by London Lampy
Mr Lustrum invited us to stay for dinner, and as there is no food in our place, as usual, we were happy to take him up on his offer. He looked pleased, I get the feeling that he's a bit lonely even with all the cats. Over cheese and ham, or just cheese for me, omelettes he explained to me that he'd never married because until he'd got too old for it he'd spent most of his life travelling.
"I couldn't settle you see," he says, spearing the final mouthful of omelette with his fork. We're eating in his kitchen which is well used but clean. The table is set with an array of mismatched dishes, glasses and cutlery, I don't think he gets many visitors. "I always had to know what was over the next hill and around the next bend, and I saw some wonderful things, and some terrible things, but it would have been no life for any wife of mine. By the time I was starting to think about settling down I was getting a bit old for marriage, and certainly too old for fatherhood." He shakes his head sadly. "But that was the price I knew I'd have to pay for all my years of freedom, and I don't regret it. If I had my time over again I wouldn't do a single thing differently." He puts the food into his mouth and chews thoughtfully.
I'm not sure what to say to this. I can't imagine ever being as old as he is, but then when I'm as old as Mr Lustrum I won't be as old as him, not physically anyway. Tallis is in his seventies but is more like a human in their forties, and for the first time I realise that both Topher and Jack are going to age a lot faster than I will. It's not a thought I like much and I push it to the back of my mind, after all it's not something I have to worry about for a very long time; I'm not even twenty yet.
"I think I will take the rest of those books home tonight," Topher says, interrupting my thoughts. "Exit can help me carry them."
"That's a good idea," Mr Lustrum agrees. "There are some empty boxes in the yard, take a couple of them."
"I'll go and sort the books out now." Topher gets up from the table and disappears from the kitchen, a cat hissing at him from the passageway as he passes by.
I can't believe he's going to bring more books home, and I don't know where he's going to put them. A while ago, after I grumbled at him about there being stacks of books everywhere he acquired an old bookcase, but he quickly filled it, along with all the space under his side of the bed, the bottom of the wardrobe, either side of the toilet and the window sills. It's not just books either, it's all manner of other kinds of junk too, and the flat isn't big enough.
"Mr Lustrum," I say quietly when Topher's footsteps have receded. "Please don't let him bring any more books home after this lot, there's no more space and he won't get rid of a single thing. Last week he got cross with me because I threw out a stack of month old newspapers." I give the old man a helpless shrug. "I don't know what he even wants all this stuff for, most of the books aren't ones he's ever going to read."
He gives me a small nod. "Would you mind helping me to clean up the kitchen?" he asks, getting up from the table and pushing the door shut.
"Not at all I reply," starting to stack the plates up.
He busies himself filling the large, square sink with hot water and adding dish soap to make a layer of bubbles on the top. I pass him the dirty dinner things and he puts them into the water. It's not until he's scrubbing the frying pan with a rough, grey cloth that he speaks again.
"Topher suffered a dreadful loss didn't he?" he asks softly, blinking at me from behind his large round glasses.
"His family you mean. He told you about that?"
"Yes." I'm not surprised, Mr Lustrum could get a stone to tell him its life story. He's not like Vio with her way of intimidating suspects into talking, he's just a nice man who seems genuinely interested in everybody. You don't mind telling him things, even very personal things, because you get the feeling that he'll keep them to himself and never ever use anything you say against you.
Mr Lustrum turns back to his washing up. "He was very young and he lost everything that mattered to him. His home, his parents, his sisters, all of his security taken away. Can you imagine how that must have been for him?"
"Not really," I admit. "I understand that it was bad, but as I never had any of those things I can't really know what it would feel like to lose them."
"Of course," he says as I pick up a tea towel and start to dry, "you are an orphan. There has been a lot of research done over the years by men and women much cleverer than me into how the things that happen to us in our lives, in particular when we are children, can effect us dramatically for the rest of our lives. How sometimes the damage that is done shows up in unexpected ways."
"I don't know that Topher is still effected by it dramatically," I say, wiping water off the frying pan. "I mean he misses his family, and he rarely talks about them, and he worries about being alone, but that's all."
"Let me try and explain. If when a person was a child they were badly bitten by a dog you might expect them to grow into an adult who has a fear of dogs, that's an easy one to understand, some things are more complicated. How about if when a person was a child they lost every single thing that was important to them and there was nothing they could do to stop it happening. Perhaps when they grew a little older they might hate to lose anything, even things that other people only see as rubbish to be thrown away? And in fact might they not perhaps wish to surround themselves with objects, and maybe even with people, to make themselves feel safer?"
