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A Surprise Visit

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By Bangkok, Freddie had relaxed again. For whatever brilliant strategic reason, Anatoly Sergievsky hadn't screwed him over. Well. Not in that particular way, anyway.

 He left halfway through the final match, went back to his hotel room. He could tell at a glance that Sergievsky was going to win. He hadn't thrown the match. He'd done what Freddie had told him to do. He'd been true to chess. 

Not, of course, before thoroughly and utterly condemning Freddie's entire existence. So had Florence. He could still hear the things they'd said to him ringing in his ears. So much for that, and so much for his relationship with Global Television. Fucked, fucked, and fucked. The Red was the closest thing he had to an ally at this point, and they were trapped in a sort of mutually hateful respect. Or he hoped they were, anyway. 

When someone knocked on the door, he was playing bartender with the hotel minibar-- that is to say, pouring all the whiskey into a plastic cup. 

He opened the door and came face to face with Anatoly Sergievsky. 

"Hey." He sounded odd, even to himself. "Congrats, partner." 

"I'm not your partner."

"It was a joke. What do you want?" 

"Can I come in?"

"Sure. You like vodka, right? I mean, you're Russian. I've got these mini bottles that I'm cracking open, and I can't stand the stuff. Want some?" 

"No." 

"Whatever. Come in." He stepped back from the door, and Sergievsky followed him into the room. 

"Florence and I broke things off. I'm going back to Russia, to finalize my divorce."

"Good luck."

"I... wanted to thank you."

"No."

"What?"

"Don't thank me."

"Why not?" 

"I'm just glad you won. If you're ever back in the States-- if they let you out of Russia-- look me up." 

"What are you going to do now?"

"What do you mean? With Global?"

"Are you still with Global?"

"No. They just don't know it yet. Maybe I'll go somewhere else. CBS or something."

There was an awkward pause. 

"Though if you ever need a publicist, or a manager, you might be able to pay me enough balance out my pride." 

Sergievsky snorted out a laugh. "You? I don't think so."

"Oh no? You know I'm the king of courting publicity."

"You're a child. You throw tantrums, and the press eats it up. At least they actually like me." 

"Yeah, but who had ever heard of you before our championship? I'm a household name. I made chess relevant."

"You know, I actually used to believe that. Before I met you, I mean. I believed that you did it on purpose, that it was all some elaborate game you were playing." 

"Who says it wasn't? It made me rich."

"You're practically broke, Freddie. I know how you blow through money. Florence told me all about you." 

"Oh, she did, did she? Did she tell you how I planned my tours and my statements? Or did she let you think that I was an idiot? Did she tell you how much of that money I blew on her?" 

"She had a few good things to say about you. Not many, but some. You're a good chess player, and you're good at gauging the mood of a crowd. Now if only you could control your desperate need for attention and your childish temper..."

"I think I forgot who I was talking to for a minute there. There isn't enough money in the world to make me put up with you in the long term. I guess there wasn't enough in it for Florence to, either."

"We parted on good terms, Freddie. It was mutual." 

"Sure, whatever. All I know is that you never seem to keep a girlfriend for very long. I guess you get bored, then." 

"I don't-- Look. I came here to thank you, not to fight." 

"I guess I should thank you, too, then."

"Me? For what?"

"You didn't spread it around. What you know about me. It's better than I expected of you."

"What I...? Oh. Well I'm sorry that you think I'm that sort of person. I'm not. I talked to Florence about it--"

"Oh, great."

"And she helped me understand. It's none of my business. I'm not going to use it against you." 

"If you expect me to take the high road here and decide not to use what I know about your personal life against you--"

"I would never expect that of you. You've never taken the high road in your life."

"Definitely not when it comes to you."

"Speaking of which, Florence gave me an interesting impression of you, you know."

"What? Great. I can't wait to hear this."

"She thinks you're attracted to me." 

"What?!" Freddie almost dropped his cup of overpriced liquor. A little voice that sounded like his mother reminded him absurdly that he couldn't afford to be so fucking wasteful. "What are you talking about?"

"Your pointless aggression, your distraction while playing, even flipping the table... And the way you talked to her about me."

The laugh the came out of Freddie sounded like a dying animal. "Well, she's wrong."

Sergievsky took a step forward, and Freddie backed himself into the bed. "Is she? That's a shame." 

"A shame. Right. Look, I know you've got a thing with women, but I'm--"

"I know you're not a woman, Freddie."

"I've had top surgery since Merano. And I'm on testosterone-- Florence told you that, right? It's not what you're picturing." 

"I know." 

"You know. Okay. What, you don't care?"

"I'm attracted to men and women. Surely you've read the tabloids."

"I did. I didn't really take it seriously." 

"You should have."

"Fine, fine." Freddie took a sip of his drink and set it aside. "So you're attracted to me, is what you're saying."

"Yes."

"And you're telling me this because you think I'm attracted to you."

"Yes."

"And you want... What? To have sex with me before you leave for Russia? I'm not following here." 

"Not exactly. I just wanted you to know." 

"I know you love leaving people, but--" 

"God, Freddie!" Anatoly stepped forward and grabbed his shoulders. "I'm not putting up with any more of this. Kiss me or I'm leaving." 

Freddie took a startled breath, then tried to muster another horrible laugh in Anatoly's face. "Then get out."

"Fine! Fine. Goodbye, Freddie." He dropped his hands and turned towards the door. Freddie growled out his frustration and caught Anatoly roughly by the arm. "I can't stand you," he hissed out. "Come here, if that's what you want." 

"What I want? I want to know what you want!" 

"What do you care what anyone else wants?"

"Freddie! For God's sake, if I--"

Freddie kissed him, primarily to shut him up. 

It wasn't a very nice kiss at first-- Freddie was feeling belligerent and frustrated, and Anatoly didn't seem to be feeling very forgiving, either. There were too many teeth involved, and the kiss was a little too hard for comfort. That said, it was also making Freddie's head spin. When Anatoly finally broke it, gasping for breath, he sat down hard on the edge of the bed. 

"Asshole."

"You're one to talk." 

They stared at each other in breathless silence for a long moment, and then, stupidly, Freddie started to laugh.