by Te
November 2000

Disclaimers: Everyone here belongs to Raymond Chandler. Whether or not
he actually wants them remains to be seen.

Spoilers: For _The Long Goodbye_.

Ratings Note: R.

Summary: Philip Marlowe does some thinking.

Author's Note: Well, look, it's a fandom of Two! This is all Jessica's fault,
y'all. She loaned the book to me knowing full well I would read it. Raymond
Chandler... that's the way noir is supposed to be. A nice, slow roll in broken
glass. And this one comes with slash.

Feedback: Please, baby, please.


And it's one of those impossible days when I get it.

One of those days when the sun shines down on everybody alike, and the
only revelations are about sweat and grime. Grime over everything -- palm
trees and cars, starlets and hoods, and the whole city just holds them
right in there.


Big sprawling carcass of a dying animal, crawling with parasites that
never seem to eat the thing up and be done with it.

Instead, everybody's walking around congratulating themselves on the
good weather, or maybe just on living in a place so bright they can pretend
it's a good thing. All I can see are dopers and fiends, gamblers and
pug-faced off-duty cops and they're all whores. Every last god-damned one
of them, raddled and hustling, God help them *hoping* for that next buck.

I gave up on hope a long, long time ago.

Yeah, even before Terry Lennox.

All these mooks... not a single one of them ever wanted to say his name,
and maybe I didn't either, but. They all danced around it. Every last one,
aiming corny knowing looks at me, unspoken assumptions. In a way, it'd
been a nice surprise. You just don't expect subtlety in my line of work.
Cleverness, sure. Lots of clever, clever people in this world.

Subtlety? Rare as feeling clean. No one said it out loud.

No one had to.

Sometimes I think I'm the only one in the world who remembers what
clean feels like, but that's usually only when I'm at the bottom of a
bottle, and self-pity comes easy. Most times I remember I'm as dirty
as the rest of 'em, though maybe with a little more pride.

But Terry... He'll always be Terry to me, I think. The man I knew. The
friend. Not the broken soldier he'd been before, not the perfumed fake
Mexican he was now. Poor dead Terry, surrounded by rich addicts,
half-corrupt cops, and big time crooks. All of whom wanted him to stay
disappeared, one way or another. All of them laughing behind their
grubby paws at the sap of a shamus right up until I got too close to this,
that, or the other thing they had to hide.

What do those recovering alkies say? You're only as sick as your
secrets? Well, yeah, I guess that's true. Seems like everyone Terry
knew had something nasty inside, something to hide. Who knows? People
like that... maybe all they have to do is a get a good look at each other
to know.

Someone who'll let me keep my secrets if I just let him keep his.

And maybe it would have all been easier if I treated it that way. If I'd
kept it just gimlets and idle chatter at Victor's. If I'd never reached
inside the gaping collar of his artfully rumpled twenty dollar shirt and
leaned in to kiss him, slow and gentle, because it was suddenly the only
way I knew how.

Maybe if Terry had just accepted it as his due, like I did. A good man with
too much hurt -- in the end, that was the only thing I ever saw. He'd told
himself he was low down worthless often enough to believe it, and all I
really let myself see was the gratitude. The easy, open *gratitude*. To me.
A good man who deserved more than he'd gotten out of life.

Weaknesses just like the rest of us, but good just the same. And it'd
been so damned long since I'd ever felt anything like that from my
fellow man. Maybe if Terry had been someone else. Anyone else, because no
one else had ever made me want to give up on my own secrets.

I'd never been a tough guy, and Terry could slip under the skin better
than any Mexican's blade, and back then I was ready to let him. That's
all. Someone who could recognize the look of my solitary chess games and
make me laugh about all the machinations. You could look at him and know
the man had never planned out a scheme in his life.

Nothing like that would hold his attention. Terry always needed someone
else to do that, and I guess I conveniently forgot that, too, when I was
working his case. The same tough guys and ice cold dames I was dancing
around with for answers were the ones hiding him all along. The ones who
let him hide, and broke another piece off the man. Just one more of the
things that allow a man to keep his dignity, his spirit together and just
look at me would ya?

Five years since the shell with Terry's eyes walked out of my life and
I'm still making it up for him. Telling his story for him, complete with
the revisions and excuses I've never allowed anyone else.

No prizes for guessing why.

What it all boils down to is that, no matter what I told him, I never
really said goodbye. How could I have back then? When he was just a
body in Nowhere, Mexico I hadn't known a damned thing. Coward's way
out -- this way I never really had to say goodbye to the new Terry,

And since I'll never see him again, then I'll never have to say goodbye
at all and that's Terry for you. Turning me inside out from wherever
he and his scars have wound up.

I remember him begging me not touch him on his face, because it was
the only place he couldn't really feel me.

I remember feeling like a sexstruck teenager afterward, trying not to
shake, or grab on too hard, or do anything at all to take away from some
high-flung ideal of perfection I would never have admitted believing in.

I can admit it now, though. It's safe enough.

Even with this letter in my hand. Thick. Still sealed up tight and I have
to run my finger over the seal, now. Have to wonder if he'd used his
tongue to do it. Have to shiver right down to where it counts at the


It's safe because when I finish this scotch, I'm going to place the letter
in a nest of crumpled paper at the bottom of my trash barrel. And then
I'm going to light a match, and then I'm going to have another drink.

Free hand on the fire extinguisher, just in case. They say burning is a
horrible way to go, and I don't have the faintest interest in trying to
prove them wrong.

After that drink? I'm going to have another.

And then I'm going to start telling myself all the things the letter could
have said, until I find the right words in the right voice.

Something to make me regret this just a little.

Just enough.