the reluctant lobotomist (fourfreedoms) wrote,
the reluctant lobotomist
fourfreedoms

Part 2, Diamond In The Rough

Title: Diamond In The Rough
Author: fourfreedoms
Fandom: Hundtricket (The Dog Trick)/Chasing Liberty
Pairing: Micke (Alexander Skarsgard)/Grant Hillman (Stark Sands)
Wordcount: 18,076
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Grant graduates from college, promptly has a mental breakdown, and winds up in Stockholm, all without being quite certain how it happened.

Part 1



"I want to fuck you," Micke said, wrapping himself around Grant when they're through his door. He kissed Grant's shoulder and nosed along the nape of his neck.

Grant leaned back against him, letting Micke accept his weight. "You know how it works?"

Micke snorted. "I know how it works. I have let women, what's the word…finger, yes, finger me."

"Of course you have, why did I ever ask?" Grant replied dryly.

"Will you let me?" Micke asked, pushing his pelvis against Grant's hips.

"Mmm, let me think about it," Grant said, breaking free of Micke's arms and walking backwards towards the bedroom. He kicked his loafers off and discarded his shirt over a chair. Micke watched him with unreadable eyes. It'd been a long time since Grant bottomed for anyone. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but at the same time he already knew he was going to say yes. The button on his trousers was a struggle, because of a sudden attack of nerves. However, he didn't let any of that inner turmoil show. He pushed his pants down and Micke raised his brows. Grant conjured a grin and turned around to push off his boxer briefs.

"I didn't forget that you have a dick, you know," Micke said.

Grant froze. "What?"

"What you did just there, turning around like that. I'm not imagining you're a woman," Micke said, trailing fingers over Grant's sacrum and up the groove of his spine. "Nobody could ever look at you and imagine a woman."

Grant laughed without mirth. "You'd be amazed at the people who try."

"American men are stupid." Micke said. "But I am not. Let me fuck you."

Grant laughed, glancing coyly over his shoulder. Micke was so close behind him it was easy to reach up and brush their mouths together. "Did you honestly think I was going to say no?"

"No," Micke replied, succinct. "But sometimes people need persuading."

"You are so full of yourself," Grant replied. Micke opened his mouth to take advantage of the opening Grant gave him and Grant rolled his eyes. "Don't you dare."

Grant found himself on the bed, legs splayed. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, staring Micke down as he pushed off his jacket in a calculated move. Micke grinned at him, drawing his zipper down slowly, revealing the outline of his hardening cock.

Grant snorted. “You’re a slut, a hand to god shameless slut,” he said, reaching forward with suddenly nimble fingers to push Micke’s jeans off. As his partners and one night stands had been of a more conservative bent, unabashed turpitude was not a quality he was used to. But Micke knew what he looked like, and he knew Grant knew what he looked like. He supposed, as he surged up to kiss his smiling mouth, there was no point in pretending otherwise. The hard lines in Micke’s abdomen begged to be touched and he ran soft fingers over them, drawing the shirt with it.

“Hand to god?” Micke asked, pretending at perplexity. He groaned when Grant nipped him.

“I’m going to need prep,” Grant said against the side of his throat. “I haven’t...” he didn’t finish the statement. He was reminded again of how long it had been and how he’d not altogether enjoyed it those times either.

Micke reached over him for the bedstand, pulling out a string of condoms, and a tube of lube. He dropped them on Grant’s stomach expectantly. Grant couldn’t read the text on the tube, but when he cracked open the cap, he couldn’t stop laughing.

“Of course, you would have flavored lube,” he said, wondering when this whole thing was going to stop being ridiculous.

Micke raised a brow and didn’t bother to tell him that he was mocking an extremely expensive lubricant. He figured Grant would figure it out on his own and then he’d be demanding Micke tell him where he got it. Distracted by Grant pushing the condoms aside and carefully pouring out a healthy dollop of the viscous liquid onto his fingers, he abandoned that train of thought altogether.

Grant lay back on the bed, pushing one careful lubed-up finger into his hole. Micke settled next to him, leaning down to press open-mouthed kisses to his chest. He felt rather than saw the tension in Grant, whose face had gone impassively serene. Micke swallowed, suddenly bowled over by what exactly Grant had offered him.

“It’ll be good,” he whispered into Grant’s shoulder, hand skating down Grant’s abs and encircling his heavy cock.

Grant shuddered and arched, pushed another finger inside, easing it in until it met the first knuckle of his hand. He choked in surprise when Micke reached between their bodies, pushing a finger inside him.

"Alright?" he asked.

Grant moaned, arching into his han. Their fingers slid together inside him. Micke smirked down at him, absurdly pleased with how Grant looked, sweat rising on his skin and face gone slack. He bent his head and took his mouth again.

Finally Grant pushed away him away with a hand on his shoulder and said between shuddering breaths, “Okay…okay.”

“Okay?” Micke asked, curling his finger experimentally to press mercilessly upon Grant’s prostate.

Grant hissed and drew his eyebrows down. “Do you want to fuck me or not?”

“Mmhm,” Micke replied, lazily refusing to rise to the bait. He kissed Grant again, slowly, languorously, lingering over his lower lip, as he slipped his finger from Grant’s body.

Grant was burning inside, perhaps a little due to embarrassment, but undeniably from arousal, and for inexplicable reasons, he was annoyed by it.

“Enough,” he said, tearing his mouth away, drawing his own fingers out and struggling out from under Micke. He grabbed one of Micke’s pillows and pulled it down to place it under his hips, turning over and glancing back at a nonplussed Micke. “It’ll be easier like this…”

Micke raised his brows. He didn’t know why Grant was suddenly acting so abrupt, if he felt some shame in anal sex, or if he was nervous because it had been a while. Familiar with Grant's idiosyncrasies, he figured it was better not to ask.

“…but I guess…I guess you already know that,” Grant was saying, with eyes cast down, carefully not looking as Micke rolled the condom on.

Micke drew a hand down Grant’s spine, lingering in the small of his back. “You may trust me to know what I’m doing.” His rather rudimentary lessons in anatomy aside, he was quite convinced this couldn’t be that different from taking a woman this way.

