Terry and the Peachers

XIV

By Michael Arram

Wednesday was bad. Jenna packed the car, while Matt and Terry said their respective goodbyes. Ramon cried, and Terry wished he could too, but tears never came easy to him. He came downstairs disconsolate, and bumped into Matt looking much the same as he did.

Peter was coming upstairs at the same time, dressed smart but casual. He brightened at the sight of Terry and gave a high five to him and to Matt.

'So you're leaving me, Terry my man?'

'It's not something you've said or done, Pete.'

'Hurry back, Terry, it'll be real boring till then.' He gave him an affectionate hug, and then, after a brief hesitation, Matt too. Matt looked surprised, 'Hey you touched me up!'

'Just a bet!' Peter said with an evil grin, 'I wanted to know what my brother sees in you.' He ran off laughing.

Terry caught his eye, smiled and shrugged, 'Kids.'

It was as they were crossing the hall and heading for the front door that they encountered Mrs Peacher coming in with one of her dogs. Terry took station respectfully behind Matt's shoulder.

'You're leaving now Matthew?'

'Yes, Ellie. Taking the ferry this evening. I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here.'

She looked keenly over Matt's shoulder, 'And this is...?'

'Terry O'Brien. Terry, I'm not sure whether you've been introduced to Mrs Peacher.'

'No, sir. Good morning, Ma'am.'

She did not offer her hand. She gave Terry a hard look, memorising his face, and said, 'I think Madam Ambassador is what you need to call me now.' She paused and added, 'You're very young.'

'It's a fault a man is guilty of at least once in his life, Madam Ambassador.' She didn't respond with a smile, perhaps she'd heard it before. She walked off with the dog clicking over the marble floor behind her.

'So that's the enemy,' Terry said to Matt as they stood on the steps outside.

'That's the woman who wants you dead.'

'This is really creepy. I'm sleeping under the same roof as someone who has ordered my death. It's like living in the court of a mad tyrant.'

'But not for long, Terry. Things are coming to a head, and we have only a fortnight of paranoia ahead of us before we'll be rid of her for good. I'll be a lot happier when that happens.'

'You OK, Matt?'

'No, I'm not. That witch has tainted my life in so many ways. Without her interference, Andy and me would never have left England, we'd probably still be in happy domestic squalor in Finkle Road, watching cheesy videos, swimming in the city pool, walking, laughing and loving. She took away my innocence, Terry. I live my life under the shadow of her warped hatred and there's no going back.'

Terry suddenly felt very sorry for the man next to him. It was a bit of a wrench. He had not realised quite how diffident he had felt towards this beautiful man, a diffidence he did not really deserve from Terry any more than he had from Peter. 'Sorry, Matt. It must have been really good for you and Andy when you were kids together.'

'Paradise ain't in it.' He heaved a great sigh, and gave a sad little smile, 'Let's get back to Paulie.'

Jenna drove the car to the coast, while Matt and Terry both sat brooding. There was not much conversation. They boarded the ferry and found the restaurant, and took a table for dinner. Matt turned the meal into a conference.

'What shall we do about Paul?'

Jenna considered and said, 'I'd like to say, get him out of his usual environment and hide him away for the period of danger, but that won't do. It'd tell Anson or his agents that we knew about the contract and that Mrs Peacher's circle had been compromised.'

'You wouldn't get Paul away from the university anyway. He's flying high academically, and on his results depend all his plans for the future.'

Terry was intrigued, 'Which are?'

'To do an English doctoral course in an American university, near wherever his Rachel ends up. She finishes at Burnett in a couple of months, and a lot depends on which job she gets. The last I heard she fancied federal government work.'

Terry thought about it. 'The only thing to do then, is for me and Jenna to share his room for the time being.' He looked at Jenna, 'Paul and I have a history. Matt knows, don't you?' Matt nodded. 'It may complicate things. We need a base close at hand. There's a big city centre hotel, the County Radisson, where we can put up until we think of something better.'

