Chapter Seven

Eddie chuckled under his breath, sweat beading his brow. Actually, he was fairly sure the sweat wasn't just on his forehead, but covering his entire body. He certainly felt slick enough, and as Mark gently removed his blindfold, he could see his partner was himself red-faced and panting.

He smiled as Mark gently kissed him, before unlocking the handcuffs and helping him to his feet.

'That was worth waiting for,' Eddie confessed. 'Damn was that worth waiting for.'

Mark smiled, rubbing his companion's wrists where red chafe marks confirmed his earlier struggles. Together, they walked to the shower, and stood under the steaming water. He was never sure why, but whenever he took on the dominant role in sex, he felt the need to mother his partner. For this reason, he carefully cleaned away the sweat, semen and lubricant from Eddie's skin, massaging the taut, brown skin as he worked. Eddie's variety of moans, pleas for more and sighs amused him, and he reached for the shampoo, leaning his companion's head back and massaging his scalp.

'I think I could orgasm,' Eddie remarked truthfully, his eyes shutting. 'thoughIthouyouweasuttinyway?'

'Care to repeat that coherently?' Mark replied, bemused.

'I thought you were a subbie,' Eddie replied. 'Stupid me. I should have realised you were an 'anything goes' person.'

Mark paused, thinking how off-track Eddie was. Yesterday he would have happily admitted he was 'anything goes' but this afternoon's events had reminded him of how much 'anything' encompasses. For a second he debated confessing to Eddie what he'd found, and asking his advice, before biting his bottom lip and continuing to work the shampoo into a lather. There was something bothering him about Quentin's referral to the 'boyfriend' that had been hanging around. Rather stupidly, he then remembered that on Monday he had advised Quentin he didn't have a boyfriend, and today he'd confessed he did. Not that he did have a boyfriend, because, strictly speaking he didn't. It was too early to refer to Eddie as such, but he'd been unable to resist throwing his sex life in his employer's face. Nonetheless, Quentin thought somebody was hanging around – a 'yuppie' somebody – and the only person that fit that description was Eddie.

'Lean back,' Mark murmured, rinsing his companion's hair, determined not to think about work or Quentin, or the latter's sexual proclivities. 'You look like a little kid with your eyes all screwed up like that.'

'I hate shampoo in my eyes,' Eddie grinned, keeping his eyes firmly squeezed shut. 'This feels so fucking good, y'know?'

'Mmm,' Mark agreed, reaching for the conditioner. Eddie had beautiful hair, so thick and lustrous, almost like a woman's, yet cut into a longish, shaggy style that suited him down to the ground. He ran his fingers through it, coating it with conditioner, both envious and admiring of his lover's locks.

'Eddie?' Mark murmured, after rinsing away the conditioner. 'I should get going. Do you want to stay in the shower?'

'No,' came the yelped reply. Frowning at his lack of self control, Eddie continued. 'No, sorry, don't go.'

'I have to go,' Mark replied. 'You need some time to yourself.'

In other words, Eddie thought miserably, I'm really stretching this 'second date' – or is this our third date? – out far too long.

'I'll be horny,' he whinged childishly, covering for his earlier slip.

'Pick up,' Mark suggested, hands sliding down his companion's body. 'Find someone beautiful and screw them senseless.'

Eddie scowled. He was, truthfully, terribly jealous of anyone whom he considered to be 'his' and even if they weren't in a relationship, and despite the fact he wasn't seriously interested in Mark, he hardly wanted to think about the man having other sexual partners.

'I'm kidding,' Mark grinned. 'Don't look so serious. I'm happy to stay, but I have no clean clothes, other than my office wear, and I'm going to need to start going commando.'

'That's okay,' Eddie agreed. 'We can stay and talk and eat dinner and stuff.'

Mentally kicking himself, Eddie wondered when it was he was going to start making the right sort of moves. He was making an absolute fool of himself, slipping and stumbling and making himself appear clingy and desperate, when all he really wanted was a little more information about Mark's workplace.

'Okay,' Mark agreed. There was something about Eddie's comments that bothered him. Perhaps it was merely that his desire to remain at home, coupled with the increasing suspicion that it was indeed Eddie who was hanging around the office, stalking him – God that sounded funny, 'stalking' – that made him wonder whether the man was indeed a few screws loose.

Mark asked Eddie a few questions of his own that night, perplexed at Eddie's reluctance to talk about his workplace or family in detail. In short, a nagging doubt that maybe Eddie was too good to be true started to nag at him. Mark sighed and remembered that he had Eddie's payslips back at his office, and these would surely reveal the exact location of his workplace. Maybe, on Tuesday when he was to start scouting clients, he'd drop in on the man, and reassure himself that there was nothing funny going on.

Walking into the exclusive fashion store, Mark became wary. What was he doing here, checking up on a new lover? Exactly, he reminded himself, what Eddie has done tohim in hanging around his office. Unless of course it wasn't Eddie that had been hanging around his office?

Confused, with mental debate raging, he browsed the racks of jeans, wincing at the price tags. In less than a year they'd be out of fashion, and they were so unique that the owner wouldn't be in a position to wear them more than two or three times without appearing as though they were the only jeans he owned.

'Can I help you?'

Mark turned to see a tall, muscular man with three piercings in his right ear. Gay. Beautiful. Arrogant. He understood the only reason the sales assistant wasn't sneering was because it was approaching end of month, and end of month was when sales assistants pushed hard for a few more sales in order to boost their commission.

'Is Eddie around?'

The man hesitated. 'No. Who are you?'

The question was asked in a tone that was at once both defensive and curious. Not that the tone mattered much, for Mark had no ready answers and fumbled indecisively.

'Mark,' he replied eventually. 'Don't worry about it, I was just in the neighbourhood; thought I'd drop in.'

'I'll tell him you came,' the man replied. 'Were you interested in those jeans?'

Mark glanced at the row of denim. He wasn't, particularly, but he'd feel stupid walking out, so he flicked through, finding his size and handing them over. 'Yes. Thanks.'

The sales assistant didn't pressure him to ensure they fit, he simply took them to the counter and rung up the sale. Mark handed over his VISA, signing the little yellow slip that signified he'd spent a not-inconsiderable four hundred and seventy-two dollars, and took the silver bag proffered.

Outside, in the sunshine he took his new purchase to a café and ordered a latte. The area took on a different appearance during the day, although within few hours, clubbers would materialise from seemingly nowhere and bouncers and door girls would stand guard, seeking to ensure obscure dress standards were kept.

He drank his coffee unhurriedly, half-listening the conversation of two office-workers behind him, occasionally turning to run his eyes over the lithe body of his young waiter. It was heading into winter and he enjoyed the last rays of autumn sunlight, leaning back in his chair and relaxing before his next appointment.

'Hello stranger.'

Mark turned, spilling the ashtray, to see Eddie, dressed in a pair of knee length shorts and a white singlet. On his feet were thongs and his hair was gelled into a faux hawk. Altogether, he looked more stressed than pleased, and Mark winced at his audacity in showing up at Eddie's workplace unannounced. He was being ridiculous, acting suspicious, when obviously there was nothing to be suspicious of. It was merely that Eddie wasn't a career focused person, and as for his mystery 'stalker'… Well, nice thought, Mark snorted, but the day I get a stalker is the same day pigs fly.

Resting one hand on Mark's back to balance himself, Eddie leant down for a kiss. God, what was the guy doing here? He worked an hour out of the city, and yet here he was, in corporate clothing, asking after him. Forcing a smile, he took a seat opposite and fought the irritation he felt at having his work interrupted.

'Hi,' Mark smiled weakly. 'I, uh…'

'…took the afternoon off?' Eddie guessed.

'No,' Mark corrected. 'We're seeking to expand our business. I was down here to meet with a few people I'd organised appointments with.'

'Interesting,' Eddie agreed, his eyes narrowing. 'How are you planning on expanding?'

Mark laughed. 'Why is it you find my job so interesting?'

'Because mine's so boring,' Eddie confided, pursing his lips. 'No, your butt doesn't look fat, oh yes, that certainly hides the weight, of course, definitely, go for the size eight, nobody will notice the hideous rolls of fat…'

'…you're terrible,' Mark remarked, laughing. 'You must be an excellent actor.'

Oh I am, Eddie silently agreed. 'Not really,' he said aloud as a waiter approached. 'It's simply a matter of practice.'

Mark glanced down at his watch, horrified that so much time had elapsed. 'I'm sorry, but I really should go. I have another appointment in twenty minutes.'

Eddie sighed and ordered a milkshake, wishing to rid himself of the waiter as quickly as possible. The moment the man in black had walked away, he leant over and took Mark's hand.

'Come over tonight,' he requested. 'What time do you think you'll be finished?'

'Maybe an hour?' Mark replied cautiously. 'Look, I went out last night and I'm probably going to fall asleep on you. How about we meet back here in an hour and we can…' he trailed off suggestively.

Eddie nodded, grinning, although he truly had no idea what Mark was planning. It could be anything from a quiet dinner to sex in the middle of the bloody mall, but chances were, it would be interesting. For a man with no hobbies, no friends and no real appeal, Mark was actually a good person to go out with. Even staying at home with him probably wouldn't be too bad, Eddie mused as Mark headed off, and his chocolate milkshake arrived.

They met up at the designated place, at the designated time, both looking markedly less stressed than they had an hour prior.

'So,' Eddie started casually. 'What did you want to do?'

'I was thinking we could…'


The men turned to see someone tall and camp approaching. A gunmetal grey lycra shirt clung to his sculpted torso and regular-fit blue jeans covered legs and an ass that were absolutely stunning. Blue eyes shone from a lightly tanned, beautifully sculpted face and he was smiling a full, bleached-tooth smile. The only real fault, Eddie noticed, was hint of a prematurely receding hairline.

Mark didn't even look at the hairline. He was physically exhausted and mentally drained, but pleased nonetheless at Georgie's interest in conversation. There was something about leaving behind old fuck buddies, when a relationship ended, that was kind of depressing. He and Georgie had gone at it together for nearly a year, and with the sex had been some degree of friendship; enough, at least, to make him want to see how Georgie and his regular partner were going.

'Hey, it's so good to see you,' Georgie greeted, wrapping his arms around his one-time lover. 'God, how are you going? Minna said she saw you last night with some girl, and now I see you here with some guy.' He finished, grinning wildly.

'Oh,' Mark laughed stiltedly. 'The girl was Kerry, a workmate of mine. This is Eddie.'

