Unlikely Triggers

Emma points at the computer monitor. “See, this queen-sized one has an iron frame, the legs are about two and a half feet long–”

“No, no,” Dance says, “we don’t need–”

“Yes you do need another bed,” Emma says. “Drin needs it for his back. Stop making selfish excuses. Don’t make those big sad deer-eyes at me.”

“But he never said–he never told us– he never complains– did he ever say he was in pain?”

Emma shakes her head. “Never. And he probably won’t. But I can see it. His lower spine posture in the mornings is much stiffer after he’s stayed here. Nothing to do with sex, either.”

The silence is very loud.

Annoyed, she says, “Oh come on, it’s a small house, and I’m not deaf, so there’s no point pretending I don’t know about it. I just try not to intrude on anybody’s privacy. Truth is, I don’t mind one bit. I’m really glad you two are happy and having fun. Don’t worry about it.”

“How come he never said?”

“Because he doesn’t want to make you unhappy with your things. But I do. I think that bed is a menace and you need to adopt a spanking brand new one and let Drin give you something nice. I think it’d make him happy. He likes finding things to make things a little better for you.”

Dance flops down in a chair and then suddenly he just puts his face down in his hands and he’s crying.

“What on earth?” Emma says, startled. She reaches out for him. “What set you off like that?”

“Nobody– nobody else ever– except you–” Dance has his arms over his face. “We didn’t know it hurt Drin’s back, we don’t want to make him hurt all the time–”

Emma looks at him. If Dance was a woman, she’d swear he was having a rough hormonal day. Hell, maybe he is having a rough hormone day–his pride is kicking him all to pieces. That damn Maestro Richard Young has been hacking at him again, she’s sure of it. Oh, she knows there’s never going to be a good time to tackle getting rid of that poor old bed. Of course he’s frightened of losing that ratty old second-hand bed. It’s been here as long as he has. She found it for him the day after he arrived, with Amalia’s help to move his few bags out of her spare room. Emma wraps both arms around him. “Dance, we’re going to put the new parts in here and let you think about it. We can always send them back.”

That just makes him cry harder. “We wanted to get him a real bed here, but we can’t–”

“You can’t bloody afford it, and we all know it, and Drin wants to give it to you.”

“We can’t–I can’t take more things from him, it’s not right to take his money from him like that, asking for things all the time– we are not a rent boy!”

Emma says crisply, “Whoever thought you were? You play way too well for a rent boy, come on.”

Dance blinks at her. “What?”

“Now, Robert is a really high-class rent boy,” Emma says, tilting her head a little. She grabs Dance’s chin, swabs his face roughly with tissues as if he’s one of the tour kids lost in the library stacks, and gives him a one-armed hug. “It’ll be all right. Really it will. We’ll work on it and find you a bed you’ll like. A bed that’s tall off the floor.”

“Okay then,” Dance says, but he’s still anxious about it. “But we don’t– I haven’t told him– we haven’t told him why.”

“You haven’t told him about your dreams?” Emma says.

“No.”

“Why not?”

Dance takes more tissues from her hand, and wipes at his eyes. “Not wanting to– talk about bad things. Why waste Drin’s time on nasty things? And those are bad.”

“Yeah,” Emma says. “Do you think he can’t handle bad things?”

Dance shakes his head. “We just don’t– I don’t– we are not feeling very brave right now.”

Emma blinks at him, astonished. Then she says slowly, “Because of Young saying things.”

Dance nods. “It’s– it’s hard.”

“Yeah, it is,” Emma agrees.

“Making us very afraid, those– those crab things do.”

She nods.

doll tattoos by artist Follow the Wind on DOA
Surviving Mantis Bugs

“Miss Emma, we don’t want to hurt anybody because we– because I am so upset and frightened that we just–I just lose all sense and just– react,” Dance says.

She looks at him. “It’s getting that bad at work.”

He takes deep breaths. “No. But Young would like it to. And we won’t. I won’t let it.”

“Good for you,” Emma says. “Drin might know exactly what you’re talking about without you having to say much at all.”

Dance takes more deep breaths. “Yes. If anybody knows about bad dreams, he does.”

“Yeah, from what you said,” Emma says.

Then Dance looks at her. “You told him,” he says. “You told him about ours!”

Emma nods. “I said the bed needed to be high because you crawled under there when you had bad dreams sometimes.”

Dance gives a little shiver. “You are very brave.”

She looks at him, waiting for him to be angry for revealing something that’s no business of hers to talk about.

“You’re very afraid of us losing Drin because you said or did the wrong thing, and you tell him anyway, even though you’re afraid,” he says.

Emma finds herself sitting with her mouth open, unable to say a word.

“We– I am– not afraid of that now, because he isn’t going to be scared away like that. Not that easily.”

Emma finds her own eyes filling with tears. The certainty is so clear in his tone of voice. God bless the man, whatever else he has been doing, Drin has convinced Dance that he loves him. That Drin is in it for whatever decent duration is given them. God bless him.

Dance hands her some more tissues, and she nods wordlessly, and wipes her eyes.

“Okay,” Dance says hoarsely, gripping his hands onto his knees tightly. “Show what you found, so we pick a good bed for Drin, yes?”

“Okay,” Emma says. She blows her nose loudly, in a very unladylike manner, and dabs her eyes clear, and tackles bringing up images from her searches on furniture.

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