“Well now, congratulations. Quite a celebration here,” says an older man in a stiff black suit and dark tie. He looks funereal, gaunt.
“Yes, thank you,” Dance says, looking up sharply. A cloud of odor hangs around the man, pungent as a cigar-smoker. Sugary, metallic, stale machine oil. Dance wants to back away, gagging, appalled at how excessively his nose has been reacting to odors all day. Instead, Dance chokes down the impulse and holds out his hand, grips the man’s damp, cold fingers. He’s careful. The man smells ill.
“Nice, for queers. No big drag queen show. Don’t care who’s pitching or catching, if you get my drift. Big guy musta picked up lots of porn pictures of Asian boys in aprons, huh?”
Dance keeps his smile muscles locked, lips stretched. “Thank you. We could never do proper justice to a drag wedding ceremony, so it never crossed our minds. Did you have a chance to try the appetizers?”
“Well, I found the fizzy first thing. Pretty mild stuff, y’know. My name’s Turner.”
“We are so glad you could come. Are you a friend of Drin’s?”
A snort. “In a manner of speaking. I know his boss, one of the Board members, Bud Innes. Lost track where Bud’s got to.”
“I think he’s organizing the wine-tasting,” Emma says, popping up at his elbow.
“Well, hello, pretty lady, would you like to help me score some wines?”
“I’d be delighted to,” Emma says, with a glance over her shoulder at Dance, who is hastily wiping his dampened hand on his pants, worrying that his fingers feel strange, all stinging and tingly, and hoping that nobody else notices. Then she’s steering the man away.
The next person in line is giving Dance a highly offended look. Dance finds his pocket square, wipes his disgusting fingers as dry as he can.
“Did he really mean that?” says Rose, the percussionist with the tats, holding out a hand in fashionably ripped black lace gloves.
“I assume he did,” Dance says, and bows while air-kissing over her hand. She smells of patchouli over lousy pot, cheap weed tainted by some oil-based pesticide. The same odor hangs on other musicians too. Compared to the pampered weed that Robert smokes to calm his nerves, with Bud’s blessing, this stuff smells like rotten hay. Not the time to say so, however. The pesticide odor pokes his dizziness, makes it worse. Hastily he lets go of her gloved hand.
She’s got a new tat on her upper arm, a reddened pattern of drumsticks. He compliments her on that, so she shows it off to everybody around them, apparently delighted with the wincing sidelong looks from those older people she’d call ‘muggles’. He demurs over discussing proper tattoos to memorialize his wedding. Not the time for that conversation, either.
“You have a great long life with your sweetie,” Rose says fiercely, and then she’s grabbed him in a hug. She gives him a kiss on either cheek and a pat on the back.
“Thank you, this is no small blessing to give,” Dance says warmly.
“Hey, we can all use all the blessings we get,” Rose says.
The next guest is a petite woman wearing bubblegum pink and black, with skull jewelry and black bows everywhere. He’s never seen her before, but she starts talking as if resuming an earlier conversation. “Well, I played fairy godmother and wished Drin prosperity, and he just laughed. I guess beyond a certain point that much money just gets to be more of pain than a pleasure, but really, you guys could use some plain old good luck too. So hey, best of luck to you!” She bounces into a curtsey, flouncing out her ruffled black skirts until it shows the striped stockings beneath. The girly gesture is so unexpected that she starts to giggle at his expression. He thanks her, she nods, and then she moves off, humming.
“She said it right,” says the next woman in line. Amalia’s sister rustles around in a crisp, noisy blue fabric. She smells of perfume and the chocolate from the appetizer tables. “I always like a garden wedding, anyway. You guys look great. Best wishes for a peaceful life together.” If she’s referring to her own divorce, it’s certainly not the time or place to ask about that. So many rules. It worries Dance that he might mix things up, the way he bumbled around on things when he first came to the Metro. Dance receives a hug from her that drags him nearly off-balance, but he manages to blink away the increasing dizziness.
He breathes a sigh of relief when Robert is next in the line. Robert doesn’t hug. Robert stays out of Dance’s reach if he can. He is wearing a piratical frock coat, a poet’s shirt with soft collar, a wide belt hung with coins and gears and cogs and watch parts, big floppy buccaneer boots, and a red scarf at his neck. He’s a one-man source of the kind of atmosphere they totally failed to provide. He wanted them to do it all up righteously steampunk, and he is still striving to provide proper drama.
