Aidan Greene stood at the foot of a staircase in the Stade Olympique El Menzah as a hot sirocco blew through the northern suburbs of Tunis. It brought with it a fine coating of sand, which stung Aidan's face. He turned sideways to avoid the brunt of the wind, but there was no escaping the hot June sun, which beat mercilessly down on the stadium and the two soccer teams on the field.
The Carthage Eagles led the Millwall Football Club by three goals. Millwall had a reputation for having some of the most dangerous supporters of any soccer club, and that had prompted the organizers of the exhibition game to hire as much security as they could.
Looking around the stadium, Aidan recognized several other bodyguards who regularly worked in Tunis. Liam McCullough, his partner in love and business, stood a few hundred feet away, guarding a different staircase. Off-duty officers were stationed at each exit, wearing white pinneys with POLICE printed on the front and back.
The mostly male crowd was yelling obscenities at the field, shaking fists and waving placards imprinted with the club's logo of a lion rampant. No alcohol was sold in the stadium, but Aidan could see that many of the fans were drunk anyway.
The Eagles scored a goal, and the opposite side of the stadium erupted in cheers. As Aidan watched, a heavyset man in a wifebeater T-shirt stood up in the front row in Liam's section and yelled, "Bloody wankers!" waving his fist at the field.
"Sit the fuck down!" another man yelled from behind him.
The man in the wifebeater turned around and said, "I'll stand if I bloody well want to! And you can kiss my bloody arse if you don't like it!"
The men around the front row laughed and cheered, but the man behind said, "I wouldn't kiss your bloody arse because I don't know what's been shoved up it!"
His mates laughed and high-fived him. Aidan couldn't help smirking himself. But then he watched in horror as the man in the front reached down and grabbed a bottle from the floor, then turned around and heaved it at the man behind. "Shove that, you bloody poofter!" he yelled.
Liam moved in to quash the dispute, but he was too late. Friends of the man in back began throwing programs, bottles, and empty food containers at the men in front. In the middle of the melee, a skinny, tattooed Brit in an oversize Millwall T-shirt hurled an empty beer bottle down to the playing field, where he hit a Tunisian player square in the head.
Tunisians in the opposite stands began swarming down onto the field, aimed at the British, as Liam waded into the crowd in search of the bottle thrower. Aidan abandoned his staircase and pushed against the swarming British fans. He had to leap across a couple of rows of chairs toward Liam, who had disappeared in a sea of chaos.
"Liam! Where are you?" Aidan yelled, his adrenaline surging. Ahead of him, Liam rose from the bleachers, two supporters clinging to him. It was a majestic sight, seeing his tanned, toned body appearing like Hercules'.
The air smelled of spilled beer, sweat, and testosterone, and it excited Aidan in a way that almost frightened him. The roar of angry fans, yelling in English and Arabic, rose and fell, punctuated by the sound of breaking bottles and fists hitting flesh.
The police formed a line just behind the advertising banners, holding up shields against the debris and the onrushing supporters. Unfortunately the police keeping the British and Tunisian fans apart meant the Millwall supporters were confined to the stands, where they continued to slam into each other.
Aidan saw Liam shake off one of the British fans as easily as swatting a mosquito, but two more assailed him, and he began swinging his fists. Aidan knew then that things were serious. Liam avoided using brute force whenever possible, preferring to outthink or otherwise intimidate his opponents. He was a master fighter, though, his skills honed through years of SEAL training, and intellectually Aidan knew Liam could fight his way out of this trouble.
But his head wasn't ruling things as he jumped over the last row of chairs and waded into the fight. His partner, his lover, was in trouble, and Aidan couldn't stand by and wait to see how things shook out. He elbowed his way past two men throwing punches at each other, and used his head to butt the side of an older man with a shaved head who was trying to slam his fist into Liam.
With a roar, the man turned to face Aidan. He ducked, grabbed the man's sweatpants, and jerked them toward the ground. The man's rage turned to surprise as he stood bare-assed in the stands, his skinny dick hanging loose. Men around him began laughing, and he stumbled as he tried to pull his pants up. He lost his balance and fell into a seat.
Liam had another man in a Millwall jersey in a headlock, and the man was pummeling Liam's stomach. Sweat pouring from his forehead in the heat, Aidan reached for the man's waist, aiming for his belt buckle, but missed. Another man swung at him, and he had to turn and aim a kick at the man's groin. "Yaah!" he yelled as his foot made impact, and the man's mouth popped open and he howled in pain.
Aidan ducked a bottle of Celtia, a local beer, that went flying past, the pale liquid streaming in an arc that splattered a pair of brawlers just below where he stood. He jumped back into Liam's battle, finally managing to get his partner's attacker's belt unbuckled. He had the baggy jeans down before the man realized what had been done. He was wearing faded white briefs with a yellow stain at the pouch.
The man stopped punching Liam and grabbed for his pants. Liam released him from the headlock, slammed him in the abdomen with a roundhouse punch, and spun him away. Aidan stepped forward and turned so his back faced Liam's. Both of them crossed their arms and glared at the men around them.
He felt the heat from Liam's body against his own. Both of them were sweating, their faces and underarms slick with perspiration, but the hot, dry wind helped wick away some of the sweat.
The pantsing episodes had taken the fight out of the Millwall supporters; they were so busy laughing at the men who'd been embarrassed that they forgot to be angry. More police swarmed the stands, forming a cordon to empty the stadium row by row.
