London Loves Ch. 02bySadieRose©
© Sadie Rose Bermingham and Bellora Quinn 2012
HOME SWEET HOME?
Thanks for all the nice comments on chapter one. By way of a reward, here's chapter two, all ready to be unwrapped. Hope you enjoy it. The usual warnings apply; LONDON LOVES...? contains scenes of a graphic nature involving horny young men often in multiples of more than two. Oh, and vampires, so there's a bit of blood-letting involved too. If you don't like that, don't read it. And if you do like that tell your friends, but don't copy or reproduce it without our permission because that just makes us not want to do it anymore. xxx
The change of train, at Charles de Gaulle, on the outskirts of Paris was so rapid that the most romantic city in the world barely pinged on Xavier's radar. Ben was travelling on to the French capital and waved them farewell a little bit ruefully, and then the three of them were running for another train, a single deck conveyance this time but with so many carriages that it might well stretch all the way into Paris without leaving the platform at the airport station.
This train whistled across vast empty plains where, Dominic explained, some of the major battles of the First World War had been played out. Tiny clusters of identical white gravestones dotted along the route were the only remnant now of that terrible conflagration. After the long run up from Agde it seemed a very brief journey indeed before they were tilting into a deep cut in the earth and the train was suddenly swallowed into blackness. Rayne's fingers reached for Xavier's as the lights came up slowly in the carriage and they thundered down into the tunnel beneath the English Channel, on the final leg of their journey home.
Xavier, who had never really been bothered by any kind of claustrophobia, did his best to distract Rayne, but even he wasn't completely unaffected. It was an odd, slightly disorientating feeling that only got better as long as he didn't look out the windows. Of course, he thought, mostly his nerves were just an echo coming back from Rayne. Just a couple of weeks ago this would have been such an alien thought that just acknowledging it in private seemed bizarre.
Rayne's heart steadied when they emerged again, less than twenty minutes later. No matter how many times he made that journey he would never get used to the idea of being in a rat run less than ten yards wide, and barely half a mile under the sea. It freaked him out almost as much as planes unsettled Dominic. As they came up from the depths Kent, the county of his birth, was huddled under a pall of grey cloud as usual.
"Can't you tell we're back," he remarked sarcastically.
Xavier looked out, taking things in as they passed. The overcast sky wasn't like the fog that rolled in off the bay in the mornings and usually dissipated with the sun. This was a bit more like having a bowl turned over the world and Xav wondered if the sun was even out, although it must have been up there somewhere above the low hanging clouds, illuminating the day. Despite the iron-grey sky though, the countryside itself was pretty, and very green.
He was used to the city, where there wasn't much green at all but even the parks and the outer suburbs, where there were more lawns and trees, were different to this. It seemed to Xavier like the land outside was trying to make up for the colourless sky by being so vibrantly bright. It almost didn't look real, as if the train was rolling though a painting, and he couldn't help being charmed.
Gradually fields and trees gave way to hamlets, then towns, then finally the sprawling conurbation that was outer London. Tower blocks warred with the grey crawl of the slums in Rotherhithe and Erith then they picked their way through the rambling mazes of Penge and Catford, where the walls were decked with violent graffiti and public parks were outnumbered by public housing. The train spilled over the colourful urban splash of Brixton High Street and slowed as it reached the slow wind of the great grey Thames, clattering smoothly over the iron span of Blackfriars Bridge and into the heart of the city that had been Rayne's home on and off for so long now. He felt a little frisson of excitement to be back here after all this time away.
And then they were drawing into St Pancras International and people began to rise from their seats and gather their bags, ready to leave the train.
Throughout the long trip from Naples Xavier had shown a sort of passing notice to various parts of the landscape rolling by, and although he'd paid polite attention to Dominic when he told him some bit of history or something his interest had been on the surface at best. For the most part he'd been far more involved with being twined around Rayne than watching the countryside racing by outside.
Whey they finally stepped off the train and he took a look at the building they were in it was the first time Xavier actually got to stop and gawk a bit. Dominic and Rayne were both watching him with indulgent grins but Xavier didn't care. He couldn't seem to stop looking up. The arching framework of iron and glass overhead and the sheer size of the building had him massively impressed. He followed along in a sort of bemused fog, knowing he was slowing them down but totally unrepentant. It was probably the coolest structure he'd ever been in. However, he had no idea that the outside of the building would be just as worthy of admiration.
