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Genre: Drama, Modern, Sci-fi, Dark, Crime
Word Count For Chapter: 12770
Rating: NC17 / M for story as a whole.

Advisories are in Part 1. I am a little rusty here so just assume they all apply.

Pleasantries - Chapter 6 - In the line of Duty - Part 3


Saturday 3:40 PM

“Thanks for cleaning up the pool house this morning,” Lilith said as she rummaged through her closet, “You and Tel didn’t have to do that. I was kind of expecting all hell to break loose when Rythe walked in.”

Ripp shifted slightly settling back against the pillows on Lilith’s bed, “No problem. Damon is out right now replacing what you guys drank so we should be okay.”

She stepped back holding two dresses, one black the other green, up against herself and studying her reflection in the mirror, “I would have helped if you’d woken me.”

He shrugged, “You had a late night.”

She flashed him a smirk in the mirror, “And you didn’t?”

Ducking his head he blushed, his hand reaching out to fiddle with the lamp cord on the bedside table, “So, who is this guy you are going out with?” he asked changing the subject.

She shrugged hanging the green dress on the closet door, “His name is Caelan and he works with Tybalt. He seems nice and does seriously distracting things to a pair of jeans.”

Ripp grinned, “Can’t argue with a guy who wears jeans well.”

Crossing the room she tossed the black dress on the bed beside Ripp, “You have no idea. The ass on this guy …” her sentence trailed off into a wistful sigh as she pulled her shirt off over her head.

“Wow,” Ripp laughed sitting up to remove the hanger from the dress on the bed while she finished getting undressed, “That good, huh?”

She nodded tossing her jeans over the back of the desk chair, “Yeah, it’s that good.”

“Well,” Ripp stood up handing her the dress. He waited until she had pulled it over her head before he continued, “I hope the rest of him turns out to be as good as his ass. You deserve a nice guy. Turn around I’ll help you with the zipper.”

* * *

Saturday, 6:40 PM

Juliette sighed propping an elbow on the table. This evening was turning out to be worse than she had expected it to be. She’d known when she told her grandfather about her and Telesto breaking up that the old man was going to start looking for a suitable husband for her. She hadn’t expected him to spend the evening parading one eligible bachelor after another past her at a charity benefit. It was all rather humiliating really, she thought toying idly with a fold of the pressed table cloth, her foot tapping against the leg of the table in time with the music.

At least the DJ had good taste. She hummed quietly along with the newest release by Justin Talbot. Now there was a guy she would be alright with her grandfather presenting to her, tall, blond, gorgeous and talented. Tybalt had teased her about the posters of Justin Talbot and his band when she’d first put them up in her room, but Juliette hadn’t missed the appreciative look her brother had sent toward the image of the band’s frontman. A guy like Justin would be top of her list for potential spouses.

A familiar laugh cut through her fantasy. She turned in her chair a wide grin spreading across her face as she spotted Lilith sitting two tables over. She got to her feet and threaded her way over to Lilith’s table.

“Hi,” Juliette smiled at her friend as she approached, “Mind if I sit here, I am trying to hide.”

Lilith looked up, “Jules! Hey, yeah sure, you can join us. Do you know Caelan?”

“No, we haven’t met,” Caelan answered standing to pull out a chair for Juliette, “Caelan Faulk.”

“Juliette Capp,” Juliette flashed him a smile taking the offered seat with a relieved sigh, “Thank you. Grandpa is on the hunt and if I have to meet one more ‘suitable candidate’ tonight I am going to cry.”

Caelan chuckled as he took his own seat again, “I think I met your grandfather earlier. Old guy with a pointy face and a sour expression?” at Juliette’s nod he continued, “Yeah, I met him.”

Juliette groaned, “Tell me he didn’t try to set you up with me.”

“Actually,” Caelan grinned at her, “He did.”

Juliette dropped her head to the table, “Someone shoot me.”
* * *



Saturday, 10:15 PM

Lilith let out a content sigh and placed her head on Caelan’s shoulder while they swayed to the music. Dinner had been wonderful and far less awkward than she had expected thanks in large part to Juliette’s ability to carry a conversation. Caelan had proven to be easy going, charming and very attentive. The whole evening had sort of breezed past with an easy relaxed feeling and when Caelan had asked her to join him on the dance floor she had accepted without hesitation.

All in all it had been a perfect first date.

Caelan turned his head, lips brushing against her ear as he spoke, “Can I take this to mean you won’t turn me down for a second date?”

Lilith smiled lifting her head to look at him, “I think you could probably talk me into that.”

He stopped their slow swaying; hooking a finger under her chin he tilted her chin up, “How does Friday night sound?”

Nodding Lilith leaned closer, “Sounds good.”

Caelan smiled, “I’ll pick you up at 6.”

Then he kissed her and Lilith felt her stomach flutter as she melted against him. Oh yeah, she was definitely up for a second date.

* * *

Sunday 12:40 PM

Tybalt leaned over the camera frowning. The damn thing was ancient and he didn’t have the faintest clue how to work it. He had thought it would be fairly straightforward, how much could technology really have changed over the years? The answer was a lot. He’d learned that just trying to set up the tripod on the rocky ground of the park path next to the fountain. It had taken nearly half an hour to get the thing to be steady on its legs and somewhere approaching level. Trying to actually take a picture with it was starting to make his head hurt.

