.. | pariah society | chapter 3
Meanwhile, in center of the Village...The markets were a place Remy had been familiar with for many years. His family liked to come here every week as an outing and shop a little during the nicer season. If the winter wasn't too cold, then the summer made it blisteringly hot. However, in-between those times were quite some fine days. Lines and lines of shops, their awnings blowing in the breeze, had been set up in the main square selling every sort of thing one could imagine. Hundreds of people milled about, shopping for animals, food, goods, furniture and jewelry, while others simply strolled to be in the company of others on a chilly day.
"Is something bothering you?" his mother finally asked.
He looked at her with a genuine smile. He should have known her intuition would catch that something else had been on his mind.
"No, everything's fine." He shoved his hands in his pockets and assumed the conversation over with. But his mother would not be put off so easily.
"You seem so restless lately," she said after a moment. "It worries me."
"Why is that?"
She brushed back her chestnut hair, the color of which he had inherited. He had much of her look in fact, but his green eyes were his father's.
"You hear so many stories of those kids," she said, "running away from home to live out there." She gestured to the abandoned Northside, where skeletons of buildings could just barely be seen over the tops of the still-thriving trees and buildings of the city center. "I always wonder what draws them to it."
With a laugh at the absurdity of the idea, Remy put an arm around her. "They don't bother us here. You don't have to worry about me going off to join some gang." They lived much too far inside the city limits to really have to worry about riffraff wandering the streets anyway. That coupled with the fact that this was one of the more well-off neighborhoods... nothing exciting ever happened here.
"I know," his mother said, looping her arm in his. "You're much too steady for something like that."
Too steady. How could he tell her that he hated this murk, the stagnant life that was comfortably laden with school, family, and boredom. Since hitting his teenage years he had longed for excitement, for something to happen. And now that he was seventeen already... something was beginning to drive him from the inside and with astonishing fervor make him look for any opportunity to do something not safe. He'd always been the safe one, the dependable one, but now he couldn't even fathom the thought of growing up here and living his life as his father had done. Surely there was something else out there.
Of course Remy said nothing of what was on his mind. He cherished his mother too much to voice his feelings and give her room to doubt that he would ever be more or less than her loving, contented eldest son. What would she do if she knew about those thoughts? For years he had kept everything hidden inside behind a carefully schooled expression and a characteristically easy temperament. Nothing bothered him, he would do anything his family asked of him.
With a sigh Remy scanned the market shops for his two siblings who had disappeared into the throngs of people milling about. That's when he saw him for the first time.
On the edge of the market lines he could see a figure that didn't seem to fit into the rest of the crowd standing there against the wall. The young man was wearing dark clothes that contrasted with the bright colors of billowing tent and awning flaps. His shaggy black hair fell into his eyes whose color Remy could not tell from this distance. The young man was quite obviously staring right at him, though how he had picked Remy out was uncanny, and why, unfathomable.
The young man was remarkable to look at in a dark sort of way, though his skin was pale against the grey wall and his dark clothes. Remy stared back unabashedly, morbid curiosity refusing to let him look away. Beside him his mother was oblivious to his distraction as she talked on about how she'd wished their father could have joined them today instead of working.
"And for once it'll do you good to spend the money he gives you or he won't give you anymore," she was saying.
It had to be one of them, one of those kids they'd just been talking about. His dark coat had the slightest tatter to it, and with his black fingerless gloves he looked too out of place to be anything else. But so close into the city? Remy had thought that they kept to the outskirts, to the Northside that had been abandoned to them.
He watched as the dark-haired boy followed along the wall of an old building, parallel to the path Remy wandered next to his unaware mother. The boy stopped at the opening of an alleyway. With a smirk on his face, he raised a hand and openly beckoned. Then, he disappeared into the dark passage.
Remy bit his lower lip as they walked farther and farther away from the alley opening. What had it meant that the boy had signaled so? Did he really expect that Remy would follow him into some dark unfamiliar place like that? What if he planned to rob him, or worse?
Hadn't he just been longing for something different to come along? The thought was too intriguing to ignore, the idea of meeting such a person. After a moment to ponder, Remy decided that he had to know. What if.
"I'll be right back," he said to his mother, patting her on the shoulder. "I just saw something I want."
