|Primary Characters:||Leo, Mehmet|
|Warning:||m/m, non-con, violence, some strong language|
|Description:||Mehmet and Leo are settling in, but the past still haunts Leo. Soon he has other things to worry about as well.|
The American asked for another round. Leo was beginning to get the hang of the job. He reached for the bottle and refilled the American’s glass. Further off, at a table close to the back, a group of young Dutch tourists were bent over something on the table in front of them. Leo’s old cop’s instincts made him strain his eyes into the gloom. It was hard to see what they were doing but he had a feeling they might have got their hands on some dope. As if they’d need to go all the way to Turkey to get weed if that’s what they wanted. So maybe he was worrying needlessly.
His attention was caught by a group of natives who blundered into the bar, talking loudly in Turkish. Despite Mehmet’s lessons, Leo only knew a smattering of the most common phrases and he had no way of picking up anything of what these guys were saying. He had a feeling they might turn out to be more trouble than the Dutch kids, if they kept on acting the way they had up until now.
Leo had asked Mehmet about them, and he had looked pensive, as if he wasn’t sure either. Then he’d shrugged and had appeared to let the matter go.
“Just a bunch of local boys who want to get a bit of attention. They probably resent the tourists and their apparent wealth, though they wouldn’t be hanging around like this if they didn’t come from relatively well-to-do families themselves.”
Leo had nodded and filed the information away for later, if it proved necessary. They seemed older than their peers back home. More mid-to late twenties than late teens. Spoiled brats getting a little old. He knew the type. If things had been different he might have been the same, back home, at least up until a couple of years ago.
He kept a wary eye on the guys but there wasn’t much more trouble from them that evening. Once the last customer had left, Leo and the two other bartenders began to put the bar stools away and tidy the room. Leo wiped the counter. The man who seemed to regard himself as a sort of supervisor locked the liquor cabinet looking smug and self-important. He was related to the owner of the bar so maybe he had a point about being in charge.
The other two were keeping up a constant banter between them, but they didn’t pay much attention to Leo, once they’d learned that he spoke practically no Turkish.
With a sigh, Leo left. It was time to face the night in the tiny apartment he and Mehmet shared. Mehmet had been very nice to him, there was no question about it, but Leo knew how his former colleague felt about him. By now, he’d probably be desperate for some sex too. Though Leo was well aware of what he owed Mehmet, this made him uneasy.
Undressing, going to bed, all under Mehmet’s watchful eye made Leo’s skin crawl. He trusted Mehmet. Maybe he shouldn’t have, but he did. When they had – had their sexual encounters – Mehmet had been acting in good faith. Once he’d learned the truth, he’d kept his distance. But Leo knew that no matter what Mehmet did, his feelings hadn’t changed.
But it was no use worrying about all that now. Without Mehmet’s help he never would have been able to get a job and without combining their resources, they wouldn’t have been able to support themselves here. Working as a cop was out of the question, even for Mehmet and Leo himself – all he really knew was police work and some law, both of which were useless here.
Mehmet was probably making more as a guide, interpreter and – funnily enough – as a teacher of German, than Leo was, waiting on tables. There were enough Turks still hoping for a future in Germany, willing to pay for private tuition, which meant Mehmet was the main breadwinner in their household, for want of a better word.
When Leo got back, Mehmet was waiting for him and even had supper ready. Leo relaxed a little. Sometimes, the evenings passed pleasantly enough.
“Hi. How was your day?”
“Fine. As long as I learn to stop thinking like a cop. If there’s a fight, I might have to interfere, but if some of the tourists bring dope, that’s not my problem, right?”
“Right. Did someone bring drugs into the bar?”
“I don’t know. There were some Dutch kids who seemed to be up to something, but they didn’t make any trouble, so I left them alone.”
“Good. You’re not responsible for anything like that.”
“I thought so. So, how was your day?”
“It was fine. I had some private students and a group of American tourists. At first I was worried I wouldn’t be able to tell them enough about the sights, but these people barely know which country they’re in. I could probably make things up as I go along. But one day I’m going to run up against some neat freak who’s studied Turkish history for a year before coming here.”
“Wouldn’t that be typical. This looks nice. Thanks.”
“Some of the Americans tip well, so I thought, why not spend it on something to eat?”
