.. | exit running | chapter 5
Ramsey snapped out of his thoughts and looked down at the small circles he'd been drawing on the writing pad where his hand rested. He didn't even remember picking up a pencil.
Bastian moved around the desk his partner sat at and leaned against it to face him. "Are you all right? You've been distracted all day."
"I'm fine," Ramsey said, breathing out to clear his head.
Bastian looked doubtful. "Did you sleep at all last night?" Then he leaned closer, furtively throwing a glance out of the window where they could see the rest of the station busily working.
"Val, did something happen?" His voice was hushed, private.
His proximity was more than necessary so that Ramsey leaned back more in his chair. He'd had enough of peoples' closeness already for one day, even if it was his own partner.
"What makes you ask that?" he said, trying to appear calm and collected as he stacked some papers into a filing cabinet.
His partner leaned back up and crossed his arms. "You came in a late this morning looking like you'd been up all night, you've been somewhere else in your mind all day and now-" he watched his partner again for a moment, "you're fidgety. Val, you're never fidgety."
Ramsey ran his hands back through his hair. "I'm just thinking, that's all."
Bastian squinted his eyes in the way he had when he was reading further into something. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Ramsey sighed and looked up at him, searching his eyes as he wrestled with the decision. Finally, he pushed his chair away from the desk to stand up and wander to the window.
"I've got some house guests," he said.
"Marlow and Duchy," Ramsey clarified, gazing outside. "Some things happened and I have them now."
He could actually feel his partner's surprise and shock.
"Eh, Val, don't you think you should bring them in? Or at least talk to Porter-"
"I can't do that."
Ramsey turned towards him. "Something happened yesterday where we found those bodies. They were part of it, but something went wrong. I'm sure of it." He paused. "That was Marlow's blood on the wall. The cartridges we picked up matched his gun, Bastian. And when they showed up, Duchy practically begged me to let them stay there."
"But they killed those men?"
The blond cop nodded. "And something tells me they hadn't planned it that way. Those men were their own."
Bastian scratched his head. "Then why did he shoot?"
"Maybe those men shot first."
Ramsey wandered back to his desk to pull out a cigarette from the box in the drawer. He took his time lighting it and taking a deep draw. An old cliché that seemed to match the situation had already worked itself into his mind however.
The hunters had just became the hunted. And they knew it.
Marlow sat naked on the edge of Ramsey's bed, thinking. Duchy had already heaved himself up and made for the shower, anxious to be cleaned and dressed. Hearing the water running into the basin, Marlow knew he'd have at least half an hour before seeing his lover again.
So he sat in silence with his chin in his hand as he chewed one of the longer locks of his own hair. He thought about what had happened earlier that day and the argument he'd almost had with Duchy.
That his lover had enticed him into doing it in Ramsey's bed in order to get his mind off of their almost-fight was not lost to him. He knew the way Duchy worked and, at the expense of his own pride, he let it go on. But then again, pride had never been much to him anyway. Not when it came to sex with his lover.
He lay back on the pillows, enjoying the feel of the cool sheets beneath his back. They would have to make the bed up again before Ramsey got back. Or not. Duchy would probably enjoy letting their host know that they'd debauched his bed.
At that thought Marlow got up, pulled on some jeans and began straightening the sheets back to the way they'd found them. Making up the bed would be a small victory against his lover, though he'd never thought of it as a contest or battle. But it was how Duchy had treated the cop earlier today, what he had said to him that suddenly made him start think a little deeper about things.
And that bothered him to no end, this new thinking. Marlow didn't remember ever having compassion for anyone before, so why was it that Ramsey's personal torment affected him, even though he didn't really know the cause of it?
Marlow finished tucking the sheets in and pulled the comforter up over the smoothed pillows. Compassion and pity, those were the feelings, however fleeting they were, that came to him when he thought about the cop and his deceased wife. To have loved someone like that-
He looked at the bathroom door.
He knew he loved Duchy. Had he not, he wouldn't have bothered to spare him so long ago, wouldn't have bothered to stay with him as long as they'd been together. He wouldn't have put up with the dominance that his siren of a lover exerted over him everywhere else but during the act itself.
The door to the bathroom opened and Duchy emerged amid a billow of steam with a towel about his waist, shaking his hair back so that water droplets sprayed everywhere. Glancing to where Marlow had sat back down on the made bed, he dropped his towel and began rummaging through the bags they'd drug in there.
Marlow watched him silently, his chin in his hand. One couldn't hope for a little cuddling after sex, could they? He should know never to expect it anyway. Duchy had always found that tradition as ludicrous and unnecessary.
"What's the matter?" Duchy asked as he began to get dressed.
Marlow sighed. "Nothing," he said.