Matt thought a while, 'We don't know whether Anson himself intends to move on Paul. I'd imagine not, since you know and can identify him, Terry. We don't know whether the move will happen in the next two weeks, or whether it will take longer. The house in Finkle Road might be a bad a place for an assassination, as there are three other students there. Too many chances of things going wrong. I think it's in the streets, or on corners that the assassin will move. Either that, or he'll try to kidnap Paul or you Terry, and finish you off at his leisure.'

Terry's blood ran cold at the thought. 'Looks like one of us is going to be back up and surveillance, following the other round.'

'What about you Matt?' said Jenna.

'Me? I don't suppose I'm a target this time round.'

'Can you be sure of that?' she added.

'No. I suppose I'd better keep my head down too.'

They arrived outside Terry's parents' house at midday on Thursday.

'If you use your mobile to contact us, don't do it from Finkle Road,' Jenna said. 'Whoever's with Paul is going to have to be mostly on his or her own. But we'll be out there, you know that. E-mail's safe except you use wireless, and you'd best communicate through Matt's address. But delete anything in your outbox that concerns us as soon as you've sent it. Oh, and here's your gun.' She produced his Walther, which smelled faintly of petrol. He slotted it carefully away, feeling a little safer, although he knew the feeling was an illusion and possibly a dangerous illusion.

Terry waved as the car pulled away. He shouldered one of his bags and rang the bell. He'd called ahead and knew his mum was in and was eager to see him. As soon as he'd brought her up to date with as much of his life as he could safely tell her, he adjourned to his old bedroom, bounced on to his bed and contemplated his next move.

The room was comforting, although it held some painful memories, mostly of his disastrous love affairs. It was here that Paulie had deflowered him, here that he and Simon had coupled like bunnies and that he had deflowered Dominic. He dug deep in the drawers, and pulled out a small, locked box. He knew where the key was still hidden. Inside was his journal. It wasn't particularly detailed, except about his sexual adventures. He'd started it as soon as he realised Paul and he weren't going anywhere. He had been sixteen and desperate to screw and be screwed. It got fuller and more colourful as he got into seventeen and eighteen, but it was Dominic he wanted to look up. There were pictures he had shoved into the back, including some frankly pornographic ones he had taken. There was a perfectly innocent one of a smiling Simon in tracksuit in the park, and another one of Simon naked and ejaculating into Terry's digital camera... that had taken timing. There was he and Dom, both sixteen, kissing in a pose he had got off the net, Dom naked with his legs right back over his shoulders, himself naked penetrating him and reaching down to kiss him. They had both kept their socks and trainers on, for some reason. It would have been hotter if it was less blurred.

He dressed in his old street gear with cheap trackies, and he put a stained and faded ball cap on his head. He looked at his earring collection and settled for one plain gold band. He gave himself a quirky look of recognition, 'Terry the Homo Townie' off to the cottage. But the old gear no longer felt comfortable, it looked too like a self-conscious disguise to him. But it would have to do. He kissed his mum told her he'd be back in a day or two and headed the short distance to Finkle Road.

Paul answered the bell, he pulled Terry in and hesitantly offered to kiss him. Terry grabbed him by the back of his head and gave his mouth a thorough exploration.

'Mmm. Missed that,' he said archly. 'Wass this about you bein' a bad boy and not doin' what Matt tells you?'

'I didn't ignore him, but for heaven's sake, Tel, I gotta life to lead. He wanted me to just leave and go into hiding. I got three essays due in at the end of the month. Don't hand them in and don't give them my all, and you can whistle for a first and there goes my future. So, I'm bein' careful.'

'Careful! Paulie, I was careful and a week ago I was trussed up on a bed with a gun at my head saying my prayers to a God I was about to meet face to face. Careful isn't anywhere near good enough. It's only by the skin of my teeth I'm here talking to you, still traumatised. Anyone home?'

'Just me.'

'Make me a coffee, and I'll put me travelling bag in your room.'

'What?'

'I just became your live-in lover, Paulie. We're sleeping together. Your fantasy come true.'

'Now wait a sec, Tel.'

'Sleepin' together in Matt and Andy's old bed, thass as romantic as you can get. Can't wait to get me kit off.'

