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"Easter", Julian wrote in his log "Or at least we assume it is, going by rough calculations since we regrettably left Toondor Lanpin. We have been back on the Beyond River for a couple of weeks now, and we haven't seen a single soul, apart from ourselves of course. Each of us to a man wishes we had stayed in Toondor, but it is too late to go into all those regrets now. Ransey predicts we should be meeting up with the Great River very soon, and then it will only be a matter of time before we start hitting civilisation.
There is very little to report on a day-to-day basis. Supplies are still good, including the fuel, so we don't have to resume hacking the Indigo about again just yet. Tamaz gives us little trouble, but then we don't give him much chance. We try to make sure Joby is never alone on deck, as Tamaz enjoys tormenting him then. There are many, many times when I wonder why we keep Tamaz alive. I'm sure I'm not the only one to think it would be easier if we shot him, and then went back to Toondor Lanpin and let the rest of the world go hang. But as usual we do what Kieran wishes. Thank God for Adam, he keeps me sane".
"Julian!" Lonts burst into the cabin "You've got to come quick".
"What is it?" said Julian, closing the log-book.
"Tamaz is bleeding. Really heavily".
"Alright, I'll come straight up".
The first thought that went through Julian's mind was that somehow Tamaz had got hold of a sharp implement and had tried to kill himself. As soon as he saw him though he realised this was not the case. The front of Tamaz's trousers were stained with dark menstrual blood.
"What are we going to do?" said Lonts, gazing at Tamaz in horror.
"Get Kieran up here", said Julian "At least he's been married. That's a head start on most of us!"
"We can't leave him in there", said Kieran, as soon as he saw him.
"Are you suggesting we give him the freedom of the ship just because he's having a period?" said Julian.
"Oh Jules, don't be so callous", said Adam "Can't you see he's in pain?"
"It'll just be a temporary move until it passes", said Kieran "He won't give us any trouble. He's not in a fit state to. Adam, can you lend me one of Lonts's nappies? I'll tear it up and make a form of sanitary protection for him".
"Of course", said Adam, and he went below to attend to it.
"It's more bloody trouble than having a real woman around", Julian grumbled.
"How? It's not as if he can help it is it!" Kieran exclaimed.
"Well I suppose at least it means the little horror's not pregnant", said Julian, grudgingly "We really would have problems then".
As Kieran had predicted Tamaz wasn't in any condition to give them any trouble. He was doubled up with stomach cramps, backache, sore breasts, and all the other unlovely gamut of menstruation. Kieran helped him change into one of Hillyard's t-shirts, and a clean set of underpants lined with half of one of Lonts's nappies folded over. For several hours Tamaz simply lay on the sofa in the saloon, nursing his stomach and barely able to concentrate to talk to anyone.
"How long do these things usually last for?" Hillyard asked Kieran, in a whisper.
"A few days", said Kieran "If it's much the same as ordinary human periods".
"Is it normally as bad as this?"
"Oh it varies from person to person. Amy used to suffer badly on her first day".
"We can't put him back in the cage whilst he's like this", said Hillyard "I hope Joby understands".
"I'm sure he will", said Kieran "He can see Tamaz isn't going to be any threat to him like this".
That evening it rained for the first time in weeks. In fact it didn't just rain, it thundered and crackled too. Tamaz continued to lie on the sofa, oblivious to the monsoon raging outside. Julian chafed at having to have him on-board, and went into his cabin to pour out his venom in his log-book, only to find Lonts and Toppy sitting on the floor, surrounded by all the pillows.
"Can't you two play someone else?" Julian snapped.
"There is nowhere else", said Lonts "Tamaz is in the saloon, and Joby and Kieran are in our cabin, and we can't go on deck in this weather".
"Alright, you can stay in here", said Julian "But don't make too much racket".
In the end he was glad to have them in the background as he worked on his log. Their gentle chatter and giggles made a soothing accompaniment to the storm outside. Eventually, as the shadows lengthened, the boys lay down on the pillows and fell asleep.
"Oh Jules, aren't they sweet?" Adam purred, as he came into the cabin with Julian's grog-tray.
"How's the invalid?" said Julian.
