Dance has fallen asleep, head curled up on his arm against the passenger window of the car. His torso is twisted in that funny position again, the way he does when his lower back is hurting him.
He’s been doing that a lot for the last three months, and he won’t go to a doctor about it, any doctor. Shies away from talking about it, too. Talk about passive resistance! How come Drin had no idea how stubborn and prideful the guy could be? His beautiful musician can be elusive as a cat at bath time–and Dance cries as pathetically as a wet cat if he’s caught, too.
Last week he didn’t want to admit he’s been giving money to Miss Twillzer’s new baby rather than buy himself new running shoes. His buddy Amalia Mortkowicz got fed up and ratted him out to Drin on that one, jabbing her finger and glaring up at Drin to fix him, dammit.
Of course Dance made a joke of it, clutching his crotch and squawking as he dodged away from her, and then he slid away from Drin’s flailing grab. Dance ended up running up the stairs with Drin arguing after, until he let Drin grab him on the landing at the top. Then Dance wasn’t interested in making excuses, he just tried to hush everything up by kissing everything he could get his mouth on. Drin dragged him by the scruff of his jacket into the little green room with the lockers, locked the door, and mauled him all around the room until it reeked of mansex in there. One of the folding chairs had to be snuck out into the trash, too; Dance forgot how strong his grip can be.
Drin steps out quietly, comes around the car, opens the door, catches Dance as he slumps outward. Dance doesn’t even both to properly wake up. He just lolls into Drin’s support, yawns, and closes his eyes again.
The smaller man eats more than Drin does now, he’s always apologizing for eating second and third helpings, but he’s been inhaling food as if he’s starving for weeks now. Drin is always finding empty sauerkraut and kimchee jars in the trash, cabbage and carrot wrappers, empty oatmeal boxes, where Dance is filling up his stomach like a dieter. Drin has been taking him out for steaks or seafood as often as time allows, and he’s still hungry an hour later. Drin checked for symptoms of bingeing and purging, but he’s not finding anything like that in the house.
Dance feels heavier, and his pants are too tight. But his face looks thinner than ever, and his muscles are cut almost as sharply as when they first met, when he was living on very little food indeed. He wants to sleep all the time, too.
“Umph,” Dance grunts, with Drin’s shoulder ridged into his gut. “Just wanna li’l nap–” Drin doesn’t let go when Dance squirms. He just marches through the house to the bedroom. Drin rolls the man down onto the bed, hauls the shoes off him, and drags a blanket over him. Dance is gone again, out cold by the time Drin kisses his cheek. Not even a mumbled noise.
Drin marches back through the house, closes up the car and puts it away, and comes back into the house more quietly. When he closes the side door, he finds Emma sitting at the kitchen table, yawning also, with her cheek scrunched onto one hand and her ratty old terry robe twisted awkward around her body.
“Sorry, did I crash you out of bed just now?” Drin asks, and pours out the hot tea she’s started. Hands her the mug.
“Gawd, thanks love,” she says, holding the hot mug and breathing in the steam. “No, woke up with my face on the table again. Hate that.”
“You can’t possibly get more done tonight when you have to work in the morning–”
“Tell it to Dance,” she yawns, and slurps down half the mug, scalding hot. The woman has a mouth of leather for hot drinks.
“His back’s hurting him again,” Drin reports.
“Jesus Christ on a buttered biscuit,” Emma mutters. She stretches her hands. “Isn’t one of us gimps in the house plenty?”
“Kind of messy biscuit, isn’t that?” Drin responds, pouring himself coffee.
“Fortified,” she says, automatically. “Better than bloody saints on soggy crackers.”
“I daresay,” Drin says, and slurps coffee gratefully. It’s not like he can point fingers, either. The last few weeks, he’s also been getting dragged off his laptop and put to bed by his partners.
They sit blinking at one another over the steaming beverages. They both know the caffeine won’t help a bit.
Emma gives a questioning noise.
Drin sighs. “You know where I found him? Asleep in the storage room. He was copying out part of an old score. Got done, he curled up right there between the boxes.”
“Sad. Oughta let him sleep for two weeks,” Emma says, scrubbing at her eyes.
“He’s got plenty of leave time for that, if he’d take it,” Drin says.
“Let me sleep for two weeks, I’d take it,” Emma says.
He smiles. “Me too.”
“So why don’t we? Jesus Christ in a bread basket, when was the last time you had a day off? And not the crazy hang-gliding vacation. Neither of you slept on that trip, or so I heard.”