"Is that it?" I ask, stopping drying a plate to think about what Mr Lustrum has just said. "Is that why he's filled the flat with crap?"
"It may be the reason," Mr Lustrum nods, looking more like an owl than ever.
"What can I do about it?"
"Ah, unfortunately I do not know the answer to that." Great. "But I will attempt to cut back on the amount of redundant stock I let him have, and I can lend you a book on the subject of the workings of the mind if you wish. It might offer some useful clues."
We carry the two boxes of books back on a crowded tram that has no free seats left so we end up having to put them in the aisle and stand over them. For once I don't grumble at Topher for bringing more stuff home, I think he's expecting me to because he keeps looking at me every time someone has to climb over the boxes to get on or off. At one point a female visk trips on mine and swears at me, which makes Topher giggle. I don't even complain at him then.
"You are in a funny mood tonight," he says once we've got off at our stop.
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are, are you still worried about the police?"
I didn't tell him about Inspector Milden's visit to my office earlier today, there's no point in two of us fretting about me possibly getting arrested. "Kind of."
"Hmm." He looks at me sideways, I think suspecting that I'm keeping something from him.
I keep a watch out on the walk back to the flat from the tram stop, half expecting to see the dark haired woman who was tailing me earlier again. I don't, but the first thing I do when we get inside is double lock and bolt the door. It's hot and airless in the flat but when Topher goes to open the window I stop him.
"Monkey, you are being very odd. Why do you not want me to open the window?"
"When I was walking from my office to Mr Lustrum's shop to see you this strange woman followed me." Saying it out loud makes it more real somehow.
"What kind of strange woman?"
I describe her to Topher and tell him how whenever I slowed down or stopped walking she did the same.
"Maybe she just liked the look of you and was after some hot monkey tail action?" he suggests, but he also moves away from the window and draws the curtain.
"I don't think so. I have no idea who she was, or what she wanted, but the whole thing was weird." I sit down on the bed and take my boots off, I hate having to wear shoes or boots all the time, perhaps even more than keeping my tail strapped down. As it's hot inside I take my shirt and trousers off too, unstrap my tail and lie spread out in the middle of the bed, even without any cooling breeze being naked feels good.
I close my eyes and try to imagine that I'm somewhere else. I try to remember how it feels to be floating in the warm blues seas of Nightport and I'm so taken with my daydream that I don't notice Topher until he's lying on top of me.
"Hello," I say, opening my eyes, almost surprised to see the cracked ceiling above me rather than a cloudless sky. Instead of saying anything he kisses me, and I quickly realise that he's naked too.
I wrap my arms around him, running my hands across the smooth skin of his back until I reach his firm round ass. Squeezing him there makes him wriggle on top of me so I play with him some more as we kiss, even bringing my hand down a few times to spank him. He sits up, finds a tin of lube from under the pillows and hands it to me, making his desire clear, he wants me inside him.
"Do me monkey," he breaths.
"What's the magic word?"
"Please...please do me." Topher only says please when he really, really wants something.
We move and I reposition him on all fours in the middle of the bed. I can't resist spanking him some more first because I know just how much he enjoys it. Being as dark as he is his skin doesn't turn red, but I can feel the heat coming off his buttocks when I touch them. By the time I'm done my hand is stinging and he's panting with want. I open the lube and slick some onto my fingers then ease two of them inside him. I feel Topher relax around them almost instantly which is another one of the things he's good at, like being able to swallow cock. He can be ready for sex very quickly and I know from experience that I'm not hurting him, not in a bad way anyway. Before I enter him I put an arm around his hip to touch his erection, I can feel moisture there and from the noises he's making when I wrap my hand around it and hold it's not going to take much to make him come.
"For the god's sake put it in!" he demands.
"Are you sure you're ready?" I ask, finger fucking him.
"Yes!" I can hear the frustration in his voice. It's fun to tease him when he's like this, sometimes I'll keep it up for quite some time, but not now.
"Are you absolutely sure?" I push my fingers deep inside and rub his sweet spot.
"Oh...yes," he groans in response to this, then shouts, "YES!" in an annoyed tone as a response to my question.
I pull my fingers out, put some lube on my own erection, which is feeling sorely in need of some attention too now, and give him what he, and I, want. He's snug and hot around me and he flexes his internal muscles to squeeze me. He can be demanding at times, but he always gives back as much as he gets.