Without waiting for her to answer, he plunged into the throng of people gathered around the line of stands and kiosks that backed up to the building line which housed the dark alleyway. He hoped she wouldn't be able to see where he was going from where she stood.
With a little trepidation he slipped into the darkened passage, smelling the damp musk of old brick and wet mortar. The boy was there, leaning against the clammy wall with that same smile on his lips. He had lit up a cigarette and was idly puffing on it, drawing Remy's attention to his full lips and the dark scruff of hair on his chin. His eyes were solid black. He flicked away his smoke, blew one last white stream into the air, gestured again that Remy should follow him.
They went deeper into the corridor, silently, until they rounded a corner and the street was no longer visible. Without warning, the dark-haired boy grabbed Remy's shoulders and pushed him back against the wall. His mouth locked onto his, forceful and strong, but done in a way that seemed very natural to him. His manner was not insistent at all, rather, it was more like he had expected this to happen, and moved in such a confident way as if he had assumed Remy had expected it too.
In truth it took Remy a moment to register what was actually happening. Then, more bewildered than offended, he pushed the other boy away with a grunt. The stranger let off easily enough. Still silent but with a lingering smirk, he looked haughtily into Remy's eyes, giving him several moments to consider what was happening. He took the time to remove his fingerless gloves and shove them into his pockets, then tried again, a little more persistently this time.
When their lips touched again, Remy found that he didn't fight back so quickly. He felt like he'd been captured, caged, and then there was awakened some slumbering need in him that was suddenly feeding off this contact. It was happening here, something important that would change his life. Remy groaned into the boy's mouth, his heart beating in his throat as the boy's hands reached down for the fastening of his pants. The unfamiliar touch smarted a bit but he didn't stop it.
"Uhn," Remy groaned, leaning his head back against the wall. The boy kissed his throat, the hair on his chin tickling his flesh, and pressed their bodies together. His hand began boldly stroking Remy's cock, freed and hardening in the cool alley air. He took the boy's head in his hands to hold him still for more kisses, suddenly consumed with the desire to touch, to kiss. The stranger obliged easily for a few more moments before taking one of Remy's hands and pulling it down to the front of his own pants.
"Come on," he breathed as the first words spoken between them. He helped Remy open the fastening and reach inside. The boy kissed him again, groaning deep in the back of his throat as their cocks touched, stroking in unison as they leaned against that dingy wall not a few yards from the busy street. His mouth silenced Remy's soft cries. He was already getting close.
"Hhn, yeah," he breathed in Remy's ear. "Come on, come for me-"
Remy pressed his face against the boy's neck and did come, feeling the other hit release with him. Still breathing hard, the street kid brought his fingers up to his lips and licked them, quickly erasing the traces of what had just happened. Then, just as quickly, he buttoned himself and Remy back up and straightened his clothes. He smoothed his shaggy black hair back with a deep, satisfied breath.
Remy stayed where he was, leaning against the wall, still recovering from this, his first encounter with sex. He wondered if the street kid could tell that he'd never done it before. He then wondered if it mattered.
The boy leaned up against him and kissed him again, more gently than before. "I'm Dane," he said.
"Remy," he answered.
"Good to meet you, Remy," Dane said, letting off with a smirk as he turned to leave. Disbelieving, Remy caught his arm.
Dane did so, turning around expectantly for him to say something but Remy found himself at a loss for words. What could he say to what had just happened? Sex was something he had never really thought about, much less sex with another boy. But after this, after having those hands on him and being able to touch... It was as if he had always wanted it; and there had to be more. How was it possible this boy had singled him out? Had he somehow known? He was not afraid of it, strangely enough, though such experiences would certainly not be approved of by his family. The idea of not seeing this boy again, that was what he was afraid of.
"Will I see you again?" he stammered.
Dane smiled. "Do you want to see me again?"
"Yes," he whispered.
The street kid gave a beautifully white smile and headed for the street again, nonchalantly putting his gloves back on. "Then you will."
Later that night, the dark haired street kid called Dane wandered alone along some of the older stretches of the city, where the streets were still quaintly cobbled with stone and the buildings made of stucco with black iron railings and gates, crumbling in some places but otherwise still intact. This had once been a decent neighborhood years ago but had been abandoned like all the rest as the city slowly drew in upon itself.
