“Come join us, Em,” Drin calls out, and Emma walks through the hotel suite towards the bath. There’s a wild gust of night-time wind sweeping through; Dance had opened every window in this corner room, heedless of the air-conditioning.
The whole long afternoon, he’d been fine. He sorted out transit around town, shading his eyes with one hand and bitching good-naturedly about missing his sunglasses. He showed off his categorical knowledge of local bus routes, taking them on a wild zigzag for hours, until Emma moaned “My dawgs, my dawgs is barkin’, boys!” Imitating the pithy wisdom of one of her coworkers in a broad Mississippi drawl that made Drin laugh.
It got weird when they started to lose the daylight.
They’d walked into the first hotel Drin thought of trying. Dance got halfway down the lobby, pivoted, and walked right without even looking to see if they’d followed him.
“Smells wrong,” he said, jittering, and started walking again. “There’s a stop on the next block, the hike is not too far, Emma. Okay? Drin?”
Dance left the third place when he heard the desk clerk’s voice.
This place, he’d managed to tolerate the lobby area, and to hold out steadying hands when a little kid barreled across the lobby towards him. Neither Drin nor Emma have asked him what memories have come back that makes him dodge away from his own reflection in the panels of reflective copper in the lobby. He was tense walking along the corridors, not quite panicking. He went up the stairs rather than facing the elevators. But he got inside the room.
And Drin has got him into the shower.
Emma peels off her sweaty shirt and skirt, and steps in.
Dance pushes her under the water, and lets her stand, face tilted up letting the heat relax her, Dance’s hands carefully massaging knots out of her back.
The enclosure is smaller than she’d like, but she’s not going to leave it. She needs the closeness and intimacy, the touch of her two men.
Plus it gives her a chance to assess damages. Drin has a bruise blossoming under the hot water, all along his right side from hip to armpit, a bloody scrape on the shin on the same side. Dance has– nothing, for all his panicky actions, although he’s moving stiffly, and working his arms in their sockets. Whatever happened– and despite both men explaining the day’s events, she wasn’t sure they were completely accurate– Dance had come through mostly unscathed.
Then she and Drin bundle Dance into the place of pride for his share. She lathers up her hands and palms the big muscles of his back, fingertips dipping into the deep crevices between muscle groups. More meat on those shoulder blades, down the slopes of his butt, than he ever used to have, good. He’s humming, pushing back into her, urging her hands to come around to find his prick, with Drin just about to step into the exchange with a wicked grin, and then–
Dance is clutching the wall, rigid in place, mouth open wide in agony.
–and he’s falling, lax under the water, and the scream he’s just uttered is ringing in Emma’s ears.
“Oh god, Dance,” fumbling down, she and Drin together, almost knocking heads.
“What–” Drin gets his hands under their musician’s armpits. As he’s swinging that considerable weight up, Emma can see a garnet stain spreading over Dance’s back.
It’s under his skin. It’s horrible.
Drin sinks down onto the toilet, Dance in a fainting kneel between his long legs. Emma skids a little on the wet tiles, leaning in to get a better look at the hematoma. It has an origin point in his spine, between his shoulderblades. An angry triangle has bloomed at the dimple where every fiber of those heavy traps is tied down together, a handspan below the nape of Dance’s neck.
“We have to–”
Dance stirs. Coughs. “Oh, hurts,” he says, turning his head into Drin’s chest.
“I should bloody well think so!” Emma says. “What on earth, Dance, why didn’t you tell us you were hurt, you damn fool–”
“Em, stop.” He turns, wincing, towards her. There’s a flicker in his eye when he blinks up at her. “I was not hurting.”
She kneels down next to the two men, leaning in on Drin’s thigh. She puts her hand up to Dance’s face, brushes back his hair and holds the eyelid open gently, looking closely at his eye. Then both eyes, looking at the pupil size. Futile, without a proper penlight to check for concussion. And that damn whitish movement in the inner corner –something too fast to really see, be understood.
“No, worries not, this now all right now,” Dance says, scrambling words alarmingly.
Emma holds herself very still, waiting for him to finish, and he just smiles sweetly, and kisses her cheek.
“There’s a hospital about four blocks from here, and it’s on our insurance list,” she says, standing up. “If I bring his clothes in here, can we get them on him? ”
“No,” Drin’s voice checks her. The note in it brings her right back to the terror of the noon, and she wheels back to glare at her partner, his graying hair and pale freckled skin, sitting on a hotel toilet with a man, who may be bleeding out internally, half in his lap. Odd accent–oh, yes, now it’s the cool ghostly voice of the man he used to be, the one who evaporates at any demand. That voice says to her, “No hospital, Em.”
Her rage is so great, she feels she could choke. She grasps Drin’s right ear and says, harshly, “Later is now.”
