.”

Kevin was breathing quickly beside him, his fingers tracing over the design over and over, the outline then the details. But then he shocked him by holding the book up to his chest and walking over to the mirror. He was stood there for a while just shuffling from side to side every now and then, letting a contented sounding sigh escape into the room every now and then.

“I have some other designs.”

“You’re not going to let me get away with looking at one, are you?” Reluctantly Kevin turned away from the mirror to face Kimi, he was sat looking very comfortable and at home on the sofa, like no one one else before. Legs splayed wide he reached forward to take the book back, turning a page at a time, explaining some of the details as he went. And he was struggling to concentrate, Kimi’s accent was soothing, his voice was low and calm, and familiar to home.

Every now and then he felt a puff of Kevin’s breath on his neck, or his cheek. And it was forcing him to concentrate on breathing himself.

“It’s the first one Kimi, even you have to agree.”

“I do.” He nodded as someone knocked on the door.

“Damn, I need to go.” Checking the time he realised he was running a bit late anyway. “I’ll get someone to show you where you can watch the race from in the garage.”

“Oh, right.” He wasn’t expecting such treatment.

“Prime spot.” Kevin grinned. “And hang around afterwards, might be a bit long if I win, but what can you do?”

“Okay.” Getting up he closed the book and hesitated as to where to put it.

“Leave it here, and I’ll lock the room. I’m not letting anyone get their hands on it.” Taking it out of Kimi’s hands he placed it on the desk carefully, reverently. “We should discuss a date for it.”

“Alright.” Kimi relented.

“I knew I had you in the palm of my hand when I took my shirt off.” He still couldn’t believe he did it.

Kimi choked on a breath as he walked out behind Kevin. “Oh did you?” He did his best to sound cool, but he knew he failed because Kevin was smirking at him.

“Why do you think I offered?” Smiling broadly he waved Kimi onwards, deciding he wanted to show Kimi where he was going to be for the race instead. Grabbing a set of headphones he handed them over to Kimi and showed him the back of screens he could watch all the action from. “You’ll be able to hear all the radio communication with these.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah, it will be. Are you going to be alright?”

“Course, you do your thing.” Kimi felt a bit awkward taking up Kevin’s time, but he seemed to be alright with it all.

“You know, I think I will.” Sticking his tongue out playfully Kevin wandered off towards his bemused race engineer.

“Now you’re bringing them to the races?”

“That was one guy. And that was ages ago. And it’s not like that.” Kevin shot back.

“He’s cute, much cuter than the others.”

“He’s not cute.” Checking over the telemetry one last time he tried to ignore Stephen wittering on in his ear, he liked to talk about any other than racing before he got into the car. “And it was one.”

“True, he’s got that moody, pensive thing going on. Good choice.”

“Right, let’s get to the grid huh?” Kevin cut the conversation short with a good natured glare that he had used many times before.

There was a precision about Kevin that Kimi liked, it reminded him of how he liked to work himself, nothing superfluous, wholly efficient. It was pleasing to watch in a way because he understood, simply understood. It made sense.

“Hey, it’s Kimi right?” Stephen was about to go, and he had an inkling that Kevin wouldn’t mind seeing him there. There probably wasn’t anything between them, but he had to break the tension for Kevin somehow and having a joke was the easiest way.

“Yeah.”

“Come to the grid, there's a bit more action there.” He was going to show his driver off in the best light, whatever was going on between them didn’t matter, what did was how light Kevin looked around this new guy. And he had an inkling that a little on the grid boost would do him no harm.

He knew nothing about Formula One, but he was getting pretty excited about it. Really excited, the sort that made his stomach flip and fizz. The sort that made him want to draw again. The sort that made him want to open up again.

Chapter Text

Sebastian was revelling in his duties, armed with a camera and a phone signed into the official Twitter account for the circuit he went in search of the most interesting things to capture for anyone following. As soon as he was released from his duties from the karting track he jumped into his car and hurtled towards the main circuit to get closer to the action than he had in years. Jogging to the office he was beaming from ear to ear even though he was out of breath because when Damon appeared he had the magic pass in his hands.

“We decided to give you an all access in the end, you can go pretty much anywhere you want.” The way Sebastian’s eye lit up made him think about the chat he had with Heikki about how passionate he was about racing.

“Thank you.” He puffed just as he finally caught his breath. "I mean it, thank so much for this opportunity.”

“Should really be thanking you, with all of your expertise, feel like we should be paying you.”

Sebastian flushed hotly, it took him right back to his childhood when, sat in his living room with his parents clapping and whooping with joy because he got such a prestigious scholarship with Red Bull. All their prayers had be answered because he could afford to go to one of the world’s best universities and be practically guaranteed a proper career. “All I care about is racing, that’s all I’ve ever cared about.” Even now it felt subversive to say it.

“Oh right, well, have you ever raced?”

“A bit of karting in Germany.” He sighed, but he didn’t want to ruin his day by remembering his distant past. “But that doesn’t matter now, I’m going to be the best Twitterer you’ve ever had.”

“That I don’t doubt.” Damon shook his head. “Come on, I’ll get you acquainted with the paddock.” He usually let one of the marketing guys do this, but he wanted to spend more time with Sebastian.

It didn’t take him long to get Sebastian to reveal all about his passion for racing, he was about to ask why he gave it up but was extremely glad not to when he heard about Red Bull. Damon started to understand the undercurrents of frustration he got from Sebastian, the hints Heikki dropped were making more sense than ever. He was a racer trapped in the body of an office worker, he knew how much he struggled when he retired all those years ago, but he had gotten it all out of his system by then, it didn’t seem that Sebastian had gotten the chance to.

“So I’m guessing you’re a Ferrari fan then?”

“Just a bit.” He felt his face heat up, he was an adult, he shouldn’t be getting excited over a car. But then again he hadn’t raced Jules Bianchi in a kart until a couple of days ago either.

“Right then Seb, you all good to go?” Things were starting to get busier, the teams were well and truly ready to get down to the real business of the weekend.

“Yeah, thanks again!”

He went to tell him not to worry, but thought better of it, instead he watched him dart down the paddock, clearly on the hunt for someone or something. Now he had heard a lot of men and women go on about what they could have been so to satisfy his curiosity he searched for him on the internet, using his phone as he wandered towards the steward’s office to make sure everything was in order for the race like usual.

And there is was, Sebastian Vettel, the young superstar of German karting. Talented, fierce, aggressive, a natural born racer with winning in his DNA. His results stopped at fourteen with no proper explanation, just a picture of a crushed boy at his last race. Damon knew he shouldn’t favour employees, but he had a soft spot for Sebastian and this just made the feeling stronger, maybe there was something he could do.

All he wanted to do was see the Ferrari. He had to see the Ferrari. There was no way he was leaving today without seeing the Ferrari.

So he headed straight there, his paddock pass swinging more and more the faster he walked and taking a few glances around he noticed that some of the journalists passing around him had them tucked into a shirt pocket. So thanking his choice to wear a smart shirt to make a good impression he did the same, realising then that the cord around his next was colour coded to alert everyone what he was entitled to.

He began by introducing himself, even braving a picture for the masses because Damon suggested it, a selfie outside of the Ferrari garage because he had to and it gave him the perfect excuse to scope out the garage and spot the car. He took photos of the teams getting their garages ready for the race, the pit wall set up, he even tried out some arty shots of the pit lane markings, making sure the whole time that he wasn’t getting in anyone’s way or being too invasive.

“Hey!”

Sebastian’s head shot up, he was just looking at the intricate parts of the McLaren front wing, crouched down a little to taking in the majesty of the design. “Sorry!”

“Which team are you working for?”

The man demanded suspiciously. “No...no one. I’m working for the Silverstone Twitter account.”

“Don’t take any photos of it.” He warned.

“I haven’t, I won’t, it’s just I had to take a proper look, it’s a real piece of art.”

“I won’t argue with that.” He laughed.

Collecting himself Sebastian relaxed his shoulders and took a proper look at the man talking to him, well, now he was chuckling to himself. “Because you designed it Mr Oatley.”

“Neil.” He stuck his hand out. “People don’t usually know who I am.”

Sebastian shook it firmly. “Their loss. I really didn’t take any photos.” He had to reassure him, the day hadn’t really begun and the last thing he wanted to happen was to be thrown out.

“I know, I’ve been watching you Sebastian.” He laughed again. “Sorry, didn’t mean to make it sound so creepy. Damon told me to watch out for someone matching your description, F1 mad, handy in a kart, and sharp as a tack.”

“Oh, well at long as you don’t think I work for Mercedes or something.” Sebastian added cheekily.

“Nah, not so worried about them, Ferrari would be an issue though.”

“Things are certainly hotting up between Kevin and Jules.” Sebastian smiled, the racing had been truly excellent throughout the season.

“Just a tad! You’re here for the whole day yes?” There was the sparkle of a true fan in his eyes.

“Uh huh.” Sebastian’s focus was taken away by the car in the garage being unveiled.

“Realising where his eyes had been drawn to made the offer even sweeter. “Swing by later, after the race. Ask for me.” They could do with some good PR and Sebastian could do the work for them.

“Will do Neil, I won’t take up anymore of your time.” This time taking the lead in shaking his hand Sebastian took a parting shot of the garage now filling with mechanics and trundled off to discover something else to take his breath away. As he walked past the Ferrari garage he snapped the name of his favourite driver and tweeted that fact to the world, Neil would be too busy to check and he hoped Jules would be too.

“Kevin.” He whispered to himself. Kevin fucking Magnussen was walking towards him down the paddock and he had no idea what to do. Only a few moments ago Sebastian was feeling more at home than he had since he was a teenager, but seeing Kevin had rendered him stupid. He was talking to the other guy with no one else around, and he could feel his hands getting sweaty, but to miss this moment would be idiotic. He already regretted so much in his life.

“Excuse me, Kevin?” He had nipped from the pit lane to the paddock to scope out some possible high points later on, he wasn’t expecting this, he wasn’t expecting to see another legendary driver.

“Oh, hello.”

“Sorry to interrupt you both, I’m Sebastian, I’m running the official Silverstone twitter account today and I wondering if I could ask you a couple of questions.” It wasn’t as if he had never met important people before, or been in pressurised situations either, there was something about being around people he wanted to be that left him off balance.

“Of course, it’s for the fans.” The way Sebastian was blushing a bit suggested he was a bit of a fan, and with his engineer Will by his side he was more than happy to indulge. “But you don’t have a camera, you use your phone though if you want?”

“I’ll hold it.” Will held a hand out and waited for Sebastian to set it all up before holding it up with them both in the screen, angling it slightly to put the focus on Kevin. “Just tell us when you’re ready.”

With a nod Sebastian took a breath and reeled off five questions, starting with a standard one about the championship battle with Jules, but he quickly turned to trickier questions about the fallout over the public spat between their team principal and the head of Formula One, but with a twinkle in his eye to avoid being rude. And he knew he had just about gotten away with it because Kevin was throwing a few comments back at him with a grin. But to lighten it up at the end he told Kevin about Jules’ time at the karting track and challenged him to beat it. No longer than a minute and a half tops, it was instantly retweeted and favourited.

“Is it the karting centre here?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, I think the team were trying to not get me to do that. Shame, have to now seeing I’ve been publicly challenged.” Kevin grinned wickedly. “Thanks for that, McLaren can’t say no now.” He winked.

“Thank you, I promised I’d get the whole grid on the board.”

“You organised it?”

“Yeah, after this weekend the public can go up against the times to win things. All the money is going to charity, so if you could bring some prizes, that’d be great. Jules donated a signed race suit.” If anything was certain about race driver was their competitive spirit.

“I’m sure I could do better than that. Would it be okay to bring someone along?” He knew Kimi would get a kick out it.

“Sure, no problem.” Sebastian sighed his relief internally, he had all the big names done, the last couple of drivers were due to visit after the race.

“Brilliant. See you after the race then Sebastian.” Kevin gave him a nod before heading for his original destination, his motor home.

Texting Heikki to let him know he had Kevin confirmed Sebastian noticed how much busier the paddock had become, it was race day. He was working in the paddock on race day. Smiling to himself he turned to go back to loiter around Ferrari but found himself bumping into Jules.

"Shit, sorry!"

"Ah, I see you talking to Kevin, you are supposed to be my fan.” Jules jested. “I am heartbroken!” Sighing dramatically wearing a large grin he turned to Charles. “This is Sebastian, who I told you about the karting. Sebastian, this is Charles.”

Sebastian knew it was Charles without a doubt, although it was a little trickier to recognise him with so many clothes on, because he had vividly imagined doing things with him he had only done with one other person. And with Jules often making an appearance seeing them together was forcing him to actively concentrate on what he was saying and how he was acting. “Pleased to meet you Charles, I’ll look forward to you setting a time, although after the race might be a bit busy.” He advised.

“I can come before the end though.” He spoke to Sebastian before turning to Jules. “Then maybe I can beat you with you not knowing.” Charles winked flirtily hoping he could get away with it.

“I beat my friend too.” Wanting to keep the atmosphere light Sebastian chipped in with a comment before asking for a mini interview, using Kevin as a point to get him to agree. Charles was on camera duties and Sebastian was soon able to upload another popular video.

“So what are you doing for the race?” Jules asked after talking a selfie of all of them to upload to his own account, throwing in a link to Sebastian.

“What do you mean?”

“Where are you watching it from?” He laughed.

“Oh, I don’t know, where ever I can see a screen.” Truth be told Sebastian hadn’t given it much thought.

Smiling serenely Jules hoped his offer wasn’t too over the top. “How would you like to watch it from my garage?”

“Are you serious?”

“Oui, of course, I will sort it out. Come to the garage before...scusi Mirella.” Spotting his PR officer leaving the garage he called out to her to organise it all.