His stomach growled irritably. Dane pulled his coat tighter around himself against the chilly wind that slipped between rows of empty houses. It was eerily quiet tonight, though he knew better than to assume he was alone. A lot of kids utilized this area for their home; it was as good a find as any, tucked away back within the tall buildings he could see in the distance. His stomach rumbled again.
Lost in thought he climbed a set of familiar wrought iron stairs, nicer kept than the rest, and onto the quoined balcony of one of the nicest houses in the area, strangely well-lit against the darkness of the rest of the houses' windows. This was not his home- he had no home- but he opened the front door without ceremony and went in.
Welcome warm air met him. Dane shed his outer coat and threw it over a plump armchair that graced the front room he passed through, kicked off his boots and jogged up the winding stairs, loosening his under shirts as his body lost the chill of the outside air.
Stripped comfortably to his undershirt and loose trousers, the rest of his clothing left in a ragged line from the front door all the way up to the second story landing, he burst into the last door down the corridor. A sharp blond looked up from where he lay across the canopy bed, book in hand. The silver ring in his brow glinted in the light and the tilt of his head. After only a brief glance up at his visitor, Cade idly went back to his reading.
"Didn't know you were coming," he said.
The blond snapped his book shut and heaved himself. He wore his favorite lounging clothes- white tank and that pair of dark loose-fitting pants with several pockets in them, belted at his narrow waist.
"Come on," he said, slapping Dane on the back as he brushed past him out the door. Together they jogged back down the stairs and into an open area kitchen with black marble countertops and steely grey appliances.
Cade rummaged around in the cabinets. "What have you been up to?"
The dark-haired boy hopped up on the counter to relax. "Drudging about, the usual. Paid a visit to the market today to see if I could get Dent to pay me what he owes-"
Cade tossed him a pack of fresh bread and some cheese from the refrigerator. "Make yourself a sandwich. Did you get it from him?"
"No." Dane hungrily prepared his dinner as Cade crossed his arms and leaned against the black countertop.
"What did you do?"
"Broke his fingers, what else? No more gambling for him, I guess."
The blond nodded. "You don't pay, you don't play," he reasoned with an even voice.
They remained in silence for several minutes more while Dane ate ravenously. Cade filled a glass of water for him and settled back against the counter to watch him eat. One sandwich disappeared, then two.
"When was the last time you ate?"
Dane swallowed and took several moments to quench his thirst. "Day before yesterday."
"Why didn't you come sooner?" Cade's low voice always made questions sound like statements.
He finished half of his third sandwich and licked his lips. "I was... busy. I told you, the usual."
"Breaking fingers and fucking, I know. Let's hope one more than the other." Cade let a little bit of a smile show on the corner of his mouth. If ever there was anyone who matched his own appetite and manner in which he sated his lust, it was Dane. For that, Cade had a particular little bit of admiration for the boy, when usually he had none for no one. "So? Who was it today?"
Dane gave a leering smile. "A hot little dish down in the market. Reddish hair, green eyes. Skinny kid, but eager enough. First time, total houseboy."
Houseboy. It's what they called those kids that had a home in the city, a real family and right to the town. A true citizen. The term was used sarcastically; it meant spoiled, someone who didn't get respect from the kids on the outside. To woo a housekid into their way for even a few moments was not particularly Dane's style, nor was it Cade's own. There must have been something about the boy that had caught his attention.
Dane stretched languidly, comfortable now with a full belly. "It was a little strange, I wasn't even planning anything. Then I saw him across the way. He had such an innocent look to him, walking with his mum, I suppose." He laughed to himself. "At first I was going to rob him, take mum and dad's precious allowance but then... I figured I might fuck him instead." He laughed again. "I just wanted to see what he could do, you know?"
Cade just nodded.
"And then after it was over, he still had that look, that innocent little look, as if we hadn't done anything at all."
Knowing Dane, he would have found such a thing enthralling. Purity was not something easily found out here, everyone who lived this life was jaded; himself most of all. A little wholesomeness must have been refreshing indeed.
"He had a name?"
Dane sighed. "Remy."
"Cute." His tone was mocking; he had no feelings for spoiled kids of the city. The blond turned on his heel and headed back upstairs with Dane following. "I suppose you're going to see him again?"