“No luck yet?” Lilith asked from her seat on the bench a few feet away.

He shook his head, “No, I’m still doing something wrong.”

A short distance away Ripp leaned against the large willow tree watching a couple strolling along the edge of the pond, a thoughtful frown creasing his brow. The man of the pair looked vaguely familiar. There was something about the messy blonde hair and glasses that was nagging at him but he couldn’t seem to place where he recognized the guy from. The sense of recognition was not what held his attention. His focus was drawn to their clasped hands, a casual gesture but one which spoke volumes. He watched as the man squeezed the woman’s hand, smiling broadly, his free hand gesturing toward something by the fountain and spoke too quietly for Ripp to hear. Their conversation didn’t matter. The ease with which they just were, together and unafraid to show it, sent a small pang of envy through Ripp and his frown deepened.


* * *


“Oh!” Winston squeezed his companion’s hand, his smile widening as he gestured to the bench next to the fountain, “There’s Lilith.”

The woman beside him pursed her lips disapprovingly, “No. You are not working today.”

Winston glanced down at her as they kept walking, “I was only going to go over and say hello.”

The woman sighed, “Can’t we both just leave work at work today?”

“Oh course, Darling,” Winston smiled, dropping a kiss on her cheek.


* * *


It was stupid Ripp decided as he watched the couple round the end of the small pond. He wanted that. It was such a simple thing no one else even noticed and why would they? A couple holding hands was every day, common place, normal. “Hey, Tel?” he called over his shoulder.

Telesto stepped up behind Ripp, “What’s up?”

“I …” Ripp hesitated, glaze flicking around them before his eyes settled back on the couple by the pond. Simple, normal and terrifying. He shook his head, “Nothing, never mind.”

He was still hiding. He knew it and while he didn’t want to be he wasn’t sure how to stop. How did you break a habit of a lifetime? How did you overcome an instinct born of self-preservation? How did you take that step from being so careful to not caring who saw your true self and to hell with the consequences?

* * *


“Ha! Hell yes!” Tybalt exclaimed.

Lilith looked up. Tybalt was practically bouncing where he stood behind the antique camera looking through the viewfinder. “You got it?” she asked, hopefully.

“I fucking got it!” he grinned at her leaning down to adjusting the tripod, “Now, what the hell am I taking pictures of?”

Lilith smiled sympathetically, “Still no inspiration, huh?”

Tybalt scowled staring around him for a likely subject, “Inspiration is a myth invented to fuck with people.”


* * *


Ripp sighed; the answer was as obvious now as it had always been. If you want to stop hiding, step out into the light. Squaring his shoulders he turned to face Telesto, “You know I’m stupid right?”

Cocking his head curiously, Telesto squinted at him, “I don’t know if I would say stupid …”

“No,” Ripp shook his head, slowly advancing forward to back Telesto against the trunk of the tree, “Definitely stupid.”

“Okay,” Telesto’s eyes went wide as Ripp reached out sliding an arm around his shoulders, “kind of starting to agree. We are sort of in public here.”

“Told you I was stupid,” Ripp murmured lowering his head.



* * *


“You’ll find …” Lilith trailed off as Tybalt froze mouth dropping open in awe.

A moment later he seemed to give himself a mental shake and sprung quickly into action grabbing the camera and repositioning it.

“Tybalt?” she asked, concern colouring her voice “Is everything okay?”

“Perfect!” Tybalt exclaimed, leaning down to line up his shot, “It is just perfect!”

Lilith shook her head, confused, “What is?”

Tybalt grinned as he pushed the shutter button on the camera, “Inspiration.”




* * *

Across the park a boy in faded, ripped jeans and a denim jacket brushed a strand of shoulder length black hair out of his face as he hopped the fence behind the service building. It had been a wasted trip, he’d found nothing and now it was a long way back. If he didn’t hurry he would be late. He couldn’t be late. He couldn’t afford the fine again.

Rounding the corner of the service building he caught sight of two men he recognized immediately. The sight caused him to freeze in his tracks, his heart pounding fearfully in his chest. “I don’t have fucking time for this,” he hissed under his breath. Pressing himself flat against the wall he did his best to blend in with the shadows. He had no choice but to stay hidden, unseen and wait them out. Unnoticed by the two men, their words drifted to him and he strained his ears to make out what they were saying.

“At least four more for now,” the man in the glasses, suit jacket and argyle vest confirmed, “Maybe more, but I will be in touch if that is the case.”

His companion, wearing dark glasses and a black trench coat nodded agreement, “I can do that, going to have to up the price though.”

The first man started to protest only to be interrupted by a raised hand.

“Look,” the second explained, “I don’t care what you do with them; use them for wall decoration for all I give a damn, one less alien freak as far as I am concerned. But when my merchandise, stock that can potentially be traced back to me, turns up obviously murdered? Then I care. It looks bad and the fucking pigs start asking questions. It comes back on me, I end up in jail and you need a new supplier.”

