"The Minor Fall, The Major Lift" by Jae Gecko

The shots laid out in yesterday's Bild tell the story. A team of coppers in riot gear, automatic weapons poised for action. A knock at the door. A forced entry. An empty flat. A solemn-looking police chief vowing to track the young terrorists down and bring them to justice.

Peter takes a drag on his cigarette and folds the paper against his chest. Fooling the police is the only thing that's gone right in this whole half-arsed scheme of theirs. It'll have to be good enough for now.

He pushes the bedsheet down to his waist. It's not even ten in the morning, but the Barcelona sun is already heating the hotel room well beyond a bearable level. Of course, it doesn't help that there are three of them squeezed into a double bed.

Next to him, Jule wriggles beneath the sticky sheet and makes a halfhearted attempt at pushing it off her. Peter traces the outline of her leg with his eyes, up to the curve of her arse. It's that arse that first caught his eye back in the bar where they first met. She'd come in with a couple of blokes from her anti-sweatshop group, and she'd only given Peter the finger in response to his cheeky one-liners. But she was back the following weekend, and Peter got to cup his hand around that very arse while she moaned into his neck.

He reaches across to her hip, tracing circles around it. Her skin is soft through the cotton sheet. She purrs lightly under his touch.

Except Jan's awake now, too, and his eyes are glued to the motion of Peter's hand. Peter's eyes narrow as they collide with Jan's. Peter's hand jerks back, balling into a fist at his chest.

Jan's face flushes. His head dips, his shoulders hunched. It's not an apology, but it echoes the one he's already made a dozen times. I'm sorry. It just happened. I'm so sorry.

Peter lets out a slow breath through pinched lips. It happened—Jan and Jule slept together. Peter's already had his night of running off and acting like a drunken cunt. If the three of them can't get past this now, they never will.

Peter picks up the paper again, and the sweat of his hand sucks up the grey ink of the newsprint like a sponge. He rubs at it with a thumb. "We're gonna have to pick up today's paper, see what the coppers are up to back home. Now that they know we're gone, we've got to make sure we stay one step ahead of 'em."

Jule opens one eye. "What are you doing with a Bild, anyway?" she says in a voice still thick with sleep. She shoots Peter a teasing smile. "Bourgeois pig."

"Piss off," Peter says automatically, but he slides in closer next to her under the covers.

Jule spreads out flat on the bed, her arms stretched long like a cat's. "Would you rather read the FAZ, Mr Fat Cat, sir?" she teases. "I think you can pick up a copy at that newsagent's over in El Born."

Peter leans in and plants a kiss at the edge of her mouth, his eyes still on Jan. Jan's watching them both, his eyes intent, almost questioning. And then Peter sees it: Jan's hand, beneath the covers, on Jule's hip.

It's less weird than it should be. Probably because he's already seen each of them a dozen times with an arm slung across the other's waist. But no, this is different. Not possessive, exactly, but a little too comfortable. When Jule looks up at him, her eyes are glinting with a familiar mischievous look. Peter swallows. There's a burning in the base of his stomach.

Jan's jaw is set in a line, and there's a little mole on the edge of it that Peter's never noticed. He's waiting for Peter to react. He's staring. Peter's not sure whether it's a challenge or an invitation.

Fuck it. What the hell.

Peter takes one last drag on his cigarette, extinguishes it against the newspaper, and sets the paper down on the nightstand. With one eye still on Jan, he leans in again toward Jule. When their mouths meet, she kisses Peter back, and it's long and intense. A fire catches in him. She's always had trouble letting go, but when she does, there's no stopping her. Her tongue reaches for his as the rest of her body slides toward him under the sheet. Her skin is slick and inviting, and his pulse leaps in response.

There's a drumming in his stomach, and he moves a hand down along Jule's thigh. Jan's watching them, his eyes dark and beads of sweat forming on his forehead. And then suddenly he's no longer just watching. His hands reach around to Jule's stomach, travel up to her chest. A breath catches in her throat, one that Peter can feel in his own mouth as he's kissing her. A shiver shoots straight down to his cock. He's already full-on hard. Harder than he's been since he can remember.

Jan tugs Jule's T-shirt up over her head. He's got his fingers on one of her nipples, and Peter takes the other one into his mouth. Jule gasps, her back arching, her head pressed against on the pillow. Jan's face is flushed red, and he's shaking. And then he's moving his head down between her legs, and he's peeling back her knickers, tasting her. Jule's eyes roll back, and Peter kisses her, long and deep. She moans into his mouth, clinging to him. She's responding to both of them, both of them at once. Peter's toes curl.

