A Matter of Pressing Urgency
Thiel was still sound asleep when the doorbell rang. He jumped out of bed a little too fast and nearly toppled back in because of the dizziness in his head. Slowly he got up again with his eyes still closed, cautiously testing the simple act of standing up straight. He was sure he hadn't been drinking. No leather tongue. He was just a bit drowsy and fairly certain that the headache he felt growing was caused by the constant ringing in his ears. There was only one way to end that. He opened his eyes and went for the front door. On his way over, he found his shirt and tried to put it on.
Thiel's last case had been very demanding, emotionally as well as professionally and Boerne had been on his back all the time. Now that the case was solved, sleep had caught up with him and he had been in a lovely state of mild coma all night long. The persistent ringing had put an end to his peaceful morning and he knew exactly who was on the other side of the door. He opened it with a forceful swing in order to address his visitor with some stern words of disapproval for waking him up and being a general nuisance, not to mention a royal pain in the ass.
He was surprised to see that Boerne -although fully dressed in suit and tie- looked even more crumpled than Thiel himself. He swallowed his thundering speech, drew the shirt neatly over his belly and waited for Boerne to speak.
"Sorry to disturb you at this early hour ..." Boerne began hesitantly. For the first time since Thiel had known the man he actually seemed to be embarrassed about the fact that he was intruding on his neighbor's privacy.
He checked his watch. Half past four. That was rather early, even for an eccentric like Boerne. But despite the time, Thiel felt rested and fit for the first time in ages. His thoughts went back to the previous day. Somehow he had been transported back to his apartment, but he must have been sleepwalking on the way over. After the boy's confession and the reunion with his father in church, Thiel had fallen asleep but couldn't remember that he'd actually moved his limbs in order to get to his own bed. The lack of sleep had taken its toll.
The professor was still stuck in mid sentence and didn't seem to be able to bring himself to reveal the purpose of his visit.
"Have you been sleeping in your clothes?" Thiel asked.
Despite the early hour, Thiel had no trouble noticing the little details he was trained to notice as a police officer. The professor had turned up on his doorstep unshaven and in the same clothes he'd worn yesterday.
"Well… you were right when you said that it was difficult to arrange a private nurse on such short notice."
Thiel suddenly understood Boerne's predicament. Since the professor had been run over by a taxi, the man was severely limited in his daily activities.
"Oh, shit! I totally forgot."
Boerne managed a forgiving smile. For once he was not angry that Thiel didn't consider his well-being, the very first thing on his list for the day. But there was still this impatient look in his eyes that almost verged on anxiety. Thiel noticed that his forehead sheened with sweat.
"Can I help with anything?"
Boerne cleared his throat and shifted impatiently from foot to foot.
"You know, I would not venture to ask you, if the matter weren't ….pressing. Literally."
Thiel just stared at him blank faced. Boerne released the defeated sigh of a man who understood that he was expected to grovel.
"I need to go to the bathroom."
Thiel was just about to slam the door shut in his face when his eyes caught sight of the splints on his neighbor's arms. The ramifications of his statement finally got through to him. The lady who had been Boerne's aid the last few days was not likely to show up today. She had other things on her mind, with her son being arrested by the police. She had been Boerne's hands at home, helping him with his daily routines. Boerne probably couldn't even button his own shirt, let alone change into pyjamas for the night. Hence the creased suit: he had slept in it, if he had slept at all.
Boerne's left leg was twitching nervously now. Had he been holding his pee all this time? One look in the anxious eyes told Thiel that this was in fact the case.
"Would you ...?"
Even his voice was strained under the pressure now. Thiel nodded and without further ado Boerne turned on his heels.
On their way to Boerne's flat, Thiel did his best to regard the job at hand as a neighborly gesture: from one man to another. But to him, Boerne wasn't just any ordinary man. The professor had completely messed up his emotional equilibrium ever since they first met. When he came to Münster, Thiel had been depressed and sad about the breakup with his wife, but fully determined to start with a clean slate in a new town with a new job and new friends. And then he had met Karl-Friedrich Boerne. A stuck up, arrogant verbal diarrhea of a man with an ego the size of Ulm Cathedral. A man who made no secret of the fact that he looked down on the common people. People like Thiel, who needed all the self restraint they possessed in order to remain calm and polite in the company of snobs like Boerne. At first Thiel disliked the man thoroughly, but somewhere along the line, he realized that Karl-Friedrich Boerne seemed to occupy his thoughts rather a lot. And on days when he had no dealings with the man he actually missed their witty bickering. Thiel really started worrying when he found himself reacting physically to Boerne's presence.