The first man nodded, resigned, “I know. Sorry about that. A few new guys got sloppy.”

The second man shrugged, “Hey, mistakes happen, but you became a liability. It isn’t personal. Consider the extra cost incentive to not fuck up again, yeah?”

“Alright,” the first man agreed, as the two men began to make their way out of the park, “Can I expect delivery as usual?”

His stood for a moment, his mind racing. Things were worse than he’d thought.

Double checking that the two men were far enough way that he wouldn’t be noticed, he took off running from his hiding spot. There was little time to lose if he was to make it back in time and now he had one more stop to make before he got to work. No longer was he going on a simple gut feeling, now he knew.

It had just become his problem.

In his distracted state he didn’t see the red haired girl step out in front of him until it was too late to alter his course.

“Shit!” he swore as he bumped into her sending her sprawling into the bench, “Sorry.”

She let out a startled cry as she fell gaining the attention of those around them. People began to cluster around them. To his dismay they had attracted the attention of the two men as well. Shooting the girl an apologetic glance he mumbled “Sorry” once more before he set off again at a dead run. Luck was with him. The men hadn’t recognized him. It had been years since he had seen them after all and he was long gone before they really got a good look at him.

“What in hell was all that about?” Tybalt asked helping Lilith to her feet.

“I don’t know,” Lilith mumbled clutching her head as she staggered unsteadily to her feet.

“He looked scared,” Telesto mused staring after the rapidly disappearing figure in the distance.

“You okay, Lil?” Ripp asked as Tybalt helped her to the bench.

“Yeah I think so,” she replied, still sounding shaken.

Winston pushed through the crowd of onlookers to crouch down in front of her, “You’re bleeding,” he stated, his voice tinged with concern.

Lilith glanced up, startled to see him there, “Winston? What are you doing here?”

He smiled warmly at her, “Picnic with a friend,” he replied, gently turning her head from one side to the other looking for any other injuries, “I live right across the street so we are here often.”

“Oh,” she returned the smile, still looking slightly dazed.

Winston turned his attention to her scraped cheek, examining it closely, “Doesn’t look too bad,” he said after a moment, his smile returning as he met her eyes again, “Come with me. We will get it cleaned up and you should be good as new.”

“Okay,” Lilith agreed rising to her feet.

“Are you okay to walk?” he asked, wrapping an arm around her just in case.

“Yeah,” she smiled up at him, “I’m good, thanks,” but she didn’t protest the arm that remained around her waist, just in case.

Ripp, Tybalt and Telesto stood staring after them wearing matching expressions of stunned confusion.

 “Wow,” Ripp said after a moment.

“Wow and then some,” Tybalt agreed.

 “Are they always like this?” A woman holding a picnic basket asked joining them.

The three boys turned to look at her. Ripp recognized her as the woman he had seen walking around the pond with the man he now knew was Winston.

“Don’t know,” Tybalt began hesitantly, “We’ve never met him before. Who are you?”

She smiled, “Hi, I’m Meredith, Winston’s fiancée. Though right now I’m feeling a little …”

“Invisible?” Telesto supplied helpfully as her sentence trailed off.

Tybalt rolled his eyes, “Tact, Tel, it’s a concept you should learn.”

“No, he is right,” Meredith said frowning after the retreating backs of Winston and Lilith who appeared deep in conversation, “I do feel somewhat invisible.”

“That is sort of going around right now,” Ripp put in.

The small group stood in silence for a moment more watching the pair grow smaller before Meredith spoke again.

“Well,” she sighed, “I suppose we should follow them.”


* * *



Sunday 12:55 PM


Winston pushed the door open and stepped back, his arm still around Lilith’s waist, “Make yourselves comfortable,” he said to the boys before turning his gaze to Meredith, “Could I trouble you to put on a pot of coffee?”

Meredith’s brows shot up as she paused regarding him for a moment before she gave a barely perceptible nod, “Of course.”

Once everyone else was inside Winston guided Lilith to the nearest of two couches in the comfortably appointed ground floor living room.

“I will be right back,” he assured her as she sank down into the overstuffed leather of the sofa, “I am just going to go get the first aid kit.”

Lilith nodded reaching up to gingerly prod at her damaged cheek. She felt eyes on her and looked up.

Tybalt stood before her, arms folded staring down at her questioningly. Across the room Ripp and Telesto had settled on the other sofa but were still watching her with the same questioning intensity Tybalt was displaying.

“Is it that bad?” she asked, waving her hand toward her face.

“Oh, yeah,” Tybalt nodded, “I’d say it is pretty bad. The cheek doesn’t look that good either.”

Quiet sniggering from Ripp and Telesto answered Tybalt’s words.

Lilith furled her brows glancing back and forth between her friends, “What?”

Tybalt just shook his head before crossing the room to find a seat on the other couch.

Winston returned a few moments later with a towel wrapped ice pack and first aid kit in hand. He crouched down in front of Lilith and began pulling supplies from the plastic case. “How does your head feel?” he asked taking the top off a bottle of antiseptic before pouring it onto a cotton ball.

“It’s okay,” Lilith answered after a moment of thought.