He didn’t tell Grant to relax, because experience told him that would only make it worse. So he pushed Grant’s thigh up the bed and carefully fit himself at the opening, drawing his cock over it teasingly. Grant shivered and pillowed his head on crossed arms, like he was bracing himself for physical therapy rather than sex.

Micke leaned over him, hand wrapped tight around his own cock as he just slightly pushed at the ringed muscle, holding it open with the head. “Haven’t we gotten this right so far?” he asked.

Grant was forced to concede, just opening his mouth to say as much when Micke bit at his shoulder and steadily pushed inside. He did it fast for all it was careful, and Grant found himself surprised that he didn’t completely mind the sensation. He couldn’t help a hiccupping gasp when Micke drew out.

“Ah, like that, do you?” he said into Grant’s shoulder. Grant had nothing in reply, but he was beginning to suspect Micke’s jesting on being a student of sex was not really jesting at all. It was a bit like struggling through a math problem and then having a person take the paper from you and work through it perfectly in moments.

“Herre gud,” Micke mumbled, thrusting smoothly into Grant. He was finding it very difficult not to embarrass himself and slide into an erratic punishing rhythm. Grant felt so good, so tight, and those bitten off sounds he was making were perfect. He wanted it to last, and most of all, he wanted to prove himself right that Grant would enjoy it. He was immensely gratified when he pulled out only to have Grant push back at him.

Grant had his eyes squeezed tightly shut. He was conscious of two things, the stretch in his ass and how tightly his arms were tensed under his forehead. Novel and unexpected, he was hard. He swallowed, dry throat clicking, trying to push into Micke’s flannel sheets to get some friction against his leaking dick. It was probably too much to hope for a reacharound, but Grant could take care of that if he could just…

He cried out when Micke gripped him by the hips and pulled him back, so that he was sitting in Micke’s lap, knees flat on the bed on the outside of Micke’s thighs, speared open over him. Micke was so deep inside he could barely breathe. He held Grant there, suspended, for a moment, nose running over the back of his neck in a reassuring caress. Surprised, he jerked when Micke’s hand slid deliberately over his stomach and wrapped around his cock.

“Oh—oh god,” Grant moaned and Micke couldn’t help but smile into his shoulder. He felt Grant’s full body shiver and had to catch his breath when he clenched around him. And then Grant surprised him, levering himself upwards and then back down, fucking himself on Micke’s dick.

Micke had to squeeze his eyes shut and fight not to come right then. “You—y—” he couldn’t help sliding into Swedish. It was too difficult to gather his thoughts together. He wrapped his hand around Grant’s throat, drawing his head back against his shoulder so that he had free reign to kiss and mouth along his neck. Grant’s swallowed moans were felt with his lips, but barely registered in his brain. Everything inside him was hollowed out and all that was left was a thirst to do this again and again, as many times as Grant would let him.

Nothing about this was like Grant had envisioned. Head dropped back on Micke’s strong shoulder, he found himself reaching back for Micke’s hips. Micke’s thumb curled over and over around the head of his cock, pitilessly running the edge of his nail over the slit. He imagined this was the way Micke jerked himself off and it made him shudder and slam back against him. The fingers Micke had wrapped around his throat tightened, minutely, just enough for Grant to feel it, and then he was stroking Grant in earnest, hard efficient pulls that reduced him to an incoherent mess.

Grant came on a muttered exhale, head lolling on Micke’s shoulder. Micke rubbed his come-covered hand into Grant’s stomach, like he was trying to feel for his cock through the barrier of skin, flesh, and bone.

“Do it, finish yourself off,” Grant whispered.

“Grab the headboard,” Micke ordered, voice ragged.

Grant did as he said, head dropping between his shoulders as Micke raised to his knees and thrust into him. The hand on Grant’s throat slid down to his sternum, keeping Grant pulled back against him. Grant wasn’t, as a rule, loud in bed, he never really managed to forget himself enough for that, but suddenly he couldn’t stop the loud cries that were spilling unbidden past his lips.

Micke lost it when the sounds started coming out of Grant’s mouth with every thrust, harsh and uninhibited. He was probably too rough, but Grant, who still had a hand on his hip, didn’t use it to force him to back off. When Micke finally slammed home for the last time, Grant held him inside, that hand on his hip reminding him that he too was strong.

They remained like that for long moments, just breathing, Micke’s face tucked into Grant’s neck, until finally torpor set in and he had to drop away. Grant grunted as he pulled free, but for long moments didn’t move, just breathed hard, hands still tight on the headboard.

Micke tied off the condom and tossed it aside. He collapsed back on the bed and stared up at him. Grant slowly sank down until he was sitting on his heels. Micke wisely refrained from asking him what he was thinking about, because Grant wouldn’t have known how to reply.

His brain was whirring through a million scattered ideas, none of them easy to articulate. He wished the sex weren’t so good. He wished Micke didn’t know how to touch him at all. He wished for once, things could’ve just been easy, and the hot Swedish man who gave him directions was somebody who he could actually fall into a relationship with, not this nebulous fuckbuddy arrangement that Grant nevertheless could not imagine giving up.

“I think I need a cigarette,” he finally croaked.

Micke snorted and threw himself down on the bed. “I know better than to give you one. Once the awesomeness from my orgasms wears off you’d kill me for it.”

Grant rolled his shoulders and then rolled off the bed, heading for the shower. Micke stretched in the bed languorously and then, after a moment, reached into his dresser to pull the pack of cigarettes out. He stared at it for a long moment before breathing out and tossing them at the wastebasket. He didn’t even look to see if they landed, because Grant walked out of the shower, toweling off his hair.

His body was an unblemished stretch of velvety pale skin. Nobody would ever find evidence of what they had done. It made Micke wonder briefly if they’d really done it, but then Grant winced as he bent to sit on the bed.

Micke rolled towards him. For some reason he felt like more was necessary. Grant looked at him in askance.

“Can I kiss you?” he asked, lips hovering over Grant’s.

Grant flushed, he leaned up to close the whisper of space between them. “Yes.”