When she finally comes, Peter's got his fingers on her nipples and his lips on her stomach. Her muscles tighten beneath his mouth as she cries out, and then they release. Jan pulls back from her, panting.

Peter can feel Jan's breath against his cheek, their gasps coming in unison. He's right there. He's right—

Their eyes lock.

And then Jan leans in toward him, and he's kissing Peter like it's the most normal thing in the world.

The rest is a tangle of limbs and tongues and fingers. Peter's leaning against Jule when Jan's fist wraps around Peter's cock. Peter tries to pull back, but it's so—with the rough texture of Jan's hand and Jule's tongue tracing a path from his earlobe to his nipple and the pulling in his balls—and he can't even think about stopping. Jan's head tucks into Peter's armpit, and it's—but Peter can't help but tense beneath him. He gives himself over to the cascade of sensations. And now Jan's face is pressed against Peter's chest, his hand tightening around Peter's—God.

Peter grabs hold of Jule's shoulder. It's soft and sweaty, and he buries his face in it. His breath is coming in gasps, faster and faster against her skin. He comes fiercely, with a loud moan he can't hold back.

It's quiet. Peter's brain is a haze of dull-edged sensations, and for a moment he almost lets sleep take him. Then he hears Jan suck in a breath, and Peter opens his eyes.

The sheet is pulled back, and Jan's lying there, his boxers gathered at his waist and his eyes pressed shut. Jule's got her fingers around his cock, but it's pointing straight at Peter. It's big and red and—no.

Jule kisses Jan's neck. He groans. A nerve pricks in Peter's chest, and his jaw clenches.

He can't do this.

Peter jerks back, away from them. He sits up. He reaches across to the chair for his jeans.

"What's the matter?" Jule.

Peter's hands curl into fists, one around the edge of his bed, one around his jeans. The tightness in his jaw shoots straight down his neck, and he holds his hands up in front of him. "Okay, no. We're not—"

"Hey," Jule says, her voice gentle. Her hand is on Peter's back. Or maybe it's not her hand.

He stands, sucking in a breath. He pulls his jeans on, fastens his belt, reaches for yesterday's T-shirt. "Yeah, this—" He looks down at them. They're both staring up at him, like he's the one who's being unreasonable. "This is too fucked up."

"It's okay," Jule says. She reaches for him again, tucking a finger around his belt.

Peter pulls away, stumbling a step backward. "Just—you know what? Whatever this was, just count me out." He pulls the T-shirt over his head and steps into his sandals.

Jan's sitting up now, and he's got that kicked-puppy look on his face. Peter sucks hollows into his cheeks and takes a step toward him, and Jan shrinks back. He looks just like he did that day in the cabin, when Peter found out about the two of them.

Peter wanted to hit him then, and he feels the same way now.

"Tell me one thing, man." Peter's eyes bore into Jan's, and Jan's gaze drops to the bedsheets. "Why the fuck is it that whenever we've finally got a good thing going, you have to go and make everything a thousand times more complicated?"

And then the doorknob is in Peter's hand, and he's running. He tears down the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door of the hotel and into the busy street. The sun beats down on his neck with the force of a hundred summers, but he keeps running, past kids skating down the promenade, past tourists kissing at the edge of La Rambla.

He stops to catch a breath in front of a beach café, stooped and panting, his hands on his knees. He stumbles down the steps to the concrete and stops at the bar. More than anything, he needs a drink. He needs a couple dozen. He reaches for his wallet.

It's not in his jeans.

Fuck.

Peter swears under his breath and turns away from the bar, grabbing a chair from one of the unoccupied tables. He parks it by the metal railing overlooking the beach. The bartender shoots him a suspicious look, but leaves him alone. For six cigarettes, Peter stares out at the waves, trying not to think about what happens next. After he's smoked the last one, he just keeps staring.

It's Jan that Peter sees first. His hair is even messier than usual, but Peter would recognize those hunched shoulders anywhere. He's walking along the water's edge, a hand curved over his eyes to shield them from the sun as he scans the crowd. When he spots Peter, he stops, and for a long moment, just watches him. Then he calls out to Jule, and then they're both walking up the steps from the beach.

Peter sucks in his cheeks. He grabs his chair and turns it around, his back to the ocean. He's thirsty, and so goddamned tired.

