“Thank you for going, darling,” whispered Michael in Ray’s ear. Michael released his embrace, but not before he had given Ray a brief but firm kiss, and leaned against his desk in his study. Ray tried to dwell on the feeling of Mickey’s lips on his own for a bit longer than strictly necessary, then gave up and decided to face what he would have to do next.
Sighing, Ray pushed a hand through his hair and waved away Mickey’s concern. “It’s fine, dear. Really,” he reassured his partner at his uncertain look. “Just because I don’t like smackies and South London, doesn’t mean I can’t do it. As a matter of fact, it should be me accompanying the boys, since we’ve been there once already and are familiar with the layout.” At the reminder how that little trip had turned out, the two of them grimaced.
“Maybe try not to–“ Michael didn’t get to finish his sentence.
“ – have any accidents this time. I know, Michael. Besides, Laura’s a friend of the family, isn’t she? I do like her and her parents, even with that horrible habit of hers. She’ll probably feel better with a friendly face around to pick her up.” And he did like the girl, really. He just didn’t understand her life choices. But then, he didn’t need to, did he? Thank god he wasn’t a parent. He shuddered to think what any child of his would get mixed up in. Also, he knew his partner. He wasn’t the only one who had taken a liking to Laura. Michael would be more comfortable with Ray around to run this little operation than with anyone else. Even if he hadn’t been certain about this before, one glance at the way Mickey was now nearly lounging against the desk was all the confirmation he would have needed. And the smile he was sporting, god, don’t forget that killer smile. For just a second, Ray had to fight the urge to take the necessary step to close the distance between them and show Michael just what that smile did to him. Then a thought hit him, completely blindsiding him.
“Please, dear god, please don’t let this turn into one of these on-again/off-again things teenagers seem to have now.” He blurted the words out in a rush. Startled, Mickey jerked and then started to laugh.
“It’s not funny, Michael.” His grumbled protest and scowl were completely ignored, Michael was too busy laughing and holding onto the desk to stay upright.
It had all started with a call from Charles Pressfield that morning. Apparently, Lord Pressfield had once again lost his daughter. Or as Anne Pressfield explained during the on-speaker call, Laura had left home a week ago and wasn’t answering her phone. Lady Pressfield was pretty certain that their daughter was staying with the same young man she had been living with the last time, though she had no idea why Laura would choose to stay there. Well, neither had Ray, but there was no accounting for taste. Or more importantly teenage hormones coupled with a teenager’s stubbornness and the occasional desire to displease ones parents.
But the Pressfield’s were good friends. In fact, they were their closest friends from all of Mickey’s assembled Lords and Ladies. And really, Ray was sometimes still surprised how down to earth the couple was. It made them quite likeable and easy to get along with. So yes, Michael was completely right in pointing out that they were his favourite Lord and Lady. But then, Ray only needed to arch his brows and Mickey would laugh and admit that the Pressfield’s were his favourites, too, so look who was talking.
So, there was never any doubt that they wouldn’t help the couple. Instead they agreed to look into Laura’s whereabouts and would try to convince her to return home.
And it hadn’t taken Ray long to verify that Laura had indeed returned to the same bloody lowlife, one Noel Power. Oh joy. Which was why he was spending his afternoon in South London. Glancing out of the car window at the council estate, Ray pinched the bridge of his nose to centre himself and took a deep breath. Slowly, he felt the itchiness and discomfort, that had crept up to him during the drive, recede. A deep sigh expelled the last dredges. Accepting the unavoidable had always helped him calm down.
Turning to his left, he pointed at the driver. “Frazier, I want this car to still be here, in the same condition when we return. Don’t let some kids dismantle it and burn it down.” Because that’s what Ray had done when he had been at the age of these kids. Frazier winced slightly, probably at the mental image of the car’s burning husk. He was rather fond of their vehicle. But then he nodded firmly. “You got it, boss.” Maybe he had also thought of what it would do to his reputation, if some ragtag kids should manage to get the better of him.
Twisting his neck a bit, Ray addressed the men sitting quietly in the back. “Dave and Bunny, you’re with me. Don’t forget to bring the battering ram.” This time around, he wasn’t going to spend more time than necessary in that fucking hallway. Last time had been bad enough, thank you very much. Ray wrinkled his nose as he remembered the smell of beer and piss. He hadn’t looked too closely, nonetheless he was pretty sure that he had encountered some used condoms on his way up there. Who knew what the hell he would have seen if he had really paid attention? Suppressing a shudder, Ray stepped out of the car and strode towards the building. Today was just going to be one of those days, wasn’t it? God, the things he did for Michael.