The first time this happened was when a mad scientist had kidnapped Boerne and threatened to kill him. Thiel found them in the deserted morgue, with Boerne bound to a chair. He was bleeding from a nasty wound on his forehead and looking very scared because of the poisonous syringe tip that was firmly pressed against the throbbing vein in his neck. And in this life-threatening situation, Thiel had felt very peculiar flutters in his belly that could not be mistaken for adrenaline. As a policeman, he had been in situations like these before. But never had he felt the strange sensation that went through him when the kidnapper pressed the tip of her syringe harder against Boerne's flesh, causing him to lean back in the chair as far as he could to avoid penetration, his fists clenched underneath the ropes, a bead of sweat slowly running down his temple. For Thiel it was the most sensual thing he had ever experienced. Seeing a man like Boerne, who was always in charge in every situation, submitting to this woman.
Thiel thought of himself as a full blooded heterosexual. He had always appreciated the opposite sex and still did. He had only ever had comradely feelings for other men up until the day that he saw Boerne like this: quietly submitting, suffering beautifully. It was a day Thiel would never forget, because it changed the way he saw Boerne and above all; it changed the way he saw himself. To his own surprise he had to admit that he could have strong feelings for a member of the same sex. But did this mean that he liked his men bound and gagged? The whole thing scared him at first, especially the fact that the particular member of the same sex that caused these feelings inside him was Boerne. Since that night in the morgue, his senses around Boerne seemed to spike every time he moved or spoke. It had taken Thiel many troubled months to get used to the idea but in the end he had accepted it. Life was short enough as it was. Why fight the inevitable and deny feelings that could not be suppressed?
Boerne knew nothing of his secret of course. God forbid! It would be the end of their working relationship and the end of their friendship, if you could call what they had a friendship. Thiel liked to think that their relationship qualified as such: a very fragile friendship, still in the early stages of developing. He seriously doubted if it would ever develop further, but still…. he spent more time with Boerne then with anybody else he knew. He didn't know of any intimate friends on Boerne's side, so Thiel assumed that the same applied to the professor. And now the object of his desire was as helpless and dependent as he was in that chair some years ago. And he was asking for a favour; a very intimate favour. Thiel couldn't help feeling like a fan girl who had just been asked to help undress Brad Pitt.
The palms of his hands were sweaty by the time he reached the bathroom. Boerne turned around to face him. He very deliberately avoided the other man's look and held out his arms a bit to grant his helper full access. He seemed determined to ignore the humiliating fact, that he was not even capable of the most basic personal care.
Self conscious and timidly Thiel approached, half expecting that this was a dream from which he would wake up any moment. But Boerne and his bathroom didn't fade into a blurred mist. Thiel suddenly started noticing all these tiny details about his neighbour; the unkempt hair that almost fell over his eyes, his neatly cultivated goatee that was now flanked by the deep shadows of a heavy beard. Thiel cleared his throat when he felt his body respond to what his eyes took in. The tickling feeling in his belly grew even stronger when
Boerne suddenly looked at him with the same pleading eyes that had melted Thiel's heart that time in the morgue.
"It will reassure you to know that I only need to empty my bladder." Boerne said when he noticed the hesitation in the other man.
That thought hadn't even occurred to him, but he was grateful that he was only invited to help the man pee. Thiel was not a trained nurse and as much as he liked Boerne, he didn't look forward to raising the collegial relationship to an entirely new level.
Thiel braced himself and tried to loosen Boerne's crocodile leather belt. His fingers were clumsily fiddling with the buckle. He thought about making small talk to ease up the atmosphere but he couldn't really come up with a topic of conversation. What does one talk about in a situation like this? The weather? Their latest corpse? He rejected the idea entirely when he heard a soft moan slip from Boerne's lips that sent another rush of shivers down his spine.
Boerne had closed his eyes in a last attempt to concentrate on keeping his body under control. Even if Thiel had chosen to speak, he wasn't sure if he could have formed a coherent sentence under the circumstances. The rush in his veins grew stronger and more disturbing. Another sound from Boerne kept distracting him from the job at hand. There were other distractions too. The body so near to, him radiating warmth, the slight caress on his forehead, caused by the taller man's breathing, the strong scent of sweat. This was Boerne stripped to his core. No talk, no clever remarks, no impeccable three piece suite to hide behind.