"I thought I might see if I could suss out some of that lily whiteness."
They entered the bedroom again where Cade lay back on the bedspread, hands behind his head. "You're going to ruin him," he warned.
Dane rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to ruin him. I'll just..." he thought for a moment, "wizen him up a bit."
"Ah, I see. Like I did you?" Cade looked at him with lazy lidded eyes. That unconcerned, self-assured look usually meant only one thing. His hand strayed down to the fastening of his pants and pulled them open without ceremony.
Dane's eyes were bright in watching him. "No, you ruined me," he said with a little smirk. "My way is going to be different."
"Make him love you, will you? That's useless. I taught you better than that." His low voice sent tendrils through Dane's belly, a feeling he always got when Cade decided to make it known he was in the mood for sex. He snorted a laugh as he crawled up onto the bedspread and leaned over the blond.
"Fuck love. That's for real people, not us," Dane said, leaning down for a kiss, misleadingly tender amid this conversation.
Cade smirked, the corners of his cynical mouth turning up just so. He lay below Dane in all appearances docile and submissive- head cocked, one knee drawn up, his flat belly exposed by his pulled up shirt and that darker, private hair visible through the open fastening of his pants. Dane knelt on his hands and knees over him and ducked his head to kiss his waiting mouth. He knew that appearances were deceiving concerning the blond beneath him, and because of that he was always a little cautious. Cade was a fierce lover no matter how easy he looked right now, and he was powerfully dominant. He often wondered if Cade had ever bottomed in his life- with Milo perhaps? But then again, who knew anything about that man.
Cade allowed the kissing but it wasn't his favorite thing to do. It was classically too ‘sweet' for him, too personal. When Dane let off, the blond's lazy eyes were arrogant with self-satisfaction. His hand strayed down to his trousers; he pulled his cock out.
"Suck it," he said in a low, husky voice. When he was ready, he was ready.
Milo sat on the rooftop in the late morning of the next day, taking ease in how the wind moved his hair and brushed his face. It was quiet here, the perfect place for a reflective smoke. He raised it to his lips and took a long draw.
Years of living a life constantly looking over his shoulder had marked him to the point that he no longer even had to look. He knew Cade's presence when he felt it behind him. He glanced back only briefly, then went back to his smoke.
"You seem satisfied," Milo said idly, still gazing off in the distance.
"Do I?" Cade kneeled down behind him and reached around for the pack of smokes in the inside pocket of Milo's overcoat. The late morning sun had yet to make an appearance from behind the grey clouds above them.
"What have you been doing?"
"Dane." If it was meant as a joke, there was no sarcastic inflection in Cade's voice. He stood up again behind Milo and lit up silently, probably staring off into space as well.
"Did you talk to him?"
"Not yet," the blond answered.
Milo stood up and flicked the butt away. He inhaled clean air into his lungs to combat the old bitterness that lay usually dormant. "Just fucked him then, did you?" From the corner of his eye he could see Cade glance at him as he took a drag. It was an old discussion for both of them, one that he knew they both should be over.
The blond appeared unconcerned. "Why not? You fuck who you want."
"Not in a while," Milo sighed.
"That's not my fault." Cade exhaled white smoke into the air.
Milo let a few moments pass and with them, the subject. He found a new one. "Have you seen our guests today?"
Cade shook his head.
"I wonder if they're up and about," Milo said casually. "Juren took them some food this morning but she said they were still asleep. I really wonder how long it's been since they had a decent night without having to worry about the cold or getting caught. Probably never-"
Cade flicked the rest of his smoke away and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Why haven't you in a while?"
Milo kept his gaze on the grey horizon. He didn't answer.
"You've been so busy with these plans of yours," Cade continued without malice, "that I wonder if you've been taking care of yourself in the meantime."
"I eat and sleep well enough, same as you."
The blond turned to him with a little twitch of a smile to the corner of his mouth. "That's not what I mean and you know it. I know how you are, better than anyone."
Milo turned to go back inside. "Not all of us have the needs you do. Anyway, it doesn't matter."
Cade caught his arm and pulled him back and close so he could hiss into his ear. "She's gone," he growled. "Dead and gone for years now. How long will it take before you can let this go?"