"Tamaz? Asleep at the moment. He can stay on here until morning can't he?" said Adam "We really can't expect him to cope with just that rusty bucket in the cage in his condition".
"I'm not a monster, even if he is", said Julian "He can stay. But he goes back the moment it's finished".
"Adam's made a fruit pie, blackberry", said Hillyard, holding out a plate to Tamaz a short while later "Tinned fruit, but it's pretty good".
Tamaz took the plate, and began to cram the pie into his mouth, with his usual scant regard for table-manners.
"I'm not going back in the cage tonight am I?" he said, eventually "The weather sounds foul out there".
"You can stay in here", said Hillyard "Julian's said so. Until your problem stops anyway".
"Good", Tamaz mumbled, with his mouth full "The nights are worse than anything. Being stuck out there on my own. It gets so dark and quiet round here. Gives me the creeps".
"I expect the others will let you stay in here for the time being", said Hillyard.
Tamaz finished the pie and handed the plate back to Hillyard. He stretched out on the sofa, and pulled his t-shirt up, exposing his breasts, which because of his condition, were riper and fuller than usual.
"I feel things much more deeply at the moment", he said, grabbing Hillyard's hand "My breasts are so sensitive at this time. Feel them".
He placed Hillyard's hand on his breasts, and Hillyard's fingers caressed the nipple.
"Pack it in!" Ransey roared, from the doorway.
Hillyard sprang away as though he'd been burnt. Ransey slapped Tamaz round the face.
"Cover yourself up!" Ransey shouted "Get out, Hillyard. You're nothing short of fucking useless".
The two men squared up to each other in the cabin. Hillyard looked like a benign bulldog who suddenly realised he may have to fight his own corner after all. Ransey on the other hand bore a remarkable resemblance to an aggressive Dobermann.
"You're fucking hopeless, Hillyard!" he exclaimed "Any fucking lame dog that's going, that's you, isn't it!"
Hillyard didn't reply. Instead he looked emotional, as though he was too highly-charged to trust himself to speak.
"You stay away from him from now on", Ransey continued, in much the same vein "You don't go near him. Try and remember what he's done, you stupid ... oh forget it, it's pointless talking to you".
Ransey left the room and went into the galley, where he found Finia sitting alone at the table drinking a cup of tea.
"I heard all the row", said Finia, setting out another cup for Ransey.
"Hillyard and his stupid, pathetic sex life", Ransey spat, sitting down wearily "I just got narked that's all. It would have been obvious to anyone that Tamaz was manipulating him".
"Some men are just like that", Finia sighed "It's not like you and Hillyard to fall out though".
"I've normally got used to gritting my teeth where he's concerned", said Ransey "I've had to put up with him as my room-mate too many times to get easily upset by him. Sometimes it's bad enough listening to his snoring and scratching himself in his sleep. It can feel like he's in bed with me, and that is not a pleasant sensation by any means! It was bad enough when we had to share a room back in the City, but at least there I could draw an imaginary chalk line down the middle of it, which he wasn't supposed to cross. Here it's a bit difficult when there's only eighteen inches of space between our bunks".
Finia began to caress Ransey's hair, which had got so long he wore it slicked back into a ponytail.
"I hope you don't mind me doing that", said Finia.
"No I like it", said Ransey "You have such small hands. Perhaps you could move into our cabin, and let Hillyard go into Julian's. I'm sure neither of those two would mind".
"Bengo might", said Finia.
"I'm sorry. I keep forgetting you've got problems of your own".
"It doesn't bother me", said Finia "Everyone thinks it does, but it doesn't. I don't get hurt that easily these days".
"Likewise", said Ransey.
Finia leaned forward to kiss him. Ransey was suddenly acutely conscious of everything. The storm raging overhead, the lengthening shadows inside the galley, and Finia's lip on his. He had never before felt so alive in all his life.
"If only there was somewhere we could go", he said, eventually.
"It is a bit difficult round here", said Finia "But perhaps that's just as well, you might only regret it".
"No, no I wouldn't", Ransey protested "Why is everyone so afraid of me discovering sex, just because I've had to wait for it longer than most?"