“No headache?” Winston asked reaching up to blot at her injured cheek with the cotton.

“No, I’m …” her words were cut off by a hiss of pain at the sting of the antiseptic.

Winston gave her a rueful smile pausing in his ministrations, “Sorry. It is pretty well skinned here. This is going to sting.” She nodded and he resumed dabbing at her injury.
Tybalt exchanged a meaningful glance with Ripp seated beside him on the couch before all three boys settled back to watch the scene unfolding before them.


* * *



Sunday, 1:25 PM


He darted into the shadows beside the stairs and pressed himself flat against the wall under the open window. He stood for a moment to catch his breath after the long run from the park. He really didn’t like being here in the daylight.  Fortunately the bar was closed on Sundays so traffic on the sidewalk should be minimal. The car was here, now to get their attention.

“Come on, don’t let me down,” he took one more deep breath, leaning forward slightly to look up at the window above him. He let out a quick piercing whistle and waited. He heard nothing from inside the apartment. A second whistle, longer this time was answered by enthusiastic barking and the sound of claws scraping across a hardwood floor.

“Good girl,” he murmured, grinning. A moment later he heard the sound of a door opening at the top of the steps.

“Settle down, Xoe,” Anto’s voice drifted down the stairs, “You were just out. What has gotten into you?”

Xoe came bounding down the stairs, claws scraping against the concrete of the driveway as she pulled up short at the bottom. The boy crouched down scratching her behind the ears.

“Good girl,” the boy praised the dog, “Thank you.”

Anto stood, hands on hips, regarding them thoughtfully. “Just how well do you two know each other?”

The boy looked up at him flashing a smirk, “We talk occasionally.”

Anto was unprepared for the effect meeting those eyes would have on him as his breath caught in his throat. Well that was just bloody ducky wasn’t it? He’d spent the last two days trying to forget the kiss and all the ways it had affected him. He had thought he’d succeeded in finally putting it out of his mind only to have all it all undone by a look. It all came flooding back. The heat, the delicious slide of bodies, that goddamn little mewling moan … oh hell, who was he kidding? He hadn’t forgotten a damn bit of it.

“I need to talk to you,” the boy said, rising to his feet, snapping Anto out of his downward mental spiral, “somewhere safe.”

“Where did you have in mind?” Anto asked, quickly composing himself.
.
Digging into his pocket, the boy pulled out a folded slip of paper, passing it over to the detective. “Meet me at this address, tonight after ten. It’s where I work. We can talk safely there, but getting in is a bit … difficult.”

Anto glanced up sharply, “Difficult?”

The boy nodded, “Just knock on the door and when someone answers say ‘Visitor’ don’t say anything else and for fuck sake look casual, alright? I have to go.”

With that the boy started to run off, stopping just before the sidewalk he turned back. “Oh, and it wouldn’t be smart to bring your gun either.”

Then he was gone. Anto sighed. He was going to have to call his mother and cancel dinner.


* * *



Sunday 3:20 PM


“Any dizziness?” Winston asked leaning closer to Lilith to examine her pupils for what was probably the eighth time since he’d finished tending her injury, “You are sure you are okay to walk home?”

Lilith rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help a small smile, “Winston, I’m fine. Stop hovering. I really am okay.”

Tybalt, one hand on the door handle, chuckled softly, “We will make sure she gets home okay,” he assured.

Lilith nodded turning her attention to Meredith, “Thank you for the coffee. It was nice meeting you.”

Meredith smiled, “Likewise.” She stood back while the other’s said their goodbyes. It had been nice to put a face to the name Winston talked so much about. Of course, now she had seen them interacting she understood far more clearly just exactly why it was Winston talked so much about the girl. With a shake of her head she turned and made her way over to settle on the sofa waiting for Winston to close the door and join her. When he did at last, she turned to look at him studying his face for any sign he was aware of what was happening. She was met only with calm curiosity. Interesting.

“Is something wrong?” Winston asked after a moment.

Meredith settled back against the arm of the sofa, “How long have you been harbouring an infatuation with your client?”

Winston’s jaw dropped in surprise, “I beg your pardon?!”

“Lilith,” Meredith replied calmly, “You are absolutely smitten.”

“I am not,” Winston scoffed with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Word association,” She leaned forward, arching a challenging brow, “First thing that comes to mind, no thinking about it. Are you ready?”

“I hardly think this is neccess …”

Meredith didn’t let him finish, “Tomato.”

Winston sighed, “Vine.”

“Pencil,” she said immediately not leaving him time to think.

“Graphite.”

“Beach.”

“Bacteria.”

“Chartreuse.”

“Garish.”

“Lilith.”

“Amazing.”

Meredith sat back folding her hands in her lap watching the stages of realization flit across his features. At any other time her professional instincts would have kicked in and watching the truth dawn on him would have been fascinating. Right now it just stung.

“Oh my,” Winston breathed into the heavy silence that had descended on the room.

“Indeed,” She agreed. Under the circumstances ‘Oh my’ was entirely fitting.

Winston slumped forward burying his head in his hands, “How very inappropriate.”