Muted slubbed silks and perfect tailoring and a nondenominational service run exactly on time by a former Army chaplain wearing a rainbow stole, this is all far too fuddy-duddy old-school for him.
But then, Robert didn’t see the real show. He arrived too late.
The chaplain roared up on a Harley right in front of the waiting couple, escorted by a pack of vets on bikes dismounting at the back of the park, all kinds of burly senior leathermen come to bless Drin’s wedding. The chaplain parked the bike, clapped his gloves together and held up his hands to quiet folks, who were whistling and whooping while applauding.
During the ceremony, the rest of the bikers loomed at the back with longhorn beers in hand. When the vows were spoken and the recessional music began, the leathermen lined up along the aisle, making an arch of the bottles for the new couple. Then the leathermen swaggered through the reception line, rumbled their good wishes at the newlyweds, gathered up the club flags and their bikes and their chaplain, and departed in a roar of exhaust.
This surprise presence was in response to Drin’s support for their club’s veterans, and also for an incident where he kept order among some ‘poorly disciplined pups.’ Truth be told, he kept younger leather club members from wrecking Kane’s bar a few months ago.
The barman told that story at their rehearsal dinner. Kane stood up and thanked Drin for saving his bar from getting trashed. He framed it as a dire warning to Dance. Kane told them all that he wanted Dance to know what he is really in for, marrying a guy who can stop a bar brawl. With a look. A brawl with sailors, in a Navy town.
He reported that Drin walked up to the drunk Naval desk-jockey who started it, just clotheslined the guy, tipped him right over on the floor. Then Drin just stood there, looking at everyone. Stopped everything cold.
It must have been a helluva look.
When things got quiet, then Drin barked the leather pups into cleaning up the bar. Who needs a swagger stick when you have a mouth like that?
Kane said the big man stood over them, giving them that horrible, old-time, personally-detailed, intimate Army sergeant hell about scrubbing down every last dirty corner, and he drove them at it until their leather daddies showed up to take charge of them. Kane said his bar got those corners scrubbed cleaner than it’s been in years. Kane reported the senior guys spanked the ever-lovin’ snot out of those poorly-disciplined pups, too.
So every month since, the pups come back to clean his bar to the same exacting standards, as just another part of their on-going discipline. Sometimes Drin drops in to make sure of it. Punishment, or pleasure? After seeing them today, at his wedding ceremony, Dance is perfectly sure, both.
Drin mumbled into his dinner plate about losing his temper, and everybody laughed a lot.
Dance had to stand up and reply that he was very sad to miss it.
Kane said that was a damn good thing, which made all the musicians laugh. Oh, they knew. For the others, Kane explained Dance might not be a huge guy, but he’d have taken everybody apart for threatening his Drin– more laughter.
Kane was just getting warmed up. He told some really embarrassing stories about Dance’s history as an informal bouncer– a warning to Drin what he was in for.
Some of those made Drin’s eyes pop open in outrage, and everybody laughed in delighted suspense as Kane built it up. “So, what you got to say for yourself, Mister Dance?”
Into the microphone thrust in his face, Dance admitted sadly that he only bent that shotgun into that steering wheel because he’d leaned on it too hard. He didn’t intend to. Too showy. Not boring enough to get the brawlers to just go away and sober up.
People laughed at that, too.
Kane closed by saying he really wasn’t joking that, between the two of them, Dance and Drin had saved his stupid thankless goddamn business. That got general applause.
Dance is still sad that he didn’t see his husband in action, making pups clean things up.
Emma, as mistress of ceremonies, commented that nobody could be expected to follow a show like that, but they were welcome to try, and made them all laugh again.
Now, Robert’s name is called, and he turns from the reception line. While Robert is chatting to one of the passing guests, a breeze swirls around them. Dance takes a pleased breath. His nose twitches at a gust of scents from the wedding’s bar, a gust of orange juice, pineapple and coconut. Kane is moving around inside an open door nearby, setting up bottles and running the blender at the bar, chatting happily with his customers. He’s gossipping about morning TV talk shows, showing off his technique pouring fruit syrup for the row of Metro ladies perched in front of him. They’re all wearing fluffy straw hats and sherbet-colored summer dresses and impractical shoes. Most of them would never guess Kane’s bar turns into a leatherman dungeon on alternate Fridays.