Sebastian felt like he should have said he could understand most of what Jules was saying to her, but by the time the words formed on his tongue he was being told to follow Mirella into the motorhome rather insistently. So doing as he was told he was shepherded in with Jules and Charles close behind, but where they disappeared into the depths Sebastian was led down another corridor to wait outside an office.

“Jules tells me you are working for the circuit.”

“Uh yeah.” The door was just ajar, making it clear that he wasn’t to see what was going on the other side, all he could tell was that she was on the phone to someone.

“Hmm, I like what you have done so far.” Quickly scrolling through the feed she could see the opportunities to be had, they needed some good press after the debacle over the extra money Ferrari received was taken away. “So with this.” Opening the door fully she handed over a pass. “You can visit us in the garage during the race whenever you want, I think maybe you would want to be on Jules’ side?”

“Yes, of course.” Sebastian admitted, freely, today wasn’t about lying and bending the truth, that would only lead to disaster.

“Good.” Explaining the protocol to Sebastian was easy because she could see the understanding, she wouldn’t have to tell him again. “All clear?”

“Yes, thank you, for all of this.”

“Is no problem.” Shaking her head kindly Mirella showed him back out to the hospitality area before continuing to get ready for the day ahead.

 

 

---

He could see the line of journalists jostling for an interview, and he wanted nothing more than to jog back to the garage to make it clear he had no desire to speak to them, but he knew they’d gotten wise to that and there were plenty of people with microphones poised, ready to run alongside. But glancing over his shoulder presented him with Kimi doing his best to not get in the way, and that made him smile serenely.

“Kevin, can we talk?”

Hearing the Danish language he agreed with a polite nod. “Sure.”

“So you are in a good position for today, it seems you are most relaxed here, we have seen you smiling a lot.”

Kevin almost did a double take at the statement, was it really that obvious? “Uh, well, Silverstone is always a great race, I’ve been looking forward to this all year. It’s the home race for McLaren, so there’s always great support here.”

“And I think you are hoping to extend your lead on the championship today too.”

“Absolutely, the battle with Jules is definitely heating up, but I know that’s what the fans want and as long as I’m fighting for the title, I’m more than happy to get involved.”

Making sure not to be a nuisance Kimi kept alert to his surroundings, ensuring he kept out of the way he ended up leaning on the wall separating the pitlane from the track itself, and in the end it suited him fine. He had a great view of Kevin going about his business and it made him wish he had brought his sketchbook with him, the seriousness in his face holding his gaze. Unfortunately his sunglasses couldn’t hide the fact he was mirroring Kevin, as a smile broke out over Kevin’s face he felt his own do the same.

It wasn’t forced, it was just a natural reaction. But it felt good, Sebastian had once made him feel like that, happy to just be in his presence, but that eventually faded. Not that a relationship with Kevin was even worth fantasising about because of who he was, and that he was probably straight, but getting involved with another person was actually terrifying, he could definitely deal with brief affairs because he knew they were going to end. When it was a proper relationship Kimi wanted longevity and stability, but deep down he realised now that he knew that Sebastian was never going to provide that.

How could someone that controlled by someone else allow anyone else in?

“You’re looking serious.” Kevin had kept Kimi just in his line of vision as best he could, he was completely intrigued by him. The few interviews he managed to track down and have translated had him coming across as someone not wanting to give much away because the answers were so short, but he saw snatches of a sense of humour that tickled him greatly. “Not enjoying yourself?” He had really put himself out there by inviting him, but a part of him told himself that it would be worth it even though he was straight.

“Is great, just trying not to get in the way.” The atmosphere was electric.

“You won’t, you aren’t. Come and have a look at the car with me.” Encouraging him to follow Kevin pointed out a few things on the car, not minding the distraction for once because he invited it and because he had he could quite happily ignore the other calls for an interview.

“Shouldn’t you be talking to them?” Kimi couldn’t help but noticed all the pissed off looking journalists trying to catch his attention.

“No.” He answered airily before he began to explain about the front wing. “I’m boring you, aren’t I?”

“No, definitely not. I just have no idea what you’re talking about.” Kimi eased into a smile. “Not as smart as you.” He didn’t want Kevin to stop talking.

“I can’t draw to save my life, talents lie where they lie Kimi.” He shrugged as he spotted his engineer give him the nod. “I’m needed elsewhere, but how about you stick around until the end of the race, there’s a karting competition at the other track.”

“Okay.”

“We can go head to head.” Kevin beamed a smile at him hoping he could trigger the competitive spirit in him that saw him with at the other Silverstone.

“Alright then, maybe I’ll go practice.”

“And I’ll still beat you.” Kevin stuck out his tongue playfully before walking to the front of the grid for the national anthem.

---

“This isn’t too bad, is it?” Mark slung his arm around Fernando’s shoulders already knowing that they would both rather be elsewhere.

“No. Is nice to be with you like this.” And he knew Mark would understand what he meant, being in public together was still a thrill, not having to second guess themselves was still so freeing, it felt like falling in love all over again.

“I was, um, wondering if we should buy Seb something from here.” Stumbling over the words made him less sure that it was a good idea.

“If we do we can only buy Ferrari, is red.” Fernando grinned smugly before reaching up to kiss his cheek.

“Obviously.” Kissing the top of Fernando’s head he smiled into his hair. “But we should check with Nat before we give him it, just in case.”

“Good idea. Maybe a hat?”

Fernando was chatting away happily when Mark caught a glimpse of Sebastian up ahead taking photos on his phone, he had to divert the man under his arm elsewhere because he didn’t want his good mood spoiled, and like a gift from above he saw someone he thought looked a lot like Kimi. “Is that Kimi?”

“Where?” He followed Mark’s tanned arm and grinned. “Yes, Kimi!” Fernando had no idea what Kimi was doing at a race track, he had no interest in it, or so he thought.

Hearing his name he searched in the direction he thought he heard his name from and found Mark and Fernando walking towards him. “Hey.” Leaving the safety of the wall Kimi walked towards them, unfortunately tripping over a wire as he went.

“You’re so clumsy.” Fernando laughed loudly as he dived to make sure he didn’t hit the floor. “What are you doing here?”

“Got an invite.”

“Oh, who from?”

Kevin saw Kimi trip over as he made his way back from the national anthem and found a smile tugging at his lips, he looked so cute, really cute. Sort of dorky and not like the cool guy he portrayed himself to be. Oh no. His stomach looped heavily. Not another straight guy.

“Um, Kevin.”

“Kevin?” Mark asked. “Kevin Magnussen?”

“Mmm.”

“Nice.” He was impressed, and couldn’t miss the tiny smile playing on his lips.

“You have Red Bull friends?” Kevin snorted playfully. “I thought more of you Kimi.” He smiled as widely as he could to wipe out the flicker of doubt on Kimi’s face. “Mark Webber, right?” There wasn’t a way he could not know who Mark Webber was, the cycling was one thing, but he was a hero to him. He came out and survived it with his reputation bigger and brighter than ever, he wanted that. He wanted to live.

“Yeah mate, not a bad season for you so far.”

“I’ve had worse.” He went to introduce himself to Mark’s partner, but the grid was being swept to get ready for the race. “We’ll catch up later?”

“Yeah, that’d be brilliant.” Mark replied enthusiastically.

“Cool, McLaren, yeah Kimi?”

“Yeah. Good luck.”

“Cheers, you’ll be needing it later at the kart track!” Kevin waved him off, he was cautious about distractions before races, but he felt more at peace than he had in a while. It was eerie.

Leaving the grid with Mark and Fernando flanking him Kimi snuck a last glimpse of Kevin before he got on with what he did best, but he had a feeling he had been caught because Fernando was smirking at him. “Shut up.”

“I didn’t say a word.” Fernando sniggered.

“Oi leave him alone.” Mark cut across as they headed towards the McLaren garage. “He’s being cute.”

“Ugh.” A quick shake of the head didn’t throw off the embarrassment. “He’s straight.”

“How do you know this?” Fernando shot back.

“Yeah, we’re not exactly camp obvious mate.”

“Until you’re both in the same room.” He had always marvelled at the stupidity of the press for missing their relationship. “He’s had girlfriends.”

“You check!” Fernando howled with laughter.

“No, you’re with Red Bull today.” Kimi blocked them from entering the McLaren garage. “On your way.”

Mark and Fernando laughed as they were rounded up by Jean-Eric and Dan. “Where have you guys been?” Dan exclaimed.

“About.” Mark explained vaguely. “Shit.”

“What is it?” Jean-Eric asked, his voice deep with concern.

“Nothing, well, Kimi...Seb...karting.”

“Joder.” Came the exhaled expletive from Fernando. “Kevin said something about karting fuck, we shouldn’t have made fun of him.” Rubbing his hands over his face he tried to figure out a way to fix it all.

“Oh.” Both Mark and Fernando whipped their heads around to look at him sharply.

“Dan!” Jean-Eric hissed. “Let’s go out the back.” They couldn’t make an assumption about how much Mark and Fernando knew, but it was clear they knew something, actually it was probably everything.

“How much do you know then?” Fernando demanded quietly.

“We only have guesses, we know nothing for sure, but I think we have a good idea now.” Jean-Eric sighed.

“We’re not going to breathe a word.” Dan backed him up. “But I’m guessing we need to keep the pair of them apart.”

“Yeah mate, I think Kimi’s going to the kart track afterwards with Kevin.” Mark breathed out, his voice heavy.

“I’ll sort it.” Dan assured, all he had to do was get Heikki to give them a call when Kevin had left, and occupy Sebastian somehow, the only issue was that that had caught up earlier, they didn’t have much left to talk about. “We just need to distract Sebastian long enough for them to let Kimi and Kevin have a go.”

“I wanted to talk with Sebastian anyway, I’ll find him after the race.” He knew Fernando would be annoyed but it would solve the problem easily.

“Alright, sounds like a plan.” Dan confirmed with a sad smile, it was all so messed up. “Life doesn’t get any easier, does it?” His mind circled to the weird mood Jean-Eric had been in, he didn’t want it to remind him of their dark days before, but it was.

“Not all the time.” Fernando replied, his mind automatically going to Sebastian, their Sebastian.

“Right okay then, shall we get back to the racing?”

“Would be rude not to.” Mark answered for them all.

“We can’t forget the hat for Seb.” Fernando murmured to Mark.

“We won’t, sure the Ferrari stands will still be open after the race.” Mark reassured him with a soft gaze, it was times like these that he was finding was taking his breath away, thinking about someone other than them.

Jean-Eric could hear them discussing buying something for the child they were adopting and his heart melted, and he was sure he could do better than something anyone could buy, he had a couple of contacts at Ferrari. He just hoped Mirella was still travelling around with the team. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Oh, okay.”

“You two alright?” Mark had picked up a weird vibe from them.

“We’re fine.” The strain was all too loud.

“Talk.” Fernando stated simply. “Please, you are both so well matched.” Mark was always telling him how cute they were together whenever he got back from Austria.

“Racing.” Dan shooed them into the garage, grabbing them each a set of headphones to wear for the duration. He didn’t want to talk about it just in case he was being paranoid and that triggered something in Jean-Eric, but he knew deep down that talking about it was the only way to be in their relationship. The silence nearly killed Jean-Eric, and there was no way that was happening. He wouldn’t let it.

---

He was stood in the Ferrari garage. He was stood in Jules Bianchi’s side of the garage. He had Ferrari headphones on. Sebastian’s heart was thumping heavily in his chest, he couldn’t believe it, all those years of watching Formula One, and avoiding it when it got too much, and then watching it again, he never imagined he’d be watching it live. But it didn’t let it overwhelm him, he was allowed to take general photos of the garage so he took one and posted it tagging the team with his thanks. ‘Calm before the storm’.

The formation lap was done, they were lining up to make the start. The blood was pounding in his ears as they lights began to light up, and he could just make up the tops of the cars through the fencing dividing the pit lane and the track, the vibration of the revving engines felt right in his body, the adrenalin too, it all felt perfect.

And when the lights went out it was all he could do not to run across the pitlane to hang off the fence and watch them go, it took him back to the one time of his life where he felt free and truly himself. He felt like a kid all over again.

---

How Kevin could bear this tension was incredible, he had no idea how people could cope with watching it every weekend, his heart was in his mouth and his stomach was in his shoes. With the headphones Stephen had handed him clamped over his ears tight he could hear some of the chatter going on between Kevin and his engineer, it sounded like they were checking everything was okay before the lights went out after the practice lap. Or formation lap as it was called over the radio. He sounded so calm and together even though he was about to go racing, as Kimi watched the screen he knew for a fact he had absolutely no chance when they went karting later.

---

“Where have you been?” Dan hissed as Jean-Eric sidled up beside him, snaking an arm around his waist as he did so.

“Busy.” Turning Dan around so they had their backs to Mark and Fernando. “With this.” Out of a nondescript bag he produced a child-sized Ferrari cap, with the signatures of both current drivers.

“Nice.”

“They’re being so cute about this adoption.” Jean-Eric grinned. “And kids like this sort of thing.”

“Guess they do.” Dan smiled serenely. “I’ve dreamt about us having kids you know.”

Jean-Eric’s eyebrows shot up. “Really?” He never thought of himself being any good with children.

“Yeah, you teaching her all these really cute French words, she’d have your pout though, looking all cute and French.” Chuckling to himself Dan shook his head. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything, it’s not all the time, but sometimes.” Shrugging he realised there was no way he could backtrack out of what he had revealed.

“I just…” The collision on screen took everyone’s attention, but not Dan’s. “I don’t think I’m...I wouldn’t be very good at…” His father had seen to that.

Kissing his cheek they returned to the action. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

“That looked nasty.”

“Yeah it did, safety car for sure.”

“Looks like it was one of the McLarens got tangled up with that, and a Ferrari too. What are the chances?”

