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Julian finished making up his log-entry for the previous two days. He had left out about his making love to Lonts in the field, and especially of Lonts seeing the woman, just in case one of the others read the latter and got too excited. He had a gut feeling that this secret would become vitally important one day, although it was too soon to guess how.
He closed the book and ran his long fingers over the cover in a distracted fashion. It was the middle of the night, the perfect time for reflection by lamp-light, particularly when your thoughts were dwelling on a recent romantic interlude. The time with Lonts in the field had taken on a dream-like quality. It was as exciting to recall as the time long ago when he and Adam had made their first fevered explorations of each other's bodies.
The others had by now all guessed what had happened. Joby had remarked that Lonts would probably now be more spoilt than ever, and before they knew it Lonts would spend all day lying on silk cushions in Julian's cabin, eating chocolates and having his toes kissed.
"No we're saving that for you, Joby", Adam had laughed.
"But only when your balls have fully recovered", said Julian.
"You'd love to be ship's tart wouldn't you, Joby?" said Adam.
"You can't have a ship's tart with a face like mine", said Joby, morosely.
Hillyard had remarked to Julian in private that "some people have all the luck", and "remind me to take Lonts out for a drive sometime". He had been good-humoured about it though, which was more than could be said for Ransey and Finia. Ransey had gone silent and acted as though the human race was now completely beyond his comprehension. Ransey's feelings didn't concern Julian though, whereas Finia's did.
In the privacy of their cabin they had quarrelled quite badly. This was distressing, particularly as Julian could count in single figures how many times he and Finia had fallen out in a serious way over the years.
"It doesn't affect our relationship in any way whatsoever", Julian had protested "My feelings for you are entirely different. I thought you and Lonts got on well these days?"
"I simply tolerate him".
"Oh Finia! I know damn well that's not true".
"I'm fed up with him!" Finia exclaimed "The ubiquitous Lonts. Why does everybody want to screw him?"
"Surely you know the answer to that one!"
"How long is it going to be before you're training him to polish your china?"
"That little oaf? Never!"
"Oh so you might still want me as a servant then?" said Finia, tartly.
"I'm not going to talk to you if you insist on being so utterly daft", said Julian, angrily "For one thing Lonts is Adam's boy, first and foremost".
"At the moment".
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I take it Adam has willed him to you, if anything should happen to him?" said Finia "And then I really will be out in the cold, won't I? No room for skinny black eunuchs then, not when you've got the awesome beauty of the Kiskev Survivor all to yourself".
"SHUT UP!" Julian roared, so loudly he must've disturbed someone's sleep in Marlsblad.
Finia turned his back on him and began to get ready for bed. Julian had never spoken to him like that before, and he was suddenly afraid. Not of Julian. He had once promised he would never harm Finia in any way, and Finia knew that was true, but he was afraid for the future of their relationship after this showdown.
Julian opened the drawer in his desk and slipped the log-book inside. He closed the drawer again, and sighed wearily. He hadn't at first noticed Finia climb back out of his bunk and move across to him. Julian sat back in his chair and stared at him.
"I take it Madam has a complaint?" said Julian, quietly.
"Madam is sorry", Finia lisped, doing a good imitation of a young whore acting out contrition "Does Sir want to punish Madam?"
"Only if he keeps this act up".
"This is where I'm supposed to bare my buttocks to you so that you can attack me with anything to hand".
"I'm sure you'd much rather I didn't".
Finia pulled up his nightdress and sat astride Julian's lap. Julian pulled open the pink satin ribbons that gathered in the front of the garment, and kissed the base of his neck.
"You have the most amazing face", Finia placed his small hands on either side of Julian's head and stared into his eyes "From the side you can look so stern and hard. But from the front there is a softness there, a vulnerability".
"And yours is so mysterious", said Julian "So closed up. Perhaps that's why I find your bouts of temper so frightening".
"Did you think I was going to leave you?"
"What makes you think I'd let you?"
Julian picked him up and carried him over to his bunk, where he lay him down and tucked him in as though he was a baby.