Knock, kno-kno-knock, knock. Knock, knock. While Ray waited for Power to open the bloody door, he tried not to breath too deeply. His recollection of his last visit seemed, as impossible as he had thought it to be, to have paled with time. Somehow, it smelled worse than it had the last time. God, his suit was going to the dry cleaner immediately and his cardigan – fuck that, he wasn’t going to wash that himself, Ray was going to treat himself to a full out dry cleaner experience, yes. He deserved it. His clothes deserved it. Afterall, he did have the money. And what better occasion to splurge it, than on some thorough dry cleaning.
Just then, the door opened a crack and Noel Power’s suspicious face was peering out at him. Before Ray could say anything, recognition flashed in Power’s eyes and his shoulders slumped.
“Oh, it’s you.”
“Indeed Mr. Power, it is. Now, as nice as it is to be remembered, may I step inside for a moment, please.” Hearing his words, Power paled further, something Ray had thought impossible, but there you go.
“Fuck, don’t break down my door again,” pleaded Power. Ray managed not to roll his eyes in exasperation.
“Then may I suggest you open that door? Then there won’t be any need for us to break it down, will there?” Well, Ray had tried to speak slowly and reassuringly. Because who knew on what stuff Power was tripping at the moment and how long it took his drug addled brain to make sense of what Ray was saying. Considering, however, how he flinched at his words, some of his mocking must have shown through.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll, ugh, just remove the chain. Please don’t break down the door, yeah.” Waiting for his nod, Power quickly closed the door.
Ray could hear him scramble around with the chain. Well, well. He truly must have left an impression. Chuckling, he waved Bunny and Dave to stand down, who had been ready to use the battle ram at his say so. Then the door swung open and Power motioned them inside, while he eyed Bunny and Dave nervously. Or more accurately the enforcer Dave was still holding. Ignoring him, Ray strode into the living room. There on the couch was Laura, looking better than the last time he had seen her. And on a bean bag lounged Brown, Power’s roommate. Choosing to ignore him for now, Ray chanced a quick look around. The flat seemed somehow cleaner? Certainly less grimy and the open plan kitchen was actually in a state where it was recognisable as such without leftover food lying around to mould and used dishes piling high. Interesting. Power had followed Bunny and Dave inside and was eyeing them nervously, while he hovered next to Brown, who had managed to get up and was looking at him with a confused expression.
“Oh. Oh, it’s you,” he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. “Barry Manilow in the tub guy, right.” Looking pleased with himself he glanced at Laura and Power for confirmation. Behind him, Ray heard Bunny chuckle while Power nodded, and Laura rolled her eyes.
“His name is Raymond Smith, Johnny. Not Barry Manilow in the tub guy.” And then quieter but still clearly audible, “how often do I have to tell you.” Shaking her head in exasperation, she looked at Ray and then smiled slightly. “Hello Ray.”
“Hello Laura. You holding up all right?” Last time, she had looked sullen and shallow, in need of a shower and rehab. Today she just looked pale, but in a normal, healthy, doesn’t spend much time outside kind of way, and relatively well taken care of. No lanky, greasy hair, for one thing. So, all in all, Ray was rather pleased.
“Sure.” She nodded questioningly at him. “You still shacking up with Michael?” Before he could formulate a response, he heard Bunny rustling with his newspaper and chuckle good-naturedly. “You’ve got no idea. They’re disgustingly domestic. As good as married, really.” Ray rolled his eyes. Teenagers. Fucking nosy, cheeky buggers, the lot of them. And as for Bunny…
“Stop gossiping about your boss’, Bunny. Or would you rather have a front row seat for what we get up to behind closed doors?” His tone was mild, but still Bunny ducked his head embarrassedly, thoroughly chided.
“Michael? Who’s Michael?” Brown was looking questioningly at Power for help.
“Dude, Michael’s the big dick swinger guy. Runs the puff game. Remember?” Power was clearly proud for remembering this titbit, before he turned to Ray, suddenly looking unsure. “Right, Mr. Smith?”
“Congratulations on retaining some brain cells, Power. Still, let me remind you: It would be better for your health to forget that connection to Michael’s name. Better yet, forget his name completely.” Sighing, Ray pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, before he muttered more to himself than anyone else, “Of all the things to remember, really. I would have thought the heroin would have rotted away any recollection of that conversation.” Apparently, it wasn’t quiet enough, because Brown perked up.
