Who’s Your Daddy?

view over tables at ocean
A Decent View

“We were told our Mister Drin wished to support the symphony in general, not any of the first chairs alone,” Dance says, lifting his eyes from his empty sushi plate. Drin has gotten fairly familiar with this face and its subtle moods, but there is something else about Dance, that he’s unable to put his finger on.

This might simply be a trick of the buttery expensive light that makes the young Korean’s face look all elegant sleek lines, and the skin of his neck incredibly caramel-colored. Someone in a film, or something.

“Well,” Drin says, belatedly, after swallowing a bit of perfect tuna that deserves more attention than he’s giving it. He tears his gaze away from the Concertmaster’s visage and looks at the empty plate instead. “I said that early on. I wanted to be fair.”

He’s a little fascinated by the empty plate. He didn’t actually catch Dance being so rude as to gulp anything, but it’s gone, and there’s a Concertmaster across the table from him with a gently inquiring gaze who looks like he could devour another couple of plates like it and not even slow down.

There are two faint scars across Dance’s cheekbones that might be tribal. They certainly add to the aura of oddity the man has, that makes Drin feel he could watch this face for a very long time. Dance’s mouth has a pouting lift that makes his smile a wide double bow, with those white teeth. The man’s eyes are not always a plain brown.  Not the spooky pale of anger, either.  Sometimes they catch the light and turn a light amber color, which is what they are doing right now.

Drin is rather reminded of the big cats he’s seen.

“May we ask what our Mister Drin had in mind?” Dance says, in a perfectly calm, mild tone of voice.

Drin hadn’t quite worked out what he was going to say, at this point. It depended on how Dance was taking it, and he isn’t reacting in any of the usual ways.

For one thing, Dance is not looking at him with gratitude, nor with diplomatic dismissal. He focuses the same stare on Drin as he did on the sushi.

This is disconcerting.

The sushi plate is alarming, in the circumstances. Two hundred bucks’ worth of fish can go in ten minutes, if somebody eats like that in a pricey place. Drin is tempted to order more until the man admits to wanting a nap instead. Or maybe a nice scritching along behind the ears.

Of course one can demand the attention of average performers. Concert musicians are reasonably cheap, as these things go. Much cheaper than opera divas, or showgirls with a taste for jewelry at the top of their limited fame, or ballet primas or primos, or or chess people who have to travel a lot, or indie film directors, or other dedicated insane people who lack money.  But Drin can’t tell if the musician he wants will be more amused or infuriated by such sleazy offers.

Oh, Drin knows how it should be done.  But even he hasn’t got means vast enough to invent academic positions, sponsor theatrical events, host sweeping contests–to create entire structures which build professional reputation with the most gingerly caution.  Bud Innes was no help.  He claimed he was too old and too impatient, he kept his offers simple.  Gossips calling his pet cellist Robert “a greedy little mercenary” made him laugh.

Dance is just looking at him steadily, face solemn.  It’s a stare that belongs on the other side of a dojo mat. The man doesn’t blink often enough.  His hands are poised gently over the table, and the powerful tendons in his arms lie still for once. They almost never do. He talks with his hands. He laughs with them, even. Drin has learned in these past weeks that the Concertmaster has a sense of humor, and a fairly wacky one at that, filtered through his odd English. He uses his own awkwardness as another comic tool. But he’s damned fast about that, about everything.

It’s quite a task to get him to slow down and refocus into the moment, into talking to Drin about shows he wanted to see–no movies, very little TV, just other people’s concerts.  Spare cash goes to observing technique in others.

The Concertmaster does settle down when he talks about his best buddy, one of the many librarian Emmas, whom he clearly adores. He says freely, with a shrug, that he’s the gal’s queer best friend. He has no trouble looking Drin in the face and saying it. Listening to him, Drin has begun to wonder if it’s that simple.

Gravely, Drin says, “One of the sticking points in any small ensemble is an unstable first chair, after all.”

“I understand.  If you have somebody in particular in mind, of course we must let the conductor know, and we’ll set up suitable auditions–”

“You’d tweak auditions so that some particular choice wins the competition?”

Dance makes a grimace. “None of the steering committee go saying it so bluntly, but yes, rumors have caused such talk. We have– I myself have– no problem with bringing in support for any of our really good younger players, and most of them– they don’t have a bean to their name. We all work hard– I– put too much work into these strings to get in the way of a significant advance in the tone and style of the–”

Drin can’t stand it.  He puts up both hands in a stop gesture, and Dance pauses, brows lifted.

Then Dance says, quietly, “Begging pardon. I– didn’t mean to be–” he draws in a deep breath.

“Blunt?” Drin says, amused.

Dance exhales. “Really, Maestro Young would be most displeased at how rough– how badly– I am speaking–”

Drin says, “Why do you think I didn’t ask that damnable horror of a conductor to have sushi? And there’s a really lovely little dessert place across the street, too.”

“Because the man lives on a Midwestern white food diet?” Dance says, one eyebrow lifted.

“Why do you think I asked you to talk about an endowment?”

“Most commonly, it is because a person has developed a passion for Robert Goldstein, who we agree should be sitting in a Pre-Rafaelite painting. Quietly.”

Drin starts to grin.

Dance’s hand makes a wiping-away gesture. “We all hate his fingerings with a passion–worst of all, our poor Amalia–and yes, so awkward for the Metro’s publicity that anyone so marketable is so indifferent as musician. The red-haired third chair flautist, she is recently endowed, by the way.  Your good friend Mister Engerman was most happy.”

Drin throws back his head and laughs, and laughs, and laughs. When he’s spluttered down to giggles, he sees Dance looking at him, head tilted, and looking unutterably remote.

“If our Mister Drin hasn’t quite decided, not quite sure that this or that person would be the right one for our chair, then we can try out some auditions and let our Mister Drin see who should have it.”

“You mean, you’d trot out the whole harem for the pasha, if I was interested in what their playing sounds like?”

Dance’s shoulders hunch. “Mister Drin, please, we– sorry that we– that I am so awkwardly speaking. That doesn’t begin to give our Mister Drin credit for having a fine ear, which we all know. So I do know that our Mister Drin will choose somebody who’s going to be a good Concertmaster–”

“Stop it! Hasn’t anybody ever propositioned you the same way they bid on Goldstein?” Drin says.

“Us? Myself?” he says, tilting his head. “No.  No, not that we can remember. No. Or at least, not where we’ve learned about it.  This–” a dismissive wave at his own chest, “–this way I am all peasant farmer, it is too dark– too ethnic, Maestro Young says that is the nice word– too common for the refined taste of most patrons.”

“Common?”  It’s too loud.  Heads turn.

Dance shrugs.  He’s been called worse.  “Our previous conductor, Walstadt, he was not sure if any of us could carry the load when– when I first arrived.  The union protested, the Board ignored them, the union did not want a lawsuit.  Now the Metro uses a more ensemble approach, let the audience see other people, and– I– am not hogging all the solos.”

“Ahh. No wonder my buddy Engerman thinks it was your idea.”

“What?”

“This bloody orchestra needs to keep its current Concertmaster, who will have to quit and go somewhere else if that damn fool Young keeps treating you like his flunky.  I want to help out.  I want it done right, where you earn your chair, just as you have been– and a decent living.  That’s all.  And speaking of somewhere else, one of the finest chocolatiers on the west coast is just across the street, and they also make a beautiful espresso. Would you like a little desert?”

Dance’s hands make an uncoordinated little flailing gesture, and then grip each other. “I am not– I don’t understand,” he says.

“There will be chocolate,” Drin says firmly. “And — if you wish– Dance, I hope to see more of you. Tonight, if you feel comfortable. I hope you do.”

“We,” Dance says. “I– don’t know what to say. Yes. Very much, yes. How– how do you wish– me — to be?”

“Oh, Dance, just yourself,” Drin says, gruffly. “You needn’t worry about making dramatic gestures or anything. Please.”

Dance smiles then. “What, flinging across this table and giving our Mister Drin a big hug and squealing is right out?”

“You can squeal? I’ve never heard you squeal.”

“Oh, like a girl. Our Miss Emma says so. She scowls and goes all butch when we embarrass her.” Dance puts his face down in his hands then, palms flat, fingers straining wide. “We–I don’t know what to say.”

Drin lets out a long slow breath. “You say to me impatiently, ‘Oh, just pay the bill, and let’s go.’”

Dance smiles at him again. “No one properly is able to be rude so horribly as that!”

“I hope you will,” Drin tells his musician. “And it’s just Drin. No Mister needed, not for you. Why don’t you practice saying it right now? Just… Drin.”

Dance opens his mouth, shuts it again. He holds his hand out across the table, and he says, with immense simplicity, “Thank you.”

Drin grips the hand, feels the tendons under those hot dry callouses, releases it sooner than he’d like to. “Chocolate?”

“Pay the bill. And just please let’s go– our Drin.” Dance stumbles over the words, but they sound heartfelt.

“You’ve almost got it right,” Drin laughs, “a little more practice, you’ll have it perfect.”

Intermission

edge-lit violinist in dark
Mental Practices

Drin can’t remember the last time he felt this happy. His young musician has eaten chocolates– not in the avid way he’d eaten sushi, but with pleasure– and sipped at the world’s finest espresso, served in a miniature shell of a cup. He made funny startled faces, brows lifted, blinking at it, by turns amazed and thoughtful, blissing out with his eyes squinted shut, giving himself over to the tastes. Dance looked naked when he discarded all that taut awareness of his surroundings.

Though he’s observed plenty of these exchanges in others, still it’s Drin’s first time to enjoy watching such new pleasures happen in front of him, his first time to give a gift like this to someone.  Funny, how patrons bitched all the time about the costs, not the dangerous rush of the reward.  Not merely making something happen, but watching it unfold Dance into such gloriously sensual relaxation.

Now, they are walking through quiet streets to Drin’s car. Three blocks away there’s neon over restaurants, and people laughing, and sirens soaring past, but here their steps echo on the sidewalk in the relative quiet, and he can hear Dance’s suit shift and rustle as he moves. The smell of rosemary perfumes the air of the whole neighborhood, where the wild, scrubby resinous stems spill down thick concrete retaining walls that are still warm after the heat of the day. It’s like walking through an Italian kitchen.

Dance’s elegant face had expressed such a welter of emotions, so fast it was almost unreadable, when Drin had asked him to spend the night, and those emotions flicker still, in his eyes, the corners of his beautifully mobile mouth — which is returning Drin’s smile to him at the moment, Dance dancing ahead, spinning halfway around to bring home his point, those hands flying in rhythm to his words.

“I’m sorry,” Drin says, grinning helplessly, “You lost me at the intermission.”

“Would our Drin prefer–” Dance begins.

Drin reaches out, fingers touching, and allows himself, at last, to believe in the reality of this fantasy man under his hand. Something about ‘our Drin’ makes his toes curl in pleasure by now. “Dance, I can’t care right now. I look at you, and my brain derails.”

“Oh.” Dance becomes as still as a man walking backwards can be.

Drin feels his hand clench down on the coarse black silk sleeve of the formal jacket, the pulling-him-near-reflex, the ownership need. Feral cat, he reminds himself, but his hand won’t let go. He gets a sideways glance from one impossibly perfect almond eye, and Dance’s cheekbones pull up in one of the sweetest smiles Drin has ever seen. It makes him hold his breath.

“Oh,” Dance says again, and he is in front of Drin now, his hands hot against Drin’s shoulders, rising up on his toes and their mouths meet.

Drin’s breath explodes out of him, his mouth gaping wide open. The younger man makes a similar sound, his tongue slipping over Drin’s lips, teeth, lapping at his chin when they finally pull apart. Dance tastes of the dinner mints, of coffee, of chocolate, and Drin hears music scattering in his mind so loudly that surely the musician in his arms must be hearing it too. Then Dance has his face buried in Drin’s shoulder, and his breath comes in puffs of heat through the shirt.

He’s humming melodies like those in Drin’s head. Drin can’t tell where the humming is actually coming from, nose, upper chest, diaphragm, whatever, but it’s quite beautiful.

Drin draws a shuddering breath, rubbing his cheek against the hard silky head. Dance’s hair smells of where they’ve been, of the food they’ve eaten, of the strange piney odor of the rosin he uses on his instrument. Drin wraps his arms around the sleek waist, and pulls Dance in– and only then does he realize that Dance has avoided contact below the waist. Too late, because they are hip to hip now, and prick to prick. And Dance says; “Oh!”

“Oh yes,” Drin agrees, and presses his mouth against the wonderful neck muscles. Before he completely buries himself in kissing the man silly in public, the way he really wants to, he pulls himself back just enough to look down at Dance’s face.