Robert follows his glance. “Oh, wonderful, Joscelyn’s ancient gang of maenads will get smashed and start baying for blood.” He sighs that put-upon performer’s sigh that he’ll go over there and throw himself on the altar of duty, if he has to. They both know he’ll love wallowing in the clouds of attention from the Metro ladies, as he always does. The guest swats him on the arm to behave, nods to Dance, and departs, leaving them to talk.
“Hey, ya big bully,” Robert says.
“Hey brat,” Dance says solemnly.
“You really did it!”
They both grin.
Dance taps fists and goes patiently through the finger-snapping routine Robert has initiated in the past few weeks.
Robert leans in closer. The pot scent on him is like a punch in the gut, but it’s familiar. “So, you guys couldn’t even talk the leather dudes into sticking around a little longer, just for me?”
No point in reminding steampunk diva Robert that it’s his own fault he only got to admire the burly biker honor guard as they left. That made Robert’s face fall in dismay.
Dance shakes his head. “No, sorry. The chaplain had two other ceremonies with members of his congregation, so he had to run like the wind to add ours.”
Dance had liked talking to the man. The chaplain had been happy to counsel all concerned, sternly, in the weeks prior to the ceremonies. Emma said she’d been thinking hard about points brought up in her conversations with him. She said he was good at drawing things out of a person, and Drin agreed, looking very sober about it all. Dance was mystified by this; it hadn’t been a burden to answer his questions. The man had laughed at his answers, and clearly enjoyed teasing him, and he gave Dance a big hug every time they finished another session of questions. Drin said that was because he was being especially cute.
Robert says, “Hey, Bud told me to pass on an invitation, he says you guys can always come over to our place if you ever want to run away from home.”
Dance smiles wider. “That is a very generous offer. Please thank him for me.”
Robert gives a nod toward the wine-tasting tent. “If that weird old guy Turner knows Bud, it’s from a long time ago, before we got together. You bet I’d remember him.”
“Yes, he did make himself stand out to the memory, goodness knows why,” Dance agrees. Then he smiles at Robert. “By the way, if I ever get offended at Drin about rude pictures, it would only be for not sharing them.”
Robert laughs, and makes a sour face. “TMI, dude, I don’t wanna know!”
Emma reappears at Robert’s elbow.
“Hey, you’ve lost the memorable Mister Turner,” Robert says.
“Yeah, suddenly he decided to visit the men’s room and then he was gone out the back way. Bud said the guy wasn’t a freeloader, but he didn’t look happy. Left me wondering if the guy used to be a business partner or a creditor or something.”
“I’ll talk to Bud,” Robert says, ominously. Bud must be resigned to Robert’s curiosity since he’s started using Robert’s help at parties. He might call Robert the Elephant’s Child sometimes, but he has been teaching the boy discretion. Robert stil blathers, but it’s a wall built to deflect questions about those events, as if the littlest things might betray too much about Bud’s interests.
Emma nods. “Mister Turner talked a good game but he skipped the drinks and ran off. Speaking of drinking, do you need some more water, Dance?”
He waves it off. “I’m good, thank you.”
“Right, I’m off to check on Amalia. She was fussing about the jazz quartet taking a break.” And she’s gone, apricot silk fluttering in her wake. She probably won’t sit down for hours, meaning she’ll be in pain tonight.
Drin joked about that at the rehearsal dinner, when he gave her a gift certificate for a massage and spa. Amalia got a matching certificate, so the two women can relax and talk after today’s event. Dance hopes they will be very happy hashing over the details and gossipping about what people told them.
Dance turns to a slow-moving elderly black lady. She has a grip as soft as a ghost. He finds himself laughing with her on jokes about Emma and Amalia beating up on slow musicians, like they’re a couple of cane-wielding grannies on a tear. She pats his hand, saying, “Oh, call me Susan, sweetie, we’ll be talking again one of these days, probably at some Metro event, but nothing like as nice as this wedding of yours. Hey, sweet boy, you be good, now!” and then her attendant is there, unfolding her wheelchair.
He’s still chuckling when he greets the next Metro patron in the reception line. The restauranteur, Shura Khorachevnik, introduces his friends with Russian, Armenian, and Polish names, all of them solemn, enormous men in dark expensive suits. They say they are businessmen, but they stare at people rather than talking. They stare down at Dance the most. They don’t blink looking at Dance, either. They are very polite, and soft-spoken, and they go off to put some serious cash into the donation bins for the Metro’s charities. Dance promises happily he will listen to all the new music Shura gifted him, along with the new music player.