Duchy continued his rummaging some more, half-dressed. He seemed content with Marlow's answer. "Do you want to go out tonight, Liefje?"
Duchy fixed him with a look and said, "I want to go out."
Marlow looked pointedly at him. "No, Duchy."
The other boy crossed his arms with a stubborn look that grated on Marlow's nerves. He suddenly stood up and caught Duchy roughly by the wrist.
"It's too dangerous to go out so soon," he growled. "We have to stay hidden for at least a few days." Their mutual safety was the one thing he couldn't back down on.
Duchy glared up at him, his arm tense. He pulled his wrist from Marlow's grasp.
"What's the matter with you?" he demanded. "You're still angry about the cop, aren't you?" It was more like an accusation than a question. "Why? Why does it bother you so much?"
Marlow didn't answer. Instead, he sat back down on the bed and kept his eyes resolutely turned away. His lover stood there and watched him for a long time without saying anything. The silence that passed seemed unbreakable until Duchy finally sighed heavily. Marlow looked up from his clasped hands.
His lover was standing at what seemed to be an unfathomable distance away. His dark, lazy eyes were unreadable.
"I'm going out," Duchy muttered finally. His normally inflexionless voice was gruff with traces of emotion that caught Marlow's immediate attention.
"Don't wait up for me."
Marlow lounged about the apartment for the rest of the day, feeling useless and lazy. He tried not to wonder what Duchy had meant, nor tried to figure out his own odd sense of sentiment concerning their host's private matters.
Instead he thought only about what had occurred the night before and tried to estimate how long he and Duchy could be safe here. Rieka had never known how closely Marlow kept up with the cop's doings and he would never expect his own to go seek protection from their enemy. So it seemed to him that, if they were careful about where they went and were seen, they could stay here as long as needed to figure out just what the hell had gone wrong.
That is, if Ramsey would tolerate it. Marlow didn't know how thin of ice they would be treading on now since Duchy's prying, but he supposed that the cop would look beyond such matters and into what he could gain by suffering their presence here for at least a while.
Besides... Marlow looked up and around the room from his comfortable sprawl on the couch. Didn't staying here get... lonely?
He laughed out loud to himself. He'd never really thought about Ramsey having any sort of human emotions. To him and Duchy, the cop had been just an entity, a being that represented what they were against.
His short chuckle subsided and he was left in his own silence again, staring at his bare feet propped up on the coffee table.
And what were they against?
Somewhere behind him, Marlow heard a soft meow. He turned around and looked over the back of the couch to stare incredulously at the fluffy black and white feline that blinked back up at him.
"You're joking, right?" he said, reaching down to pick the animal up.
The cat began to purr and rub its head against his hand and Marlow obliged it as he sank back into his lazy slouch, content to let the cat bed down in his lap.
So what else did Ramsey have hidden here? Surely not goldfish somewhere-
The front door opened and closed. Marlow looked over his shoulder as far as he could without having to disturb the cat in his lap.
Ramsey spared him a glance as he dropped his coat over a chair and went into the kitchen. He came back chewing on an apple.
"Where's Duchy?" he asked gruffly.
"Christ," the cop grumbled, shaking his head and sitting down on the opposite end of the couch from where Marlow was.
"And you let him go?"
Marlow stroked the cat's fur from nose to tail. "Duchy goes where he wants to," he answered softly. "He'll be all right."
"I'll bet." Ramsey leaned back and took another bite.
They sat in silence for a long time, disturbed only by the occasional sounds of the crisp apple when Ramsey bit into it.
"Can I ask you something?" Marlow said suddenly, still staring at the cat.
"Her name is Milo," the cop answered, looking off as he chewed.
Marlow cocked his head at the cop, fighting a strange urge to smile. "That wasn't what I was going to ask you."
Ramsey shrugged casually.
Marlow set the cat aside and moved over next to the cop, reaching out and taking the apple from him. He took a noisy bite and chewed, giving into the temptation and smiling at the expression on his host's face. Maybe that look was why Duchy loved being so importunate around him.
He handed the fruit back and licked his lips. Ramsey just stared at it. When Marlow seemed content with just sitting there next to him, the cop cleared his throat and said,
"You wanted to ask me something?"
Marlow looked over at him again. It struck him, though not for the first time, that Ramsey was a handsome man. Especially now as he sat there half-reclining in a dark blue shirt that brought out the clear, intelligent blue of his eyes and showed his collarbone.
"Do you want to know how Duchy and I met?"
Ramsey blinked. Bingo, he had the man's full attention now.
Marlow moved closer, drawing his legs up onto the couch and taking advantage of the way Ramsey was sitting with his arm stretched along the back of the couch by angling his shoulder in next to him so that they were touching. The cop didn't move, but Marlow could feel his unease at the contact. Ramsey was used to Duchy taking such liberties, but so far this was the first time Marlow could remember voluntarily touching him.
