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‘Wait, w-ah-wait, Tim!’ Martin manages to get out in a rare moment of clarity. Or perhaps confusion. Being kissed by Tim usually renders him quite useless, head completely empty, so to speak. Tim’s such a good kisser – he’s attentive and responsive and oh so eager. Martin loves it, loves losing himself in the sensation. But there’s something nagging at the back of his mind, something that he was meant to do… Or discuss?

Tim moves back and looks up at him for a second to check if he’s okay. Martin is sure he’s in a state, cheeks hot and pink and lips parted, catching his breath, trying to get the blood back into his brain. They’ve done it so many times now that when Tim cocks an eyebrow, Martin finds himself nodding quickly, signalling that he’s okay.

Tim shoots him his award-winning smile and decides not to press further, leaning back down to kiss alongside his jawline and behind his ear.

So Martin repeats his name, trying to get his attention again. Tim’s touch is intoxicating, and he finds himself running a hand through his hair, trying to keep him in one particular spot.

He knows Tim has heard him but decided not to listen. A sigh escapes Martin’s lips as Tim moves down his jaw and neck, peppering kisses, stopping to suck at the sensitive skin here and there. The temptation to give in and indulge is strong, but Martin’s never been the one to ignore the little annoying voice in his head. So he pushes gently at Tim’s shoulders and with a dissatisfied grunt, he finally complies, sitting back on the couch and looking up at Martin expectantly.

Martin, for his part, is not sure what they were meant to be doing in the first place, exactly.

He knows he agreed to come to Tim’s after work for a reason, and, however pleasant, making out on the couch was definitely not that reason. Must have been something to do with work, then. As he’s trying to recall events of earlier that day, Tim’s clearly grown bored of waiting for him to speak. He rolls his hips upwards, grinding into Martin’s, who’s sitting on his lap. It gets a whimper out of him. He blushes and tries to glare.

He knows every second counts before Tim finds a way to distract him again. There’s a very good chance he will play dumb when asked directly about the reason for their meeting, but Martin vows to himself to stay on topic and find out. Out of the corner of his eye he can see that the cool early spring evening has turned into a cold night.

‘There’s something we were meant to be doing,’ he says finally, aiming for stern and missing by a mile. His voice is way too breathy and high for that.

Tim smirks. ‘We were,’ he says. ‘Until you’ve rudely pushed me away.’

‘Not that, come on, Tim, focus! Something work-related, I think.’

‘We’re not on the clock, though,’ Tim remarks, his fingers tracing patters on Martin’s back. ‘And they don’t pay us nearly enough for us to be doing any extra—’ He attempts to sneak one of his hands under the material of Martin’s jumper, but Martin is faster, reaching back and grabbing him by the wrists. With some manoeuvring, he manages to catch both his wrists in one of his hands and pin them against Tim’s chest. Tim struggles a little, trying to wriggle them free. It’s his turn to blush.

‘Alright, alright, give over, Karl Marx,’ Martin interrupts and Tim cackles but obediently stops talking. He nods, then, signalling for Martin to continue. ‘Uh, let’s see. Jon gave you that file, um, Barnwell, right, yeah. The guy who claimed that his house was slowly eating itself and then disappeared. And Jon suspected his… older brother, I want to say… Never mind. And you said… You said…’

‘This calls for a stakeout,’ Tim fills in with a sigh, seemingly defeated.

‘Yes!’ Martin exclaims, letting go of Tim’s wrists in his excitement. Tim doesn’t waste a second to flip them over, pushing Martin onto his back and crawling onto his lap, pinning him down with his weight.

‘Hey, now!’ Martin tries to protest but he can’t help giggling as Tim runs his hands up and down his stomach, just where he is a bit ticklish.

‘What? Thought we were done brainstorming.’

‘We have to plan the stakeout, Tim. He’s our number one suspect and Jon is convinced it was him who—’

‘Yeah, I know, but we’re not gonna go see him now, are we?’ Tim asks, sitting up.

‘No but as you know he starts his day with a 7 am visit to the gym,’ Martin says, wiggling his hips a little under Tim, which gets a stifled moan out of him, again. He manages to sit up as well, bringing himself face to face with Tim again. ‘And then he heads to his office and I think we should follow him there, which is why we should discuss how exactly we’re going to do that.’

Tim runs a hand down his face and lets out a long sigh. ‘Fine,’ he says, getting up. ‘I’ll make tea.’