They ate, talking quietly about this and that, then retired to bed. Leo had managed to pick up some paperbacks, mainly in English but also a few in German. He knew he should be going over his Turkish verbs but he was getting tired of cramming as if for an exam. Turkish really was hard and Mehmet wasn’t really a teacher, despite his current occupation.
After a while, he got tired of reading too, and turned out the light. He sensed Mehmet gazing in his direction but tonight he didn’t feel up to glancing back, trying to determine what Mehmet wanted, if he wanted anything at all.
Even so, Leo felt too aware of every sound his roommate made. At times he was going crazy imagining what was going on inside Mehmet’s mind. Was he mentally undressing him? Did he recall every single thing they’d done together? Leo still couldn’t remember anything of their encounters, but there was no reason to think that Mehmet had forgotten. Maybe he was being overly sensitive. Mehmet might simply be going over his day, planning the next day’s lessons or something. Maybe he wasn’t thinking about Leo at all.
Eventually, Leo was able to doze off. If they got up at the same time Leo was usually too busy to worry too much about Mehmet’s gaze touching him, while they were getting ready for work.
To begin with, the evening was looking good. There was no trace of the Dutch tourists, with or without drugs and most of the people who came in were ordinary tourists, German, English, American, Scandinavian. The usual clientele.
As the evening wore on, Leo didn’t forget to keep an eye out for the group of unruly young Turks. After a while, he was beginning to think that they too, had found somewhere else to hang out. Maybe he’d overreacted.
A sudden noise from the other end of the room made him look up. One of the English tourists, who had seemed a little too drunk when he walked in, had turned over his table as he tried to get up. Leo had refused to sell him any more drinks so he had assumed the guy had just been sitting there or possibly had a snack. But it seemed the man was even more drunk than he had estimated.
Leo’s two colleagues pointedly ignored the mess on the floor. He couldn’t blame them. The new guy always ended up having to clear up the worst messes. Resigning himself to his fate, he went to tidy up a bit.
What was worse was that the guy was now bothering the other guests and his wife or girlfriend was complaining loudly about his inebriated state. For the first time in his life, or at least since school, Leo had an impulse to just run away and let someone else deal with the situation. But he ignored the impulse and did his best to calm the woman down, while he tried to steer the drunk husband or boyfriend away from more trouble.
To his relief, the guy settled down quite easily and once his girlfriend had stopped shouting, they left, more or less quietly. He apologized to the remaining guests, who seemed to have taken the outburst with equanimity. A woman who seemed to be about fifty tried to catch Leo’s eye and on a normal night, he wouldn’t have minded flirting a bit. She looked good for her age and there was no harm in her innocent pastime. He could always tell who was serious.
As long as he stayed sober he imagined he would be able to stay away from anyone seriously out to get into his pants. He wondered if he’d ended up in bed with more women than he remembered. The thought only worried him as far as he might have been infected with something and his new Turkish doctor had assured him he wasn’t, so that wasn’t anything he dwelled on at all.
Then he looked up to find that the potential troublemakers were back. The five young Turks. They sat down at a table close to the bar casting hostile glances at the tourists, who clearly didn’t interpret them correctly, or who were too drunk to care.
Leo’s cop’s instincts kicked in again. These guys might be trouble. But at the moment, they just sat. One of his colleagues took their order. Beer, Leo noted with relief. Nothing stronger. But they might already be more drunk than they looked.
Drunk. They couldn’t be devout Muslims if they drank alcohol, but neither did Mehmet and he’d hinted that many of the Turks in this part of the country were liberal, whatever that meant. Apparently, it included ‘Western’ drinking habits.
He caught a few of them glancing in his direction. Perhaps that wasn’t surprising. They reacted to the Western tourists. He was clearly from the same part of Europe, even if he wasn’t a tourist. As long as they just glared, it wouldn’t necessarily mean trouble. Still, he kept a close eye on them just the same.
One of them said something to one of the other employees. It was Hamid, the owner’s cousin. He replied, then laughed about something. They were speaking far too rapidly for Leo to catch anything more than ‘yes’ and ‘German’. At least he thought that was what they were saying. He wondered if their conversation in any way referred to him, but there was no reason to believe that. Almost half the room was filled with German tourists. It could mean anything.
In any case, after that, they just conversed among themselves, finished their beers and got up and left, to Leo’s considerable relief.