They kissed like that, long and slow. Micke ignored the low buzz of freshly building arousal, keeping his palms on Grant’s cheeks. It was tender, not absent of heat, but not consumed by it either. Micke shuddered, pulling away briefly, until Grant raised his head, nuzzling their noses together. Grant had never felt more present, more certain of himself—a piece of irony. He was undoubtedly in the most precarious and unscripted situation of his life. But caution to the wind, he easily could’ve spent hours like this.

Micke’s lips brushed across his one last time before he sank back to his pillow. “Should sleep. I have work in the morning.”

Grant yawned and nodded, turning over.

At some point in the night he started awake, only to find their fingers laced together between him. His hand had fallen asleep, but he didn't get go.

*

Grant headed back to his hotel room the next morning to check his email and to touch base with the people who he'd left behind in a whirlwind of split-second decisions. Micke had already been gone for a couple of hours when he woke up. He pointedly did not telephone his dad, choosing instead to call his brother, James, and tell him he was having an amazing time and he loved Stockholm. Both siblings had been raised to be circumspect and to never volunteer their opinion unless it was deemed absolutely necessary, so he had no way of knowing James was thinking that Grant was the happiest he’d ever heard him in years.

James hoped it meant when he started his job in September he’d stop feeling there was a right way to go about his life. There had been larger miracles.

Grant showered again and found himself lingering on that time with Micke in the shower, how the water had beaded on Micke’s eyelashes, how he’d smiled with one corner of his mouth as he took Grant's appearance in.

“Fuck,” he said, semi-amused, when he realized he’d gotten hard. He jerked off fast and utilitarian and then when that wasn’t enough went to the hotel gym to work out. Micke found him there running in a low slung pair of shorts, the treadmill display saying he was on his eighth kilometer.

“I telephoned your room, and when you did not answer, had to hope you were here, rather than getting turned about in the city.”

Grant laughed and slowed the treadmill to a stop. He mopped his forehead with a towel. “I’m not that bad.”

“You really are,” Micke replied.

Grant changed the subject. “Do we have plans tonight?”

“Yes, everybody’s going for karaoke tonight, you’re welcome to—that is—I would like you to come.”

“Don’t want to experience the hell of karaoke alone?” Grant teased as he stretched out his quads.

Micke laughed. “Ah no, I quite like karaoke.”

“Well then, I guess it would be a shame to deny you.”

“It’s always a shame to deny me.”

Grant didn’t even bother to reply. “Let me just shower. You can search through all my stuff while I’m not looking.”

“Mmm, should I expect to find anything interesting?” Micke asked, following him to the elevator bank.

Grant shrugged. “Not really, I’m very boring.”

Micke rolled his eyes where Grant couldn’t see. He not so privately disagreed, but since he knew Grant said it out of genuine misguidedness rather than because he was chasing after compliments, he let it go.

While Grant was showering, Micke located his laptop and went looking for his porn collection, positive that Grant had to have one. It took him several tries to find it and then several more to get through all of Grant's paranoid security protections. He nearly peed himself with laughter when he did. It was painfully obvious to him, but he wondered if Grant realized he had a predilection for clean preppy young men being despoiled by muscle-bound badboys. If it meant he was the badboy, he was perfectly okay with that.

When Grant came out of the shower and found Micke leaning against his headboard, arms behind his head, looking far too innocent, he was instantly suspicious. And then he heard the moans coming from the laptop laid out at the foot of the bed.

He groaned.

Micke burst out laughing. “It seems like you have a type.”

Grant chucked his towel at Micke’s face. “You are a horrible human being.”

“Yes,” Micke agreed, amiably, watching him dress.

When Grant pulled up his trousers, face a dull but adorable red, Micke came up behind him, forestalling his hands. He nipped his shoulder. “I’ve been half hard all day,” he said into his skin. “Even your shitty gay porno couldn’t ruin it.”

Grant laughed. “Shitty, huh?”

Micke swept his palm cursorily over Grant’s dick and then buttoned him up. He looked back at the laptop and then at Grant, pitching his voice into a ridiculous parody of an American accent. “ ‘Oh, piledrive me harder, harder, you great big butch man, you.’”

“Dinner?” Grant asked, clearing his throat and searching for a shirt.

He couldn’t entirely hide his smile as he turned away and Micke pounced on him. “Ahah, see? See? You know it’s shit too.”

“Indian? Chinese? Thai?” Grant asked.

“Indian,” Micke told him after considering for a few moments. “Shanti in Söder is the best. It’s near the Vita Bergen and the Karaoke place.”

“Lead the way.”

“See that’s funny, because—”

“Quiet you!”

*

They ate dinner early and afterwards, uncomfortably full on curry, sat in the Vita Bergen. The sun set late in the summer and Grant loved the splash of color across the horizon. He said as much after an enduring silence Micke had only observed for Grant's sake.

“It’s easy to impress you,” Micke said, sprawling across a bench, long legs hanging over the edge. For all his feigned indifference, he too found himself irrepressibly content.

Grant meditated on that for a moment and shrugged. He wasn’t aware of just how easily pleased he was, but with a father who so rarely granted the slightest shred of affection or praise, he’d been trained to accept the littlest happinesses with alacrity.

“What are you going to sing at karaoke?” he asked, changing the subject. Micke shifted his legs and he sat down.

Micke laughed. “ABBA, obviously.”

“Right, obviously.”

“What about you?” Micke asked, leaning over the bench tracing something in the dirt.

“I was hoping to avoid singing,” he said distractedly, watching Micke’s finger as it ran over the ground.

“Oh no, no, you can’t not sing!”

“Watch me!” Grant replied, shaking his head at Micke’s improbably detailed drawing of a penis. Micke wrote something in Swedish above it with quick strokes. “What does it say?”

Micke snickered. “ ‘Grant Hillman loves my cock.’”

Grant leaned over him and wrote next to it in English ‘because it’s so small and adorable.’

Micke shoved at him. “I refuse to be goaded!”

*

They arrived a little late for Karaoke, a big group of people with drinks in hand was already assembled in a private room with a karaoke machine. A girl in a dress was singing a Swedish song that prompted cheering from the other onlookers. They shouted in greeting when they spotted Micke, handing him a book full of song titles and gesturing at them both to help themselves to beer.