"Holy shit!" he murmured, staring up at the huge, red-brick gothic turrets straining up towards the faint shafts of sunlight that tried to battle their way through the clouds. "It looks like someone parked a castle on top of a railway line!"
Rayne was laughing quietly at his awe-struck expression.
"It's brilliant isn't it? They're supposed to be turning bits of it into apartments. I'd sell my whole fuckin' family for one of those!"
Xavier looked at him with an odd little smile. It was cool that Rayne remembered little things like this, given how patchy his memory had been since Dominic and Mikka brought him back from Paris. And it was the first time he'd even mentioned having any kind of family. That set another small rill of nervousness off in Xav. Rayne had a whole life here that he knew nothing about.
"Shall I find a taxi or do you want to take the tube?" Dominic called out over the almost deafening rattle and grind of the city street beyond the station's elevated forecourt. The sound of engines revving and idling was almost incessant. Horns sounded sporadically like the wind section of an orchestra tuning up for a performance and the rise and fall of sirens as one emergency vehicle or another cut through the nose to tail traffic sang in Xavier's ears.
Rayne was smiling beatifically though. He looked genuinely happy to be here. The grey London skies and chaotic city landscape suited him and he blended comfortably into his surroundings.
"We could walk," he suggested now.
"It's at least two miles, Ray. Let Xavier get settled before you drag his arse around the capital at least." Dom was laughing though, and shaking his head. "What do you think, Xav. Cab or the famous London Underground?"
Xavier actually hadn't minded Rayne's idea, he was used to doing a lot of walking and the bustle around them suited him just fine, not to mention that he was more than ready to shake off the relatively forced inactivity of their trip. However, he realised Dominic wasn't really relishing wading through all the chaos and probably wouldn't thank him for making him walk a couple of miles when they'd barely stretched their legs yet.
"I'd rather not get on another train for a while," he said a tad dryly.
Rayne lit a cigarette, making up for lost time but Xav noticed something in his face as he half turned away, pulling on the filter. His lover looked slightly puzzled for a moment, as if he was trying to remember something.
"Maybe we should get a cab," he demurred finally, glancing at Dom. "You can drop me... us off, yeah?"
If Dominic noticed anything amiss he was polite enough not to mention it, but while he was hailing them a cab Xav looked questioningly at Rayne.
"Anything wrong?" he asked, so quietly that no mortal would have heard him above the din of the street, but he knew Rayne would.
The little vampire chewed on his lower lip distractedly. His eyes were still watching the traffic below but he said; "I... I used to sell my arse for a living down there." He gestured with the smoke down the steps towards the shabby art deco frontage of King's Cross. "I remember that, but... but I can't remember where I'm supposed to live, Xav."
There was a sudden haunted look behind those distant eyes; a brief flash of undiluted fear, there so quickly that he might have imagined it, then gone again. Rayne took a long pull on his cigarette and discarded it, grinding the stub under his heel. Dark hair tumbled forward framing his ashen features and screening them and for a moment he looked as fragile as a lost child. Then Xavier saw Dominic waving to them frantically from the foot of the steps. He must have flagged down a cab.
Xavier slipped his arm around him and kissed his cheek.
"It'll come back to you, Rayne," he murmured comfortingly, guiding him down the steps. "It might take some time, but you've been remembering more every day," he soothed. "Maybe it'll come back when we get closer."
Rayne pulled a sceptical face. "I'm just glad that Miz Warren's here. I hope she knows where I live or we're just a bit fucked."
He slid an arm around Xavier's back though as they descended to street level and joined Dom in the purring black cab. The driver stowed their bags in the boot and then he was behind the wheel and they were off.
"Can you drop us first?" Rayne asked Lord Warren quietly, leaning towards him on the back seat. "Xav's a bit knackered."
"Sure," the older man responded cheerfully. "Not a problem." He leaned forward to tap the glass partition separating them from the cabbie. "Can you take us to Chepstow Villas first, darling?"
"Course I can, mate," the driver said cheerfully. He glanced at them in the rear view mirror then remarked; "Are you the bloke out of that band? Whatsis? Whipsnade? The ones that set fire to the BBC when you were on Top of the Pops that time?"
