.. | exit running | chapter 6
Val Ramsey breathed a sigh of relief when the blond kid disappeared down the hallway. He closed his eyes and rubbed his face for a moment, gathering himself in case Marlow should come back.
But a part of him didn't expect that. There'd been something in Marlow's eyes right before he'd turned away. For a moment he'd looked as threatened as Ramsey had felt.
Steepling his fingers against his lips, he rested his elbows on his knees and sat in silence for a while, listening to the muffled sounds of the quiet world around him; cars from the street below, people walking down the hallways outside. He then shut it all out.
After a while, he stood up and walked to the small, packed bookcase next to the television set. Selecting one that was as familiar to him as his own hands, he returned to the couch and gently opened it.
They were letters from his wife. He'd saved them all, even after she'd returned from her schooling. She had thought it was rather nostalgic of him to keep such things, but she'd just given him a kiss and left him to it.
God, that seemed so long ago. He took a deep breath and shut the book before he could read any of the words. He didn't even need to, they'd been memorized long ago.
Marlow crept down the hallway, trying to steel his resolve and figure out just what the hell had just happened to him in there. He looked around the corner to see that Ramsey was still sitting on the couch, bent over something. When he moved to get up and Marlow flattened himself the wall on instinct.
He watched the cop replace a small book in an empty space in the bookcase, pausing only slightly to look at the picture frame that sat nearby. His expression had lost that stolidity. His face was beautifully softened with that look of sadness.
Ramsey sighed audibly as he gathered his coat again. He glanced back towards the hall and Marlow held his breath until he heard the door open and close again.
What was in that book, he wondered. Stepping out from against the wall, he waited for a moment to see if the cop would come back, then moved to satisfy his curiosity.
Bastian looked rather surprised when he opened his door to find Ramsey standing there.
Ramsey was equally surprised- he had never seen his partner in casual clothes before. But a worn sweater and jeans seemed to suit a chilly evening like this. Bastian's chestnut hair was slightly tousled as if he'd just woken up from a nap.
"Did I wake you?"
Bastian smiled handsomely, rubbing his eye. "I must have dozed off, that's all." His smiled faded as he swung the door open wider in invitation. "Val, are you all right?"
Ramsey nodded and walked in past him. Bastian shut the door and followed him into the living room where his partner had already removed his coat and made himself comfortable on the couch.
"You look terrible."
Ramsey pulled out a cigarette. "Thanks." Bastian's British accent was strangely calming to his frayed nerves. Ramsey found himself hoping that his partner would have the urge to talk some more.
His partner sat down beside him and pulled the barely lit cigarette from his lips. "I told you a long time ago to quit," he said. "Now what happened?"
Ramsey sighed and leaned back, tilting his head to look up at the ceiling. "Nothing. Everything. I think I'm going crazy."
"They've only been there one day, Val-"
Ramsey sat forward and rubbed his face again. "I know, I know."
Bastian got up. "Do you want some coffee?"
"Not a beer, then."
Bastian put his hands on his hips. "I'm trying to be a good host here, Val. What do you want?"
Ramsey looked up and smiled at his bewildered partner.
"That's a good question," he said.
Bastian sat down again. "What happened?"
His proximity didn't go by unnoticed, but Ramsey didn't move. It took him some fortitude to speak about his personal life, but Bastian made it a little easier for some reason. He still didn't know him that well, despite how long they'd been partners, but there was something about his voice and tone.
"It's just strange having people at home again, that's all," Ramsey sighed. "Even if it's just them, it's like I have to get used to it all over again." He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
"It's not that I'm nervous around them, I know they're harmless now. But," he paused, "Marlow-"
"Marlow?" Bastian half-laughed. "I would think that you'd be more worried about Duchy sneaking into your bed."
His partner shook his head. "Duchy's not the problem. I can handle him."
Bastian raised a fine eyebrow as he pushed his bangs back from his face. "And you can't handle Marlow?"
When Ramsey didn't answer, Bastian impulsively patted his arm to soothe him. "If they bother you that much, turn them in."
Again, Ramsey shook his head. "I can't do that."
Bastian's hand hadn't left his arm as he paused the think for a moment. "Well, you're welcome to stay here if you want, I mean, if that's an option." When Ramsey looked at him, he added, "I'm used to living in a busy house. It's been strange since I moved here really."
His partner stood up and grabbed his coat. "Thanks, really. But I don't dare leave them there by themselves."
