Plus ça change

There was a reason that so many sexual euphemisms were named for the French. French kiss, French prints, French lessons... sure they were coined as condemnations of vice, insults from one culture to another, but the fact remained that the French knew what they were doing in the bedroom.

Or out of the bedroom, as the case may be.

Suzie had him up against the fridge in the kitchen and maybe they'd managed to get most of his clothes back on, maybe she'd only kept his tie and draped it around her own neck, but Martin still felt as naked as he'd been only half an hour earlier.

Which was of course when David walked in, looked at each of them in turn, and pushed Martin out of the way to get something from the fridge.

"J'ai besoin de ton petit ami1," he told Suzie, drinking orange juice from the carton before reaching to take the tie from her and give it back to Martin. "We have a case," he said, beginning an attempt to tie it, something he clearly had no idea how to do.

"I can tie my own tie," said Martin irritably, doing just that once he got David's hands out of the way. "Don't you knock?"

"Jamais2," said Suzie, giving David a similar look. One he had no doubt received from her often.

"What were you doing anyway? My daughter could have walked in!"

"Gabrielle won't be back from school for hours," said Martin. "What are you doing here?"

"I told you this already, we have a case. You didn't answer your phone, so here I am."

"I'm on vacation," said Martin. "What on earth could you possibly need my help with that badly?"

"I have a case, you are a cop," said David. "Cops never take vacations. Je t'aime, Suzie, et je te promesse que je ne sera pas le tuer 3."

"Merci," said Suzie, rolling her eyes at him. "Je vais te voir pour le souper plus tard, Martin?4"

"Bien sur5," said Martin. "I'm sorry about this. I'm sure it won't take long."

Suzie just shrugged like she'd been expecting this all along, and David pulled him out the door.


"So you're staying with my ex-wife now, is that how it is?" said David. Martin would be a lot more comfortable if David would keep his eyes on the road rather than giving him that somewhat disconcerting look. He'd also be a lot more comfortable if they weren't talking about Suzie.

"You know I'm not," said Martin. "We had a nice lunch together and she showed me the sights."

"Oui, I'll bet she did," said David.

"Don't be vulgar," said Martin. "Now since when do you ask for my help with a case?"

"Since you started taking vacations à Montréal," said David. "Where are you staying?"

"Why, are you planning to visit?"

"Maybe I'll want to send you flowers," said David. "Are you at a hotel?"

"Of course I'm at a hotel," said Martin. "The Novotel, room 507. Are you happy now?"

"Je suis excité6."

"I should never have told you I was coming on vacation."

"Mais, you did, which means you wanted me to know," said David. "Which means I can borrow you for police work."

"Clearly you didn't study logic at university."

"What makes you think I went to university?" said David, giving him a look again and hardly even glancing at the road as they turned in to the station garage. "J'ai besoin de tes compétences speciales7."

"What special skills?"

"Tes compétences anglaises, tsé?8" said David, spinning into a parking spot and killing the engine with such abruptness that Martin was nearly thrown into the dash.

"Surely you have any number of people on the force who speak English."

"No, not the language," said David impatiently. "We need your... English-headedness. Come with me."

"Didn't anyone ever tell you you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?"

"No," said David, taking him by the scruff of the neck and leading him through the maze a police station. "This fellow, he is Anglais. I told Capitaine Leboeuf that you were here, and he thought that maybe you could help with the questions. The questioning."

"You told your captain I was here?"

"Of course," said David, shrugging. "He likes you better than he likes me. He's in jail for these bombings."

"The captain?"

"The man we need you to question," said David, giving him a light smack. "They brought him in aujourd'hui, this morning."

"Bombings? I didn't hear about any bombings," said Martin. "What was he targeting?"

"Art," said David. "He was bombing art, all over the city. He destroyed six paintings before we caught him."

"He was setting off bombs in art galleries?"

"He would set up these, uh, these triggers behind these famous paintings and then when the gallery was busy he would sit and watch and boom, there goes the painting."

"Jesus, was anyone hurt?" said Martin.

"Non, it was a - how do you call it? - a paint bomb."

"A paint bomb," said Martin, his shoulders sagging with relief. "He was setting off paint bombs."

"And there's one more, he says, but we don't know where."

"And you need me to get him to tell us where."

"Now you've got it," said David.


Interrogation rooms were the same the world over, with the possible exception of countries where they routinely practiced torture. Plain table, plain chairs, plain walls, and a big mirror that everyone on the planet knew hid a viewing gallery on the other side.

"Thank God I don't have to deal with any more of those Frenchies," said the man, leaning back in his chair and giving Martin a grin like he expected him to agree.