‘Oh, no, no,’ Martin protests. He sits up properly and straightens his jumper out. ‘I should be going soon anyway. Last train home and all. Let’s just agree on what we’re gonna wear and I’m sure we can work the rest out tomorrow. I honestly doubt we’re gonna do more than just observe where he goes.’

A shadow runs across Tim’s face. ‘You could stay? Always nicer discussing tailing some rich prick in bed with a cuppa.’

Oh, how he wants to stay. Tim’s mattress is way nicer than his and he has way too many pillows, which always makes him want to stay in bed longer than they can afford to, and which Tim cruelly exploits. Besides, it’s nice to sleep with someone’s warm body next to him rather than in his own shitty and quiet flat on the other end of the Victoria line. And Tim always makes him breakfast to bed… But not tonight, he thinks, shaking his head. They need to focus.

So he stands up and starts collecting his things from the floor. ‘We gotta be up early tomorrow and I know if I stay, we won’t get much sleep,’ he smiles and Tim chuckles, nodding. ‘Besides, I don’t have a change of clothes with me, never mind a disguise.’

‘Right, right. Sound and reasonable as always,’ Tim teases. He trails after Martin into the corridor, watches him battle his horribly tangled shoelaces and refrains from asking him to stay again. ‘What do you want to do for disguises, then? Said something about a gym, right?’

‘Yeah, but I think, ugh—’

‘Here, c’mon, let me,’ Tim says and gets down on his knees without waiting for a response. He removes Martin’s hands from the misbehaving shoelace and examines the knot. ‘You were saying?’

‘I was, I—uh—I think, um. We’re probably not going to be able to get into the gym, memberships and all, so no use dressing for that, but maybe his office building? The reception at least, or maybe there’s a café or something. Either way, we should—’

‘Ah!’ Tim exclaims, finally managing to wrangle the shoelace free. He ties it in a neat bow and pats the top of the shoe for good measure. Then he looks up. Their faces are mere inches apart and Martin glances down to his lips, clearly losing his train of thought.

Tim knows what he’s about to do is unfair on both of them – Martin is about to leave, there is no use getting them both railed up again (though it’s not like Tim has settled down by any means). He closes the distance between them, capturing Martin’s lips in a hungry kiss. He doesn’t waste a moment, licking alongside Martin’s bottom lip and Martin parts his lips with a small moan.

Martin’s cheeks are wonderfully pink again, Tim notices when they break apart for air, and his curly hair is sticking out in odd directions. He exhales through his mouth and goes to stand up on slightly wobbly legs, reaching down to help Tim up as well.

‘Thank you,’ he mumbles, nodding towards his shoes.

‘No worries,’ Tim smiles.

‘So about tomorrow, are we clear what—’ Martin asks as he opens the door and steps out into the dark staircase.

‘Yeah, yes, gym and all that, noted.’

‘Good, I’ll—I will text you later, then.’

Tim nods, blows him one last kiss and then the door closes behind Martin.

***

He’s a bit cold, if he’s being honest, and he swears at himself for never checking the weather app before leaving the house. He thinks about texting Martin to ask him to bring him trackies or something, but he decides against him – Martin might be running a few minutes late, but there’s no way he’s still at his flat. So Tim rubs at his arms, stepping in place in a pitiful attempt to keep warm as he waits near the Tube exit which they agreed upon as their meeting point.

Soon enough Martin emerges, running up the stairs. In his hands he holds two copies of Metro. He stops as soon as he’s on the ground and takes a look around, scanning for Tim, who waves as soon as he spots him.

And then they both notice one another. A minute passes. And then another.

It’s Martin who moves first, walking towards Tim, a confused look on his face. He hands him the newspaper first, then scans him up and down. Tim knows it’s because of what he’s wearing, but his cheeks prickle nonetheless under Martin’s intense gaze.

‘So…’ Tim begins. ‘It seems like we…’

‘Yeah,’ Martin agrees. ‘Seems that way.’

Tim takes a second to take in the sight that Martin makes properly. He’s wearing a dark, well-tailored suit with a light blue dress shirt underneath, two top buttons left open. He even has a matching pocket square. There are black, round sunglasses stuck on the top of his head despite the morning being awfully overcast.

Tim points to them with a weak smile. ‘At least this we both got right.’

