.. | exit running | chapter 8
The streets were deserted as Marlow and Duchy hiked their way back to Bastian's house. Duchy was still wiping his hands on a wet rag, a disgusted look on his face.
"I hate blood, I hate blood," he was muttering.
Marlow kicked a rock in his path and stroked the head of the Gizmo the cat. "You should be used to that by now."
"I'll never get used to it. Any of it. Especially the dragging three corpses down two flights of stairs part, and then incinerating them."
"We were just lucky that building still used a fire furnace."
Duchy tossed the rag in a garbage bin as they passed it. "Yes, well, lucky, lucky me."
Gritting his teeth, the blond kept walking. "Still, at least that asshole is out of the way."
"Yes, and leaving one very pissed Reika behind. He'll send everyone he's got now," Duchy pointed out.
That got Marlow to thinking. "Who do you think he meant when he was talking about a colleague of Ramsey's? Someone who was spilling the info about us?"
Duchy shrugged. "I thought it was his partner, since he's the only one who knew about us."
Marlow rubbed his chin. "Right... And he's alive. But Laroche said that whoever it was used to be a colleague, which would imply that he's dead."
They both stopped walking and looked at each other.
"Unless," Duchy said, "unless we're still a step ahead of them-"
In unison they took off running.
Ramsey emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam and a towel around his waist. He used another to dry his wet hair.
Bastian was reading a book by the bedside lamp. He gestured to a pile of folded clothes on the dresser.
"I pulled those out for you," he said. "They should fit."
Ramsey draped the towel over his head and inspected the clothing. He turned his back to his partner and pulled on the pair of sweatpants. His skin was still too damp to put the shirt on.
Bastian closed his book and pulled off his reading glasses.
"I only have one spare bedroom, but I thought you would want those boys to have it rather than share with them."
Ramsey cocked his head slightly, fixing his partner with an expectant stare.
"You're welcome to take this room," he said quickly, getting up. "I'll take the couch-"
"You got a problem with sharing a bed with me?" Ramsey said. He certainly wouldn't fit on that couch, and wanted even less to put Bastian out of his own bedroom.
Bastian appeared unsure. "If you don't mind, then I don't," he said finally.
Didn't think you would, Ramsey was thinking as he pulled the covers down and slid into the bed, his body resolutely telling him it was time to sleep.
His partner turned off the lights and Ramsey felt the bed shift as he got in and made himself comfortable.
"What about Marlow?" Bastian asked. "Should we wait up for them?"
Ramsey rolled over onto his side, facing away from his partner.
"Trust me, he'll let himself in."
There was no telling how long he'd gotten to sleep before the bed jolted like someone had jumped onto it full force. A second later, the bedroom lights were switched on, and Ramsey sat up to find Marlow straddling his partner, looking down the barrel of a gun at him. Bastian had his hands up on the pillows and was otherwise frozen where he lay.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Ramsey demanded, making a move to grab the gun from Marlow. The blond boy jerked his arm away, never taking his eyes off of his captive.
"Cool it," Marlow hissed.
Duchy appeared and sat on Ramsey's side of the bed.
"He's not dead yet, but he could be by morning," Duchy said. "We have to get out of here."
Ramsey looked from one to the other, then at Bastian.
Bastian met his eyes and shook his head. "Wait a minute, you don't think that I-"
"Gave us all up?" Marlow finished for him.
Bastian appealed to his partner. "Val, I didn't, I swear!"
Ramsey just stared down at him, realizing what Marlow and Duchy had already deduced.
"Bastian?" he said softly, finding it difficult to believe that his own partner, with whom he trusted his life with, would do something like that.
"Christ, Val," Bastian whispered, as if he couldn't believe it himself. "I didn't do it!
"Then how did they know?" Marlow hissed, putting his gun against Bastian's throat.
"Because I-" He stopped struggling. "Because I told someone else."
Ramsey leaned closer. "Who?"
His partner sighed and met his eyes. "Porter," he said.
"You told him?" Ramsey asked slowly.
"I thought we could trust him. Jesus, Val, he's our boss!"
Ramsey grabbed Marlow's gun and fixed it on Bastian himself.
"What did I tell you the first day I met you?" he demanded. "In this city you don't trust anyone."
Then he tossed the gun to the floor and stood up. Without even glancing at Marlow or Duchy, he left and padded down the stairs.