Finia didn't reply at first. Instead he kissed him gently, putting his small hands on Ransey's face as he did so.
"There's always the skiff", he said, eventually "Under the tarpaulin".
"I wanted something more romantic for you than that", said Ransey.
"That is romantic, in its way", Finia grabbed his hands and pulled him to his feet "Come on Ransey, before you lose your nerve".
"You've got me afraid now", said Ransey, reaching for his spectacles in the gloomy, green darkness "I'm going to be afraid Julian's going to come after me with that bloody horse-whip of his".
"I hope you don't regret it", Finia stretched, languorously.
"I could never do that", said Ransey, earnestly "You've done so much for me. But you'll never leave Julian will you, not even for me?"
"No", said Finia, candidly "But that won't change anything. He's not a bad person you know. People always mis-judge him, but he's so vulnerable really. He likes to make out he's cruel and decadent, but it's joke really. He's very in love with Adam for one thing ... and so are you".
"Is there any rule on the Indigo that says a man can't be in love with more than one person at a time?" said Ransey.
"I suppose not".
"You've done a lot for me this evening, Finia".
"Don't say anymore", said Finia, hastily "Or I'll feel your tart, and neither of us wants that".
"That's certainly not my intention".
"Good, then let's just accept the muddle as it is", said Finia, and they embraced once more.
"In some ways I'm glad you decided to let him live", said Joby, standing on the forward deck the following afternoon as the Indigo shoosh-shoosh-shooshed her way up the Beyond under the baking sun "Let Tamaz spend an eternity worrying what's going to happen next, as I did".
"In spite of the trouble he's causing?" said Kieran.
"It'll get easier", said Joby "Even Hillyard'll get immune to him in the end".
"I damn well hope so", said Kieran, leaning on the bulwark "You're a jewel, Joby. A diamond amongst men".
"If you say so", Joby smiled.
Shouting broke out behind them, and Toppy ran up onto the deck, pursued by Julian, who was looking very cross indeed. Toppy was weeping with terror and he ran into Kieran's spindly arms.
"Stay away from Tamaz!" Julian roared "Don't stand in the doorway staring at him. Hear me?"
"Yes", Toppy blubbed into Kieran's shoulder.
"Leave it out, Julian", said Joby "He can hardly help looking at Tamaz occasionally, especially when we haven't got a door on the saloon!"
"Maybe, but he needn't stand there gawping at him", said Julian, and he turned to go below.
"Jules, you shouldn't terrify the boy like that", said Adam, who was standing at the top of the quarterdeck stairs.
"Don't start nagging, Adam", said Julian, pushing past him on his way below "As I've said many a time little boys need harsh treatment, seeing as they're really immoral savages at heart. Golding it exactly right when he wrote 'Lord Of The Flies'. He thoroughly deserved his Nobel prize".
"For heaven's sake, Julian", said Adam, following him into the galley "Toppy isn't Lord of the Flies material. He'd be sitting on the desert island crocheting table-mats!"
"Finia's slept with Ransey", said Julian, suddenly "He told me earlier. They went in the skiff last night".
"B-But that's good ... isn't it?" said Adam "You mustn't be a dog in the manger, Jules. And Ransey's very fond of Finia".
"If you say so", Julian sighed "That boy gives me nothing but worry, endless worry".
"That's not fair", said Adam, firmly "He's entitled to his own life, and I will emphatically say that Ransey would never hurt him in any way".
"I might have known you'd side with him", said Julian, tartly "As far as you're concerned Ransey's the sex god of the Indigo".
"Jules, don't be absurd", Adam had trouble refraining from laughing at this notion, which only upset Julian all the more.
"I'm going to my cabin", said Julian, with as much dignity as he could muster "Don't be late with dinner".
It rained again that night, but it did nothing to alleviate the torrid heat, which seemed to get worse and worse with each mile they covered. Joby shifted restlessly in his bunk, or as much as he could with Kieran cramped in next to him. Bizarrely, he kept remembering weather reports from his old life which always, without fail, referred to warm nights as "uncomfortable and sticky". He felt they should have tried sampling what was on offer at the moment! If anything the rain was making it feel worse, as though they were trapped inside a large sauna.