* * *



Sunday, 10:15 PM

Anto parked his car a block away from the address on the paper clutched in his hand. Glancing around at the warehouses around him he entertained the idea of calling Caliban. He should. It was the safe thing to do, the smart thing. And yet he hesitated. That he come alone had not been stated, but something about the conversation left it heavily implied. If his instincts were right he was about to walk into the metaphoric viper’s nest. Going alone was dangerous, he knew it and yet he still didn’t want Caliban to know he was here. Letting Caliban in on the developing situation would only lead to questions. Questions Anto wasn’t ready to tackle himself. Someone should probably know where he was though, just in case things took a turn for the worse.

He climbed out of the car pulling his phone out of his pocket as he stood. Taneli was a good back-up plan he decided, pulling up the older man’s number on his phone as he slowly made his way toward the warehouse listed on the paper.

“Taneli, it’s Anto” he said when the other detective answered his phone, “Listen, I am by the riverside warehouses looking into a possible lead.”

“What’s the lead?” Taneli asked, sounding distracted. Anto hoped he was. It would keep the questions to a minimum.

“Potential informant,” he replied stopping two buildings down from his destination and leaning casually against the brick wall next to a disused service door. He didn’t want to be having this conversation too near to the building he was headed for should someone happen to come out and overhear him.

“You need back-up?”

“Nah” Anto forced himself to sound casual through the lie, “Just routine questioning.”

“Sure,” Taneli agreed, “Let me know what you find out.”

“Will do,” Anto disconnected the call starting down the street once more. A few minutes later he stood under a flickering streetlamp facing a dingy steel door set into aged red bricks. The address stencilled above the door in peeling white paint matched the one on the paper the kid had given him. This was the place.

Taking a steadying breath he raised his hand and knocked on the door. A moment later he heard a metallic scrape as one of the small panels in the door slid back.

“Yo?” came a voice from somewhere in the black void he could see behind the small opening in the door.

“Visitor,” Anto stated, recalling the word the kid had told him. Look casual. Keep alert. The words repeated like a mantra in his mind. Resisting the urge to wipe his sweaty palms against his jeans, he instead focused on meeting the eyes he could feel watching him from the other side of the panel in the door.

“A’right,” the voice on the other side of the door said after a long pause in which Anto was certain he was being sized up.

The door opened and Anto stepped inside into the darkness. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust before Anto could make out the dark figure before him.

“This way,” the man said, gesturing him forward toward the lightened archway.

Anto nodded and made his way through into the next room.

What he had been expecting he couldn’t say, but what greeted him upon entering was not it. If it hadn’t been so well lit he would have thought he had walked into some sort of night club. Towering walls, at least two stories tall rose up before him. They were finished in chunky grey brick. An open rectangle of couches set around a giant woven rug occupied most of the space on the floor. Across one end a staircase climbed to an overlooking balcony. He could see several dark wooden doors leading off the balcony. Running parallel to the stairs was a marble topped bar, well stocked from the look of the bottles packed in on shelving on the wall behind.

There were at least two dozen people present, on the couches, seated on the black leather topped bar stools, sprawled casually in the chairs he could see out of the corner of his eye in the alcove next to the base of the stairs. Anto stopped a few steps into the room to take in more detail. They weren’t just people he noticed, they were men. Every last one of them. Most seemed to be well dressed in tailored suits or pressed casual clothing. Gentlemen’s club his mind supplied only to be amended a moment later when he caught site of the artwork on the walls illuminated by the decorative sconces.

Brothel.

He was momentarily taken aback by the paintings of what amounted to gay porn adorning the walls. Distracted by the blatant display, it was a moment before he noticed the man who had let him in had stopped as well, slightly behind, and was watching him intently. He was about to turn and ask to see the owner or manager when the man spoke.
 
“Hey boss! We got a visitor!”

All eyes turned toward him and Anto experienced half a heartbeat of panic, unsure what to do next. Drawing the attention of the patrons was the last thing he wanted.

He was spared having to make a decision by the sound of a gun being cocked by his ear.

“And it’s a cop,” the man said, his voice a mixture of malice and sadistic glee, “Remember me Officer Nakai? ‘Cause I remember you.”

Anto swallowed audibly as more guns were added to the one pointed in his direction, a small circle of armed men having formed around him with startling speed. He briefly wondered why his instructions had specifically said he was to come unarmed. It seemed everyone else was very well armed.

Slowly, his hands held up to show he had no intent of harm, Anto turned to get his first real look at the man who had met him at the door. He seemed vaguely familiar with his dark skin and long dreadlocks pulled back into a tight pony-tail. It was the ragged scar running down the man’s left cheek bisecting the corner of his top lip which finally tweaked the memory of where Anto had seen him before. “Didn’t I arrest you for Breaking and Entering a month or so ago?” he asked trying to keep his voice impassive, “That didn’t work out so well for you I take it?”

“That’s right, you did.” the man nodded, “Court dates are awful inconvenient and make me a bit tetchy. Don’t make any sudden moves and I won’t be redecorating the place with your blood.”

“Gentlemen,” A new voice soothed as a man pushed his way through the crowd surrounding Anto, “Perhaps we should try asking our guest why he is here before we shoot him, hmm?”