Grant sat down on a sofa with his glass of beer and watched the rambunctious group as Swedish flew rapid-fire over his head. He recognized Mario, Simon, and Sanna. Mia didn’t appear to be in attendance. Micke flipped through the book and stopped every five seconds to put a song in. Even Grant could tell that his compatriots were protesting mightily, trying to grab the book back. Micke fended them off with one long arm, laughing uproariously.

Grant took a sip of beer and restrained a smile.

“You’re here,” Simon said, voice leaving no doubt that he wasn’t happy about it. Simon was, make no mistake, incensed. But he had rudimentary enough manners that he knew better than to show it in front of his friends.

Grant took it in stride, although his mood plummeted considerably. “I am indeed.”

He was saved from Simon’s impending sharp retort when Micke grabbed the microphone to sing David Bowie’s “Modern Love.”

They’d never had those conversations about the bands they enjoyed or the books they read or the movies they'd seen. All Grant knew was from the little snooping he'd managed to do off Micke's apartment. He hadn’t actually believed Micke's claims that he would sing ABBA, but he had expected bad 80s rock or some of the nonsensical trance songs played at his favored clubs.

“He loves Bowie,” Simon said, reproachfully.

“Oookay,” Grant replied.

“I am Ina! You are Micke’s sexy American friend!” A girl in a lace dress said, collapsing into the seat next to him. She made a face he didn’t witness at Simon. Simon got up, muttering darkly.

Grant laughed. “I’m flattered?”

She grinned and spread her palms out in front of her. “That is what Micke told us, ‘There is my sexy American friend.’”

“Of course he did,” Grant replied, making eye contact with Micke across the room and raising his brows. Micke ignored him and launched into Jose Gonzalez’s “Crosses” along with two girls. Somebody shouted at them to stop being so depressing in Swedish. Micke flicked him off. He didn’t have the best voice, not even out of their little group, but he made up for it with a firm knowledge of the song.

Ina shook her head. “He is very silly, yes?” Before Grant could answer, she said, “But lovable.”

After two Lady Gaga songs that the entire group sang together, Micke collapsed next to them. He gave Ina a quick kiss.

“When are you going to sing?” he asked Grant, brushing his hand over his sweaty forehead. He was flushed from dancing and smiling broadly.

Grant, being a red-blooded man as any, couldn’t help but think of the similarities between the way he looked now and the way he looked aroused. He coughed. “Well, hopefully never.”

“Not an option!” Micke leaned across Ina to shove his shoulder. It was becoming habitual.

“It’s true,” Ina told him. “Sing a song or pay for our drinks.”

“Hmm, that’s not so bad,” Grant said, extremely resistant to the practice of singing, especially in public.

“No, no,” Ina shook her head, “Everybody.”

“What?”

“Everybody’s drinks. It’s a rule,” she said firmly.

Grant looked around the room at the huge group of friends rapidly consuming beer and shots. He groaned. Micke chuckled and shoved the book at him. Grant hoped that the others had entered so many songs their reservation would expire before they could get to his choice.

Ina got up to sing a song and left them with a wave. Micke slid closer. “So what did you think I was going to sing?”

“Hmm?”

“Simon told me you were surprised I liked Bowie.”

Grant grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, I guess I assumed you would do some hair metal or I don’t know, that dude who did Sandstorm.”

“There aren’t any words to Sandstorm,” Micke pointed out.

“Like that would stop you.”

Micke laughed and started tooting out Sandstorm. He left off when the people around them started staring. “So what band do you like?”

“Like, my favorite?” Grant asked.

“Yes, your favorite.”

“I don’t know…Miles Davis, John Coltrane, maybe?”

Micke wrinkled his nose. “Jazz?”

Grant nodded.

“You look very youthful for a Grandpa,” Micke said.

“How can you say that? Miles Davis is great!”

“I will not have this conversation. I can feel it killing my brain,” he answered, shaking his head in mock sorrow. The screen flashed a song title and Micke perked up. “Ahah, this one is for me!”

When he launched into “Any Way You Want It,” keeping unmistakable eye contact with Grant for the duration, Grant put his face in his hands. Micke was one of those people who claimed to like ‘everything’ and consequently not even slightly opposed to hair metal. If they’d had “Cherry Pie” in the book he would’ve done that too, just for the embarrassed look it was sure to earn him.

Several songs went by and the group got progressively drunker. Many of them came to speak with Grant and ask what he was doing in Sweden. To his eye they seemed to accept it as totally normal that Micke would know a random Harvard grad. Of course they did, they were well used to Micke having the most unpredictable and unanticipated friendships on the planet, like the postman who had drug connections, or the organizers of beauty pageants, or the fitness trainers who could get you into black tie events for free.

Unfortunately for Grant, the next song that came up was his own. “Go!” Ina cried, tugging him to his feet. “Show us what you’ve got, America.”

Micke pushed a shot in his hand and then gestured for him to get to the front of the room. He settled back down onto one of the sofas to watch the fireworks.

“On a scale of one to ten, how bad do you think he is?” Ina asked, switching back to Swedish.

Micke snorted. “Oh, ten, definitely. It’s going to be horrible,” he replied gleefully.

The first few bars of Paolo Nutini’s “Candy” played and Grant hurriedly slammed back the shot and started singing. He didn’t even need to look at the lyrics playing behind him. “ ‘I was perched outside in the pouring rain trying to make myself a sail that I’ll float to you, my darling, with the evening on my tail.’”

Everybody paused, shocked at the voice that came out of Grant’s mouth—a light soaring tenor that sounded like it had formal training. There had been none beyond the boys’ choir at St. Albans when he was in elementary school.

“ ‘I know you’ve got plenty to offer, baby, but I guess I’ve taken quite enough, well I’m a stain here on your bedsheet, you’re my diamond in the rough.’” He never looked at Micke once, but Micke felt very strongly that Grant was singing just for him alone. He swallowed.

“Wow,” Ina said softly, eyes rapt.

Micke nodded mutely.

“ ‘I’ll be there waiting for you, oh I’ll be there waiting for you.’”

Grant found Simon staring at him with an inscrutable expression on his face as he sang. He had to drop his eyes before his voice faltered. The final notes sounded and the room burst into applause. Grant flushed bright red and swept a dashing bow.