He decided to get up and go to the heads, and was surprised (and not a little annoyed) to find that everybody else seemed to be having no trouble sleeping at all. When he emerged from the heads he looked instinctively towards the saloon, and found Tamaz lying on the sofa directly facing the open doorway. The boy was awake, and seemed to be reclining in a triumphant fashion, as though he had been anticipating Joby's appearance. Joby moved closer to the doorway, and Tamaz put out his finger and beckoned him in slyly.
"What do you want?" said Joby, his mouth feeling as dry as old bones.
"I knew you'd come and see me eventually, Joby", said Tamaz "You can't keep away. I have something to tell you. About Kieran. Sit down".
"And what piece of garbage are you gonna fill me in on?" said Joby, sitting at the foot of the sofa.
"We all know about Kieran's strong sense of intuition", said Tamaz "Gorth once told me that that was what made Kieran such a great president. He had such an instinctive understanding of people. And by now he must know you better than you know yourself".
"What are you getting at?" said Joby.
"He had a conversation with Adam earlier today", said Tamaz "Everybody else was up on deck or in their cabins, so I went and listened in at the door. Poor Kieran admits he's jealous, of the time you and I had together. Now he's not a fool, and you and him have been together a long time, so why would we he say something like that, if it wasn't a very real emotion?"
"He knows all about the stockings, so don't come it", Joby sighed, wearily "And I certainly never wanted you in any other way, and you damn well know, 'cos that's what narked you so much".
"Sure?" Tamaz kicked off the blanket that had been covering his lower half, and rubbed his bare legs suggestively against one another. It wasn't as effective as when he'd worn stockings, but it was still pretty erotic.
Joby though suddenly felt sorry for him. Tamaz was adrift in the world, a creature who'd been used, and had only responded to society in exactly the way it had treated him, for what it could get. He still hated him for what he'd put him through, but the initial bitter loathing had passed.
"I'm going back to bed", said Joby, and he stood up to leave.
"Jealousy's a terrible thing isn't it?" said Tamaz "And you'd know all about it. You used to get very jealous of the little stints Kieran had alone with Angel. Very, very jealous indeed".
"How do you know all this?" said Joby, too amazed to deny it.
"I'm a Ghoomer", said Tamaz, leaning back against his pillow in a leisurely, sprawling fashion "We're pretty intuitive ourselves. Hunters have to be, to get what they want. And I've wanted you for a long time".
"Bullshit", said Joby.
"Why do you think it was you I kidnapped at the point of a gun, Joby? I could have taken Kieran instead. After all, it would have been more worth my while, to kidnap the Vanquisher of Evil. I could have demanded the earth and I would have been given it, just so that he would be returned safely. And he's so fucking pious and good he'd have probably forgiven me too. But no, I wanted you. I knew you and I would work well together".
"Hardly", said Joby "I didn't get aroused".
"I bet you are now".
Joby stared at him in the dim light, the room lit only by the sparkling reflection of the river on the walls of the saloon. Tamaz was one of those extraordinary people who could look very ugly or very beautiful, and now it was the latter. The thick lips, greasy hair and spiteful expression were surpassed now by the exquisite bone structure, delicate turned up nose, and strangely vulnerable eyes. He had lost a lot of weight in captivity and this too helped enormously, giving him a waifish look.
"You wouldn't like what I'd wanna do to you", said Joby.
"Want to get your own back do you?" said Tamaz, arching his body so that his pelvis was thrust upwards and outwards "Want to return the favour? I have a vagina. Do it".
"Joby", Ransey whispered from the doorway, effectively shattering the atmosphere Tamaz had wrought "You have to let it go".
"Yeah", Joby rubbed his eyes, as though he felt he'd been hallucinating "I'm ... I'm ..."
"Get to bed", said Ransey, softly.
Julian appeared behind him and nodded his approval of this instruction.
"I'm sorry", said Joby, not certain to whom he was addressing this apology.
"What about this fiend?" said Ransey, pointing at Tamaz.
"Put him back in the cage", said Julian "Whatever condition he's in, he can't be trusted. Lock him up".
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