It would only be another half hour or so before the bar closed and he would be able to get back to the apartment.
Their self-appointed boss had to leave early so Leo and the other guy closed up and tidied up before they too could leave.
He was going in the other direction and he had a moped, so Leo continued on after saying bye. When Hamid wasn’t around, this one was always a bit nicer to him.
Leo turned a corner and was on his own street. The building where they rented their rathole was at the other end of the street, but he’d be there in five minutes, ten at the most. This time of night, it could get a little rowdy, but so far he hadn’t heard anything alarming. Besides, he had his – Leo stopped and patted his pocket.
He suddenly realized that the gun, that he usually carried on him – the lock on their front door was a joke – was missing. It took him a few seconds to recall that he’d taken it apart and cleaned it that morning. He must have left it on the table.
Perhaps there was nothing to worry about. No one could have guessed he had it and it was plain to all their neighbors that they didn’t have much worth stealing.
When he’d started out on his journey to Turkey, he hadn’t been in any shape to wonder about what was in his pockets. Sure he’d had a wad of banknotes in his wallet and they had come in handy, but when he began to recover he’d realized he still had the gun as well as the handcuffs. The cuffs didn’t matter. He was sure plenty of people had them too, to spice up their sex lives. It was the gun that worried him. If he’d known what was going to happen, he would have left it back home. He couldn’t risk it falling into the wrong hands, and obviously selling it was out of the question. So he’d held on to it.
He passed a narrow alley that opened up onto his street and a waft of urine and old garbage hit his nostrils. It seemed their neighbors used the alley as an unofficial garbage dump. Just another few paces and he’d be –
Suddenly he felt someone grab him from behind and whoever it was yanked him off his feet and backwards into the semi-darkness in between the rows of buildings. Someone, most likely his abductor, put a hand over his mouth and dragged him further into the gloom.
Leo struggled to break free. If he called out, someone would hear him and – not care. He’d forgotten. This neighborhood was cheap and in many ways convenient but the neighbors kept their doors closed at night. Anyone outside at this time was on his own. Besides, the person who had grabbed him was now joined by at least two others.
Leo found himself held so tightly he could only kick aimlessly and as it happened, he didn’t hit anyone or anything. If this had happened back home – but if he’d still been back home, he should have had a partner to watch his back, and Jan – Haroska – saw him as little more than the offal overflowing in the makeshift garbage cans back here.
Since he’d been a successful police officer, he’d woken up to a nightmare he thought he’d left behind more than fifteen years ago. As a consequence, he panicked and the useless flailing of his arms and legs only made his abductors knock him hard over the head.
Stunned, Leo went limp in their arms, but didn’t lose consciousness completely. At this point, he even wondered where Mehmet was. Compared to these unknown assailants, Mehmet would be almost like – a partner – a best buddy. Someone he could trust. He knew that really, it was just his background that made him so nervous around him.
After a minute or two he was shoved up against a wall. Someone grabbed his face and though he could barely see, he heard someone laugh. It reminded him of the guys who had been in the bar earlier tonight. Could this be them? Or was he jumping to conclusions? In any case, he began to wonder what they wanted. As his imagination ran wild, he began to hyperventilate, to the amusement of his abductors.
One of them began to rifle his jacket pockets and found his wallet. That was practically empty and didn’t contain his own ID so that wouldn’t do them much good. The hands began to wander down to his jeans pockets.
A delighted cry followed the discovery of the handcuffs. Excited chatter broke out, then Leo felt the cuffs snap shut around his wrists. He was moved along the wall until apparently his abductors were satisfied. The reason for that became clear a couple of seconds later, as they attached the cuffs to something higher up on the wall.
Leo could still stand, but his arms were locked above his head. He tensed up, trying to prepare for the first blow. However, no sharp pain exploded in his midriff or elsewhere. Instead, one of his abductors began to touch him. Unlike before, it was clear that the man wasn’t searching for anything. He was – Leo began to shiver uncontrollably, despite the fact that it was a warm night. In fact, it was hot like at the height of summer back home.
As if from far away, he heard several voices talk rapidly, sounding excited and triumphant. The one pawing at him, continued his intimate exploration of Leo’s body, but at this point, Leo’s mind was close to shutting down.