Bastian remained where he sat and looked up at him with a gentle smile on his face. His ecru colored sweater had a wide neck that exposed his collar bones. The sight drew his partner's attention.
Ramsey gave his thanks again and made a swift exit, wondering what had made him come here in the first place.
It was getting late and Duchy still had not returned. Marlow sat on the couch again by himself in the dark living room, the television in front of him pouring out some mindless drivel. Yet he stared at it, mesmerized instead by the flashing screen, lost in his thoughts.
He deliberately tried not to think about Duchy, where he was or worse, what he was doing right now. Tricking? Duchy had a habit of converting any kind of emotional disarray in his head into sexual energy, which was why he'd made such a good street boy in the first place. His whole life had been nothing but losses and abuse, why not use that anger towards something that at least could put clothes on his back?
But now was not then. Marlow had since devoted his entire being to making sure that Duchy was provided for, protected. It hurt him that Duchy could so easily switch back to that part of his life, if, indeed, that was what happened. And whoring himself out was not only unnecessary- now it was dangerous.
Damn, he was thinking about it again and that would never do.
The television screen flashed some more, capturing his attention for a few seconds before his thoughts turned to their host and what he had discovered.
Ramsey had indeed been married, and quite happily from what he could tell from the letters and photos he had found. The woman, Lily was her name, had been in abroad, evidently studying for some project. There were countless sketches that outlined her essay-like recounts of her activities in the small waterside town she was staying in.
She had written in every letter how much she wished Ramsey would have joined her, but also understood that he was as devoted to his work as she was to her art. Did the cop really enjoy his job that much to pass up a year in a paradise with his wife?
The one that had captured Marlow's attention most of all though, was not a letter. It was more of a love note really, not sent from her trip but the kind one leaves on the pillow when they wake up before their lover. It was dated two years ago. From the almost poetic prose, Marlow could tell she had been very in love with Ramsey as she had watched him lay sleeping. There was a very detailed sketch on the back of the head and shoulders of a peacefully sleeping man.
However, the cause of her death, and Marlow was quite sure she was dead, remained a mystery, though he was beginning to form suspicions in his mind.
But in a way it didn't really matter how she'd died. The fact was that Ramsey had loved her, and surely his letters back to her would have been filled with the same devotion. He'd loved her and lost her and that intrigued Marlow more than anything, to know that such a man had felt such a way.
Perhaps it was because Duchy seemed to lack that mind-set? But Duchy had always been so independent, it was just how he was. Ramsey had lost his love and it seemed unfair to Marlow that he himself had the one he loved with him, and yet he wanted more. He wanted what the cop had had.
His brows furrowed. Damn Duchy for not understanding that, and damn himself for whining about it.
The front door opened and Marlow's heart jumped into overdrive for a moment. It was Ramsey, looking worn and concerned at the same time as he closed the door behind him.
"Where's Duchy?" Ramsey asked, tossing his coat over the arm of the couch.
Marlow shrugged his shoulders, determined not to let Ramsey know how worried he was as to the whereabouts of his lover.
"I don't know."
It clearly wasn't the answer the cop had wanted by the way he frowned with disapproval. "He hasn't been back at all?"
"God damn him," Ramsey muttered, disappearing down the hall in the direction of his room.
Marlow heaved himself up to follow, tired of being left to his own devices. One liked a little human interaction every now and then.
He crept down the hall, flattened himself against the wall and peered through the bedroom door Ramsey had neglected to close all the way. He could see the cop standing by the night table with his back to the door.
Ramsey let his unbuttoned shirt slip to the floor, revealing a smooth, arched back. He then turned, unfastening his watch as he did so and reached for a shirt that had been thrown on the bed. He was slender and lean, naturally muscled. He was a very handsome man, as Marlow had already admitted to himself.
"Men are beautiful, aren't they Liefje?" came a low hiss in his ear.
Marlow snapped his head around. Duchy had somehow come in and crept up behind him without his even noticing.
"Where have you been?" Marlow whispered as they both watched Ramsey.
"Out," came the simplistic answer. The one he should have expected.
The cop slipped on a shirt and stood by the beside table for a moment, staring down at it. He picked up what he was staring at and ran his fingers over it. A wedding ring; it had to be.
Duchy pulled Marlow away as Ramsey set the ring down and turned for the door. They were back on the couch before he emerged from the hallway.
"Where the hell have you been?" the cop asked.