Dance is looking up just as steadily as ever, not blinking, not breathing, not moving. His eyes are all pupil, dark and wide open and taking in everything. There’s just the slightest shiver in his body where he’s pressed against Drin’s belly.

Drin blinks down into those eyes, and thinks, I bet he can’t even see two feet past my face, his eyes are so dilated. He looks like he’s been taking a glaucoma test. I haven’t even got him naked in bed yet, and he’s looking at me like that. Like that.

“You’re okay?” Drin asks.

“Yes, very, we are– I am– very very okay,” Dance says. He turns his head to one side, leaning solid weight against Drin. It’s no burden. Neither is walking with his arm around Dance.

Drin looks up to see his car parked not ten feet away and sends a prayer of thanks to whatever deity brought them safely there.

On The Knowing Of Cats

“Um.” Dance, seated primly in the passenger seat, has his hands folded carefully over what Drin knows to be a sizable tenting. “Would our Drin– Can we– can I– invite our Drin to — to our house? How do we say– to chez moi?”

Drin glances over at that. He wonders if he really did hear a hint of apprehension in that voice. He’d envisioned stretching the golden body out on his own leather sofa with the lights sparkling through the big windows, but that could happen any time, really.

“I’d be delighted,” Drin says.

He lets Dance direct him, pretending that he doesn’t already know where the man lives.

Dance does not give him the usual quick, careful glide into the front door to avoid nosy neighbors, in the kind of ingrained caution that gets trained into experienced younger gay guys by their elders, the survivors. Dance doesn’t seem to care if the neighbors might be watching him. He talks eagerly about the plants as he leads Drin to the front door. If Drin hears odd extremes in the concertmaster’s voice, stress notes, a little breathlessness, he’s certain few others would notice it.

They walk in quietly, so as not to wake the roommate– and why come here, Drin wonders, when they could have had complete privacy at his place? — Dance holding his hand to lead him through the dark. The instrument callouses seem harder, rougher than he recalls, though the man’s grip is very light.

The kitchen is dimly lit with a single night light. A cat blinks at them sleepily, eyes reflecting gold, from a chair beside the little table. Things are clean and plain and there are exotic flowers in a vase, slightly ragged where something cat-sized must have chewed on them and scattered petals on the table. Drin smiles, pauses to admire them, and stoops to let the cat sniff his hand. Angora mixed with some local tabby, probably.

Dance darts away down a dark hallway, and returns to watch him, silently leaning on the wall.

Drin knows about cats. He takes his time, brushes the animal’s ruff of fur, gets a tiny little rusty purr, and a squinting upward gaze with the gold eyes. The cat is smiling at him. He smiles back, petting the soft coat.

When Drin turns away from the cat, Dance’s hand slides tentatively onto his arm. He can feel the tension in that touch, the caution in it. Drin glances up, and smiles into the flushed bronze face, with its quivering nostrils. Dance utters a soft noise, more like the warning hum of a high-powered gyroscope than a question. It’s alarming. Dance coming apart in all directions is the last thing he wants. Drin rests his own hand flat on Dance’s shoulder blade, not moving his fingers, himself standing quite still, and in a moment he feels the muscles calm under his fingertips. Touching the man, he’s surprised at the sense of risk shouting in his nerves, loud as if he’s never fucked a man before. He’s certainly never made love to anyone like Dance.

Drin knows when to ease back, too. Give Dance’s mind something familiar to focus on, something ordinary. He lets go and he says, very softly, “So where do you keep your gardening books, and your music books?”

Dance looks at him with startled eyes. Perhaps he’s never been treated with due respect, or with any sort of decent interest, because the question seems to scramble all his reflexes. He opens his mouth briefly in an unvoiced word, so remarkably like a silent miouw that Drin is astonished, and Dance gestures a little wildly toward a dark doorway. Then he turns to Drin, looks him squarely in the eyes, and he does something truly strange.

He leans into Drin and takes in a deep breath, smelling Drin’s hair, and then he kisses Drin’s cheek, and takes his hand to lead him into the dark room. It is almost overwhelming, the sense that the tiger has come up and brushed its face on his.

When Dance turns on a small light in the living room, he doesn’t let go of Drin’s hand, as if he’s a little afraid Drin might decide to leave. “Our roommate’s books,” he says, indicating two walls, “these are our books, and in our b– in my room.”

There are a lot of books about baroque violin technique, and a lot of ragged old-looking things in languages that are not English, and a lot of battered specialty press books labeled with scientific names that Drin has never heard of. He turns his head, reading the spines of the books. “Cycads,” he says, looking at something with a spine three inches thick. When he glances up, Dance’s eyes are sparkling again, and the musician who gardens gives an eager little nod.

“We don’t have any of those cycads in that book, but we could take our Drin to the San Diego Zoo to see this really amazing collection of the Hawaiian cycads–they’re from the era of the dinosaurs–”

“Like me,” Drin says. He’s charmed by the invitation. And my, does Dance have a grip, when he’s not thinking about it. “Now this Italian one, am I guessing right that it’s about construction of the early lutes? I don’t think I’ve seen that one before. Do you speak Italian?”

“No, just a little bit, where music needs learning lines in opera and so on, but our roommate does, and we– I mean I–I am often bugging at our roomate to translate things,” Dance says. His other hand gestures happily. “Such interest in that book, disputing evidence on soaking the wood in vats. Our Drin was knowing this is big controversy?”

Drin makes a vague noise of agreement. The roommate’s shelves have ragged books in various languages, many of them grammars or atlases or collections of folk stories or classics of literature. He has the sense that the roommate who speaks various languages has been diligent about finding books for Dance in his subjects as well.

He is, he thinks, wryly, probably getting himself a reference librarian as baggage right along with his beautiful musician. His. Drin feels profoundly shocked by the thought, a sudden surge of heat streaking up his spine. Dance must have felt his start, because he releases Drin’s hand, but Drin stays with him, stroking the back of the powerful brown hand, and he schools himself back into the guise of civilization once more, relaxing his body, so this feline creature will blink and smile for him.

Drin knows cats.

They can be abrupt creatures, too, when they want something. Drin gets tugged out of the living room, down the dark hall, and then Dance is carefully closing a door behind them– its seven panels covered in battered white paint, Drin notices that detail for some absurd reason. For whatever reason, that door– its weight, and solid presence, the soft thunk of its closing– will stay in his mind for years to come, an emblem of what he has just now found.

There is no music playing in Dance’s bedroom, just a dim echo of the city’s noises through the old walls. The lights are cheap and the furniture must have belonged to somebody else’s parents, and there are art prints tacked on the walls. There is a wealth of instruments, carefully laid in their cases in the shelves around them, and above that, solid ranks of scores stored in expanding folders. Keeping the Metro’s events going under the neglect of two conductors in a row has cost Dance the purchase of a lot of orchestral scores that will never be used.

That, thinks Drin, looking upward, is where the Symphony’s paychecks to their concertmaster have been going, the miserly little bit left over from keeping that solid body fed and clothed and moving. The man doesn’t even own a car. It looks like he doesn’t own any audio equipment, either.

Dance cocks his head, steps close. His fine, strong fingers touch the lapel of Drin’s jacket, slide up to brush his jaw. Dance’s eyes have gone dark, glittering in what light there is, as Drin looks down at that extraordinary face. He is struck suddenly by the short lines of those two scars, one on either cheekbone, which speak of some trauma past that should never have happened to a face like that. He hasn’t asked about it. But he is thinking now, angrily, possessively, about finding out what in hell made those marks. Our Dance. Ours.

Nocturne appassionato

man's hands unbuttoning white dress shirt
hands

Dance is unbuttoning Drin’s jacket, then his own. Much as Drin likes watching those deft hands at work, he stills Dance’s fingers and sets his own to the buttons of Dance’s shirt, learning that it’s silk. It’s cheap silk, but it’s new. He knows Dance spent more than he could afford, making that extra effort. Drin works the shell disks free on Dance’s shirt while his own buttons are being undone with pickpocket speed; a warm hand slides under Drin’s shirt and pushes up, before Drin has finished his own task.

“Mmm,” Dance breathes it out. He has a small, secretive smile, his fingers carding through the hair on Drin’s chest as he waits.When Drin has got the musician’s shirt undone, Dance tugs Drin’s soft shirt up and off his arms. Dance pulls the older man’s shirt free, and puts his nose in it, and sniffs it, smiling, before he shakes it out and sets it aside in a neat flat pile on an old, battered dresser.

Drin watches this, and then slides the younger man’s sleeves down arms that play violin for eight hours a day, and dig in his garden in his free time. There’s the heavy shoulders like a cape, and the flat smooth planes of chest muscles, and the gorgeous tight belly. “Wow, he says involuntarily.

Dance lifts his wrists outward, offering himself for a moment. “Not so skinny now,” he says, smiling up at Drin. Then he rests his hands up on Drin’s shoulders, slides his palms lightly down Drin’s arms, pausing to take his hands. “So big,” he murmurs, looking up again. Then he’s kneeling, moving so fast Drin’s reaching hand just brushes his hair. Damn, he’s fast.

Fingers touch Drin’s belt, open the expensive buckle with a slight fumbling of unfamiliarity, and then Dance’s hands rest on his waistband. The man is watching Drin… appear. He is breathing fast, and he leans in close and takes a deep inhaling breath, almost a gasp, at Drin’s belly. “Your smell, this is wonderful.”

“Yours too,” Drin replies. He’s always liked watching Dance after performances, seeing the body loosen in the stiff suits, with that trickle of sweat, get a whiff of the herby smell of him.  Yes, something Drin has noticed, even obsessed about, but it’s so strong now with the added musk of semen. Not what Drin expected.  Not ordinary gym-sock guy sweat, not the scent of rosin from his instrument, not the food they ate, and not one of the cheap colognes that other Metro musicians indulge in. It makes Drin want to pull him close and howl at the moon. The whole room smells of him now, something like fresh-cut redwood, leaf mold, acorn mast. It feels odd, liberating, to let Dance watch him take a deep sniff of that crumpled silk shirt. The scent lingering in the shirt has a sharp resinous bite, earthy as pine knots burning.

Dance looks up. “Is smell important for you too?”

“Very,” Drin agrees, because if it’s important to Dance then it’s become important to him. He reaches down and touches the top of the brown shoulder, and suddenly his arms are full of a muscled body, and he closes his grip on it. He walks them both to the bed, feeling his trousers fall away as he goes. He kicks them off while their bodies are already falling to the mattress, Dance’s soft laugh whooshing out of him at the impact. Drin lifts and twists himself so that he can flip Dance’s fly open without giving up much contact. Age and skill do have some uses.

But he has to kneel up to tug the pants away from the most beautiful pair of legs he’s ever seen. Dance laughs a little again, breathlessly, shifts his feet and kicks off his shoes and reveals feet just like his hands, feet that work hard, feet with the calluses of somebody who fights barefoot in a dojo, just as he talked about. But Drin doesn’t get those boxers yanked down those legs before Dance is pulling him over. The musician’s rough hands slide around him and the harsh touch sets him off. Drin sprawls out hungrily all over the smaller man, breathing in deep harsh gasps.

Dance is lying under him and his very skin seems to be gulping in the solid weight of Drin’s body just as greedily. His hands slide around Drin’s shoulders, up his chest, around his ribs. When he reaches a hand up, Drin has to forestall him. It’s Drin’s turn, first, to explore, and he puts his hand over Dance’s wrist, pushing it to the mattress. Then he feels his way along the man’s body, listening to the man’s sounds, the little wordless cries. He lowers his head to nuzzle in to one of those great strong thighs, breathing gently across the black straight hair dusted scantily across the outer blades of Dance’s muscles, taking in the scent of him. It’s just Dance, that piney odor. Then he opens his mouth and drops a dry, soft kiss on the femoral artery pulsing in Dance’s skin. The muscles harden, and he feels the man’s diaphragm rise in a harsh cry. “Oh!” Dance gasps, and his back arches upward.

Drin feels sweat prickle on his own forehead, run down his spine.

He moves down to the knee, admiring how it’s picked up some working scars, some dings from that same dojo, and brushes his palm lightly down the calf muscle as he kisses the inner curve of Dance’s leg. The calf muscle strains tight, clearly trying to behave itself for him, and he smiles up the amazing length of man laid out on top of the bed, gasping softly. “Hush, it’s all right,” he murmurs, into the long smooth strap of muscle tensed over the man’s shin bone. Some of that exertion clearly goes into a swimming pool and mileage on the pavement, he’s not just bulking up knots in the weight room or the dojo.