His enforced daze was shattered, when he felt a hand pull down the zipper in his jeans, then begin to fondle him through the fabric of his shorts. A badly shaved face, stinking of raw onions and alcohol was pressed against Leo’s face, then a tongue forced its way in between his lips.
A whimper escaped him, then he began to sag, his consciousness fading in and out. No. No. No. Not again. He couldn’t take it. Mehmet. Where was Mehmet? Tears stung his eyes and he bit his lip to keep from shouting his former colleague’s name out loud.
Mehmet had finished the evening’s lessons in German and the guys he was teaching had invited him to stay and play a game of cards and have a couple of drinks. He saw no reason not to accept. Even the cheap music blaring from the kitchen didn’t deter him. It had been a long time since he’d been able to relax. Adjusting to his new life had kept him busy enough.
Sure, he was free of his young wife, but living this close to Leo, who didn’t return his feelings, was wearing on his nerves. He also missed his job. Even if he usually didn’t go as far as Leo, in his efforts to help people, he had felt he was making a difference. Here he was just barely pulling his own weight. Maybe he should try to look for some other type of work. There should be something he could do that felt more worthwhile.
In any case, it felt good to sit down with these guys, who might not have been the sort of people he usually would spend time with, but who were simple and uncomplicated. Basically just good guys.
He smilingly turned down the offer of playing for money. The guys took it in good cheer. They were just trying to unwind after a long day of hard work picking fruit a couple of miles inland. Mehmet knew they were saving up to pay for their hazardous trip across the Balkans and up into Western Europe, in this case Germany. While they were doing that, they took the opportunity to learn a little of the language they’d be expected to know once they reached the goal of all their dreams.
The music was turned down and at least one of his hosts seemed to be about to doze off in their chairs. Where had the evening gone? It was almost midnight. Time to get back to his place.
“Thanks, guys. I’d better go. See you on Thursday then?”
They nodded amiably. One of them got up to see him outside. Mehmet began to stroll back to his own street. It was a pleasant evening and though this wasn’t the sort of neighborhood he was used to, either from his early days here in Turkey or from his time in Germany, the familiar weight of his gun reassured him.
He turned on to his own street. From here, he could even see the window in their little shoebox of a place. It was on the third floor and had once been a part of a larger complex, but someone had split it up into smaller units, as the street began its descent from respectable but poor, to outright slums.
As he passed the narrow alley he thought he heard something. A sort of muffled whimper. He was wondering if one of the dozens of feral cats who made their home in their had caught a big rat or if something else was going on.
The old cop’s instincts died hard. He stopped and listened for a while but didn’t hear anything else. Probably just a rat. Or a prostitute and her client. He’d seen a few around the area, but he doubted any woman would dare to go into such a dark alley. A young man? In any case, all was quiet now at least inside that alley.
So Mehmet walked on, wondering if getting something to eat would be worth the trouble. All they had were a few cans of sardines and some stale bread. Usually Leo ate a little at the bar and at times Mehmet was treated to a light meal after he’d guided his share of tourists. Occasionally, they spent a little on a proper meal, but in this heat, they didn’t seem to have much appetite and both had much on their minds.
Mehmet fished out his key and unlocked the door. Inside it was dark and quiet. For some reason, that worried him. He turned on the light and looked around. There was nowhere anyone could hide, so it only took him about thirty seconds to determine that Leo wasn’t in the tiny kitchenette or in bed. He wasn’t in the bathroom either, even if bathroom was a rather grand name for the tiny cubicle which contained a toilet, a wash basin and – a luxury they paid several hundred liras extra for – a shower.
There was no sign of any struggle. Mehmet had the impression Leo hadn’t returned after work. He knew that Leo never stayed behind to hang out with his co-workers. For one, he didn’t know enough of the language to have a normal conversation with anyone who wasn’t more or less fluent in German or at least English. Besides, he had a feeling that Leo found it hard to trust new people. Not surprising after what he’d been through.
Mehmet caught sight of something glinting dully in the lamplight. Leo’s gun. So he wasn’t even carrying it. Now he recalled that Leo had had to take it apart and clean it.
By now, Mehmet was beginning to seriously worry about his roommate. He couldn’t think of any harmless explanation to Leo’s absence.
Fighting down the incipient panic, Mehmet rushed down the stairs again, stopping in front of the door, making sure his own gun was loaded and in working order. He shouldn’t have had it in the first place, but now that he had, it might come in handy. If only he wasn’t too late.
