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A Fire in the Blood

So here I am again. Three years of little fetch and carry jobs, of dirty, arm’s length, if you slip we never asked this jobs, of being an ear in the crowd, an eye on the wire. Three years nearly walking away, three years coming back one last time.

Why do I do it? For the fire in the blood.

And why do they ask? They’ve thieves as good, I know. Better thieves? No. But thieves they can trust.

They can trust me.

They’ll not, but.

And here I am again, for this is one job they’ll always keep for me. Because I know him? So they tell me, but I know it’s because he knows me, and they won’t risk another. I’m already marked, a card he knows they hold.

So here I am again, no wire, no net, just the fire in my blood and no friend to catch my fall.

***

So here she is again. Who else? A contact I’d know. I contact I might even trust … as she trusts me. And she trusts me, I know, as she trusts the weather – to be true to my own nature and my own law. For the rest she must trust to her judgement, whatever she is told. They tell her plenty, I’m sure.

And here she is again. A stool at the bar and a tight dress riding up a shapely thigh. That dress, by God, as if I needed any sign that she is here for me tonight. She’s brushing someone off. Of course. She’ll have been doing that all night, but the timing of this one is perfect. We’re barely through the door, and the latest chancer has to pass us. It’s easy to laugh at his discomfort, to pitch it in a tone he can’t ignore. Do I think I can do better? Sure I do. A reckless grin, and licence to drift away from my own group, and try my luck alone.

***

So here he is again. That predatory grin that’s meant to leave me weak at the knees, and an unfeigned tiredness in those hard grey eyes that cuts deeper than I’d like to admit. But he’s later than I’d hoped and my hands are tied. I’ve brushed off younger men tonight, bolder men, richer men, men with smoother lines and men with sharper suits. I can’t look as though I’ve been waiting for him, it’s too dangerous for us both. I’m his last chance, but it’s up to him to play it right.

And here he is again, feeding me a line so weak I’ve knocked him back before I can think, derision on my face and ice in my heart. He’s on his own if we can’t make this work.

On his own and dead where he stands.

Not that you’d know it. There’s a twitch in his cheek, the start of a grin, as much of a salute as he can offer me. A moment later I’m choking on my drink, startled into laughter by his perfect riposte. Now I know that he can make it work, and we’re out on the dancefloor without another word.

***

So here we are again, the girl in my arms. No stately measures, no perfect form. Music to grind to, and I’m holding her close, and she’s holding close to me, though where my hands wander there’s a tension she can’t hide. But we’re caught in the middle and we have to play the game. I breath a question in her ear, and there’s no tremor in her voice when she answers

“As far as public taste allows.”

There’s an alley out back; we stumble into it, laughing. She’s the one leading now, I’m in a dream. Her back’s to the wall and she’s offering her mouth, and it’s an offer I can’t refuse.

Her lips are cold as marble, hard and still, but her clever hands are busy in the shelter of my open coat.

I don’t even check what she’s put in my pockets. I know it will be everything I need.

The fire she’s kindled in my blood, that I don’t need. But that’s my problem.

With thanks to the #MWBB for a prompt to bring back old friends. I’ve left them nameless here, I’m not sure why … perhaps so that I can say that if you know who’s dancing through my thoughts again, then this is a tale that I wrote for you.

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