Drin puts one knee between the other man’s legs, just the one knee, without either straddling Dance’s body or pushing his legs apart too far, because he doesn’t want it to feel threatening. He puts his palms flat on the outside of Dance’s thighs, and he strokes his hands lightly down the man’s legs, stroking gently with the fur, however minimal, and not against it.

The beautiful torso tightens up and the ribs arch up and the belly closes down into diamond-shaped panes, and the hips tilt sharply upward.

Drin pauses for some deep breaths. Oh, the smell of him! He’s not going to last two minutes once he gets that man’s cock out of those boxers.

All– all of this. All wrapped up, hidden away, unseen until now, and all because he, Drin, noticed the promise, and wanted to find out what that sparkle meant.

Rather than get hasty about things, he shifts his knee away from Dance’s legs–he thinks, wryly, at least he knows not to overdo a new training prompt–and he sits down on the edge of the bed next to Dance. “Are you ticklish now?”

Dance shakes his head, flinging hair along the bed, and reaches out.

Drin grips the flailing hand, presses it lightly to the bed, strokes fingertips up the man’s forearm. “Easy,” he murmurs, and watches the arm muscles. “That’s good. Let me touch you awhile, give you time to relax.” He twists around and brushes his hand along Dance’s skin lightly, letting Dance get used to being touched. Dance is not used to it. The sounds he make would show that. It’s true, he’s not ticklish. But the jerks of his skin, the jumping untrusting muscles, the startle reactions, are intense.

As much as Drin can spread the stimulus out he does, letting his hand stay flat and firm and trustworthy, but still Dance is gasping and twitching. Drin can imagine from those sounds just how strange it feels to Dance, how starved for touch he must be. He’s careful at first, as too much contact has irritated past lovers. Not this man. He doesn’t know why Dance would keep his distance from other people for so long, and then suddenly decide that Drin is his person, in exactly the same way as some complete stranger of a stray cat he finds sitting on the doorstep, yowling that they’re home, it’s time for food now, and by the way, they want petting. A lot of petting.

Drin feels his hands settling into a pattern of touching Dance, reassuring, admiring, learning him. It’s trance-like, brushing his fingertips over all that beautiful skin. With his hands he looks at Dance’s chest, at his belly, at the arms, at the powerfully muscled neck, and then, with the lightest touch of his fingertips, his face, along under Dance’s neck into his hair, and gently onto his temples, and his forehead. Dance blinks and looks up at him, lips open and bright red with arousal, his eyes almost all pupil. Drin smiles at him, at the wild impatience throttled down and still thrumming through the man’s body. He leans down and then, at last, kisses Dance the way he’s wanted to kiss Dance all night.

Dance doesn’t know how to kiss.

While Dance is totally occupied with diving in and learning the shape of Drin’s lips and his tongue and most of his teeth, Drin starts working on teaching him the difference between fucking the back of Drin’s tonsils with a tongue that could probably reach halfway down Drin’s throat, and instead trying a nice calm minuet with the other person’s tongue tip. Or a brisk forceful bit of tango. Dance is a quick study. He gets the tango right away.

He’s just never done it before.

By the time Drin has finished kissing him, deciding that he needs to breath for a few minutes, he’s already had Dance flopping and pushing and shoving at him like a landed fish, they’ve rolled over three times across the bed, and the other man’s boxer shorts, which are pushing into Drin’s thigh, are soaked through, and not from Drin. Drin has his own damp problems.

“Now that,” Drin says, flat on his back by now, looking up, and breathing hard, “is what a kiss is supposed to be like.”

Dance is up on his elbows, staring down into Drin’s eyes, and he’s not breathing quite as hard, but the intensity is all there. “Kissing you,” he says.

Drin is breathing too hard to smile that wide. He lets his hands come up and rest on those amazing cheekbones. “Messy,” he agrees solemnly.

Dance leans down into him, bringing Drin’s hands with him, and Dance kisses Drin on the mouth. He figures out the minuet, too. Then Dance does with his mouth what Drin did to him with his hands. He kisses Drin’s face, and along his cheeks, closing his eyes and licking the skin, tasting him in the most extraordinary way, and then he kisses his way down Drin’s beard, down along his neck–with every assistance from Drin to get at whatever he wants to look at or lick or touch–and then he shifts down onto Drin’s chest. He spends time there, making sure Drin knows he likes it there. Drin is groaning, hips jerking, by the time Dance has left Drin’s nipples behind, they’re so sensitized and even sore. He licks his way down Drin, not caring if he looks absurd doing it, breathing in Drin’s skin, almost biting his way down the fur on Drin’s belly. When he reaches Drin’s shorts, he’s panting.

Drin reaches down and cups Dance’s chin. “Breathe now,” he says, tugging very gently, and Dance lifts his head away and follows the suggestion to come back up the bed, and lie down on his side next to Drin. “Easy,” Drin says to him, with his face about five inches away from the huge aroused pupils.

Dance puts up his hand, rests it on Drin’s jaw, strokes the stiff hair of his beard as if the texture fascinates him, looking at it. Then he looks at Drin’s chest, stroking the different tracts of hair into their normal order and direction, petting Drin’s body with his fingertips. It calms him, he’s not so wildly overstimulated. Drin lies on his side, facing Dance, and rests his arm across Dance’s waist, and he doesn’t get that wild jumpy reaction any more. He strokes Dance’s back a little, gently, and when he slides his hand under the band of the boxer shorts, Dance just sighs a little, eyes drooping half shut.

As Drin’s hand moves along under the shorts, stroking the hot, sweaty hip–and it’s a wonderful hip, indeed a Christmas gift of a pelvic crest–Dance rolls slightly away onto his back, making it easier to get to his belly, offering himself. He makes almost no sound at all when Drin’s touch finally makes him arch up, mouth open, and he gives the expiring sigh of another orgasm, one that’s been delayed long enough that it must actually hurt a little. His hand stutters along Drin’s belly, not even getting inside Drin’s shorts, and that’s more than enough to finish off the older man with a gasp that feels like it’s rattling his back molars.

“Ahhh hah aah hah,” Drin breathes noisily, unable to be any more quiet, and then he feels Dance’s hands on him, petting his chest and his neck anxiously.

Drin captures one of the hands, hugs it to him in reassurance. Once he can breathe again, he kisses the palm, deliberately and carefully, with purpose. He turns it over and kisses the back of the hand, across the knuckles, along the backs of Dance’s fingers, and then his fingertips.

This appears to be too much for Dance. He shifts his weight and throws himself across Drin, nudging his nose into Drin’s shoulder, flinging his arm tight around Drin’s waist and one leg wide across Drin’s legs, the powerful calf muscle pressing hard into Drin’s shins.

“It’s all right,” Drin says, lifting an arm that aches already, and stroking his fingers through the younger man’s hair, combing it back from his face. “It’s going to be good, Dance. I promise you.”

Dance gives a little groan. Our Drin is kissing only, kissing, how does our Drin do this– and I come three times,” he says into Drin’s chest.

“Three times? Is that all?” Drin says, hearing the bleary amusement in his own voice. “Gotta work on that. You’re overdue, young man. You got orgasms to make up for. Years of ’em, judging by the look of you. And I’m going to enjoy wringing some decent yelling showstopping whoppers out of you, by God. I am going to love that. If I live through it.”

Dance gives a little puff of laughter into Drin’s chest. “Us either.”

light and shadows cast by lamp
light and shadows

“Two years before that flower bloomed for you, huh?” Drin says then.

Dance sighs. “Well, three if we count how long it took to try rooting cuttings of it, too,” he says.

“Do you think you can give me a few days–I mean, spare time, not messing with your rehearsals–to see if you like me?”

Dance gives another puff of laughter. “Drin,” he says, and for the first time he sounds tired, losing bits of his hard-won English, as if it’s been a long stressful day for him too, “Our Drin, we are so liking you now. We– I know our roomate will like–Drin–like you– like you a lot. Please stay for cooking breakfast, so happy if our Drin is staying tonight. Being so happy if our Drin is to stay. Making our Drin comfortable, yes trying hard. A few days, wow, that’s not just– not just–not me liking you. That will be–me– making all happy kinds of assumptions.”

“Will you help me pick out dish towels?” Drin says then, smiling.

“No,” Dance says, and that smile is rising in his eyes,”we have towels, we give you plenty! We– I mean I will–yes, I will pick out belts with our Drin so– so I don’t take so long to unzip the Drin pants for kissing. I will like doing that.”

Drin laughs then.

Running Water

The morning begins hideously early. He didn’t sleep, of course. It’s not a hardship, laying for a scant few hours in Dance’s bed, with the man breathing those long, slow, sleep rhythms into his chest, their legs tangled warmly together. God, the sweetness of finally holding his musician. Drin just blinks quietly in the dark, not wanting to miss any of it. Wouldn’t do to doze off into a bad dream now–there’s good reason he understood exactly why Dance might crawl under a bench to get a nap. But he is tired enough to drop into a sort of a staring daze.When Dance moves, Drin blinks to full alertness, and he turns carefully in arms that are awfully hard and awfully hot and a body that is crowding him in the ridiculously tight space of Dance’s bed. There isn’t even an alarm clock. The body next to his tightens up, climbs gently over him, gives him a kiss on the beard, and then Dance is getting dressed in droopy old sweats, covering up all that gorgeous muscle until he looks as sloppy as a ballet dancer in the dim night light by the doorway. “Sleep,” he whispers, and then he’s gone, and the door is shut.

But of course he can’t sleep, blinking into the dim light. He looks around and up at the things in Dance’s room, and feels as if he’s been invited into a girl’s house. He knows what that means. Of course Dance will be interested in poking round Drin’s place, opening all the closets and looking at his clothes and sniffing the soap with delight, he knows that already. But it doesn’t mean the same thing as coming into this house, into this crowded room.

He is looking up into a nautilus shell built up by his beautiful musician; the furniture accommodates Dance as closely as a pair of old shoes. Low shelves will knock Drin silly if he is careless when he turns around. He is in a very private place, and he knows he must be gentle with the person who has allowed him to be here. It’s an extraordinary thing to think about such a powerfully built man.

Music lives on cheap board shelves above the bed.

Drin hasn’t asked about the furious blue scribbles raked across so many of the copies, or the bits taped together, or the papers clearly crumpled up in frustration or rage or something, and flattened again. He may ask it, just to hear the other man talk, and watch him gesture excitedly with those hands, but he has no real need to, it’s so plain. This is Dance taking off his real clothes. This is Dance about as naked as a musician’s soul can be, outside of live performance.

Drin takes in a deep, tired breath, and lets it out. Well, Dance knows that his performances, his art, has been weighed by harsh judges and found desirable. It’s clear from the wretched struggle archived in this room that he fights hard to earn it. It’s all here, hanging out of the folders. Here he is, a lifetime of effort. This is what people want from him.

Nobody ever asks him to kiss them, nobody intrudes on all that dignified presence to hug him. He still appears to be a little bewildered by it. Dance doesn’t even know what there is out there to like, in the palette of flavors, he’s just given his bedroom and his music to Drin, along with his body, with the implicit trust that Drin will help him find out. It’s rather a huge burden, Drin thinks, staring up at the ceiling. When he sits up, gingerly, he realizes he’s going to wake up stiff for the next three days.

His musician, he thinks wryly, is going to have to take out some of the bends that he put into Drin, if he wants the older man to keep up with him. Drin grimaces. It’s going to be painfully, horribly good for him, if he does it right. Drin is going to build some muscle himself if he spends as much effort on Dance as the younger man deserves from him. Drin stretches, carefully, slowly, and puts his dress trousers and wifebeater on in the dim light.

When he ventures down the hall, looking at things, he finds the house empty. The roommate has already left for work, before it’s even got light, and apparently Dance has gone for an early morning run, judging by the towel thrown across a chair back. There is a set of dishes set ready by the stove, there are pans, a measuring cup ready.

There is a package of something thawing on the kitchen counter, the cat yowling in a tiny little imperative voice, and a note.

“D, Tell the bearded guy with the nice cologne he can only feed the cat four shrimp from his omelet. E.”

Drin leans on the counter, looking at it in dire amusement. He knows the handwriting.

