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.

Nocturne appassionato

man's hands unbuttoning white dress shirt

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.

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.


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.