---

Kimi swallowed thickly as he glanced around the garage, the bustle of activity made him nervous because all he saw was a flash of red crash into a barrier, the camera flashed elsewhere and Kimi was left on edge wondering what had gone on. Covertly peering around the garage he tried to catch another angle, but he wasn’t close enough to see anything conclusive. All he knew was that he had no idea what part of the track or how far away it was, all Kimi knew was that it looked bad. He didn’t want Kevin to be in that car, he wanted him to still be racing and winning.

Something he did know was that thinking about Kevin was making him happy, light even, and it reminded him that he did want a relationship still, a proper one. But Kevin was quite a lot younger, and dwelling on that nudged him back to the fact he was straight, however he could be a harmless crush for a little while.

Though before his thoughts could fester there was noise in his ears as the radio line crackled into life.

Kevin, damage?

- Left rear puncture, left rear puncture.

Can you make it back?

- Yeah.

Don’t do any more damage.

- Copy

The radio transmission wasn’t exactly clear but Kimi felt hope begin to tug at his lips to allow him smile, there was no way he wanted to be a bad luck charm for Kevin. He was dying to get to work on the tattoo, he loved doing work when it had meaning for the client and it was clear it did for Kevin, and showing that strength he watched him eventually bring the car into the pits, the mechanics piling out into the pit lane to see to him and fix the damage.

---

“It’s not looking good for Bianchi, he’s not come into the pits and now he’s just got a puncture, that’s going to be a long lap.”

“It was worth the risk because of Kevin, but I bet he’s regretting it now. And shame for Stevens, not the home grand prix he was looking for.”

---

Charles groaned under the noise of the garage, Jules needed to win today so he could close the gap to Kevin, his chances were far from over, but he wanted him in a good mood for when he broke his news. But he was good enough to battle back from anything, he had done it before, and he could do it again. The man he loved was going to win.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see one of Jules’ mechanics giving him a curious look, and it didn’t take him long to realise why, he was smiling broadly and if the cameras caught him he was screwed. Not because it would give them away, but because it would look like he was happy Jules was struggling, if anyone asked he would say it was down to Kevin having troubles. The Ferrari kit he was wearing should help him out.

Consciously touching the Ferrari logo Charles sighed a little, he was so in love with Jules it was silly, and soon he was going to introduce him to his parents soon enough. And that had him smiling again, except this time he did it behind a hand to save any questions.

---

There was no way he was getting disgraced at his team’s home race, there was no way he was losing this with Kimi here either, he did want to have to put on a brave face in front of him. It was just such a shame that he had caused some damage to the front wing that meant it had to be changed, sitting there as the seconds ticked away he knew Jules would be staying out and taking the lead away from him. But he knew he had to deal with it, and the moment he was released from the pit crew he hit the loud pedal as soon as he could so the team could tell him where he was faster.

“Where am I?”

“Twentieth.”

“Last?”

“Jules is a lap down. Puncture, long lap, long pit stop.”

Kevin grinned inside of his helmet, he had been given a lifeline and he wasn’t going to let it go to waste, with fresh tyres on he pushed as hard as he dared to and within the lap he had already taken the backmarkers had had been about to lap before the Force India had ploughed into the wall for no good reason to spoil his lead. The only thing he could be thankful for was that he suffered the puncture before the pitlane entry, unlike Jules who had got his a little afterwards.

“Copy.”

---

“Sounds like Kevin enjoyed that last message.”

“I would too if my nearest competitor was a lap down.”

---

“Where am I?”

“Lap down Jules, keep pushing, you’re on the freshest rubber. Push. Push!”

Being given free reign to drive like a demon was all the permission he needed and wanted, he hated being forced to conserve and restrain himself. He was being let loose, and each lap he put in was quicker than his last, he was going to reel Kevin in with everything he had. He was. He couldn’t visit Charles’ parents after a loss. He didn’t want to be a disappointment. Every time he began a new lap he could see he was closing in, he was unlapping himself to everyone slowly but surely, and as the time ticked down he knew his chances were running out. Thirty laps were left, maybe if there was another safety car…

---

“Tyres are going off.” Kevin reported back to the team. “Front left, front left.”

“Alright Kevin, we’ll get back to you.”

Kevin didn’t want them to get back to him, they needed to get back to him now, right away. He didn’t want to lose anymore time, but he couldn’t help it now the tyres were falling away, stopping him from braking late and turning in hard.

“Guys, come on.”

“Three more laps.”

“Seriously?”

“Three laps Kevin.”

Swallowing the anger down Kevin took each corner as it came, forgetting to count the laps he drove determinedly, as hard as the car would let him, somehow overtaking another car to put himself on the podium. Praising the tyres going off for everyone he pushed on until he got the call he had been desperate for.

“Box, box, box.”

Thank fuck. “Copy.”

Kimi took his phone out to get ready for this pit stop, switching the function over to video he lined it up to capture the area where he stopped before, all the mechanics were ready with the tyres and guns for Kevin, the missing piece of the action.

Kevin in the pitlane

The message crackled through the headphones and Kimi took it as his cue to press record, he hoped the sound he heard last time would be picked up by his phone, the whir and pop of the guns was incredible. And keeping his eyes on the action and not the screen of his phone he watched Kevin glide in stop for mere seconds before peeling away. He had no idea how someone could have the reactions to do that, Kevin and the team. Continuing to record he caught a couple of mechanics high-fiving each other before setting up for the next pit stop, he marvelled at their efficiency and coolness under pressure. It wasn’t like he got flustered easily, but the thought of having to get such a pivotal thing right over and over again, made him feel hot.

“Great stop guys. On it ‘til I win it.”

“No arguments from us Kevin.”

Kimi grinned at Kevin’s attitude, he sounded happy, which he thought would be impossible considering what he was doing. But he did. Genuinely. He sounded like he felt when he was inking someone, the simple joy of doing what they loved.

---

“No.” Charles gasped. Please, no.

“Jules?”

The car was screwed. “No power, no power.”

“Stop the car Jules, stop the car.”

The desperation to argue back and demand to drive back to the pits at least was burning on the tip of his tongue. But that was a fools game, and would land him with a penalty for endangering other drivers, spotting a recovery vehicle beside the track he glided to a stop as close as he could to get it back to the garage as quickly as possible. Going through the procedure to stop the car safety he switched the engine off before jumping out, clicking the steering wheel back into place he waited for the marshals to arrive before sloping off to get a lift back to the pits.

Swinging his legs over the scooter he let the marshal drive him, all the while thinking about the disappointment his had brought upon the team, his parents and Charles. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see him, he knew how to face a team he had disappointed, he had never has to do that face to face with Charles. Stalking down the pit lane there were cameras already following him, so he kept his helmet on to stop any wandering reporters from approaching, he was going to go straight to his engineers.

But when he walked into the garage Charles wasn’t there, all the other guests were there but Charles had gone. His heart felt empty at what he saw.

“Jules. It’ll only take a minute, think it simply was the engine letting go, it was a bit of a risk running it anyway.”

Jules shrugged because it was true, but it didn’t stop him from feeling at fault, if he had called the shots with the pits he could have saved himself the puncture, all the damage to his car and then the engine. He should have followed his instinct.

“We’ll save the rest for later, got get your interviews done and clean up, we’ll do the post race all together.”

Nodding Jules followed the lead of his PR officer towards the pen, he only liked being there when he had won, the other podium places were bearable, the sting of the rest of the top ten was lessened by points. Being interviewed as he heard the sounds of the Honda engine continuing to lap was like a punch to the stomach each time it went past.

Drifting through the interviews with the best positive outlook he could muster Jules dutifully spoke into each microphone put in front of his face until time was called. It was hard because he knew Kevin would get into the points and stretch out his lead, so the moment he was released from the pen he jogged back to his private room, desperate for peace and quiet.

“Jules.” Charles was stood waiting for him to return, the interview that was shown on the channel he had tuned into in the room was hard to watch, but he had battled through it, and the rest now doubt, admirably. “Jules.” Wrapping him up in his arms he held onto him tightly, not caring for the dampness of his race suit one bit, he had Jules in his arms and that’s what mattered. “I’ve got you.” He whispered into his ear.

“Sorry.”

“For what?” Charles kept his voice low, he wasn’t supposed to have come back here.

“Not finishing, you came here, you took time off of work, for what?” He huffed.

“To support you, to love you, I hope I wasn’t a distraction.”

“It was the engine, not you.” Jules pouted heavily, he hated the idea of Charles blaming himself for any of this.

“Then why are you apologising?” Charles grinned as he kissed along his jaw until he found Jules’ perfect lips.

“I…” He sighed.

“Shush, shush my beautiful man.” Cradling him tightly he waited for Jules to relax a tiny bit more before doing anything else. “Do you have to stay?”

“Mmm, have to do debrief.” He groaned lightly, he wanted to disappear now, back to their little cottage in the country to forget about the day.

“But not until later?” He was careful not to mention the end of the race in name, Jules didn’t need that.

“Non.”

“Then it is perfect time to wash and get changed.” He knew Jules’ routines like the back of his hand, if he had won he would happily stay in damp overalls for hours without a complaint, podium finishes shortened that time. But an early finish meant the quicker he got out of his racing kit the better it would be, a fresh set of clothes would do him the world of good right now. “I’ll wait right here.” He also needed a little time alone to compartmentalise things.

“Okay.” Unzipping as he went Jules dived into the tiny shower that was unfortunately only just big enough for one person. Scrubbing at his hair he began to rationalise, having Charles waiting for him a few metres away made it easier to do so, and the few minutes stood naked under the hot water reminded him it was all just some bad luck. “It might happen to Kevin.”

Charles marvelled at his mental strength, Jules made him stronger. “Very true, it was just bad luck, worst luck, but is not over yet. More of the season to go.” Charles reiterated, backing his point up with a gentle kiss. “So strong.”

“Merci.” Falling back into his arms Jules shuffled them back to eventually sit on the small sofa in the room, his body naturally curling around Charles’ because he never felt more at peace in his mind than when he did that. Closing his eyes he knew he wasn’t about to fall asleep because of the adrenaline coursing around his body, but he could pretend they were already back at the cottage.

---

“What a recovery!”

Kevin beamed at the message crackling in his ear. Somehow he had managed to haul himself onto the podium from nowhere, it didn’t matter that it was third, it was a solid fifteen points more than Jules, taking him closer to the race-win gap he was desperate for.

“Thanks guys! We all did this today, amazing!” Kevin called back to the team.

Kimi smiled easily as he listened to all the excited communications going on over the radio to various people in the team, it was a privilege to hear it all, but he couldn’t deny that it was Kevin’s voice that was lighting him up from within. Checking himself Kimi dialed back his internal enthusiasm, he was ready for a relationship, so he couldn’t waste time in a fantasy world with a completely gorgeous straight man. No matter what his smile did to him.

“Come on Kimi, we’re off to the podium.”

Finding himself being dragged off down the paddock Kimi gave and and allowed himself to get swept up in the emotion of the event. The cheers of the crowd were swelling as they clambered to get onto the track to see it, some were even chanting Kevin’s name.

---

“Was that Kimi?” Fernando asked as he thought he saw his friend jog down the paddock in front of the Red Bull garage they were still standing in.

“Yeah.” Mark smiled, his hand resting on the small of Fernando’s back. “Good to see him smiling like that.” Looking around he tried to see if Dan and Jean-Eric had returned after disappearing not long after the crash.

---

“Kids?” Jean-Eric asked again.

“Um, sorry if I freaked you out. Jev, ignore me.” The last thing he needed to do was to put pressure on Jean-Eric right now.

“A girl?” Clearly Dan had thought about it.

“I don’t know, sorry.” Dan moved out of the way of some Red Bull staff.

“You do know.” They had been going around in circles and Jean-Eric realised he had to be the one to break the cycle.

“I kinda always have, but something’s going on with you and I don’t want to put any extra pressure on you.” It was the wrong place to be having the conversation, but it was where they had ended up.

“I got a letter from Lea a month ago.”

“Jev.” Dan gasped as he scooped him into his arms. “What did it say?”

“Don’t know, don’t think I want to know.” Jean-Eric muttered against his neck.

“You do you need to read it, Lea might need you.” Dan kept kissing whatever part of Jean-Eric’s face he could reach. “Open it when we get home.”

“What if it’s bad?”

“Then it will be bad, but Jev, it could be good news.” Dan tried to lessen the strain on his heart.

“I do not think good news comes like this.” It had been in his back pocket since it landed on the doormat, his sister’s handwriting clear on the front, the little doodle she always left on notes for him in the bottom right corner.

“Oh, why didn’t you tell me?” Cradling his face Dan felt utterly helpless.

“Thought I could deal with it on my own.”

“I’m here for everything, good, bad, stupid, funny, sad, happy, everything. Everything.” His kiss landed on Jean-Eric’s cheek as he turned from his lips. “No.” Dragging a reluctant Jean-Eric with him Dan found a quiet spot and took the letter out of his hand. “Open it. Open it now.”

“What if it’s bad?”

“Then I will hold you, you don’t have to tell me what it says, but you need to know because regrets hurt too fucking much.” Dan saw the crumpled expression on Jean-Eric’s face and felt guilty. “Sorry, we’ll do it at home, I just don’t want the silence.”

Stepping out of Dan’s touch he felt the desire to run, but Dan was right, hiding from this had gone on long enough. It was his sister. “Can we go back to the car?”

“Sure. I’ll text Mark on the way.” He quickly tapped a message to Mark letting him know they were off on their own for a bit, he knew he would understand because of what had been said earlier. They stayed quiet on the way towards the car, but the place was packed now. “Hey.” He could hear the frustrated sigh from Jean-Eric and so took his hand to lead the way towards a field, there they could be alone and Jean-Eric could have some space. Climbing over the fence took no time at all and within moments Jean-Eric was carefully opening the envelope, sliding his finger along the crease to make as little damage as possible he did it without take a breath.