“Liar,” Micke teased, taking refuge in humor when Grant returned to him and Ina on the sofa.

“I never said I couldn’t sing, just that I didn’t like to,” Grant replied primly.

“Whatever, the liar has to get more beer,” Micke said, holding out an empty pitcher.

Grant grabbed the pitcher and gave him a sharp salute with it. He felt shaky, his system drowning in adrenaline. The response from Micke's friends was unforeseen. But then, Grant always underestimated his own impact. He’d been very surprised to find 'Candy' in the book, until he realized it had probably charted in Europe despite flying relatively under the raider in the US. His junior year, when it had come out and he was drowning in exams after the holiday break, he used to lie on his floor and listen to it, like he was reclaiming some of his sanity.

He went to the bar and managed to order a new pitcher in halting Swedish that Micke had taught him. The bartender smiled brilliantly at him. “Välstekt.” She shook off his efforts to pay her a tip.

Simon’s voice bit him in the back. “You’re fucking him.”

Grant turned around, nearly sloshing the pitcher all over the counter.

“Don’t make that face at me,” Simon said. “I know him the best out of anyone.”

Grant opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t any of Simon’s business, but Simon interrupted him a second time. “You have to know it’s his way. He thinks sex is a great experiment. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He broke off with a disgusted noise. “Ever since that slyna cheated on him. And you, you’re taking advantage of that.”

“What? Slyna?” Grant said, bemused by the tirade pouring past Simon’s lips. Suddenly everything Simon was saying caught up with him. It made him furious. Not for himself, because Simon could think whatever the hell he wanted of Grant, he was never going to see him again when this trip was over. Simon’s condescending dismissal of his friend’s rational powers infuriated him, even as he accepted that Micke was indeed conducting a grand experiment. He’d known that from the beginning. So what if Micke was messing around? If that’s how he made life work for him, then that was his choice. Grant thought all of this and more in a split second and then shoved all of his anger aside. He’d always been predisposed to be the bigger man.

“You know what we call a person like you back home?” he asked mildly. When Simon said nothing, Grant smiled humorlessly at him and answered his own question. “A bad friend.”

He picked up the pitcher and left to rejoin the party. He didn’t look back.

“Took you long enough,” Micke said when he got back.

Grant poured him a glass of beer and offered it to him by way of apology. Micke never had to know the truth about Simon, that he was an arrogant jackass who saw Micke as a pet rather than a person. Unaware that Micke had, in the past several days, exposed to Grant’s friendship, begun to suspect as much himself.

Micke took the glass from him, fingers deliberately brushing over Grant’s wrist as he drew it away. He was very aware of Simon’s eyes on them the entire time and for once he didn’t care.

*

They spent Grant’s remaining days in Stockholm hanging around the city. Micke woke up the morning after the karaoke party and found himself calling into work and asking for time off. He told Grant over smörgås and muesli, his best attempt at cooking.

“That’s great,” Grant said and had to hide his joyful grin in his coffee cup.

They went to all of the city’s churches where Micke cheerfully claimed agnosticism right in front of the priests. Grant was thankful they only looked amused rather than outraged.

It took Micke the better part of a day to convince Grant that he had to go to Långholmsbadet, his favorite beach within the city limits.

“You brought a bathing suit with you. You should use it!”

“I can’t. I burn.”

“I will put lots and lots of sunscreen on you,” Micke said, flicking his fingers at Grant. He brought it up so many times in cafes and bookstores and shops that finally Grant broke down.

When they arrived the weather was beautiful and clear with only a slight breeze. The ocean was a surprising rich blue. Grant new it had something to do with sediment and mineral content and even the angle of the sun, but all he could think of was that it was the same color as Micke’s eyes.

They sprawled out in the sun, reading and watching the surf. Micke told him on the weekends it got crazy, tons and tons of people out enjoying the sun.

“And burning to a crisp,” he snorted as a man with a potbelly and tiny red trunks passed. His skin was the color of old leather. Grant winced and considered making a run for the shade.

Micke found Grant’s digital camera and started taking pictures of him whenever he made a face.

“I hate you,” Grant said, head pillowed on his arms. Micke steadily turned a light gold, while Grant frantically slathered on sunscreen every forty-five minutes. But he made no move to leave. It was peaceful, and it wasn't until their stomachs started growling that they decided to go.

“You know what I would like?” Grant asked, bent over brushing sand from his legs.

“Hmm?”

Grant raised his eyes. “I would like to go to Fredsgatan.”

Micke boggled at him. It was one of the most expensive restaurants in Stockholm. He didn’t even know how Grant knew about it, probably his chi chi friends back home or one of those stupid guidebooks he'd had stacked up in his hotel room.

“They have a tasting menu and I would like to treat you to dinner.”

Micke hesitated for a tense moment that made Grant wonder if he’d overstepped and then he laughed and whooped, “Success! I have myself an American sugar daddy.”

Grant shook his head. “I don’t think I could hope to meet anybody as absurd as you in three lifetimes.”

“That’s because I’m an original, baby.”

When Micke wasn’t paying attention, he sighed. Their time together was winding down and Grant didn’t want to leave. There was a confounding desire to reach out and catch Micke’s hand, but he hated such overt physical affection and he was pretty sure Micke would not appreciate PDA coming from another man.

“What is it?” Micke asked.

Grant summoned up a smile. “Just thinking I could beat you to the end of the block.”

“What, in a race?” Micke asked.

“Mmhm, Mr. Three Packs a Day.”

Micke went to protest that it was nowhere near that many but Grant was already running. “If he thinks I’m going after him, he’s out of his mind,” Micke said to himself jovially.

When Grant got to the end of the block and turned around, Micke waved jauntily.

*

It rained the next day, forcing them indoors. Micke's attention span was too short to remain still for long, and after the fifth gusty sigh, Grant suggested the movies. He looked up the show times on Google and boggled. “I had no idea you had your own film industry.”

Micke snorted. “Ingmar Bergman? Lasse Hallström? Of course we have our own film industry.”

Grant laughed and batted at Micke playfully. “Alright, alright, forgive me my ignorance.”