Marlow and Duchy looked at each other, then down at the cop, who was rubbing his throat. He wouldn't meet their eyes.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Marlow heaved himself off of him with a dirty glare, then headed for the stairs.
Bastian was left with Duchy. The boy seemed the least affected of all.
Duchy shrugged. "Well what?"
"Don't you hate me too?"
"No," he said, stretching out next to Bastian on the bed. "Didn't surprise me at all really."
Bastian cocked his head. "Why not?"
Duchy smiled at him. "I didn't trust you from the beginning."
Marlow found Ramsey on the back patio, leaning on the railing and overlooking a modest garden. He was shirtless.
"I know what it's like," Marlow said to his back. "To not trust anyone."
He saw Ramsey duck his head to his arms for a moment, then lift it again. His tousled hair was ruffled gently by a slight breeze.
"I'm tired," Ramsey said after a moment and Marlow could read so much into that statement that he felt unsure of what to say next. He didn't know how to handle or express his emotions; he hadn't done it in so long. So how was he supposed to be able to handle someone else's? Then again, he didn't even know why he was bothering.
He took a few steps closer so that if he reached out, he could have touched Ramsey's back. But he kept his hands to himself, not sure if it would be welcome.
Who was he kidding? Of course it wouldn't be welcome. Ramsey had already proven himself so emotionally shut off that he probably wouldn't even know how to react. And from that point of view Marlow realized that the cop was much worse off than he was in matters of trust and love. Marlow thought he had it bad with Duchy, but what if he didn't even have that?
Ramsey was gazing off into the yard, looking lost in his own thoughts. He seemed to have forgotten that Marlow was there.
Marlow felt a bit angry at that. He was trying to help, but the cop wouldn't even turn and look at him. Well, fuck that. He would get through one way or another.
In one smooth motion he wrapped both arms tightly around Ramsey's waist and pressed his cheek to the cop's bare back. He felt Ramsey's muscles tense, but to his utter surprise, the cop didn't throw him off.
And when had Ramsey become his salvage project? Maybe it was when Marlow was faced with those pictures of a beautiful woman who had once had all the love that this man was capable of, and when he read the letters that were proof of it.
Christ, now he felt like he was in a sleazy romance novel. Snap out of it!
Ramsey's stomach muscles had relaxed only slightly, but he still hadn't moved. Marlow could hear the beat of his heart beneath his ear and feel the expansion of his ribs under his arms. Yet more proof that Ramsey was real flesh and blood.
"What are you doing?" Ramsey asked.
"Making sure you're alive," Marlow answered. "Sometimes it's hard to tell."
The cop sighed and Marlow listened to the exhalation of breath.
"Does it mean we can stay here?" Marlow asked suddenly. "If your partner didn't spill it?"
"I don't know. If Porter did, then he may or may not have told them who else knows." Ramsey turned his head to the side slightly. "In any case, we shouldn't stay, no."
Now it was Marlow's turn to sigh. He pressed his cheek to Ramsey's back, quite willing to sleep there if he could.
"So where do we go?"
Ramsey shrugged doggedly. "Motel, I suppose."
Marlow closed his eyes. He knew the thin ice he was on with the cop, having made such a bold move. But Ramsey's lack of resistance made him want more.
But how to get it?
Marlow remained quiet for a few moments longer before he let off and pulled Ramsey's arm to turn him around. The cop complied, if only because Marlow had taken him by surprise.
"Duchy's jealous," he said.
Ramsey looked confused. "What?"
"He's jealous of you."
The cop shook his head. "Why is that?" It sounded more like a statement than a question.
Marlow narrowed his eyes up at him, trying to decide whether or not to fuck with Ramsey's head. He wanted to. Maybe if he could mess with him enough-
"Because I told him I'd fuck you," he answered with a half-grin.
Ramsey leaned back against the railing, looking very uncomfortable. "Did you," he said, deadpan.
Marlow nodded as he reached up to play with the hair behind the cop's ear. He leaned close.
"Come on, Ramsey. You can't tell me it hasn't been a while for you."
He leaned even closer as the cop leaned back, caught between him and the railing.
"You know I don't go for that," Ramsey said softly.
The blond kid sighed a laugh. "Then push me away," he dared, leaning all the way against him, chest to chest. He made damn sure to press his hips up against the cop's, hard. He idly hooked his thumbs in the waist of Ramsey's pants.