“Dan?” As soon as he said his name Dan was holding him from behind, his forehead resting on his shoulder so he couldn’t see anything, his arms looped around his waist making sure he wasn’t alone. “You can look.” He wouldn’t mind repeating good news, but if it was bad he wouldn’t be able to do it.

“If you’re sure.”

“Oui.” Picking out the couple of sheets from inside he began to read, and it was clear that all the letters he had sent had never reached her, the anger was pouring off the paper, accusing him of abandoning her.

Dan held on as Jean-Eric sagged into him, the words read like venom, Lea was completely distraught and he could understand why because they had no way of knowing what their parents had told her. But as Jean-Eric’s hands dropped away Dan had to rescue the letter. “Keep reading, look she says that she still loves you and...”

“And what?”

“Jev, she’s been in a bit of trouble.” Dan breathed.

He turned in Dan’s arms, his tone was all wrong for it to be good. “Dan. Tell me.”

“She’s been in hospital, Jev, you need to call your sister.” At the end of the pages was a final plea and Lea’s phone number, Dan was tapping it in as he read it. “You have to, don’t leave yourself with regrets.”

Numbly Jean-Eric accepted the phone from Dan and held it to his ear, the dialing tone seemingly endless.

“Hello?”

“Lea?”

“Jean-Eric?”

“Yes!”

They spoke so fast Dan couldn’t keep up, his handle on French was no where near good enough to cope with what they were saying, but he could single out enough words to believe it was good between them. And he was thankful.

“Where are you now?” There was too much to discuss over the phone, he wanted to see her, he wanted to be close to family.

“England, you did get my letter?”

“I thought...I couldn’t open it, I thought it would be bad. You’re here?!”

“Yeah.”

“You’re in England?”

Dan understood that, Lea was only a matter of hours away wherever she was.

“Yes, I went to university at Silverstone.” Hearing her brother cry was heartbreaking, she so wanted to be angry with him about leaving her with their parents, but there was relief too because it meant she had been right, he was alive.

“Lea.” He sighed, his head hurting for the strain.

“Jev.”

“Where are you now, right now?” He had to see her.

“London.”

“Let me see you.” He begged. “I’ll come right now.”

Dan kept holding on, tighter and tighter to keep Jean-Eric standing, keeping him up, keeping him together. All he hoped was this this was it, this was the reason he was retreating and being quiet because he couldn’t cope with the heartache if there something else on the horizon about to jump them.

“I love you Lea.” He had all the information he needed to go see her.

“Where am I driving you to?” Dan asked, his breath washing over Jean-Eric’s ear.

“London, um…” How could he have forgotten? “I forgot.” He wailed.

“Shhh, Jev, shhh.” Turning him around his arms Dan cradled him, if they were at home he would have built them a nest, a safe place for Jean-Eric to decompress. Lots of blankets and pillows, his favourite classical album on repeat at a low volume, lots of hand holding and cuddles too. Calm and quiet. “Jev, let me call her back, say I distracted you.” By the time he wrestled the phone out of Jean-Eric’s grip a message pinged through. “Look, she sent you the address. It’s going to be okay.” Kissing his temple tenderly Dan quickly set up a search for directions for the quickest route.

“Dan.” It was so overwhelming.

“I’ll drive us there now, let’s get in the car.” After drying Jean-Eric’s eyes with the hem of his tee shirt it was easy to get him in the car.

“What about Fernando, Mark, Sebastian, Kimi!”

“Who gives a fuck, Jev, this is your sister, your family. This is what truly matters.” Dan stated resolutely whilst regretting swearing, Jean-Eric was more sensitive to things like that when he was vulnerable. “Sorry for swearing.”

“Is okay Dan, just drive.” He had nothing left in reserve to fight with. “Drive.”

---

“Oh. This is…” Mark read the text message from Dan, he didn’t like the sound of Jean-Eric having a family emergency. “Nano, Dan and Jev have gone, family emergency.” They were back in the Red Bull hospitality area enjoying a cold drink.

“Are they okay?” He hated the sound of that.

“Don’t know, but they will be. I’m sure of that.” Mark reassured him with a quick hug.

“Excuse me, Jean-Eric asked me to give you this.”

“Oh, thank you.” Fernando took the bag from the less than impressed Red Bull employee, and it didn’t take long for him to see why. “Look.” He took the hat out out of the bag and presented it to Mark.

“Seb will love it.” Seeing the signatures made him want to call Jean-Eric up and thank him, but he knew he couldn’t. Instead he sent a quick text to Dan saying how much he loved it.

“Yeah, especially with the autographs.” He just hoped they could give it to Sebastian. “Mark?”

“Uh huh.” He took the hat back and wondered how they got to this point.

“Kimi.”

---

“When I say run, run.”

“What?” Kimi snorted.

“Run!” Kevin hissed with a huge grin, taking Kimi’s hand in his he dragged him out of the back of the motorhome. “Put this on.” Shoving a helmet into Kimi’s hands he strapped himself into his own and swung a leg over the waiting scooter. “Get on!”

“Kevin?”

“Come on.”

Kevin’s smile was so inviting he just clipped the helmet on and settled in behind him on the seat, the warmth from his body travelling through into his immediately until it flooded him. Then Kevin was reaching behind with one hand.

“You need to hold on properly.” He wanted Kimi to hold onto him, tightly. So when he scooted forward to wrap his arms around his waist Kevin grinned broadly to the world. Kimi Raikkonen was holding onto him.

It was exhilarating, the quick scooter ride to the karting track was the most exciting thing he had done in ages, it was so freeing, shockingly so. He clung on tightly and decided to deal with the shame afterwards, he was acting like a teenager when he shouldn’t be.

“How was that then?” Kevin asked as he slid off the seat taking his helmet off as he went.

“Great.” Kimi smiled.

Kimi’s smile was radiant, it made a smile break out on his own face. “Good, now prepare to be beaten!”

“Oi, I don’t think so.” Kimi warned playfully.

“Let’s see then. The guy I spoke to earlier should be about, said he’d be around after the race.” Locking the scooter up he took his spare helmet back from Kimi and carried it towards the karting centre for him.

“Think I should be the one carrying those, you’ve been working hard all day.”

“Cool, thanks.” He dumped them on Kimi and sauntered into the building, laughing before turning back to help him out. “I’m not a diva like some of the other drivers, I carry my own helmet.”

“I bet you do.” He paused as he realised how he had said it, in his head he meant it as a dirty innuendo, it wasn’t supposed to come out that it though.

“Hey.” Kevin shot back. “It is true though, for far too long.” He sighed dramatically.

But then they both stopped, in the reception area decorated in photos of all the famous people who had visited, chequered flag bunting and enough Silverstone memorabilia to essentially be a gift shop.

“What’s with all this Ferrari stuff?” Kevin asked in disgust, there was red everywhere.

“Sorry about that, I’m a bit of a fanboy.”

“Hey Seb, told you’d I’d come, brought a friend too.” He beamed, but his smile was quickly wiped away when he saw how white Sebastian’s face was, then it turned into a frown when he looked at the pain on Kimi’s face. What the hell had just happened?

Chapter Text

“We can go.” Jules announced quietly after entering the room, leaning against the door heavily he waited for Charles to get up, but he didn’t. “Charles?”

“Come here.”

“I really want to go.” He walked across the small room to pick up his bag but Charles dragged him onto the sofa, falling across him he had to smile, it was something he did when they had just started dating. Charles joked that he swept him off his feet, but he argued back that he actually knocked him off and that was completely different. Then Charles kissed him, like he was doing now, making him smile, he wanted him around more to do that.

“Better, even a little bit?”

“Uh huh.” Jules relaxed his body and let his head rest in Charles’ lap, gazing up at his face made him want to be selfish, but he would never utter those words. “Can we go now?”

“Absolutely.” Stroking through Jules’ hair softly he wondered when the best time to tell him was, it had to be before they visited his parents because he wanted to tell them too. “I’m driving.”

“Fine.” Getting off the sofa Jules let himself be vulnerable and clung onto Charles, wrapping his arms around his waist he pressed his face into his chest and breathed him in. Nuzzling into his tee shirt Jules loved how it centred him, he wasn’t embarrassed to admit how much he needed Charles any more. “I need you.”

“You have me.” Charles promised faithfully before taking him home. “You always will.”

There was no point in trying to wrap Jules in cotton wool at this point, he could feel the negative energy pouring off of him, he would just feel strangled and swamped, overwhelmed and mollycoddled. It would only make things worse, so he let him rant and rave over every little detail in a way he couldn’t do in front of the team, he blamed the car, himself and the stupid engine. He blamed Ferrari. He said the unforgivable words to him because he trusted him.

Sitting on the sofa watching him pace about Charles asked for his attention. “Jules?” But he continued to raise his voice, now moving onto Kevin. “Jules?” He really didn’t want to yell back at him, however it was escalating. “Jules!”

“What?!” He screamed, spinning around to glare at Charles. “How dare you interrupt me!”

Charles so desperately wanted to laugh at the way Jules spun around, how self-righteous he looked, or at the incredulous tone of his voice like he had disrupted a groundbreaking revelation. “I can dare all I want.” Standing up Charles crossed his arms over his chest. “You sound like a diva.”

“Fuck you!”

“No, you can’t blame me for anything that happened today, Jules I want you to listen to me now, you’ve said everything you can. You’ve insulted the Ferrari gods, now you listen to me.” Charles demanded lowly.

“What is it that is so important?” He was in the middle of a spectacular rant.

“I’m…” The fire had gone out of him. “I’m...I want to spend more time with you.”

“Huh?”

“I want to spend so much more time with you, I want to be around you more.” Uncrossing his arms he tried to figure out something to do with his hands, he was so nervous.

“What are you saying?” He was blushing.

“I’m quitting modeling.”

“Charles?” Jules gasped.

“I’m sick of traipsing around the world on my own posing in my underwear, I want to use my degree, I want to talk about art, I want to research it, I want to watch you race all the time, I want to stand in the back of your garage and watch you win, I want to stand below you and cheer when our anthem is played, I want to...I want to...love you all the time and not over a phone.” He gasped heavily as he ran out of breath.

Jules listened to the words but they made his heart heavy because what he wanted couldn’t happen. “Charles, I love you, but you can’t…”

“Can’t do what? I can quit if I want.” Taking a step back from Jules he tried to see his face but he was turning away. “Jules, no, no, no.”

“If you stand in my garage every race there will be questions.”

“Other drivers have friends visit all the time.” Charles pleaded.

“But they act like friends, I can’t spend all that time with you and not act like I love you, it’s too hard.” He didn’t want Charles to feel unloved, but they had to be realistic. “They’ll see it in my eyes, there’s too many cameras, they will find out.”

“Sorry about all of this, I want to tell my parents that I’m stopping, but I wanted you to know first.” Reaching out he cupped Jules’ cheek gently, loving how he nuzzled into it like he always did. “I get the situation Jules, I do.” Bringing him into his arms he hugged him tightly. “I’m not asking you to out yourself, and I’m not going to do anything stupid, but I do want to spend more time with you. Months on my own isn’t fun, I don’t enjoy what I do anymore.”

“Only if it is what you want.”

“You are appreciated for how great you are, how talented you are behind the wheel, how daring your overtakes are, I’m just a body on a page, or a catwalk. No one is interested in what I think, they love your opinions on anything.” He paused to kiss Jules’ cheek. “Racing, motorsport, politics even. When I talk about what I’m passionate about they don’t care, they only want to know who I’m wearing.”

Pulling back Jules kissed the tip of Charles’ nose. “I didn’t realise. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t need to say sorry.” Charles reassured. “I just need to do this.”

“Of course!” Jules beamed. “How can I help?”

“Meet my parents as my boyfriend.” He stated simply.

“I am already.” Jules shook his head.

“Then that is all I need from you.” Charles kissed him sweetly. “It’s all I want. Support.”

With an arm around Charles’ neck and a hand pressed against his cheek, he kissed him hard and passionately, proving to him that he had all the support he wanted and needed. “Am here for you.” Not finishing the race didn’t matter any longer. “What am I to do for the Ferrari gods, I said some mean things.”

“I think if you sacrifice some pleasure for me, then they will forgive you.” Charles drawled seductively. “I’m very well liked in Italy.”

“Okay then. I will make this whole night about you.” Sneaking his hands under Charles’s tee shirt he let them match in warmth before diving under his waistband to cup his ass. “I look forward to it.”

---

“Where the hell is he?” Fernando huffed.

“I’ve called him, there’s no answer.” Mark replied. “Just the kart centre left.” Someone had told them they had seen Kimi go into the McLaren motorhome, but it took so long to find out if he was still inside he had disappeared.

“He can’t be there, is not fair if he is.” Fernando moaned as they both picked up the pace into a jog.

---

“Kimi?” Kevin asked tentatively, his face was completely white. “Sebastian?” His face wasn’t white anymore, it was bright red and he was sweating. Minutes had passed and there was nothing going on. Silence, terrible silence. “Please, what’s going on?” He turned back to Kimi, hoping he would say something.

“It’s been a while.” He said at Sebastian, before mechanically answering Kevin. “We used to go to university together.”

“Oh. Right.” He wasn’t convinced, there was definitely something else going on, but it wasn’t his place to pry. “Okay, you still want to have a go?”

“I’ll go get Heikki.” Sebastian muttered as he darted out of the room, he had to find Heikki right now. “Heikki!” He wasn’t in the office, he wasn’t in the circuit either, he wasn’t anywhere. “Please answer, please answer.” Chanting at his phone as he scrolled through his contacts list. “Please answer, pick up, pick up. Heikki?!”

“Seb, what’s wrong?”

“Where are you?” He wailed.