Micke was struck by how much he adored the way Grant had no trouble apologizing or admitting fault. He was one of the least prideful people Micke had ever met.

“What?” Grant asked. “You’re staring at me.”

Micke turned away. “Just imagining you sucking me off in the theater.”

“Yeah, maybe I would’ve done that when I was seventeen.” Although he wouldn’t have done it even then, because he’d still been desperately trying to muster up a few threads of attraction to women.

“All the more reason to do it on your excellent no-consequences Swedish vacation.”

Grant huffed, but a couple of hours later he found himself making out with Micke in the back row of an empty theater screening Columbiana.

“God this movie’s terrible,” Grant said between kisses. “I mean, really, really bad.”

“Var tyst,” Micke said softly, catching mouth again and kissing him until he wished the armrest weren’t in the way.

“Let’s just go back to your place and spend the day in bed,” Grant breathed, sliding his thumb over Micke’s cheekbone.

“Ja, ja, okej,” he said, turning his face to press a kiss to Grant’s palm.

Grant figured Micke had finally seized upon the fact that he was a complete slut for Micke speaking in Swedish.

*

“Why aren’t we facebook friends?” Micke asked that evening, lounging naked in the bed. They’d given up on Grant’s hotel completely, cancelling his reservation for the last few days so he could at least get some money back. And, as Micke pointed out, he was closer to the airport anyway.

“Always with the hard questions,” Grant said in a fair approximation of Micke’s voice, repeating back what Micke had said when he’d asked about politics. “I dunno, send me a request and maybe I’ll accept.”

Micke chuckled. “You probably do not have embarrassing pictures up.”

“Probably not,” Grant replied.

“Does it say you’re homosexual on facebook?”

“No, I’m not out to my father.”

“Why?” Micke asked guilelessly, tracing a finger down the vulnerable flesh of Grant’s forearm.

“He wouldn’t approve,” Grant replied simply, shivering from the touch.

Micke smiled, head bowed, but his voice was serious. “Is that why you are to work for a bank, rather than a hippie political action place where you will yell about dirty politicians all day long?”

Grant rolled off the bed, shoulders tense. He started puttering around with the few things of his that had made it into Micke’s bedroom, folding and refolding a shirt. “Mario showed me those pictures of you from the early 2000s,” he said, voice light, “That ‘Diva’ t-shirt? You are really more gay than I am, man.”

Micke stared at his back, aware that he’d struck a nerve. He let it go. “Quit being so heteronormative,” he said, knowing it would make Grant laugh.

Grant turned around. “You’re learning,” he said happily, an unfeigned bright expression on his face.

*

On Grant’s last night (after a day largely spent trying to hide how much it was going to hurt to leave tomorrow), Micke asked Grant to fuck him.

Grant, who’d been traveling down Micke’s bare torso, tonguing kisses over the ripple of muscles, nearly fell off the bed. Instead he nearly elbowed Micke in the side in his haste to see his face and ascertain if he was kidding.

“Oof,” Micke said and caught Grant’s arm.

“Why?” Grant asked with narrowed eyes.

Micke raised an incredulous brow. “Are you sure you are a man?”

“You tell me,” Grant replied, voice dry.

“You do not usually…” Micke broke off to make a motion with his hands, “usually on the bottom, yes?”

Grant swallowed. “No I—” he didn’t want to make it seem like he hadn’t been enjoying the sex that he had with Micke, because the sex he had with Micke was amazing. It was the best sex of his life and he despaired of having better.

Micke tightened his grip around Grant’s arm, forcing him to meet his eyes. Grant saw what he knew was in his own eyes reflected there. It almost hurt worse, because it wasn’t enough.

“Yes,” he said softly.

He rose to his knees to allow Micke to roll over.

He was careful and gentle and slow and thankful that Micke was adventurous when Grant dragged his tongue down the base of Micke’s spine between Micke’s cheeks, because Micke only released a soft huff of air rather than flipping out.

He swirled the point of his tongue around the tight scrunched muscle, hand on the small of Micke’s back to hold him to the sheets.

Micke breathed out, hands clenching the pillows. He knew his muscles were tight and tense under the warm weight of Grant’s palm. It didn't compare even slightly to a tongue on his dick, people who said otherwise were clearly lying, but it was still good, especially when Grant dragged his tongue even lower, thumb pressing firmly above his balls. Fuck, Christ, shit, but Grant knew what he was doing. He should’ve anticipated that, Grant sucked cock like he’d taken a class on the art of the blowjob.

“Blowjobs are a common currency in the world of gay men and this…” Grant trailed off and blew out a stream of air on the wet trail of saliva he’d left on Micke’s skin. He continued tonguing the skin around the opening and then sliding a finger across it, until Micke was nearly sensitized to the point of pain.

Micke’s entire back was trembling like he’d been lying in plank position for half an hour. “It’s okay to thrust into the sheets.”

Micke angled his head to look back at Grant. “It seemed ungentlemanly.”

Grant laughed and then swallowed. He was going to miss being able to laugh like this even through a heavy haze of insistent desire. Was that what being in love was? He dropped a kiss to Micke’s back and told him to hand him the lube.

Micke passed him the tube. He nearly choked on his tongue when Grant made him roll over, sucking his cock down and pushing one slicked finger inside him in the same breath. Grant knuckled his prostate and slurped wetly on the head of Micke’s dick. When he pushed the second finger in, Grant dropped his head to mouth at Micke’s balls, distracting him. He kept Micke on the edge, pressing unrelentingly on his prostate and lapping at the head of his stiff prick.

“Don’t string it out,” Micke ordered, voice hoarse. He’d propped himself on his elbows to watch Grant’s mouth sliding up and down on his cock. But Grant waited until he was dying for it, and then, just as he was about to come, he eased his third finger inside.

“Ah fuck,” he bit out, coming hard in spite of the persistent stretch in his ass.

“You might want to be on top,” Grant told him, spreading strong fingers inside him and being overly generous with the lube.

“Why? So it can be easy?” Micke asked.

“So it can be good,” Grant corrected firmly. Micke wondered if he knew how authoritative he got in bed. He surprised himself by not minding.

