.. | exit running | chapter 4
Ramsey was still skeptical about the whole thing. Cleaning up five bodies in a deserted building wasn't nice work, but they had nothing else to go on. Nothing but the bullet cartridges he'd picked up from the middle of the bullet-ridden floor. They were full. Someone must have been taken by some surprise to have dropped them there and left them.
He made his way home about three in the morning after things quieted down. He and Bastian had been told to go home and leave the scene for the coroner; they could resume the investigation tomorrow since nothing else could be done.
But the minute he stepped into his dark apartment and closed the door, he knew something was amiss. Maybe it was his inner instincts, honed by his skills on the streets, or a deeply-ingrained sixth sense that told him he wasn't alone.
Or maybe it was the light in the hallway that he didn't remember leaving on.
Ramsey drew his gun and slid along the wall silently, moving closer and closer to the hall. He stepped out with his gun ready but the hall was empty. At the end of it lay his bedroom door, cracked open. He moved towards it with the same stakeout skill, and slowly pushed it open while pressing himself back against the frame.
From the direction of the master bathroom, he could hear water running. His heart pounding with the rush, he stepped into the dark bedroom towards the light of the bathroom that seeped through the cracked open door, along with steam from the shower.
What in the hell?
In one smooth move he shoved the door open and raked the shower curtain back, suddenly coming face to face with a very wet, very naked Duchy.
The boy yelped in genuine surprise and wrapped his arms about himself. "Ramsey! Have you no shame?!"
About that moment, even as Ramsey watched Duchy's eyes flicker to something behind him, he heard the distinct sound of a gun cocking right next to his ear.
Well, where there was one, the other couldn't have been far.
"All you have to do is ask, Ramsey," Marlow said in his ear. "I'm more than happy to share."
The cop brushed the gun away and moved back to face the both of them in disbelief. Duchy calmly turned the water off and smoothed back his slick hair, reaching for the towel Marlow handed him.
"Okay," Ramsey said through clenched teeth with deceiving calm. "What the fuck is going on here?"
Leaving the situation to his lover, Duchy gracefully stepped out of the tub and brushed past them both into the main bedroom. Marlow followed and so did the silently seething cop.
"I've always known where you live," Marlow felt inclined to tell him. He locked the safety on his automatic and threw it near the door where his army boots already sat. "And we needed a safe place to stay."
Ramsey was watching Duchy remove the towel from his waist and wrap it about his head like a turban to hold up his wet hair. He then, bare as the day he was born, moved to Ramsey's closet and began sifting through shirts until he found one he liked. Slipping on a large t-shirt, he returned to the bed and sat down to watch them.
The cop shut his eyes for a moment to calm himself. Then he turned to Marlow, who was removing his own shirt a little slower than needed. With it off, he revealed the cut, still shiny with fluids and a bit of blood.
"Jesus," Ramsey breathed.
"You wouldn't happen to have a needle and thread would you?" the blond kid asked, managing a sick smile.
"Why don't you go to the hospital?" Ramsey asked, forgetting for a moment how his home had just been invaded. He moved to the closet and pulled out his wife's old sewing kit.
Duchy smiled. "You sew?" he teased. He knelt beside Ramsey and selected a double-duty hard thread and a medium needle from the kit. Then he disappeared into the bathroom and turned the hot water on in the sink to run the needle under. He left it there and went out of the bedroom into the main hall and disappeared.
Ramsey was left with the blond kid, who'd sat down on the bed and was arching down with his arm raised, trying to see the wound.
"That mess downtown was the both of you," Ramsey said. "That was your blood on the wall then."
"Hurt like a bitch too," Marlow answered. "Did you see the guy by the door? That was Duchy's work."
Duchy returned carrying an ice tray from the freezer and Marlow groaned.
"It's this or nothing at all, Leifje," Duchy admonished.
The cop, however, was briefly distracted by the hem of Duchy's shirt which just covered the top of his thighs, and when he bent over to examine the cut-
Ramsey took another deep breath and forced his eyes back up. "You did that?" he asked, referring to the body.
"My older brother was into street boxing," Duchy answered, kneeling down to begin his work. He popped out a few cubes of ice and pressed them flat against the small deep gash in Marlow's side.
"They'd do it in the abandoned old warehouses downtown for money. You know, betting on fights and stuff. Hold that there, Liefje." He began to thread the needle.
"That fighting is dangerous," Ramsey said off-handedly, watching him. "I can't count how many bodies we've pulled out of those places."
"Oh, I know," Duchy said. "And my brother was probably one of them." He gently took the ice from Marlow's side and tested the numbness by pressing with the pads of his fingers. He then braced a hand against Marlow's stomach and made the first stroke with the needle. The muscles in Marlow's stomach clenched under his palm but the blond made no sound. He was looking up at the ceiling, taking deep, measured breaths.
