by London Lampy
"Not for me, thank you." Kremmen holds his hand over his glass to stop the waitress from pouring any wine into it. He disappeared into his cabin shortly after the train left Kipp and stayed there for most of the day, only reappearing just now to eat dinner with us. This has meant that one of the stewards had to find a chair for him so that he can sit at the end of our booth, and he's getting in the way of everyone trying to walk past.
I spent most of the day guarding Sampson, which hasn't been too bad. He fell asleep in his seat a couple of hours into the journey and didn't wake until mid afternoon when he retired to his cabin complaining of a headache, demanding that one of us find him some aspirin. Once we'd done that Vio and me stood by the window in the narrow corridor outside watching the scenery pass by.
I can't quite get over just how fast the train moves, I thought it would be like a big tram but it's nothing like that at all. It has a proper restaurant and even a bar and it moves so swiftly that stuff outside is gone in a flash, although it's dark out there now and all I can see is the reflection in the glass of all five of us squashed around a small table.
Vin's hand is resting on my leg under the table and he's stroking my knee with his thumb. I'm trying not to think too much about going to bed with him tonight and him making good on his promise of us having "train sex", and so to distract myself I look at Kremmen. He's still wearing his dark glasses, and I've noticed that they even have small leather flaps in the side that cover the gap between the frame and his face. He's also not removed his gloves, I can only assume that he's going to eat dinner with them on and under the carriage's little gas lamps his face looks even paler than it did before. Sampson takes a large gulp from his wine glass then stares at Kremmen too. "Take those damn glasses off won't you? It's awfully hard to have a conversation with a chap when you don't know where he's looking, for all I know you're staring at the waitress' rear end right now."
"My apologies, but I'd prefer not to. I have a very rare medical condition which makes my eyes sensitive to the light, but I can assure you I'm not looking at any part of the waitress."
"Hmm," Sampson peers doubtfully at him. "What about the gloves, sensitive skin too?"
"Yes indeed Mr Sampson. I know that my appearance may seem a little unusual to you, but please try to see beyond it." His accent tickles something in the back of my mind, I feel like I almost know where I've heard it before but I can't quite hold on to the memory and it slips away from me again.
"In what capacity are you employed with the Cartel?" Vin asks before Sampson can say anything else about the man's appearance.
"I perform a variety of roles, I often accompany dignitaries such as yourselves when they visit with our members and tour our many projects."
"Did you travel with our colleagues from the Eastern Island when they came up here to observe your tin mines last year?" Vin asks. The question is casual but I can hear more than casual curiosity in his voice, and he's stopped stroking my leg too.
"No...I didn't," Kremmen replies, one gloved hand lifting his water glass to his lips.
"Busy with other things I suppose."
"Yes, I was," the strange man replies, taking a sip.
As usual Sampson dominates the conversation over dinner, talking about himself at great length and not letting anyone else get a word in. I notice that Vin frequently glances at Kremmen, although what Kremmen is looking at the gods only know. Once the meal is done Kremmen bids us goodnight and returns back to his cabin before the waitress has even arrived to clear the table.
"Bloody strange looking fellow, but seems nice enough," Sampson declares, draining his brandy glass. I don't think Kremmen said much more than adding the odd "and then what happened" to Sampson's ramblings, but I suppose listening to his nonsense is all it takes for Sampson to think you're "nice enough".
The waitress appears and starts to load our dirty dishes onto a tray, when she picks up Kremmen's used glass Vin grabs her wrist and takes it off her.
"Sir, let me get you a clean one," she says, trying to take it back off him.
"No...thank you." He's frowning, holding the glass up to the light and peering at it, and the waitress gives up and goes off with a shake of her head.
"What is it?" Vio leans forward, looking at the glass too.
"What do you make of that?" Vin tilts the glass toward us, pointing to something white smeared across its rim.
"I say, why are you all so interested in a dirty glass?" Sampson asks, Vin ignores him. Vio puts out a finger and wipes some of the white stuff onto it, then rubs her thumb and forefinger together, feeling its texture.
"It's the same colour as his skin," I comment.
"No, it is his skin," Vin says, sniffing the glass.
"Are you saying that the poor bugger is loosing his skin?" Sampson says loudly.
"No," Vio puts in. "It's make up of some sort."
"He's wearing make up? What a bloody odd thing to do, why would a chap want to do that?"
"That's a very good question," Vin looks at Vio. "Violet, what do you think?"