When he looks up, he sees the line is slowly dwindling in front of his husband. His husband. Drin has his tuxedo jacket unbuttoned, one hand resting on his hip, bending forward and listening, with a grin. His face looks sunburnt. The pale shadow of goggles hangs in those freckles around his eyes. Trimmed and groomed into a well-cut suit, there’s still that craggy Victorian wildness to him. He’s speaking Spanish to one of the Metro’s staff ladies, and then he solemnly bends to shake hands with her little boy, who giggles.
Drin looks like he belongs on a sailing ship, or climbing mountains, or studying Iraqui architecture or strange primates in a jungle somewhere. He’s beautiful.
Dance takes a shallow breath.
It’s surprising, the rush of pressure squeezing in his chest, the swoop of emptiness in his belly, as if he’s pushed himself out of an airplane and he’s just pulled on the release cord on the parasail, the way he did just two days before.
As Robert had said: Trust Emma to arrange a stag weekend where everybody had to fall out of a plane! Or else, after the daring parachutists returned to the main party, the noncombatants had to provide very amusing fake stories about why they couldn’t do it, couldn’t get there in time, or couldn’t find the airport at all. Amalia’s story had been voted “Most Inventive Invective,” which has left her in a pleasant mood ever since. Robert had achieved “Best Excuses.”
There’s a camera flash. Dance blinks, refocuses, and catches a delighted grin on the face of the camera-wielding person in front of him.
The woman chuckles. “Well, clearly this relationship has a lot going for it.” She thinks it’s adorable. He’s being cute again. People have been teasing him about that. There will be endless pictures of him making cow-eyes at his husband.
Dance can feel the heat coming up all the way from his belly, pounding in his ears. He’s blushing all over when the lady takes another picture of him, and finally pockets her camera and pats his arm. Their new Metro Librarian has only been three weeks on the job, and she’s become a firm personal favorite with Dance. But he also dreads what she’s capable of. She smells of old books and paper dust, as Emma does after work. Like Emma, she’ll be able to retrieve those pictures at any excuse, embarrassing him for years to come.
She shakes his hand, saying, “Best wishes for a long, happy marriage, my dear.” She’s still chuckling as she gives way to the next person.
The next person is their favorite violist on maternity leave, Miss Twillzer, who is wearing her empty infant-carrier. When he asks, she gestures distractedly at a circle of women on benches nearby in the shade. They are holding quite a healthy crop of babies and squirmy toddlers. The whole area smells of baby powder, zinc ointment, and bagged diapers.
Miss Twillzer herself looks good, clearly tired but much more relaxed. She smells completely different than she used to. She’s gained muscle bulk, she has freckles on her pale skin now.
“Yes, of course you must go take care of her. I am glad to say, you do look so good,” he says, waving her off.
The last person in line is a staff lady from the Metro office, who’s grinning like a Halloween pumpkin. She says nothing at all, just holds out her arms and gives Dance a big, hard hug. Lavender-scented, one of his favorites–she wore the scent he’s told her he likes best on her. He thanks her, holding her hands a moment, feeling that odd new pressure on his finger, from his wedding ring. They both look down at it, up again, and just smile at each other.
When he looks around, the last of the other patrons are shaking hands with Drin; then the patrons all head off toward the bar, and Drin is just standing there alone, grinning at him.
Dance looks up at the big man, feeling bruised, breathless, and completely out of his limited supply of social blather. “You–” he chokes, waving his hands.
“What, have I got champagne all down my front?” Drin says, teasing.
Dance rests his ringed right hand on the shirt front in question. “There,” he says solemnly. “And there, and there–and there–” and then he’s completely unable to stop himself from tickling Drin.
Drin roars out a laugh, wraps both arms around him, and hugs him too tight for tickling. Then he folds himself over, leaning in close to Dance’s head, and he murmurs, “I could just eat you up with a spoon. And I’m going to, tonight, dammit.”
Dance hears himself humming something distractedly–he can’t stop that, either–and he leans into the bigger man, hugging him back until he can feel ribs creaking, but Drin doesn’t complain at all. He lets the grip ease until he isn’t hurting the man, and he says, “Drin, I am so– so full, the words go away and I just lose it– Drin, you are very beautiful.”
