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"For God's sake, Lonts", said Joby, with exasperation "I'm only going away for one night, and that's only up the road!"
"I know", Lonts sniffed "But I've been worried ever since you told us last night that the Ghoomers were on the edge of town. What if they get you and you don't come back?!"
"We're only going to Myrtle's hotel", said Joby, with forced patience "And I promise we won't speak to any strange Ghoomers whilst we're there".
"It's all very well for you to be sarcastic, Joby", said Lonts, sternly "But I have your welfare to think of!"
"And I'm very touched by your concern", said Joby "Now c'mon, help me finish getting ready".
Lonts was standing in his cabin with Joby, helping him to pack for his night away with Kieran and Tamaz. So far no one had come up with any feasible plan to deal with the unwanted Ghoomers on their doorstep. Adam had suggested dynamiting the house, and Tamaz had reacted with scorn. "They'll see you coming a mile off and go to earth", he had said. Kieran was more concerned about Codlik, and told Joby that their "dirty night" away with Tamaz at the same hotel would give him an excuse to look in on him.
"You're going to look very smart, Joby", said Lonts, now helping Joby into a very fetching green brocade waistcoat which he had bought only that morning.
"Thought I'd better make the effort", said Joby.
The jazzy waistcoat also boasted the benefits of a large pocket sewn on the inside, into which he could slip a small pistol which Ransey had acquired for him. This was to serve as defence in case Anything Happened during their stay. It was hard to specify whether it would be the Ghoomers or Codlik who caused the unwanted trouble though!
"Now promise me you're gonna stop snivelling", said Joby, once the pistol was in place "After all, you and Adam are gonna have this cabin to yourselves tonight. Or at least as much as you can with a bloody great hole in the wall!"
He and Kieran had packed an overnight bag between them, but Tamaz's clothes were all still strewn across his camp-bed, with Tamaz labouring under the blithe assumption that someone else would pack them.
"I'll get Toppy to do it", said Lonts.
Toppy was fetched in, and he folded Tamaz's clothes with the expertise of a professional valet. Joby was glad he wouldn't be around at the other end to see Tamaz pull them out again! The three holiday-makers were seen off by the other Indigo-ites as though they were going off on honeymoon. Lonts was crying quite openly, in spite of Joby's endless assertions that they were going to be perfectly fine.
"I do think this is a very civilised way of doing things", said Adam.
"Not everyone would share your endorsement of three-in-a-bed romps, Ada", said Julian "More's the pity!"
"You go on down to the bar", said Kieran, an hour later "And I'll join you in a little while. I want to pop in and see Codlik. See if the news about the Ghoomers has any effect on him".
"Are you gonna be alright?" said Joby, patting his waistcoat pocket to make sure the pistol was still in place, even though he hadn't removed it since leaving the Indigo.
"Oh Codlik's not going to hurt me", said Kieran, reassuringly "The poor eejit's had a bit of a breakdown that's all".
"I wasn't meaning he might physically hurt you", said Joby "But we are supposed to be having a night of fun, I don't want him to upset you in any way".
"He won't", said Kieran, firmly.
They were standing in the large room Myrtle had allocated them. It was at the back of the hotel, with a picture window overlooking the marshes. Its chief attraction was a big four-poster bed, which they all looked forward to trying out after dinner. Tamaz was padding up and down the centre of the room in his black and orange ballgown.
"Jobe, I've suddenly thought of something", said Kieran "What's Freaky going to wear on his feet? He can hardly go down in that with Toppy's old trainers on!"
"Oh he can stay barefoot", said Joby, dismissively "His feet'll be under the table most of the time anyway. Are you sure you won't be long, Kiel? It won't be the same without you".
"I'll be a couple of minutes", said Kieran "Go on down, the pair of you".
"O.K", Joby grabbed Tamaz by the hand "And don't you embarrass us this evening", he said to him "No exposing yourself in the dining-room for a start!"
"You're alright there", said Kieran "I lifted up the back and checked, he's got his pants on".
Kieran immediately got out of Codlik his reassurance that he wasn't on any kind of suicide tangent. Codlik had put on weight during his self-imposed captivity, and joked with Kieran that if he was to die now they'd have to order an extra large urn for him! Kieran begged him not to talk that way.
"I never wanted to become known throughout history as Codlik the Last!" Codlik cried "The last President of Earth!"
"It's hardly your fault", said Kieran "The quake could have happened at any time, mine say, or Gorth's. Any one of us could have been the last president. I wish you'd come out of this, Codlik. If you don't, it's going to have to be me who chairs this bloody meeting in a month's time!"