Duchy cocked his head. "Were you worried about me, Ramsey? I was back before curfew."
The cop shook his head. "That's not the point. You could be leading the whole dammed fleet of them to my goddamned door."
"Fine, fine. Just stop with the 'damning' all right? No one followed me."
Ramsey still had him fixed with a doubtful stare. Duchy relented and broke the stare first. They all sat in silence for more than a moment before Duchy heaved himself up and headed for their bedroom without a word.
Ramsey then turned his stare to Marlow.
"Something happen between you two?" he suddenly asked.
Marlow made an effort to look anywhere else but Ramsey's face.
"Why do you care?" he said as apathetically as he could.
The cop ran hand back through his hair. "Nevermind, it's none of my business anyway," he sighed, moving for the kitchen.
Marlow closed his eyes for a moment and damned himself for being such a haughty brat.
Ramsey was heating up a cup of water in the microwave when Marlow came in.
"He's angry," Marlow said.
The cop didn't turn around. He dropped a teabag into the cup and stirred it. "About what?"
Ramsey glanced at him over his shoulder.
"Angry at me about you," Marlow amended.
The cop turned around completely and leaned back against the counter. He raised his eyebrows slightly as he took a sip of his drink. "Why?"
Perhaps it was he way he was so casually leaning back, his hips cocked out ever so slightly, or maybe it was the way he looked at Marlow, directly in the eyes with a cool, collected confidence that he'd not possessed earlier that day. Whatever it was, Marlow again found himself staring into blue eyes, his breath caught in his throat for a moment.
Men are beautiful, aren't they, Liefje?
Ramsey was looking intently at him. "You were saying-?"
Marlow's gaze had gone from his face to Ramsey's hands as they held the mug of tea; strong but finely boned. Graceful hands. But he knew that those hands had done their share of fighting, of shooting a gun with the intent to kill.
But they'd also caressed. Lovingly stroked skin and hair and brought about a woman's passion. Perhaps they'd soothed tears and comforted and embraced.
Marlow blinked and looked down at his own hands. What had they done? Murdered, stolen.
He looked up at the cop, who was still gazing at him with that intense, icy blue stare.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
"Fine, I'm fine," he answered. They locked gaze for several long moments before the cop broke it, clearing his throat and turning his head away. He set his half-empty mug down by the sink.
"I'm going to bed," he said, and left the room.
As he left the kitchen, the cop brushed past Duchy.
"He's a lot like you, you know," Duchy said softly. Too softly for the boy in the kitchen to hear.
Ramsey had stopped in his tracks, but didn't turn around.
Duchy was leaning against the wall looking at Marlow, who'd sunk into his thoughts again and was oblivious to them.
"He likes to pretend that he is tough," Duchy said. "And in most ways he is. He has power; it's what makes him so good at what he does. Made him the best. But he's got a weakness, do you know what it is?" He looked at Ramsey, who had half turned, but had still not met his eyes.
Duchy turned and went to stand in front of the cop, reaching a hand up to touch the locks of blond hair that framed Ramsey's eyes.
"Me," Duchy whispered. "I am his weakness. And since I know that, I can use it make him stronger."
"Is it just a power play to you then?" Ramsey asked softly. "Is that why he wastes his time with you?"
Duchy's eyes narrowed. "Was it a power play between you and your wife?"
Ramsey's hand came around and backhanded him across the face before he could register it. Duchy found himself on the floor, his jaw hurting like hell and stars in his vision. Marlow was beside him in an instant.
"What the fuck did you do that for?" Marlow demanded.
Ramsey stood heaving with repressed energy. He glared down at Marlow.
"Keep this harpy away from me," he growled and disappeared into his room with the slamming of the bedroom door.
Marlow, still confused and angry looked blankly down at his lover. Duchy was rubbing his jaw, looking a bit bewildered.
Finally, Marlow grunted and grabbed his arm to help him up. "Imagine you could kill someone with your skill and you hit the floor the minute someone slaps you."
Duchy went and sat on the couch, checking his lip for blood.
"I think I may have gone a little too far," he said with a rueful smile.
"Too far?" Marlow said angrily. "Duchy, the man hit you. What the fuck did you say?"
His lover just shrugged, still rubbing his jaw. Marlow sat next to him and covered his face with his hands for a moment.
"Dutch, just let him be, ok? Piss him off enough and he'll turn us in-"
"Oh, he won't do that," Duchy said calmly.
part 7 | back to part 5 | back to main