Drin chuckles again, surprised, as if he’s not used to such compliments. “Thank you.”
“And I want you so much right now it makes me crazy.”
“Even after all this extremely public fuss?”
“Even in the middle of people saying incredible outrageous things to us, very much I love you and I think I cannot be so lucky ever, yes,” Dance says.
“I think you’ve got the right words just fine,” Drin murmurs, leaning in and kissing Dance first on one closed eyelid, then on the other. Slowly Dance opens his eyes, looking up into the frowning, tiger-yellow eyes of his husband. Who tells him, “I think I need practice saying this, Dance. It’s hard for me. I can say, I want you. I can say, I admire you so much, all that music in you. I can say, I want to wake up and look at you every morning. I’m totally soppy about you and I keep thinking of things I want to do with you, and do to you. I want to buy suits for you, and give you cool things and show you wonderful places and– and–”
Dance touches a finger on the bridge of the man’s nose, tracing up onto the bushy browline. “I know this from you every day. Words are so much easier than to do all these things for me. For both Emma and me. All the time.”
“I love you, Dance.”
“Not so easy to say at all, but worth it, yes. I love you to bits, my husband. When do we get to run away?”
“After drinks and dinner,” Drin says, with a sigh. “And cutting the cake.”
“Oh, there must be cutting of cake. Tradition. Have you decided on the protocol of the cake going neatly in the mouth, or all over the face, or what?”
“Oh, I was going to go with an impulse decision. Even if you insist on smooshing it on me right back, and then licking every crumb off my face.”
“With no hands.”
“Like I could stop you,” Drin says, smiling.
“It’s our secret,” Dance says, which makes Drin crack up. It has been a running gag through the whole event, from the very first days of preparation.
At a noise, he looks up, and sees Emma laughing, her shoulders shaking as she hugs herself. She says, “They sent me out to break up the clinch. I think they were afraid you guys would run off right now, and they wouldn’t even get fed.”
“If the speeches take too long, I don’t promise anything,” Drin growls, hugging Dance again, and then gathering in Emma and hugging her too, while they’re both laughing. “Thank God we already did most of the pictures, I’d expire if we had to go through that too. All right, all right, in we go, I’ll behave.”
The exchange of cake, it transpires, does not become a messy smoosh on the face at all. It becomes a rather silly braggart’s display of just how much cake that each man’s mouth can accommodate, which makes the guests laugh. Emma cracks jokes that Dance has a very big mouth. Bud Innes replies that he doesn’t have to prove it quite that well, and Drin just bestows such a smug look on the company that everybody bursts out laughing harder.
So does the throwing of the bouquet–both men solemnly take off their green carnation boutonnieres, pin them together with a lot of big fake green flowers, and toss the thing over their shoulders, together. It goes entirely past the ladies jockeying for it. Behind them, of course Robert catches the green blob reflexively, the fastest hand in the lot. He looks outraged at his own speed, but people cheer, making him blush happily at being the center of attention.
Then there’s the silly neon-green garter–Dance makes a slapstick display of getting the garter off of Emma, revealing to observers that he himself was wearing it as a sock garter all along–and that Drin was wearing another like it. He pulls them both onto his wrist, and then twists it around Drin’s wrist too, acting like he’s going to drag Drin off to the restrooms, which makes the big man roar with laughter. They play keep-away, and eventually Dance tosses away the garter-knot at the men standing around Bud. It’s Bud, of course, who comes out grinning with it in hand, to claim Robert officially as the bouquet-catcher for their dance later. Robert clearly doesn’t mind a bit when Bud hugs his stuffings in public very hard.
After that, they hold a contest for best soap-bubble-blower and best bubblegum blower. Bud and Emma emcee various silly guessing games, and people start queuing for several pinatas hung up in the courtyard. Drin bashes down the first pinata with a well-timed thwack of a foam pool-noodle–he claims Dance isn’t trying, but honestly, together Drin and a blindfold and a floppy bit of foam, playing at literally slapstick comedy, make it impossible to stop laughing. As Dance is caught in repeated camera flashes, he’s giggling too hard at Drin’s gangly long-limbed antics to even put his own blindfold back on.