"Sleep now", he said, stroking Finia's forehead "And never forget how I've owed you every moment of my life for these past sixteen years. I wouldn't have any of this now if it wasn't for you".
Julian had decreed that they were to have one last day in Zilligot Bay, mainly to pick up plenty of fresh water and other such precious commodities. It was also a chance for Kieran to get Joby to see the local doctor, in order to get some pain-killers to ease the throbbing in his balls and, oh ominous phrase, check there was no permanent damage.
They spent a depressing morning waiting in a corridor of the local cottage hospital. For such a small town the place seemed to be awfully busy. A man was wheeled past on a bed, attended by porters who were dressed in masks, rubber gloves and boots. And an old man sitting opposite them added to the jolly atmosphere by informing them that he had a malignant tumour in his stomach.
"I don't know how those people get that weird disease I really don't", said Joby, after the old man had left.
"What people? What weird disease?" said Kieran.
"Munchausen Syndrome", said Joby "The one that makes you obsessed with hospitals. I saw a programme on it once, back in our time. They fake illness so that they'll be admitted to hospital. I mean, they must be mad. These places are horrible!"
"Well they can't have you getting to enjoy them, can they?" said Kieran "Or no one'd ever want to leave".
"I'm worried, Kiel. All Uddle did was give me a quick whack. I should've just been winded. I shouldn't have been out of action this long", said Joby "I'm a walking bloody disaster area. Blind in one eye, and now with damaged knackers".
"Mr Joby!" A nurse called from the doorway at the far end of the room.
"Oh God, here goes", said Joby, gloomily.
"After all that moaning on your part", said Kieran, sitting in the town's main bar afterwards "He gives you pain-killers for the throbbing and some deep-heat cream. I had to listen to you going on, just for that!"
"I thought I was permanently damaged", said Joby, indignantly.
"You are", said Kieran "but the damage is not in your balls!"
"I can't help it, Kiel. I hate anything to do with doctors and hospitals".
"You and Adam both", said Kieran "You'd think the amount of time we've come close to death that you'd have nothing left to fear".
"I suppose I'm not afraid of going out with bang", said Joby "Not anymore. But I am afraid of withering away from some horrible disease".
"We all are. Given a stark choice between the two most would prefer the quick, noisy exit".
"It's alright for you".
"How is it?"
"You've never stopped believing in an After-Life, in spite of all the scientific theories. To you there'll always be something better at the end of it all. That must be nice".
"I thought you believed in an After-Life too".
"I'd like to, but in me heart of hearts I don't. And that's why I'm so scared of dying".
"Joby!" Kieran sounded deeply distressed "You've got to believe in life after death. It wouldn't be much damn fun for me if you weren't there. There'd be nothing to do for a start. Me Mam'd have me back making endless cups of tea again! Anyway, it's silly to talk of dying when you're only thirty-six".
"What's age gotta do with it?"
"I know I know. People have died far younger than us. But I still think it's insane to talk of it", said Kieran "My Auntie Graine, me Mam's sister, died of cervical cancer when she was about our age. She knew she was dying a year in advance, but I don't think it ever felt entirely real to her. She always believed she would be given a bit longer, right up to her final few days. And then she said something I've never forgotten. She said 'I have to face it. I'm not just ill. I'm dying. My body is shutting down'. Those words haunted me for a long time. 'My body is shutting down'. It means that we have no control over what our bodies do, not really. So we might just as well not worry about it".
"It's not fair is it?" said Joby "That anyone should die that young. Some people are hardly given any life at all. And others get too much! Like those old people you used to hear about in our time. You know the sort of thing. The oldest woman in the country dies, aged about 950! Puts her long life down to no booze, no cigarettes, and ..."
"Definitely no men!" Kieran laughed "A long and stress-free existence".
"Bloody boring too", said Joby "I always wondered if that sort ever sat there in their residential care homes, celebrating (if that's the word) their trillionth birthday, and thinking 'shit, I'd trade in all these candles on me cake for a few years of hard living! And now it's all too late. And all I've got to show for this great long life is a poxy cake lit up like Blackpool illuminations, and yet another boring telegram from the King!'"
