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Better The Devil You Know

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People were overflowing into the streets. They shrieked and laughed as they stumbled into taxis, or in groups down the pavement, wobbling to the next club. On one street a motorbike was tearing its way through the throng. It narrowly avoided ploughing into pedestrians, coming close before sharply turning in time to avoid injury.

An explosion of sound followed the bike, ripping through the chatter of the crowds before finally drowning them out as it travelled further. It wobbled and its two riders bounced on the old seat dangerously, but the bike continued to speed on the asphalt. The riders were nearly invisible in the dark but occasionally (illuminated by the light of the few working streetlamps) two boys in dark jackets and shredded jeans could be made out.

A taxi was parked at a crossroads in front of them, its light was dark and there was no sign of a driver nor a passenger. The front rider began to speak, quickly and quietly, and the road began to crack and split. A stretch of the road in front of the bike was wrenched upwards and soon a makeshift ramp stood ready to be jumped. The bike’s front wheel trembled as it neared the ramp but its rider gripped the handlebars tighter and pressed on. The wheels hit the ramp and the rider jerked the bike up to jump the broken taxi. They flew into the air and the front wheel just brushed the dark TAXI sign when a flash of sickly green light exploded in front of them.

The light solidified and carried the bike the rest of the jump, cushioning its landing, but it nevertheless skidded onto its side. Its riders were unceremoniously thrown off, the first finding himself spread eagled in the middle of the crossroad. He swallowed hard and with difficulty brought his hand up to feel his head and check for injury. Having satisfied himself that his head was fine he turned his attention to his partner.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” He spat from he lay but quickly propped himself onto his elbows when pained groans were his only answer. “Ethan? You alive?”

His inquiry was again rewarded with guttural sounds. “Ahh fuck” he muttered to himself as he knelt and crawled over to where Ethan lay. He stopped for a moment to let his world come into focus but pressed on even when the world remained a touch blurry, he’d gotten used to that in the past months. A concerned frown was etched onto his face as he lent over his prone friend.

In a gentler tone he asked “Hey Ethan mate you alive? We good?” He put his hand to Ethan’s cheek and tapped him softly, then harder when he failed to respond.

Ethan’s eyes opened and after a few tense moments replied “Yeah I think i’m fine,” then with a smirk “all good mate. Were you worried Ripper?”

Ripper was relieved to see him okay but that fucking smirk never failed to piss him off, especially when he defiantly had been worried. He took his hand from Ethan’s cheek and slapped him, his concerned look replaced with a rather more stormy expression.

“Then maybe you could tell me what tHE FUCK YOU WERE THINKIN’?!” Ripper was on his feet, shaking off his jarred limbs and futilely trying to dust off his clothes which were now caked with dirt. Ethan remained where he was, indignantly rubbing his stinging cheek.

“What? Oh wait, when I saved our lives you mean?”

“I had the jump. You tripped me up with that show-off magic bullshit. We’d have been fine if you’d left it the fuck alone.”

“Well i’m sorry for trying to avoid being splattered across the pavement.”

Ripper just looked at him, lying where he was in the middle of the street. He deliberated trying to point out the obvious to Ethan but, as he so often did, he decided to just ignore him instead. He threw his dark jacket to the ground and strode over to the fallen bike. Ethan however was not about to let it go as easily. “

Wanker” he muttered under his breath, but deliberately loud enough for Ripper to hear it. Ripper did not disappoint, standing hunched, inspecting the bike when he suddenly stiffened at Ethan’s voice.

“What did you jus say?” He didn’t turn around but his voice carried across the empty street.

“I beg your pardon?” Ethan feigned innocence, his voice nonchalant. It was a favourite game between them, insult and anger was sort of their idea of foreplay. Ripper slowly turned on his heel, tongue held between his teeth to stop himself from smiling.

“What did you, just then, say to me?” He spoke the words slowly, allowing himself small, slow steps towards Ethan.

“I may have insinuated,” he climbed to his feet as he spoke, his thin limbs unfolding beneath him. He was almost as tall as Ripper but where Ripper’s height was filled out with his broad shoulders and chest, Ethan remained eternally lanky. “that possibly, you were one who brought himself to sexual gratification by-”

“Oh shut up!” Ripper couldn’t wait for Ethan to finish his sentence, the smirk was back and Ripper just needed to wipe it off his face. “You’re gonna pay for that one you know that?” he grinned widely as he lunged at Ethan, who sprinted away and circled to the other side of the street. Ripper chased him and Ethan was forced to duck and weave to avoid him.

He used his greater speed to dance out of the way, giggling as he did so. “Ah! I’m sorry Ripper! I didn’t mean it! You’ve never wanked in your life! You’re a fuckin’ monk!”

Ripper had to stop running as his laughter caught up with him. They found themselves at a standstill, staring at each other across the fallen motorbike. Ripper lifted his hands in a conciliatory gesture.

“Alright, alright.” He raised his eyebrows at Ethan, attempting to look innocent. “I s’pose I’ll let you off this time. Only…”

Ethan looked at him suspiciously. “Only what?”

“Only this!” And with that he lunged across the bike and tackled Ethan to the ground. They scrapped for awhile but there was no contest, Ripper was soon straddling Ethan triumphantly.

“Why must all out conversations end like this?” Ethan wheezed. His breath was coming in short bursts as he laughed, the cold air sweeping into his lungs. Ripper gave him a superior gaze “Frankly, I think it has something to do with your negotiation skills.” He leant down and planted a kiss on Ethan’s cold mouth, his breath warming both their lips. Breaking the kiss, he squeezed Ethan’s sides with his knees before abruptly standing up. Ethan let out a disappointed sound and Ripper winked at him as he swaggered backwards.

“I hope we didn’t lose the others, be a bugger tryna find ‘em now”

Ethan sat up to respond but was stopped by a sudden pain in his chest. “Oh fuck me!” he shouted as he lay back down.

A gravelly voice from the darkness answered him “Well with such an enticing offer, how could I refuse?”