Thiel finally managed to unbuckle the belt. He opened the trouser button, found the little hook inside the waist seam and unzipped the fly.
Reluctantly he looked at Boerne.
"Should I ...?"
"Not necessary, thank you" said Boerne. "It's the bits and bobs that are difficult to handle. Zippers, buttons ….. sheer hell these days! I can manage now. Perhaps you can just wait outside until I'm ready. "
It was evident that Boerne's bladder was about to burst by now. Thiel couldn't help admiring the man for the calm he displayed before he dismissed him with a thankful nod. When the bathroom door fell shut, he immediately heard a familiar trickling sound accompanied by a long sigh of relief. It didn't seem to end and Thiel decided it was safe to rush back to his apartment to slip on his jeans.
When he came back there was nothing but silence on the other side of the door. He contemplated on going in, but didn't want to intrude on the professor's privacy any further. The absolute quiet was a bit worrying, though. Then he heard some rumbling followed by a large thud.
"Professor, are you all right?"
He could hear Boerne curse between his teeth.
"Thiel! Could you come in here for a moment?"
Thiel opened the door and tried very hard not to laugh out loud. Boerne stood near the bath, dressed in his wrinkled shirt and jacket, tie still neatly in place, trousers down his ankles. His shirt-tails prevented a peak at his private parts.
"Taking my trousers off was not as hard as getting them on again." Boerne said and raised his arms in frustration. He was bleeding from one of the fingers that peaked out of the plastered bandage.
Thiel realized how Boerne must feel. He decided to set aside his selfish concerns of having to touch a man he secretly desired and take charge for a change.
"Let's get you out of those clothes then."
"Boerne, I know you well enough to know that wild horses couldn't keep you away from your job. Were you planning on going to work in those clothes? You smell."
"I never smell!" Boerne said, deeply hurt by Thiel's remark.
He lifted up one arm and sniffed. Thiel caught it on the way down and pulled at the sleeve. He took off the jacket over the splints with some difficulty and started on Boerne's tie. That was the hard part. He'd have to stand and face the man for some time now, loosening the tie, taking it off, opening the countless tiny buttons of Boerne's Armani shirt.
Boerne allowed the intrusion on his privacy without a word and although Thiel never even glanced at him, he knew Boerne was watching him. He felt his eyes burning and the sweaty palms returned. They didn't speak, which was a novelty for Boerne. His chattering was a constant annoyance but now Thiel almost wished he would break the awkward silence.
Thiel helped him out of the shirt and threw it in the laundry basket. He was relieved to see that Boerne had managed at least to pull up his underpants in his efforts to dress himself. Thiel didn't know if he was quite ready for a stark naked Boerne and be able to continue the good work. He told him to sit down on the toilet and helped take of his shoes, socks and trousers. He then rummaged around in Boerne's bathroom cabinet until he found what he was looking for.
"Raise your arms."
Boerne obediently lifted both arms. Thiel sprayed some deodorant in his armpits.
"That's your idea of getting ready for work?"
"It'll have to do for now."
"I was thinking of taking a shower." Boerne sputtered.
"Be my guest."
Thiel had no intention of stripping the man naked and giving him a cream shower. The thought alone of a Boerne covered in foamy white bubbles made him dizzy with lust.
"Can I at least change my underpants?" Boerne asked.
"Tonight." Thiel said and coughed to hide the strange hoarseness in his voice. "We'll get you a new nurse today. She will bathe you tonight and you can go to sleep, squeaky clean and refreshed."
Thiel went to the hallway in search for Boerne's bedroom. Boerne followed him and sat down on the bed. He leaned back on his elbows while Thiel looked for a shirt, suit and tie that matched. He was facing the mirror and couldn't help watching the man behind him. His body was still lean and firm and he looked incredibly sexy on the bed in his white boxers. The spotless white splints on his arms formed a striking contrast with his bronzed flesh. Middle age was evident in the small love handles around his waist, but Boerne kept himself in shape. Or maybe he was just one of those people who didn't have to make an effort to keep in shape. One of those people whom Thiel had envied most of his adult life. It was ages ago since he'd had love handles like that.
"The blue tie." Boerne said when Thiel couldn't decide which to choose.