“Grant,” Micke replied, “I do not want you to treat me like a precious little princess. Shut up and screw me.”

He sat up and Grant fell back, Micke following him for a kiss.

“No, no, ass to mouth,” Grant protested warding Micke away with a hand.

“I don’t care,” Micke replied, and caught his mouth in a deep kiss. He bit at Grant’s lips, trying to spur a reaction. “Don’t have it in you?” he said, whispered voice mocking. He wrapped a hand around Grant’s throat, palm over the place where his pulse beat.

Grant broke his holding, pushing Micke off of him and then slamming his shoulders to the bed. “Is that what you want, to make this a fight?”

Micke had to fight against a grin. He strongly suspected Grant had never been selfish a day in his life. He’d given Micke everything he’d asked of him, and tonight, on the last night they would spend together, Micke was asking for Grant to take from him. It wasn’t about fairness or even reciprocity. He would’ve gladly plowed Grant through the mattress, but tonight called for something different. He didn’t know the whys and wherefores as he wasn’t much prone to introspection, but he fiercely wanted it that way. And maybe, just maybe, a part of him needed to know what it felt like.

Grant pinned his wrists to the bed and thrust teasingly between Micke’s parted thighs. He nibbled down the long line of Micke’s throat, teeth just this side of punishing. Micke arched and tested Grant’s hold.

“I say I get to prep you as long as I want,” Grant said, breathing into his skin, and pressing a finger inside, starting from scratch.

It was a long time before he decided Micke was ready, working off endless reserves of patience. Micke hid so much of himself behind bluster and outrageous statements, but here, naked in his bed, he was vulnerably open. It was honest.

“You’re going to make me beg,” Micke said, words tripping over themselves and face flushed and glowing with sweat.

“Yup, I’m going to make you beg,” Grant affirmed, mouth curling in the wicked smile Micke didn’t see often enough.

“Do it then, fuck me,” he moaned when Grant’s teeth scraped over a nipple. “Please,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“ ‘Please’ he says, saints above it must be a miracle,” Grant teased and picked himself up to grab a condom off the nightstand.

“You are not so great at this making me beg thing,” Micke replied, bracing himself, eyes firmly trained on the ceiling.

“Liar,” Grant said, voice sounding choked for the first time since they’d started. He searched Micke’s expression, looking for some kind of sign, finding none in the face of his impassivity. He pushed in carefully slicked with as much lube as he could manage.

Micke made a sound at the back of his throat and then abruptly choked it off. He sounded like he’d been kicked in the ribs. Grant didn’t pause, knowing that stopping and starting would only make it worse. When Micke breathed hard, Grant worried the flesh of his ear with his teeth knowing how that always got him. He felt like saying ‘thank you’ or some other such nonsense, but he doubted that would go over well.

“It’s not…not so bad,” Micke said, wincing a little as Grant thrust in and then out.

“Not so bad is not the same as good,” Grant pointed out.

“Chances are I am not going to grow too fond of this,” Micke said with remarkable sangfroid when his hands were white-knuckled against his sheets.

“What is it you say?” Grant asked softly. “Var tyst.”

He paused, deep inside, nearly trembling with the effort of staying still. There was an extra pillow somewhere on the bed and it took him a moment’s work to find it and shove it under Micke’s hips.

“What are you—” Micke broke off as the angle changed, Grant’s cockhead striking against his prostate.

Grant grinned against his shoulder. Micke was older than him and much more of a playboy, he might’ve seen and done things that could make him jaded with the sex act, but Grant knew what he was doing.

“Touch yourself,” he ordered. Micke took a second to obey and Grant whispered into his ear, “Wish you were on top, would be able to see all of you, fisting your cock and fucking yourself on my dick.”

Micke grunted and wrapped his hand around his dick, surprised when a few strokes brought it back to hardness. His fist bumped into Grant’s belly with every sliding stroke and Grant reached between them, catching his hand and slowing its movement.

“Like this,” he said, pacing it against the lazy rhythm of his thrusts into Micke’s body.

Micke shuddered. “Fuck…fuck…” he exhaled. He understood a little better why people agreed to do this. The expression of concentration on Grant’s face was the same one he wore when he was reading something particularly engaging, eyes lowered, lips slightly parted. Micke couldn’t have that. He wanted the wanton abandon he’d wrenched out of him.

“I think you are—” Micke broke off, shifting to teasingly dip a finger inside Grant’s rim. Grant made a noise like he’d been punched and drove in hard. He couldn’t help tipping his neck back in reaction, back bowed, even as he smiled wryly, “ah, more of a bottom then you had realized.”

Unexpectedly Grant shifted, getting his weight under him, so that Micke was splayed on the bed, hips lifted across his lap. It forced his spine right back into that involuntary arch. When Micke couldn’t do anything but breathe and cry out, Grant said, “And maybe so are you.”

The position was awkward and astonishingly perfect. A few more precise stabs against his prostate and he orgasmed, watching come drip translucent and cloudy over Grant’s knuckles. Transfixed, Micke didn’t even realize he was repeating Grant’s name over and over.

Grant groaned, needing to pause, eyes squeezed tight. He pulled his hand away from Micke’s cock, needing it desperately to prop himself up. It was sheer determination to make Micke come first that had got him through those last moments without losing it.

“Do it then, just the way you want it.”

“Can…never…shut you up for long,” Grant breathed, leaning forward again to blanket him with his body. It took one last thrust and bending his head to take Micke’s nipple between his teeth just hard enough that he sobbed and clenched down around Grant with all he had. Grant felt like the floor had dropped out.

It took a few seconds to collect himself afterwards, dazed and slow in the wake of coming so hard. Micke muttered in Swedish and twisted against him.

“Hey, hey, careful,” Grant said, pressing his palm flat over Micke’s sternum and resting his chin on it. He pulled out carefully and rolled off of him.

Micke looked like he wanted to say something, anything, but Grant shook his head. “Sleep.”

“Yes, mam,” he says, looking for all the world like he was going to fight it, but he didn’t. Just sighed and turned over. Grant watched him for long moments, hand hovering just above his skin, tracing his contours with only a thin whisper of space between his palm and Micke’s long limbs.