Not just any librarian. Not just any of the many Emmas who work at some branch library in the city. Oh no. Dance’s roommate is fondly known around the Symphony as, “The Emma of Doom.” As in, “You Better Update Emma or She’ll Have Your Guts for Garters” Doom. She’s a reference collection expert at the main archives, but she also runs the coordinating committee which schedules mutual charity events at the main library, and many of the branches, with the Symphony. He’s heard that she’s a demon on string quartets who sort of fail to notify anybody they’ve got the flu and don’t show up for a dinner event with tickets and people in fancy clothes. He’s actually seen the Concertmaster show up in a dark turtleneck shirt and slacks, with three buddies likewise, and they just quietly take over somebody’s neglected duties as if they’d planned for it all along. He suspects Emma was the one who planned for it. Dance looks terrific in a dark turtleneck.

And even better out of it, says that part of his brain which is happily obsessed with the feel of warm skin moving against him. He tries harder to focus on the note, instead of his instant hard-on.

Funny that he’s never realized they were roommates.

He’s seen Emma at some of the recent events, too, smiling and shaking hands with people, flashes of amusement on her face as she directs people carrying things, and tells patrons where they’ll be sitting, and all the time looking horribly, incredibly, competent. She’s gorgeous. He’s seen her talk to Dance, the musician nodding gravely and taking notes, with his hair falling over one eye, and Emma gesturing with her hands. There was no trace whatever of possessiveness about Emma’s posture toward Dance, only the level respect of a person who knows Dance will follow through on her requests.

Now there is a woman, no matter what sort of cheap polyester dress she’s wearing, and yet somehow you totally forget what the bod looks like when you hear the brain pouring out of her mouth in fountains and fountains of terrifying intelligence.

He never dreamt of approaching so much powerfully busy organizing force. He’d be volunteered for everything in sight before he got past an hour around her.

No wonder nobody ever gets near Dance.

A lesser man would realize what’s happened, put his jacket on, get out his car keys, and flee like the wind before either of them come home. He’s pretty sure that’s what usually happens, probably before Dance ever knows anybody has been looking at him. Drin is certain now that he’s been where no man has ever been before, that nobody else has ever got past that cool appraising wit sparkling in Emma’s eyes, nobody’s ever had the fortitude–or the folly–to get near the quiet Concertmaster putting his scores in folders and keeping his instruments on those cheap shelves.

Emma doesn’t dress like a woman who gets kissed a lot either. She dresses like a woman who knows what the rules are for charity events, and she shows up for them with her makeup on straight and tries to keep her bloody mouth under control so the intelligence billowing out of her head won’t frighten anybody.

He’s got no idea why this makes him angry at people. It’s a strange, complex emotion. He’s not angry at Emma, not at all. Emma is what she is, in the same way that Dance is so distinctly what he is, and neither of them will ever be anything like conventional, or normal. They’re both so far off the bell curve that they’ve long since stopped bothering to apologize for it.

But he’s angry. Angry on their behalf, or something. Angry that nobody ever taught Dance to kiss, before.

He pauses in the hall, the inoffensive scent on her clothes coming faintly from the open door of her room.

He’s got other ideas on what perfume she ought to have, dammit. He can smell it precisely in his mind, although he’s uncertain of the name. He could probably track it down on his laptop, out in his car. Timing such a gift will be tricky, though. She’s very proud.

He looks at that open door, frowning. She wouldn’t leave it like that if she didn’t want him to see her things. And yet, these old doors don’t lock. She couldn’t stop him from poking around the house, going through the medicine cabinet, looking at labels, at will. She knows he could. She left her bedroom door open for the cat to come and go, he knows that as clearly as if she’s said it to him, and she frankly doesn’t care to apologize for her cheap everyday clothes and her limited gala wardrobe and her ratty terrycloth robe hanging on the hook where he can see it. Oh, she knows exactly who Dance brought home.

He’s struck by the image of her wearing that thing, saying the kind of things that she does, and he thinks his knees are going to give way.

One of them is a lot to take in. The pair of them, dear God in Her Heaven, he can feel his brain gently frying, making those silly bacon noises.

Pull yourself together, man, he thinks in panic. You have a little bit of time, here, you’d better stop freaking out and get moving.

Drin goes into the living room to survey the books. He takes a deep breath, turns on the light, and starts looking over Emma the roommate’s collection of books. He knows he’s going to need to keep his wits about him. Emma is going to be much, much tougher to cope with than Dance, and his beautiful sweaty musician is going to be enough of a handful as it is.

The cat twines around his ankles, and he leans down to pet it. “You’re only getting four shrimp,” he says to the cat. “You got that, right?” Then he groans when he straightens up, putting his hands on his lower back. Bending is a mistake.

He’s still standing like that, staring blankly at the books, when he hears the front door open, and steps thump along the bare floorboards.

Dance comes into the living room doorway with his hair all sticky and spiky with sweat, the towel around his neck. He glances up at Drin and the smile that opens his face wide is such simple pleasure that Drin just lifts his arms wide, waiting, and hugs the athlete to him, and kisses his forehead, while his ribs are getting painfully crushed in. “Yah, easy there,” he murmurs, and Dance relents, and kisses him back on the cheek, chastely. Drin puts up his hand, touches Dance’s jaw, and leans into him.

Dance remembers how to tango just fine. He’s got a few ideas of his own, too, straightforward ones about maneuvering them both into the bathroom and the old, tiled shower stall. This time, Drin has no choice about how much he gets to see, how quickly. Dance is miraculous and golden under the glaze of running water, his penis curving up from the fine, feathery hair. Drin is reaching for that, when he finds himself thrust under the water, the heat working on his grateful back, and those violinist’s hands going after the knots in his shoulder blades. Amazing, how strong Dance’s fingers are.

Dance kisses Drin where the water is not running so hard, his arms hovering at Drin’s back, his hips to one side of Drin’s. Drin shakes water out of his face, making growly noises to get Dance to laugh. When Drin gasps and looks at him, he sees such naked intent admiration, so much focused attention, that Drin loses his breath all over again.

Dance smiles back all across his face. “Such a great big roaring bear. A water bear.”

“You like that?” Drin says.

Dance rolls his eyes upward, closes them, and sighs, smiling, and then he’s leaning his chest into Drin’s, smiling upward, and hugging Drin. “OH yeeeees,” he says, and he kisses Drin, a big sloppy kiss full of tongue that straggles away onto Drin’s jaw and his neck and his chest and licking along his collarbones. “Yeeessss,” Dance says, into Drin’s shoulder.

“That’s good,” Drin says. “Can I wash your hair? I love your hair.”

Dance blinks at him. “Is this where we say, how weird, that our Drin likes us?”

“Yeah. And where I say, hell yeah I like you, you’re gorgeous, and you say, Oh no I don’t believe it, and then I try to convince you that I really really like Body Part Number One, and of course I also love Body Part Number Two, and that’s how we don’t make it out of the shower for another… well… however long.”

Dance smiles at him. “Shampoo,” he says, and holds up a plastic tube of something cheap and nasty.

“Right,” Drin says, looking at something that was designed to wash horses, no kidding. He knows Dance sees him resolving to buy them some goddamn decent soap and shampoo. He knows this. So he just skips discussing it, and starts lathering the shorter man’s hair, running his fingers over the elegant bones of Dance’s skull, feeling the scalp move and flex as he strokes it, massaging it, until Dance sighs, head fallen back limp in his grip, head rolling loosely as he handles the man. “Okay, eyes shut,” he says, rinsing water through the ranks of hair.

back of man with black hair showering
More Mysteries

When Dance’s arm cables around Drin’s shoulder, Drin waits, not sure what to expect. Dance turns his hips, stepping in close against Drin’s back, and then he leans his cheek on Drin’s spine.

Drin braces his hands on the tiles, then his elbows, and turns his head a little, expecting demands. He’s perfectly willing to meet those demands, coming from Dance.

There’s no demand. Just the weight of Dance’s head, the long curve of his torso leaning into Drin’s back, with the warm water pouring over both of them. It makes his back loosen and ease and then he’s feeling the curve of Dance’s cock pressing gently against the back of his thigh, not expecting anything, just touching him, as if that’s as much as Dance has ever asked for.

Drin has never been with a man who seemed so oblivious to the main event — as if fucking is a lesser enjoyment. Drin even suspects that the boy is up hard so much that it’s become a habit to ignore it. For a man so young, so physical, a man who ejaculated three times in one night, that seems odd, or problematic, or at least a puzzle that Drin wants to unlock. Right now, it seems best to wait it out and ignore the aching desire his own body feels. Because that face makes porn fireworks go banging in his head. Those shoulders make him want to drill the boy through a mattress, and those legs make him want to spread his own wide and beg. But Dance himself– all of Dance; the body, the queer-virginity, the oddity, the genius, the fragility– whatever it is that makes Drin need to be the most important thing in the man’s universe– is not so easily pinpointed.

Still, there’s room for compromise; “C’mere.”

“Don’t want to hurt our Drin,” Dance says, even as he obeys, and that brings Drin up short.

“Is that– oh God, I never meant–” Drin reaches out to the hard bar of soap, rubs lather from it, hands it to Dance. Then he takes Dance’s soapy hand, brings it up to himself, puts it on his testicles. He reaches out and puts both his soapy hands up between Dance’s legs, onto Dance’s balls, stroking the wet hair there, stroking the inside of Dance’s thighs, feeling the cords tense as steel cables. He feels the tremors shaking through Dance’s body already. He gets the soap onto the man’s penis, strokes his foreskin back off the head, slippery hands sliding everywhere, and then Dance is gasping into Drin’s shoulder, pushing him backward into the tiles, and somehow managing to avoid carrying Drin back into the faucets. Now there, Drin thinks dimly in some back part of his mind, is a considerate lover.

Water pours down Dance’s neck and chest as he groans, and he climaxes in a single thrust into Drin’s hands, all the muscles standing up hard in his face. His hands spasm on Drin’s cock, gripping hard enough to give Drin a passing pang of alarm, and instantly easing off, stroking Drin in a quick reassurance that he does remember not to get too wild. That’s enough to set off the outraged nerves in Drin’s groin, and he’s astonished to find himself falling into Dance’s support, needing it, and being held up, getting braced up with swift force. Drin hangs there limp, leaning into Dance’s shoulder, feeling the shorter man’s strength.

Oh,” Drin says, gasping down to slower breaths. “Oh. Oh.”

Dance’s hand moves gently on him, petting his groin, stroking his hip, soothing him, as if he knows what the extremity of muscle spasms that hard can do to the rest of a guy. “Yeah,” Dance says, breathing it into Drin’s neck. “Yeah.”

Drin groans. He is in such deep buckets of need he’ll never crawl out again. Hell, one night, some minimal attention, and Dance has got him eating out of that violinist’s hand. Out of those sinew-heavy, calloused fingers. Drin sighs again. He could suck on those amazing fingers for an hour or two, and think it was time well-spent. At this point, he could probably make Dance orgasm a couple of times at it, just doing that.

“Is Drin feeling tired?” Dance asks gravely.

Drin shakes his head, leans into him, kisses his cheek, and then his mouth, and then his hand slides down onto Dance’s spine, and then– and then Dance says “Breakfast,” and shuts the water off.

“You’re afraid you’ll hurt me?” Drin asks, towelling his chest.

“We could,” Dance mumbles. “Say if we get too rough, okay?”

“That’s not why… I don’t want to scare you, that’s all.”

Dance’s face goes blank, causing Drin to rewind his last words. “Ah hell,” he begins, but one of those sunrise smiles is beginning, full of pleasure and a wry amusement. “I meant– I know you’re not used to…”

“Drin must be kidding?” Dance demands. “Being a virgin is not same as ignorant, oh no. We find pictures! We know what we want. What I want!” His towel flies in the direction of the shower rod, a hand pulls open a drawer for some of the niceties, and Drin’s mouth goes completely dry, his heart starts speeding up, at the casual, aggressive, irresistible stance Dance takes, displaying himself for Drin’s delectation as if he’s done this every day of his life.

“Come on man, scare me,” Dance says, and the words are low, and sweet, and demanding; “I dare you.”

The staring match is interrupted by the sound of a slamming door and quick tapping of high heels somewhere in the house.

“Honey, I’m home!” a woman calls out, in a Australian accent.

Auditions And Other Insecurities

Good lord, Emma thinks on her way up the path, he’s done it, got himself a daddy. She has a few guesses from the calm, understated, low-key, and incredibly expensive car that is still there blocking the driveway. This morning in the dark she crept past it sideways, trying not to set off any alarms. She’s pretty sure who, out of her short-list– a very short list– of approved men, won the prize. But she wonders if she is going to regret this, if her machinations will end up turning her out of Dance’s life. Moneyed men can be quite selfish, after all.