"How can I face anyone after what I said that night on the Indigo?" said Codlik.
"Bruises heal quick on a healthy skin", said Kieran "If you come out now and be your old self, we can put it all down to stress. Particularly as I don't believe you really think that way. I think you've just had enough of trying to be saintly. The tragedy in the City's made you angry and you wanted to hit out at someone. You probably thought, where the blazes has all me saintliness got me? I've been good and fair all these years, tried never to say an unkind word, and then life chucks this huge stink-bomb at me! That's how you felt. And then you come down here, and find us all living as though none of it was any consequence. You got angry. You hit out at Tamaz in particular because he's done some terrible things in his time, he's as selfish as the day is long, and yet he's having this carefree life. Am I hitting the right spot or not?"
"I-I thought I was above such sentiments", said Codlik, quietly "It seems I don't even known myself as well as I thought. It is true that I wanted to see Tamaz punished. Truth to tell, I believe in do as you would be done by. An eye for an eye. I can't understand why you want him in your care, I really can't".
"Oh well you see", Kieran sighed and leaned back leisurely in his chair "I find him quite entertaining".
"That can't be it, surely?" Codlik exclaimed.
"It's a fair bit of it", said Kieran "For me to say anything else would be gross hypocrisy. I've risked a lot keeping Tamaz around, not just on a life and death scale, but on a level of personal happiness too. But now I can't imagine him not being here. I know he's a selfish, spoilt little bastard, and he'll never stop being a selfish, spoilt little bastard, but in spite of that I have good vibes about him. And I have good vibes about you too. You still have a lot to give the world, Codlik. At heart you're a good man, and we can't afford to lose one of those. We're on the dawn of a whole new world, and I want you to be a part of it".
"How do you think history will judge us?" said Codlik.
"We can't decide that", said Kieran "It's out of our hands. In a 100 years time anything could be the norm. The Ghoomers could be in control even, after all they can out-breed us! We just have to do the best we can whilst we're here. I never thought when I was younger that history would ever be concerned about me, and now here I am with a footnote in it".
"I think you've got a bit more than that", said Codlik.
"And so could you have", said Kieran "Chair this bloody meeting for me, Codlik. You'll enjoy it far more than I will!"
Codlik threw back his head and laughed.
"Alright", he said, calming down eventually "But you have to be the general overseer. What other alternative do you have? It's either that or end up as some strolling preacher, and that would be such a waste".
"Are you coming down for dinner?" said Kieran.
"Perhaps later", said Codlik "We must make plans you know".
"Well Ransey and your men have been getting the governors co-ordinated", said Kieran "The first and most pressing thing we have to do though is to sort out that damn house with the Ghoomer creature in".
"I'll give it some thought", said Codlik.
After leaving Codlik's room Kieran went downstairs to the dining-room, where he found Joby and Tamaz already well stuck into a large platter of asparagus in butter.
"We thought you was never gonna appear", said Joby "So I went ahead and ordered. C'mon sit down, I know you'll like this too".
Kieran tried to relate the conversation he'd had with Codlik whilst sucking on asparagus, and getting distracted by Tamaz, who insisted on rubbing each stick of asparagus between his breasts before eating it.
"It's hard to discuss politics when he's sitting there with butter sliding down his cleavage!" said Kieran.
"He's doing it on purpose, ignore him", said Joby.
"Just getting you in the mood", Tamaz shrugged and reached for another stick of asparagus "Don't deny it, you're both excited by the thought of screwing me later!"
Joby gave him a longsuffering look, sighed and then said "So Codlik's feeling a bit better is he, Kiel?"
"Oh I think he's on the mend", said Kieran, hastily spearing a long piece of asparagus before Tamaz got to it.
"Good", said Joby "'Cos we've already got more than enough nutters round here to be going on with!"
"Talking of which ..." Kieran nodded towards the doorway where Jonner had appeared.
He was looking relatively smart for once in a white shirt, pressed trousers and a sheepskin waistcoat. He stood, arms akimbo, surveying the room. When he spotted Kieran's party he gave a smug smile and then led his date across the room to a table on the far side. The date was Glynis, who was looking nervous and uncertain as to why she was there.
Jonner made a great show of seating her at the table, snorting sycophantically all the while. He then went to walk round the back of her to get to his own seat, but found the sideboard was in the way and had to retrace his steps. When he finally got to his chair, he cast another look in their direction and then impulsively grabbed Glynis's hands. Glynis was visibly annoyed about this as she was trying to open the menu at the time.