"Not a problem we're ever likely to have, Joby", Kieran smiled "It's not what you get, it's what you do with it that counts".
"Too true", said Joby "Let's get a few more bottles or rum in for the trip".
Ransey had seen Joby and Kieran sitting at one of the battered tables outside the bar, and had been tempted to go and join them. But they looked deep in conversation, and he knew that they got very little chance to talk in private on the boat.
He roamed the small town restlessly, desperate to find something to while away a few hours, rather like a passenger on a coach tour being forced to endure A Day Of Leisure.
The day had started badly when he had overslept past his normal strict ration of hours of sleep. He had enjoyed the luxury of a shave and an all-over wash, but the black dog of depression had been snapping at his heels all the while. He hated disorder, and the last few days had been very disordered. Julian and Lonts going missing for so long, and causing Adam untold grief. Then they had returned, after enjoying a high old time of it by all accounts. And instead of turning on Julian for his disgraceful behaviour, the others had all had a good laugh at it! Not for the first time he wondered if he would be better off living alone.
He walked to the end of the main street and came upon a small, modern chapel, which had been built overlooking the sea when Kieran had re-instated religion. It was cool inside the little building, and he sat on a bench at the back to collect his thoughts. The only other occupant was a middle-aged man, who was pacing around the edges of the room making notes in a book.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you", he said, when he got near Ransey.
"No I just came in to get out of the sun for a while", said Ransey.
"It does get a bit fierce at this time of day. I've only been here a few days, so I haven't quite got used to it yet".
"Are you on holiday then?" said Ransey "Zilligot Bay seems a long way to come for a break".
"I'm writing a book, on the architecture of the New Church".
"Oh", said Ransey. Privately, he thought that going by the simplicity of this one there wasn't a lot to be written on the subject.
"I've been hoping for a chance to talk to the Vanquisher about it. I don't suppose you could ..."
"He doesn't know a lot about architecture", said Ransey, hastily "He didn't have a hand in the design of the buildings".
"How is your trip going?" asked the man "I read about you all setting off some time back. Where is your next port of call?"
"Not sure", Ransey grunted "That's up to Julian really. Somewhere vaguely north".
"Would you like to come back to my lodgings?"
"I hardly think so".
"No, I mean for a cup of tea! I usually have one at this hour. It would make a pleasant change to have someone to talk to. I'm most definitely not after a sweetheart".
Ransey was rather taken aback by his quaint use of words. He had only heard the word 'sweetheart' used in connection with long-term lovers before, not casual pick-ups. It indicated to Ransey more than anything else that he wasn't remotely at risk from being pinned to the wall by this man in a frenzy of naked lust. He agreed to go.
Etyn had rented a couple of rather gloomy rooms in a small house behind the main bar. The rooms were dark and sparsely furnished, but scrupulously clean and tidy. Etyn's books and papers though were tumbled on the bed in a riotous mess.
"I haven't had a proper conversation with anyone since getting here", he said, placing a small teapot with a bamboo handle on the coffee-table "The locals all seem rather stupid, only interested in discussing fishing, or arranging bowls tournaments".
"Some play chess outside the bar of an evening", said Ransey "They're always looking for new opponents".
"Not my game I'm afraid. I find it rather stressful, constantly having to predict your opponent's next move all the time. Perhaps I'm just not very good at anything competitive. Too much of a loner. I have a housekeeper back home in the City, but he irks me to travel with. Talks too much, and constantly inviting home anyone he feels like. I do get fed up with tripping over strangers!"
"I can imagine it'd get on your nerves, especially if you're trying to work".
"No morals", Etyn continued "Has about three relationships on the go at once. I can't understand that I'm afraid. I always thought if you loved someone you were faithful to them".
"So did I", said Ransey, sadly.
"And always eating sweets. I've even found myself hiding bags of them from him, but he usually manages to locate them. Sorry, am I boring you?"
"No, not at all", Ransey lied.