Aidan's heart continued to pound as the police ushered the Millwall supporters down the stairs. The man in sweatpants took a swing at Aidan as he passed, but Aidan anticipated the move and ducked, leaving the Brit swatting empty air. Aidan struggled to remain as impassive as Liam, resisting the urge to smirk or make a smart-assed comment.
The police took a couple of the rowdier men away in handcuffs, one of them continuing to shout racist epithets as he was pushed down the stairs. The stadium's loudspeakers repeated warnings in Arabic and heavily accented English as the sirocco continued to blow, surrounding them in a maelstrom of wind, sand, and the smell of beer and urine.
Aidan and Liam waited until their staircases had been cleared, then joined the cordon at the field's edge until the stadium had been emptied. By the time they left, the adrenaline surge Aidan had felt when the riots began had dissipated, and he was exhausted. "You just can't keep your hands off other guys' pants, can you?" Liam asked with a smile as they waited for a chartered bus to take them back to the city center.
"It worked, didn't it?"
"Yes, it did." Liam flexed his arms and stretched his back, and groaned.
Aidan stretched too. Though he hadn't strained any muscles, he was bone tired. The hot wind had dried most of his sweat, and he was very thirsty. "And you always tell me that we each have to play to our strengths. I'm never going to win a fistfight, so I have to outthink my opponent."
"I wouldn't call pulling a guy's pants down outthinking him," Liam said.
"But it's an unexpected move, right? Straight guys don't want to touch other men down there."
An old airport van pulled up, and they got on in a crowd of police and additional security. They both grabbed a pole halfway to the back and stood there, rocking with the motion of the bus, as they returned to the city center.
Neither of them spoke on the long ride. Aidan struggled to remain upright; his muscles ached and his hair was stuck to his head with dried sweat. He just wanted to get home, to their courtyard shower, and wash away the sand and the stink in a rain of hot water. He yawned a couple of times and was grateful when the bus pulled up at the central station, a few blocks from their house.
"I'm getting too old for this kind of work," Liam said and groaned as he stepped down from the bus.
Aidan laughed. "You're only thirty-six."
"Today I feel seventy-six." Liam flexed his back and rotated his head.
"I'll give you a back rub when we get home. You'll be good as new."
In his past life, teaching in Philadelphia and living with his ex-partner, Aidan had taken courses in massage, gourmet cooking, flower arranging, and a host of other skills, most of which proved useless in Tunis. The massage lessons, however, had been invaluable.
Hayam, their brown, mixed-breed dog, was waiting to greet them at the front door of the little stucco house they shared behind the Bar Mamounia. She jumped up and placed her forelegs on Liam's knee. He reached down to pet her, then groaned again.
"Shower first, then bedroom," Aidan said.
"I love it when you get bossy." Liam walked out to the courtyard. A wooden tub on the roof of the house collected rainwater, which was warmed by the glaring Tunisian sun. A pump on the roof channeled the water down a hose and into a shower stall. The tiled floor was slightly canted so that the water flowed into a drain that led out to the street.
By the time Aidan joined him, carrying a big square cake of lavender soap, the water was already warm and Liam had rinsed off the sweat and sand. Aidan stood under the showerhead for a moment himself, letting the water cascade over his head, then opened his eyes and slicked back his hair.
Aidan lathered up and began scrubbing Liam's back, massaging the trapezius muscles just below Liam's shoulders. They were drawn tight, and it took strength and skill to get them to relax.
Aidan inhaled the lavender scent as he pressed his fingers against Liam's warm, bronzed skin, pushing against the tight muscles, then releasing them. Touching Liam's body was always a heady experience for him, and his dick stood at attention as he focused on the muscle groups beneath the skin. Liam groaned and twitched as Aidan found a tight tendon and massaged it into relaxation.
Liam stood with his legs straight, without locking the knees, the weight of his body resting equally on the heels and balls of his feet. He let his arms hang loose at his sides, so that Aidan could manipulate them with ease.
Aidan lifted Liam's right arm, hefted it, then let it loose again. He began working the biceps. "You get too tense out in the field."
"It's called being alert," Liam said. "You should try it sometime."
Aidan dug his knuckles into the tender spot just below Liam's shoulder, and the big man winced. "Watch your mouth, sailor," Aidan said, laughing. "Or there's a lot more where that came from."
He lathered his hands again and moved down Liam's back to the latissimus dorsi of Liam's sides. Those muscles weren't as tense, and Liam sighed with pleasure. "Man, that feels good."
"I know how to take care of you." Aidan squatted down and began rubbing the adductor muscles of one thigh, the sartorius and the quadriceps.
"You do indeed," Liam said.
Aidan could feel the precum oozing out of the tip of his dick as he ran his hands gently over Liam's massive thighs, skirting his balls and ass crack, giving the calves a quick rubdown. "Feet later," he said, standing up.
He pressed against Liam's back, his dick nestling in Liam's ass crack. He reached around Liam with the soap and began to lather his partner's stomach and chest. Liam took the soap and scrubbed his arms. Then he turned around, leaned down, and pressed his lips against Aidan's. Their dicks rubbed against each other as they shared breath.
"I should get tense and dirty more often," Liam said into Aidan's ear.
"As often as you want, baby," Aidan said, kissing Liam's neck.