Craig McManus. 28. Former fine arts student. Prior arrest in 2003 for vandalism, back in his home province of Alberta.

"Why'd you do it, Craig?"

Craig leaned forward right across the table. "Did you know that in Egypt they used to burn mummies for firewood, because they didn't have any trees?"

"A great loss for science," said Martin.

"And in China they dismantled pieces of the Great Wall to use to build their own homes?"

"The most famous parts of the Great Wall were reconstructed in the sixteenth century," countered Martin. "Most of the original wall is almost unidentifiable."

Craig was undeterred. "All art is destroyed," he said, "to make room for something new to rise in its place. I was making art."

"This," said Martin, "is why you were kicked out of art school. You were making art?"

"We don't need to go to some sterile building to look at something someone painted decades ago, that has no more relevance to us today than wood-burning stoves or bonnets."

"Both of those things are important cultural artefacts," said Martin. "And I have a wood-burning stove at my place in cottage country."

"Real art is happening all the time," said Craig. "Real art is engaging. And sometimes you need to get in people's faces to make them realise it."

"Whatever textbook you got that out of, I don't think they were endorsing splattering paint on classic works of art."

"You should have seen it," said Craig, and God help them all, he believed every word he was saying. "It was beautiful, every time."

"Where's the last bomb, Craig?"

"The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts," he said promptly.

Well, that was certainly easier than Martin had been expecting it to be. "Where in the museum?" he said.

Craig tilted his head to the side and observed him silently for a moment. "No," he said finally, "I don't think I want to tell you. I don't think you appreciate my art enough."

"What you do isn't art, Craig, it's vandalism."

"Vandalism can be art," he said. "You're just as narrow-minded as every other cop I've talked to."

"Destroying a Cézanne isn't art, it's stealing an important part of the human cultural heritage," said Martin. "Where's the bomb, Craig?"

"It's a big museum," he said airily. "It's got galleries for everything. Japan, France, Italy, even the States. It could be anywhere."

He wasn't wrong. The museum housed extensive collections in any number of genres; the bomb could be anywhere.

"And I'm not sure I like you calling it a bomb, either," Craig added. "I prefer to think of it as mixed media sculpture."

"Which no one is going to get to see if you don't tell us where it is," said Martin. "If we can't find it, we can't witness your artistic masterpiece."

What might've worked earlier wasn't getting him to budge this time. Not that Martin was convinced it would have worked had he tried it earlier.

"I can't detonate it remotely," said Craig. "Besides, what's the point if I'm not there to see it?"

Martin could tell when someone was closing down, and Craig was closing down. He could sit here with him for another seven hours, but the only thing he was going to get out of him was more treatises on the ephemeral nature of art.

He looked towards the mirror and gave David a nod, then got up from his seat. "I'm just going to let you have this artistic debate with your cellmates," he said. "I have a bomb to find."


"Well, there's your answer," said Martin. "Le musée des beaux-arts de Montréal. Now if you wouldn't mind dropping me back at Suzie's place?"

"Whoa, wait, we're not done," said David. "We haven't found this bomb yet."

"He told you where to look," said Martin. "I'm not sure what you need me for."

"And we're sure it'll be where he says it'll be?"

"He's an artist, he wants to be seen. If he's not seen, he has no relevance. No, he wants us to find it, he just wants us to work for it."

"You said 'us'," said David. "That means you're coming with me."

"Might I remind you that this is my vacation?" said Martin. "I'd like to actually spend some of it with--"

"We're going to see an art gallery right now," said David. "Isn't that what your people do on vacation?"

"My people."

"Your people," repeated David. "The sort of people who wear these, tsé, these ties on vacation."

"I'm not sure chasing down criminal acts counts as a vacation for anybody's people," said Martin, "except maybe Rambo's."

"Do you really want me searching a museum alone?"

"Good point," said Martin. "There might be nothing left of it when you're done."

"This won't take long," said David. "We just need to check every item in the museum."

"Well, hopefully not every item," said Martin. "There are thousands of works of art on display. Once we find the device we won't have to check the rest."

"Unless we find it last," said David. "Then we'd have to check every item, eh?"

"Well, let's hope not," said Martin. "I would like to actually make it to dinner tonight. I have reservations."

"You have reservations, do you?" said David. "Do you have reservations with Suzie?"

"Is that a problem?"

"No, of course not," said David, turning back to the road. "I should warn you, though, Suzie, she likes to eat. Une vache, de même9. I hope you don't have the reservations somewhere expensive."

"You know, if you don't want me dating your ex-wife, you should just say so."

"Fine. I don't want you dating my ex-wife."

"That's too bad," said Martin. "I like her."

"I thought you said I should just tell you!"