Visions of Leo lying in some back alley with his throat slit hovered before his eyes. That led him to recall the noise from the alley. There was absolutely no reason to assume the noise had been made by Leo, but he decided to check there anyway. If that didn’t lead to anything, he’d walk all the way back to the bar. He knew which way Leo would go. Whatever had happened to him should have occurred somewhere between the bar and the apartment. At least that was the assumption he was going to work with until he had reason to think otherwise.
It took his eyes a while to adjust to the semi-darkness in between the buildings, but fortunately, there was a half-moon which gave off enough light to see by. The alley led to a wider area between houses, then on the other side of that, it gave on a larger street.
Automatically, he fell back on his police training. He remained close to the walls, trying not to imagine what he stepped in. The sounds of tiny feet scurrying away made him wince. If even one of those rats had rabies –
He stopped and froze, listening hard. There. Someone was laughing. And talking. A group of men – it sounded as if most of them were cheering someone else on. They were saying something about – cute? Hot.
Mehmet was beginning to wonder if he’d stumbled on a scene of group sex with a prostitute after all. But the voices came from at least four people. A situation like that might easily turn ugly. In any case, he’d better take a look. If the woman were to need his help – He didn’t have any jurisdiction here, but he wasn’t going to stand by while someone was assaulted, even a junkie whore.
When his eyes had adjusted fully, his mouth went dry. He’d only been partially right. Not a woman. Leo. Four men were standing around, while a fifth –
Mehmet swallowed bile. Five against one – it was clear that Leo wouldn’t be any help, even if his hands had been free. He had no gun and didn’t even seem to be more than partially conscious. No, he was on his own.
At least there wouldn’t be any cops patrolling nearby. These guys didn’t look like hardened criminals. In fact, something about them seemed familiar. If he wasn’t mistaken, these could be the ones Leo had been concerned about earlier. A bunch of malcontents with a grudge against foreigners.
If he fired off a warning shot, they would most likely scatter. He didn’t think they’d be armed, at least not with firearms. And he was running out of time. As far as he could see, the guy who was standing up against Leo was still just getting started. Rubbing up against Leo, touching him. Kissing him. If he had more time, who knew what he might get up to.
Using the element of surprise, he should be able to chase them off. If not – In any case, there was no way he was just going to abandon Leo like this. It didn’t have anything to do with his feelings for him either. He’d do the same for anyone he’d worked with.
“Hey. Get away from him.”
All five turned and stared at him. He could see them drawing conclusions. Just one guy. Not a cop. At least he assumed they’d be thinking that way. If he’d been a local officer – But it was time he put some fear into them.
He raised his gun and aimed at a point well above their heads, making sure he wasn’t aiming at any windows either. They were beginning to falter already as they took in the gun. The shot shattering the silence, made them bolt.
Exactly as he’d imagined, they’d lost their nerve and wouldn’t be back tonight. Just in case, he’d keep his ears open.
Leo seemed to be attached to a sort of hook on the wall. Now Mehmet realized he was wearing handcuffs. His own, presumably, because he couldn’t imagine those five were carrying something like that around in their pockets. Stupid. He knew why Leo had kept them but unlike the guns, they should be able to get rid of these.
Fumbling above Leo’s head, he managed to pull him down. Just as he’d guessed, Leo’s body was limp. He slumped down against him, forcing Mehmet to put his arms around him to hold him up. Maybe he’d better get him back to the apartment before he tried to get the cuffs off him. If he stood around here for much longer, someone might show up and wonder what they were up to, even if the attackers didn’t return.
Placing his arm over Leo’s shoulders, he began to walk as quickly as he could in the direction of their place. He was hoping any onlookers would come to the conclusion that Leo was drunk after a night out. It wasn’t an unusual sight in this neighborhood, despite the religion most of them must belong to.
To his relief, no one seemed to pay any attention. Besides, at this hour of the night, only occasional revelers would be out.
He was able to get Leo upstairs, then onto the bed. After a moment’s hesitation, he began to fumble inside Leo’s pockets. If Leo were to wake up now – but he was in luck. His fingers made contact with the key at the first try. He fished it out and unlocked the cuffs. Without much thought, he dumped them and the key on the table beside the bed.