"You must tell me if I am. I so rarely get a chance to have a proper conversation, I've probably lost the art of it", Etyn laughed, and then stopped hurriedly, as though embarrassed by an awful 'faux pas' "You could stay for lunch. I've got a nice joint of veal in".
"I'm not that keen on veal", said Ransey, which was another lie. He had nothing against veal at all, except eating it in this heat.
"Oh", said Etyn, disconcerted "I am".
They sat in silence for a few minutes, which in truth felt like a few hours.
"Well I'd better be going", said Ransey, eventually.
"I want to meet him", said Etyn, abruptly.
"Who?" Ransey's first thoughts turned towards Kieran. It wasn't the first time he'd been in this situation by a long way. Men were always wanting to meet Kieran, often because they had no one else to confide in.
"Julian", came the unexpected response.
"You want to meet Julian?" said Ransey, completely unable to understand why anyone in their right mind would desire to see Julian if they didn't have to.
"I-I used to live in Husgalonghi", Etyn continued "Many years ago, before I became a writer. I worked at the casino there. Julian was quite a local legend. The fair-haired man who lived in the jungle. Who'd rescued a eunuch from the brothel and taken him to live with him. I saw him about the town once or twice. He was always so self-contained. I've kept every press cutting I could find ever since about him. What's he really like?"
"Arrogant", said Ransey "Conceited. Unbearable. Impossible. Selfish".
"As I thought", said Etyn, as though Ransey had been showering Julian with compliments.
"You want to meet him?" said Ransey, in disbelief.
"Could you arrange it?"
"Easy", said Ransey "Just come back to the Indigo with me".
"You'll introduce us?"
"It'll be my pleasure", said Ransey.
The sun had gone down, and the Indigo was tucked up in the marina amongst the other boats, like a litter of puppies sharing a basket. Music came from some of the boats, and men strolled the gangways between them, frequently distracted by the scene on the forward deck of the Indigo.
Kieran had taught Lonts how to play hopscotch, and he was now alone on the forward deck, chucking a pebble at the squares Kieran had marked on the floor earlier that day. Lonts was also being watched from the Indigo itself.
Now that the sun was setting Julian had changed into a pair of black silk pyjamas, and was leaning on the topside doors smoking a cheroot.
"Are you watching me?" said Lonts, straightening up. He wore only his white shorts and was looking incredible.
"What do you think?" said Julian "You're a little tart, do you know that?"
Lonts ran over to him and flung his arms around his neck.
"You can't be awful to me anymore", he said.
"Oh no?" Julian smiled "Think you've got me under your spell do you?"
"I know I have".
"Very astute. You're right of course", said Julian "I'm your slave completely, just as I am Adam's. But that doesn't mean you hold all the aces. I could still put you across my knee if I wanted to".
"But you couldn't hurt me".
"I'd have your backside ringing".
"Jules!" Adam snapped, as he came up onto the deck "Don't talk to Lo-Lo like that. He doesn't play our games".
"Adam", Lonts complained "I'm not a baby. I know the difference between someone being angry and someone having a bit of fun".
"Of course he does", said Julian.
Lonts went back to the game. Adam walked over to the far bulwark and stared moodily at the other boats in the marina.
"You must stop worrying, Ada", said Julian, moving up close and slipping his arm round Adam's waist "You can trust me with him".
"I hope so", Adam muttered.
"Haven't you noticed?" said Julian "Lonts is like the the rest of us. He finds it quite exciting if you speak to him in such a fun way. I'm not going to hurt him. I wouldn't dare. You'd probably kill me!"
"You care for him a lot don't you?" said Adam "It's not just lust, is it?"
"No, it's not just lust", said Julian "Although at certain times, in those shorts, it plays a large part!"
"Jules", Adam looked stricken "Don't take him away from me. You don't have to prove to me that you can".
"For God's sake", Julian chucked his cheroot in the water and then stroked Adam's face tenderly "Why should I? The only way you could possibly lose Lonts would be if you turned into an old woman completely. Lonts is like the rest of us, he wants excitement occasionally. Damnit Adam, if you were to stop mithering him and treating him like bone china all the time, he wouldn't give me the time of day and you know it! He may be your little boy but he's also a man, and we all know what that means!"