I fuck him slowly to start with, teasing him further because I know he likes it hard and fast. Even going slowly I do little more than hold his shaft gently because the chances are that even if I stroke it a little he's going to explode in my hand.
"Come on...give me more," he groans, attempting to change my pace by moving his hips. I'd really like to be able to not respond to this and keep on going slowly but my body wants more too. I give into him, thrusting into him as hard as I can until the pressure between my legs grows too much and I know that I have to climax. Now I do tighten my hand around him and stroke him in time with my thrusts and I know exactly when he's about to come because I can feel him clench around me. I take this as a signal to let it happen, and I shout his name out loud as I fill him and he fills my hand.
After we lie on the bed facing one another, my tail draped over his waist, his foot stroking my shin, the fingers of his hand interlocked with mine. I look at him, thinking about the conversation I had with Mr Lustrum earlier in the evening. "I love you," I say, "and I'm not going to leave you."
"Huh?" he frowns, wrinkling his nose. "Who said you were?"
"No one, it's just...I don't want you to worry that I am, that's all."
"This is about Jack?"
"Because I have been thinking that you might decide to go and live with him. I know you are not happy with how things are with the two of you."
He's been worrying that I might leave him for Jack? Oh shit. "No! Look, I'm not happy about how things are with Jack, you're right, but it's hasn't got anything to do with us. I'd be just as miserable without you as I would be without Jack."
"Oh," he replies, the corners of his mouth turning up. "That is good to know."
"Please don't worry about it."
"Alright, but if you did decide to leave I want to keep on living in the flat. All my things here, and it is not too far from my job."
"I am not going to leave." I poke him in the ribs with the tip of my tail to emphasise my point. "But perhaps some of your things could."
"Yeah, perhaps you could get rid of some of the things you don't really need." I stroke his hair as I say this, if it doesn't work now it's never going to. "I'm not going to force you, but we're running out of space. Effie and her mother are always organising jumble sales for charity, I'm sure they'd be delighted to take some stuff from you."
"Yeah...maybe." He looks like he's thinking about the idea. "What charity?"
"All kinds, I think the last one they had was for the cat shelter."
"Not just cats," I add hurriedly. "Also sick children and poor old ladies, and..." I try to remember, "all sorts really. The thing is the stuff you don't need would be helping them raise money. Shall I tell Effie you're going to be making a donation?" If I tell Effie then he'll have to.
"Um...alright." He doesn't look delighted by the idea, but he didn't say no. "Maybe just one box."
"Good," I kiss him on the mouth. "One box is a start."
When I get home from work the next evening I find that he's kept his word and has filled a cardboard box to give to Effie. It's not a very big box but it's even got some books in it, which is kind of a small miracle. I look at the top one, the title reads "The Art and Science of Breeding and Keeping Fancy Fish". I can't imagine there's much call for that, and I'd be surprised if even priced at half a penny in a jumble sale it will sell, but I'm certainly not going to say that to Topher.
"On my way home I found this shop..." he begins, which is usually the way he starts to tell me that he's bought something new.
"No," I grumble. "Don't tell me that you're about to get rid of this lot and have gone and bought more junk to replace it."
"You think that is what I am about to say?" he looks hurt.
"Yes, isn't it?"
"No," he pouts, "it is not."
"What were you going to say then?"
"I was about to tell you that I have bought you a present."
I hope by this he doesn't mean that he's bought a load of junk and is going to claim that it's for me, but until I see what it is I decide to give him the benefit of the doubt. "What is it?" I ask cautiously.
"It is in the kitchen, go and look."
"The kitchen?" What could he have possibly bought me that needs to be in the kitchen?
"Yes, the kitchen. I put it on the windowsill, go and look."
This just makes it even more mysterious so I do as he says. Sitting on the kitchen windowsill on top of a stack of books I find a greenish-orange, irregular, oval shaped object that's a little bigger than my fist.
"You bought me a mango!" I exclaim in surprise, walking over and picking it up.
"Yes, see, not junk. I found this shop that sells all kinds of fruit and I remembered you saying that you missed them and you could not get them in Parnell, but you can, I found one. It is not very big, and it is not ripe yet, that is why it was on the sill."
Still holding the fruit I hug him. "Thank you, that's just about the nicest thing anyone ever gave me," I say, feeling emotional, and feeling a little silly at getting emotional over fruit.
"It is only a mango," he replies, but he sounds very pleased all the same.
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