'I dunno about...'

'Learn to live wiv it, Paulie. It's that or I kill you meself and collect the money from Mrs Peacher. Now make that coffee and bring it up. I gotta road to watch.'

Paul brought up the coffee, as Terry was settling into his surveillance. He admitted, 'Glad you're here, Tel. Life's so much more interesting when you're around. What're you expecting to see?'

'Patterns, Paulie. Cars parked with drivers in, vans that don't belong and don't move, people passing and re-passing for no apparent reason.'

'Seen anything yet?'

'I've only been at it for ten minutes, gissa break. Ask me again in two days.'

'How long's this going on for?'

'Two weeks, they told me in France. How you doin' Paulie?'

'Not good. This is taking its toll, it really is Tel. You seem to bounce back from it, but it gets to me. I'm findin' concentration hard.'

'Iss not for long, Paulie, and then all the shit'll be gone for good. I got faith in Andy's dad. He's an amazing kind of bloke.'

'That's my impression too. Now maybe I'd better get to me desk and get on with me James Joyce essay.'

'Not there you won't. Even wiv the net curtains, you can easily be seen by a sniper. Your desk needs to be moved, or you need to work somewhere else, somewhere without a window view. Anyway, don' mind me. I got me iPod to keep me amused.'

The afternoon passed, Terry making notes on movements in the street, and car registration numbers from his concealed position, Paul tapping away in a corner on his new laptop. They took a break at teatime, and Paul made a meal. The other students reappeared during the afternoon and Terry was introduced as an old mate and temporary guest. They looked at him curiously, he was clearly not their type, but they were affable. He was glad to see them, as they made an assault on the house a lot less likely. He rather thought that a direct attack on the house would be the assassins' last choice. It was more likely they would try to take Paul in the street.

They watched telly with the lights out in the evening, lying on the bed. Terry had deliberately and provocatively undressed, as they had done as boys. Paul gasped when he took his jacket off and revealed the holstered gun above his tee shirt.

'Jesus, Mary and Joseph, do you know how to use that thing?'

'Well, yes... but I've never had to shoot anyone wiv it as yet. I'll keep it on, shall I?' He kept the gun strapped on, his brown left nipple peeping out of the straps.

'You don' know how much I missed English telly, Paulie. American telly is crap and French is only a bit better... non-stop quiz shows. But here you have real class soaps, wiv a history and mythology all of their own.'

Terry was absently fingering himself inside his underpants, with his other arm behind his head. Paul lay alongside him. Terry reached over and held him round his warm shoulder. He kissed him lightly on the cheek, and Paul responded with mouth on his mouth. His penis was unmistakably rigid and straining.

Terry put his hand inside his boxers and stroked Paul's cock tenderly, 'You're a lot more interested in me than you used to be, Paulie. Why is that?'

'Do I have to confess? OK, here it goes then. You're the only other man I want sexually. I know I'm bisexual, but I don't fancy anyone else, with the possible exception...'

'... of Matt. You've always wanted Matt, haven't you.'

'How did you know that?'

'I seen it in your eyes Paulie. Odd. I'm gay, and I don' fancy him at all. But you got this romantic thing about him. You want the unattainable.'

Paul shrugged. 'Maybe you're right, Tel. You were never unattainable when we were kids: quite the opposite in fact. And I didn't want you then, but I do now, just when you are becoming unattainable. Iss cos you're someone else's, I guess. Don' say much for me, but when you were making all the moves and I was the one in a relationship, then it was easy to resist. But now you got your Ramon and suddenly I want you. Isn't that sad?'

'Sad maybe, but you can still have me. Ramon and I've talked about this. I've never been monogamous, and Ramon knows that, so do you want me Paulie?'

'My dick does, but it'd not be wise.'