"I know", Adam smiled "It's just that I was his protector long before I was his lover, and old habits die hard".
"Do you mean to tell me, that looking at him now, you don't want to take him below and simply let nature take its course?"
"Are you kidding!" Adam glanced over at Lonts and pulled a face "I'm practically crossing my legs here!"
"Then go to it Mummy Bear", Julian patted his bottom "Have one on me, on condition you let me get lost with him again sometime!"
"Oh Jules, this is immoral".
"But I'm going to take him below anyway", Adam continued, hastily.
"Have I done something wrong, Adam?" Lonts stood in the middle of their cabin and twisted his hands anxiously "I thought you didn't mind me talking to Julian like that".
"Of course I don't mind", Adam put a chair under the door-handle "It's just that occasionally I forget to take my kid gloves off".
Adam undid his own shorts and stepped out of them. His penis was already erect, and Lonts smiled at the sight of it.
"I need you now", Adam whispered, pulling him towards him "We are lovers, you and I. I'm sorry if occasionally I've forgotten that".
Lonts pushed him onto Kieran's bunk and then knelt at his feet. He grabbed Adam's penis in his hand and leant towards it. Lonts sucked at it so vigorously that Adam was both nervous and excited in turn. He put his hands in Lonts's hair and pushed him down harder into his pelvis. When he came it was with a terrifying shudder. He arched his back and felt the most delicious sensations flood his body.
"Oh God, Lo-Lo", he said, pulling him up towards him afterwards "You're sensational. Take me from behind. Please, take me from behind".
A dark cloud seemed to pass over Lonts's face.
"What?" he said, heavily "With my puny dick?"
"That what you think is it?" said Adam, angrily.
He pulled Lonts across his lap and whacked him as hard as he could several times. As spankings went, it was the worst Lonts had ever been given, surpassing even those by Julian. Lonts screamed, but he feel his penis poking urgently at the cotton fabric of his shorts, and knew he would come at any moment.
He managed to wriggle off Adam's lap, pulled off his shorts, grabbed Adam by his wrist and pushed him onto the floor. Adam squatted there like a frog, hanging onto the edge of his bunk, whilst Lonts entered him. He thrust into him, and Adam felt Lonts riding his back. At the climax the boy gave the most exquisite little moan and shudder, and then clung to him as though he never wanted to let him go.
They lay together on Adam's bunk for some time, side by side. Then, without any warning, Adam began to vigorously massage Lonts's cock and balls. Lonts was overjoyed when he found himself rising again so soon after the last session. He bellowed in ecstasy when Adam sucked him off.
"I wasn't expecting you to do that", said Lonts, afterwards "I thought you'd finished with me".
"Nope", said Adam "I was determined to make full use of you. If you hadn't got aroused again I'd have been very cross".
"Would you?" said Lonts, sounding worried.
"Oh yes. I'd have probably spanked you again", said Adam, lightheartedly "No good looking furious Lo-Lo. If you want Julian as a lover you've got to expect these techniques".
"Now you're being mean", Lonts began to cry.
"Goodness, Lo-Lo I'm not", Adam gathered him into his arms "It was just a little joke. I thought you were playing along. Did I hurt you?"
"Yes", Lonts sniffed.
"Would you like to get your own back then?"
Lonts broke into a huge smile, whilst the tears were still fresh in his eyes.
"No I couldn't", he laughed "But don't you go getting sarcastic with me again, o.k?"
"I adore you", Adam kissed him all along his arm and then transferred to his chest "I had to punish you for being unfaithful to me. Can't let Julian have all the fun".
"It was my fault", said Lonts "That me and Julian made love. I got him going".
"I'm very glad I hurt your little butt then".
"We can work it out though can't we Adam, make it alright?"
"I think we already have", said Adam "More than alright in fact".
"Are they gonna be long down there?" Joby snapped, pacing the forward deck which was now lit by small lamps.
"Don't be so unromantic", said Kieran, sitting cross-legged on the deck "Have another glass of rum".