Rayne licked his lips warily, his expression betraying that he certainly didn't remember doing anything like that.
"Yeah," he said tentatively. "We didn't burn the place down though. I'd remember!"
"Thought so," the driver laughed. "You still get all those Japanese girls camping out on your doorstep?"
"You'll find out in a few minutes, won't you?" Rayne told him, turning to wink at Xavier. Under his breath he murmured; "I bloody 'ope so, at least we'll know which fuckin' house it is."
Dominic turned his head and gave the singer a rather strange look at that. He was frowning slightly as if he wanted to ask a question but wasn't sure how to begin.
Xavier might have given Dom a hint under other circumstances, but at the moment he was processing several things that were requiring his full attention. Uppermost was that Rayne had been recognised almost immediately as a celebrity and next was the possibility of fan-girls lying in wait for him.
He knew Whipsnade had been bigger than just some local group that played the bar circuit and smaller venues, but they had never quite made that leap across the Atlantic and the phrase 'Big in Europe' to Xavier translated as 'Never heard of you'...not unless you went digging on your own anyway. Generally, bands like that didn't get any airplay except for maybe some of the smaller stations between the time the bars closed and before the morning commute started.
He was... a little startled.
His startlement did not abate when a few minutes later the cab rattled steadily out of a narrow thoroughfare lined with small bohemian looking shops and cafes and pulled up in front of a row of large, neat, white-painted, three-storey houses with iron railings and steps up to the front.
Rayne put a hand to his mouth but it was hard to tell if the expression on his face was thinly disguised shock or amusement. One thing was for sure, either someone on this block had been murdered or it was the home of someone fairly notorious. There were notes and cards and flowers in various states of decomposition tied to the railings in front of one of the houses. Small cuddly toys were wedged between the bars wherever there was space. Ribbons fluttered everywhere. It looked like the aftermath of an explosion in a gift shop.
There were three young Asian girls outside the house in question and a skinny emo kid with long dark hair poking out of a black hooded top and ebony jeans so tight they looked as if they'd been sprayed on. The latter, who could have been either gender, it was hard to tell, was sitting on the top step watching with an expression of supreme disdain as the giggling Japanese girls took turns to photograph one another in front of the decorated railings.
"Jesus!" the singer whispered huskily. "I can see no one's been round to tidy the place up for a bit."
He reached for the door handle as the cab pulled up as close to the step as it was possible to get. Dominic put a hand on his arm clearly still wanting to ask about his earlier comment but at that moment the three young girls spotted them in the cab and all hell broke loose as they mobbed the car.
Lord Warren changed his mind about the topic and shouted; "Ray, I'll pay the cab and bring your stuff round later on when it's quieter. You and Xavier get in. I'll call you when I get home, darling."
"I owe you." Rayne grinned at him, then shook his head incredulously and opened the door.
As he and Xavier scrambled out of the taxi the girls swarmed over them like a rash, screaming and practically fighting for his attention. The cab driver was laughing with disbelief and called; "Good luck, mate!" as he pulled away from the kerb, leaving them to it.
Rayne's arm tightened around Xavier's waist as the younger man joined him on the street. He kept a smile plastered on his face but remained firmly polite with the girls, as they bombarded him with inane questions about where he had been and what he was going to have for dinner and sang little bursts of his songs to him off-key.
He signed autographs and posed for pictures with them patiently but when one of them looked a little defensively at Xavier and demanded to know who he was, Rayne called a halt to the proceedings without answering the question.
"We've got stuff to do now. It was nice meeting you but it's been a long day and I'm sure you've got more places to see, yeah?" he reminded them with a fixed smile.
They pressed more toys and notes on him and remained in a giggling huddle on the street as Rayne and Xavier climbed the steps. The emo child had not moved from his or her post on the top step whilst all of this was going on. There was a smirk on its face though now. Rayne leaned on the railings beside the door and handed the kid a tiny, purple, stuffed hippo.
"There you go, don't say I never give you nothin'," he said dryly.
"You've been gone ages," the kid told him, and only when he tipped his head back to look up at them was it plain that he was a boy. His pale, hazel eyes were rimmed in black eyeliner that made them look almost golden in the weak sunlight and he wore black lipstick and chipped ebony nail varnish.