'Hello Eddie. I'm Georgie.'

Eddie took the proffered hand, insecurity rapidly ensnaring him. The man was obviously one of Mark's previous lovers, and there was utterly no way Eddie could compete. His body could in no way be compared to the work of art standing in front of him, and Georgie seemed to share Mark's ability to hold a conversation with just about anyone, whereas he always fumbled and stumbled when in unfamiliar territory. With a pang of regret, he realised that Georgie wasn't the sort to leave a new lover in bed whilst he ran off any extra calories he'd stupidly consumed.

'Come to our place for tea, so we can catch up,' Georgie suggested, his gaze switching from one man to the other. 'Both of you.'

Mark gave Eddie a questioning look. Seeing his new lover shrug, he turned back to Georgie and smiled. 'Love to. What time and when?'

'Now,' came the impatient reply. 'Come on.'

Irritated at his inability to have a conversation with Mark, without being interrupted by the man's work responsibilities and friends, Eddie traipsed after the pair, trying not to glower. He couldn't help but feel so frustrated and inferior, when until this point in time, he'd always assumed he was somewhat…better…than Mark. He had friends, hobbies, and a life. He had a better body, better fashion sense and a better life. Now, Mark was inadvertently introducing him to Adonis-like lovers, revealing coffee dates with work friends and already shying off from dates with the lousy excuse that he was 'tired'.

Georgie lived a few suburbs out of the Valley, and they drove there together in Mark's car. Eddie rushed to claim shotgun, feeling incredibly stupid when he realised Georgie hadn't even thought about claiming it for himself. Goddamnit, he needed to get a check on himself; he wasn't even interested in Mark – at least, not seriously - he was with him for work purposes, so jealousy shouldn't even be an issue.

'So, Eddie,' Georgie started. 'Are you Mark's new boyfriend, new nookie friend, or a random other?'

Eddie panicked, looking to Mark for advice. Mark shrugged, wishing the question had never been asked, but unsurprised that it had been.

'It's about a week to early to call him your boyfriend,' Georgie mused. 'Fair enough. Are you monogamous?'

'Yes,' Eddie snapped, unable to help himself. The last thing he wanted was the bastard in the back seat pawing Mark, distracting the man and eating into their time together.

'Touche,' Georgie muttered.

They settled into uneasy silence, Eddie stewing, Georgie irritated and Mark slightly embarrassed. Not, Mark reminded himself, that he had any reason to be embarrassed when he himself had arrived at Eddie's workplace, unannounced. That was far more embarrassing than responding angrily to a question on relationship status.

'Let me out here,' Eddie requested as they passed a train station. 'I think I'll go home. I'm too tired to be good company and you two can catch up in peace.'

Mark hesitated, before pulling over. 'Are you sure?'

'Yes. Thank-you.'

Mark wanted to laugh as he recognised Eddie's discomfort as an offshoot of insecurity. Taking his new lover's face in his hands, he leant over and kissed him, Eddie's lips parting to allow him access. Monkey-like, Eddie clung to him as they whispered their good-byes, neither satisfied with the way the night had panned out.

'Do you want me to come over on the weekend?' Mark murmured, fixing Eddie's faux hawk.

'Come over Friday night,' Eddie whispered, grateful that Mark would at least kiss him in front of a third party. 'We'll go camping or something; I can get one of my sisters' to look after my pets.'

'Okay,' Mark agreed, laughing. 'What do I need to bring?'

'Yourself,' came the relieved reply. 'And lubricant.'

He sat on the bathroom floor, sprawled out, his head resting against the wall. His skin protested at the sensation of wet shorts rubbing against his sensitive skin. The water was being absorbed from the floor that he'd neglected to mop up this morning after his shower, and had flung himself onto carelessly twenty minutes earlier.

He shifted slightly, his head thumping, his heart racing and the sharp taste of stomach acid filling his mouth. He needed to stand up, brush his teeth and shower, before the acid started to rot his teeth. It was bad enough he couldn't stop binge eating; he didn't need 'bad teeth' added to his flaws.

Pulling himself up, he reached for the toilet paper and wiped the spilt vomit from his face and the toilet seat, before turning to the vanity. He glared angrily at his reflection, frustrated at the way his eyes were bloodshot, his skin uneven and his hair imperfect. His stomach bulged, and he hunched over, his skinny arms making him look like, in his own mind, an overweight Neanderthal man.

He brushed his teeth, washed his face and bit back the anger and frustration he felt with himself. It was too late now, the calories had been consumed, most of them hopefully purged, and all that remained was the cleaning date with the kitchen.

Mango slunk around his legs as he cleaned up the food scraps, mock cream clinging to his whiskers. Mango didn't give a damn about weight, the only things Mango gave a damn about were food, attention and sleep. At night he slept on his owner's bed – unless someone was rudely occupying his space – and he spent his days grooming himself, snoozing and lusting after the contents of his owner's aquariums.

'You don't care if you're fat, huh?' Eddie whispered, patting the ginger feline's back. 'You don't need to attract the men, and find someone to love you. Cats don't laugh at one another and I love you just the way you are.'

Mango rubbed his head against his owner's shin happily, before returning his attention to…

…Christ, Eddie didn't even want to think about this. He'd been so good for the past four days, eating little and exercising vigorously, only to blow it all within a matter of half an hour. Now he was left feeling pathetic, ridiculous, bloated, ill. It was all so fucking frustrating, having to do so much in order to prevent himself from bingeing, and then failing, and gorging himself on what should have been a week's worth of food.

It didn't matter, he told himself firmly. I'll never do it again, and besides, it doesn't matter what Mark things. Mark's only temporary, even if I gain a little weight while I'm with him, he'll neither notice nor comment. And even if he does, who cares? As long as Eddie could accomplish what was required, everything would be okay.

Not, of course, that he had accomplished what he required. The debt consolidation business was expanding, and he needed the details. He needed to find out every goddamn thing about the business, and the sooner the better.

Chapter Eight

There was something terrible about his fascination with Quentin's sexual deviance. It was starting to perplex and fascinate, rather than disgust, and frequently he found himself searching the history files, copying down web addresses and trying to log in at home. Mostly he was unsuccessful; the sites were only recognising certain IP address and password combinations, which obviously left him stranded. Altogether, though, he was unsure what to do with the knowledge that Quentin was a paedophile.

It was stupid, really, because once upon a time he'd have rushed to the police, but now he not only found the whole situation of 'dobbing someone in' entirely unbelievable, but he was worried the blame could instead be laid on him. After all, he'd opened a lot of the files and he'd also tried visiting the websites at home, which did look rather incriminating. And what if someone came after him? As far as he was aware, porn was big business, and someone was sure to become enraged if their business ventures were thwarted and their freedom placed at risk.

The cumulative stress was starting to weigh him down as the ethical dilemma of leaving a known paedophile free to wonder the streets clashed with his own, chickenshit, desire for personal safety. His mother blamed his moodiness on 'the new boyfriend', but she was sufficiently accustomed to current dating trends to refrain from asking when she might get to meet Eddie. Instead, she merely kissed him good-bye on Friday evening, telling him to have fun and be careful.

Mark nodded, accepting her affection and wishing he could confide in her. He would, he truly would, if he thought she'd be able to offer advice, but more likely than not she'd either freak out and call the police, or tell him to quit and forget the whole matter. What he really needed was his father, but his father wasn't due home for another two months and this wasn't the sort of matter he wished to discuss over the phone.

He tried to hide the solemnity as he arrived at Eddie's, but the older man picked up on it and cautiously asked if he'd rather not go camping.

'No, no,' Mark argued. 'I'd love to. I even bought my own fishing gear.'

'And you can share my sleeping bag,' Eddie grinned, raising an eyebrow suggestively. 'Well, I'd rather not hang around any longer than I have to, so do you want to put your car in the garage and we'll go?'

Nearly three hours later they arrived at their destination. It wasn't a camping ground as such; rather it was a hundred acre 'weekender' block Eddie's parents had inherited from a distant relative twenty or so years prior. It was secluded ground, with an overgrown dirt path leading through the trees, and Mark was jolted into alertness as his companion's small sedan manoeuvred the uneven territory.

Eventually Eddie located the clearing he was after, and shone the headlights into the darkness while they set up camp. He wasn't new to pitching a tent and within forty-five minutes camp was set-up and all that was left for them to do was eat dinner and go to bed.

They sat alongside one another in camping chairs, eating sandwiches and drinking diet Coke.

'Bandicoot,' Eddie announced, nudging Mark's foot. 'See?'

'I see,' Mark replied, bemused. 'It's probably a good thing you didn't take Mango.'

Eddie pulled a face. 'Not on your life, although I'm willing to bet the bloody animal's too lazy to hunt.'

They laughed, smiling over at one another from underneath the gas light. It was far too early in the relationship for camping, and yet they'd both agreed to it anyway, Eddie because he wanted some time to interrogate Mark – sans interruptions – and Mark, because his feelings for Eddie were starting to deepen into something more than simple lust and amiability.

'Should we go to sleep?' Mark asked softly, neatly folding the sandwich wrapping.

'Yeah,' Eddie agreed, taking the rubbish from his lover's hands and taking it to his rucksack. 'Come on, take a leak and come to bed.'

They lay together on the air mattress, naked underneath the thick blankets. Eddie sighed contentedly as Mark spooned him, the younger man holding him loosely against his chest. Slowly, without ever meaning to forego sexual activity, they slid into repose.

'Nice,' Mark grinned, watching the silvery fish struggling to free the hook from its mouth.

'Bitch,' Eddie muttered, reaching for the net. 'I think it's bigger than any of mine.'

The fish was landed and the hook quickly removed. A quick comparison showed that the fish was indeed the biggest of three caught so far, although truthfully, Eddie didn't particularly care who caught the biggest fish.

Mark leant over, stroking his lover's face, marvelling at his change in dress. Gone were the up-to-the-minute fashions, leaving in their place an old grey singlet and battered denim shorts. His beautiful hair was messy and his hands streaked with mud and carrying the wretched scent of bait. Filthy Nikes, worn without socks, were on his feet and there was a smudge of dirt on his forehead.

'You look so different,' Mark commented softly. 'I didn't think you'd be one to get his hands dirty.'

Eddie shrugged, glancing down at himself, suddenly self conscious. He may have been overweight as a child and teen but he hadn't been inactive, and camping had always been a nice escape from the shittiness of real life. It was a time when he could dress how he wanted and enjoy himself, without being taunted or teased, and now that he was an adult it was a welcome escape from the worries of his bad eating habits, singledom, and rapidly encroaching middle age.