Terry was a little pissed at this prickteasing, 'Doesn't have to be a fuck.' He grinned lasciviously and irresistibly. He unstrapped his gun and placed it carefully under the pillow. He pushed Paul down on his back and stripped him of his pants. He shoved a pillow under his buttocks, moved back his long legs and began lapping at Paul's crotch, licking upwards from his entry to his testicles, sucking them happily, like the old friends they were. The familiar smell and sensations were exciting, they took him back to the days when such acts were dangerous and extreme. His cock strained between his legs. He took Paul's cock in his mouth and began reacquainting himself with its length, taste and contours. He shifted around and Paul took his cock too. He swallowed a remarkable amount of Terry's challenging length, and they slurped and sucked as if they were horny boys again. Soon the climax was building and they managed their old trick of synchronising their ejaculations. They separated, panting hard. Terry cuddled up into Paul's familiar embrace. They lay together naked under the covers; they dozed and eventually slept.

At midnight Terry jerked awake. He reached for the gun under the pillow. Paul was still asleep. He listened and decided it was his bladder that had woken him. He got up. He slipped out into the loo and washed his cock, covered with flakes of dried cum. A TV was still on in one of the loft rooms upstairs. When he returned to Paul's room, he carefully looked out the window without moving the curtains or turning on the lights. He pulled on a pair of shorts. He checked the list of numbers in his notes. A new car was parked opposite, a dark BMW saloon. He thought it was occupied, but could not swear to it. He watched some more, and then dropped his shorts, returning to the warmth of Paul.

He cuddled into Paul's back, his penis rapidly inflating at the feel of warm living skin. He found his jelly, greased his own anus and opened it up wide, then he reached over and manipulated the unconscious Paul until he got him erect and sleepily stirring. He crossed over Paul's body, nestled his buttocks into Paul's groin and fitted his cock at the entry of his anus. Paul half-awake, obliged almost automatically. He pushed deep into Terry, who grinned, and cooed a little with the sensation of friction and fullness. He pushed back on Paul and took all of him inside. He felt Paul's pubic hair brush his buttocks, and his friend's balls fall heavily against his own. Terry flexed his experienced anal muscles, feeling every ridge and curve of Paul's long, thin member inside him, rammed right to the very top of his rectum. He could feel it. This was bliss; his cock was already dripping with precum. Then Paul began lazily stroking into him. As the sensations stimulated him, the pace picked up, and Paul was thrusting away as hard as his sidewise position allowed. With a groan he came hard inside Terry. Paul held him tight, well awake now, moving his long fingers gently over Terry's belly and groin, and stroking his long, hard cock. He brought him off quickly, heedless of spattering the bedclothes.

'Happy now, you randy little satyr?' he murmured.

'No. Fuck me again Paulie.'

Paul gave a guilty chuckle, 'I shouldna screwed you then.'

'But I'm glad you did... there's no flame like an old flame.'

They both fell asleep again, Paul still deeply penetrating and filling Terry. In the morning, Paul shook Terry awake. 'Shower's free, Tel.'

Terry stretched. 'Come on then, Paulie. I'll give you a wash.'

They padded naked across the landing and into the bathroom. Terry ran the shower warm, and then kissed Paul and moved him into the cabinet under the water. He stood behind him, lathered his back and thighs, and began intimately washing him, another of their favourite old activities. His fingers probed Paul's anus, and Paul did not object, any more than he had resisted Terry's seduction the previous night. Paul kissed him lingeringly under the stream of water, then cleaned him, kissing his armpits and anus as he busied himself about the younger man's body. They dried and scooted back across the landing unobserved. Back in bed, Paul hugged and kissed Terry, feeling his back and soft, small buttocks.

'You're beautiful, Tel, did I ever mention that?'

'No, Paulie. You never did.'

'Your bum and cock are by Michaelangelo; face is by Caravaggio, all impish, wanton and erotic. Now Matt...'

'I know what you mean. He's not earthy enough to project passion. He's too cerebral.'

'Sensuous lips mind.' said Paulie, 'And unlike you, I've seen him in the nude. Absolute physical perfection, not a single mole. Big cock too.'

'But I can't imagine doin' it wiv him, Paulie. Like fuckin' a living statue.'

'Don' underestimate him. He and Andy used to rut for England, and the noises they made in this very room were somethin' else. They used to scream and swear something amazing. Andy said that his cock is really thick, and even after years of having it in him he has to take his time to get it all inside.'