"But he loved it," the other continued as if he were doing some everyday activity. "Scared the hell out of my mother, but it brought money to her, so pretty soon she just stopped asking where it came from. And when my brother found out that I'd started turning tricks, he made me learn some of his moves in case I ever got in a rough spot."
He stopped in his doctoring when Marlow took a sharp intake of breath. "Too deep," the blond breathed. "That one was too deep."
"Sorry, Liefje," Duchy amended, rubbing Marlow's belly in apology. He pressed the ice again to the wound for a few more seconds, then he continued."Anyway, it's come in handy a few times," he finished.
"Obviously," the cop said dryly.
Duchy looked up. "That was self-defense," he said, suddenly serious. "He would have done the both of us in if I hadn't gotten him first."
Ramsey stood up to pace, desperately craving a cigarette. He padded his pockets for them but came up with an empty box. Figures.
He watched silently while Duchy finished the remainder of the wound and then padded it softly with a towel he'd snatched from the bathroom. It was then that Ramsey noticed that above the wound on Marlow's side, there was an older scar at almost the same length and angle as the new one.
Marlow sighed in relief when it was done and stiffly got up from the bed to head for the shower.
Duchy, still crouched by the foot of the bed, wiped his hands on the towel. He looked up at Ramsey, then to the now-closed bathroom door. He sighed and stood up.
"There was no-where else to go," he said softly, almost apologetically. He looked up into the cop's eyes. "No-where that we felt safe anyway."
Ramsey sat down on the bed and rubbed his face doggedly, only to look up and find Duchy staring down at him. The boy knelt down where he had been before, only this time between Ramsey's knees.
"Let us stay here, just for a little while. Please. I'm begging you because I know Marlow won't."
Ramsey found it hard to be fooled by the soft voice and pleading eyes. "What happened, Duchy? Why are you so scared all of a sudden?"
The kid snorted a laugh and looked away. "I'm not scared," he said. "Maybe a little concerned, but never scared."
The cop didn't buy it and he let that show well enough in his face. Duchy suddenly relented, and he lost the hard look to his pretty almond-shaped eyes. He sighed and rested his hand on Ramsey's knee.
"I am scared," he conceded. He looked up at the cop. "All we need is a few days at the most- just so we can lay low. We'll work it out, we'll clean it up somehow. Please, Ramsey."
The cop closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it. He took a moment to weigh the outcome of his options. It wasn't hard to decide that he could get more answers if he listened to his conscience and not the lawman side of him.
"A few days," he said softly. "You stay here. You don't leave without telling me. You don't make phone calls. Nothing."
Duchy nodded happily, leaping up and forcefully knocking him back on the bed, sprawling on top of him. Slightly disoriented by the sudden move, Ramsey blinked up at him, nose to nose.
The towel had fallen off and Duchy's still-wet hair fell loose around his face and brushed the cop's cheeks. His mind flashed of its own accord to the picture of this boy in the shower, his naked skin flushed to a healthy pink because of the hot water.
"Do you know," Duchy breathed softly, "how handsome you are?" He laughed softly and reached up to push the blond bangs away from his forehead and eyes. "Even with that little blush you've got now. What are you thinking about at this very moment, Ramsey?"
The door opened and Marlow stepped out of the steam-filled bathroom with only a towel around his waist. Affording the two on the bed just a glance, he flipped his hair about and, favoring his wounded side, eased down beside them, the heat from his damp skin emanating through the small space between them.
Duchy leaned over Ramsey and kissed his lover square on the lips. Ramsey was still a bit too stunned by the strength of Duchy's come-on to move just yet.
Licking his lips, Marlow raised an eyebrow and tapped the cop's temple.
"Did you put him into shock?" he asked.
Duchy gave a slow, private smile as he slid down and off Ramsey's body to stand up. "No," he said softly. "Not yet." He locked eyes with the cop again, but only smiled.
Marlow gave a sigh and carefully heaved himself from the bed. He ran his fingers back through his drying hair as he headed for the bedroom door, pulling Duchy along behind him.
"I suppose we'll take the extra bedroom for tonight," he said with a forlorn sigh. "But be careful, Ramsey-" He finally succeeded in getting Duchy out of the bedroom.
"I wouldn't put night visits past him."
It was the wafting smell of bacon that roused Val Ramsey from his light sleep the next morning. Marlow's warning had kept him up for another hour and a half after they'd left for their own room; he'd been determined not to wake up being fondled, whatever else Duchy might do on a 'night visit'.
However, the noises that had soon begun coming from the adjacent room laid his mind to rest that he would not be the object of the Dutch boy's amorous attentions that night.
And what a racket they made. He'd had to bury his head underneath the pillow to block out the intelligible half of what Duchy was crying out. He would have to somehow set some rules down about that.