"Well...he said that he had sensitive skin, that's why he wears the gloves. Could be that a thick layer of make up protects his face."
"Could be it," Vin puts the glass down but we all still stare at it. "When I was in the army I spent a year up in the Rosheen mountains and we used to spread a paste of zinc oxide over our lips and noses to stop them from blistering in the sun. Any other ideas, why else could he be wearing make up?"
"Because he's a poofter?" Sampson suggests. This doesn't get a reply from any of us.
"Maybe he's got a bad scar or one of those large red birth marks?" Vio offers.
"Or perhaps his skin problem makes his skin look really odd and he doesn't want people staring at him?" I add.
"Could be any of those, or none of them." Vin bounces his finger off the table top while Vio lights up a cheeroot. "I can't get over the feeling he's hiding, or disguising, something."
"Do you think he could be an assassin like that waiter from the boat?" Sampson asks, sounding concerned.
"Whatever he is Sir, he's not like that Surosian waiter," Vin replies.
"Good, I don't want to get stabbed again. That wretch ruined a perfectly good jacket." Vin catches my eye for a moment.
"I think to be on the safe side though we ought to keep watch overnight," Vin flicks the glass with his finger, making it ring. "We can take shifts again."
Sampson has just turned in for the night and the three of us are in the corridor outside his cabin discussing who's going to stand watch first. Vio stops talking and looks at the cabin door.
"Can he hear us out here?" she says quietly.
"Not over the train, no," Vin replies.
"You think something's going on, don't you?"
"Possibly," he nods.
"The make up?" she questions.
"That is odd, but it could have a perfectly reasonable explanation, and by itself it's not enough to make me worry unduly, but there's something else. Back at the station in Kipp I realised that I'd heard Kremmen's name before, it hadn't clicked until Sampson started on about if it was a visk name, that's what jogged my memory. When I was over visiting our offices on the East Island last year I remember talking to my opposite number over there about a similar trip to ours he'd made a few months previously. He told me that the cartel had provided a "guide" then, a man by the name of Kremmen. Said that he was a complete pain in the neck and that none of them could even take a piss without Kremmen appearing to find out what they were doing, but he never mentioned the man's unusual appearance, and somehow I feel that's just as noteworthy. When I asked our Kremmen if he'd accompanied the East Island party he said he hadn't. It could be he's forgotten, but that seems very unlikely, or it could be he's lying, but I can't see any reason for him to be doing that at all, or it could be that maybe he's not the same man. So we're left with either the possibility that the Cartel has two men with the same name doing the same job, or the possibility that this Kremmen is an imposter."
"Shit, I don't like this," Vio says seriously.
"No, I don't either," Vin agrees.
"So where's the real Kremmen?" I ask.
"More to the point monkey boy, why the fuck has this one supplanted him?" She opens the train window and throws her cheroot butt out, letting a stream of warm damp air in. "And what are we going to do about it?"
"Nothing, for now," Vin runs a hand through his short red hair, frowning. "I need to have a better idea of what he's up to before we make any kind of move. Exit, tomorrow I want you to break into Kremmen's cabin and have a good look around, see what you can find."
"Will do," I nod.
"For tonight all we can do is keep watch, so who wants to go first?"
I end up pulling the first watch. I've got Vin's gun tucked into the waist of my trousers, and I'm very aware of it being there. If Kremmen does suddenly try to force his way into Sampson's cabin to attack him could I use it on him? I don't know.
Standing in the corridor alone is pretty dull, occasionally the steward passes me by and each time he gives me a funny look but says nothing. Vin and Vio both come past too on their way to use the toilet as the cabins don't have them, but other than that things are quite until just before midnight, and I know that's the time because along with his gun Vin has also loaned me his watch, when Kremmen suddenly appears out of his cabin at the far end of the carriage. My heart starts to thump and my hand goes to the gun, but then I notice that he's wearing striped pyjamas, still with his gloves and glasses on though, and is clearly not carrying any sort of weapon. He nods to me and instead of heading toward Samson's door he passes straight by and goes in the direction of the toilet instead. I stay alert, he's in there for about ten minutes and when he comes back he approaches me, and I tense up in preparation to tackle him if necessary.
"You're out here very late," he says conversationally.
"I'm guarding Sampson." His pyjamas are buttoned all the way up to his neck, around which he has wrapped a towel. It's not slung over like we used to do in the orphanage when we queued up to bathe though, he's wearing it wrapped like a scarf and it entirely covers his neck.