“It’s his pin.”
“That bouncing he got must have broken it loose. Come, take a look.”
His finger delicately indicates a lump the size of a pencil eraser pushing up under the bloody skin at one corner of the triangle. She locates another lump, and a third. Frantically she blinks back diagrams blooming open, an entire vast new archive of data flapping with alarm flags.
“Oh, damn,” Drin says, “The damn thing fractured.”
“Those pieces could travel a long way before they work out of his body,” Emma says, and there are echoes of knowledge in her head. Boxes of dead things. “Dance?”
“Emma?” Dance says and giggles. And then moans; “Fuck, my back is spasming!”
“Not surprised, sweetheart,” Drin murmurs, and kisses his head.
“He’s probably getting chilled,” Emma says. She grabs towels. Hell, it’s something to do. “Drin, I want to hear some logic on this one.”
Drin just shakes his head; “Don’t have any,” he replies obliquely. “Let’s get you onto the bed, okay? Can you–” Can you walk, can you feel your legs, she wants to scream– “Can you let us help you up?”
“You carry me.” The tough, reserved, dignified violinist pouts like a baby. And then grins, a sly little smile. A nudge of his hip against Drin.
Emma forces a grin onto her face in return. She lifts Dance’s shins while Drin stands. It takes more effort than she can believe, getting the three of them to the big bed, but the exhaustion must be ignored a little longer. She throws the towels down over the hotel bedspread and Dance makes a floppy face-first landing on top. “Niiice…” he says to the pillows and wiggles his ass.
“Stop it darling, Em and I want to play doctor, and you have to be the patient.”
“Take my temperchur!” Another wriggle of his hips. Emma throws an exasperated look at Drin, who looks as somber as she feels. “Can I kiss Nurse?”
“That’s me, sweetheart,” Drin says, sitting down next to him. “Em’s the doctor today. She’s going to take your pulse first.” A glint of shining metal in his hand; he turns it palm up and shows Emma the sleek little stiletto while she’s counting pulses against her watch.
Dance’s other hand starts to slide under his hip. He doesn’t get very far, trying to move his arm. “Ow.”
“Dance, listen to me.” Drin sounds like he’s a long way off, like his voice is being transmitted through humming wires. “We have to cut into your back. We don’t have any way to numb it, but I don’t think it wil hurt too badly anyway– we are only cutting the skin. But we have to do it quickly. Can you be still for us? Be still, sweetheart. Be… still…”
And Dance does lay still, Drin’s big hands on his shoulders. Emma takes the knife, slicks it with alcohol hand cleaner from a hotel packet, wipes the bruised skin with two more packets, and locates the largest of the fragments, just over his spine.
Schematic drawings obscure her eyesight untill she shakes them away, leaving her with the name of what was secreted in her lover’s spinal cord. Quickly, efficiently, she presses the tip of the blade into the blackened skin and a bead of red wells up, turning into a rivulet as she lengthens her incision, and a gush as the object pops free with a clever little twist of her blade tip. Drin has a towel ready for the bleeding, and presses down on the cut. She drops the hard dull gray pin head into his other hand.
Emma cuts her lover two more times.
Drin hands her the fragments,which she carries into the bathroom. She rinses the knife. She does not wash the grit that she cut out of Dance. She looks briefly at the fragments in the stronger light – they fit together into a ring. She thinks the smooth outside texture is misleading. There is a pitting to the inside surface of the ring, tiny filterlike holes nearly too small to see. She puts them in a plastic wrapper from one of the hotel cups, and puts that in the little hotel fridge.
She washes her hands and returns to the bed. Dance does not move when she touches him.
“You were very good and you can move now,” Emma says, and kisses his ear. Schematics are still bubbling up over her eyesight, and she wants to cry.
“Being good,” Dance sighs.
“You did,” Drin says, stroking the side of Dance’s face.
“Can be turning over now?”
With towels packed hard under his bleeding back, and his head propped on a pillow, Dance looks remote, spooky.
Emma shivers. There’s white frost somewhere.
“No temperature taking…You don’t play doctor right.” A scowl. “Ow. Mean doctor.”
“But you can kiss Nurse,” Emma says, and her voice sounds very, very far away. “While I check your pulse again.”
Drin throws her another sober look, and stretches out beside Dance, leaning in to kiss Dance all over his face with soft brushes of his lips. Dance smiles back, allowing his eyelids to be kissed.
Endorphins, gotta love ’em, Emma thinks bitterly, getting her watch out again. After a few moments, holding Dance’s warm wrist, she releases him with a sigh, laying down the relaxed arm. She pulls a pad of paper from the hotel drawer. With Drin on concussion watch over Dance, Emma scribes half-understood notes, like automatic writing.