Ramsey sat up stiffly from the bed and took a moment to enjoy the simple pleasure of a good stretch. Shaking his shaggy hair back, he quickly changed shirts (he hadn't dared to undress last night), and made for the kitchen.
Duchy was singing something in his lilting but guttural native tongue as he roamed about the small kitchen. He'd actually thrown open the window shutters that opened to the street and the morning light was streaming in through them, lighting the place up in a way that Ramsey hadn't seen in a long time.
"Good morning, sunshine," Duchy said sweetly.
The cop just blinked at him for a moment. He was shirtless and wearing a white apron that he'd undoubtedly pulled from the bottom of the kitchen drawers.
"Hope you don't mind me using this. Marlow left this morning to get us some more clothes," the kid said, turning around back to the sizzling pan he had sitting on the stove.
Ramsey had turned to look out the window. He uneasily rubbed the back of his neck.
"I thought I told you two to let me know when you leave," he said gruffly, spotting a newspaper sitting on the wiped down table and heading for it.
"You were asleep," was the reply.
The cop seated himself at the table and had reached for the newspaper when two arms reached over his shoulders to set down a cup of coffee and a sugar bowl in front of him.
"I just couldn't wake you," Duchy said in his ear, his hands running up Ramsey's arms to his shoulders. "You looked so peaceful there..." He ran his hands all the way up into the cop's blond hair and combed it back with his fingers. Then he skidded away with a little laugh.
Ramsey watched him, speechless for a moment. Duchy laughed again.
"You don't take well to come-ons, do you?" he asked. "But I kind of like that deer-in-the-headlight look." Then, making sure the cop was finally watching him, he turned around back to the stove.
He could almost hear Ramsey's jaw drop to the floor.
Duchy shrugged. "I told you Marlow went to get us some clothes. I had nothing to wear but I figured an apron at least would be less likely to give you a heart attack than going with nothing at all." He smiled sweetly. "And you know..." He crept up to Ramsey again and leaned over him until his face was not an inch away from the cop's. "It's some men's fantasy to have a lover in nothing but an apron."
Ramsey was leaning dangerously far back in his chair. Another inch or two and he'd fall backwards. He'd never paid heed to Duchy's teasing in the past, but the boy was getting bolder. But still, why the hell was he shying away like some nervous teenager?
Time to be the responsible cop again. Ramsey cleared his throat and placed a firm hand on Duchy's chest to push him back. "Cut it out," he said.
"Suit yourself," the kid answered, shrugging easily and going back to his meal.
Delinquent though he may be, he sure learned how to cook from somewhere, Ramsey was thinking bitterly, trying his hardest not to think about the bare skin he would see if he turned around again. The boy's nakedness was only barely hidden in the back by the apron but was distracting enough so that Ramsey couldn't even concentrate on what he was reading.
"Sit down, Duchy," the cop said, taking a sip of welcome coffee. He kept his voice firm, confident.
The black-haired kid complied easily enough as he carried two plates to the table and seated himself in the chair next to the cop.
"Only if you eat before you scold me like a child," he said. He pushed the plate of food in front of the cop and handed him a fork, glaring expectantly.
It smelled delicious. Ramsey grudgingly took a bite, if only to appease him. "You didn't by any chance have any sisters, did you?"
"Two older brothers. And my mother," the boy answered.
Now there was a thought. "How did you learn English anyway?"
Duchy was busy eating his own meal, left-handed. He swallowed. "I was born here."
"You have an accent."
"I didn't have any reason to speak English until after my mother died and my brothers left."
Ramsey took another sip of coffee. "Tell me about them."
At this, the black-haired kid shot him a sudden glare. "Why should I?"
Ramsey returned the glare. "You owe me answers to some questions at least," he pointed out.
Duchy snorted. "I don't owe anyone anything," he said.
The cop raised an eyebrow. "Not even Marlow?"
That seemed to catch the boy off-guard. "I... That's different."
"Different?" Ramsey said, gathering his dishes and going to the kitchen sink without even thinking about it. The practice of washing dishes after a meal was an old habit and it had died with his wife. So why the hell was he doing it now? Maybe it was having dishes to wash... He'd avoided eating alone at home as much as possible, but now that there were people in the house again-
He didn't even notice Duchy's approach until two slender arms had slid around him from behind and locked over his hips. The dishes clattered loudly in the sink.
"I told you once before you needed a vacation," came the warm whisper into his ear. Duchy had to stand up on his toes and lean heavily against him to reach so far. "I bet you haven't taken one in a while, hmm Ramsey? Why is that?"
Ramsey braced his arms on the sink due to the added weight against his back and he was suddenly glad for the support.
"Let me go," he said.
The arms tightened about his waist and Duchy hooked his thumbs in Ramsey's belt. "No. Tell me about her," he said.
"Your wife, Sugar. What happened to her?"