Their footsteps shuffle as they approach. Peter tries not to look up, but then he can't stand it anymore. Jule's face is blank as she brushes the hair out of her eyes. Jan files in next to her and lights a cigarette. The kicked-puppy look is gone from his face now, and he just looks calm. They're watching him. A united front.

Well, screw them both.

Anger flares in Peter's chest again. He stands, wrapping tight fists around the railing. Jan slides in next to him, digs in his pocket, and holds out a cigarette.

Peter wants to take it. He shrugs.

Jan lights it on the end of his own and holds it out to Peter. Peter glares at him, but he takes it. What are they doing here, anyway? "Can't make it without me, eh?"

It's meant to sound flippant, but really, that's just it. They're so sure that no matter what they do, Peter will always be right there. Peter hunches over the railing. There's nobody who could say he hasn't been there for them, way the fuck beyond the call of duty. They haven't exactly paid him back.

"I guess you still need me to pull your arses out of the fire," he growls. "Well fuck you. Fuck you both very much."

Jule's forehead creases, and she looks up at Jan. But he's just standing there, watching Peter. Like Peter's a pot that just needs to blow off some steam and then everything will be back to normal.

Peter leans in toward Jan. "You know where you two'd have been without me? You'd be fucking locked up!"

Jan's eyes are level. He doesn't flinch.

"On the run from the coppers? Just call Peter. Need somebody to drive into the village and do the shopping? Come up with a story for the forest ranger? Chop the wood for the stove? Peter's your man!" They're still staring, and it's enough to send Peter over the edge. He turns away from them and lets out a roar that echoes over the water. "I even did your fucking cooking!" he yells.

A kid looks up at him from the beach with wide eyes, and he drops his shovel against the sand. A hairy bloke wraps a towel around the kid's shoulders and pulls him away, glaring at Peter.

There's a muffled giggle, and Peter looks back at Jan and Jule. Jan's mouth is curled into a smile, and Jule looks like she's trying to suppress a laugh.

"The cooking?" Jan's voice is incredulous.

Jule shakes her head. "That's what you've got yourself all worked up about? That we made you cook?"

A smirk darts across Jan's mouth. "And here I was assuming it had something to do with the sex." Jule snorts and covers up her mouth with a hand.

Peter pushes out an angry sigh and pulls away from them. But then Jan's mouth straightens again, and his eyes are wide and serious. He puts out his cigarette, his eyes fixed on Peter's.

He slides closer to Peter. "Thanks, man."

It catches Peter off-guard. He starts.

"Because you're right." Jan shrugs. His tone is level, like he's telling Peter the earth is round. "If you hadn't shown up, the police would've been there five minutes later, found Hardenberg tied up, and the game would have been up right there. I panicked. I mean, I hit him, for God's sake. But you thought fast, and you got us out of there. Jule and me, we'd have been fucking nowhere without you."

The words hang in the air between them. Peter's heart speeds up.

Jan slides a hand toward him. His eyes are boring straight into Peter's. "Thank you."

Peter's eyes flick down to Jan's hand, but he doesn't touch it. And then Jule's arm is looped through his, through both of theirs. She gives Peter a shy little half-smile. "Thank you," she repeats.

A tall, muscled bloke down on the beach shoots them a look. He smirks, and gives them a thumbs-up. There's a flutter in Peter's stomach, and he wriggles loose from Jule's arm.

"You're wrong about one thing, you know." Jan shakes his head. "There's nothing complicated about this."

Peter's nostrils flare. "Fuck, no, it's not complicated. It's totally fucking simple. We're wanted for kidnapping. We can't ever go back to Berlin. The money we've got is enough to live on for another couple of months at this rate, tops, so we're gonna have to get jobs, and you two don't even speak any fucking Spanish and—"

"Okay, that's—that's a—" Jan holds up a hand. "Okay, that part's a little complicated. But this?" His finger traces a circle in the air between the three of them. He shakes his head, slowly.

Peter's mind flashes back to their hotel room, Jan nestled in Jule's arms but turned toward Peter, his face red and breathless with arousal. A pulse of rage surges again in Peter's stomach. "There is no this. Because I'm not doing this." He turns back toward the water. He puts his cigarette out against the railing and flicks it off the edge.

"Don't you think that's just what the people like Hardenberg would want—to split us up?"

Peter wraps a fist around the railing. A memory flashes across his mind. Jan's innocent question about how long it would take to disable an alarm system. The plan they worked out together. The look of excitement on Jan's face when he talked about how they would whittle away at the other half's tower of security and give them a taste of fear. For the first time, Peter felt like a part of something bigger than his lousy little life.