Having made his way through, the new arrival folded his arms and regarded Anto, “Officer Nakai was it?” he asked conversationally.

Anto took a moment to size up the new arrival. He wore a sport jacket over a white button-down shirt and what Anto would lay bets on were black leather pants. Sun-bleached brown curls artfully framed a thin, olive skinned face. The fingers resting against the black fabric of his jacket ended in manicured nails. This was obviously the man in charge.

“Detective now actually,” Anto corrected, keeping his tone light. The guy didn’t look overtly threatening. Meeting him under different circumstances Anto would have said he seemed friendly, but it would be suicide to piss him off while Anto was still at a disadvantage.

“Promoted?” the man arched his brows, “Congratulations. So what can we do for you Detective?”

“Actually,” Anto glanced around at the guns still pointed at his head, “A few less guns aimed at my face would be nice.”

“Of course!” the man agreed immediately, “Put them away gentlemen, I don’t think the Detective means any harm. Am I right?”

“None at all,” Anto agreed immediately.

“Good, good,” the man nodded, “You will of course have to be searched though, you understand.”

“I figured as much,” Anto lied, breathing a quite sigh of relief as the guns were slowly lowered and the men holding them backed off slightly. So this was why he was to be unarmed. He slowly raised his arms and stood waiting patiently.

“Go ahead, Hobbs,” the man who seemed to be in charge nodded to the one who had greeted Anto at the door, “So, Detective, now that things are a bit more relaxed, what brings you here?”

“Well,” Anto began flinching slightly as Hobbs frisked him roughly, using it as a distraction to give him time to think. He remembered the kid’s comment that this was where he worked and made an educated guess, “Word is you might have services I’m interested in.”

“I see,” the man nodded, leaning casually against the arm of the couch behind him, “And where was it you heard about these services.”

“He’s clean,” Hobbs announced, before Anto could answer. Looking disappointed Hobbs moved away slightly but remained watchful.

Anto was grateful for the moment to finish composing his thoughts. Stick to the truth, he thought, even when undercover, as close to the truth as possible to avoid getting caught in a lie.

“You know how it is,” Anto shrugged, “You hear things on the streets, a bit here, a mention there. It’s my job to piece clues together.”

The man nodded again, “I guess it is,” he agreed with a smile, “We can’t be too careful here though, you understand? We have interests to protect.”

“I’m counting on that,” Anto told him. That much was true at least. When the other man shot him a puzzled glance Anto elaborated. “I like my job but certain details would not be so good for me if word got out. Office politics …” he let the words trail off, carefully giving just enough information to make it sound like he was sure of what he was talking about, counting on the other man to fill in the details for him. It seemed to be working.

The man gave him a wide smile, clapping him on the back, “We are very discrete. The name is Riggs,” he said, “Taylor Riggs. Come, let me buy you a drink and we’ll talk.”

Anto followed Riggs to the bar. It was as if Riggs acceptance of him was some sort of queue to the other occupants to resume business as usual. All around them people resumed conversations, drinking and other activities.

“What are you drinking?” Riggs asked when they got to the bar.

“Beer works,” Anto shrugged. A moment later a bottle appeared before him and he nodded his thanks to the bartender.

“Mmm,” Riggs smirked tipping his own glass in Anto’s direction, “Aren’t you a refreshing change of pace. The boys are going to love you once they get over your profession. That is going to be a problem though. They have an understandable aversion to law enforcement.”

Anto forced a chuckle, “I imagine they would.”

Riggs studied him for a moment, “Speaking of the boys, what’s your preference?”

Anto feigned interest in his beer trying to will the images of deep brown eyes, silky black hair and a lip piercing that begged to be nipped at out of his mind. His guess had been correct after all.

“I donno,” he shrugged, “I hadn’t really thought this through that far.” It was close to the truth, as close as he could get for having walked into this blind anyway.

Riggs grinned, “Well then …” he leaned over and whispered something to the bartender. The bartender nodded and disappeared returning a moment later, nodding to Riggs.

“Choose your poison,” Riggs’ smile had a decidedly salacious twist to it as he gestured for Anto to turn around.

Anto turned to see a small group of boys lined up behind him. They all looked so young, in their late teens at most, standing there regarding him warily. How, he wondered, could anyone look at these boys and see anything other than frightened children? He refused to acknowledge his own bigotry as the memory of a slender body pressed against him immediately invaded his mind. Soft lips parting greedily while those damn haunting brown eyes fluttered closed.

He turned back to Riggs, frowning, “They look scared,”

Riggs nodded, “Aversion to law enforcement, word travels fast around here,” to the boys he added, “Who wants to show the Detective a good time?”

The question was greeted by silence and Anto decided to tell Riggs to forget it, make up some excuse about having changed his mind. This wasn’t why he was here. He’d seen no sign of the reason he was here yet and it was time to call off the charade before it went too far. He would play a part to get the information but he was only willing to play that part so far.

His excuses already forming on his tongue Anto opened his mouth to speak when he was interrupted.

“I will.”

Anto froze. He knew that voice.

Turning casually, he hoped, Anto found himself staring directly into the same deep brown eyes that had been occupying his thoughts just moments before.