'It suits you,' Mark continued, drawing his lover nearer. 'Put your rod down.'

Eddie wound in his line, noting Mark doing the same. Laying their rods on the bank, they moved away from the shore and spread out a blanket.

'Not here,' Eddie laughed hesitantly.

'Why not?' came the surprised, sardonic reply. 'Were you expecting visitors?'

Hesitantly, Eddie sat alongside his new lover. Skilled hands began to knead his back, sending tingles down his spine. Shutting his eyes he leaned back into his boyfriend, smiling as his hands moved from his back to his chest. His nipples hardened and his cock stirred as Mark's hands ghosted his body, eventually gliding underneath his singlet and pushing it upwards.

Throwing Eddie's singlet aside, Mark lowered his mouth to the older man's neck. Carefully laying Eddie on his back, he nipped at the sensitive skin, tracing his tongue along his collarbone. Mischievous, his hand slid a little to the left and two fingers trailed over Eddie's underarm, causing him to yelp and sit up in surprise.

'That's not funny,' Eddie mock grumbled, lying down again. 'Not funny at all.'

Mark chuckled under his breath, straddling his partner and leaning down for a kiss. He squirmed out of his shirt at Eddie's pointed noises of insistence, before diving down for more affection.

'C'mon here,' Eddie mumbled, his finger's reaching for the zipper on Mark's shorts. 'Get nakies with me.'

Slipping out of their clothing and kicking their shoes aside, they rolled into a semi-comfortable position, trying to ignore the jagged rocks digging into their sides. Eddie found himself revelling in the open air pleasuring, although he was vaguely worried about the bull ants that kept creeping over the edge of the blanket.

'Did you bring lubricant?' he murmured huskily, his body arching desperately towards Mark's.


Eddie nodded, lying back down and spreading his legs as Mark's head moved in between them. He cried out warningly when the pressure became too much, lowering his hips and gesturing for Mark to move away.

Grasping one another's bodies tightly, Mark ground himself against Eddie's thigh, desperate for some relief. The uninhibited, natural, lovemaking was unusually arousing and he wanted nothing more than to have Eddie make love to him as quickly as possible.

'You right for me to take you?' Eddie asked hoarsely, painfully aware of his own throbbing cock.

Mark nodded, walking over to his bag and retrieving lubricant and throwing it Eddie's way. Noting the lack of condoms, Eddie paused in his admiration of Mark's body to ask the necessary questions.

'Are we now exclusive?'

Mark shrugged. 'I'm not sleeping with anyone else, and I'm clean. If you are too, and if you want…'

Eddie understood. 'Yes. Yeah, um… Yes,' he mumbled, flushing red. 'Okay.'

As Eddie carefully prepared his lover, he didn't pause to think about the wisdom of his actions. All he knew was that he wanted Mark, and quickly, and with as much sensation as possible.

Minutes later he penetrated, shuddering and moaning at the onslaught of stimulation. He opened his eyes to see Mark smiling up at him, his eyes shining with happiness.

As he began to thrust, he realised Mark was falling for him. Unfortunately for both of them, at this stage of the game there was no way on but forward, so Eddie would simply have to deal with the fact that he was going to eventually hurt the man.

'Number of ant bites sustained?' Eddie inquired.

'Fifty or so,' Mark replied regretfully. 'Ten sandflies, fifty million mozzies and an assortment of other buggers have also had a go at me.'

They laughed, both regretting their itchy, sore, stinging skin. It was midday Sunday and they were headed home, the camp packed up and their skin not only attacked by bugs and insects, but slightly sunburned.

'Are you going to stay for dinner?' Eddie inquired, wincing as he remembered his plans to 'interrogate' Mark. If he wanted to retain his job, he needed to start actually doing some work, rather than going on sex-and-fishing sprees with the person who was intended to lead him to the proverbial pot of gold. Or pot of shit, if you wanted to describe the scenario more accurately.

'I'm going to stay for a shower,' Mark hinted. 'If you want me to stay longer, I'm cool with it.'

'You're 'cool with it',' Eddie teased, leaning over and massaging his thigh. 'You sound like a teenager.'

'I'm not sure I understand teenager lingo anymore,' Mark confessed. 'And the best part is, I don't even mind.'

Eddie fell silent, remembering his teenage years. Torment. Hell. The years had dragged on and on and on, each one bringing with it taunts and slurs and physical attacks. Four high schools he'd been to, four goddamned high schools, and even at the last, where he spent two years, he rarely went a month without being beaten up.

'Where did you go to school?' Mark inquired. 'It was public, right?'

'Yeah, out in the suburbs,' Eddie replied vaguely. 'I went to a few. I was one of the outcasts, and…' he shrugged.

Mark rolled his eyes. 'You school jumped in the hope of finding friends?'

'Not exactly,' Eddie confessed, focusing his gaze on the road. 'I, uh, was on the wrong side of a lot of fights. I was kind of a fat child.'

'Really? I can't imagine that. I'd assumed you'd always been beautiful.'

'Hmph,' Eddie snorted. 'Unlikely. What were your schooldays like?'

Mark hesitated. 'Agreeable. I didn't have any close friends, but there were always people around. I suppose I'm not that good with friendships; I find it a lot harder to…express myself, I suppose. I'm not really sure. My father was always working offshore, so playing up wasn't an option.'

'You never did anything baaaad?' Eddie inquired, laughing.

'Not really. You?'


They fell into silence, Mark content and at peace, Eddie scheming how best to loosen Mark's tongue.

'We could do it now,' Eddie suggested. 'Be baaaad.'

'I'm not sure I want to be,' Mark smiled. 'Baaaad.'

'Sure you do,' Eddie grinned, excited. 'Let's go home. Then we can go out drinking, come home plastered, have bad alcohol-fueled sex and go to work with massive hangovers.'

Mark considered the offer. Normally he wouldn't dream of arriving at work hung-over, but Quentin was a jerk of the biggest proportions, and it was hardly as though it mattered whether he kept the job. He'd received a letter on Thursday requesting he attend an interview in a week's time, and he understood from the initial job requirements that the position was basically his.

'Deal,' Mark agreed, a smile tugging at his lips. 'We're gonna be baaaad.'

'Yes we are,' Eddie agreed. 'And I apologise in advance for anything I say or do that makes you think I'm weird, pathetic, overly lascivious or otherwise unworthy.'

'Same,' Mark confirmed. 'And if I throw up on anything of yours, I'll pay for the dry cleaning.'

'That's the spirit,' Eddie agreed cheerfully.

Mark was slightly hesitant at the thought of intentionally drinking a lot – e, and it's many variations and cousins had been more his guilty pleasure of choice – but there was something disgracefully appealing about alcohol.

They started their drinking binge early in the evening, visiting classy bar after classy bar, drinking anything and everything, and smoking more cigarettes than it should have been possible to consume in one night.

At some stage during the night, they must have decided to head back to Eddie's place, because Mark vaguely understood they were standing at a taxi rank, trying to remain standing whilst shamelessly mauling one another.

'Excuse me gentlemen.'

Mark turned his head slightly, too uninterested to paying the intruder full attention. Eddie's hands were inside his shirt and their erections pressed together, providing some as much stimulation as they could hope to receive in public. Moving would mean less pressure, and less pressure resulted in less overall fun.

'Oh,' Mark remarked, laughing in disbelief. 'You're a cop. Well, we're on our way, um, we're…ummm.'

Eddie glanced over at the word 'cop', his mind fuzzy but nowhere near so bad as Mark's. His gaze met the policeman's, green eyes meeting brown ones, and a flicker of understanding passing between them.

'Come with me,' the cop ordered suddenly, dragging them to the front of the taxi queue. 'Get in. Try taking that behaviour home.'

As the policeman shut the door behind them, Mark and Eddie exchanged looks and burst into laughter.

'We shouldn't laugh,' Eddie giggled after giving the driver instructions. 'You shouldn't laugh…laugh…at cops man.'

'Why not?' Mark replied, the haze of alcohol only slightly lessening. 'Fuck I'm drunk.'

''Cause I'm a cop,' Eddie replied solemnly, slurring his words.

Mark burst into laughter. 'Yeah right.'

'No,' Eddie argued. 'I am. I'm a cop. I don't work in retail, that's a lie. That's my ex-boyfriend you saw when you went in, and he did me a dodgy pay slip when I went to you first.'

'Oh,' Mark replied hollowly, unsure of whether or not he should believe Eddie. 'That's nice. Well, you know what I want? A blow job.'

Eddie smiled, grateful that Mark wasn't angry. He leant over obligingly, fumbling with Mark's jeans, not caring in the slightest what the old taxi driver thought as he rewarded his boyfriend for accepting he'd lied about his occupation. It took them a few minutes to release Mark's erection, and his lover groaned loudly the second he started to stroke his hard-on. Sufficiently inebriated to be entirely shameless, Eddie took him into his mouth, trying not to laugh as Mark's groans increased.

Mark was crying out as he approached orgasm, thrusting harder and resting his hands on his partner's head. Utterly unselfconscious, he let out a long, low moan as he came, spurting his seed in seemingly endless torrents of bitter liquid.

Eddie came up coughing, struggling to get his breath. Mark smiled weakly, panting from exertion and surprised and pleased he'd been able to orgasm while so drunk.

'The driver's stopped,' Eddie whispered, wiping his mouth.

Mark stared out the window, then moved Eddie back down and stared at the driver. It was true; they weren't going anywhere, although he had no idea how long the vehicle had been sedentary for.

'Excuse me,' Mark asked, tapping the driver's shoulder. 'I think my boyfriend wants to fuck me. Do you mind?'

'Nah mate,' the driver laughed. 'Don't make a mess though.'

'We won't,' Mark promised, unclipping his seatbelt. 'What?' he asked a dumbstruck Eddie. 'Get your fucking clothes off.'

The older man hesitated, throwing a nervous look in the cab driver's direction. The driver had obviously been masturbating whilst he'd been blowing Mark, and it looked like he hadn't yet reached orgasm, so it wasn't really a surprise he didn't mind the free exhibition. Slowly removing his clothes, he watched Mark spread his semen around his entrance, and begin to prepare himself.

'What?' Mark asked, noting Eddie's gaze. 'You said you wanted to be baaaad. Now I'm fucking pissed as all hell and I want you to fuck me.'