A wave crashes onto the sand and then slowly retreats into the ocean. Peter looks down at his fists on the railing. They're white. Slowly, he loosens his grip.

"Because we can do that, man," Jan continues. "It's totally up to us. We can still pull back, give in to the fear of the unknown and go our separate ways. We can still do that."

Jan's voice is low, mesmerizing. Peter presses his eyes shut. Another wave hits the sand. From somewhere far away, a child shrieks with delight and lets out a peal of laughter.

"Or, right now, we can look each other straight in the eyes and say: enough. We're not going to let them break us this time. This time we're going to take this—this energy between us and we're not going to waste it on a couple of rich bastards in Zehlendorf and their gaudy villas. We're going to aim it at the capitalist dictatorship that's fuelling the whole fucking system. At the exploiters, at the brainwashers, at the polluters. We're going to go straight for the core of all the things that are rotting western society from within, and we're going to shock them all to kingdom come."

Peter's heart jumps. He looks at Jan. His eyes are dark and wide, like you could fall into them. Peter looks back at the sea.

"Between the three of us, Peter? We can do anything. Anything."

"Every human heart is a revolutionary cell." Jule's voice is full of hope, and it melts Peter just a little. He draws in a breath of salt air and lets it trickle back out.

Jule reaches over and wraps her hand around Peter's, drawing it to her chest. Her skin is moist with sweat, but the pressure is strong and steady. She reaches for Jan with her other hand, and their fingers intertwine like two pieces of a puzzle.

There's a twinge in Peter's chest, and he tries to pull back, but Jule hangs on to him. Shaking, Jan pushes their two hands over to Peter, sandwiching Peter's hand against Jule's chest. Through his fingertips, Peter can feel her heart thumping in time with Peter's own. His gaze slides around Jan's face as if trying to catch hold of an anchor. Then he finds Jan's eyes.

And then they're leaning in toward each other, their foreheads pressed together. Jule's breath is gentle against Peter's neck, and the stubble of Jan's face feels strange, but it still belongs there, somehow. They're three points of a triangle, three legs of a tripod. Peter squeezes his eyes shut and for a long moment, he just lets them hold him up.

When they pull back, Jule is crying, and Peter wipes at one of her tears with his thumb. Jan fishes in his pocket for another cigarette with one hand, but the other is still resting firmly on Peter's.

"I was just thinking about what Hardenberg was saying," Jule says, her voice light and clear as the ocean breeze. "You know, about free love."

Hardenberg. Police with automatic weapons, aimed straight at their flat. Peter's cheeks hollow. "Hardenberg can go fuck himself."

Jule shakes her head. "He's a cunt. But maybe he was right about that part."

"Nah." Peter grabs Jan's cigarette and takes a drag on it. "Love isn't free. People just think that 'cause it's something you can't buy."

"Hey." Jan's hand tightens around Peter's fingers. "When I said we could do anything as long as we did it together—do you believe that? I need to know you believe that."

That's the funny thing—Peter actually does. He's known Jan for fifteen years. Long enough to know that when Jan's this sure about something, there's no sense in denying its power.

Peter chews on the inside of his cheek. He swallows. He nods.

"Because I've got a plan. It's the biggest one I've ever had. And we're the only ones who can do it."

There's a fire in his eyes. It's contagious, and Peter leans closer, drawn in.

With a start, Peter realizes that it's always been like that. Jan's always been able to pull Peter in. Maybe this—whatever it is—has always been there between them, buried underneath a mountain of bravado and teenage insecurities. Maybe it just took Jule to uncover it.

Maybe it doesn't even matter. Peter looks from Jan to Jule. She's smiling.

Jan steps back. He pulls something out of the back pocket of his shorts and unfolds it against the surface of the closest table. He sits down, his shoulders tight with determination. Peter exchanges a glance with Jule, and then they follow.

It's a map—a nautical map. Paper-clipped in the corner is the picture of the Astra satellites that Jan showed them back in Austria. The satellites that supply all of Europe with a television signal. Cut the lines, and every TV set on the continent goes dark.

"Remember this?" Jan asks, pointing at the picture.

Peter remembers. He's seen the map once, too, back in their flat in Berlin, spread out across the desk in Jan's room. There's a trembling all over Peter's body, and suddenly he knows just what Jan's going to suggest. He sits down next to him. Jule joins them.

"Well." Jan's voice is breathless. He points out at the sea. "It's twenty kilometres off that coast."



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