"Don't fret about it, Joby", said Hillyard, picking up the half-empty rum bottle "If they're planning to make an all-night session of it you can come into my bed".
"Great", said Joby, unenthusiastically "You should hear some of the noises coming from down there. Grunts, screams, slaps".
"Really?" said Kieran "I hope Lonts is alright".
"Course he is", said Hillyard "Why shouldn't he be?"
"Adam's a jealous man", said Kieran "I hope he's not taking it out on the boy because of what happened with Julian".
"It sounded like a bit of fun to me that's all", said Joby "Put it this way, I couldn't hear Lonts begging him to stop. And you usually can when he's being punished!"
"He probably wouldn't have thanked you for interfering at that moment", said Hillyard.
"It's this boat", said Joby, sitting down in the middle of them "I've said all along that it's making us all more crackers than usual. Everybody going at it hammer and tongs. There's no finesse anymore, no subtlety. No fine art of lovemaking. Just animal behaviour".
"Oh shut up, you're beginning to sound like Hirrid", said Hillyard.
"Take no notice of Joby", said Kieran "I get this speech a lot. But he's not remotely interested in subtlety when it comes to sex. He never has been".
"It'd be wasted on you, that's why", Joby retorted.
"Wasted on both of you", said Hillyard "You're a couple of horny little bastards who just want a good screw".
"Takes one to know one", said Joby.
Lonts suddenly emerged through the topside doors, with the after-glow of lovemaking on him.
"Oh", said Joby, tipsily "You're still in one piece then?"
"Going at it a bit strong by all accounts", said Hillyard.
"Adam can be very exciting", said Lonts, imperiously.
"We know", said Joby.
Kieran poured out another cup of rum and handed it to Lonts. He had his own feelings battened down firmly, but he knew the jealousy was lurking there, and was uncomfortably aware that Joby knew it too. Kieran got up and walked onto the poop-deck. Joby followed him.
"Don't taunt me, Joby", Kieran whispered "I'm not proud of me feelings".
"What are they then?" said Joby, sharply "Don't tell me, I can guess. You can no longer feel superior to Lonts in Adam's eyes. And you always have in that department haven't you? You've always thought that Lonts couldn't excite Adam quite like you do".
"I told you I wasn't proud of it!" said Kieran "I don't like meself for feeling like this. But when Lonts appeared just now, I couldn't help but feel he'd finally taken the last little bit of Adam away from me".
"Yeah he probably has", said Joby, simply "And there ain't a thing you can do about it".
"No", Kieran giggled, tearfully "That's life for you isn't it!"
"It doesn't mean he's stopped loving you", Joby sighed.
"I know. But I was just thinking about the first time we were in Marlsblad. I was the centre of Adam's universe, and beginning to think it'd always be like that. And Lonts was just this scruffy, disturbed little boy who Adam had no patience with".
"And I was still screwed up about everything", said Joby, shortly "It was all a long time ago. Life moves on".
"I hope you don't. Move on from me I mean".
"Not a chance", said Joby "Anyway, Adam's still with us. That's the main thing".
"Yes it is", said Kieran, quietly "And that's all that matters at the end of the day".
Joby looked down to the forward deck where Hillyard had fallen asleep on his back, holding his glass to his forehead. Lonts was sprawled with his head on Hillyard's chest.
"What a sad bloody lot we are", said Joby "We don't belong anywhere".
He stayed drinking on the deck after the others had gone below, and was still there when Adam sneaked up for a surreptitious smoke, using a cheroot he had filched from Julian's cabin.
"It's no good giving you sensible advice is it?" Joby sighed.
"Quite", said Adam "And how many glasses of rum have you had this evening whilst you're on medication from the doctor?"
"Not as many as Kieran", said Joby "He's completely gone".
"Is he alright? He was very terse with me just now".
"Just being daft. And he'll be the first to admit it too. He gets jealous of Lonts occasionally".