She opens the bathroom door quickly so as not to give it a chance to squeak. The room feels like a swamp, and through the pebbled glass door she can tell that Dance and the tall greying man Drin are getting along splendidly– The hint of entwined limbs through the pebbled glass is so damned hot, and she would like to see more. She lays the new toothbrush in its package on the counter, where he’ll be sure to find it.

A quick check of Dance’s room; the thoroughly rumpled little bed and the heavy and unmistakable scent of semen tell an eloquent story. Drin has a formal suit folded up there; not the thing for eating brekkie in. Emma rummages her drawers, and finds a more-or-less gender-free teeshirt, knowing exactly what Dance has in his sadly limited wardrobe. His gray sweats are all too small for a man the size of Drin. Who knew she wore so many bright colors? She tugs the knot out of the hem, lays it on Dance’s bed, and then finds the evidence of two seriously abused pairs of boxers. “Oh, god,” she finds herself muttering under her breath. Somewhere, she’s got something– ugly and really too big for him, but she can’t imagine Drin wanting to put those wet, smelly things back on.

She doesn’t want to leave the room. The big man wears some sort of faint cologne, it goes straight to her hindbrain and waves little flags. Shut up, she tells the flags.

She compromises by carrying soiled things out with her, to drop in the washer. There’s slime on her fingertips, and she brings them to her face. To smell. All right, to taste, and she promises herself that neither man will ever know she’s done that, invaded their privacy that way.

Well, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? that sardonic little voice in the back of her head remarks. The one that’s always getting her in trouble at boring meetings.

Then she barricades herself in her own room, which does lock, shucks her clothing, and thrusts her fingers into herself with singleminded intensity and a violence that would probably shock either man if they saw her, muffling her helpless gulping cries in a pillow. It takes her several minutes before her limbs return to her command and she can roll onto her back afterwards.

She hears the right kinds of noises from the kitchen, chopping sounds, Dance’s whistling. If she’s incredibly lucky, she thinks, she’ll hear these familiar sounds for a long time to come. The sounds of Dance cooking has come to mean home to her, and she’d hate to give it up. She gets her arse off the bed, and hunts down something else to wear– anything, dear heavens, that is not a business ensemble.

Sneakered and shorts-clad, she pads into the kitchen and finds Drin chopping onions and asparagus stems, dressed in wrinkly dress pants and a girl’s sleep-shirt and a rather dazed expression on his face. He’s listening to Dance whistling a cantata between his front teeth, doing all the twirls and harmonies, while cooking bacon.

“Hello, thanks for the loaner,” Drin says, and smiles at her. He puts down the knife, washes his hands, dries them, and turns back to her with his hand extended.

“Oh, love, you don’t need to be formal here,” she says, and throws both arms around him, and squeezes him tight. “My God, man, you’re an armful, and no mistake,” and then she realizes she’d better get her boobs off him before she has an orgasm just from the smell of him, and she hurries off to Dance, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “You’re a prince and I’ll gladly have your babies if you’ll feed me some of that.”

“I don’t want any babies by you,” Dance says right back, in her own accent. “They’d murder me in my sleep for letting you get knocked up. Very Greek.”

“Oh hush, you’re so rude,” she says, and smacks him on the butt. “Have you fed this man anything, or did you let him starve to death all this time?”

“Oh, we are chaining him up in the dungeon for learning all his wicked ways,” Dance says gravely, taking the bacon out of the pan. She steals a piece, dodging back and giggling, but he still smacks her on the wrist, as always. “Starving our Drin, of course, what do you think?”

“I think you’re looking particularly wet about the ears,” Emma says.

“Well, that’s because we are,” and he smacks her wrist again.

Oh God, she’s forgotten how effing blindingly blunt Dance is. Give him repartee, and he’ll run for the hills with it, laughing the whole way.

Drin holds out the bowl of chopped onions. He says, “Am I a prince too?”

“Oh no, love,” she says gravely, looking up at his crinkled eyes, “You’re a king, there’s no doubt about that, not when you’ve got a jawline that could stop a landtrain.”

“Flattery, ” Drin says, smiling at her as she takes the bowl. God, he must have secretaries dropping like flies behind him when he uses that rumbly deep tone of voice.

“Oh, we have quite a good product line of that, if you’d like,” she says, “I spent all morning trotting that out, like I was showing off some kind of livestock. Fund-raising, you know.”

“More like ugly clothes,” Dance says. “In strange colors.”

She puts on a silly voice, saying, “And over here, we have our spring line of ankle-breaking shoes with nine-inch heels for all your fetish needs–” She snorts and bangs the bowl down by Dance’s hand.

“You had fetishwear?” Drin says, plaintively. “You had ankle-breaking shoes and you never told us?”

Good lord, Emma notes to herself, it’s going mighty fast. ‘Us’, already? The rumpled sheets flash across her mind and she banishes it before he sees it too, right there in her face. She snorts again. “I don’t need to lose any more of the Symphony’s patrons by giving the ancient guys heart attacks, they wouldn’t thank me for that, love.”

“Or from broken legs on the rude tennis ladies,” Dance says dryly, and he gives a little shimmy with his hips. He has no idea how astonishing that looks. She knows that. An apprehensive look at Drin says he’s seen it. Damn, he’s fast. He knows Dance has no idea what that does to a person’s libido. “Very fast-moving, some of those ladies, when they want to grab a piece off your bottom.” He makes such a pained face it gets Drin laughing. “Watch out, our Drin. You know our Miss Jocelyn? Oh, she has the tennis hand, she is wicked fast.”

Drin holds up a stalk of celery and fences the air vigorously. “Back, woman! I say! Back! I shall battle you, I shall fight you for him on the beaches, on the roads, on the–” until Dance is giggling.

Emma rolls her eyes, and starts chewing on a stem of celery stolen from Drin’s chopping board. At one point she and Amalia got worried by negative remarks from the Ladies’ Senior Auxiliary ringleader, but something has certainly changed. Drin’s approval might be plenty. She props herself on the counter near him, trying to persuade herself to stay further away, and failing. She lists off events, trying to remind herself which particular set of patrons have to be dragged by the scruff to show up, listing off which ones have to be called by herself and which ones by Dance.

She tells herself it’s like doing multiplication tables, to calm down.

It’s not bloody working.

Not when Drin is gazing quizzically at her like that, with the knife whirring through the celery, and he isn’t even looking at it.

Dance is still whistling. He’s looking positively sleek, like he’s been… never mind what he’s been. He nods now and then as she speaks, shifting the asparagus into the hot pan, with sizzling noises. “The Simons said they’d be out of the country through March,” he says.

“God rot them for it. Anybody I forgot?” she asks.

Drin nods gravely, putting his knife down on the block.

“Well, who?” she demands, with her eyes very wide.

“Me.” He folds his arms. “I’m very demanding. Personal attention. I’m going to be hogging your Concertmaster like the egotist I am.” And he puts up that beard in the air and he gives a big, theatrical sniff.

Dance is staring at him, mouth open, and then both he and Emma are laughing, and Emma is smacking the man’s arm with her celery stick. She shakes it at him. “You’re shameless.”

Drin smiles wryly. “Probably a good thing, seeing how busy Dance is.”

Emma looks up at him, arms folded tight around herself, worried. Goddammit, he’s sharp enough to cut himself. No apologies, no embarrassment, no doubts. He knows how important she is to Dance, and he knows who he has to talk to about Dance.

Drin puts up his hand, palm flat. “I solemnly swear, I am not going to wreck his rehearsal schedules or his bookings or his–”

“Oh, he can do that without any help from us, just having our bloody second cellist wander in an hour late,” Emma says. She puts on a silly face. “Hey dooods, did I miiiissss anything?”

Drin looks at Dance, and starts snickering. Clearly, information has been passed about Robert, the Metro’s silly chook-headed second cellist.

Emma glares at Dance. “You gossipped, didn’t you?” she says. She sighs. “Of course you did. A cross to bear like Robert, who wouldn’t be yelling at the sky, saying, ‘My God, my Gaaawd, why hast Thou foresaaaaken me?'”

“I take it you know the gentleman rather well,” Drin says, plucking the last celery stick right out of her hand, as comfortable in this kitchen as if he already owns the place, and both of them with it, and he washes it under the tap. It’s sort of hot, in a maddening upper-class way. Assumptions. He’s careful with things, though. He’s not going to be a careless Squire, if anybody was wondering. “It sounds positively Biblical.”

Dance growls something about biblical-style punishments. He points at Drin. “Hey, here is our own Charlton Heston with the magic waving, can’t we do something with stone about the cheeky little brat? Do the lightning thing, crack-boom, all that?”

Ouch, Emma thinks, wincing. Don’t tell an older guy he looks like Heston. Bad form. Dance just isn’t used to honey-coating things for a sugar-daddy, and of course it shows.

But Drin smiles. He gets it. He bloody well absolutely knows that he’s got himself a total infant at all this, and he’s charmed. He doesn’t mind the odd thump or three from somebody who doesn’t even know they’re being clumsy. They have no right at all to be so lucky. Nobody else on her list would ever have got that. Nobody.

She can feel tears well up in her eyes. Emma draws in a deep, apprehensive breath, and feels a streak of pain shoot up her pelvis, light up her back like a hot coal. Well, dammit, she’s not getting any backrubs from Dance tonight. Not if she’s got anything to say about it. She presses her fists on the small of her back, and those bloody stupid loud noises come out of her spine. A little savagely, she growls, “You figure something out, you just let me know, I’ll be happy to arrange the venue for it.”

“I am not Charlton Heston,” Drin says, chopping celery, and putting on a silly pompous face. “I am not into monkeys, thank you. Or chariot races, either.”

Of course he’s doing Heston so clearly that it makes both of them crack up.

Dance nods at her to fetch a plate, and he flips the pan to roll out the first omelet, still chuckling. She hasn’t heard Dance laugh this much for months. Bloody hell, Emma thinks, if I’d known the man could be so funny, I’d have snapped him up for Dance a year ago. Well, maybe. Drin is choosy. She’s seen him watching Dance for awhile, observing, wandering through, the same as he watches a lot of the other performers.

He makes them laugh through breakfast. He actually gets her to sing him the verses he’s forgot to a couple different Gilbert and Sullivan outrages. And he bloody well gives the cat more than four shrimp, she knows that for sure.

More than once, she’s caught his measuring gaze on her, and each time he smiles directly into her eyes.

Good God of Mercy, he’s not just a nice bear of a sugar daddy looking for something pretty to bring him his slippers at night, she tells herself, blinking. He’s not adverse to letting her know she’s just as interesting as Dance. And he’s not just being polite. Those borrowed boxers make sure she knows that. But thinking about that is one way to head right back to drifting off with visions of those sheets in Dance’s room, and she’s not going to lose her grip in a conversation that moves as far and as fast as this one does.

“Swimming,” she says firmly. “Some easy workout in the pool and then you should soak in the hot tub, it really helps.” She meets his gaze, and then she looks at Dance, and then she looks at Drin again. She can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears, poor thing. Well, she knows what Dance looks like, swimming, and Drin seems to have quite a good imagination. It still won’t match the real thing. She can imagine it too. She smiles at Drin. While she’s putting the sheets in the washer.

Em's bare tum
Emma and her tum having happy thoughts

Sooper Sekrit Car (not) Conquest Plan

“Excuse me, but I insist on lunch,” Drin says.

Dance blinks up from the ragged tape-covered mess on the music rack in front of him, and looks around at Amalia, who’s lost her frown and is grinning like a Halloween pumpkin.

“You promised,” Drin says.

Somebody titters, and there’s a rude sliding squeal from somebody’s strings which they will probably claim was accidental. Right. Dance glances away distractedly at the members of his section, who are nudging each other shamelessly. He looks around in a rather hunted fashion, and returns his gaze to Drin. Something about looking up at Drin makes him twitch a bit. Hastily, he says, “So we– yes, I did. It was a very considerable favor, and… I owe… you. Is Mister Drin thinking of a place it is better to go?”

“Oh, I’ve been thinking of a couple places,” Drin says, and enjoys rolling around the syllables as he says one of them. Who needs to know that his reservation for that lunch is in another week entirely?

“Oh, that place is wonderful,” Robert squeaks, and then he has both hands cupped over his mouth, but his eyes are sparkling, the little brute. “Papi just loves it there–”

“Shura’s newest place, he just bought it and fixed it all up as a diner,” Amalia says, sliding her eyes over at Dance, and apparently enjoying the flush of embarrassment on Dance’s face.

The reason is fairly apparent to any observant gaze: he’s got a hard-on that is completely escaping those loose old boxers, and it’s not being slowed down by his usual baggy sweatpants, either. Carefully, he bends down and wipes down his violin and places it with the bow in the case, and some subtle motions of the elbows reveal he’s not just fussing with closing the case.