And the blond boy found out that he liked it. Discovering that their host was indeed warm flesh and blood just added to the intrigue that there was a whole universe underneath the surface that he'd just never took notice of before.
But why should he care now?
Ramsey shifted uncomfortably but didn't move to get up. It was a small victory for the blond boy who was leaning against him.
"I met him because I had been sent to kill him," he started out softly. "It was a simple thing to do four or five years ago, when big guys were making their money off of their street whores. Duchy was an independent, you see."
"Mmm. Rieka had tried to recruit him for a long time, but Duchy wouldn't do it. He was making far more money on his own." Marlow smiled. "He was definitely known among people who knew the trade. Had a lot of power over the other boys, you know?" he said softly.
The cop pondered this, seeming to have completely forgotten how close they were sitting next to one another. "But where did he come from?" he asked.
Marlow thought for a moment. "I have no clue, but they were poor," he answered. "That's all I know. He had no father, two brothers, and a mother who worked the streets herself for a while. That's probably where Duchy came from."
Ramsey made a small sound of understanding. "You said you were sent to kill him."
Marlow nodded. "If Reika couldn't have him, he was too much competition on that side of town. I'd never even seen him before that night, but I knew where I was supposed to find him.
"See, there were still rivals against us back then, so I had to be careful since that wasn't a part of the city we controlled. But things happened and I got into a fight."
"Not at first. I got away with this-" He lifted his shirt and showed the cop what he had already noticed last night, an old faded scar above his new one.
"I had to run, there was no way I could face all of them back then, untrained as I was," Marlow continued. "So I ran. Rounded some alley corner and ran right smack into him."
Marlow smiled at the memory. He decided he liked this, sitting close to someone. It was something he and Duchy rarely did when not under the pretext of sex.
It would still be more comfortable if he could lean back just a little more, but he didn't know how many liberties Ramsey would let him take, and for some reason he didn't want to push it. A voice inside of him was telling him that they'd infringed enough on this man for now.
Marlow closed his eyes and gave an ironic smile. Since when had he cared about that? Best not think of it now.
He felt Ramsey shift a bit. "Why are you telling me all this?" he asked, sounding a bit suspicious.
Marlow thought for a moment. "No reason," he said finally.
Ramsey tensed. "Bullshit, what do you want?"
The blond boy sat up so he could turn and look the cop in the eye. "I want to know about you."
He at once felt Ramsey's urge the get up, so he pressed his weight back a bit more to trap him there. The cop didn't fight; he would physically have to push Marlow out of the way, and right now he didn't seem to want to go that far.
"Cut the shit, blondie," Marlow said. "I know about secrets, I have them myself. But I want to know yours."
Ramsey glared at him. "Why?"
Marlow blinked and backed off slightly. "Because I do," he answered. "You want to know so much about us, why can't we want to know about you?"
"It's my job to know about you," the cop returned.
"Is it your job not to tell your boss about us?" Marlow said with a slight smile. "I figure we would have been taken in by now if you'd told him."
Ramsey was glaring at him, his sharp eyes narrowed. "Yes, you would have. That's why I didn't tell him."
Marlow leaned close again, enjoying himself very much. He was essentially imposing questions that Duchy probably had, but his reaction from the cop was much different. It was strange; though he seemed less upset about the questions, Ramsey didn't usually shy away from such intrusion on his personal space when it was Duchy who was being so forward.
"So you do want to know about us," Marlow said.
The cop didn't answer. He leaned back infinitesimally further, his eyes betraying his discomfort, though Marlow could see he was trying his hardest to retain his normally stoic countenance.
Was Ramsey actually afraid of him? Of course he was; he expected this from Duchy, but from Marlow, whom he'd really only exchanged insults with...
The blond boy backed off suddenly upon this realization. He cocked his head slightly at the cop, fascinated. Experimentally, he reached out and touched the thick locks of Ramsey's hair and pushed it behind his ear. The cop's eyes flinched ever so slightly.
"You afraid of me, Ramsey?" he asked softly, incredulously.
The cop surprisingly held his gaze when he said, "I don't know what you want."
Marlow stared at him, into those sharp blue eyes that hid almost everything that this man was, betraying but a fraction of the surface. Ramsey had obviously loved and lost, was that what made him the way he was now? Shy of contact, uncomfortable in intimate situations, suspicious of everything? And lonely?
That was perhaps the one thing that Marlow could identify with, the loneliness. Not so much physically, but what if he didn't even have that?
Ramsey blinked up at him, waiting for his next move.
Marlow suddenly backed of off him, nearly tripping over the coffee table as he struggled to stand and back away.
It had occurred to him that he had no idea what that next move would be.
part 6 | back to part 4 | back to main