Milo violently shrugged him off, his first show of true emotion in several weeks. Cade took his rejection in stride and didn't try to stop him again. He watched the dark-haired young man walk without anger to the roof hutch where the door back down was hidden. There, Milo paused.
"How long," he mused with his back to his friend. "I wish you could understand what it's like to lose someone like that." His voice was soft, private. "If you did you would know there'll never be enough time to ‘let it go', as you say."
"That's something I'll never learn, not if I can help it," Cade answered, divulging more of his personality out loud than Milo had ever heard him utter before. If he never let himself get attached- for attachment still led to love, even in this place- he would never lose. And losing anything- a fight, a bet, a person- was the one thing Milo knew his friend feared.
"Better to have loved and lost," Milo murmured, his hand on the door.
He heard behind him Cade's cynical grunt. "Ah yes, because you're such an excellent example of that." He gave the small of Milo's back a little shove though the door and prodded him down the steps into the main hall again. Milo allowed himself to be guided, cold from the inside out. When Cade brought him to the his own penthouse bedroom he hesitated at the doorway but didn't voice his question. There really was no need.
"It's time I made sure you were still alive," Cade said, stripping off his outer coat and beginning on the next layer. "Get in here."
"I don't want a pity fuck," Milo said under his breath, watching the boy strip before him. Had he not had enough already? From one lover to the next, was there no downtime for him? Of course not, those were the foolish questions of a tyro; he should know better. Sex was a weapon for Cade, and also a healer- he'd used both on Milo many times in the past, beginning when all that had happened years ago, when he'd dissolved the last of his rook and lost... her. But right now, knowing he'd just come from some other conquest, the thought repulsed him.
By now shirtless and barefoot, Cade paused momentarily at the unbuckling of his belt. "You always want to fuck me," he said, stripping the belt from its loops and kicking off his trousers.
"Did you even bathe before coming here? After you were with him?" Milo crossed his arms in a show of angry defiance.
"What are you on about? That was hours ago." Cade advanced on him to stand nose to nose. His fingers deftly moved to unbutton Milo's shirt and push it off his shoulders, eyes locked, the little smirk present; he knew where the source of his friend's bitterness lay.
"Besides, it's different with you than anyone else. And I want it from you now, that's all that matters, is it not?" He leaned in, kissed Milo's throat, giving him that much of a tender touch if it would convince him to relax and move towards the bed.
Milo tilted his head back almost without thinking. "Sometimes I really do wonder if you have a heart at all," he whispered in all seriousness. Against his neck he felt the warm breath as Cade gave a small laugh. Was sex now a weapon or a healer? At moments like these it got to be so hard to distinguish between the two that Milo wondered if Cade even knew, or if it even mattered at all.
Riff sat on the edge of Toby's bed, awake and rested for the first time in his life, but also hungry and very sore. Toby sat up as well before him, the covers pulled up and tucked against his chest demurely, finally fully awake and aware and suddenly very unused to his nakedness, even in front of Riff. His bare shoulders looked delicate and smooth; overall he looked none the worse for wear. Shooter had left him with worse bruises to his face before but he still seemed a little tired despite all the sleep he'd had.
"Well?" Riff asked at his silence. He'd just finished telling Toby of Milo's strange proposal and of everything he'd seen here in great detail, but had left Cade out of his descriptions. Toby had remained so quiet and reserved throughout his account that he wondered if the thief had been listening at all.
"Why are you asking me?" Toby asked suddenly, quietly. "It sounds as if you've already made up your mind about it."
"Well, if he's really serious, what would you have me do? You know it would be a safer life... in a lot of ways." He was remembering their conversation on the rooftop two nights ago.
Toby gave a little shrug. "Then do it," was all he said. His usual air was back, nonchalant and aloof. What care had they in a world that didn't care about them?
The anger rose in Riff's throat but then subsided again. He should know better, damn it, than to expect anything from the thief right now. What right had he anyway to ask such things after that Toby had already been through? He reached out and took the thief's hand on his own. He kissed his fingers, looking up to see those dark eyes on him.
"All I'm really asking is for you to stay with me," he clarified. "Whatever we decide. Nothing more."
Toby's fingers curled around his own and he looked down at their joined hands. "Is that all?" He whispered softly.
Riff thought carefully about his answer. After a moment, he said, "For now, yes."
"All right," Toby said.