“It takes awhile to appreciate the borscht, they make a production out of service there,” Amalia tells him gravely. “We’ll work out the rest of this section here, now we’ve got the general idea, don’t worry. We’ll see you whenever. How about tomorrow morning?”

“Thank you, Miss Amalia,” Dance says, and when he does straighten up, the closed case is being held as a fig leaf. It doesn’t hide anything in the slightest, which is delightful.

“Enjoy your lunch,” Amalia says, smiling broadly.

“We certainly will,” Drin says, and just to be perfectly obnoxious about it, he smiles down at Dance and waves a hand to indicate his willingness to follow the Concertmaster through the building. He doesn’t bother to hide how he’s appreciating the man’s rear view.

Walking up the long aisle among the chairs, there’s plenty of time to overhear the responses to all this, too. People are laughing behind them, but it’s in a good way.

“Lucky bitch,” Robert’s voice says enviously.

“What, the afternoon delight or twenty dollar burgers?”

“Thirty,” says Amalia. “Plus drinks extra.”

“Well, I guess we write off Dance and his booty for the rest of the day.”

Robert says, “Thank God! It isn’t the guy’s steel-clad booty that worries me–”

“Stop on the TMI, it’s just gross,” says a high Brooklyn accent. “Robert, I do not want to think about you looking at booty.”

“Specially not that one.”

“I got one word for you, sweetie: kimchee. Live on cabbage, you too can have a buff karate-choppin’ butt too. ‘Nuff said.”

“You forgot the chilis.”

“I’m trying to. Somebody switched the labels on the barbecue pans last time, I about died.”

“Can you say fire in the hole?”

“Class, dignity, dressy clothes, lots and lotsa money–” Somebody starts thrumming out Pomp and Circumstance on a bass. “Naww, skip all that. What we all wanna know is, does the big guy have a dick made of asbestos?”

“And balls of stainless steel, lovies. He works for Bud Innes,” Amalia says absently. “Trust me on this.”

“–it’s that nasty pointy needly brain that–” Robert hasn’t stopped talking.

“Oh, we still got Amalia to keep us totally scared out of our tiny minds,” says a very fake Valley girl accent that is, like, totally unimpressed.

“Why thank you, somebody please remind Robert, would you?” Amalia purrs.

“Anybody else got a hot date buying their–oh, excuse me, lunch?” Robert says.

A deep voice says, “Oh and you can talk, you big-ass ho!”

“He ain’t a ho, he talks about sex alla time for free,” says another man’s voice.

Robert sputters.

“Oh, stop. Since you made up with your Papi, it only took you two days to tell us everything,” says a woman.

The deep voice advises, “Robert, honey, just shut up and play. You got nothing to complain about.”

“Well, ‘cept the size of his own butt,” says the woman, wickedly. There’s laughter.

Robert begins to explain how there’s plenty to complain of, mostly with the drills that his expensive new tutor is demanding.

“Spoiled bitch, we all gonna haul off and smack you if you go on,” another one of the women says calmly.

“Now behave,” Amalia says, and there’s a loud slap of a bow hitting skin. Amalia can thwack her own hand with a report like a gun, without ever harming her very valuable bow.

Drin has learned that some groups of Metro musicians are very dignified, very quiet. A soft discussion of where to notate a change is about as controversial as they ever get. Not Amalia’s bunch, who are nearly as shrill as the girl flautists pulling each other’s hair over faithless boyfriends. Disputes over their girlfriends apparently end in black eyes dealt out behind the Flame Club two blocks down. There’s been a bit too much of that, lately.

In a month, Bannerjee’s hot new buzzcut blonde percussionist with the tats has already decimated the wind sections and moved on to the strings, to judge by the bruised sulking. Tats girl is also blunt about the lack of spark in her own section, snarking about the tired middle-aged guys whose wrists hurt all the time. It’s clear why she hasn’t stayed long elsewhere.

girl with bleached hair
punk percussionist

Dance says he wants to figure out how to get her to be more patient, because she’s very good, but she’s also hammering her body so hard she may get crippling arthritis before she’s thirty. Dance is sudden death on correct ergonomic form, and Amalia enforces it.

As they’re coming down the building’s side steps together, Drin murmurs,“Everything?”

Dance rolls his eyes. “Amalia tells us, ‘Viewing Robert’s disclosures as an educational experience may be helpful.'”

Drin laughs. “Maybe as an example of how to get Bud Innes to crack down on you like ten tons of very pissed-off flying bricks.”

Dance says, “Oh, very good example of that, yes. Mister Robert was not realizing he had so much personal importance to his Papi’s ego, he says this big caring which he never got before is finally good enough reason for weepy makings up and big promises.”

“Were there spankings involved?” Drin asks.

A passing fellow pedestrian stares up at him in surprise, clutches her purse tighter, and wanders off looking slightly addled.

Dance puts on his extra solemn face. His eyes are laughing, though. He tells Drin, “Indeed so. Mister Robert reforms his badness with much progress, and Mister Bud is placated, and it is all very gratifying.”

Drin knows, by now, he is not just imagining the dry tone of voice there. “Bud wasn’t much fun at work either.”

“We are very sorry for that,” Dance says. He gives Drin a sidelong glance, and a little smile. “We are guessing the stainless steel balls were needed?”

Drin snorts. “Some days, oh yeah, you better believe it.”

“As for the–em, comments– Amalia learned our two sections get this way when they have been watching too many ensemble cop shows. They load up on snark. They are great fans, as maybe you heard.”

Drin laughs. Dance is apparently reading his mind.

Dance says, “So we will see if Mister Robert starts practicing with better habits, as Mister Bud requires of him.” Another sidelong smile. “Or bricks will be flying.”

“Hope springs eternal,” Drin replies, just as dryly, and gets the wide grin from Dance that he was angling for.

“Oh, right now, we are hoping for a ride in our Drin’s wonderfully sexy car with awesome speakers,” Dance murmurs, with a wicked glint in his eyes. He walks surprisingly fast for a guy with a woody banging around freely like that, even though he’s trying to keep it under the cover of the violin case. And he talks with amazing intelligence for a guy who’s that preoccupied, too.

“Oh yes?” Drin grins right back at him. “You like my car?”

“Oh, we like many things, including dreaming what we–what I can be doing to you in your car,” Dance says demurely. He’s been working hard to remember to use all those rude personal pronouns, so direct, very American.

“Really?” Drin chuckles. “Now that’s very strange, because here I was having all these wild ideas about what I wanted to do to you in my car, too.”

“This may require practice,” Dance says, with the solemn face.

“It certainly might,” Drin says. “But not today.”

Dance nods. “Yes, I thought we were not going to Mr. Korachevsky’s diner today.”

“Yeah? How’d you guess that?”

“Because you got that bush-rider grin, as our Emma says.” His eyes are crinkled, smiling up at Drin. He’s so cute that Drin just has to stop and grab him and hug him and give him a kiss on the cheek, which makes him laugh and redden, and wriggle away, as if taking one more unbearable touch will set him off right there in the street. Which he probably will, given how hard his prick feels against Drin’s. Maddening.

The Mayor Takes a Walk

It’s impossible to just go for a nice lunchtime walk with Drin to a restaurant. He’s too tall, he just looks too authoritative. On his way out the door, people who know him at the Metro run up and chatter at him as he walks. But knowing him doesn’t matter, either. Out on the street, total strangers come up and talk to him.

Drin opens the side door, squints down the street. “Okay, sweetheart, stay with me here. We got the tourist crowds going here, all this nice weather.”

It’s nothing like the anonymity Dance is used to, trotting about with papers in his arms, just another small man in old sweatshirts and ragged tennis shoes. Poor ethnic people are never noticed, never acknowledged, in tourist areas downtown. Now, he’s getting stares just for being Drin’s companion. Get used to it, he tells himself.

In a four-block walk, five people try to stop Drin and speak to him. Nobody begs him for money, which is unusual for the area. Two ask directions. One asks about the parking meters, another about how late the city permitting office is open. The last one asks if he can figure out her income for her on her tax documents. He is happy to answer these questions from total strangers. But he doesn’t slow his leisurely long-legged stride, either, he just keeps walking. If they want to talk to him, they trot with him for a moment.

“Courthouse is about three blocks east. The records section charges a fee these days, though.”
“You have to pay for parking at that kiosk down at this end.”
“I think they close early these days, you could ask at any of the other city offices, or call them. Yeah, try that 411 call feature on your phone.”
“No, but you could get help from volunteer tax preparers who work with seniors at tax season workshops. Try calling AARP and getting a local number to call. Some of the local senior daycare facilities have workshops for the families, too.”

Dance watches, bemused. The way people come up at Drin in waves, and magically part for him to go through, seems just like Poseidon going for a stroll, or Moses parting the Red Sea, or something. Dance feels like a dolphin riding on his bow-wave. A slightly nervous one, given how oddly some of the people act when they approach Drin. They keep startling him.

man's furry bottom jeans down
ginger distractions

Part of it is that he’s distracted. Dance tries to focus on them, but his gaze keeps drifting back to Drin. He has a hard time watching anything besides that lazy walk, the maddening planes in those soft, faded high-pockets jeans, and how the belt rides on Drin’s hips. The way the zipper tab glints in the light. That’s the problem with having a good memory. Dance tells the impatient little man in his own pants to shut up.

Drin gives a crooked smile at Dance, with a nod after the tax lady. “First time Bud Innes saw that stuff, he started calling me Mister Mayor.”

“How do they know our Drin has all these answers?”

“Same way you did? I guess I just got a bossy face. Hell, do I have auditor stamped on my ass?”

Dance peers at him, squinting in the bright light. He blurts, “Our Drin has a very fine ass.”

Drin’s eyes come round in surprise, and then he chuckles. “Well, now we know what you had in mind for lunch!”

Dance can feel his neck burning, his whole head heating in furious embarrassment. He tries again. “Not looking bossy to us– to me. Not knowing about auditor markings, but our Drin looks like a– like this big wonderful hot-looking bear rolling through these streets.”

“If you start calling me Daddy right in front of the Metro, I’ll have to spank you on the spot.”

“Promise?” Dance grins.

“Believe me, I’ve got much better ways of marking you in front of everybody as my sweetie.”

“Yes?” Dance asks, worried and delighted and apprehensive all at once. He doesn’t want to spoil it by acting the wrong way, if Drin surprises him with something.

Drin just gives that slow killer grin, and winks at him. The one that Emma calls his bush-rider grin.

Dance is delighted when Drin stops at a tiny hole-in-the-wall place. It’s a favorite cheap lunch place for Metro people, too, and Dance introduces Drin to those who look interested. Drin waves at folks, reaches out those long arms and shakes hands with those he doesn’t know yet. For awhile they’re talking to lots of people, shifting about here and there. Gradually many of the musicians drift out, obligated for a practice by the winds, one which Dance was told he didn’t have to attend. He may rejoin it later on, to keep an eye on things.

When he and Drin finally get to eat, they end up sitting outside under umbrellas just so they can hear themselves talk. The tiny chairs creak under Drin’s weight. They eat bowl after bowl of pho soup and untidy noodles.

Vietnamese noodle soup
Needs More Cilantro and Garlic

Dance still knows he’s being watched. He feels constrained, gesturing while he’s trying to describe graphics for the next order of program guides to go out. “Yes, I think– Drin, what is it?”

“I’m distracted,” Drin says, looking up over the rim of his noodle bowl.

Dance hesitates. Would it be rude to ask, or should he–

“Here, you have a spot,” Drin murmurs, and leans in with a napkin, and gravely dabs the spot from Dance’s third-best rehearsal sweatshirt, sliding those freckled fingers up inside Dance’s collar and frowning at his work until he’s sure he’s got it clean. Then he slides his fingers up Dance’s neck to cup the back of his head, and he gives Dance a kiss on the cheek. And chuckles.

Dance looks up into the man’s eyes. “Bastard,” he says, with his train of thought a derailed wreck, and his whole being focused on the heat throbbing all over him.

Drin gusts another breath of warm air into his neck and kisses him again, and sits back, looking very satisfied. “Distracting?”

“Very!”

“Well, I’m done with work, even if you have to work on a Saturday. Is this where we decide if I’m going to disrupt your afternoon practices, or be a really good patron?”

Dance gives a tight little whining noise, breathing in tight short bursts. It is astonishing how much he wants the man he’s looking at. “Neither. I put things in a locker in the top floor green room.”

Drin’s pupils zoom out to huge black disks. “You’re sure we can–”

“I have a key.”