"What does the jerk think he's up to?" Kieran laughed "Poor old Glynis, getting lumbered with him for the evening!"
"I know", said Joby "It must be like going on a date with Frank Spencer!"
Glynis by now was blushing with embarrassment, and had turned to stare fixedly at the silver candlesticks on the sideboard.
"What do you keep gawping at her for?" Tamaz snapped.
"Why shouldn't we?" said Kieran, mischeviously "She's a good-looking woman".
"I hope Jonner isn't using her to try and get that stupid boyfriend of his jealous", said Joby.
"Why the fuck should you care?" said Tamaz, wiping his butter-soaked hand across his bosom and leaving behind a distracting glisten "She's big enough to take care of herself. More than big enough if you ask me!"
"Nobody did ask you, so pipe down", said Joby "You're lucky to be allowed in a place like this at all, particularly after your disgraceful behaviour the last time you were here".
"I suppose now you've seen her with someone else you want her", Tamaz spat, contemptously "Men!"
"I am concerned", said Joby, patiently "She is a friend. I don't want to see her hurt. Particularly by an oversized gonk like him!"
"Do you want me to stroll over and have a chat?" said Kieran "Although from the disgusted way Glynis is looking at him at the moment, I don't see much sign of her being heartbroken by him somehow!"
"Leave 'em to it", said Joby "If I know Glynis she'll be popping over to fill us in before the night's out".
A waiter walked past carrying a plate, on which a huge lump of ham on the bone sizzled frantically.
"I want that", said Tamaz.
"Tough shit, we're all having fish", said Joby.
Tamaz sat sulkily throughout the main course, and Kieran began to feel sorry for him. He waited until Joby had slipped away to the men's room, and then patted Tamaz's knee.
"He doesn't fancy Glynis, take it from me", said Kieran.
"How can you be sure?" said Tamaz, sullenly.
"Because he's had no end of opportunity to have had her these past couple of years and he never has", said Kieran "Joby's weak when it comes to resisting sex. Do you think he could have held out all this time if he really did want her?"
"She's smug", said Tamaz "A smug cow. She's the sort that never has the nerve to have a serious relationship all of her own, but she can get other people's men to fancy her easy and she plays on it, and then sits back all smugly and thinks herself superior. What are you laughing at?"
"I'm just glad I've got someone else who can see Glynis as clearly as I do", said Kieran "There's been a tendency to grant her almost sacred status round our way, but you've summed her up brilliantly".
"You're only saying that because you're drunk", said Tamaz.
"I've got a long way to go before I'm drunk enough to agree with you just for the sake of it!" Kieran laughed "Don't be a daft eejit. I think you're right. Love's a boxing-match sometimes, and it takes an intelligent person to admit that. But at least we're actually brave enough to get in the ring".
"Glynis wouldn't even be a second", Tamaz rasped "She just sits in the front row, and pretends to look concerned when her opponents get battered".
"And what's the betting that whilst Joby's out of the room she'll make an excuse to go the privy herself?" Kieran whispered.
As if on cue Glynis rose from her seat.
"She's coming over here instead", said Tamaz, in confusion.
Glynis sailed over to them and greeted them very cordially. Kieran asked her why she was dining with Jonner.
"He kept asking me", said Glynis "And I had nothing better to do. Hello Tamaz, that's a very nice dress you've got on".
This sounded horrendously patronising, and Tamaz glowered at her contemptuously.
"You've seen it before", he growled.
"I wouldn't have the nerve to wear something like that", Glynis continued.
"Ah well that's one thing Tamaz isn't short of and that's nerve", said Kieran "And he's certainly brazen enough to carry it off".
"Joby loves a tart", said Tamaz "That's where you went wrong, Glynis. Playing hard to get like that. Joby doesn't find the chase exciting, not when he enjoys being the prey so much, and I'm a hunter by nature, so I'm perfect for him".
"You obviously have no concern for Kieran's feelings", said Glynis, sharply.
"And I suppose you cared about his feelings when you were screaming undying love for Joby!" Tamaz retorted.
"Pack it in now, both of you", said Kieran, firmly "Don't pick a fight and use me as an excuse. I come ahead of both of you!"
"What's going on here?" said Joby, returning to the table.
"Ach, we're all vying for your attention", said Kieran.
"Mine?" Joby exclaimed "God knows why!"
"I'm sorry", said Glynis, gravely "I shouldn't have got talking to Tamaz. I meant no harm".
"Don't upset yourself", said Joby "Tamaz is a fruitcake".
