Rated highly because there's sex. Not porn star diary sex, but it's there.

And... This is Lil and the new guy, so possibly spoilerish although I'd go for it being an AU spoiler. Doesn't look like Ray is coming back, so I'm going for this bandwagon.

He felt like her equal. She hadn't felt that in a long time; with Patrick, he'd been her senior, apparently older and wiser, and infinitely better with his fists. Kite had wanted to take her home and wrap her up in tissue paper and cotton wool, keep her from the bad things in the world that she sought out on a regular basis. And Joseph had wanted to put her on a pedestal, high above everything else, where she was untouchable and alone. Ray had been the only time she'd had an equal, but they'd both known they couldn't last. She chose the side of the angels, he said, while he walked the thin line of darkness, occasionally tipping over the edge.

"What are you thinking about?" His hands were swirling down her buttons, demolishing them. She let him, without reciprocation. She sensed he was used to taking the lead, as she usually did. Sometimes, though, it was nice to let someone else step into the driver's seat while she looked out the window, pretended to be a passenger.

"Us. You. This." She let him drop her shirt to the floor, fluttering white, pooling at their feet.

"So there's an us now?" He carelessly dropped his shirt next to hers and drew her hand over his chest, drawing her to him, to the bed.

"Hm?" She tried to look innocent, but he could see straight through her, as easily as he could see through the crackheads, and the dealers, and the scum he dealt with every day.

"Kinda didn't feel like that today, in front of your boss." He unbuckled her belt, slid it out of her pants. It hissed quietly at every belt hole.

"I don't like gossip." She felt as if she sounded too prim, too uptight. She couldn't help it. But he was still working at the button on her pants.

"Yeah? That it?" His hand paused at the zipper. She looked him in the eyes. They were black smoke in the half light.

"Yeah, that's it." Then the zipper was undone and his hands were sliding down her thighs. Then back up.

"Cos this neighbourhood..." She lived around professionals, other singles, couples too busy for kids with disposable incomes. As far from childhood as she could be.

"North Hope Street." She pulled him down with her, a tangle of bare limbs on the bed.

"What?" His weight was a gift even though it took her breath away. She paused, refilled her lungs with air touched by his scent.

"My old neighbourhood; Kensington. Drunk mother, nonexistent father, transient 'uncles', threat of a foster home."

"You got out of it better than me." His words were punctuated by his rhythm. She put her arms around his back, let him hold up her weight as well as his own.

"Yeah? You really think you can ever get away from it?" His back glistened in the light, sweat beading on them both. He was breathless and he didn't answer her until they were stretched out, laced fingers pretending they might be more than an easy release from a job and memories that haunted them both.

"You got away, didn't you?" He was a cop; answering questions with questions, never revealing his own hand.

"Did I?" Two could play that game.

"Fooled me." He rolled onto his side. His frame dwarfed her, even more than Ray had. She felt timid, and safe.

"Appearances..." She stopped herself before she finished the cliché line. She felt as if this was a pre-recorded conversation. That they'd say the same things next time, and the time after that, until it turned into goodbyes. They may as well not talk at all.

"Deceiving, I know. It's all bullshit."

"What?" Here was a curve ball.

"We try and forget where we come from, and we try and make things better, and we just fucking try until we turn up murdered or eating our gun in the supply room. And there might be a decent sized funeral in it or an article in the paper but in the end it's all just bullshit." His voice was still quiet when he finished, library soft, but she heard repeated syllables and quiet anger and evidence that this wasn't something that had suddenly occurred to him.

"The meaning of life?" It was a question she was asking, of the concept he aspired to. Suddenly, fiercely, she wanted to know this man.

"The lack thereof." He pulled her closer to him until his rough hand could trace her scar, the puckered bullet wound she saw every day when she stepped out of the shower. She'd lost sensitivity around the middle of it, but she shivered when his fingers traced the edges.

"Yet you still turn up to work every day." He laughed, and for a moment she saw the mask that was usually in place, the jovial side of him that was an act he could lose too quickly in intimacy.

"A man needs a hobby." Then she laughed, and wondered if a charade of happiness could be more contagious than a parodied sadness.

"Anyway, who knows if this is available in the afterlife?" His hand slid down from her scar, across her breasts, down past the dip in her stomach...

"I doubt it." She said, her bullet wound still tingling from his touch. Then they were clinging together again, her weight binding him to the mattress this time. They were silent now, talked out, immersed in eliminating the conversation that had rang a little too true, touched them both a little too deeply.

She smiled when his eyes shut, signalling another release, another reason to keep living. Her hair brushed his shoulders as she lowered herself down to lie on his chest, hear the strong heartbeat that trembled somewhere beneath her left cheekbone.

If they were in love, now would be time for those three little words.

If they were lovers, one of them should certainly leave now, before morning arrived too quickly, erasing any chance of a stealthy escape.

Instead, there they lay, both certain of life's unashamed pointlessness, of the probability that death could come too quickly, too easily, that the guns they carried might one day be used for self harm.

His heart beat on.

Hers slowed in anticipation of sleep.


Make of it what you will. Reviews 3'd.