Hesitantly, he began to examine Leo’s head for injuries. Nothing out of the ordinary. His first panic began to abate a little. It had to be the shock, he argued. Just in case, he made a cursory examination of the neck area. There didn’t seem to be any injuries anywhere. Maybe he’d got to Leo in time.
Gently, he began to pat Leo’s face.
“Hey, Leo. Wake up. It’s alright. They’re gone. Leo. Look at me. Hello? Are you ok?”
The eyelids fluttered open and for a fraction of a second, Leo cowered back from Mehmet.
“Hey, take it easy. It’s me.”
It took a moment for the terror to go out of Leo’s eyes. He seemed to make a visible effort to pull himself together.
“Right. Thanks. I guess you chased them off?”
“Yeah, I don’t think we’ll see any more of them for a while. Are you ok? They didn’t knock you over the head?”
Mehmet could almost see the thoughts flying through Leo’s mind as he tried to recall.
“Well, one of them took a swipe at me, but I’m ok.”
Mehmet nodded. He’d just realized that Leo’s pants were open in front and his lower lip was bleeding. Either the guy had hit him over the mouth or –
He broke off his train of thought when he saw that Leo too had realized the state of disarray his clothes were in.
Awkwardly, Mehmet tried to think of something to say, to calm Leo. He tried and discarded several phrases before managing to get a few words out. They rang hollow even in his own ears.
“I – uh – think I got here in time. At least – one of those guys was – just rubbing up against you. I think. Maybe you’d better -”
But it soon became clear that Leo was in no fit state to do anything but shake uncontrollably.
Mehmet felt stupid. His mind was a blank. This was something he definitely hadn’t expected. Not with a guy close to his own age. A teenager, maybe, but not a grown man. Not that Leo wasn’t hot, but – In this area there shouldn’t be the kind of sex-starved louts he imagined ran around the interior of Anatolia.
In the end, he just reached out and pulled Leo into his arms. He knew that wasn’t the smartest thing he could have done, but at the moment, he was out of ideas. At first, Leo froze and for a while it seemed as if he was going to fight back, then in an awfully familiar gesture, he just slumped down against Mehmet’s chest.
Lamely, he began to pat Leo’s back, wondering what he should do. Put him to bed? Get him a drink? Eventually, Leo began to relax a little. His breathing returned to normal.
It didn’t take Mehmet long to become painfully aware of Leo’s scent and the familiar lines of the body that seemed to fit so well into his arms. He buried his nose at the back of the other man’s head, breathing in the clean smell of his hair, that had begun to grow out a bit in the past weeks.
His body was beginning to send out warning signs, but at the moment, Mehmet chose to ignore them. It felt too sweet to just hold Leo like this –
Before he knew what he was doing, his lips had sought out Leo’s and though a little voice at the back of his mind was screaming to him to let go before he did irrevocable damage to Leo’s trust in him, he completed the kiss.
This time, Leo really did pull away violently. The look in his eyes held such a look of reproach, Mehmet cowered back too. Stupid. He was such an idiot. Now he’d ruined everything.
Leo barely seemed to be able to keep his voice under control.
“Ok. Fine. I’ll be your bitch if that’s what you want. I – think I can force myself to do it, but I’ll never be able to bring myself to want it. Sorry I can’t be who you want me to be.”
Mehmet stared pleadingly at Leo. He tried to think of something to say to make things right again, but he knew there was nothing he could do or say to take back his stupid mistake.
In the end, he just turned and ran. He couldn’t face the look in Leo’s eyes any more than the words still hanging in the air between them.
To begin with Leo just sat, stunned by what had happened, not only in that alley, but afterwards, with Mehmet. Despite the humid heat inside the room, he was shivering and his muscles were so tense it hurt. Eventually, he forced himself to get up and go into the tiny bathroom. It didn’t take long for the hot water to turn lukewarm, then cool and finally icy cold. Though his teeth were clattering and the chill bit into his bones, he kept the water running for what seemed like at least an hour.
Not until then did he return to his bed. He managed to find some new clothes – he had a few changes of underwear, socks and t-shirts, but only one pair of jeans. Those would have to be washed before he’d wear them again. He did, however, have a pair of sweatpants and after some consideration, he put those on. The time in the shower had chilled him and he couldn’t keep warm, even though he pulled the covers up to his chin.