“You want to lock me in with you?”

Dance looks down, taking more short breaths. “Oh yes. Yes, I do. But not now. Not lunchtime, the office people notice, they laugh so much, telling stories. First break. Also, then our tummies must be less stuffed, yes?”

“So I can sit watching and torture you properly the whoooole time, and you have to behave.” He rubs one hand leisurely up and down his shirt, and he sighs like a man who’s eaten too much, which only emphasizes things. The upper slope of his chest, the arch of his ribs, the points of his nipples– all kinds of things.

Dance sighs. “I’ll be lucky if I make it to the restroom here before I–” he gives a helpless little wave of his hand.

Drin laughs again. “Talk to me about the membership mailers, maybe that’ll cool down your problem.” He gives Dance another wicked look. “Of course it won’t help me a bit, I love hearing you talk about stuff. Anything.”

“Drin, you are very naughty!”

“Oh, I am,” he agrees, and slurps up another noodle sloooowly, in a lascivious manner.

Dance groans. It’s going to be a long, horrible afternoon, especially if he has to waddle out hastily at every break. Walking back is the first challenge. He tries to think about what he has to deal with next, in practice, and that helps, but every time he looks at Drin, his penis stiffens all over again. Dance says crossly, “You keep giving me a hard-on.”

“Turn about is fair play,” Drin says, and leans back perilously in the chair, stretching his legs, planting his feet wide apart, and his jeans– Oh, indeed, looking at that doesn’t help a bit.

The Mayor Lays Claim

Emma turns on the steps below the Metro’s side door, looking up, and waves at Amalia. Dance is carrying Amalia’s cello case, easily, and his own violin case. Drin is on Amalia’s other side, saying something as they walk down the steps. Amalia gives a shout of laughter, throwing back her head. Then Dance is looking over at Drin with eyebrows lifted, and he says something, and Amalia smacks him on the arm, and they’re all grinning.

It’s perfectly obvious that the two men had a good afternoon, the sort of afternoon that causes gossip about who spent time in that odd little green room at the top of the building. Then Drin puts out his long arm across both their shoulders, and responds with something that makes both of them crack up even harder.

Emma looks up at their faces, awestruck by how beautiful Dance looks, and how happy Drin is, and how Amalia is just glowing with smug satisfaction, as if she’s arranged it all herself and finds it good. It is as if the moment is captured in a snapshot: There. Perfect.

She tells herself, very firmly, that there’s no need to wish that she was up there too, hugging them all.

Then Dance looks down at Emma, and his face opens up into a wider grin, and Drin gives a little shout of greeting, while she’s telling them where she parked her big old clunker of a car. Amalia pats her arm, thanking her. Dance sets down the cases for a moment and then the boys are hugging her, one on either side, and Drin gives her a kiss on the temple. Brushes back a stray curl, rests his hand on her shoulder lightly a moment. “You are rescuing us here!”

couple in sandals and jeans

“You’re welcome,” Emma says, chuckling, just because it’s all a bubbling whirl of repartee around her. “Where to, once we drop off Amalia’s case?”

It’s not a long walk to the car, discussing different options. Dance puts the cases behind the driver’s seat while Amalia wrestles her skirts into the passenger seat in front. Then Dance and Drin clamber into the back seat behind her, laughing. The chassis sags under their weight. Emma resigns herself to coaxing it along, driving a sluggish garbage scow that bottoms out on every rut and pothole in the streets. “Easy, easy, sit still back there,” she says, creeping across a speed bump, and they just laugh, cracking jokes.

Dance is sitting between Drin’s knees, leaning up into his chest, so relaxed that his head is cradled in Drin’s big hand. She’s just turned onto the street in front of the main Metro doors, when Drin cranks open a window. “Hold on, please–” and he waves at somebody.

The car idles at the curb while he’s talking to one of the office ladies, and some of the musicians stop to talk to Amalia and then to Dance. Of course nobody even blinks when Drin wraps an arm tighter around Dance to brace him in position to talk.

Amalia turns to Emma and winks, points her thumb at the boys in the back, and shakes her hand as if she’s picked up a burning hot dish.

Emma grins.

Then Amalia murmurs, “Best part–you’ll like this, Em– Happy queer boys wigglin’ in their seats? God, Young was suckin’ that lemon of his so hard, you shoulda seen his face.” And she imitates it, puckering everything on her face that will move.

Emma starts to laugh, and smacks Amalia on the arm. “You’re so rude!”

“Me? You shoulda seen these two. Make your panties wet for a week.”

Emma stares until Amalia pokes her.

“Trust me,” Amalia says. “Dance’s brain is not in his music just now.”

The boys are still busy talking to folks eddying around the car. Emma eyes the traffic in her rear-view mirror. “Soon, right, guys?”

“Okay, okay, sorry, Em, we can go–” Dance says hastily, but his hand is still moving, talking to somebody.

Drin grasps Dance’s wrists together where they are sticking out of the window. The big man hauls Dance back inside the car, and winks at the people outside, and says, “Okay, Em, I’ve got his hands, he can’t talk now.”

Dance wiggles his fingers, looking at Drin in surprise or outrage or something, just sputtering wordlessly.

Drin kisses him on the cheek. “See? It works.”

People laugh, and step back from the car.

“All mine,” Drin says, looking at Dance fondly. “Oooh, nom nom nom, mine.” He drags the other man’s wrists up so he can kiss Dance’s knuckles, nibbling on him.

Dance just stares at him, mouth open.

Of course people outside the car see and hear all of this, and are laughing harder.

“Okay, they’re all clear,” Drin says to Emma. As soon as she puts the car in motion, he starts laughing at Dance’s expression.

It’s pretty funny in the rear-view mirror, too.

“You– our Drin, please, you just made everybody know that– that we–”

“I did,” Drin says.

“Totally,” Amalia agrees.

“You okay with that?” Emma asks.

Dance isn’t making any words as his mouth moves. He’s just sprawled across Drin’s lap with his hands captured in Drin’s big fists.

“Oh, no, you did that when you went trotting upstairs at every break,” Amalia says comfortably. “Hope you two didn’t get splinters, silly boys.”

Dance’s mouth is still working. “Um. Um. Ah.”

Amalia is grinning. She looks at Emma, who is also grinning. Emma puts up her open hand, Amalia smacks it with her own palm, and they start laughing.

“So was it good?” Emma demands of her best girl friend.

“Oh yeah,” Amalia says, waving her other hand as if she’s fanning herself in the heat. “Cat, cream, whiskers sopping wet, empty canary cage, exhausted trumpeters, you name it.”

Drin opens his mouth in outrage–Emma is watching him in the rear view more than she should, in this traffic, and it’s delightful–and then he gets a rueful expression on his face, and he starts chuckling, shaking his head.

Dance is a reddish brown color, he’s flushed so dark.

Emma looks at him, too. “So you feel better?”

Dance nods. And slowly, that smile of his breaks out on his face. Widening, as Amalia twists around and shakes her finger at him.

“Don’t run up the damn stairs like a herd of elephants. People might think you really wanna do something up there.”

“Um,” Dance says, biting his lip, but the smile breaks out anyway. “I did.”

“No TMI, okay? You’re happy, Drin’s happy, we’re all good. And hey, if you’re gonna use the elevator, at least wait until the door shuts, will ya?”

Drin kisses Dance on the cheek, chuckling. “That was my fault, I’m afraid.”

Amalia shakes her finger warningly at him. “No more whistling the Ride of the Valkyries, please.”

“Oh God, you didn’t,” Emma gasps.

“He did,” Dance says. “Drin is very naughty.”

“Well, it’s not like it was a secret by then, was it? Goddamn Robert started doing the descant, and then everybody was doing it,”Amalia says, and sniffs.

Emma is laughing so hard it hurts her back and her sides.

“Off-key. That was the naughty,” Dance says solemnly.

“Just to bug everybody?”

Drin is grinning at Emma in the mirror. “Of course. Because it was funny.”

“You’re a toon! I knew it! So how many chairs did you guys break, crashing around up there?”

Dance is suddenly blushing dark all over again. He mumbles something, and Drin is just laughing.

Amalia says sternly, “Are you driving this scow, or am I?”

Emma swivels her eyes front to traffic, hastily. “Right.”

“Uh huh,” Amalia says, disbelief in her voice, and then suddenly, for no reason at all, they’re all cracking up.

Emma is pretty sure they’ll be laughing their way through dinner, and Amalia will be yawning in exhaustion by the time they drop her off at home that evening. Then, back at their cramped little place, Drin will tuck in his yawning lover, and give Emma a nice kiss on the cheek when he leaves.

If his habit of the last few weeks holds, he will drive home to his big glossy apartment alone. It just seems… sad.

She looks up into the mirror. “Hey, gotta get groceries for the weekend, too. Drin, we can swing by and pick up your laptop and files and pee jays and stuff for the weekend, if you like, it’s on the way.”

He smiles. “I’d like that.”

“Slumber party, warning, warning!” Amalia says.

Drin blushes a surprising pink at that, of all things, and grins. “Yeah, there may be way too much popcorn and computer games and soda pop.”

“Come to think– do you want to swing by the store with us too, Amalia? Save you a trip. There’s room in the trunk, Dance cleared it out for me last week.”

“And you didn’t refill it with books yet? Woman, are you ill?” Amalia exclaims.

There is chaffing about books as ‘Emma’s spoor’, and how many book bags it takes to slow down the Emma of Doom to a walk, and whether paperbacks count as books to lure an Emma, and they just have a great time with it. Emma’s just as pink as Drin was, before Drin gets a message on his cell phone that makes him groan.

The call involves giving technical advice to some distant cousin with a money problem. He seems very patient, finding six different ways to explain the same thing, and he’s got an answer for every dodge the party squawking on the other end can find. He is requiring the cousin to cough it up and admit to a transaction done with poor judgment, done in spite of good advice, done against the wishes of everybody else concerned.

“Stubborn,” he sighs, putting away his phone.

“Yeah, and now we know who’s really got the corner on stubborn in your bunch, don’t we?” Amalia says, looking around with her skeptical eyebrow cocked up.

“What? Whatever do you mean?” Drin says, in an arch tone. “Why, I have no idea–“

“Uh huh,” Amalia says, in the same tone as before, and Emma laughs.

Dance just rolls his head, smiling, apparently listening to the words resonate in Drin’s chest. He doesn’t even look imbecilic doing it. He looks… happy.

Emma drives, watching the traffic and just smiling, missing half the quips, and nobody minds.

Naming Himself

The following week is reserved for a fancy lunch at Shura’s diner, which requires a ride in the seductive car. After a brief walk, in which Dance still has the same problem in his pants as last week, which is still funny and oddly flattering, finally they’re passing into the gate of the secure garage Drin always uses in the area. He holds up one warning finger. “Hold the lovely thought. This place has many security cameras.”

“Ahh,” Dance says. “But our Drin also has the very good imagination, yes?”

Drin smiles. “Oh yes. And practice at planning, too, don’t forget that.”

Dance does have a way of reminding him why he bought that car.

“Good,” Drin breathes at last, kissing the other man’s mouth as the hot body melts down into Drin’s embrace, muscles loosening. Drin disentangles himself with a reluctant little noise from Dance, and puts the car in gear. Well, lunch is still on the agenda. People will certainly ask Dance how it went. He himself took the afternoon off work with the sure knowledge he’d never make it back anyway. If he’d driven Dance home with a strict no-touching policy, they could have been together naked in Dance’s bed by now. He could have had Dance snugged up like this in his arms, all warm and cleaned up and fucked down to a standstill and ready to sleep.

“So how do you feel about having some lunch?” he asks instead. The smell of Dance’s sweat and semen in the car is getting to him. Drin’s cock is hardening again, which is crazy.

Dance smiles slowly. “We–I– would like to have lunch– if I can behave myself. Amalia warned us all to be careful. We really don’t want to go fucking in any restroom of Shura’s restaurants.”

Drin starts laughing. “Wow, Amalia really lays down the law!”

“She is blunt, yes.” Dance is sprawled back in the seat, turned a little toward Drin. His hand comes out and rests on Drin’s thigh. “Miss Amalia says you are sex on nice long legs. She is right. I do… want to fuck in restrooms. Oh, being honest, it is just wanting to try everything–and in bed is nice too, Mister Planning Expert.”

Drin laughs. “I’ll scope out some nice places just for you. You come up with some ideas, you just let me know, we’ll see what’s on the calendar, how’s that?”