Ramsey shoved back from the sink and dislodged the boy against his back."It's none of your business," he growled. "I want to know about you because I'm a cop. It's what I do. My personal life stays my own." He stalked out of the room to change for work.
Duchy leaned against the counter and watched him go with a small smile on his face. He crossed his arms, remembering the feel of having them around Ramsey's waist. A slender man, Ramsey had that perfect lean muscle bulk to him. Duchy wondered what else lay underneath that clothing.
The cop's words came back to him too. He felt the slightest bit of guilt at having perhaps over-stepped the boundaries.
But that feeling was fleeting enough.
"My, you are angry about something, aren't you?" he mused to the empty kitchen.
When Marlow returned, he'd brought almost their entire wardrobe with him, packed untidily into two hefty suitcases. Lugging them through the door, he banished them to the living room floor in his haste to get something to eat.
He found Duchy leaning against the kitchen counter, looking lost in his own thoughts as he stared out of the window above the sink that gave a lovely view of the brick wall of the next building and some roosting pigeons.
He reached around Duchy for the food that had been saved for him, knowing better than to inquire into the workings of that boy's mind, especially without the haze of orgasm fading that seemed to soften his lover's usual sharp temperament. He would wait until Duchy felt like sharing.
So he sat down at the table without a word and began to eat, idly letting his eyes wonder on what his lover was wearing.
After a moment, Duchy roused himself without a word and moved into the living room to reclaim some of his clothing. He came back into the kitchen a few minutes later wearing some of Marlow's faded jeans and a semi-wrinkled white shirt that he hadn't bothered to button up.
The blond still sat at the table, munching in silence.
"He has a wife," Duchy said suddenly.
Marlow looked up and swallowed. "A wife?" he said when he was able.
Duchy nodded, moving to drape himself around the blond's shoulders lazily. "There's a picture of her in there by the television," he mumbled into the crook of Marlow's shoulder and neck. "I saw it this morning." He began to brush the wild strands of Marlow's hair away from his eyes.
The blond endured it easily. "So where is she?"
"She's either left him or dead, I think. He won't tell me about it."
He leaned his forehead against Marlow's neck with more pressure, silently telling his lover he was receptive to some cuddling. Those moments were few and far between, and the blond was not about to let it go by.
"You actually asked him about it?" he murmured, turning his head to breathe in his lover's scent.
"Mmm. He got angry."
Before Marlow could reply, they both looked up to see Ramsey coming into the kitchen with a jacket slung over his shoulder and sunglasses pushed up into his hair. The cop spared a glance at them, grabbed his keys from the counter and headed for the door.
He stopped. "Remember what I said yesterday," he said in a low voice. "No phone calls, don't answer the door, don't go anywhere else. You stay here until I get back." Then he was gone with the door slamming behind him.
Marlow blinked. "What the hell did you say to him?"
"Not much," came the answer as Duchy pulled away. The moment was over.
Marlow watched him go back out into the living room, presumably to finish getting dressed. He sat in silence for a moment before a thought came to him.
"Hey Dutch," he said, getting up and following the black-haired boy into the other room. Duchy was on his knees rummaging through the suitcases.
Marlow leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms. "Maybe you shouldn't ask him things like that."
That got Duchy's attention. He sat back up and looked Marlow pointedly in the eyes.
The blond shifted his stance, unnerved by the rare look he was getting. "All I'm saying is that if she's dead, then he's probably touchy about it. You could spare him a bit."
Duchy raised an eyebrow. "But aren't you curious?" He stood up and slid up to Marlow. "Curious about what kind of woman he would love?"
Marlow looked away. "There are better ways of finding out. The way you do it seems... cruel."
At this Duchy laughed outright and skittered away back to the bags of clothing. "Cruel? Ah, Liefje! You've killed God knows how many men without so much as a thought about it and you think it's cruel that I ask a man about his dead wife?"
Marlow bristled. "Yes."
Duchy sobered up. "Why the concern so suddenly?"
The blond held his gaze, then blinked and averted his eyes. "No reason," he said nonchalantly. "I was just thinking."
There was no point in arguing something like this with Duchy, who had lost almost everyone and everything he'd ever loved at one point or another. Undoubtedly he was far too used to loss and his familiarity with that feeling made him somewhat less compassionate about certain things.
Besides, Marlow doubted that Duchy had ever really loved something as much as a man could love his wife, lover, or whatever. With that thought came bitterness. He caught himself before it showed in his face though; Duchy wouldn't understand a feeling like loneliness.
Duchy was watching him, his deceivingly lazy eyes noting the minute changes in his lover's carefully schooled expression. He slowly stood up and went back to where Marlow stood as a sneaky smile crept to his lips.
"Want to do something kinky?" he asked wickedly, throwing a glance over his shoulder towards Ramsey's bedroom.
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