“Seb, I’m out back, taking a break. Calm down.” He wasn’t going until he saw Sebastian again, but now he was freaking him out, his voice was pitchy and strained.

“Kimi’s here!” Sebastian threw himself in the office and shut the door, sliding down it he did his best to repress the panic rising within himself, but he couldn’t take a deep enough breath to manage that.

“Okay, it’s okay, where are you? Are you in the office?” It was most obvious place for him to go, amongst the rapid breathing he picked up a yes. “I’ll be right there.” Chucking the rubbish from the sandwich he brought from home into the dumpster he jogged back inside, jumping over the track he spotted Kimi in the reception area looking a bit shell-shocked. “Hey, sorry about that, was just grabbing something to eat.”

“Oh, that’s fine, if things are a bit chaotic here I could drop by some other time.” Kevin suggested.

“No, no, it’s fine. I’ll show you where to get changed and set up.” He wasn’t giving them his full attention because his mind was on Sebastian, but the moment they said they were fine he went to him, hoping he was in one piece still. “Seb, let me in, it’s me.” He knocked on the door gently so he didn’t frighten him further.

Scrabbling away for the door let Heikki open it and seeing him made him want to break down, he moved here to avoid Kimi, so Kimi could avoid him. “He’s here with Kevin.”

 

“I know, I saw.” Hugging him tightly Heikki found himself rocking him gently to try and calm him down, his breathing was still coming in gasps. “Seb, come on, just stay in here and wait. I’ll take you home afterwards.” Sitting him down in his seat he made a quick cup of tea to comfort Sebastian before returning to Kevin and Kimi.

---

“Kimi, you can go if you want.”

“No, no, it’s fine.” It was so far from fine he didn’t know how to describe it, but his desire to stay near Kevin overwhelmed the severe flight response coursing through him. It was the strangest feeling in the world.

“You don’t look it.” Kevin tried again, this time putting his hand on his arm.

“I’m...it’s complicated.”

“That I gathered. I get complicated, it doesn’t scare me.” He shrugged. “If you need to talk. Oh that was weird, sorry, it was a bit forward. We don’t...we hardly know each other.” He barked a laugh before shutting himself up. “Sorry, I’m being weird. And now you’re smiling, and agreeing.” He thought he was weird too. Great. Just perfect.

“No, I’m not. I’m not Kevin. Honestly. He’s my ex and things ended badly.”

“Oh.” He knew he went red at the revelation, he could feel the heat creeping up from his toes, snaking around his legs, teasing his crotch, tangling around his stomach and chest until it flooded his face. “Okay. Then we can definitely go, you don’t need to go through this.” That definitely explained it all. “He broke your heart.” He knew exactly how that felt.

“Um…” He wasn’t ready for that, he wasn’t ready for Kevin to look like he understood too.

“Shit, sorry, let’s go.” Kimi’s smile was making him overshare.

“Kev, it’s fine, I promised to beat you, yeah?” Bumping his shoulder playfully he went to lead the chase out to the circuit, but as he opened the door he wasn’t sure if Sebastian was still out there.

“I’ve got it, I’ll be lookout.” Kevin had gone through the exact same thing himself, dreading that moment when he saw him across the road, laughing with whoever he was with like they were in love, the worst times was when he was dressed in that leather jacket. “All clear.”

“Thanks.” They walked together until they hit the side of the circuit, but before they could wonder where Heikki was he appeared beside them explaining the rules as he came, clearly wanting this all to over as soon as they did. He just felt sorry for Kevin, it was supposed to be a fun thing to do.

“So five laps each.”

“Yeah, last one gets timed.” Heikki confirmed as Kevin climbed into the kart first.

“I’ll set you a time you can’t beat!”

Kimi stuck his middle finger up at Kevin as he slammed his visor down, he almost regretted his action but when Kevin flipped him off as well he relaxed.

Spying was the worst thing he could be doing, but he still pressed his cheek against the small window and watched Kimi watch Kevin, he was smiling, properly smiling. The smile he used to use on him when they met up after a long day, genuine and loving. But Kevin was straight, his interviews...as quick as the thought arrived Sebastian shook it away, whatever front Kevin put up couldn’t be believed. His own used to be six foot deep.

Heikki could see Sebastian watching through the window and tried to catch his eye, but it was no good because his eyes were locked on Kimi. Maybe it was a fools errand to chase after Sebastian, he was still hooked on his ex, he didn’t want another repeat. But...he was adorable and sweet, smart and funny, and gorgeous. So gorgeous.

“Beat that then!” Kevin shouted excitedly after pulling off his helmet. “Where is he?” He asked an anxious looking Heikki.

---

“Sebastian.” Kimi stated. “We need to talk.”

“Kimi, no.” Sebastian replied through the door, he couldn’t do this here.

“We need to talk.” He repeated.

“Not here.” He didn’t want that memory lingering here.

“Soon then, I’ll leave a time and place at reception.” In this situation Kimi felt he had the right to make the demands. He couldn’t have any more ghosts. Leaving the door he returned to the track and Kevin’s beautiful smile.

“And here was me thinking you’d bailed, was my lap looking too quick huh?” Kevin beamed noting the direction Kimi had arrived from, there was no point getting really involved in a guy he had spent a couple of hours with maximum.

“No, just wanted to stretch my legs.”

“Good, then get your ass in the kart.”

“Ooh.” Kimi gasped, Kevin had slapped his ass as they passed.

“I am...Kimi...please just shoot me.”

“No can do, then I’d miss the look of misery on your face when I beat you.” He covered his mixture of shock and excitement with a few snappy words instead.

“Oh, it’s like that is it?” Kevin shot back. “Bring it then Kimi Raikkonen. Bring it on.” He didn’t care that he went over his five laps, he just told Heikki to let him go until the tank ran out, and when it did he jogged over the track and tyres to reach him.

“Few more than five laps.” Kimi announced as he stood up, his voice muffled heavily by his helmet.

“You looked like…” He could see the confusion in Kimi’s eyes because he could hear him properly, so he helped him take the helmet off. “You looked like you were having fun, didn’t feel like stopping you.”

“I bet I got no where close to your time.”

“Heikki!” He caught his attention with a shout. “Times?”

“You went top Kevin.” He had bettered Sebastian’s time and he watched Kevin punch the air with a fist, it wasn’t fair, Sebastian deserved to keep the top spot. “And Kimi, you did fifteen laps.”

“It’s okay.” Kimi laughed.

“Hey!” Kevin fought back.

“Kev, it’s alright, I don’t care.” Putting an arm around his shoulders Kimi squeezed him briefly. “You won twice today, that’s good enough for me.”

“Only if you’re sure.” He wasn’t sure how that worked, how not wanting to win everything worked.

“Yeah, life isn’t about winning Kev, not always.” Taking his arm back he resorted to a more appropriate distance.

“You might need to explain that to me.” Kevin chuckled. “I don’t understand that at all.”

His laugh was beautiful, it actually lit up the room, or at least the space around them both. Why did he fall for guys that were so fucking complicated? But Kevin got complicated apparently.

---

“He’s smiling.” Mark reported back to Fernando as he strained to see through the window from reception.

“What are we going to say to him?” Fernando was stood by the front door to stay out of the way.

“I don’t know. If we say that we knew, then chances are he...ooh!” Mark ducked down to avoid being seen. “They’re coming.” Mark hissed as he shoved Fernando outside with him quickly following. “He might be pissed off for not saying. But…”

“But we can’t lie.”

“No.” Mark shook his head.

“Fernando? Mark?” Kimi was surprised to see them. “Have you had a go?” He nodded at the building behind him.

“No.” Fernando answered for them both.

“Ah, shame, it’s shut now. We were the last.” He had a pretty good idea what would happen if Fernando saw Sebastian, and it wouldn’t be pretty, especially if Mark got involved.

The awkward silence wasn’t filled with little foot shuffles and half words. “Hi, I’m Mark.” He moved to shake Kevin’s hand after introducing himself.

“I’m Kevin.” He had a firm grip.

Releasing himself from Kevin’s grip he rested a hand on Fernando’s shoulder. “And this is my fiance Fernando.”

“Nice to meet you.” Kevin shook his hand too. “You’re a really good looking couple.” He had no control over his mouth today.

Mark barked a laugh. “Cheers mate. You’ve not exactly been hit with the ugly stick either.” Him standing next to Kimi made them look like a couple.

“Oi” Fernando batted his arm teasingly.

Kevin couldn’t tear his eyes away when Mark kissed the top of Fernando’s head, he really wanted that. “It’s great to meet you, but I should probably get going.”

“Of course, you have had a long day.” Fernando nodded in agreement. “Think we need to make a move home too.” He said to Mark.

“Agreed buddy, it was nice to meet you Kevin. Oh and congrats on the win today.” Mark gave him a thumbs up.

“Thank you.”

“Do you want a lift Kimi?” Fernando offered as they made sure they had everything they had brought with them.

“No, I don’t live that far away actually.”

“You did buy it then.” Cocking his head he watched Kimi squirm. “We’ll wait for our housewarming invitation in the post then.” Fernando winked before leaving him with Kevin, something he obviously wanted.

“Fuck off.” He grimaced under scrutiny, no matter how well meant it was.

“Bye Kimi. Come on you.” Mark called to stop Fernando meddling.

“Friends?” Kevin asked once the doors were shut.

“Yeah, from uni. I needed a photographer to take decent photos of my work, and that’s how I got to know Fernando, and Mark came with the package.”

“I can see.” Kevin smirked. “Good people, your people.”

“Uh huh.”

“I really should go, um...” He didn’t have a reason to go other than not having anything else to do, and what Kevin really wanted to do wasn’t going to make anything better.

When Kevin didn’t finish what he was saying Kimi felt he had to fill in the gap. “Okay, I’ll see you soon then, today was great. Thank you.”

“No problem, it was fun having you here.” Maybe he could invite him to Hungary, then he could get his tattoo immediately after the race then. “Yeah, I’ll see you after the race in Hungary.” At least he used some of the words he wanted he thought as he groaned internally.

“Alright, um, bye then.” Asking him for a drink would have been too weird Kimi told himself.

“Bye.”

---

Dan had been driving in silence for what felt like hours, but it was only about an hour and a half by the time they were hitting the city and closing in on the address. Jean-Eric had been staring out of the window the whole time, only switching between the passenger window and the front windscreen for a bit of variety, but he didn’t push away his hand when he reached over to squeeze his leg. It was all reminding him a bit too much of their trip to Austria.

“Jev, we’re here.”

“Sorry for not being talkative, I was just trying to figure out what to say to her. I abandoned her Dan.”

“You were given a choice, and that was to live a life as who you are, or to lie a horrific lie. If your father had his way you would be married to a woman and unhappy, desperately unhappy. Both of you would be. And I know I shouldn’t say this, but I’d be bloody miserable too. You didn’t abandon Lea, you chose to live your life, if we could have taken her with us without the police getting involved, I’m sure we would have given her the option.” Unclipping his seatbelt Dan leaned over the gap to kiss his cheek.

“I’m scared.”

“I’ll come in with you.”

“Thanks.” Sighing his undid his own seat belt and opened his door, each step feeling heavier than the last. “She must hate me.”

Talking over the top of their hire car Dan did his best to settle his nerves. “I’m sure this is going to be emotionally charged, but you’ve got to get your side across, that’s just important as her side.”

Making his way around the silver car he hugged Dan tightly. “Number twenty five, wasn’t it?”

“Uh huh.”

No time like the present Jean-Eric thought, as he walked up the couple of step to knock on the door, Dan was behind him, he’d be fine.

“Hey, who are you?”

“Does Lea live here?” Jean-Eric asked the short brunette who answered the door.

“Uh, yeah.” She turned away to shout into the house. “Lea! Some hot guy for you.”

“Ooh, coming!”

Jean-Eric heard her voice, even though it had changed a little with age, it was still her and before it got to much Dan had taken a hand in his to ground him.

“So who is this hot...Jev?”

“Lea.” She was beautiful, utterly beautiful. “Lea.”

“Took your time.” She sighed.

“I was scared about what was in the letter.” He admitted.

“That’s fine, who...not you.” It had taken long enough to get to the point of writing to Jean-Eric in the first place, finding a work address for him the final piece of the puzzle. “Why is he here?”

He was taken aback by the bitterness and anger in her voice, he never expected smiles and kisses but the venom wasn’t either. “What?”

“Look, I haven’t got time for this.”

Dan could see she was going to shut the door in his face, and he wasn’t going to let that happen. “Lea, please don’t, you wanted to talk, you’re both here now.”

“I don’t think you should say anything Daniel.” She sneered.

“Sorry Lea, but you can call me Dan. Like you used to.” The smile he had planned faded before it could appear, it didn’t look good.

“You are lucky is not something worse, not after what you did.”

Chapter Text

“Lea, please.” Jean-Eric pleaded.

“He forced you to leave Jev, how could you be with him?” Lea gestured at Dan, she could barely stand to look at him, he was the cause of all the hurt. All those years ago, he just left her alone. Alone.

“He didn’t, please, let us in. Please Lea.” He took a step towards her but she retreated.

“You can, but he can’t.” She pointed at Dan.

“Lea you don’t understand, you have to let him in because when you know the truth you’ll feel bad for making him stay outside.” He warned.

“Jev, it’s okay. I’ll sit in the car, this is about you two anyway.” Dan couldn’t stand the idea of him being the reason there was trouble between them now, and maybe he was in one way, it seemed that way at the moment. Either way, he didn’t need to be making it any worse.

“Dan.” Jean-Eric turned to see him already at the car. “Dan, no.” It was all too familiar.

“It’s fine.” He called back as he reached the car.

Holding the door she tried not to feel the pang of guilt at the tears shining in her brother’s eyes. “Come in.” She felt so stupid for falling for Dan’s charm all those years ago.