“Well, well, this is a surprise,” Riggs stated, his brows rising almost to his hairline, “It seems you are in for a treat, Detective.”

The boy shot Riggs a glare.

“They tell me he’s good,” Riggs, continued, “Really good, but he’s arrogant and cold. Fucking Ice Prince that one.”

Arching a questioning brow at the boy, Anto got a challenging stare in return, as if the kid was daring him to say something.

Pushing down memories of a kiss that was anything but cold, Anto nodded, “I like a challenge.

Riggs laughed, “Good luck, Detective. You are going to need it.”

“Fuck you, Riggs,” the boy snapped, grabbing Anto’s hand and leading him toward the stairs.

“I would, sweetheart,” Riggs called after them, still laughing, “but I’m afraid my dick would freeze off.”

“Where in hell have you been?” Anto snapped in a low whisper once they were headed up the stairs out of earshot of everyone else.

“Watching,” the boy replied over his shoulder.

“Watching?” Anto shot back, “Guns pointed in my face, no idea what I have just walked into and you were watching?”

“Sorry,” the boy said with a sympathetic flinch, “I didn’t think any of them would recognize you. I got you out of there as soon as I could. You did well.”

”Would have been helpful to have a bit more information to start with,” Anto countered, as they crested the stairs.

“I needed to know if I could trust you to handle this,”

Anto shot him an incredulous look, “You were testing me?”

“Congratulations, you passed," the boy shrugged, pushing a door open as he did, “After you.”

Anto shook his head as he stepped through the door held open for him and promptly stopped in his tracks.

The kiss they had shared a few days ago had been a means to an end. A way of keeping the kid safe from a threat Anto still was not clear on. It was an ill thought out plan, sure, but there hadn’t been a lot of time to think either. He’d been prepared to go along with the plan and trust that answers would be forthcoming. He had not been prepared for the fall out. Hell there shouldn’t have been a fall out. It was just a damn kiss, an act.

‘Kiss me and make it look like you mean it.’

That was all Anto had intended to do, make it look real. Then biology took over and it was real. Somewhere in the exchanging of chemical signals – pheromones – that never should have happened in the first place, they’d clicked. It had shaken him to his core. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. Even now a part of him was craving a repeat performance. He’d had no intention of acting on that craving. He was an adult for fuck sake, not some hormone addled teenager who struggled to control his libido. He could be professional about this.

That had been the plan anyway, the new plan, a plan Anto liked to think was better thought out. On some level he acknowledged there were flaws in the new plan; cracks already snaking their way through the foundation. He had still had every intention of following through and yet walking into this room he felt his stomach sink as the plan started to crumble around him.

There was nothing wrong with the room itself. It was a nice room, wine coloured wallpaper co-ordinating perfectly with the wrought iron and dark stained wood of the furniture in the dim lighting. No, there was nothing wrong with the room, though perhaps the bed was placed a little too prominently to be perfectly innocuous, more so when it was reflected in the floor to ceiling mirrors along the closest wall. It wasn’t even the assortment of oils and lotions laid out on the bedside table that had stopped him short. No. It was the surprisingly varied collection of adult toys strategically placed to be visible as a person entered the room. Standing proudly on the end table next to the long leather couch, laid just so next to a small pile of perfectly folded towels and an artfully placed set of fuzzy handcuffs as if copied from the pages of one of those decorating magazines. If ‘kinky chic’ was a style, Anto imagined this room embodied it.
 
He was equal parts intrigued and repulsed. Repulsed because he could only imagine what had taken place in this room; his mind unhelpfully supplying him with images of all the ways those toys had been used here. Intrigued because his mind was supplying him with equally unhelpful images of all the things he could do with those toys. It was with a soft snort of self-disgust he noted the other occupant of the room was starring in both sets of the images his mind dredged up.

Giving himself a mental shake he crossed the room to the couch selecting the end furthest from the ‘arrangement’. He caught his reflection in the full wall mirror as he sat and sighed. What in hell was wrong with him?

The soft click of the door closing drew Anto’s attention. He looked up just in time to watch slow slinking steps eat up the distance between them. Anto groaned and stared at the floor. The kid was good, that walk alone was going to drive him to distraction. He had no doubt every move was deliberate. He was also fairly sure the kid was doing it on purpose.

“Sit down,” Anto insisted, adding a strained “please,” as an afterthought. The kid flashed a smirk, an artful, knowing twitch of his lips and Anto realized even that was carefully calculated for maximum effect on his libido. He was going to be a quivering mess before the night was through.

The kid sat and suddenly the couch didn’t seem long at all. It was far too short actually. He shifted uncomfortably trying to put even a few more inches between them. They sat in silence for several moments while Anto tried to compose himself.

“Let’s start with the easy stuff,” Anto said at last, “What’s your name?”

“Does it matter?” the boy asked evasively.

Anto shot him a glare, “Don’t give me that shit. Yeah, it matters.”

“Rick,” came the distinctly unhappy response.

“Got a last name?”

“Contrary,” Rick sighed, “My name is Rick Contrary. I’m from Desiderata Valley. My parents are fucking insane and that is why I left home when I was thirteen and that is why you are here.”