A few hours later a young woman delivered food to them on a tray. She had short-cropped black hair and a slender but stocky build. Her femininity could still not be hidden beneath a boy's look and especially not behind her pretty face. She wore regular street clothes, different from those more expensive threads Riff had seen Milo and Cade wear. He wondered where she had come from.
"I brought this to you earlier, but you both were still asleep," she said, her female voice strikingly different to their ears. "Milo says that I should bring it up later. I'm Juren."
They nodded their hellos and thanks without a word, both watching unison as if they'd never seen a female before in their lives. A little unnerved by their silence and stares, Juren gave a little smile and let herself out. Both Riff and Toby looked at one another, then down at the bounty of food brought for them.
"Riff," Toby said softly, bewildered, as his companion reached for a hunk of fresh bread. "Riff, is this real?" It was as if he was finally accepting the fact that this whole ordeal, from the events of the past few days up until now, wasn't a dream he was going to wake from.
Riff tore a bite from the loaf, gesturing for the thief to eat. "As real as it gets."
Toby still hesitated still so Riff tore him a bit and put it in his hands. "Fresh food, clean beds, girls walking around unafraid-"
"Eat, Toby," Riff said. "She's under Milo's protection, that's why she's free to walk around and feel safe. It's the beauty of a rook, the security of it. I want to have that."
"Glad to hear it," came a voice from the doorway. Milo stepped in. "No, please keep eating, you both need it." Behind him they both saw Cade enter silently with a slight twist to his smile and a smug look. Riff looked back at Toby to see the thief's eyes locked on the blond, surely recognizing him as Riff had the day before. In turn Cade watched the thief with equal intent, though his expression was far less readable.
"Does this mean you accept my offer then?" Milo snapped his attention back. Riff wondered if he'd even noticed the exchange, for if he had he gave no indication. His consideration was on Riff, not on what was going on in the background.
"We do," Riff answered, turning to meet Cade's gaze and not liking the self-satisfied expression he found.
"Good, then proper introductions can be made." His hand swept to encompass his companion, who stood almost leaning against the very air, arms crossed a bit haughtily. "This is Cade, my... second in command, you could say. This is Riff and-" his hand gestured to Toby-
"Raff, is it?" Cade said with a smirk, taking Toby's hand- the one Riff had been holding earlier- and kissed it.
Toby slowly drew his hand back. "Toby," he clarified. He looked both skeptical and puzzled, unable to decide, Riff supposed, what he thought of the blond stranger. Nonetheless he didn't like it, this exchange between them whatever it was.
Milo cleared his throat. "You'll have to excuse him, he's a bit out of the Old Company."
"Old Company?" Riff asked.
"It's where a lot of us came from, those that have been out here the longest. Back when this city wasn't so ruined and dark, you could say. All those old skeletons you used to roam were lit up just like the city center and there were people all around, numbers you couldn't even fathom now. Only one rook existed back then that kept the streets in check." Milo glanced at Cade for a moment.
"Of course that was still before even my time," he continued. "Remnants of the Old Company still keep to their old codes, but we're a dying breed. We were taught by those who were taught by those who still remembered the old orders."
"That's that you want to create again?" Toby asked. They all looked at him as if surprised to hear him speak at all.
"Precisely," Milo said, looking a little more than pleased. "There are ways to do things without submitting to blind ambition. That can lead to violence far too easily. But ambition on its own is good; it keeps a person alive." He beckoned Riff and left the room. Toby watched them go, then looked at Cade warily.
"He's not yours anymore," the blond said idly.
"What?" Toby felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Though they'd never really spoken before, being in the same room with this kid gave him the chills.
Cade didn't seem to notice his discomfort. "Riff, I mean. As of now, he belongs to the rook. He's not yours anymore."
"I don't know what you mean by that. He never was ‘mine'," Toby said, rubbing the backs of his bare arms.
Cade sat on the bed and leaned close, very close. "Then how can he not be ‘yours' if you don't know what I mean?" he wondered, lazy green eyes searching. "He is fucking you, isn't he?"
"That's none of your business," Toby snapped. He leaned away, sorely uncomfortable at his proximity. He had never been good at being physically close to anyone; Riff was an exception.
The blond was unbothered. He leaned closer. "Ah, so he's not? I wonder if he would mind then if I fucked you?"