"Poor old Patsy. He's not reason to. I want you all, and I'm never going to stop caring for him. Not ever", Adam's shoulders sagged wearily "His father has got a lot to answer for. Somehow I've got to persuade Pats I'm never going to abandon him like he did".
"Shouldn't be too hard", Joby winked.
"Mm. Perhaps I should take you both in hand".
"Both of us?" Joby exclaimed "It's been a while since we had one of those sessions".
"Too long obviously".
Adam rested on the bulwark, and Joby admired the golden hairs on his arms. He was just leaning across to him, when Kieran appeared on the steps to the poop-deck. He had pulled on one of Joby's t-shirts, and was having trouble staying upright.
"The water's getting a bit choppy", he said "The boat's rocking a lot tonight".
"Sea's like a millpond actually", said Joby "It's more a case of you being completely rat-arsed".
"We'd better get him back down between us", said Adam.
They had manoeuvred him onto the forward deck when Ransey appeared on the boardwalk accompanied by a thin, middle-aged man with thinning hair and wearing an incongruously flashy waistcoat.
"Oh look", Kieran exclaimed "Ransey's brought a wee friend home".
Ransey looked dismayed to find Kieran in such a condition.
"Why does he do it?" he whispered to Joby, after Adam had taken Kieran below "He never thinks of how disappointed people might be to see him in such a state".
"I thought you were better than that", said Joby "I thought you cared more for Kieran than what other people might think of him".
"I do", said Ransey "Which is why I don't like it when he lets himself down".
Joby, fuelled by several rums combined with anti-biotics, suddenly punched Ransey in the stomach. When he saw Ransey crumple like a crisp-bag, he was appalled by what he had done and hurtled below.
In his cabin he found both Lonts and Kieran asleep, and Adam standing in the middle of the floor, stark-naked. Joby slammed the door, and hastily jammed the chair back under the handle.
"It's Ransey", he repeated "He's gonna be fucking furious. I just punched him in the stomach!"
"He was being all pompous about Kieran. I don't know what came over me. Oh God, help me Adam. I must've been mad. Hitting Ransey of all people!"
"Calm down. He's not going to shoot you".
"Oh no? Try telling that to Angel, or any other of those blokes he's killed".
"He had good reason to kill them", said Adam "Whereas he's hardly going to blast your brains out for a drunken punch".
The door handle rattled in an aggressive manner.
"Adam!" Joby looked wide-eyed with terror.
"Get into bed", said Adam "I'll use my charm on him".
Joby hid behind the blanket in the middle of the room, and listened anxiously as Adam opened the door.
"There was no call for violence", Ransey spluttered.
"You must excuse poor Joby", said Adam, soothingly "He's awfully tired".
"And drunk", said Ransey.
Adam stepped out into the gangway, exposing himself fully to Ransey's gaze, as well as that of Etyn's.
"Surely not embarrassed old love?" said Adam, slipping his arm round Ransey's shoulders "But you've seen what I've got loads of times".
Adam pressed himself up against Ransey and caressed his cheek.
"Adam!" Julian bellowed, from nearby "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Just calming Ransey's frayed nerves", said Adam, stepping away nonetheless "He was feeling a little bit frazzled, and I thought I could make him feel better".
"Have you been drinking?" said Julian, sharply.
"No I haven't. And I'm probably the only person on this tub who hasn't!"
"Go to bed, you tart!" said Julian "I'll see you in the morning".
"Oh I do hope so", said Adam, sliding back into his cabin "Night night".
"I'd appreciate it Ransey, if you didn't encourage him", said Julian, moving back towards his own cabin.
"But I didn't!" Ransey protested.
"He's daft enough at times without you urging him to be even more so".
"I resent that, Julian. I had no idea he was going to start throwing himself all over me".
Julian gave a sigh of annoyance and opened his cabin door.
"Just a minute", said Ransey, hurriedly.
"What is it now?"
"I've brought Etyn back to see you".
"Because, strange as it may seem, that's what he wanted".
"I'm in no mood for making new friends", said Julian, shortly "And I want him off this boat by tomorrow. I've certainly no intention of taking in stowaways".
And with that he slammed his cabin door shut.
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