Anto stared at him for a moment, puzzled, “Your running away from home has something to do with the murders?”

“I didn’t ‘run away’,” Rick snapped, “I got the hell out of there before it was too late.” He lowered his head, his eyes fixed on his hands fidgeting nervously in his lap, “You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

Anto leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees, “So tell me.”


* * *



Sunday, 10:40 PM


Winston paced the room. Meredith had left hours ago and since then he had been walking back and forth over the same strip of carpet alternately running stressed hands through his hair and pushing his glasses back up his nose with agitation. This was an unequivocal disaster.

How could he have been so unprofessional, so unethical, so stupid? He would have to quit his job. There was no question about it; he could not continue working with Lilith. Never mind that the thought of continuing to take her parents money while he was harbouring feelings for the girl filed him with a sense of revulsion unlike he had ever experienced before. It was a matter of moral imperative. She was his student.

He thought of Meredith and experienced a fresh wave of guilt. He’d been emotionally unfaithful to the woman he had planned to marry. Planned. Past tense. After his discovery of his feelings for Lilith the parting of ways had been mutual. Meredith had been nothing but kind to him about the whole affair. He didn’t feel he deserved her kindness and understanding but she gave it anyway along with a parting piece of advice, “Do what feels right, not what you think is right.”

The only ‘right’ thing to do under the circumstances was to resign immediately and cut all ties with Lilith. It was for the best. She didn’t need the emotional burden. Even if he never told her, and good gods he would never do that, things would become strained between them. He could not help her in this state. No, it was best to just walk away.

He stopped pacing sinking down onto the sofa with a dejected sigh. It really was for the best. Unfortunately, knowing leaving was the best choice didn’t stop it from hurting.

* * *


Sunday, 11:10 PM


Anto sat back, his elbow propped on the arm of the couch, chin leaning thoughtfully on his fist.

Rick had taken to anxiously pacing the room, “I don’t know exactly what they are doing, but I can tell you that there will be more. I saw my dad and a guy named John Mole in the park today. They were talking about a delivery.”

“People?” Anto asked, “More girls?”

Rick nodded, “I think so. They said aliens.”

“Do you know where they are working from?” Anto asked.

Rick shook his head, “I thought I did, but when I went back there this morning it was empty and had been for a long time. I will give you the address and you can check it out.”

Anto sighed rubbing his temples, “And I thought a potential crazed serial killer with an alien fetish was bad enough.”

Rick let out a dry chuckle, “You wish these guys were only that fucked up.”

Anto nodded, “I don’t relish the thought of a cult killing aliens on my turf. What I don’t get though is why, if they revere aliens like you say, are they killing these girls?”

“That is exactly why,” Rick explained, “They are girls. Aliens only impregnate men right?”

 “So they see female aliens as inferior?”

Rick nodded again, “Females of any species actually, but mostly aliens, yeah. They are ‘abominations’.”

Anto leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. This was a lot to process. “Thanks. I appreciate you coming forth with this.”

“I didn’t really have a choice,” Rick said quietly, steering his pacing to come to stop before Anto, “My dad is one of the twisted dickheads running the thing. I can’t let him do to other people what he did to me.”

“What did he do to you?” Anto asked, concerned.

Rick shook his head, turning away, “Doesn’t matter.”

Anto heard the lie loud and clear. His eyes darted to the mirror. He saw the tears collecting in Rick’s eyes, the determined set of his shoulders as he fought to keep them in check, the teeth worrying ceaselessly at his bottom lip. It was all too much. Anto’s brain was overwhelmed with information, his nerves already on a razor edge of tension. He felt something snap within him and before he knew it he was standing, his arms reaching out to wrap around Rick’s shoulders and pull him back against his chest.

For half a heartbeat Rick tensed.

“Shh,” Anto soothed, resting his chin on top of Rick’s head, “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

It was like opening a flood gate. Rick turned, tears falling in earnest now, his face buried in his hands against Anto’s chest. For a long time they stood still, Anto running a soothing hand over Rick’s back while the boy cried silently against him.

At last, just as Anto’s legs began to protest the effort of standing still for so long, Rick pulled back slightly. Anto loosened his grip but didn’t let go.

“Sorry,” Rick murmured wiping at his wet cheeks with his hands.

Anto looked down at him, “It’s okay.”

Raising his eyes to meet Anto’s, Rick tried for a smile. It failed. He looked absolutely wrecked, eyes puffy and swollen from tears, his bottom lip still quivering slightly.

Anto felt his chest tighten and it was the most natural thing in the world to lean down and capture that quivering lip between his. Later he would curse himself for the bastard he was taking advantage of Rick in such a vulnerable emotional state. He would count himself twice damned for not pulling away when Rick kissed him back. And when they finally broke apart, gasping, long minutes later he knew he was an irredeemable asshole when he bolted from the room.
 
* * *

I want to apologize for those first couple scenes. I couldn't get them to read any less awkward. They weren't even supposed to be here until Caelan surprised me with asking Lilith out. I also had a little trouble finding the character voices. They are back now though. Chapter 7 coming up, hopefully without a 2.5 year gap this time!
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