'Not me type, Paulie. Time for breakfast.'

They dressed and went downstairs. Terry got a bowl of cereal and chatted with two of the housemates. He returned with a coffee, to find Paul already at work. Terry smiled slightly to catch him darting surreptious glances at Terry from time to time. He was delighted to be a distraction.

Terry surveyed the road. The black BMW was still outside, and at the moment, unoccupied. Twenty minutes later, a man in an overcoat walked up to it, carrying a takeaway coffee. He got in, sipped at it for a while, and drove off. Jenna arrived not long afterwards, dressed rather skilfully to suggest she was a student, and Terry raced down to let her in.

'Paulie, this is Jenna, your day-time minder. She can kill at twenty paces with one withering look.'

Jenna did not smile. 'Anything to report on last night, boss?'

'Boss?' asked Paul.

'She means me, Paulie. I've got a list of car numbers and sketch descriptions of loiterers from last night. Keep watch in particular for a black BMW. I'm off for a kip, see you round five. Now it's daylight, you might want to check the back of the house for entry and possible surveillance.'

'Kip?' Paul looked disbelieving. 'Would you like a coffee, Jenna?'

'Love one,' and she smiled at Paul. How in God's name did he do it, Terry thought. Paul and the female sex was a topic for a dissertation.

Terry pulled on his ball cap and swaggered off down Finkle Road towards the university. So far as he could tell, he was not being followed by anyone. He turned off sharp on to College Road and past the memorial gardens to the city centre. The County Radisson was a big Edwardian pile on a street corner, very proud of its five stars and Michelin recommendation. The receptionist looked sniffily down her nose as Terry asked for his key; he leered back at her and her face projected faint disgust. But she had to admit he existed and handed over the key card. He raced up to his room and found his case, changing into his California casuals. A very different young man joined Matt at his breakfast twenty minutes later, handsome, international and very expensively dressed.

'Lo, Matt me mate.'

Matt smiled warmly at him. Smiling was something Matt rarely did these days, so Terry was more than somewhat rocked by it, and hastily revised some of his reservations about Matt's beauty and desirability. He was perfect in every way. Terry was secretly proud of his looks, but knew that in Matt's presence he looked ordinary. It was perhaps good for him to see covert glances at their table and know that the admiring looks were not at him.

'Nice night?'

'Very comfortable.'

'You slept with Paulie didn't you?'

'How the... It's the post-coital blush innit?'

'That and your past history. Paulie's vulnerable too, it's got to him. Terry it's unwise what you did.'

'Unwise? It was a fantastic fuck.'

'The thing is that you don't always think further than the end of your cock, Terry O'Brien. No offence, of course.'

'None taken. I'd be the first to agree with you.'

'But it's reckless emotionally. You still don't connect sex with commitment and dedication. I thought Ramon might make a difference, but clearly he hasn't.'

'No,' admitted Terry, 'He understands me all too well.'

'Paulie doesn't need it. It'll confuse him, make him guilty. He knows he's bisexual, but his most fulfilling relationship is with Rachel. Yet he loves you too, and loved you before he loved anyone else. He just hid it away. But there's no way that you would give up Ramon for him though is there?'

'Where's this goin', Matt? It was just a good fuck.'

'But Paul connects sex with commitment in ways you don't, Terry. Now he's torn between you and Rachel, and the way he is at the moment, he might even be contemplating giving her up for a fantasy of you.'

'That's mad. He knows me better than that.'

'Terry, we're not all like you.'

Terry for the first time felt offended at reflections on his sexual proclivities. He was not a predator, he didn't pick on the vulnerable and the young, despite temptation. If he had sex with another man it was because he knew that there was an attraction. True, he was not too particular... which was how he had got into this mess in the first place. Also he had made mistakes, and he admitted it.