'We're naked in the backseat of a taxi,' Eddie pointed out, uncertainty creeping up on him. Christ, what were they doing? The taxi was parked God knows where, the driver was masturbating, and Mark… God, Mark wanted to be fucked.

'That's necessary,' Mark slurred, breaking into laughter as he climbed on Eddie's lap. Holding his hand under the man's mouth, he ordered 'spit'.

They both hocked and spat, slightly disgusted at the makeshift lubricant, but it was hardly as though they were in a position where alternatives were available.

Eddie's eyes shut as Mark's lips met his in a wet, sloppy kiss. He could feel his erection being coated in saliva and a smile began to play on his lips as Mark kissed him, unabashed and naked. How could he have once thought Mark was boring? Given the least bit of encouragement the man was happy to join in the fun –whatever it happened to be – and there were never, ever, any repercussions.

'You wanna fuck me?' Mark asked, moving into a squatting position. 'If you do, you have to hit me, and call me your bitch.'

Eddie glanced over at the cab driver. The man was watching them, whilst slowly stroking his own, purpley-red cock. Tearing his gaze away from the driver, Eddie turned to his boyfriend.

'C'mon then,' he whispered softly.

Mark smiled drunkenly, slowly impaling himself on his boyfriend's erection. It was a difficult manoeuvre but the expression on his Eddie's face was priceless, and definitely worth the awkward positioning. Eddie's hands gripped his hips, guiding him through each thrust, the speed slowly increasing, and both men ignoring the driver's actions.

'Call me your bitch,' Mark whispered, biting down on his lover's neck. 'And hit me, scratch me, strangle me.'

Their gazes met and Mark nodded slightly, confirming this was definitely what he wanted. He moaned as Eddie moved one hand away from his hip and over his throat, carefully squeezing the delicate skin.

'More,' he urged, keeping the rhythm going. 'Harder.'

Mark moved one hand down to his cock, his eyes closed, whilst Eddie commenced a barrage of whispered insults, torturing his skin and frequently limiting his air supply. He was moaning aloud, working towards his second orgasm when Eddie suddenly groaned, his fingernails digging into the flesh of Mark's hips as he jerked him up and down. His heartbeat increased as his partner orgasmed, Eddie's elegant brown neck exposed by his thrown-back head and primeval cries emanating from his mouth.

His desire sated, Eddie eventually sagged against the seat, staring up at his lover. 'Thanks.'

Mark shrugged, glancing over at the driver, who was cleaning up his stomach with a wad of tissues. 'You're welcome.'

They used their shirts to clean up their not inconsiderable mess, Eddie pulling on his jeans, Mark remaining naked.

'Once more,' Mark explained, shrugging helplessly. 'I'll sit here naked and jerk off while we drive back.'

Too satisfied to be particularly interested in Mark's actions, the driver took off. Eddie glanced over occasionally, staring at his naked partner, wondering where he found the courage to sit there, his eyes closed, slowly bringing himself to orgasm.

Mark didn't manage to climax before they arrived at Eddie's duplex, and he regretfully moved his hand away and searched for his wallet. They paid the fare, gave a nice tip, and opened the doors, Eddie in his jeans, Mark butt naked. They were laughing as Eddie opened the door, grateful that nobody was around to see them, and – more to the point – Mark's erection and enjoying each other's company.

'I need a shower,' Eddie remarked. 'Stop playing with yourself for five minutes, and come with me.'

Mark obediently followed his lover. 'Sorry,' he slurred as Eddie turned on the water.

'It's fine,' Eddie replied tiredly, the alcohol finally starting to metabolise. 'Do it in the shower, if you want.'

'Hmm,' Mark murmured, nuzzling Eddie's neck. 'You're sexy.'

'You're disgraceful,' Eddie teased, running his hands over his lover's buttocks.

'I'm not disgraceful,' Mark argued childishly. 'My boss is disgraceful. He uses my computer to look at kiddie porn. That's disgraceful.'

Eddie paused. 'Really?'

'Really,' Mark agreed regretfully. 'Have a look in my wallet. I copied down the addresses of the pages he looks at.'

Eddie tried not to look too interested as he accepted Mark's offer. The relationship was finally starting to bear fruit.

Chapter Nine

'You look like shit.'

'Thank-you,' Eddie groaned, burying his face in his hands. 'I feel worse.'

Lana laughed and ruffled her colleague's messy hair. Truthfully, he didn't look like shit, merely hung-over and tired, but it was a dramatic change from his usual, preened appearance.

'Do you want a coffee?' she inquired congenially.

'Several. And a couple of Panadol, if you have them.'

Eddie hadn't expected his hangover to be so bad. His head was thumping, he couldn't think straight and the air-conditioning, normally so calm and cool, was making him shiver. The sooner he had caffeine and painkillers, the better.

Mark, wherever he was now, had to be feeling similarly bad. Eddie had no idea where the man had gone, but he'd left the house before eight – which was when Eddie finally woke up – without leaving a note. A cold shiver ran down his spine, this time not from the air-conditioning, but at the memory of his confession to Mark.

'I'm a cop'

Fuck. Why had he come out with that? Mark didn't need to know, and now he'd probably frightened the guy off. Or, more likely, pissed him off. Gay scene, recreational drugs and a policeman for a boyfriend never mixed well, and chances were, Mark had high tailed it.

Eddie sat up with a shock. He had to get a grip. Mark wasn't his boyfriend, he wasn't even a potential boyfriend; he was Eddie's way of obtaining evidence to use against Quentin, and nothing else. What he had risked – and probably wrecked – was nothing so trivial as a relationship, but rather the excruciatingly difficult investigation of a known paedophile.

'Your coffee,' Lana announced, resting the cup beside him. 'Nice to see we're looking a little more alert.'

Eddie swore, standing up and giving Lana an apologetic look. There was no time for idle chit chat and self pity, he needed permission to go and visit Mark, pronto. Knocking on the door of his supervising officer, he smoothed his hair back and prayed he didn't look as bad as he felt.

'Ah, Constable Wiltshire. Come on in.'

Eddie threw himself into the seat opposite his superior. 'Tim, I need a favour. I've really screwed something out, and I need to go and…'

'…take a breathalyser test before you drive anywhere, if what I've heard about your state last night is true.'

Eddie scowled. 'And if I pass…'

'…you can try and explain to me why it was you felt the need to go out last night and rut in the street with your latest lover.' Tim finished, crossing his arms over his chest. 'Unless Senior Constable McCrossen was mistaken…'

'…that was Mark,' Eddie interrupted hurriedly. 'It was…necessary. And we weren't as bad as he's making out.'

Tim raised his eyebrows pointedly. Eddie sighed.

'Look, I'm sorry,' he apologised. 'Truly, I am, but…. Okay, there's no excuse.'

Both men sighed regretfully.

'Um,' Eddie began nervously. 'He knows what Quentin's up to. He gave me the web sites he's been to, and I'm fairly sure if I can just speak to him, he'll cooperate.'

Tim paused. 'Another three weeks Eddie, that's all you have to start gathering something more concrete. We need more than a few website addresses, we need to know when and how he's accessing, whether he's uploading or downloading, who he's paying, and what his level of involvement is. Are you really sure you want to stay on the job?'

Eddie considered the possible outcome if another man or woman took over. They wouldn't know Mark the way he did, wouldn't know his little foibles and preferences, and they probably wouldn't respect his opinions. No, he wanted to stick with this, not only to prove that he could undertake the research required, but to ensure nobody hurt Mark's feelings.

'It won't look bad if you wish to return to normal duties,' Tim reassured his junior. 'All we ever intended was for you to find out a little background information and pass it onto someone more experienced. We never intended…'

To find out he was bisexual, Eddie mentally finished. And then, I was the only available fag and so I went off to explore and investigate and unintentionally make him fall for me.

'I'll get the breathalyser done and go see him,' Eddie argued, standing up. 'I'll stick with it, so long as he wants to help. I have this sinking feeling I may have done my dash with him romantically, but he'll probably still help. At least, he will if I've judged him correctly.'

'You're interested in him romantically?' came the surprised comment.

Eddie smiled mischievously. 'No, I was only kidding. But he gives head like nothing else, in case you're interested.'

'Mark?' Eddie asked hesitantly, standing at the door to the man's office. 'How's your hangover?'

Mark stared up at the man, wondering what Eddie was doing here. He'd lied to him. He had told him he worked in retail, when he was really a cop, and that truly made Mark wonder what exactly it was the man was after. Whatever it was, he doubted it was nice. Unless, he reminded himself for what seemed like the millionth time, there was a reason why Eddie had decided to temporarily lie.

'Come in,' Mark replied. 'Shut the door.'

Eddie paused. 'I'd rather we go for a drive. Do you mind?'

'If you're willing to wait another twenty minutes,' Mark agreed. 'Then I go on lunch.'

'That's fine.'

Twenty minutes later, with his stomach knotted and a sense of dread, Mark walked out of the office. Eddie was slumped on a bus-stop bench, his head propped up in his hands, dark shadows under his eyes.

'I'm ready if you are,' Mark remarked nervously.

Eddie nodded. 'Let's go for a drive. Your car.'

Mark kept his eyes trained on the road as he asked where Eddie wished to go.

'Somewhere private,' Eddie replied vaguely. 'Find an empty car park or something.'

Mark swallowed hard. Eddie was going to break things off, just when he was starting to, well, fall in love. It hurt, but it wasn't the first time, so he decided to save Eddie the discomfort. Within a minute or two, he was certain he was well enough composed to begin his speech.

'You don't need to…' Mark started, glancing over. '…You know. If you don't want to see me again, you don't need to turn it into a huge production.'

'It's not that simple,' Eddie admitted. 'It's not just about breaking up. I also need your help.'


Eddie bit his lower lip. 'Meaning I'm supposed to be investigating your boss. That's why I went after you, to see if you could provide any information.'

Mark hit the brakes, his eyes flashing. What the hell was Eddie thinking, in assuming that his behaviour was justified? The goddamn bastard had been playing him, lying to him, letting him believe that he was seriously interested in a relationship. Summoning all his willpower, Mark gave his order in a tone that conveyed his true fury.

'Get out.'


'I said, get out.'

Eddie stared at his companion with a mix of shock and confusion. 'Are you kidding?'

The expression on Mark's face told Eddie that the younger man was not only deadly serious, but incensed. Hesitantly, Eddie reached over.

'I didn't mean to hurt you.'

'Get. Out. Now.'

'You can't do this,' Eddie pleaded as he opened the door, well aware that Mark was holding up traffic by stopping his vehicle in the middle of a busy road. 'I need you.'