Eventually, he dozed off, but it only seemed like minutes later when he came awake with a start. He didn’t remember any dreams, but he had a feeling he had been dreaming, maybe reliving the incident out in the alley.
He glanced out the window, trying to determine what time it was. The Turkish nights were unfamiliar to him, but he guessed it might be three or four in the morning.
Suddenly, he wondered where Mehmet was and what he was doing. This wasn’t the neighborhood to be wandering around in, at night. Whatever his friend had done, he didn’t want him to end up dead in the street somewhere, his throat slit or bleeding to death from a stab wound. It could easily happen.
The last thing he wanted to was to get up and out there again, after what had happened, but in the end, he decided he owed Mehmet that much.
This time, he didn’t forget his gun.
He’d already walked round the block once, when it occurred to him that Mehmet wouldn’t be wandering the streets. Not when he had a favorite path where he liked to go jogging. The beach wasn’t too far away, and there was a stretch that was rocky and thus unsuitable for the tourist industry. That was where the locals chose to go running or to have picnics on the beach. Naturally, he’d find Mehmet there.
To his relief, he didn’t have to pass the alley where it had happened. If he should run into those guys again, he didn’t trust himself with the gun.
But he saw no one on his way out to the beach. He followed the path up to the spot where you could sit and watch the waves crashing onto the shore. Not that they really crashed that hard. Compared to what he was used to from the North Sea coast back home, the sea looked soft and inviting.
They’d already gone swimming a couple of times, even though the locals mainly saved that for the season. If you were used to the North Sea in June, the Mediterranean this time of year wasn’t particularly cold.
But Leo hadn’t come to swim and he was hoping Mehmet hadn’t decided to get in either.
The thought of Mehmet, after what he’d done tonight, made Leo slow down and take care not to make any noise. He wasn’t sure what he wanted. Maybe just make sure Mehmet was alright. If it didn’t feel too weird, he might say something, but what, he hadn’t considered yet.
Mehmet wasn’t sitting on the rock he ususally chose for his evening contemplations. Leo felt a stab of concern, despite everything. Where could Mehmet be? This was his favorite place so if he wasn’t here now –
But before he had time to finish the thought, Leo caught sight of his friend. He was sitting hunched over, right on the narrow stretch of sand, face buried in his hands.
Leo remained standing irresolutely, not sure what to do. His first impulse was to turn back and leave Mehmet to his brooding. But somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Whatever Mehmet had done tonight, he still owed him, twice over now. With a sigh, he walked closer.
Mehmet started and looked up.
“It’s just me. Relax. I was wondering where you were.”
He stopped when he was close enough to speak softly close to Mehmet’s ear, then kneeled beside him, not without a twinge of doubt.
Mehmet swallowed and looked as if he was about to say something, then seemed to change his mind. It was plain that he was struggling to find the words. Eventually, he tried again.
Leo nodded. His friend did look repentant. He was inclined to accept his apology. That didn’t mean he would ever be able to trust him, but under the circumstances, he’d have to choose. Either stay here, or strike out on his own and he knew he couldn’t manage by himself, not here. Returning home – was impossible for so many reasons he didn’t even bother listing them inside his mind.
Besides, despite everything, he still liked Mehmet and he was grateful.
Before he knew what he was doing, he cleared his throat and began to speak.
“I’m sorry too. If that’s what you want, I’ll try -”
“No, that’s not what I want. Not now. Now that I know why – It’s ok. I can handle it. I’m really sorry about what I – I never meant to take advantage of you.”
“Yeah, I know. I guess it’s hard for me to get my head around the idea that I’m so irresistible to other guys.”
Leo laughed nervously.
Mehmet raised an eyebrow inquiringly.
“And you weren’t irresistible to women?”
Leo thought about that for a while, then smiled wryly.
“It depends on how you define irresistible. I haven’t had reason to complain, if that’s what you mean.”
Mehmet’s dark eyes studied him closely, then appeared to relax a little. His face twisted into a sort of smile.
“Ok. Me neither – once I got to Germany.”
Leo’s smiled faded. Again, his conscience struck him. If it hadn’t been for him, Mehmet would still be back home, finding it easy to meet women – oh, wait, not anymore. There was that teenage wife of his.