“Is a nice place.” He muttered because he had to say something.

“Uh huh, is the nicest we saw, bills included.” She replied in kind as she led him upstairs to her room. “I didn’t want to go home, we thought the summer in London would be interesting.”

He was a nervous wreck once she opened her door, all he wanted to do was hug her and tell her he was sorry until he lost his voice. But he needed to explain for Dan’s sake. “Lea, Dan isn’t the problem, he saved me, he saved my life. Actually saved my life.”

She didn’t like the way his face twisted up at the end. “I didn’t write that letter to talk about Dan.” Lea only cared about finding out why her brother left.

“But, you need to know. I don’t know what you know about that day I left, but…”

“Tell me.” Lea demanded firmly.

“Did you get the blue bear? I left that for you, I wanted you to know I was thinking about you, I knew if I left a letter père would have thrown it out.” Sitting down heavily on the edge of her bed he rested his head in his hands when he heard her answer.

“No. Where did you leave it? Your room was empty when I got back from school.”

It was like a punch to the chest. “But...I promise you I left it. Ask Dan. It was in your room.”

Lea had found nothing, and she had looked hoping to discover something to help her figure it all out. “Explain. From the start.” She huffed, things weren’t going to move on otherwise, sitting on the small desk, she rested her feet on the chair in waiting.

“I was moving to Austria anyway with Dan, mama and père thought we were friends, but we had been together since I went to that Red Bull programme, we met there. We kissed too, I couldn’t stop thinking about him, he made me feel okay with being gay.” Jean-Eric sighed. “I’d never felt normal, but Dan, made me...he made me feel normal.”

Lea watched the way Jean-Eric sat up straighter. “I never realised.”

“No, I kept it from you, père was so against gay people, I didn’t want you to cross him.”

She could see the story unravelling in front of her, it made a lot of sense. “I don’t have anything against you like that, being gay isn’t wrong.” Why would he ever think that?

“I know that now.” He shook his head. “But Dan made me see it then, that’s why I chose Silverstone, partly to get away from père, but also to be close to Dan, he’s actual sunshine. And I need that, my head goes to some really dark places, and he knows how to reach me.”

“But you left me!” She couldn’t understand.

“I didn’t want to! Not like that!” He shot, wanting her to understand. Even now it felt like he was driving away from her.

“Then why did you!” Lea shouted back.

“I had no real choice.” Jean-Eric started but Lea jumped in.

“Père said he gave you a chance to let him pay for rehab, but you didn’t want it, you wanted Dan, Dan and the drugs. You kept going on about the drugs. Said that you both left to get high, said you didn’t care about your family because they were trying to make you clean.” That day was still so fresh, Jean-Eric had helped her with a project and she had gotten a great result on it, he had promised he would wait to find out how she had done. But he wasn’t there, mama had given her a grim look before père explained.

“You were only young Lea, is normal to believe what our parents say. But père found a picture of me and Dan together, I thought I had hidden it, but he flipped, he made me choose between Dan and marrying a women to take over the family business.” Jean-Eric sighed. “The rehab he wanted was to cure me of my abnormal ways.”

“You chose Dan.” She stated quietly, it would have been her choice too.

“I had to, but Lea, leaving you wasn’t easy, leaving my family was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I ended up doing something, drastic.” He didn’t want to tell her how bad it had gotten, but she still seemed sceptical.

The shaky breath he took worried her, her older brother was always so strong.

“Me and Dan…” But he couldn’t continue, he hated that the memory clung to him.

“I don’t get it, there were no drugs?” That had been the only answer she had ever gotten from everyone in the family, now it was looking like a conspiracy.

“Dan.” He gasped. He needed Dan here, he could fix it.

“Jev, what’s wrong?”

“Dan.” He sobbed. “Dan.”

“I’ll go get him.”

---

He felt like he had abandoned Jean-Eric, but he needed his family, he needed to know that someone with his blood approved of him. Dan knew Jean-Eric hated that he wanted such approval, and he never saw a problem with it. He had never had to fight for love from his own family, everyone gave it willinging, in hugs, praise or even some well-meaning banter. Jean-Eric did get it from his sister unconditionally, and his mother is her own guarded way, but there was something about having their own fathers give them the nod that they were proud that was unlike anything else.

Tipping his head back Dan closed his eyes and began to plan out a way to pamper Jean-Eric when they were back home, nothing over the top, but enough to let him know he was truly loved. Which he did, Dan knew he couldn’t love another person as much as he loved Jean-Eric, he had wrapped himself around his heart in such a beautiful way he didn’t want to love anyone else.

“Oh shit!” Opening his eyes he jumped at seeing Lea at his door looking into the window. “Lea?”

“Jev needs you.” The fear and panic on his face startled her, he looked afraid as he leapt from the car.

“Is he okay, what’s wrong?” Fumbling with the key he stamped his foot to get his hands to coordinate with his head.

“He started crying, he doesn’t do that.” She explained once the car was finally locked. “At least he never used to.”

Dan didn’t know how much they had gotten through, so didn’t want to put his foot in it. “He’s been through a lot.”

“I didn’t mean to blame you for everything, père and mama told me that you got Jev into drugs and you both left.”

“Oh, we’ve never...I mean there was a couple of joints in Amsterdam, but that’s normal. But no, no drugs, never...why would you...” He was floundering.

“Dan, Dan, I know, Jev said, well, he started.” She couldn’t cope with two emotional men, she rarely dealt with her own feelings.

“Which one is your room?” The second she pointed he held back from bursting in and gently opened the door to find Jean-Eric curled up on his side on the bed. “Jev?”

“Dan?” He mumbled, he felt like his head was full of shadows again.

“I’m here. I got you.” Clambering onto the double bed he wrapped himself around Jean-Eric, kissing his forehead softly got him to snuggle in closer to his chest. “We can work this out, whatever way you need, we’ll do it.”

Lea wanted to cry out loud, but she couldn’t break the moment between them, so instead she let the tears roll down her face silently, her brother was broken. Her beautiful, kind and smart brother had been through it all, she was just glad he had Dan by his side.

“Room for one more.” Dan knew silent crying and beckoned her over, there was enough room the other side of Jean-Eric to completely surround him. And when she was settled he rubbed her arm for comfort, he didn’t want a single tear shed but in reality it was going to happen again, but perhaps next time it wouldn’t lead to this.

“I tried to kill myself Lea.” He admitted.

“What?” She gasped, surely things couldn’t have been that bad.

“I just couldn’t see a future, but Dan saved me, he picked me off the floor and helped me get the right treatment, he never gave up on me. Not once. And I love him.” Stretching his neck he pecked Dan’s lips, highly aware of Lea tucking in behind him. “I couldn’t live a lie for the rest of my life, I wrote you so many letters.”

“I didn’t get any, oh Jev, I’m so sorry.” Squeezing his stomach she felt him chuckle.

“You always hugged my stomach.” He let himself smile at the wonderful memory.

“It was all I could reach.” She missed the innocence of their childhood, their father was just strict back then, not some monster intent on breaking their family up.

Dan relaxed his grip on Jean-Eric and shuffled to release him completely, he really needed to say all of this face to face with Lea, and he made sure he did. The similarities between them becoming more apparent the more they talked it all out, their French getting faster and faster, their smiles alternating with frowns and a couple of tears, but when they finally finished it was smiles and hugs all around.

Sighing gently Dan settled in to rest with them both, it was probably for the best considering the emotional strain they had just gone through, he wanted to leave them both alone but he could hardly wait around downstairs as a stranger. And the car would be baking hot by now too, he just had to close his eyes and wait it out.

“Dan?” Lea whispered over Jean-Eric’s sleeping body.

“Yeah?”

“Let’s go talk.” Rolling out of bed carefully she grabbed her handbag and carefully tip toed over to the door, trying her best not to watch how painfully Dan was moving to make sure Jean-Eric stayed asleep.

Dan was only wearing a tee shirt, but he wanted to leave behind something of him so if Jean-Eric did wake up he would know he hadn’t gone far. So he slipped out of his top and bundled it up so it fit in the little gap between his chest and the bed. “Sorry about…” He gestured at his bare chest.

“It’s fine with me, I fancied you when I met you before you both went travelling. I would have been very popular at school if I’d told my friends about this.” She laughed quietly.

“I’ll grab something from the car.” He assured as they walked out together. “It keeps him calm if I’m not there if he wakes up.”

Her brother used to be so strong, it was worrying to think he needed that level of security to be left alone. “Dan, I’m so sorry for how I behaved.” It was clear Dan was still the boyfriend she wished she had all those years ago.

“Thanks, but there’s no need, if I was in your position I would have been the same, family is family.” He replied simply. “You don’t think, you protect. It’s instinct.”

“Yeah, but I’ve hated you for all these years, truly hated your existence, I put every smile down to him being high.” Lea waited for him to pull a hoody on over his head before continuing. “I thought you were the devil, that you stole my precious brother from me, that you...that my father was right.”

“It’s okay Lea.” Dan hugged her firmly. “It’s going to be okay.”

“So how bad, how bad was it?” She had to ask, she got some of it from Jean-Eric, but she knew Dan would fill in the gaps.

“Is there anywhere quiet we could sit?” It wouldn’t be right to talk about all of this on the street.

“The back garden is pretty private.” Leading him back into the house she dipped into her handbag and picked out her cigarette case, taking out one she had pre-rolled earlier to put between her lips, ready to light it the moment the back door was shut. And when they were outside, like the landlord asked, she flipped the lid back on the lighter and lit the end and took her first breath. “I know Jean-Eric was telling me the truth, but despite everything he still sees me as his little sister. I want to be back in his life, I made us miss so much.”

“Lea, it’s on both sides I guess.” Dan sighed as he pulled up one of the white plastic patio chairs to sit on. “I should have pushed Jev to go and try and find you, but after his attempt he’s been so fragile underneath it all I couldn’t bring myself to put that pressure on him.”

“It’s that bad?” She winced.

“Some days, some days he can’t get out of bed, but that’s the bad end of the scale, the other side is when he talks about how he’s feeling and he’s being open.” Dan looked at the deep frown on Lea’s face as she sucked hard on what was left of her cigarette. “I’m making it sound worse than it is, Lea, he’s in a good place now, he’s on anti-depressants and they’re really helping him out, it gives his head a rest.”

“It does sound bad Dan. He’s on pills.”

“When you have a headache you take painkillers, a broken leg gets put in plaster, he was down a hole and this medicine has seriously made a difference, it took him a while to accept them, but he’s been amazing. He really has, he’s so much stronger than he realises.” Dan smiled. “It’s not perfect, but he kicks ass at his job you know, everyone loves him, he’s got his team wrapped around his little finger.” He chuckled. “If you knew about the overtime they did just because he asked. Lea, I love him so much.”

It was nice to hear all of that, but she needed the details of that night. “He really did try to kill himself?”

“We don’t have to talk about this.”

“I want to, unless you don’t, sorry.” Shaking her head she put the finished cigarette in the plant pot they all used and got another one on the go.

“No, it’s okay. It wasn’t long after we left France, we got to Austria and we didn’t talk, I couldn’t find the words, I’d just torn your family apart.”

As he spoke Lea was struck by the realisation that it wasn’t just Jean-Eric that had been hurt, Dan was just as involved. She wanted to talk, tell him things, but no words came to mind.

“He chose me, and I’m glad I’ve spent these years with him because he lights up my world, but in those days we didn’t say a word, silence took us over and it got to the point where we couldn’t even look at each other. Little did I know that he had bought a razor blade, and I went out for some stupid fucking reason and in that time he tried to kill himself.” Dan looked at his feet for a minute. “I got back and he was in the water, I had to drag him out, in my arms, called the ambulance. It was close Lea.” Dan took a huge breath.

“Dan.” Stubbing out the cigarette she moved her own chair closer to hold his hand.

“I stayed with him the whole time, watching the colour come back to his cheeks as he slept, they put so much blood back into him. But he fought, and we both got help, loads of it, work were great. I mean they didn’t know the whole story, still don’t, but I think simply being able to be gay helped the most. Sounds kinda odd, but that was what most of the therapy was about.”

“How could he do all of this?”

“He was in pain Lea, he thought it was the only way out, he thought if he wasn’t around no one would hurt anymore.”

“No, not Jev. Père, how could he do this to him, how could he hurt his own son?” She choked out, but Dan was already stood in front of her, pulling her into a hug.

“Don’t think like that, he clearly has his own issues, don’t take that onto yourself.”

She couldn’t cry, this didn’t happen to her, but she had enough practice to stop herself quickly. “Shame you have to go back.” She didn’t want to go into that just yet, her head was spinning hard enough.

“You’re more than welcome to visit us.” He was sure Jean-Eric wouldn’t mind that. “Baby steps though.” Jean-Eric had to come first for him.

“Of course, I don’t want to overwhelm him.” Lea shook her head as she stood alone once more.

“Neither do I, I don’t really like talking about him like this, but I get why you want to know.”

“It sounds morbid, but knowing is better than not knowing.”

“It is, I’m a full advocate of that. It’s how I live my life now.” He grinned. “I’m going to check on Jev.”

“Sure, of course, we should probably get something to eat.”

“I’ll go check.” Dan left her to another cigarette and forced himself not to ask her to smoke it, that was probably her safety blanket as much as Jev’s nests were to him. Taking himself upstairs he peeked his head around Lea’s bedroom door to see Jean-Eric properly snuggled into his tee shirt, it made him happy that he loved to be near him that much. Not wanting to wake him, but knowing they had to eat at some point Dan climbed onto the bed, and immediately Jean-Eric began to stir.

“Dan?” He mumbled.

“Yeah, I’m here.”

“Lea okay? Said she wanted to talk.”

“Uh huh.” Dan moved to lay on his side, now they could look at each other Dan began to gently stroke his face, his fingers drifting up to his hairline every now and then. “Just wanted to know a bit more about what happened.”