The man had more ties then Imelda Marcos had shoes. And lots of them were blue. Thiel picked a random one and shut the closet door. He turned around and took in the actual version of the reflection he had just admired in the mirror. If he didn't know better, he would have thought that Boerne was teasing him with his pose on the bed. He even had bedroom eyes to match the part. They glistened in the early morning sunlight and regarded Thiel relentlessly.
"Why did you never marry again, Thiel?"
"None of your business."
"Oh, come on, I don't mean to intrude in your private life, it's just a question."
Thiel took the clean shirt and waited for Boerne to slide forward on the bed, so they could put it on in a combined effort.
"Maybe because you and the police force are keeping me busy and the only other people I manage to meet are villains."
"Am I keeping you busy?" Boerne inquired.
Thiel slipped his arm inside the sleeves, trying very hard to avoid touching any bare flesh.
"Well, your corpses do. Lack of work has never been one of my problems. Sometimes it's hard to find the time to stop and think about anything other than work."
"Do you think of me?"
Thiel stared at him, mesmerized by the dark eyes which suddenly looked very sincere. He didn't quite know how to answer that question. Did he think of Boerne?
He felt the blood rush to his cheeks at the thought of how he sometimes fantasized about the city coroner. But these thoughts belonged to him and him alone and weren't meant to be shared with anyone: least of all with Boerne.
"Of course, you are part of my work."
"Is that all I am to you?"
Thiel stopped dead in his tracks. Where was Boerne heading? What did he expect him to say? Instead of answering he gave Boerne an indiscriminate look, pulled the shirt in place and started to button it up. The sudden closeness was getting to him again, but this time he didn't avoid the other man's scrutiny. Although every sinew of his being was screaming that he shouldn't, Thiel allowed himself to consider telling Boerne how he really felt. How frustrating it was to work closely together with him, seeing him every day in the hallway of their flat and not being able to tell him about his true feelings.
"Do you really want to know?" he heard himself say. He grabbed the neatly ironed shirt to pull the man closer, but when he looked into Boerne's startled eyes, the anger made way for an entirely different emotion. Boerne's eyelids fluttered and when Thiel saw what he thought was a flash of excitement, his self-restraint drowned in the large pool of desire that had been building up for years. His mind went blank and before he knew what was happening he leaned forward and kissed Boerne on the mouth.
When he released the man, he felt how a mild state of shock blocked his every limb. He couldn't move, didn't know what to say. What had he done? This was the end of it. Whatever friendship they'd had ended right here and now.
"I'm sorry. ", he said. "I don't know what came over me."
He ventured a glance at Boerne and to his surprise the man was not angry or shocked. On the contrary, he looked almost pleased.
Thiel had thought about Boerne's sexual taste. The man loved opera and appreciated the finer things in life. He was also very meticulous about his appearance. Thiel didn't have any homosexual friends, so his experience with them was rather limited. But apart from the cliches that applied to Boerne, he had no other evidence that the professor preferred men. Therefore he was sure he had made a big mistake by giving into his feelings and kissing the man. He felt like a dirty old man who had taken advantage of an innocent girl.
But the look in Boerne's eyes was far from innocent. He stood up from the bed and slowly cornered Thiel, who backed down against the wardrobe. He was still approaching when Thiel felt the cold steel of the doorknob prodding in his back.
"Are you certain you feel this way about me?" he asked, with a slight tremble in his voice.
Thiel wasn't certain of anything anymore. His senses were sending all kinds of mixed signals to his brain with Boerne so intimidatingly close, dressed in just his underpants.
"You're not going to hit me are you?"
Boerne locked eyes with him and leaned in.
"God I wish I had the use of my hands now!" he said when his splint bumped into Thiel's side.
To make up for this lack of tactile sensation, Thiel put his arms around Boerne's waist and drew him as close as he could. Boerne's lips touched his very slowly and this time Thiel could actually enjoy the sensation of his first kiss from a man. The kiss deepened and they were both surprised by the sudden need inside them, at the strength of the long-denied feeling between them. When Boerne firmly grounded himself against him, Thiel felt how the doorknob drilled a hole in his lower back and he broke off the kiss. He preferred to continue this wonderful activity without any further distractions.
"Maybe we should take that shower now." he said and started unbuttoning Boerne's fresh shirt.
Boerne watched his ministrations with amusement this time.
"Why not? I haven't had mine yet. Saves water."
"Very sensible." Boerne admitted. "But only on one condition."
"We forget about the new nurse."
With a seductive smirk, he leaned in and started nibbling at Thiel's earlobe.
"I like the one I have just fine."