'Get fucked.'

Eddie stared after the blue BMW as it drove off, his headache returning with a vengeance. He'd fucked up big time, and the worst part was, he had never meant to hurt Mark's feelings. He liked the guy, respected him, it was merely an unfortunate fact of life that he had taken the advertised job and thus become the link through which a police task force wished to uncover a mid-sized paedophile ring.

'Fuck,' he swore, realising he was a good fifteen minute walk from his car. 'Fuck you Mark, fuck your goddamned bisexual ass.'

Mark stormed back into his office, furious and hurt that Eddie had felt the need to play with his feelings. He'd been falling in love with the man; visiting and dating him under the impression Eddie had been genuinely interested in him. So much for that idea, it was obvious that Eddie didn't have even the smallest grain of respect for him.

Shutting the door and burying his face in his hands, he tried to get a grip. Relationship break-ups were never this bad, but this was a whole different kettle of fish. The relationship may only have lasted a few weeks, but never before had anyone willingly strung him along without even being the moderately interested in him. Eddie had used and abused him in the worst possible way, and the over-riding fury he felt was directed at himself. He'd been successfully played for a fool and there was nothing, absolutely nothing, he could do about it. He was a gullible idiot, end of story.

He swore furiously at the sound of his mobile phone ringing, wondering why it was Eddie felt he had a right to hound him. Picking up the phone with the intention of turning it off, he paused. The number wasn't a local one, and there was no caller ID, so he took a deep breath and calmed down.

Ten minutes later he was feeling a touch better. He had another job interview tomorrow night, this time with a prestigious accounting firm. Telling himself to stop thinking about Eddie, and instead focus on the two interviews he was to attend this week, he buried his anger with Eddie and prepared for what might be his last Monday afternoon under Quentin's employ.

He was still angry with Eddie, and disappointed with himself for not realising he'd been played, when five o'clock rolled around, but his mind was a little clearer.

'Coffee?' he asked Kerry.

'Love to,' she grinned, grabbing her bag. 'Hang on a sec, I just need to run to the ladies.'

This would be their third Monday night coffee date together, and it saddened him to think that it might also be his last. If nothing else, he was ninety-nine percent sure that Kerry wasn't playing stupid games with him, and with every day he found himself liking her more and more. She was a sweet kid, if a little coarse-mouthed, and she was fun to be with.

'So how was your camping trip?' she inquired politely as they drove into the Valley.

Mark pulled a face. 'Camping trip was good. Today was horrific. You?'

'Eh, I have no life,' she replied cheerfully. 'What was so bad about today?'

Mark debated the wisdom of confiding entirely. It probably wasn't the best of ideas, given that Quentin's dirty secrets were bound to shock her, and unlike him, she actually needed her job. Leaving without another job to go to simply wasn't an option for her.

'He was playing me,' he admitted, embarrassed. 'So, it's over.'

Kerry winced. 'I'm sorry. Did he say why?'

'Yes,' Mark paused. 'But it wasn't a good reason. Or maybe it was, but it doesn't matter.'

'I'm sorry.'

'Don't be,' Mark joked weakly. 'He wasn't that good in bed.'

Kerry stared out the window, wondering whether or not Mark wanted to discuss the matter further. Eddie had featured frequently in their day to day conversations and it had been obvious her new friend had been falling in love, but she had no experience on heterosexual love, let alone the homosexual sort.



'I'm sorry. I'm sure you'll find someone better.'

Mark snorted in disbelief. His track record was appalling, and he was getting older and older. Around him, everyone was settling down and here was he, an old, single, fool. Truthfully, Eddie's behaviour had really fucked with his mind; he'd genuinely believed he was smart enough to realise when he was being played, but obviously not. He'd been taken, hook, line and sinker and his fury with his gullibility, combined with his feelings for the man, made him realise what a goddamned idiot he was.

They arrived soonafter at their usual cafe, and had ordered coffee, before he'd recovered sufficiently to be able to hold a conversation. Then, when he was finally forgetting about Eddie and instead laughing at Kerry's cynicism, Eddie himself arrived. He pulled up a chair, Kerry moving to make room, Mark ignoring him, and ordered a latte.

'Hello,' he greeted Kerry.

'Hello,' she replied nervously, her gaze darting from man to man.

Mark ground his teeth, before he remembered his teeth were capped and bruxing was a no-no. 'Get out of here.'

'I need to speak to you.'

'You already have,' Mark retorted petulantly. 'Fuck off Eddie. You've said your bit, I've said mine. Go.'

'Maybe I should leave,' Kerry suggested, reaching for her bag.

'No,' Mark demanded.

'Yes,' Eddie agreed. 'That would be good.'

'No, stay,' Mark repeated. 'Excuse us for a second.'

There was hardly anywhere private to take Eddie and tell him to piss off and never show his face again, so Mark settled for the middle of the mall. He didn't bother taking a seat for the reason he didn't want Eddie to believe he was option to negotiation. Instead, he turned to his companion, furious that he would dare interrupt.

'Mark,' Eddie pleaded. 'Please. I'm sorry, you have to believe me, I never intended... I never intended for you to feel anything for me.'

Mark's face hardened. 'Like hell you didn't. And truthfully Eddie, I don't really give a shit. I don't give a shit about your reasons, I don't give a shit about your motives, I don't give a shit about anyone. I have a job interview tomorrow, and another on Thursday. Chances are, I'm going to be out of Quentin's office by Friday, so don't even bother wasting your time because firstly, I'm not going to forgive you, and second, even if I did forgive you, I won't be able to be of any assistance.'

Eddie paled. Mark couldn't leave; he needed him. How the man could even consider refusing his assistance when the stakes were so high eluded him. Where the fuck where his morals? His heart sinking, he reminded himself that Mark wasn't some working or lower middle class man who actually gave a damn about other people; hell no, he had money. He had money and status and his family had sufficient financial independence to protect themselves from criminals. The only criminals in Mark's social circles were the white collar kind, or rich boys who raped less-rich girls for kicks. Paedophiles were probably humoured, so long as they had the funds to make everyone kneel at their feet.

'Fine,' Eddie agreed, upset. 'I'm truly sorry Mark, I truly am. I guess I kind of lost focus on what I was doing for a while.'

They stared at one another, hypnotised by Eddie's sudden forfeiture of the argument.

'Well, uh, here's my card,' Eddie added, reaching into his jeans. 'If you think of anything else that may be of help, give me a call. You know my mobile number, and my home one, so feel free to call either of those if you want. And if you don't want to speak to me, just go into the Valley police station and ask for Senior Detective Bruce Johnston.'

Mark hesitated, before reaching for the card. For the first time in weeks, he reminded himself what sort of man he worked for. And the memory made him sick to the stomach.

Chapter Ten


It took Eddie all of two seconds to place the voice. 'Mark?'

'Yep,' Mark laughed weakly. 'I cancelled my job interviews. My soul is yours.'

Eddie paused. God, this was out of the blue; only two hours ago he'd called Tim to advise that Mark was about to leave the company, and their investigations would literally have to start again, and now Mark was calling.

'Eddie? Considering I've just given up a job worth eighty thousand a year, wouldn't you like to at least speak to me?'

Eighty thousand? Christ, the amount was disgusting, what the hell did Mark normally do? He'd said he was a corporate accountant, but Eddie hadn't expected the job to be so well paid. No wonder Mark had the Beemer, expensive suits and class. If he was twenty-six and earning that much, by forty he should be on... Eddie scowled, the possibilities were disgusting to someone on a policeman's salary.

'Sure,' he replied. 'Fuck thanks Mark. When are you available?'

It was Mark's turn to hesitate. 'When do you want to see me?'

'Well,' Eddie started nervously. 'After work would be good. You can either go to the Valley station, which is probably quite crowded, or you can come over to my house. I don't mind either way.'

Mark nodded thoughtfully. 'My mother's gone to Melbourne for the week with a few friends of hers. You're welcome to come to my house if you want.'

Understanding intuitively that Mark neither wanted to visit a police station, nor the house where they'd made love, Eddie quickly agreed. He took down the address, agreeing to meet the man at six o'clock. Almost immediately after giving the address, Mark ended the call, his voice abrupt and professional.

Something not-so-nice stirred in Eddie's stomach. Guilt, he told himself, I'm guilty. I'm guilty because I really led him on, and he knows, and I know, that the reason he's agreeing to help me is probably ninety percent moral responsibility and ten percent love. It felt odd to toss the word 'love' around so early into a relationship, but neither had held back; they'd spent so much time together, and engaged in 'coupley' activities that is really wasn't any wonder that Mark had started to feel that way towards him. Truthfully, even he had forgotten on more than one occasion that Mark wasn't his lover.

Relieved that Mark was now agreeing to assist, he picked up the phone and dialled Tim's number. He tapped his fingers impatiently as he waited, nervous that he may be taken off the job and another man or woman placed in his position. Not only didn't he want a stranger appearing on Mark's doorstep, but if he didn't go to Mark's tonight, he had a boring shift as a plain clothes policeman, trawling the streets, ahead of him.

Thankfully, Tim quickly agreed to let him continue the investigation, albeit after giving him reams and reams of advice. Eddie rolled his eyes as he took notes, although he truly did need the assistance. He wasn't the world's worst cop, but he was by no means the best. Investigating Quentin had initially been welcomed as a break for the mundane routines of assault, possession, theft and prostitution that he was accustomed to, but had along the way, become something on which he was entirely focused.

He read over Tim's suggestions several times before showering, pulling on jeans and a battered denim jacket and climbing into his car. It was still coated in mud and dirt from the camping trip, and he reminded himself to get it washed, if only so he wouldn't be reminded of the great sex he'd experienced only a few short days ago. Whatever cause he had to complain about Mark - and there were markedly few of them - the guy was a stud in the sack.

Eddie arrived at Mark's house five minutes early, and spent those five minutes staring at it in awe. It was on the Brisbane River, and it was enormous. It was a multi-storey, stone affair with stained glass windows, high security fences and immaculate gardens. A fountain was located in front of the house and there were goddamned statues sprinkled tastefully on the lawn.

'Jesus,' he muttered. 'All those bastards trying to pull a rich one, and I do it without even meaning to.'

He stepped out of the car, rolling his eyes at the extravagance. He couldn't help but feel disgusted; he was raised to be disgusted by excess wealth, especially when it almost certainly was created from the work of the lower classes. Actually walking to the entrance took a few minutes, and he grew more and more anxious with each step. By the time he rang the bell he was starting to wonder whether coming here was a good idea or not.