“From your point of view?” Jean-Eric muttered before kissing Dan’s lips.

“Yeah.” The sleepy, fluttery kisses were some his favourite, nothing was rushed or had an agenda, just kissing because they wanted to. “Is that okay?”

“Of course, she always wanted to know stuff when she was younger.” He sighed. “I’ve missed so much of her life.”

“But not the rest of it.” Dan reminded him. “I said she could come visit at some point.”

“That would be good, nothing’s fixed yet.” Jean-Eric yawned as his stomach rumbled. “Am a bit hungry.” He smiled.

That was such a good sign it made Dan feel light, eating was one of the first things to be affected with Jean-Eric, he tried to get control on his feelings by restricting his food, usually just saying he wasn’t really hungry. “Good timing, Lea was wondering if we wanted to get something.” He didn’t want to hope too much, or make himself believe there was already a change, but he just seemed lighter. “Shall we go down?”

“We can treat her.”

“Absolutely.” He couldn’t be tense, he couldn’t show his fear, but Dan was imagining the drop already, the backlash of all of this.

“Dan.” Both out of bed Jean-Eric held Dan’s hands in his own firmly. “Before we leave I’m going to make an appointment to talk this out, finding Lea isn’t a magic fix, but it’s a piece.” He felt shaky and off balanced, and he could begin to pick up the warning signs.

Hearing that made Dan so proud.

“No silence.” Jean-Eric breathed out before landing one more kiss on Dan’s lips.

“No silence.” Dan agreed wholeheartedly.

Lea felt nothing but relief when she saw Jean-Eric coming down the stairs. “Food?”

“Yes!” Jean-Eric smiled and he sought out Dan’s hand to hold onto. “Where is good to eat?”

“Depends what you want, is just a short walk down the road to the best places.”

After freshening themselves, and Dan had switched back into his tee shirt they headed out with a sense of positivity surrounding them, Jean-Eric and Lea had begun the path back to where they could figure out some sort of normality again. As he let them decide on the best place to eat Dan quickly rang Mark to apologise for disappearing.

“Hey, sorry about earlier.” Dan began.

“No worries mate, gathered it was important.”

“Yeah, it was, Jean-Eric’s sister.” Mark knew enough about the situation to understand.

“Oh, right, well I gather you’re not coming to eat us out of house and home tonight then?” Mark laughed lightly.

“Ah, no, is that alright?”

“Course it is, you still heading back tomorrow?”

“Yeah, think so, can we sort out the details over Skype, we can schedule something?” He was a bit disappointed because it would have been good to spend some off time with the pair of them.

“Of course, hope you’re all alright.” Mark asked earnestly.

“Think so, getting there.”

Mark could hear the smile in Dan’s voice, and that probably meant Jean-Eric was smiling. “Good, I’ll see you soon.”

“Yeah, you will. Thanks for understanding Mark.”

“Like I said, no worries. Bye” He shot a dark look at Fernando once he hung up. “Got the evening to ourselves, and it’s still warm out.” He winked before Fernando’s eyes shot to the roof. “Exactly mate.” Mark nodded before taking his shirt off.

“How does Brazilian take you?” Lea asked Dan as he pocketed his phone.

“Um, braziliant.”

“Dan!” Jean-Eric groaned at the hideous pun before holding the door open for everyone. “Seriously, that was awful.”

Chapter Text

“I heard a rumour today.” Felipe started once they were all calm and relaxed after dinner. He loved this time of the day, even though they would both get down to lesson preparation and any marking after the children were asleep, now they got to simply be a family.

“You and your rumours.” Rob shook his head as he tested the temperature of the bottle before offering it up to Frankie.

“That Fernando Alonso is joining the university.”

“No way.” He chuckled as Frankie began to suckle on the rubber teat. “That just right for you buddy?” He took the contented burble as a yes before returning his attention to his husband. “That’s a nice catch for them.”

“Uh huh, someone saw him on the campus, and you know what gossip is like.” He shrugged. “Never thought lecturing was his thing, he always seems to be travelling.”

“Maybe he’s sick of it, wants to settle down?” Rob offers as Frankie’s eyes begin to get heavy, signally that he was getting full. “Think this little monster is tired.”

“Hasn’t finished his bottle.” Felipe noted.

“He had a fair bit of the solids today.” Rob replied.

“Growing up.” Felipe smiled, with a hint of sadness. “Always happens so quickly.”

“Not getting broody already, are you?” Rob asked simply, this was how it started after Felipinho started to walk, he would start talking about how quickly it had all gone, how much older he was, how much he missed the sleepy baby cuddles.

“Don’t know, is this Williams job, they say I might have to travel, and I don’t want to leave these two.” Felipinho was happily playing with his cars on the sofa, making up race tracks along the arm of it.

“Would it be for long?”

“A week at a time, but it might be for longer if the races are close together. Am not sure I could cope with missing bedtime, I’d miss them, I’d miss you.” The idea of being the opposite side of the world to them, stuck in a hotel room, missing out on storytime, was awful. It made his heart physically ache.

“Where are you going papa?” Felipinho enquired innocently, he didn’t like being away from his papa.

“No, nowhere.” Felipe reassured him with a kiss to the top of his head. It was that sort of reaction he wanted to avoid, how could he leave with Felipinho asking him why?

“Can’t you just work at the factory?” Rob prodded, he knew how much Felipe wanted to get back into the practical side of engineering, especially in Formula One. He had put too much work into his career to give up on that just yet. They would miss him, but he would be truly happy and fulfilled.

“Some of it would be, but they were insisting I would go to races.” Fussing Felipinho until he got huffed at Felipe looked over at Rob, Frankie was smacking his lips contently in his arms.

“That does make sense, they want you there on the front line coming up with ideas and fixes.” He didn’t want to be away from his husband either, but he wanted Felipe to reach old age without regrets.

“Would be cool to see my work in action though.” Felipe admitted, he had a secret notebook he sketched in during free time at the university, and he had spent lab time doing his own computer work. Imagining problems and trying to solve them, he had even snuck it into an assignment just as an excuse to talk about it in lectures.

“It certainly would be.” Rob agreed with a warm smile. Frankie had been successfully burped and they were both waiting for the moment to change him before putting him down for the night. “He’s still a bit snuffly.”

“I’ll put olbas oil on the cloth again, it helped last night.” All it took was a couple of drops, it took them a while to figure it out with Felipinho, but once they tied it to the bottom of the cot it helped ease the symptoms.

“Cheers.” Glancing down Rob could tell by the glorious expression on Frankie’s face that he was filling his nappy. “And cheers to you!” He laughed.

“Ugh!” Felipinho yelped.

“You used to do the exact same thing when you were his age, so don’t start!” Rob chuckled at the less than impressed face his eldest was wearing, he didn’t look convinced either.

“What is it?” He returned from safely fixing the cloth in its usual place.

“Felipinho thinks he never filled his nappy.”

Felipe joined in which made Felipinho pout all the more. “Hey, do not look like that.”

“Making fun!”

“No we are not.” Felipe relented as he scooped him up into his arms. “Say goodnight to your brother.”

“Night Frankie!” He waved before leaning over to kiss him.

As he’d had the cold beforehand there wasn’t much point in trying to stop their tradition. “Okay then, be back in a minute.” Rob announced as he took his very sleepy son up to his bedroom, thinking that perhaps their house was getting a bit cramped, it wouldn’t be long before they had two boisterous boys running about. Frankie was in the box room, which was more than fine at the moment, but Felipinho’s room wasn’t that much bigger and he was beginning to feel the squeeze. Maybe a switch up would suit everyone.

With the scent of the oil in the air he set about changing Frankie, and despite Felipinho’s disgust it wasn’t as bad as he had feared. So it was a quick change, “Pit stop,” he laughed to himself, before giving him a brief cuddle and setting him down at the bottom of the crib. Turning the monitor on he crept out leaving the door slightly ajar to make sure he never got used to sleeping in silence, but before he returned downstairs he peering into Felipinho’s room. Even with his toys neatly packed away it looked cramped, and that wasn’t all of them despite not having mountains, there was even a growing collection downstairs. Even if Felipe didn’t take the job, they were going to have to move anyway.

“Is alright?”

“All good, went down like a champ.” Rob took up his place on the sofa and could tell straightaway that Felipinho was struggling to stay awake. “How about you then?” Stroking his hand through his hair he watched his eyes shut slowly.

“Am awake.”

“Hmm.” Rob chuckled softly as Felipe collected Felipinho up into his arms, protesting all the way upstairs about not being tired, it was his time to read the story, but he knew there wouldn’t be any time to get past the first page.

Felipe loved reading to Felipinho in Portuguese, he was picking up the language so well and he wanted him to be as fluent as possible by the time they visited his family in Brazil next year. But by the time he changed his son he was fast asleep in his own bed, snuggled up with the bear he had since he was born. Felipinho liked his routine, and Felipe didn’t want to be the one to disrupt that, however if he did take the job he would be able to see his parents every year.

“So…” Rob started because Felipe was stood in the middle of their living room looking awkward.

“I want it and not want it.” He huffed.

“Then why not try?” Rob reached out with an arm to beckon him to the sofa.

“But Felipinho and Frankie.”

“We could travel with you for some races, we could go and have a holiday in Australia before the first race, and the european races will be easy to go to. And of course Brazil too, we could see your parents twice, am pretty sure they won’t argue.”

“Maybe I go for a meeting.” He muttered. “Get all the details straight.”

“The boys will cope, and so will I.” Rubbing Felipe’s leg soothingly he felt his muscles tensing. “It’s one of those opportunities you can’t let pass you by, and the boys will be able to say their papa designed a championship winning car.”

“You don’t know that!” Felipe shot back. “Could be a disaster, like Ferrari.”

“Felipe.” He sighed. “It was a freak accident, it wasn’t your fault.”

“Was my car.”

“Accident, everyone said so.” Rob reminded him before moving to stand up, Felipe was sat close to the middle of the sofa which made it easy to straddle him. “Williams came to you, they want you.”

“Rob.” He knew he was just trying to make him feel better. “Stop.”

“No, not going to stop until I’ve got you moaning my name.” He whispered lowly into his ear as he sat down heavily on his lap, wriggling his hips just the tiniest amount to make him give up the pout on his lips.

“The boys.”

“Be quiet then.” Rob rolled his hips more deliberately and Felipe’s hands flew to his waist and gripped him tightly, his fingernails biting into his skin. “I want you.” Mumbling against Felipe’s lips let him feel them open up for his, parting enough so the little puffs of air tickled his lips. “I want you now.” Diving in for a kiss Rob left Felipe panting, his eyes blown from lust, he kept it slow and teasing. Gradually licking into his mouth he pulled back the moment Felipe started to get into it, the frustrated huffs and sighs making his smile before kissing him again.

“Stop it!” Felipe hissed.

“Huh?”

“Kiss me properly.” He hissed before pulling Rob towards him by his tee shirt. Bringing their lips together Felipe kept Rob in place by holding onto his neck, finger tips toying with the nape of his neck, making him gasp against his mouth. “You.” Felipe mumbled on Rob’s lips as they refused to stop kissing.

Felipe was wriggling underneath him, shamelessly arching his back, lifting his hips to create the sort of friction they had fallen in love with, the sort of friction that reminded them of all the secret moments in Rob’s office. Against the desk, behind the door, over the couch he gave him advice on, all of it was so sordid, so risky, but so utterly perfect.

”I can’t believe we’re doing this again.” Rob hissed into Felipe’s ear as he took the stack of papers out of his hands.

“No?” Felipe flexed his hips whorishly before hopping onto the desk, spreading his legs wide to put himself on display. “I think I can.”

Tossing the made up excuse Felipe used to visit on the floor Rob locked the door to his office before returning to his student. “Should we even be doing this?” It had been okay over the summer, there was distance over the phone when they were using dirty talk to get each other off.

“Of course.” Felipe moaned impatiently. “Now, now.” He demanded as he struggled to undo the fly of his trousers, Rob was so sexy, his accent getting more and more so the lower his voice got. “Fuck, Rob.” He groaned. “Now, please.”

Ignoring his own reservations Rob smirked at how wanton Felipe sounded, his accent making everything more sensual. “Missed you.” He kissed the hot skin up his neck until he was nuzzling his ear with his nose.

“Missed you more, please Rob.” Palming himself through his trousers Felipe groaned, he finally had Rob in touching distance again, no more thousands of miles and oceans to separate them any more. “Please.”

Rob filled the space between his legs, reaching around him, he scattered what lay behind Felipe in preparation before bringing them flush together. Felipe’s legs naturally wrapped around his waist and the moment Rob cupped his ass they began grinding together, their lips messily coming into contact as they barely broke apart to moan and pant. It was overwhelming to be back together again, they had talked so much all there was left to do was act upon what they had dreamt about.

“Rob, please.”

“Shh, Felipe, shh!” He wanted to make Felipe scream in pleasure, but not where they could be heard, not next door to the head of their department, not to be caught. But hearing Felipe trying to keep quiet was so much hotter, he whined at how unfair it was whilst doing his best to bring them even closer. Muffling their groans against each others skin, Rob licked at Felipe’s neck and tasted the heat that drove him wild the first time he got it into his system.

“Rob.” He moaned against his lips before diving in for a passionate kiss, he had missed everything about being near him. And he never wanted to feel like that again.

“Eu te amo.” Felipe sighed as he collapsed back into the sofa, Frankie was crying and they could hear it over the monitor. It wasn’t the first time they had been interrupted, and it wasn’t going to be the last, but what they needed was a few moments to collect themselves.

“I’ll go.” Rob whispered, kissing Felipe gently he started to get off of him to stand up. His mind was scrambling to forget about Felipe’s moaning and switch over to dad mode to soothe Frankie back to sleep.