“And now you’re going to have trouble meeting women. I – Maybe I could -”
“No. Besides, there are always the tourists. German, English, American, Scandinavian women – I’m just not sure if that’s what I want. If that’s who I want to be. A beach bum. One of the exotic Turks who ‘dates’ them. It would feel demeaning. But who knows? There might be someone who’s different.”
“You mean a guy?”
“No. I might have fooled around with a few guys before, but I’m into women. Just like you.”
Leo laughed softly. Suddenly, it wasn’t quite as hard anymore.
“At least you knew what you were doing. I had no idea – until you told me. Until Jan -”
“Yeah. I’m sorry about – what happened. About what Haroska and Enders did to you and about what I did. If I’d known -”
“I know. It’s ok. How were you supposed to know? Anyway, maybe we should get back. I’m not even sure if it would be completely safe to hang out on the beach all night back home. And here -”
“Yeah. Well, I still have my gun. Do you -”
Leo felt the reassuring bulge in his pants.
“Safe enough, I guess, if you want to stick around.”
“Nah, let’s get back. If anyone came out here, they might think -”
Again, Leo laughed. He was surprised he could laugh at it now. But he still felt guilty. If he hadn’t been such a basket case, Mehmet wouldn’t even be here and in any case, knowing how his friend felt – Shrugging, he got up. There wasn’t anything he could do about Mehmet’s feelings. They would just have to make the best of things.
After a moment’s hesitation, he held out his hand and after a brief pause, Mehmet took it. He’d been sitting down for too long. His legs creaked and it took him a moment to restore circulation to them.
He couldn’t believe Leo was this forgiving. Mehmet swore that he’d never let Leo down again.
Something occurred to him and his eyes sought out Leo’s.
“Are you – I mean – is everything ok?”
Leo nodded, his face suddenly tense again.
“Yeah. You got there in time. I guess I didn’t thank you for that.”
“Never mind. After what I did -”
“That never happened. So, thanks. It’s getting to be a habit. Maybe one day I’ll get to save your hide.”
Mehmet mouth twitched at the corners.
“Looking forward to it.”
“I just realized. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to go back to work at that bar.”
“Never mind. We’ll find you something else. I never liked that Hamid guy.”
“Me neither. And another thing – He seemed friendly with those guys. I think they asked him about me tonight.”
“And he was only too happy to tell them everything, no doubt.”
“Well, maybe he didn’t know what they had in mind. Yeah, you’re right. I’ll probably be better off with another job.”
Mehmet startled Leo by laughing again.
A puzzled look spread across Leo’s face.
“Oh, well, remember what I was saying about ‘dating’ the tourists? They’d be crazy about you. Maybe you should -”
“Right. It’s too demeaning for you, but I can sell my ass to the tourists, is that what you’re saying?”
“Well, they’re women. I’m guessing it would be another part of you they’d be interested in, but yeah -”
“Thanks a lot. Maybe we should go partners. The German Escort Service.”
Mehmet made a face.
“Oh, god. My dad would kill himself, and my mom would just die.”
“I don’t care what my dad would think, but maybe we could find something a little less – demeaning, if we put our minds to it. Let’s see – we could be PI’s. Or you could do translations too.”
“You could probably teach German. Some of these guys are almost fluent in English but they want to learn German since it’s much more likely they’ll be going to Germany, when they get their chance.”
“Why not? At least I’ll be helping someone.”
“I’ll ask around. Don’t worry about it. We’d better find another place to stay too.”
“Yeah. I’d rather not run into those guys again, if I can help it.”
“Just lie low for a while and I’ll set something up. They can’t have had a very good look at me, so it’s alright even if they happen to spot me.”
“Thanks. I’ll never be able to repay you.”
Mehmet turned and faced Leo somberly.
“Leo. After what I did – you don’t owe me anything. Besides, I’m doing it for me as much as for you. This isn’t a good place to live. I should have done something about it right away.”
Leo opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. He couldn’t afford to be proud. This was Mehmet’s home turf. He’d just have to accept his help and hope that his friend would get over him some day.
They got back about half an hour before the rest of the neighborhood began to stir.
It had been a long night, but somehow, Leo thought he’d be able to get over it eventually. Maybe he was getting used to life as a toy boy or – he really did trust Mehmet. In any case, it was no use looking back. This was his life now and he could consider himself lucky to have Mehmet here to help him. For better and for worse, they were stuck with each other so he decided to make the best of the situation.