"You think someone on this train poses a threat to him?" Kremmen asks.
"Maybe," I shrug, not wanting to give anything away.
He turns his head slightly and I notice that the white make up on his cheek is smudged a little. I try to see if I can tell what's under it, but it just looks like regular skin to me.
"Where are you from?" he suddenly asks, and I get the feeling that he's staring at me from behind his glasses.
"Parnell," I reply. "We're all from Parnell."
"But originally, where are you from?"
"Parnell," I say again. I don't think I should be giving this strange man any private details about myself.
"You were born there?" Kremmen sounds surprised.
"Yes," I frown at him, hoping he'll go away.
"I didn't know," he mutters, shaking his head.
I'm not sure what he doesn't know, but I'm not about to ask either. He looks at me one more time, then turns and heads back to his cabin, and I can't help noticing his weird, unbalanced walk again.
Nothing much happens after that, and at one o'clock I go and wake Vin up for his turn to stand in the corridor.
"'low?" he says blinking as I shake his shoulder.
"It's your turn."
"Ugh...yeah," he slides out of bed. He's been sleeping naked and I watch him as he crosses the small room. He has a very nice body.
"Later," he laughs when he notices me looking at him.
"I saw Kremmen." I say, partly to change the subject, and partly because he'd want to know.
"Doing what?" he quizzes me as he pulls his trousers on.
"He went to the bathroom then came back, when he came back he asked me where I was from and where I'd been born."
"What did you say?"
"Just told him Parnell."
"Good," he pulls a thin sweater over his head. "He doesn't need to know any more about us than he already does. I only wish I knew what he was up to."
I hand Vin his gun back and watch as he leaves the cabin. The steward has made up both of the beds and I consider climbing into the top one but in the end I strip off and get into the couch one that Vin has just left. The sheets are still warm and smell of him, and I fall asleep thinking about the conversation I had with Vio this morning.
I'm woken a few hours later by Vin getting into the bed, he climbs over me and gets between my back and the wall. "Hello," he says quietly, running a hand down my body that ends up between my legs. "Been thinking about doing this for the past three hours," he kisses my neck and shoulders.
"Busy watch then?" I mumble.
"The highlight was getting bitten by a mosquito. No sign of our strange friend, whatever he's up to I don't think he's planning to do it tonight." He takes his hand off my cock and I can feel him doing something behind my back, I realise what it is when he reaches under my tail and starts to stroke my entrance with slippery fingers.
"You woke me up at four in the morning to fuck me?" I try to protest, but it's kind of ruined by me pushing back against his invading fingers.
"I told you earlier, we're going to have train sex." I turn my head and look at him, kissing him on the side of his mouth then licking his jaw. "I'll take that to mean you have no objections," he pushes his fingers deep inside me and finds my sweet spot, I make quite a loud noise.
"Best keep it down a bit, the train won't drown out everything and Sampson's still only next door," he says, doing it again. I manage a muffled groan this time.
"I think you're going to have to move your tail," Vin strokes it with his free hand. I lift it and drape it over his thigh, giving him access to what he wants. He kisses along my shoulder up to my ear. "You ready?" he asks.
"Mmm." I still feel half asleep, but in a warm, relaxed way, and when he enters me it's like I'm having the best dream ever.
"That's so good...so tight," Vin murmurs into my ear.
As promised he more or less lets the train do all the work, he moves with it and he strokes my erection in the same rhythm. I almost fall asleep, only the steady buzz of pleasure coming from my cock and ass keeps me awake. I feel like this could go on forever, neither of us are in any hurry to finish. I seem to suspended somewhere between waking and sleeping, just on the edge of coming but with no urgency to do so, and I let out a contented sigh.
"Told you this was good," Vin says into my hair.
"Mmm," is all I can be bothered to reply as he strokes me a little faster.
The train sways on the track and Vin pushes deeply into me with the movement of it. He lets out a long, deep groan, his hand stopping its stroking and his body tensing.
"You just...?" I mumble as his hand starts to move again.
"Mmm," he replies.
I push myself into his palm, now suddenly wanting the same release that he's just had. When it happens the orgasm starts between my legs and seems to spread out through my whole body right to the tip of my tail and my toes. I don't remember anything more after that, as I drift back to sleep with a smile on my face.
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