“No, I will.”

Rob chuckled to himself because it didn’t matter how long he would have given him, Felipe was not getting off the sofa. “Hey, get yourself into bed, Frankie won’t take long.” Climbing the stairs swiftly he wondered why he still felt the need to creep into Frankie’s room, because he was definitely not asleep. “Hey there, what’s with the noise?” Bending over the crib he gently picked his youngest up and brought him close to his body, the room was pretty dark, and with him still crying he checked to see if he needed a change. He was dry, and he had just been fed, the room was the perfect temperature too. “Are you just wanting a hug?” Rob murmured as he softly kissed his son’s head.

“Is okay?” Felipe poked his head around the door to see Rob take a deep breath, his nose squashed slightly against Frankie’s fine hair. He loved these secret moments.

“Yeah, just a bit lonely.” Rob whispered. “Did he wake Felipinho?”

“No, checked, he still sleeps.” Felipe smiled. “Bed?”

“Uh huh.” Rob bounced Frankie ever so carefully, and the moment he was sure he was asleep he put him back in his own bed, his body relaxed once again.

“Our turn.” Rob mouthed as he walked towards Felipe and out of the room.

By the time they were undressed and under the covers the moment had gone, it wasn’t the first time it had happened and they knew it wasn’t the last time it was going to happen either, it was just part and parcel of parenting. Instead they settled on cuddling up close to each other, which wasn’t a bad trade off at all.

”Miss this most.” Felipe was comfortably tucked in beside Rob in his bed, his warmth filtering through his body in a way no other could.

“Yeah?”

“Mmm, my bed always feel empty. But I can not tell anyone but you.”

Rob swallowed thickly. “We can’t let anyone find out.”

“I know.” Felipe moved in closer. “I know this can be secret now, but when I graduate will all be okay. Just a few more months to wait.”

He knew he would be the biggest liar in the world if he said didn’t want Felipe to become a significant part of his life, it didn’t stop the guilt though, no matter what way he looked at it he was breaking the rules. He was sleeping with one of his students. “Mmm.”

“We can pretend we start dating afterwards, is no worry.” Draping a leg over Rob’s, Felipe knew this wasn’t some one off fling, it was going to last the test of time.

“You have an answer for everything.” Rob chuckled after kissing Felipe’s head.

“Un huh.” Lifting his head Felipe stretched and wriggled until he could kiss Rob on the lips, the gentle buzz of stubble against his cleanly shaven face making him feel even more at home. He didn’t want to discuss his idea about staying in England after graduating, but he had to start looking into a new visa fairly soon, because his student one wouldn’t cover it. And like he had said, it would only be a few months.

“I think I want to work for Williams.”

Rob grinned. “It’s up to you at the end of the day Philip, me and the boys will follow you wherever you need to be.”

It was said so purely Felipe wasn’t ready for the burst of emotion from within his chest, and he knew Rob would be able to feel the wealth of tears that were now making a desperate bid for freedom, but he didn’t care. He just took the extra tight hug and the kisses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Jules was a bit nervous now he was sat outside of Charles’ family home, his parents weren’t really up to speed with his personal life so he felt a bit disingenuous talking to someone else beforehand. But this was what Charles needed, he was going through some big changes and his duty was to support him, just like he did for him.

“You don’t have to.”

“No, I think it would be good, we can actually relax.” Jules moved to kiss him on the cheek. “You need this.”

“I really do.” Charles admitted, he needed to be himself more than ever. “Thank you.”

“Come on then.” Patting Charles’ thigh encouragingly Jules climbed out of the car first, walking to the back of the car to start unloading their luggage. He understood the need Charles had to be open, it was a need that was keeping him from getting to sleep at night, when he was trying to get to sleep on the other side of the world it was at its worst. Pulling the small suitcase free Jules kept hold of it as he followed Charles to the door to the modest house.

“I offered to buy them somewhere bigger, but they love the area so much.” Charles shrugged as he knocked.

“It’s a lovely place to live.” Jules remarked as he watched Charles open the wooden door.

“I know. But I want to look after them.”

“My parents are exactly the same.” He reassured. “Won’t listen.”

“Mum, dad?”

“Holy shit, you’re Jules Bianchi!”

“And that is my brother Arthur.” Charles sighed under his breath.

“Hi Arthur.” Jules stuck his hand out to shake Charles’ beaming brother.

“You never told me you knew Jules!” Arthur wailed. “Mum, dad!” He jogged off to find them.

“Sorry about that.” He apologised as he took the suitcase off of him to set it down in the hallway.

“Thought you said they kind of knew about me.” Jules vaguely remembered him mentioning it.

“Just mum and dad, but then I said we were really close friends. I was hoping Arthur wasn’t going to be here.” It would be so much simpler, now he was going to have to get Arthur to keep his mouth shut, and convince Jules he wouldn’t say anything.

“Uh…”

He could see the fear already. “Arthur!” Hunting him down was easy, he could hear him moaning at their parents for not being told in the garden. “Hey, shut up!” Charles hissed as his jogged out to his parents who were enjoying the good weather.

“Charles!” His mother cried. “What is all of this?”

“Sorry, but you need to keep your voice down.” He warned.

“Yeah, but it’s Jules fucking Bianchi!”

“Arthur!”

His mum and brother shouted at him. “God, just because I’m not famous!”

“I think we all need to cool off inside.”

Charles raked his fingers through his hair in frustration, this wasn’t how he wanted it to go, he wanted peace and quiet, for Jules to feel safe as well. “Okay.” Following his father inside he saw him close the large patio doors, which was odd, they were opened in the morning and closed at night during the summer.

“Right, this shouting, we’ll have no more of.” He warned as he walked out towards the front door. “Hello Jules, I’m Jean-Christophe.”

Jules took his outstretched hand and shook it. “Sorry if I caused an argument.”

“Nonsense, nonsense, those two are always fighting. Has nothing to do with you, well maybe a little, but it’s not your fault.” Jean-Christophe reassured warmly. “Let’s go through.” Noting the single suitcase he wondered what was going on as Jules followed him through the house. “Right then, can we explain what’s going on?”

“I think Charles needs to do that.” Arthur pouted, he was slumped in the sofa but upon seeing Jules he sat up straighter.

“He’s making some coffee.”

His mother spoke to him and despite the crushing need to find Charles he knew it would do him no good. “Thank you Mrs Pic.”

“No, you can call me Delphine.”

Charles could just make out the polite conversation from the kitchen, hoping that Arthur wasn’t making a fuss or being embarrassing. He shouldn’t have just turned up, he should have thought about everyone else more instead of just what he needed. Balancing everything on the tray he continued to regret all of his decisions, but seeing Jules chatting with his family like it was normal made him question himself all over again.

Placing the ancient wooden tray down on the coffee table Charles began to hand out the cups to the right people, leaving himself and Jules to last. Placing the cup into Jules hand he slotted himself beside him giving him an apologetic look, but he got an understanding one back.

“So what was with all the fuss?” Delphine asked cautiously, she had already fussed Charles for the surprise visit, now she wanted to know the reason why that within seconds her sons were arguing.

Jules was taking a well timed sip of his coffee but nodded just before he swallowed to remind Charles what they agreed to, and to not tell Arthur would be storing up problems for the future. They had to do it.

“Of course I wanted to come back and see you because it has been for far too long, but also because I have some news. I am going to be quitting modelling, completely, after this campaign finishes, it is all over.”

“Oh, right, well, any particular reason?” He thought his son loved the work he did, he was always talking about the wonderful places he got to visit. “Has anything happened?”

“Yes, but nothing bad at all, I am sick of living out of a suitcase, not having a proper home, not being taken seriously. I still am in love with art and I want to fill my life with it, I don’t know how yet, all I know is that I do.”

“Is good enough for us.” Delphine smiled. “So you will not be taking over the business then?”

“No, not yet anyway.” He knew it had to stay within the family, but he had no interest in running a transportation company anyway. Not that Arthur did particularly, but he had a brilliant business mind, it would be something he’d excel at naturally.

“Charles is too pretty for hard work.” Arthur laughed. “It’s my job, you’re not getting anywhere near it.” He warned playfully. “So why is Jules here?”

“Have you told anyone?”

“No.”

“Promise me.”

“I haven’t alright!” He huffed, he hated the older brother routine.

“Okay, what I say now isn’t something I, we, want spread around, this isn’t to go any further than us. Okay?” He got a rather nervous agreement back, but he had to be sure. “This is to protect Jules, we are, he is…” Charles took a deep breath.

Jules had been resting his hand on his own leg, but now he was subtly moving it close enough to Charles to rub his thumb against the denim of his jeans. He could do this.

“Jules is my boyfriend.” Charles stated slowly.

“Holy shit!” Arthur exclaimed inelegantly. “The girls at school will be crying!”

“You dare tell a soul, I will kill you!” Charles shouted.

“I’m not stupid!” Arthur matched.

“Boys!” Jean-Christophe roared above them both. “This is not how you act.”

“It’s my fault, I’m not sure how the sponsors would react.” Jules rushed into the tense silence.

“Is why there is just one case.” Charles’ father mused aloud. “I must say I am a bit shocked.”

“Me too, we just assume, with all the girls in the photos.” Delphine added.

“Oh god, what a waste, you spend all that time with supermodels and nothing...ugh.” He was expecting to be told off again, but all Arthur heard was some sniggering coming from Jules.

“I’ve dated girls in the past, but I love Jules.”

“Eh, more for me.” Arthur stuck his tongue out before offering his hand to Jules. “Might be the little brother, but you hurt him and I won’t seem so little.”

Trying to hide his smile Jules put on his best serious expression and shook it. “I won’t, he means too much to me.”

“Blugh! Right, before I vomit, I’m going out.”

Jules buried his head in Charles shoulder from embarrassment and groaned only loud enough for his boyfriend to hear.

Delphine looked on and smiled, she assumed they were holding hands, all she could see was their hands wedged between their legs. “We’ll see you later Arthur.” She called after his swiftly retreating figure.

“Be back in a moment.” Jean-Christophe promised as he followed his youngest son upstairs. “Arthur?”

“Uh huh.” He needed to find his stripy tee shirt.

“Can you stop for a minute?”

“What is it?” Stopping his quest he put his hands on his hips to look at his father. “What?”

“I want your word that you are...Arthur do not huff and sigh at me...you do not say a word about Charles and Jules tonight to any of your friends. This is not something to joke about.”

“Look I know alright. I’m not even drinking tonight, I’m driving.”

“I just have to say these things, it’s a bit of a shock you know, but still it’s important.”

He could see his dad was a bit conflicted. “Dad, it’s...it’s alright to be shocked about it, I mean I didn’t expect Charles to say that, but it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It doesn’t affect me, you, or mum in any way, so we just go with it.”

“Huh.”

“Yeah, not just a hat rack dad.” He tapped his head. “Look, go back downstairs and talk, just don’t make it awkward and say dad things.” Arthur warned as he spotted the top he was looking for. “Go.” He shooed his dad off and was left wondering how the hell his brother had ended up with a Formula One driver.

Jean-Christophe returned to the living room to an awkward atmosphere, and listening to half of what Arthur had he spoke. “Well, um, I am not sure what to say, but, um, this is awkward.”

Charles burst out laughing, holding his stomach he released all of the tension and anxiety whilst everyone else stared at him. “You don’t just say it’s awkward dad!”

“I didn’t know what else to say.” He moaned as he sat next to his wife.

“The don’t say anything at all.” Delphine cautioned.

“No, no, I’d much rather we spoke, although there isn’t much to talk about, apart from not telling anyone.” He knew he had to trust his brother.

“So you’re gay?” Jean-Christophe blurted out.

“No, well yes and no.” Charles shrugged. “I like men and women.”

“Oh. Right. Okay.”

His parents were completely confused by everything he was saying and now Charles was left without anything to fill the silence.

“If it helps, I really do love Charles, and I don’t take his love and support for granted. Or ever will, and I’m looking forward to supporting him with his new direction in life, and if you’re worried, I’m not going to distract him from it or expect him to follow me around the world.”

“Good, I wouldn’t like that.” She was impressed by what he was saying.

“Nor would I, and I know Charles would not either.” Jules agreed.

“I’m going to go a few races though, I want to support Jules too.” He would be able to choose his time off with a regular job that would make going to the European races easier.

“You love each other?” Jean-Christophe asked, and when he got the chorused ‘yes’ in return with matching smiles and blushes he knew that Arthur was completely right. “It is settled then, me and your mother will organise dinner and you can settle in upstairs.”

Getting off the sofa Charles went to his father and hugged him tightly telling him exactly how much it meant to have their acceptance. To Charles the awkwardness didn’t matter, nor the lack of jumping and whooping, he knew his parents well enough to know what acceptance looked like. Giving his mother the same treatment he beckoned Jules to follow him upstairs, but before he did his hand was shook and his cheeks were kissed. Now it was the small matter of showing Jules his childhood room.

“I don’t think I could pull that look off.” Jules remarked airily as he saw the barely dressed women looking seductive on the poster opposite his bed.

“No, and that’s a good thing.” Charles dropped their bag down and wrapped his arms around Jules. “I love you.”

Jules replied with an intense kiss, leaving them both panting once they parted. “Love you too.” Now he was certain he was going to tell his parents, they would love Charles.

Chapter Text

“They’ve gone.” Heikki announced as he quietly opened the door to the office. “Are you okay?”

“No.” Sebastian was too exhausted to lie. “Kimi wants to meet up and talk.” Truth be told he was still feel queasy from seeing him again.

“Oh.”

“Exactly, what the hell am I going to do?” Kimi should never want to see him again.

“You don’t have to go.” Heikki pointed out knowing Sebastian would find a comeback.

“He knows where I work, and it’s all up to him let’s be honest.” Sebastian knew he didn