He took the toy though, pressing it briefly to his nose then stuffing it into a pocket of his hoodie.
Xavier, who had remained somewhat shell-shocked throughout, now came out of his bemused state long enough to take a good appraising look at the skinny boy sitting on Rayne's step. He had almost immaculate skin, cream coloured and dotted with odd little freckles on the bridge of his small, upturned nose. His lips were cherubic but slightly chapped. Black was almost certainly not his natural hair colouring. He had a slightly wasted and unwashed look to him that the girls had not.
"How long you been sitting here?" he asked.
The boy looked at him as if it took an extreme amount of effort to tear his eyes off Rayne for even a second. Xavier found it a bit spooky.
"Who're you?" the boy asked, although with slightly less hostility than the girls had shown.
"Don't see how that's relevant to how long you've been cooling your heels on that step," Xavier retaliated.
The boy gave him a strange look, as if he was either trying to figure him out or calculate if he was being teased. "Day or so... Long enough."
Xav glanced up and down the street at the nice well-kept houses, none of which were as colourfully bedecked as the front of Rayne's.
"Are you serious?" he asked, looking back at the kid. "When was the last time you ate?"
"What? You my nan or somethin' now?" the skinny child flashed back with a bit of sneer.
Xav ignored it. "You got any money?"
"Xav..." Rayne spoke softly but Xavier was already pulling out his wallet.
"Here." He dropped some bills in the kid's lap since he hadn't moved. "Go get something to eat, okay?" he suggested as he followed Rayne up the stairs.
"He'll get bored with you," the boy shouted at his retreating back, crumpling the notes into the pocket of his tight pants. "He gets bored with all the guys he fucks sooner or later."
As they both turned to stare at him he tapped the side of his head and said; "I know. I watch and I know what happens."
"Fuck off," Rayne told him in a harder tone, stepping forward with heat in his pale eyes. "You know fuck all. Now get off my fucking doorstep before I call the fucking police, all right!"
Xav touched the back of his arm gently.
"C'mon Ray, just leave him be," he said, which was more generous than he wanted to be, but what Rayne was saying was right. The kid didn't know anything, other than what he saw. He did look back down at the teen though, meeting those large, hazel eyes that were more hostile now.
"I'm just sayin'," the boy muttered, shrugging his shoulders.
"That would be my problem, wouldn't it. Go on and go home or something. Rayne's been travelling a lot, he's tired. He didn't mean to snap at you." Xav said it mainly because he didn't want to hear about some kid OD-ing or washing up in the river with a note saying how heartbroken he was over Rayne Wylde telling him to fuck off.
The kid sneered at him as he backed slowly down the steps to the street.
"Just remember it, right, when he dumps you for a younger cunt. Remember what I said."
Rayne shoved Xavier's hand away snarling; "Right! That's enough! That is fuckin' well more than enough!"
He went for the kid, who turned on his sneakered heel and fled, laughing harshly. Luckily twilight was coming down on them now and the three Japanese girls had disappeared when the boy began to get aggressive. Rayne's fangs were out and there was a hunger in his eyes that was nothing at all to do with pleasure.
"Shit!" Xavier hissed, running down the steps after them. "Rayne, stop! The kid ain't worth it."
He didn't know why Rayne was getting so worked up about what some fucking brat said to him anyway. Maybe it was just because he knew Xav still felt a bit raw from the way he had run out on him in Italy.
His lover did not give chase but for a moment he seethed in silence before turning back towards the house. His cellphone was in his hand and he was dialling a number already, expression irritable. Rayne moved fluidly up the steps again, juggling his keys from his jacket pocket with one hand and the small black mobile cupped to his cheek with the other. As he selected a key and slid it into the lock he was murmuring; "Hiya, it's me. Yeah... yeah, I'm back... about an hour ago."
There was a little pause during which he tilted his head as the door swung inward and waved Xavier through it. They stepped into a wide, cream tiled hallway, painted a soothing shade of mint green and Rayne flipped another key from the bunch without even thinking about it, slotting it into the navy blue painted door to their right. He was still talking to the person on the other end of the line in a low, confidential tone that was slightly accusatory now, "Have you been down here recently? Yeah? Well have you seen the fuckin' state of the place?"