At Shura’s cafe, lunch is slow and ceremonial and full of pauses to think about things they’re saying. Perhaps it’s the civilized tidiness, the bright cheerful bustle, the open light, the feeling of being outside time. There’s no rush. Dance has an interesting conversational rhythm, full of pauses for thought, picking his words a little slowly, as if he’s halfway distracted by what’s going on in his head, and yet so quick to react when Drin speaks, so light on his feet taking off in Drin’s new direction, like tango for brains. He’s absorbed great rafts of his roomate’s phrasing and terminology, he sounds half-Aussie himself. His wry stories are delivered dead-pan, the eyes smiling slowly as he gets the reaction he was looking for. That, and the whisper of his original Korean accent–the softened glottals, the open Chinese-style R sounds, and a scholarly coolness of body language–make Drin hard as rock in his pants.

Drin brings up one hand, rests his chin in it. He knows a few things about Dance that probably he shouldn’t, as a personnel matter. The Metro’s office ladies give Drin ridiculously free rein in their files; and he’s been shameless about raking through unrelated things while looking for those misplaced records he needed to do the taxes properly. He’s got a few questions about Dance’s file, but they can wait a few more hours or days. He’s told Dance some of the fun bits about his own family, describing the friendly faces and who can be counted on, but he hasn’t asked about Dance’s family.

Dance doesn’t gush into his silences, like some would. Any performer knows the uses of silence. Sometimes he just settles back and smiles, and lets it stretch out and he waits, like a cat in his corner, about to pounce if Drin moves. Drin sometimes leaves the string dangling quiet, as if he doesn’t notice the muscles poised in the other man’s body, waiting. It makes the temptation to pounce so unbearable, when he goes casually flicking out the next hint.

A king can play with a cat, too, and pretend to ignore it. Just wait.

It’s a long sip of the excellent coffee before Dance decides he has something to put in that silence. Something worth sharing with Drin, who might not want to hear his confessions. He’s shy, or cautious, aware that he might be the toy of the month, and his bloom as brief as the time that he opens his mouth and says just the wrong thing, or too much. Perhaps he is afraid of being perceived as just another Robert. But he looks up in Drin’s eyes, and he says it.

Even if he could afford to go back to his country, he’d keep it short, he tells Drin coolly, not trying to whisper, not trying to lower his voice, saying it out right there in the brightly-colored diner booth. He’s been dismissed from his Korean family. Told not to come back.

“Disinherited? Thrown out?”

A nod, a retreat that draws down a curtain of hair over the eyes. Brown notes in that hair catch the light, but the folds and shadows go blue.

“Why?”

“When this happens, big surprise. No idea why. Later on, our grandmother, our teacher, she tells. Bad things came in their postal service. And then very bad things come to–me. We do not know if it was different or same as what our honored parents suffered. We do not know if it was faked. But they believe it. They were shocked by– by my wild new American ways.” An eye emerges from the curtain. Not coy, or angry, or cautious; sad.

Drin cocks an eyebrow at him, and Dance spreads those expressive hands wide, lets them fall. “Yes, we know, all this staying up late to work, every night copying scores, so shocking.”

“Perhaps somebody wanted you to lose your position at the Metro. Any idea who might be that bad an enemy?”

Dance shrugs. “Too many possibilities there. Open up the upper ranks, yes? It can get ugly.” He tilts his head. “Our Miss Emma makes a quote, she says, ‘The fights are so bitter when the stakes are so low.'”

Drin feels a flinch that he tries not to show. “When did all this happen?”

Dance shakes his head. “Third week after we–after I just got here. Yes, that letter went to our Miss Amalia’s house. The second time, when our grandmother calls, maybe a month later. Yes–we– I– I was at our Miss Emma’s house. We hear that somebody sent nasty pictures to our parents, and then someone called them. Our grandmother thinks the pictures were fakes, she says no way to be sure. But our parents believe it is true. Must be all true. Will not say to our Grandmother why they believe it. Very bad things. Crimes. The parents told her this angry caller spoke bad Korean with thick Slavic accent. Not Russian, not Chinese, not Polish, some other Eastern European language.”

girl looks back in trad Korean clothes
Back in the Old Country

He explains that the parents cut him off from phone calls, from letters, shut off the contest matching funds that brought him over from Korea, stopped everything. They stopped returning his messages. For two months, for all his worried frantic efforts, nothing. Dance gives another of those restless shrugs. He admits that few of his family ever responded to his calls to begin with.

“How did you keep going?” Drin asks.

“Our Miss Emma rescues us,” Dance says. It was his roomate who kept him fed, who scratched around and got him new funding as first chair. Anonymous donor, so he doesn’t even know how to thank them, and he wishes he could.

Drin knows more than he should from the files about that, too. The anonymous donor is hardly unknown. But it wasn’t Bud Innes, as he half-expected. Shura Korachevnik kicked in matching funds to keep Dance’s prize grant active. Miss Emma likely does know about that, as her name is on the earliest emails on file for the change; interesting that she kept the confidence, and didn’t pass it on to Dance.

“Have you heard from your family since then?” Drin asks.

Dance takes a deep breath, and replies that he gets emails from his blessedly tolerant grandmother. He explains this is the proper term of respect for his most important music teacher back home, she is very distantly related. He was so relieved when she sent him that first, tentative, awkward message on the computer. She’d always used the phone before.

Don’t tell your father I try talking at you, she wrote him, don’t disgrace his name or our name.

Dance makes a grim face, looks up at Drin. He says, “Then pictures came to us. Bad ones. We– I do not want to tell our Emma. She’s on a trip. We– I– I just cannot do it on the phone. So– so– I take this to police. I do this again when we– when I get more pictures, a second time. After that, nothing.” He shrugs.

Drin watches the mobile face flicker through expressions, like clouds passing. The musician smiles, putting wry quote marks in the air. “We get good emails from our grandmother now. She learned to– attach pictures. Baby pictures, school events, our nieces. Better now, yes? Back then, bad. Our Emma, and–and me– we call that ‘the Months of Being Alone’. We did–I did email our grandmother, asking about how to– how to save face for our parents, our family. I ask how not to mess up the family name. But no answer. So–” A shrug.

So he changed his name.

Drin knows a few things about that, too. That was a strange thing to do. It’s a cardinal sin for the only son to walk away from the family name, but Dance did it. Now the man’s legal last name is Dance of Knives, that’s it. No first name. Part of the puzzle of the guy–it’s nothing like any Korean name he’s ever seen. Come to think, it’d take some kind of special exemption for Immigration agents to allow him to do that, too. Drin leaves space, waiting for whatever his musician wants to say.

Dance fidgets with the coffee cup, perhaps thinking out words. Then he says, “In spite of problems with INS rules, we must be doing this. Our grandmother asked us not to embarrass her family. We are– I am still feeling it was the least we must do for her.” He lowers his chin, falling silent, and the wing of glossy hair falls forward again, draping loose across his shoulder.

closeup b/w image of partial face, one eye veiled in hair
eye veiled in hair, source unknown

It costs Drin pain to sit still. He wants to stroke back that hair in a reassuring touch. He is not sure–not yet–that Dance will understand it that way. “Why did you choose that name?”

Dance flicks up a smile. “Oh, it just started as a nickname from our Miss Amalia, when we–when I am–I was angry, in her kitchen cutting carrots. Whack-whack-whack. She calls it out, she says it sounds like a very Western, artsy, fake name. We say to her it is a big chop socky movie name picked out by an American-born boy who doesn’t speak Korean at home.” Another shrug. “Now our Miss Emma says, why not, for a fag who plays Western classical music for a living.” At Drin’s skeptical glance, Dance smiles again. “Our Miss Emma is very butch when she is off work, in the car, in private. She says it loud, like big banner: Dance, you are the cutest damn faggot, go be fuckin’ proud of it.”

Drin says wryly, “I guess I’ll have to start calling her Killer, or something.”

Dance nods. “And what all our parents fear– why? We are never doing anything! All talk, no… I am so slow on learning these fun parts of queerness. Well, until now, of course.” He gives Drin that wry, sunrise smile of his.

“I’ll be happy to help in your education,” Drin says, smiling back.

“We would love to take our Drin to our country, meeting our Grandmother-teacher, but our parents would not allow it for her to see us,” Dance says.

“They could stop it?” Drin says.

Dance sighs. “Our grandmother warned us– me– not to come back. She says our parents turned over those nasty things to American Embassy. American INS asked me many questions first two months, but nothing now for a year. But our grandmother warned us, our parents promised to get–me–and any person who comes with me–arrested at the Korean airport. The threat is true enough. Our parents both work with status at aerospace companies.”

The man’s family, his background, that is something Drin checked out months ago. Of course Drin has done his homework on such an obsession. Drin studies his beautiful musician in the bright lights of the diner.

Dance seems calm about all of this. There is no anger, no bitterness. It’s left unspoken that fury gets transmuted into art.

Dance just says, mildly, that he thinks about that when he plays Dvorak’s old workhorse, the Symphony Number 9. One of the basic audience-friendly perennial favorites. People cry, when they play the piece. It reduces old ladies to tears.

“The New World,” Drin nods, “I remember reading that the composer was giving an old world musician’s reactions to our wilderness, how it felt to be in a strange new place.”

That earns a flash of answering energy in those amazing dark eyes smiling at him. Just an easy lob from Dance, a floater that any slob of a patron should have smashed. Which told Drin something about his fellow patrons–they aren’t the most musically literate bunch he’s ever run into. But they mean well, and he enjoys talking to them. Dance doesn’t test them at all, when he talks to them. But he’s studying Drin’s face, looking for something. “Did Drin– did you like it, when you heard it last?”

Drin has to stop and think about it. Something on the radio. He just remembers some gawky slow entries by the horns, and some questionable tempo choices. From his comments, Dance chuckles, and identifies which recording it probably was. He explains their Miss Amalia brings object lessons in, and she will play important new recordings during breaks. “Our Drin knows of better versions, we can tell. Knowing what it ought to be like! Which recording did our Drin like better?”

Drin smiles, lifting his hands in defeat. “I don’t remember the versions all that well, but I’ll try to do better!”

Dance leans in. He doesn’t blink much when he’s after something. “That is pretty good memory, honestly. Are there other pieces our Drin remembers liking?”

That afternoon is when he first starts poking at Drin with his musical claws, probing Drin’s mind in a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of what he likes, what he knows, what he pursues, what he dislikes, and why. It is something like resting gently on a bed of nails that moves all the time. Drin expected some questions. He didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, going back through all of his favorite things–and many of them not traditional repertoire at all.

It’s a kick listening to Dance hum Santana’s distinctive phrasing, chiming the water glass with his nails with the timing.

Dance smiles. “It was our grandmother who was the first telling us about him, sending us links on Santana. She told us, don’t pay attention to all the guitar masturbating, just study his technique.”

“She sounds as bad as Amalia!” Drin exclaims.

“Oh yes, like our Miss Emma. Our grandmother is blunt,” Dance agrees. He is attending to the wonderful borscht soup, and Drin lets his eyes rest on the delicately scarred face of this delicately scarred man. If Dance is some kind of criminal or con artist, he’s a remarkably convincing one. Genuinely poor, too. He licks off candy wrappers, retrieves every scrap of food from his cooking pans. The surprise is the generosity of the servings he spoons out for Drin as his guest, and for Emma.

From the tense set of his shoulders, Dance has gone back to his unpleasant topic, because there’s more to it, and he’s trying to be brave.

Drin asks quietly, “Were you worried about other bad things happening now, so you needed to warn me?”

Dance nods. “These people who hurt our parents with these nasty pictures, we do not know what they want. We do not know why it happened. Why do it?”

“Are you worried somebody will send me nasty things? Whisper nasty rumors?”

“They might. How did they know to send things to our parents over in our country?” Dance says. He pushes back the empty soup bowl, and folds the hands together on the table in a bony knot.

“You think I give up that easy?”

Dance just stares at him over the knotted hands. “Would it not depend on how nasty?”

Drin considers this. He’s not going to begin by lying to Dance. “Yes, you’re right. It might.”

Dance is already turning his head away before Drin can touch him. Dammit, he’s so fast! Drin reaches across the table and cups Dance’s face in both his hands, and strokes back the hair from his eyes. “I’m not easy to get rid of. Not without a lot of work, figuring out what’s going on.”

“Yes,” Dance says, and there’s a liquid glitter across his eyes. Muscles jump in his jaw. But he doesn’t lower his eyelids, and he doesn’t look away.

Drin strokes the sides of the man’s face. In this brightly lit diner, he has grown certain that there’s nothing decorative or tribal or careful about Dance’s scars.

They’re burn marks.

He’ll save the rest of his questions for another time.