"I didn't say I was going to listen," said Martin. "If you're still in love with Suzie, you should just tell her so."

"I'm not still in love with Suzie," said David. "That's not your business."

"If I'm seeing her, I think it's my business," said Martin.

"Get in the car," said David, and slammed the driver's side door.


The Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal should have been twenty minutes away. They arrived in fourteen.

"Where do you want to start?" said Martin.

"We start at one end and work to the other," said David, making a broad gesture. "What other way is there to do it?"

"Well, we could start where he was most likely to put it," said Martin. "He'd want to it to be someplace it couldn't be missed. We should start with the most viewed collections."

David gestured for Martin to go ahead of him. "You're the art expert," he said. "You show us where to go."

"Since when am I an art expert?" said Martin.

"What was that you said about China?" said David. "And how did you know it was a Cézanne he hit last?"

"That just means I read."

Martin stood just inside the entrance, searching for a place to start. The gallery map was no help; it could tell them where everything was, but there was nothing to tell them what everyone came to see. Nothing, of course, but a well-dressed young lady with a nametag.

"Tour group," he said, pointing. "I say we follow."

"Good plan," said David. "Capitaine Leboeuf called ahead so they won't stop us from checking the paintings. They just said, be discreet. "I'm not sure you know the meaning of the word," said Martin with what he considered healthy scepticism. If David had discretion, discretion that didn't involve hiding bodies, he had yet to see it.

"Ils ne veulent pas évacuer10."

"I'm pretty sure there's no need to evacuate for a paint bomb."

The tour group moved at a glacial pace through the museum, and in its wake David and Martin checked the sides and backs of dozens of paintings. Not one of them yielded so much as a smear of paint out of place to indicate that Craig had been anywhere near it.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," said Martin, pausing after his umpteenth painting to slump against a bare wall near the entrance to the gallery. "There's got to be a better way. What was that he said about where the bomb was?"

"He didn't tell us anything," said David. "He was all, French, Japanese, American, Italian! It could be anywhere."

"What was he doing, listing off all the G7 nations?"

"Martin!" said David, grabbing hold of his sleeve, but Martin had caught it at the same time, jerking his head up to look at him.

"Group of Seven!"

"Where's the map?" said David, scrambling to find it and patting down Martin's jacket. "Did you get a map of the musée?"

"Of course I got a map," said Martin, batting his hands away and pulling it from an interior pocket, spreading it open and taking his time finding the collection they were looking for. "It's this way."

David was off ahead of him, taking a right before Martin grabbed his collar and made him take a left.


Once security sealed off the Canadian landscapes gallery - and hadn't that taken some fast talking on David's part - they proceeded to systematically check every painting in the collection until finally David let out a whooping sound and motioned Martin over.

"What's it doing over here?" said Martin, taking his time about getting over to Emily Carr's "Dancing Tree". "What kind of art student doesn't know that Emily Carr wasn't actually a member of the Group of Seven?"

"Câlice! Se ferme la trappe!11" said David. "Just get it off the painting."

"Can I figure out how it's attached first?" said Martin, feeling around the edges of the frame where it was wired.

"Is that supposed to being doing that?" said David, pointing at the balloon-like paint chamber that was expanding over the top of the frame with each moment that passed.

Martin paused a moment, then let out a "Shit!" and worked faster.

"I thought it wasn't set to go off!"

"There must've been a tripwire in the frame," said Martin. "There's a canister right here, that's how he's inflating it--"

"I don't care!" said David. "Just stop it!"

"I can't," said Martin finally, beginning to frantically detach wires from the frame. "If we leave it, it blows. If I detach the canister - if I even can detach the canister - it spills. The only thing we can do is--"

"Get it away from the painting," David finished for him, beginning to clumsily help him detach every hook, wire and bit of duct tape.

"All right, got it," said Martin, and with each one of them cradling one side of the bomb they raced for the benches at the centre of the room.

"Quick, turn it off!" said David, but he didn't even get the words out of his mouth before the bomb went off in between them, splattering them both from head to toe with red and white paint.

For a few moments there was just the drip drip sound of paint spilling from their bodies onto the floor of the gallery.

"Well, that didn't go quite as expected," said Martin finally, dropping his end of the bomb and wiping the paint from around his eyes.

"Tabarnak!" swore David, dropping his as well and shaking himself off like a wet dog. "C'était ma veste favori12."

"Get the department to replace it," said Martin. "What about me? How am I going to make it to dinner now?"

"Will you shut up about your dinner? I don't care about your dinner."

"You know, if I can't talk about dating, it's going to make this friendship very difficult.