'Oh, it's you,' Mark remarked formally. 'Come in.'

Eddie stepped into a foyer of grand proportions, his joggers leaving muddy marks on the marble floor.

'Sorry,' he apologised, staring back at the marks. 'Guess my mother was right when she told me to wipe my feet.'

Mark gave him an odd look. 'My mother has a cleaner. Don't worry about it.'

Eddie rolled his eyes. 'So where's your maid and butler?'

'We don't have a maid or butler,' came the bemused reply. 'Although when I was a child I had a nanny, if that helps.'

Eddie bit back a groan and followed the man into a large living area, perching himself on the cream coloured lounge he was directed to. He stared down at his knees while Mark went to pour drinks, grateful he hadn't known Mark was this well-heeled at the time of their first meeting. He winced at the thought of how the guy must react to his clients at Quentin's business, and tried to figure out why the fuck Mark had taken the job in the first place.

'Here,' Mark offered, pushing a Coke across the table and sitting down opposite the policeman. 'So, um, what do you want me to do?'

Eddie shrugged and fiddled with his glass. It looked too expensive to break, so he left it on the table, despite his thirst. 'My boss, well, the powers that be, to be precise, think Quentin's all buddy-buddy with some guy they're trying to nail. See, logically, Quentin's business shouldn't even be successful. I mean, you're an accountant, you should know that. And if you're his business partner, you've got to be checking over his books, right?'

Mark winced. 'Wrong. I tried bargaining, but he held firm. I can see the proportion of expenses allocated to corporate clients, but I'm not allowed anything past that. I figured... you know, that he was scoring bigger than he wanted us to know. I mean, logically, if he's raking it in, I'm going to kick butt for a share of the profits.'

'If Quentin was doing your job also, then you'd be raking it in,' Eddie agreed. 'But he isn't. You've already told me he doesn't participate other than the odd call to the financial institutions. So what exactly is it he's doing?'

Mark shrugged. 'No idea. I always assumed it was legitimate; I mean, he was always going on about what a success the company was going to be. And he dresses terribly.'

'Bad fashion has nothing to do with money,' Eddie argued condescendingly. 'You should know that.'

Mark may have been played for a fool in the game of love, but he'd been raised in a class-conscious society and understood a dig when he heard on. He didn't appreciate Eddie speaking to him so...accusingly...demanding to know why he hadn't realised Quentin was up to something dodgy. Mark hadn't given any real thought to Quentin's activities for the very reason that he didn't care what the man was up to. The job was never intended to be permanent, and even knowing what Quentin was, it had still taken him nearly twenty-four hours to come to his senses and abide by moral standards. Now that he'd given up an almost guaranteed high class job, he didn't need Eddie patronising him.

'Sorry,' Eddie apologised. 'That slipped out.'

'Guess it did,' Mark replied distantly. 'Go on, I'm all ears.'

Realising he'd screwed up yet again, Eddie sipped his Coke before recommencing. He took his time repeating the facts he'd been told; informing Mark of a possible - probable - link between a known 'photographic artist', the types of evidence they could use, and how Mark could obtain them. The more he explained, the greater the grimace on Mark's face, and Eddie couldn't help but pity the man. He was truly being jerked around, and chances were, Quentin's eventual arrest could bring a lot of publicity. If his white collar colleagues learned of Mark's involvement, he'd likely never find professional employment again. Nobody likes a snitch, regardless of the crime revealed, and for Mark the costs were higher than they were for the average Joe. His peers wouldn't hail his assistance as evidence of good moral sense, rather he'd be viewed as a high-risk employee who may turn in any of the white collar criminals that seemed to be flourishing in the twenty-first century corporate world.

As Eddie's spiel drew to a close, Mark buried his face in his hands, loathing life for placing him in this situation.

'I already have two clients for us,' he explained weakly. 'One of them is a friend of the family's. If they find out... I mean, when you arrest Quentin...'

'You're going to be screwed?' Eddie suggested.

'Pretty much,' Mark admitted. God what the fuck was he doing? Everything inside of him was screaming 'back off, back off' and yet he couldn't. His goddamned pride didn't allow him to take the chicken's way out. 'I guess my only option is to see if I can buy out half the company, get a new contract drawn up, and try and ask you to keep the news of the arrest quiet. I mean, I'll get more access to the financial statements and business property and I might be able to weather it out.'

'Mark,' Eddie started anxiously. 'I can't guarantee that the arrest will be kept quiet. If Quentin's a big fish, the media's going to be crawling all over you.'

'Like fuck,' Mark swore angrily, forgetting his pride, angry that Eddie wasn't as willing to bend as he'd assumed he would be. 'Kerry and I are fucking humans Eddie. Either you get us a guarantee that neither the company name, our names or the location of the business are made public – and in which case, I'll offer to buy out half the business – or there's no deal. Let's face it, you've got shit fuck all chance of getting legitimate evidence otherwise, and don't even try and tell me you can't get a media guarantee. If you can't do it, then I'm not helping. You can't ruin two people's lives because you want a promotion.'

Eddie's head jerked up. 'You think this is about a promotion?'

Mark's face hardened. 'You don't give a shit about anyone Eddie. The only person you give a shit about is yourself.'

Their gazes locked, Eddie irritated that Mark was being so stubborn and insecure about his financial situation, Mark furious that Eddie could be so goddamn selfish.

'That's the pot calling the kettle black mate,' Eddie snarled, standing up. 'I hardly saw you rushing to the rescue of the kids those bastards were molesting. Oh my God,' he mimicked. 'I'm going to lose my eighty thousand a year job. Get a fucking grip Mark; most people earn a third of that. You're fucking set for life and you're whinging about actually having to work your way up for what must be the first fucking time in your life.'

'Don't even try and make me feel guilty about my family's money,' Mark retorted, walking to the front door. 'Or you'll find out exactly how much money can buy.'

Eddie's blood ran cold. 'Are you threatening me?'

As low as it made him feel, Mark couldn't resist flaunting the power money bought. If Eddie was going to play hardball and fuck with his emotions, not to mention patronising him, he was going to learn damn quickly who truly held the balance of power.

'No,' he replied, with a saccharine smile. 'Why the hell would I do that?'

Mark's temper was only slightly better as he started making his dinner. He swore angrily as the blunt knife he was using squashed the last tomato in the house and he threw the entire salad in the bin, not yet hungry enough to worry about salvaging the meal.

There was a vegetable patch – the gardeners' idea – out the back and he wondered idly if tomatoes were in season. Winter was fast approaching and there was already a chill in the air that made him think he was probably out of luck, but he went out the back to check anyway.

There were no tomatoes. On the river a rowing team was passing, but the block of land on which his parent's house was built was over an acre in size and the rowers were too far away to see him. He liked that; enjoyed the fact that whilst he could watch over the world, the world couldn't see him. He was so goddamned tired, not to mention frustrated, that having the house to himself for the next few days was truly a blessing.

He wandered around, staring at the trees and precise control the gardener had over the land, before walking back towards the house. As he walked past the pool, he was overcome by the urge to go swimming. After all, the pool was heated and it wasn't as though there were any reason for him not to jump in.

Mark rolled back the pool covering, checking the temperature, before quickly stripping off and diving in. The warm water lapping against his skin calmed him and he ran his hands over his body thoughtfully. He liked being naked. There was something natural about it, and he preferred men who were confident enough with their bodies to join him in nudity. That had been one of Eddie's annoying habits; he'd never seemed secure within himself, despite his good looks. When Eddie was feeling confident, their sex life improved dramatically.

'Fuck,' Mark swore aloud, furious with his thought pattern, furious with the fact that simply remembering some of their crazier times together was enough to give him a hard-on, furious that he was such a goddamned fool. 'Fuck you Eddie. Fuck you. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.'

'Hello dear,' she greeted, confused. 'How can I help you?'

'Um, I was wondering if Mark was around,' Eddie replied foolishly. 'My name's Eddie. He'll know who I am.'

Mark's mother paused. So this was Eddie, Mark's latest love interest. He didn't look at all like she'd imagined; she was accustomed to Mark's normal upper class lovers and this man most definitely wasn't upper class. He was dressed fashionably, certainly, but there was no real money invested in his clothing.

'Come in,' she offered. 'He's with the solicitor in the study. I'm sure they won't mind a quick interruption.'

Eddie noted the emphasis on 'quick' and nodded agreeably, making sure that his feet were properly wiped before stepping inside. Mark had called him earlier that day to advise he was still interested in assisting him with his investigations – regardless of 'personal differences' – and Eddie had been duly shamed as he accepted Mark's offer. Eddie should have been the one to apologise, because not only did he require Mark's assistance, but he'd realised his behaviour on Tuesday had been atrocious. When Mark had mentioned that he was indeed planning on buying a fifty percent stake in the business, and that Quentin was actually happy with the proposed sale – something that Eddie, who'd assumed Quentin would be keen to keep the business in his name only – he'd been flabbergasted. Even after all he'd done, Mark was still willing to help.

'My name's Rachel,' Mark's mother introduced as they walked up the large staircase. 'I thought I'd introduce myself in the event we end up seeing one another more frequently.'

Eddie smiled weakly, reminding himself that it wasn't his place to become defensive and insecure. The amount of money Mark's family did or didn't have was entirely irrelevant. 'It's nice to meet you.'

'You too dear,' Rachel agreed, arriving at the study door. It wasn't closed, but she knocked nonetheless. 'Bryan? One of Mark's friends is here to see him. Do you mind if we borrow him for a second?'

Puzzled, Mark turned around. His eyes locked with Eddie's and he tried not to flinch. It had been hard enough to make it this far, without actually having the policeman arrive, unexpectedly, at his house.

'Sorry,' Eddie mouthed. 'Can I speak to you?'

Mark nodded, gesturing an apology to his solicitor – or more precise, one of his father's closest friends – and walked to the door. His mother, realising her presence was no longer required, gave her apologies and retreated to the living room where she'd been instructing her cleaner.

Mark led Eddie down the hallway and into a guest room. Shutting the door behind him, he turned to his guest.

'Can I help?' he asked dully.

Eddie fidgeted nervously. 'I really only came over to say sorry. I…we… appreciate everything you're doing. I know you're giving up a lot, and I'm truly sorry.'

'It's fine,' Mark shrugged. 'I'm more than capable of being a prick in return.'