Always at the back of Terry's mind was the end result of his first pick-up. When Terry was sixteen there had been a very vulnerable boy of the same age he had seduced in a public loo in the city mall. Dominic. He had haunted him for months and eventually killed himself. It was not for unrequited love of Terry that he did it, he was deeply troubled, but Terry had never shook off a vague feeling of guilt that he had not made things easier for the boy, although he had slept with him several times and not denied him. What no one knew was that Terry still regularly went to the grave, laid flowers and talked. He decided he would do that today some time and discuss Paul and Ramon with Dominic. Surprisingly, it often helped.

Terry shrugged again, and changed the conversation. 'Matt, I've got an idea I need to try out after breakfast, and you can help.'

'Go ahead.'

'I've got a list of Anson's principal aliases, and I'm going to ring around all the main local hotels and see if we turn him up. Should take an hour or so.... less if you help.'

'OK, I'll help, but what if we strike lucky?'

'Then I talk to Jenna.'

Terry walked along the graves of the newer section of the municipal cemetery, past polished granite slabs etched with sunrises, dolphins and doves. A bigger slab with a ceramic portrait recorded the short life of Dominic Alan Purdey.

'Hi, Dom!' Terry murmured.

He looked at the faintly smiling face of his one-time lover, his first proper sexual partner other than Paul. It was a pretty face, freckled and pale. Terry had seen that face looking nervously at his cock as he masturbated himself alongside Dom in the urinals in the empty upper mall loos, showing off in his shamelessness and enjoying the mixture of shock and curiosity that the other boy exhibited. And Dom couldn't look away. Then Terry had moved behind Dom and reached round for his little prick and wanked it, and Dom had loved it, he could tell. He had pulled him into a stall, and full of lust, made the boy strip off with him. They balanced their clothes up on the toilet seat, standing barefoot on the wet floor. He had gone on his knees and explored Dom's body, probing his anus, sucking and licking anything he could get at. Dom had leaned against the door of the stall, his tears brimming out of his eyes. Terry had loved it, and Dom had been stunned.

Crying was what Dom had done a lot of, but at least not during sex with Terry. He had smiled nervously when Terry had sneaked him into his bedroom and undressed him again, admiring the slimness and pallor of his body, his small but perfect cock, the patch of dark pubic hair, and the pink and clean rosebud, which he had entered again and again, with his tongue and his cock. He had loved Dom's arse. He knew that the boy washed it thoroughly for him inside and out, and it smelled of soap. Nor did he cry when Terry had sucked him off enthusiastically and – he thought – quite skilfully; but Dom had said ominously that he was not worth anyone's effort. He had cried a lot when Terry failed to understand his misery. For Terry, good sex meant happiness even then, and sex with Dom had been good; he was his first fuck and he had taken Dom's tight virginity patiently, lovingly and gloriously.

Terry had not cried when he saw Dom's picture in the city newspaper over a paragraph about his suicide, the same picture which now adorned Dom's grave. Nor did he cry at the funeral, when he had sneaked into the back of the packed chapel in his school uniform. Terry did not often cry, but he felt more than a little miserable now at Dom's graveside.

'You remember Paulie, Dom? He was the guy who screwed me and dumped me before I screwed you. It turns out that he was just like you after all, he loved me, and, just like you, he never said it. With you, I guessed that was because you were not the talking sort, just the suffering sort. With him... well he was a different sort of boy, older and stronger. I thought he was stronger than me, but it seems that I was wrong. Why do people complicate good sex with all this commitment and jealousy, huh? What I gotta do, Dom? What I gotta do?

Oh, you'll like this. Last week I nearly hooked up with you again. True. My cock got me into yet more trouble. This guy I slept with came back to kill me. Would have done it too. The irony is that in the meantime I found someone I really wanted bad enough to stay with, someone who protected me from the hunger for more and more sex. He's Ramon, and you'd have liked him, he's a sweet and generous guy. He's the sort of boy you should have met, Dom, if you'd have been luckier. If anyone could have tied you to life, it would have been someone like Ramon. Instead you met me. So I end up saying sorry, like I always do, Dom. Sorry you met me. Sorry I wasn't a different man.'

Terry stood for a while, and put his bunch of daffodils amongst the little shrubs and arrangements that covered the grave. Dom still had many visitors.

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