They’ve tried to provide other points of interest for the day. There’s the usual tables for their guestbook, scrapbook donations, a thumb-print tree for folks to sign, and a table for gifts, where Amalia presides. There’s a picture-taking booth, a nerf-ball batting cage, some pinball machines and old video arcade games brought over by one of Drin’s coworkers, a raffle for performances by various Metro groups, a penny wishing-well, a prosperity tree that donates for Metro charities. After the pinatas are demolished, Emma drafts teenagers to unfold a ping-pong table in the courtyard.
Drin and Dance go around the tables talking to people, shaking hands with new guests they missed before, standing in pictures that people want of them together. Dance feels his spine start to ache from standing that long, but dismisses it. He is too busy to notice exactly when Shura’s caterers get the food tables set up and start serving beverages. People start settling in place.
At last Bud, as the best man, and Emma as the best woman, stand up together to call for order. They do a marvelously rehearsed vaudevillian patter together, complete with silly Spike Jones noises banged out by the jazz quartet. More funny speeches carry into dinner, involving as many musical in-jokes as Robert and Amalia and Shura could come up with.
When dinner seconds have been finished and plates cleared, people start clapping rhythmically, and the quartet shifts instruments.
Drin stands up from the table, bows to Dance, takes his hand, and leads him out on the floor in front of the jazz quartet. There’s a moment of stillness, poise.
Everyone knows this is a special part of their wedding. Instead of being a favorite tune, this one is new to everyone. Their first dance will be a waltz to music they’ve never heard before. The tempo is all Dance knows.
It’s a gift composed for them by the jazz quartet. This was Amalia’s idea, buoyed by Shura’s offer to pay the quartet for rehearsal time if they tested it out in his various public venues.
Dance settles one hand on his husband’s shoulder, the other on his waist, and finds himself taking lead as the music starts, shifting direction as easily as if they were dancing in the kitchen at home.
Shura’s support gave the quartet working time to develop the piece, to practice it. Since various musicians at the Metro have heard bits of it, the great Metro teases knew better what to expect from it than the new couple. Robert has been collecting all the gossip, too.
As the second and third bars slide like honey from the saxophone, Dance knows it is important. More, it is brilliant. This is not just a piece of sentimental wedding cake ruffles, it’s not like the schmaltzy two-minute pop chartm ,, favorites that get featured in karaoke bars for years to come. This makes his insides tighten, his eyes prickle, that spooky thrill runs down his spine, twingeing down in his tailbone. Dance relaxes, trusting the music. This is good. He moves cautiously at first, conscious of both his own aching spine and his husband’s bigger, slower mass, and finds himself grateful for all the kitchen dancing they’ve done, just enjoying themselves. The tempo is solid under the complicated exchanges between the bass and the piano, making it easy to stay with it.
The clarinet slides into a jazz theme with an slinky, arch quality that leaves no doubt who it portrays, and then the piano does complicated arpeggios, climbing a backbone of lightning key-changes like a mathematical exercise, reference to all that arcane genius in Drin’s auditor’s brain.
Dance starts to smile.
As it goes on building, teasing back and forth, finally expanding into achingly soulful flights on the sax, Drin starts smiling too. They alternate lead without even thinking about it, a little squeeze of the hand for guidance from whichever one can see better where they’re going.
The themes work together so beautifully that, as it slows toward the end, it makes Dance sigh and lean his head happily against Drin’s chest. His eyes tear up because he is feeling so happy.
Drin leans down and kisses the top of Dance’s head.
There is very loud applause when the quartet wraps it up with a tortuous set of bars thundering up and down the width of that piano keyboard.
“By God that’s beautiful! I want the rest of it, that’s just the overture. It’s a goddamn ballet waiting to happen!” Bud bellows out, clapping.
“Yes, of course. The sketch for beginnings, yes? Entirely appropriate for such an occasion,” Shura says, showing big square teeth in a grin, and he picks up his champagne flute and clinks it in a toast with Bud.
Bud’s videographer grins, capturing that, and turns his camera back to the newlyweds.
“You two are conspiring already?” Drin exclaims. Then he bends down and gives the pianist a kiss on the cheek, making her laugh, and he shakes hands with the clarinet, the sax, and the bass. Dance bows to them, deeply, and he wipes his eyes, and then he too solemnly shakes hands with them.