“Oh, Noel and I don’t do Heroin anymore.” Ray stared at him while he waved a hand around their flat and continued in a more subdued voice. “After your last visit, we decided it was too expensive a habit for us, anyway. Now we only do bush, fifty-fifty, old school, like you said.” Well, that explained why his digging hadn’t turned up any heroin purchases since his last visit. And Laura’s more or less healthy condition. Probably also the reason why the flat didn’t look like it needed to be condemned anymore. Huh, who would have thought…
“Right. That’s lovely and all, lads.” This trip had turned weird enough for Ray’s taste. Better to finish it sooner, rather than later. Or who knew what would happen this time. He glanced quickly at the balcony door, then turned his gaze on the reason for this trip. “Laura, my dear. Queen of this slightly improved squalor.” He walked over to her and crouched down, so they were on eye level. “Your parents miss you. They are worried. Please let me take you back home?” He did his best to look beseechingly at her.
“Yeah, sure,” sighed Laura. Then she smiled apologetically at Brown and Power. “Sorry boys. Seems like my vacation is over and it’s time to get back.” Ray soundlessly exhaled the breath he had been holding at her words. Then he eyed the boys cautiously, waiting for their reactions, while he stood up and held out his hand to Laura to help her up. They both seemed to slump down slightly, clearly disappointed, but somehow resigned to this outcome, as if they’d been expecting it? That was rather different from last time.
“All right, Laura,” murmured Power. Brown nodded, then didn’t seem able to stop himself from blurting out, “Come back soon?”
“’Course I will,” promised Laura. “Behave, will you, while I’m gone.” It wasn’t voiced as a question. With a nod to Dave, she sauntered to Bunny, who escorted her down the hallway.
Meanwhile, Ray was having an internal crisis. Shit, that had sounded like she planed on coming back. And not just once. But like regularly. Bloody hell. This wasn’t going to be an on-again/off-again thing. This was way worse. Somehow, Brown and Power had become Laura’s, well, her manstresses. No, that wasn’t quite right, was it? Laura didn’t have a regular partner to cheat on, did she? So, they were her primary relationship. And that was where he would stop to think about this. He was not going to think about how they made this ménage à trois work. Nope. Neither would he be the one to explain that situation to her parents. Michael could be the one to impart that little nugget to Charlie and Anne.
Quite happy with this solution, Ray turned to Dave. “Keep the lads’ company for another minute, will you. And for God’s sake no accident’s this time.” Sternly, he glowered at Power and Brown. However, luck did seem to be in his favour for once. Brown had sunk back down onto his beanbag and Power held up his hands placatingly. “No problem, Mr. Smith. Really.”
Nodding, Ray left after Bunny and Laura. They were just stepping into the lift when he caught up to them. In the lift, Laura glanced at him, while tucking nervously on a strand of hair.
“You impressed them the last time, you know. That’s why they stopped with the heroin. They like you.” Ray looked at her incredulously, while Bunny laughed whole heartedly.
“What the fuck? I mean, what the hell is wrong with those two imbeciles? One of their friends takes a tumble out of the window and they – really, what the fuck?” Laura ignored his rant and just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘what can you do’, but Ray could have spotted her amused grin a mile away. Really, what the fuck?
That night, Mickey trailed one finger along Ray’s chest, while he rested against his side. “Have I told you how much I appreciated that you went to get Laura,” murmured Mickey, his hot breath puffing against Ray’s collarbone. Stroking gently up and down his sweaty back, Ray chuckled.
“I think you more than showed me how pleased you were, dear.”
“Yeah? Are you sure, darling?” Mickey’s suggestive drawl aided by a nail scratching across his nipple had Ray gasp his next breath. And although his cock did his best to twitch in interest, there was no way that either of them was going to get it up again so soon after their last round.
“Mmhm,” hummed Ray, as he let his hand drift lower on Mickey’s back. Down the small of his back, further to his arse, where he teased his crack for a bit before cupped one cheek and squeezed slightly, enjoying the way Mickey’s breath hitched several times. “But since you’re so determined to show me how pleased you are, how about you do something for me, hm?”
“And what’s that,” gasped Mickey, pushing his arse back against Ray’s hand invitingly.
“Well, you can be the one to tell Charlie and Anne that their daughter spent the last week with two South London, council estate lowlifes with whom she is involved in a ménage à trois and will probably return to in the not too far away future.” Ray tried his best to use the same tone in which he usually whispered sweet nothings to Michael but wasn’t able to keep the mirth out of his voice at the end of his sentence.
“Wha–,” for a short moment, Mickey radiated confusion while he tried to make sense of what he had just been told. Ray could see the exact moment of comprehension, as Michaels eyes widened in shock and he cursed. “Holy shit.” Before he started to laugh and then still laughing, Mickey rolled onto his back and buried his face in his hands. After a moment he pushed his hands into his hair, unable to stop his helpless laughing. Leaning over him, Ray gazed down at him, sporting a totally besotted expression, he was sure and simply enjoyed seeing Mickey carefree like this. Soon, Ray was grinning himself and, cupping one his cheeks, leaned down to kiss him, stopping Michael from muttering once more, ‘Holy shit.’