"You, you and your striped ties and your shiny shoes and your s'il vous plait et merci beaucoup13. You don't know anything." And pressing paint-stained hands to paint-stained cheeks David kissed him firmly, right there in the middle of the empty gallery.

"Oh," said Martin when David let him go.

"Crétin," muttered David, but it wasn't clear whether he was talking about Martin or himself. Frankly, it probably applied to both.

"I didn't know," said Martin after a few more uncomfortable moments had passed, both of them a little breathless and awkward, and he was fairly sure it wasn't just adrenaline that had him kissing David back a few moments later. And kissing him back, and kissing him back some more, until the need for air was urgent and they both moved back, panting.

"You know, I thought you, uh, you gave up too easily," said David.


"You didn't need to come with me to the musée," said David, his hands restlessly fisting Martin's shirt. "You know you didn't need to come."

"And we both know you didn't need to ask me," said Martin. "We should go clean up."

"Now?" said David. "You want to clean up now?"

"I think we need to go to the washroom to clean up," said Martin, angling his head towards the empty washrooms on the other side of the gallery. "Before security comes back to find this mess."


The door slammed shut and David was back on him, pushing him up against the sinks and smearing paint down his shirt, down his tie. The tie was the first to go, the shirt unbuttoned while Martin was busy thinking about other things, like the way David's mouth was on his neck, or the way his pants were suddenly a size too small.

The paint was everywhere, on their clothes, on their skin, in their hair, and now on the floor and counter of the washroom. David reached around him and turned on the tap, the light flow of water becoming white noise then against the pants and other involuntary sounds coming from both of them.

Wet hands returned to Martin's chest, washing away some of the paint, smearing and pooling it down on his abdomen. Tiny rivulets washed down past his waistband, into his shorts, making his pants even tighter than they already were. But Martin was a patient man, and desperation didn't drive him to ask for any more than David was giving. Not yet.

"Tu le désires14," said David, and fuck yes he wanted this, he wasn't making much of a secret of that. There had been a half dozen times Martin could have said no and he hadn't taken advantage of any of them.

"Je te désire15," said Martin.

David's hands moved everywhere but where Martin wanted them to be most, until all of his bared skin was covered with watered down fingerstreaks of paint, his chest, his back, his arms, his throat. David pinched both his nipples on one pass and left them red and tingling in his wake.

"Jesus," said Martin as another rivulet of water ran down his chest. "When it comes to water torture the Chinese have nothing on you."

Finally, finally, David yanked open his pants and reached inside to streak other parts with thin paint, wrapping a fist around Martin's cock without a moment's hesitation. Martin gripped the side of the countertop and felt streams of stained water continue to slide down past his groin, over his thighs, his knees, as David stroked him slowly and steadily inside his shorts. He worried about making a mess until he realised they couldn't possibly appear more of a mess than they already did.

He was breathing too heavily to tell David what he wanted, but then he didn't think David cared. He didn't want him to. No matter what Martin told him, David was bound to come up with something better, and indeed he did as he finally pushed Martin's pants and shorts down and ran his thumb over the head of his cock.

Martin didn't look, fearing that what felt amazing would look ridiculous, that seeing his patriotically smeared cock would somehow make this experience something less. He might as well have been blindfolded, leaning back against the counter and staring up at the ceiling as David muttered words he couldn't make out, and didn't want to.

He didn't warn him before he came, just let out a guttural noise and allowed it to happen however it was going to happen. Hell, David probably knew before he did, and kept stroking him until Martin was completely spent.

There was silence for a moment, if the cacophony of pants and whimpers and dripping water could be called silence, then David patted his hip and gave his cheek a rough kiss, letting him go. Martin leaned forward to catch his breath, but took a long time before saying anything more.

"I'll call Suzie later," he said when he could finally find words again. "I'll explain why I couldn't make it to dinner. We'll explain everything."

"Don't talk about Suzie," said David. "Let me worry about Suzie."

"I need to tell her," said Martin. "I need to tell her something."

"Let me worry about Suzie," said David again, pressing Martin back against the bank of sinks. "We're not finished here yet."

And that right there was the reason so many sexual euphemisms were named for the French.

1. I need your boyfriend.
2. Never.
3. Love you, Suzie, promise I won't kill him.
4. Thanks. I'll see you for dinner later, Martin?
5. Of course.
6. Thrilled.
7. I need your special skills.
8. Your English skills, y'know?
9. Like a cow.
10. They don't want to evacuate.
11. For the love of God, shut the fuck up!
12. Fuck! That was my favourite jacket.
13. your please and thank you
14. You want this.
15. I want you.

[ by CJ Marlowe ]   [ home ]   [ disclaimer ]

Written for Yuletide 2007.