Instantly, the quartet strikes up a very pompous John Phillip Sousa waltz. That sets off both applause and laughter. The quartet gathers up half the party onto the dance floor when they start doing swing dances, some jitterbug, a medley of classic Louis Armstrong, some big band-era slow dances. More of the guests move onto the floor when they start doing Argentinian salsas and tango, one of the quartet’s specialties.
The newlyweds each dance with Emma and with Amalia, and after Bud has claimed his dance with Robert, Dance too accepts a turn around the floor with Bud, who gives an excellent lead. Dance reclaims his husband to do the slower jazz pieces, skipping the faster tangos, as much due to fatigue as to being overstuffed on Shura’s excellent food. Between the friends of Bud and Shura, there’s plenty of dancers who’d like more floor space anyway.
“You okay?” Drin asks eventually, touching Dance’s lower back.
Dance murmurs that maybe he stood up too long. The sharp ache in his lower back runs deep into his tailbone. A bit alarming, professionally, but not a huge surprise. It’s been a long few weeks.
Some of the guests are getting tired too. The older fragile guests, the people with babies, and the folks with other obligations start departing even though it’s only mid-afternoon. Occasionally new faces show up, signing the guest-book and marching over to shake hands with Bud or Shura. There’s a lot of back-slapping at the corner where the two businessmen are holding court together. Emma is flitting everywhere, carrying things, an apricot blur who only slows down when she’s talking to older folks.
Everybody else lingers, the music is good, the snacks and drinks are holding out well, knots of people are talking among the scattered chairs, other people are on the floor dancing, the games seem to be holding the attention of the teenagers.
Eventually, when Emma slips over to tell Dance that the limo has arrived, his first impulse is to feel relief rather excitement. That’s probably traditional too, but he feels that it’s hardly the appropriate way to start the more intimate part of their marriage.
When he says so, fumbling for words, it makes Drin and Emma laugh. She gets them out the door just as sunset colors the walls in salmon and pink tints. She snaps a quick picture of them in that gilded light, and takes more snaps as they slide into the open car door. At last Drin gives her a final wave, and the driver closes the door.
“Ugh!” Drin says in the limo, first thing, and kicks off his shoes.
Dance can’t help it, he starts to laugh. He pulls off his own tie, and then Drin’s, rumpling the man’s already messy hair, but he’s still laughing.
“What? First time today I get you in private–well, relative privacy–and you start laughing at me?” Drin says, making a ridiculous face. “Gimme those feets, I know those fancy shoes were giving you grief all day. C’mon pretty boy, shift your ass, I’m gonna rub your feet while it’s still easy to reach you. Oh ho, you still have socks! So you did cut down those deadly sharp toenails, didn’t you?”
That just makes Dance laugh harder, and flop over on the long seat. He offers to reply in kind. But once Drin is done with the feet, the big man shakes his head, not wanting to move. He just slouches there, stroking Dance’s legs. He teases Dance about idly humming, but Dance feels the same vibration murmuring in the big man’s body. It’s the waltz that the quartet composed for them. Drin looks out the windows and sighs, and pats Dance’s shins, as if he can’t quite believe it’s real.
The ride is smooth enough that neither of them worry about the driver on the other side of the opaque glass, reputedly part-owner of the company, and one of Shura’s buddies. The only distraction is when he clicks on the intercom, murmurs an inquiry about a rest stop, and responds to Drin’s request for the classical radio station. It plays some nice things, too, recordings Dance has never heard.
When the radio dj says he’s playing a request, and says the names of the donors involved, Dance kisses his husband. “You big silly,” he says, hugging him, and Drin gets out his pocket square and wipes Dance’s face and says gruffly that he didn’t mean to make Dance cry.
Eventually Dance curls up on his side, his head in Drin’s lap, feeling the big hands stroking along his neck and shoulder. He sighs contentedly. Even the the ache in his tailbone quiets, at last. He stops worrying that he won’t be able to walk far tomorrow, or to perform any conjugal duties tonight. He had plans for that.
“Christ, and now you’re gonna fall asleep on me,” Drin says, making that face again.
“Oh, you might have to wake me up,” Dance murmurs, looking up under his brows, and feeling Drin’s hand unbuttoning the tuxedo shirt at his neck. “It might take awhile.”
“Oh, I don’t think it’ll take long at all–” and the other hand is sliding into his clothes and finding ways to make him very happy. He’s not going to make it out of the limo without making a mess in his pants. He figures it’s simply traditional to return the favor.