Toby shoved him away violently and clutched the sheets tightly around him. He glanced at the closed door. Cade remained where he'd been pushed but Toby knew that if Cade decided to make good on that statement, there would be very little he could do to stop him besides call for help and hope someone heard him. The blond was much stronger than he was, and he was still very sore from his ordeal.
Cade stood up and walked to the door and paused with his hand on the knob. "Lots of things are going to change. He'll be out and about doing important things, do you really expect him to wait at your feet forever?"
"I expect he'll do what he wants. I've never asked more than that from him."
"He seems decent enough, there are reasons why Milo chose him," Cade mused. "But he's still a little too soft if you ask me. He'll always just ask it of you, but you'll never let him in. Me? I would take it."
Meanwhile, Milo had taken Riff to his private loft in the penthouse of the building. At one end of the extensive space a large bed with mused sheets sat amid a finely draped canopy. Sunlight poured in from six large windows along the length of the east-facing wall and streamed over woven carpets covering the hardwood floor. At the other end, where he took Riff, was a study area, complete with a large writing desk and four bookshelves stocked full of books and papers. Milo sat him down at the desk and leaned against it.
"Now we have to get down to business, that's why I brought you here. You will learn everything soon enough, but there is a matter we have to talk about right now. Nothing beyond this point leaves this room. Understand?"
"Good. Now, as you would expect, there are rules in everything, but they can and will be broken from time to time. There is, however, one unbreakable law: you run the business, everything, on your own. As far as the contracts and connections go, it's all on you. No one else can know about them. You make all the deals, see all the faces and you tell who where to go and what to do."
Milo crossed his arms. Well the kid wasn't stupid. One had to expect questions, at least in the beginning. "It keeps the job clean and avoids things like backstabbing and having your kids go off to try and make their own fortunes using your connections. Keeps your operations safe and secret." He paused. "It's a lot on your shoulders, I know, but that's why I chose you."
"What about Toby?" Riff's voice was quiet; he knew the answer already.
Milo shook his head once and gave a wry smile. "Not even him. I should say especially not him. If anyone's going to be a target, it'll be those close to you. I'm sure you'd rather have the heat on yourself alone, if it came to something like that."
Riff nodded and dropped his head a little, as if the weight of these new responsibilities were already laid on him. Milo leaned forward in intimacy and squeezed his shoulder.
"It's necessary, you'll see. I made these mistakes once before you know, but I've learned from them. I lost a lot in the meantime and I don't want that for you." He stood up and moved to the window, lit a cigarette, and stared out over the city as if his past was spread out there before him, so obvious was his rumination.
Riff looked up. "Was it bad?"
Again, Milo nodded. "I lost... someone very close to me because of just that," he said to the cityscape. "My operations got too large, and I didn't keep them such a secret back then. When so many people know your plans, it's just that many more you have to be able to trust, and I didn't have them. In the end it was only Cade, and by then he had become the means of severing our ties with the old mob."
Riff's eyes bored into his back but he really wasn't seeing the tall, dark man there. He was thinking about how Ender's group had gone to such lengths to suss Milo's plans, why they were so very afraid of him.
"You killed them all," he whispered. "Didn't you?"
Milo turned, the cigarette in his poised hand sending little grey tendrils of smoke straight up in the still air. On his face there was a slight smile. "I am responsible enough for it, yes, even if I didn't pull the triggers myself. Cade had always been better at that sort of thing than I, but I'm still better at it than you. You are the one who needs to learn those ways. You will have to kill someday, Riff, face it. And you'll feel guilty and sick and you'll go home to Toby with bloody hands and ask him if he can still love you as a murderer."
Riff was shaking his head this time. "He doesn't love me," he said quietly. "I'm sure he'll be at my side until the day I die, but he doesn't love me."
Milo came to sit by him on the bed again. "Because he won't let you fuck him?" When the blond's eyes lashed up, Milo laughed. "What, surprised I knew? I'd say that the fact that he'll be with you says more about his feelings than some romp in the sack. Cade lets me fuck him every now and then, but that certainly doesn't mean he loves me." And though he was laughing, he glanced at the bed at the other end of the room so subtly that if Riff hadn't been looking right at him, he might have missed it.
part 4 | back to part 2 | back to main