"Don't you ever wonder what it would be like?" Marlow whispered, his lips an inch from his captive's. "You know, you're free to do whatever you want. And I'd let you-" His eyes darted to look at Ramsey's mouth, such lovely lips. He could do it, he really could this time...
But reality was unwelcomely returned to them when to very different voices called each of their names. Together they both turned to see both Bastian and Duchy in the patio doorway, watching them with the same wide-eyed, staggered look.
Ramsey shoved Marlow off of him and straightened his clothes. Reddening in the face he shoved past the two in the doorway and disappeared again into the house, leaving Marlow to take the heat.
"Can't you just leave him alone?" Bastian hissed, showing real anger for the first time. With an angry glare, he turned to go back inside.
They were alone. Duchy was watching Marlow, who had leaned back against the rail where the cop had been. He stared up at the sky.
"What are you doing, Marlow?" Duchy asked.
His lover didn't move or answer for a moment. Then, "Isn't it what you wanted?" He looked at Duchy. "For me to fuck him?"
Duchy shook his head. "I never said I wanted that."
Marlow's anger flared suddenly before he could control it. Frustration and desire made him more than irritable and he lashed out for any reason why he should have to go through either of those emotions when for so long he’d gotten so good at controlling himself. He was pissed that that control was suddenly gone.
After a moment of boiling at Duchy’s denial, he shoved himself away from the railing towards him. "Then why did you keep pushing me at him? Huh? When did he become part of this?"
"It was your idea to go to him in the first place!" Duchy hissed, his own anger beginning to show. "I wanted to get the fuck out of this city-" He turned away and took a few deep breaths. "You made him a part of it, not me. So why don't you go fuck him so we can leave?"
The blond stood silently against the rail again, not meeting his eyes. He was still so angry, Duchy could feel that emanating though the space between them.
"That's not what it's about," Marlow said finally, softly. He looked up at his lover.
"I think that's exactly what it's about," Duchy replied with narrowed eyes. "What is it about him, Liefje? That has you so in love with him?"
Marlow clenched his fists. "I'm not in love with him," he bit out. "I just..." He rubbed his face with his hands, so confused in his head he wanted to scream. "Fuck," he said finally, unable to look his lover in the eye again.
Duchy watched him for several long moments before closing his eyes and taking a gentle breath. He moved towards Marlow and took his lover's down-turned face in his hands.
"If you want him, Liefje, then take him," he said softly. "And be done with it so we can go."
"Duchy-" Marlow said, turning his face away.
"But you know there's only one way you'll get to him," Duchy mused, moving away, putting precious space between them. They stood in silence again for a long time while Marlow wondered what he'd meant.
When Duchy didn't elaborate, Marlow just shook his head. "We can't stay here," he said. "It's not safe."
He heard Duchy heave a sigh behind him. "Where to now?"
Marlow picked up the weariness in his voice, heard his hate of the idea of running again. But there was something else too that Marlow had not detected before.
Reika was getting close, and Duchy had always told him they couldn't run forever. Marlow was just starting to believe he was right. He'd hidden Duchy from Reika's sight for so long that it'd become second nature to him, but he'd never thought about how difficult it was for his lover sometimes to always be looking over his shoulder, even when he had Marlow to do it for him.
He looked up at the house, wondering where the cop had gone and what he was doing. Despite what Duchy had said, Ramsey still wasn't a big part of it. Not yet. Reika may still ignore him for the time being despite their run-in with Laroche if he still didn't know the extent of their involvement with the cop. But if Marlow didn't act soon, he would be on the list too.
After a moment of staring up at the house, Marlow turned back to him and gave a small smile. Duchy looked weary but still sharp. And yet again, he'd understood Marlow better than he'd understood himself.
In looking at him, Marlow felt his devotion to him, and remembered again what made all this worthwhile. He'd promised himself that he would take care of his lover, whether Duchy felt he needed it or not. The time had come for them. This seeming interminable night would have an end after all, but they wouldn't be here for it, God willing.
Marlow knew now what he had to do. He had to keep his promise. No more running.
But there were other loose ends to tie up first. He understood how to do that too.
"Marlow?" Duchy tried again. "Where to?"
The blond gave him a smile. "After tonight, nowhere," he said.
part 9 | back to part 7 | back to main