'You are,' Eddie agreed, trying a joke. It fell flat on its face. Taking a deep breath, he continued. 'Mark, we've gotten approval to keep everything under wraps. I need you to take your business contract to my superiors, and they'll give it to someone, who'll give it to someone else…'

'…who'll probably lose it,' Mark interrupted.

'Yup,' Eddie agreed. 'But the point is, you're going to be safe.'

Mark smiled, relieved and grateful. 'Thank-you.'

Eddie shrugged. 'It's fine. But, I, uh, need to ask one more favour.'

'Which is?'

'I want to go in and look through the office myself. Once you've bought out half the business, I'm sure you'll be able to bring a…'boyfriend'…in, without Quentin hassling you too much.'

'You want to be my faux boyfriend?'


Mark nodded slowly. 'Okay.'

Chapter Eleven

'Congratulate me,' Mark requested dully. 'I'm now half owner of Raxil Pty Ltd trading as Quick Relief Debt Consolidation.'

'Congratulations,' Eddie replied lightly. 'Do you want to stay for dinner?'

Mark hesitated. He felt weighed down and used, because the last thing he wanted was to own half of the goddamned business, especially when his business partner was a paedophile. He'd handed over fifteen thousand from his trust fund, and knew that he was certain to pay the same amount again when Quentin was eventually arrested. The police had agreed to waive the 'jointly and severally liable' part of normal company ownership, saving him from having to pay for the entire business simply to retain the ten corporate clients he was now looking after, but that didn't change the fact that he didn't want to be self employed, particularly as a debt consolidator.


Mark landed back on earth with a thump. 'Sorry, yes. That would be great.'

Eddie nodded, standing up and heading to the kitchen. He had no idea what to make, his meagre food supplies testament to yesterday's binge, and quickly decided that ordering take-away was the only option available.

'Chinese?' Eddie inquired.

'Sounds good,' Mark smiled. It had been six weeks since Eddie had broken off the relationship, but by no means had they stopped seeing one another. On two or three occasions a week, Eddie would come into Mark's office for 'lunch' and they usually ended up having dinner at least one night a week. This didn't mean Mark had rid himself of his feelings for the policeman, on the contrary, he was now deeply in love with the older man.

Eddie, however, did not appear to reciprocate his feelings. The guy just strutted about, not bothering to dress up when there was no one else around, acting for all the world like Mark was a business aide and nothing else. For Mark this was the worst part; he knew that once Eddie had enough ammo against Quentin, they'd never see one another again. It infuriated him, too, because they had the potential to have such a great relationship together; they could talk easily, happily entertain periods of silence, and they'd each learned that the other was particularly susceptible to personal attacks and thus avoided them. If only Eddie would give the relationship a chance. But he wouldn't. He carefully avoided any mention of permanency, and avoided any unnecessary physical closeness.

Mark's reverie was broken as Eddie placed an order for steamed vegetables and rice. How uninteresting, he mused, although there was definitely something odd with the man's eating habits. Mark couldn't quite figure out whether there was a serious problem afoot, or if the guy was just an eclectic eater. Either way, he didn't particularly feel like raising the matter with him.

'Ordered,' Eddie grinned, hanging up the phone. 'I'm gonna go for a run first, okay? They said it'll be forty-five minutes to an hour before it arrives.'

'Maybe I should just go and leave you in peace,' Mark suggested. 'I've got a lot of work to do, anyway.'

Eddie paused. 'I wouldn't mind you staying, actually. Your fancy business reports go over my head, and I need you to explain some of the income and expenditure items.'

'I would if I could,' came the reply. 'But Quentin 'forgets' who paid him what, and how.'

'What sort of sums are we talking about?'

'Around five thousand a month.'

'Nice,' Eddie replied angrily, pulling on his joggers. 'And there's nothing to suggest who it's coming from?'

'No,' Mark replied regretfully. 'Kerry does the banking and she questions nothing. Besides, it would look bad if I asked too many questions, seeing as half of that money is supposedly mine.'

Eddie scowled heading to his room and pulling on a pair of running shorts. He grabbed a singlet from the washing basket and walked back to the lounge room as he removed his shirt, to continue interrogating Mark.

'We're ninety percent there,' he continued, irritated. 'We've got everything we need on the trips to Asia, the websites, the passwords, the IP addresses, now all we need is to figure out why he's getting this money. I mean, we now know it's highly unlikely he's involved in the actual procuring of children, based on his activities, but he's getting the money for some reason.'

'He's also spending the money,' Mark pointed out. 'Around two thousand is going out each month to a company that has neither an ABN nor any registration details with ASIC. Which isn't exactly something I'm happy about, seeing as I should be withholding 48.5 percent tax.'

'The ATO won't be happy,' Eddie sighed, filling his water bottle and stretching. 'Do you have any details on who he's paying?'

Mark reached into his wallet and slid a slip of paper across the table. 'Here's the name and address. It's only a post office box, but Kerry was going to try and locate their phone number; she's had to call them before to pass on 'odd',' he gesticulated, 'messages.'

'She shouldn't waste her time,' Eddie argued, taking the slip of paper. 'We'll find out who they're paying. And once that's over, everything should fall into place. Within the next few weeks, we should both have our freedom back.'

Mark glanced up in horror. A few weeks? Weren't investigations supposed to take years? Eddie had spent mere months on Quentin, and even then, he was still working regular shifts down at the precinct. Goddamn it, he was not ready to say good-bye to Eddie. Something had to be done. And fast.

As it turned out, Quentin's business mystery was unravelled within days. Three fucking days, to be precise. Mark knew he should be grateful, and he was at least relieved, but the knowledge that Eddie would soon be out of his life forever killed him.

'We're going to arrest him at his home address,' Eddie explained. 'We've obtained a court order guarding your privacy and the media won't be announcing any details of Quentin's business activities, nor his surname. He was really only a little fish in the scheme of things.'

'Did you find out where the money was coming from and going to?' Mark asked.

Eddie paused. 'I'm sorry, I can't disclose that information.'

Mark bristled. 'Then maybe you'd like to help me sort this out with the ATO.'

Eddie regretted the fact that he couldn't make Mark privy to the truth. The guy had risked so much, and given up even more, and in a way, he really did deserve to know.

'Eddie?' Mark repeated irritably. 'I really have a large problem on my hands. If I'm audited I'll lose my registration and could be prosecuted.'

'Mark…' Eddie started. 'Mark, that's all taken care of. Don't worry about the ATO, I remember you telling me you'd be in trouble with the tax. My superiors have already communicated with the department and they'll send an accountant out at the end of the financial year to do your tax and write the reports on Quentin's activities. Regardless, the business has been valued and we'll be offering full ownership to you for one dollar.'

Eddie had remembered about his tax office woes? Mark was surprised, not to mention touched. He truly hadn't expected the guy to give a shit. Not that Mark really wanted the business, but the books needed to be in order when he eventually sold it. Until then, he should at least be capable of incorporating it, splitting the clients and contracting the debt consolidation services out to a third party. Then he could move to a more suitable office, keep his current corporate clients…

…slowly, a smile spread across his face. Why hadn't he thought of this earlier? There was no reason for him not to be self employed, and he'd be a better prospect to potential employers – if he ever had reason to seek employment again – now that he already had a decent, loyal, client base.

'Thank-you,' he murmured. 'I didn't expect you to remember.'

Eddie paused, considering his words. 'I never meant to hurt you Mark. Protecting your business interests was the least I could do.'

Ridiculously, it was Eddie's statement that cleared the heavy air that had hung over them ever since Eddie broke the news that he was a policeman, and not a love interest. It was almost as thought he last of the bad air had been dispersed and they could move on from the hurt and broken trust and guilt.

'I should take you out to dinner to thank you,' Mark replied graciously. 'Not as a date, but as a thank-you.'

'I think it's me that owes you dinner,' Eddie laughed. 'Christ Mark, thank-you so much for everything. How am I ever going to repay you?'

Mark paused. 'Kerry and I have coffee every Monday evening. I'm still working on what I'm going to do with the business, but she's not going anywhere. You're welcome to join us whenever you want, so long as you pay the coffee.'

'Ah, so my debt will never be repaid?'

Mark laughed. 'Pretty much.'

Eddie groaned. 'Okay, well we'll start with dinner, seeing as you'll at least be paying for that. Where are we going, and when are you going to pick me up?'

He was nervous. God he was nervous, knowing that despite Eddie's acceptance of intermittent coffee dates, this would probably be the last time they saw each other. Unless, of course, they needed him to provide evidence at Quentin's trial, and Eddie had intimated that even then, only an hour or so of his time would probably be required.

Mark had no idea what to do. Whether to try to seduce, or romance, or simply act like a gentleman was the choice he had to make, and even at this moment in time, he had no idea how he was going to behave. It was really all reliant on Eddie.

He arrived at Eddie's duplex an hour later, wearing a suit and fidgeting anxiously. He hadn't been this nervous for years.

'Whoa,' Eddie laughed as he opened the door. 'I didn't realise this was a proper dinner.'

Mark flushed. 'Sorry. Look, um…'

'…it's all good,' Eddie interrupted. 'Sorry. I feel like a right wanker, I'll go and get changed.'

Eddie swore angrily as he headed to his bedroom to change. Christ, he should have fucking known that when Mark said 'dinner to say thanks' he meant 'wear a suit, and a good one at that'. He was simply grateful that he had a decent enough suit and that his messily-styled hair was 'fixable'.

He emerged ten minutes later looking breathtakingly handsome in a dark grey suit.

'Should we go?' he asked.


Eddie stared at Mark's profile on the trip into town. He had a good face, and there were no signs of wrinkles or blemishes. There were only four years difference between them, but Eddie knew he was going to age a hell of a lot quicker, and a hell of a lot more obviously, than the man beside him. Mark would probably be one of those men who developed steel grey hair, and a solid – not fat – build, with only a few character creases forming when he was in his late forties or early fifties.

On top of his looks, he was destined for success. By Mark's thirtieth year he'd no doubt have a large business, several employees, and an equally successful wife. Eddie figured he'd probably find a woman – more socially acceptable, and physiologically capable of carrying his children – and in ten or twenty years time, when the fuss had died down, he'd tell the tale of how he first purchased the company in business journals. Outsiders would consider him trustworthy, whilst his corporate clients would whisper amongst themselves that he was really just an everyday businessman, and willing to help them with farfetched tax loopholes, which would only serve to attract more clients.