"There she goes", said Tamaz, as Glynis returned to her table "Taking the moral high ground with her! At least with me you don't have to watch your p's and q's all the time, and worry about upsetting me".
"That is certainly true!" said Joby, waspishly. *
Codlik appeared after dinner and Kieran had a quick drink with him in the bar. Meanwhile Joby left Tamaz on the sofa on the landing whilst he nipped back into the bathroom. When he emerged he was horrified to find that Tamaz had taken off his dress, and was sitting in full view of all the passing guests with only his silk pants on. All the male guests were considerably taken by the sight of his pert bare breasts.
"What the fuck do you think you're playing at?" Joby roared "I can't leave you alone for five minutes can I!"
"That dress was uncomfortable", said Tamaz, haughtily "It was pinching me".
"I'm not surprised, after the amount you've put away this evening!" said Joby "I'm surprised you didn't burst out of it!"
He grabbed Tamaz's dress, and then hauled him by the hand into their room.
"I thought you could be trusted", said Joby, tossing the dress on the bed "I thought ..."
Tamaz threw himself at Joby and kissed him violently on the mouth. Kieran came in whilst they were thus engrossed.
"I see you've got started without me", he said.
"It's your own fault", said Tamaz, coming up for air "You shouldn't keep running off and talking to boring old farts like Codlik".
"I know", Kieran sighed, and sat down on the edge of the bed, kicking off his shoes "Sometimes, after an evening like this, the good guys like Codlik and Glynis seem far more hard work than selfish little brats like you".
"At least they don't take their clothes off in front of everyone", said Joby.
"Oh Tamaz, you didn't strip off again!" said Kieran.
"I'm tired", said Tamaz, climbing onto the bed and curling up, resting his head on his dress "If you both want me, you'll have to hurry up about it".
By the time Joby had dimmed the lamps and got undressed though, Tamaz was already asleep.
"Well he's a lot of use isn't he!" he said, gently unbuttoning Kieran's shirt "Some sex toy he is! Eats us into bankruptcy and then passes out!"
"Don't worry, me old darlin'", Kieran whispered "We've still got each other".
Tamaz returned abruptly to consciousness thirty minutes later, to find Kieran and Joby lying naked in each other's arms next to him. Both were still awake though and were talking softly. When they realised Tamaz was now very ready for action, they moved gently onto either side of him.
"He is so extraordinary", Kieran breathed, stroking Tamaz's breasts whilst Joby removed his pants "What an amazing person you are, Tamaz".
Tamaz stared at him languorously through his hair.
"This isn't gonna work, Kiel", said Joby, suddenly "I'm frightened of upsetting you, of upsetting either of you ..."
"Joby, just relax", Kieran purred "You're amongst friends here. You've never worried when we've been with Adam, so don't worry about this. You can't stop me now anyway. We need to go with the flow. Say what's in your heart".
"You'll enjoy yourself with him", said Joby, candidly.
"I hope you're not planning on going off somewhere!" Kieran exclaimed.
"I'll be right here", said Joby, softly stroking Tamaz's belly "Act with him like you do with me. Kieran. Not anything else. It's Kieran the man in here. We've left the Vanquisher outside the door".
Kieran kissed Tamaz's face whilst Joby smoothed a condom onto him, an experience that Kieran described afterwards as like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time, only much more enjoyable! He then made love to Tamaz with an exhilerating and welcoming feeling of no turning back. He held him as he climaxed, and then stayed in that same mildly crazy position for a moment as though loathe to let go. Tamaz suddenly gave a small growl and nipped Kieran's neck with his teeth.
"It's alright", said Joby, on seeing Kieran's look of alarm "He likes doing that, it's a sign of affection".
"Well I hope he doesn't decide to do it anywhere else!" Kieran laughed, rolling off him "I thought for a minute he'd turned into a vampire!"
"You were quite good", Tamaz arched his back sensuously "I never thought you had it in your to get going like that. But then I suppose you must have had something to keep Joby interested all these years".
"He's had his moments", said Joby.
"You orgasm like a woman, Tamaz", said Kieran "You don't instantly become a spent force afterwards like me and Joby do".
"At least I can with you two", said Tamaz, darkly.
"Don't get onto the subject of Gorth now", Joby whispered, cuddling him "It only upsets you".
"That's all long gone now", said Kieran.
"With us you can have whatever you want", said Joby.
"Well within reason", said Kieran "Don't go asking for Lady Red's ruby necklace 'cos it's out of our price range!"
"Let's get under the covers", said Tamaz, yawning tiredly.
"Good idea", said Joby "It's chilly out here".
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