When Micke’s breathing evened out, Grant rolled out of Micke’s bed, casting about for something, anything to moor himself back to his body. First, he found his boxers and then Micke’s pack of cigarettes. After a moment’s hesitation, he grabbed them and a lighter.

He let himself onto the sterile little balcony off Micke’s living room, skin prickled with goosebumps from the cold. The lighter caught after a few stuttering attempts and he lit the cigarette and took a long inhale. The first drag was surprisingly smooth and Grant glanced down at the pack, wondering how expensive they were. Of course Micke would spend good money on his vices, he was that proud of them. He didn’t realize he was crying until a tear ran into his mouth, salty and bitter.

Micke, unseen, watched from the doorway of his bedroom. He leaned against the frame, face pressed into the wood and sighed.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Before Grant realized he was awake he slipped back to bed.

*

The changes start slow. Grant stays in the flat his family purchased for him in Tribeca for exactly three months, but he hates it and the snobbery of his neighbors. He misses the quiet charm of Stockholm and the madness of the people he met there. One morning he wakes up and decides to put it back on the market. If the place takes a loss, he doesn’t care, he’ll pay his dad back every penny, but he won’t stay there.

The sunny two bedroom in Prospect Heights comes next. He rooms with a guy he’d known through mutual friends. He works as a consultant for Thompson-Reuters and can be found perennially in his bike shorts and helmet. Grant slowly slides into life as a responsible adult, complete with cooking and shopping and bills.

After that it’s the job. It doesn’t take long to become clear that he doesn’t have anything to talk about besides work and people at work and how much they hate work. He has friends from college in the city and he doesn’t see them anymore. His schedule has caused him to miss birthdays and openings and holiday dinners. It's awful and he comes home every night exhausted and unhappy. He quits without another position lined up.

“Are you okay?” his roommate, Andrew, asks, “Do I have to worry about you growing a beard and running off to a commune?”

“What?” Grant asks, pouring over job listings.

“You’ve just been making a lot of life changes recently,” Andrew shrugs, “Hey, can you even grow a beard?”

“Of course I—” Grant pauses and laughs, “You know, I don’t know.”

He ends up working for a non-profit that specializes in giving at-risk and undervalued children in the public school system the incentives they need to finish.

He tells himself he doesn’t love Micke every day and every night he goes to bed looking at what Micke is up to by stalking his facebook profile. They don’t talk. First, Grant didn’t have time and when he did it was too painful.

So he joins an ultimate Frisbee league and takes a bartending course and goes daytripping on the weekend. He stops answering the phone when his father calls. Life is still bland without Micke, and he worries that he’ll never stop wondering what Micke would have to say about the little brunch places he frequents and the funny hearbreaking kids he works with, and yet, everything is undeniably better. It isn’t a struggle to get up every day the way it had been since the age of thirteen.

He’s at work one day, in early fall, a year after his Stockholm trip. There’s nothing overtly momentous about that particular day when he wakes up. There’s a quick run and the muesli he got addicted to for breakfast. He has to stand the entire subway ride, like he does every day at rush hour. But today is a momentous day, Grant just doesn’t learn this until it’s mostly over.

At ten minutes to five his colleague, Cathy, says there’s some guy waiting outside the building to see him.

He goes down to find a leather-jacketed Micke leaning against a bus stop sign and staring up at the skyscrapers.

Micke smiles and pulls away from the post. To his eye, Grant doesn’t look any different, but his style of dress has changed, no longer so preppy, and he’s had a very expensive haircut. Micke solidly approves.

“You—you…how did you—” Grant babbles, famed eloquence lost.

“How did I find you?” Micke asks for him, stepping in close. Grant nods weakly and Micke pushes a lock of his strawberry reddish hair out of Grant's eyes. “LinkedIn.”

Grant taps his teeth with his tongue and says, “Figures.”

“Mmm,” Micke replies and takes another step, bringing their bodies closer and forcing Grant to look up to meet his eyes.

“What are you doing here?”

“Well, I’m starting school at Parsons in a week to study industrial design.”

“What? But why?”

“Funny thing, I believe I was told you were here,” he says softly.

Grant groans and leans up to kiss him, arm winding around his neck. It’s hard and welcome, and far, far, far too R-rated for the public.

Micke pulls back and says, “Jag älskar dig,” sure that Grant won’t understand him as he presses a kiss above his left eyebrow.

“Mig också,” Grant replies and smiles when Micke starts. “You’re not the only one with surprises,” he says and kisses him again. Finally he breaks them apart, clinging hard to Micke’s front like he’s going to disappear.

“Want to get out of here?” Micke asks.

It takes Grant a second to answer, still too astonished with Micke’s presence. “Yeah, yeah, of course, just let me—let me grab my stuff.” He runs back into the building and comes out with his jacket and a bag slung over his shoulder.

“Where are you staying?” he asks, smiling huge when he sees Micke is still there.

“Chelsea, I’m staying on a friend’s couch,” Micke tells him with a shrug.

“Right,” Grant says and turns left and starts walking. “Well, obviously, until you get your stuff, you’re staying with me.”

Micke stares after him perplexed. “Where are you going?”

Grant stops and looks over his shoulder, blinking at him owlishly. “Chelsea.”

“That way is downtown not uptown,” Micke says and then bursts out laughing. “I don’t believe it! Your sense of direction can’t even handle a grid pattern! A grid pattern in your own city!”

“Quiet you. You’re very distracting,” Grant replies and allows Micke to tug him in the right direction.

“Yeah, okay,” Micke replies. “I’ll accept that.”

So, it turned out, a man named Micke Stendahl didn’t just have the power to change Grant’s day all those many months ago. He had the power to change everything. Even get Grant to stop wearing boat shoes.

*

First let me apologize for any anachronisms or inaccuracies. I have never been to Stockholm, nor do I speak Swedish at all, so I’m sure there are mistakes. I will say the depths of my nerdity lead me to plot Micke and Grant’s walking tours of Stockholm out on google maps. I think I now know more about Stockholm than I do about New York City.

Towards the end I made myself a playlist to keep me going. I figured I'd make it available for you guys. The tracklisting is below: Diamond In The Rough Soundtrack

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