Eddie knew damn well that he wasn't destined for anything so great as business success, or financial independence. Most likely he'd end up with some ageing fag, share eating disorder foibles, and live a wasted life. How had he once thought Mark below him? The guy was truly amazing, and so far beyond his standards, he winced at the coarse manner in which he'd seduced him.

'We're here,' Mark announced with a smile. 'Are you going to keep staring into space or are you going to allow me to properly thank you?'

Eddie flushed. 'The latter.'

Mark rolled his eyes as they got out of the car and walked to the lift. It was after they'd entered the lift and pressed '8' – the level on which the restaurant was located – that Mark made what was to him, a perfectly innocent request.

'Let me order for you.'

Eddie paused. 'Why?'

'Why?' Mark frowned, puzzled. 'Because I know their best meals.'

Eddie hesitated. 'Okay.'

Mark gave him a peculiar look, as if to say 'what's your problem?'. Eddie turned away, his palms sweaty and his heart racing. God he hated other people choosing what he ate; he only ever ate junk when he'd been especially good, and he was trying to give the impression that he ate like a 'regular' person.

He told himself not to worry; that Mark couldn't be ordering anything that fattening, and even if he did, he could simply eat a few bites of it and pretend to be too caught up in whatever conversation they were having, to eat.

The elevator arrived at it's destination and the two men walked out. Eddie followed Mark nervously, unsure of where he was going, and how posh this place was going to be.

It wasn't too bad; true, everyone was well dressed and it was probably ninety-five percent straight, but nobody seemed particularly interested in the other patrons. The tables were well-spaced and the guests ranged from 'career couples' in their forties, with their newborn children, to young couples, to what looked to be businessman on interstate business trips.

'So,' Eddie began casually, picking up the menu. 'What are we eating?'

Mark explained the three courses in vague detail, adding 'you can choose the wine'.

Eddie's reaction was swift. 'Can't we have something a little healthier?'

Mark raised an eyebrow. 'Don't you do enough exercise to work off whatever calories are in it? Every time I see you, you're running, or you've been to the gym or something.'

Embarrassed and defensive, Eddie tried nonetheless to keep a cool demeanour. 'I don't want to eat that for the very reason that I don't go to the gym for no reason.'

'One night's not going to make much of a difference,' Mark argued uneasily. He had no idea what Eddie was going on about; everyone splurged occasionally, especially at this particular restaurant, and even through his insecurities about the end result of the night, he'd stupidly assumed that the meal itself would be fantastic. 'Although I'm not forcing you to do this, I just thought you might…'

'…want to get me fat.'

Mark laughed, before he realised Eddie was being serious. Then his mind started racing for something that would persuade his companion that all he wanted to do was eat a goddamn nice meal with him, to thank him for looking after his business interests. This was how the world worked – it was at least how those in Mark's world worked – and Eddie was acting ridiculously.

'What?' Eddie snapped, unable to stop himself. 'Let's just order and get this over with.'

Mark sighed, laying the menu down. He gestured helplessly, frustrated that this was how the night had panned out. 'Let's go. I'll take you back home and you can eat whatever the hell it is that you think you need to eat instead.'

'Get fucked,' Eddie hissed, scraping his chair back. 'I'm going back on my own. And I don't need your fucking busy body nose in my goddamn business ever again. Got it?'

Furious, confused, in shock and horrified, Mark watched his companion walk out. Slowly, aware that all eyes were on him, he followed Eddie out, realising that he'd never see the man again.

And he'd never have the chance to voice his love.

Chapter Twelve

In a sad, sick, way, he was relieved it was over. No more Mark. No more little rich boy unintentionally flaunting his wealth, his self confidence, and his sexual prowess.

Fuck him.

He sat on the kitchen floor and pulled Mango onto his lap, wincing as the animal unsheathed it's claws to try and grip the slippery satin of his owner's boxers, stabbing his needle-like claws into Eddie's genitalia.

'Get off me you stupid animal,' he snarled, throwing it off his lap. He peeked down his underwear, noticing a little geyser of blood. Great, now he was going to look like he had a new-age STD.

He sighed miserably and stood up, needing to get out of his duplex. He needed to go for a run, despite the fact that it was nine o'clock at night and jogging in this particular neighbourhood after dusk wasn't particularly the wisest idea.

He needed to stop thinking about Mark. He needed to stop thinking that despite his all-encompassing need to keep his bad eating habits secret, he still wanted to see the guy one more time. To make love to him or something.

No, he told himself firmly, not to 'make love', to 'fuck'.

Mark shucked off his jacket as he walked in the front door. He was oddly surprised to hear his mother chatting to someone in the lounge, until he realised it was still relatively early in the night. He felt exhausted, worn out and let down. There would be no more Eddie, not as a lover, not as a friend, not as a cop investigating some fucked-up paedophile.

Learning the full extend of his insecurity had been harrowing. Eddie had seemed so confident, so full of life and excitement, but behind the façade lay major problems. He wanted to force him to a counsellor, but how on earth was he supposed to do that? He didn't want Eddie's wrath, but obviously someone had to get through to him that he needed professional help.


Mark paused. 'Dad?'

'Unless the milkman slipped in,' came the amused reply.

'Hey, you're back early,' Mark explained, heading to the living area.

'No I'm not,' his father laughed. 'You've got two weeks of me I'm afraid.'

Mark was far from bothered. His father stood to greet him, wrapping his arms around his only child. Mark sagged into the embrace, grateful that he was being held. He felt like a child the way he relaxed into his father's arms, a stupid, gullible, insensitive, twenty-six year old child.

'You're home early,' the older man remarked.

'Yeah,' Mark replied, removing himself from his father's arms and forcing a light tone. 'Bad date.'

Their gazes met, one appraising, the other defensive.

'You seem to be going through lovers rather quickly.'

Mark shrugged helplessly. 'I was with Jonathon for two years.'

'Whilst sleeping with every Tom, Dick and Harry,' his father snorted with laughter. 'God Mark, don't look so serious. You're young, enjoy it.'

'I'm twenty-six,' he argued, following his dad into the living room and sitting across from his parents. 'How's work?'

'Work is work,' came the reply. 'You, on the other hand, seem to have done pretty alright for yourself. I heard you bought a business. How did that come about?'

Mark sighed. 'Long story. Look, I'm going to have a sleep and I'll tell you about this tomorrow.'

His parent's exchanged looks. Mark noticed and scowled.

'Good-night,' he told them.

Mark awoke up around midnight to the sound of someone knocking on the front door. Figuring it to be neighbourhood kids playing pranks, he ignored it until he could no longer stand it.

He went to the front door, fully expecting to be greeted with the jeers and laughter of a dozen or so teenagers, and instead came face to face with Eddie.

'What, did you decide to go for a run to burn off the calories you didn't consume?' Mark inquired irritably, noting Eddie's red face, jogging attire and empty water bottle.

'Actually I went for a run, decided confronting a gang of Samoans on my own wasn't the brightest of ideas, took a sharp left and ended up way off track. I guess I just wanted to see if it was possible to run into the city.'

Eddie's voice was at attempt at cool, calm, unaffectedness, but Mark knew him too well to fall for the facade.

'Come in,' Mark offered resignedly.

'I'm not waking anyone?'

'Do I look to be sleeping?' Mark replied. 'Although if it bothers you, no, you didn't wake my parents.'

Mark took his guest to the downstairs bar area, pouring Eddie a glass of water. The glass was drained within seconds. Mark poured another, handing it over and wondering how on earth anyone could possibly be fit enough to jog the distance between their two residences.

'I, um...' Eddie trailed off, his thirst sated. 'I'm sorry. I... I don't know. Why I'm like this, that is.'

The younger man regarded his visitor carefully. He truly hadn't expected to ever see Eddie again, not after the episode at the restaurant. Now he was standing in front of him, in a singlet wet and sticking to his torso, and shorts that were unfairly brief.

'You have nothing to worry about. A few extra calories won't kill your figure,' Mark replied uncertainly.

Eddie couldn't decide whether he was relieved or disappointed that Mark obviously had no idea of how his bulimia affected him. As much as he may have wanted to, he couldn't explain his binges, fasts and occasional days of 'normal' eating to a man who obviously had no idea how rampant eating disorders were.


Eddie glanced up. 'Yeah?'

'Why do you do it? Not eat and run all the time?'

Eddie gestured helplessly. 'I don't know,' he replied defensively. 'I don't want to be fat.'

'I see,' Mark replied. Sometimes it seemed as though Eddie was so normal, eating pizza and drinking milkshakes, and then he also had scatty periods, that made him realise that it was obviously all a front to hide the truth.

They fell into silence, both men terrified of what they may say or do. Eddie so badly wanted to tell someone, and yet there was something holding him back, whereas Mark had his own declaration he needed to make.

'What are you doing here?' Mark forced the words from your mouth.

'I don't know. I came to see you, to apolgise and to...'

They stared at one another, Mark stepping closer to the older man and reaching out to push his thick, damp hair out of his face. His hand was shaking and he was almost certain his heart beat was clearly audible. He smiled as Eddie hesitantly reached out, resting one hand on his waist and moving forward so that there bodies were just inches apart.

'I lied,' Eddie whispered, bravely resting his head on Mark's chest. 'I didn't want to stop seeing you. I just told myself that it wasn't right, and you were only interested because there was noone else and... I'm an idiot.'

Mark nodded. 'Kiss me.'

Their gazes met, Mark smiling down at the man he loved. 'Kiss me,' he repeated.

Eddie pressed his lips against Mark, wondering whether this was too good to be true. Maybe, maybe not, he thought, wrapping his arms tightly around the man and refusing to break the kiss.

'Come to my room,' Mark mumbled through the kiss. 'You may as well get acquainted with it.'

'You're going to keep seeing me?' Eddie asked, shocked.

'You think I stopped wanting you?'

'I thought you'd move onto someone else,' Eddie admitted. 'I thought tonight would be the last time we saw each other.'

'Me too.'

Eddie bit down on his lower lip for a few seconds. 'I'm not going to stop being a cop.'

'I wouldn't expect you to,' Mark replied, leaning in for another kiss. 'Quit talking Eddie. You know what I want.'

'I love you.'

Mark froze. 'I love you too,' he replied eventually.

'My mistake,' Eddie laughed stiltedly. 'I thought that was what you wanted.'

Mark laughed. 'I really only wanted oral. But I'll take the love, if you're offering.'

'I am,' came the embarrassed reply.

Markus smiled. They could deal with Eddie's eating disorder later. For now though, everything was perfect. Just perfect.