“More sacred carbs? Oh God, Emma, Dance was on my laptop looking things up about learning to fly whenever we weren’t out on the cliff, I don’t think he touched the bed unless we were making out. Before that? I forget. Um, sometime last year.”
“You’re getting punchy too. Have some damn toast,” Emma says, ratcheting their cranky old toaster and reaching for a plate.
“Thank you, I will,” Drin says, pushing over the butter bell toward her. That’s something he found for Dance, one of the cooking toys they’ve found useful.
“And the two weeks of leave?” Emma says.
“You’ve got that conference, right? I’ll start setting up a trip tomorrow. It’s the only way we’re all going to get to fall over and rest.”
“Stop yawning, man,” Emma says crossly. “Once I start, I won’t be able to– dammit.” And yawns.
“So where are we going after the conference, Madam Librarian Panelist?”
“Hot or cold place?” she asks, thumping the toaster expertly.
“I’ll ask Dance.”
“What do you feel like?”
“A nice big warm bed,” Drin says.
“Sounds excellent to me too. Let me check on dates. They promised us Spain and fabulous European caves, but they never actually deliver, come the time.”
Drin smiles. He’s heard about last year’s change of venue, and the one before that.
She butters the toast, hands him one piece, crunches into the other. “Dance postponed on the checkup again.”
Drin scrubs his face in his hands, rests his chin in his palm. “Right.”
“He’s afraid what they’ll say about his weight. He says he forgets ‘how to make himself be light’ when he’s nervous.”
“‘Being light?’ What does that mean?”
“You know how literal he is. He borrowed Melanie’s scale in the Metro office. He told me he’s a hundred forty US-el-bee if he’s ‘being very light. ‘ If he lets it all hang down, as he put it, then he weighs two hundred and thirty pounds.”
Drin blinks at her. “He can’t possibly! I just carried him in the house myself!”
“Uh huh,” Emma agrees. “Apparently he was helping you out there. When he first started going to the dojo, he weighed about a hundred ten with his shoes on. Granted, he’s put on muscle, but not that much. Hey, go check it yourself. My weight was correct on it. Darn it.”
“Um, have you– asked him to demonstrate this?”
She smiles crookedly. “Yeah. But the formal version, I figured we ought to both be around.”
Drin stares at her. “Right now?”
“If you like,” Emma agrees, and yawns again. “I can go get my bathroom scale. It’s not terrifically accurate, only to a half pound or so.”
“It’ll do, thanks.”
Drin goes back to the bedroom. “You heard us talking?”
Dance blinks up at him sleepily, nods.
“Hot place or cold?”
“Caves,” Dance says happily. “You should hear Emma talking on caves, so much talking.”
“Okay then,” Drin says, with a nod. “What does being very light mean?”
“Walking lightly,” Dance says.
“Can you show us?”
Dance sits up, leans into Drin. “So tired. Just wanna nap.”
“Can you do it?”
Emma comes in, puts the scale on the floor, and folds her arms. She says, “Do the heavy bit first.”
Dance stands on the scale’s mat. It gives a groaning noise and a sproinging and a crackling of metal, and collapses a very final quarter-inch.
“Right,” Emma says, looking down at it. “Guess that answers that. It was cheap, only went up to three hundred.”
Drin props up his chin in his hand. No wonder the poor bed frame groans under them during sex, if that’s Dance ability to exert force. The other hints of it have been in the dojo, and he’s careful there. “Now do the light bit.”
Dance steps off the scale, takes a couple of strides back and forth in the limited room, and perches on Drin’s knees. “Can’t be more than a hundred ten to thirty, max,” Drin comments, and gives his lover a kiss on the cheek, hugging him. “Do you know how you’re doing that?”
Dance shakes his head, leans back into Drin, curling up into Drin’s shoulder. “Not forgetting lightness when I can sit with you, when I sit with Emma.”
“Is he asleep yet?” Emma asks, looking down at her bent scale.
“Mmmmff,” Dance mumbles into Drin’s collarbone happily. And then he is. Sitting on Drin’s legs, leaning in as limply trusting as a little kid, and yet he still weighs no more than he did before. Drin rolls him under the covers, turns off the light, and glances up into Emma’s skeptical gaze. He shrugs. “Must be that gung fu mojo of his.”
“Or something.” Emma picks up the remains of the scale and carries it out to the trash can in the kitchen.