On his part, he’s wearing his favourite vintage purple windbreaker, white tee and black gym shorts, pair of hot pink sneakers and the aforementioned sunglasses, currently in his front pocket. He has a black baseball cap in his backpack to complete the undercover look, but he felt silly wearing it by himself.

Martin just shakes his head, still in disbelief, and then they both break out laughing. He leans down to give him a quick peck on the lips and then gestures for them to start walking towards the gym.

‘I mean, this way at least we can cover more ground,’ he says as they settle down on a bench opposite the entrance to the building. ‘You can ask around at the gym later, I might try his office.’

‘And in the meanwhile we’re going to make quite a sight here,’ Tim murmurs, opening his newspaper on a random page and holding up so that it covers his mouth.

Martin reaches over, pulls his sunglasses from the top of his head and places them gently on his nose. Tim doesn’t comment on how this is not something two strangers sitting on the bench together would do, mainly because he doesn’t trust himself to speak, slightly overwhelmed by the tenderness of the gesture.

Martin puts on his own sunglasses and opens his paper as well. ‘Well, nothing weird about two blokes sitting on a bench, catching up on news and events on a… well, on a… decent morning.’

‘Just two bros, chilling on a bench—’ He starts to intone but Martin shoots him a look over the rims of his glasses.

‘Quit it! You’re making me laugh.’

‘Can’t help being a comedy genius.’

‘A clown, more like.’

‘Alright, alright.’

A few minutes pass in silence. A few people go in and out, but none of them is the one they’re on a lookout for. He’s late.

‘I actually had cover stories for us prepared, you know,’ Tim muses as minutes stretch on slower and slower. ‘But obviously you can’t use yours now.’

‘Come up with a new one, then,’ Martin murmurs without taking his eyes off the door. ‘We’ve got nothing but time.’

‘Uh, okay, right,’ Tim says, stretching out the vowels. He closes his newspaper and puts it down, fingers drumming on his thigh. ‘You’re gonna be… Theodore, Theo for friends, um… Theo… Van Kampp. And you work in finance. Stocks, or something. In the City.’

‘I’ve no idea about stocks, Tim.’

‘I doubt it’ll come up, honestly,’ Tim smiles. ‘Besides, you managed to successfully convince both Elias and Jon you have a masters degree and are way older than you actually are. I know you can think on your feet, Theo.’

‘Tim, hush!’

‘What? Do you think Jon is hiding in the bushes? Spying on our own spying mission?’ Tim teases.

‘No, but…’ Martin hesitates and shoots him a mildly annoyed look. ‘Oh, you know. Here, what’s your story, then? With whom do I have the pleasure of sharing this bench?’

‘Rob Robins,’ Tim says, extending a hand over to Martin, who chuckles. Neither of them is paying any attention to the gym anymore. Martin takes his hand and gives him a firm squeeze, expression serious.

‘Nice to meet you, Rob,’ he says in a deep voice. ‘And what do you do?’

‘I like sports and running,’ Tim blurts out. This time, Martin bursts out laughing, throwing his head back.

‘Yeah? That one you had prepared? Come on, Tim, I thought you worked in publishing…’

Tim can feel blush creep its way to his cheeks. ‘Yeah, mainly in PR and market research, it’s not like I was writing the damn books!’

‘Alright, alright, easy there, Rob,’ Martin laughs behind his paper. ‘Nothing wrong with a lad who likes sports and running, nothing at all.’

Tim makes sure Martin can see him pout and then glances back to the door, which their main suspect is currently opening to exit the gym. Turns out it was them who were late.

‘Oh, shit, that’s him,’ Tim manages, hands scrambling away to grab his newspaper and open it up again. ‘Martin, look, he’s on the move.’

‘I see, I see, now shush,’ Martin gets out through gritted teeth, his own newspaper lifted up to cover most of his face.

The man stops to adjust his bag on his shoulder, shooting a quick glance in their general direction. Tim twitches, low grade adrenaline (but adrenaline nonetheless) coursing through his veins. For a second, it feels like the man is looking right at him, but then he shrugs and starts walking down the street.

‘Shit, do you think he realised?’ Tim asks, making sure the newspaper covers his mouth. ‘One of us should probably follow him in a moment,’ he adds, glancing over at Martin quickly, making sure he’s listening. He finds him looking straight at him, fond smile plastered on his face. ‘What?’

‘Tim, love, you’re holding your newspaper upside down.’