jar of pickled garlic cloves using a Korean recipe
Maneul Jangajji, Korean pickled garlic, image by Korean Bapsang

The car murmurs with Drin’s voice.  “Yeah, the Board decided to pay for guest conductors for the two shows after that, because Bud lined up a couple of his candidates for demonstration purposes, and Young will finish up this next event, unpaid.  If I was the insurance adjuster I wouldn’t let him in the building, but they signed off on it.  Yeah, Amalia and Dance and Rosie get to sit it out, on leave without pay.  For now, at least.”  Drin holds the phone away from his ear at that squawk of outrage.  “Em, love, yeah, I hear you.  I know.  I know it’s probably not legal.  You should have heard Shura–he knows his labor law.  Yeah, it’s such a mess.”

Dance leans back in the car seat, resting his head in his hand.  All he wants to do is sleep.  Or possibly eat his way through the grocery store, he’s not particular which.  He’s past worrying what Drin thinks of him going through entire jars of kimchee or apple butter or olives or artichokes or pickled beets during his midnight snack-attacks the past few weeks.  Oh, and loaves of bread, too.  Drin hasn’t even teased him about being pregnant the way Emma did.  He just asks what Dance wants, and brings home more jars of stuff.

Drin closes his phone, drops it in the holster on his belt. Then he does that weird Drin thing, reading somebody else’s brain without even looking at them. “What’s going onto the grocery list tonight?  Sweetheart, what are you absolutely craving today?  Mangoes?  Peanut butter?  Saurkraut?”

Dance yawns.  “I put carrots into vinegar to marinate this morning, that’d be good.”

Drin looks at him sideways, and puts the car gently in gear.  “Uh huh.  You’re trying to be good, aren’t you?”

Dance sighs, shoves his hair out of his eyes.  “Well, I want to try–”

“Sushi,” Drin says.  “Sashimi.”

Dance finds he’s gripping one hand into Drin’s pantsleg, very hard.  “Oooh.  Oooh, you make my mouth go crazy.  You are so mean!”

“Uh huh,” Drin says.  “Or nice thick rare steak?”

“You only do that when you’re driving, so I won’t be chewing on your leg instead!”

“Yeah, exactly,” Drin says.  “Barbecue ribs.”

Dance moans, clutching at his seatbelt instead.  “We—I– can’t afford to eat like that all the time!”

“Well, you’re not gaining weight where it shows, that’s for sure.  What else do you really really want to eat?”

“Strawberries.  French onion soup.  Peanut butter.  Cheese.  Roasted garlic.  Bibimbap with lots of spicy pork.  I don’t know!”

“You sound pretty sure,” Drin says.

Dance leans over and pushes his head into Drin’s upper arm, even while the man is driving, and he opens his mouth and drags his teeth over Drin’s shoulder.  Lightly chews on Drin’s shoulder through the cotton shirt.  Licks the warm cloth.  It is soothing. Drin tastes like he smells.  Dance sighs.  It quiets the roar of need in his bones, in his gut.

Drin puts up a hand and strokes Dance’s neck.  “Better?”

“Uh huh,” Dance says, mouth full of shirt.  His tailbone is going off in white hot pulses again.

“How about cantaloupe for dessert with your strawberries–more minerals.  And maybe about six pounds of tilapia instead of a quarter pound of tuna?”

“Okay,” Dance says.

“How many onions?  Some garlic for that pork, too?”

Dance closes his eyes.  “I love you,” he says, muffled.

Drin pats his head.  “Even when I’m mean to you, and I’m going to smell of garlic when I start kissing you silly tonight?”

Dance bites him gently through the shirt.  “Yeah.  Oh yeah.   Oh please.”

“Your back hurts?”

“Mmm.  Fuck me all better, please.”

Drin glances in the mirrors, not saying anything.  Dance knows that he’s thinking about the more clinical conversations they’ve had.  But the big man’s hand slides along Dance’s thigh, strokes him expertly through the loose sweatpants, and he pulls the car to a stop neatly in a parking slot just before his fingers slide into Dance’s pants and finish him off.  Then he leans into Dance, kissing him a moment.  “Better?”

“Oh yes,” Dance says, sprawled back in the passenger seat, blinking up at his husband.  Dance struggles back to the present.  He says, “You don’t have to eat any garlic if you don’t want, I can just roast it and leave it out of the bibimbap–”

“No, if you can stand us smelling of it, then you can pile it on all you like.  Man, your roasted garlic, that’s heaven on earth.  See, you’re not the only one with funny cravings,” Drin says.

Dance squints his eyes tightly shut.  “What’s wrong with us?”

“Don’t know, sweetheart, but I’ve never heard of something driving you to have sex more often, not some disease you catch like measles.  I mean, not the psychological stuff, like satyriasis.”

Dance snorts.  “Our Em can find out.  She may know already.”

Drin smiles.  “Yeah.  She’s so amazing.  Have a tissue.”

Dance sighs, blinking down at the other man’s hand cupping him in his pants.  He will never get over finding that amazing.  When he says so, Drin leans into him harder, kisses up and down his neck.

a pot of kimchee stew bubbling on stove
Kimchee jjigge, Kimchee stew, image by Korean Kitchen

When the big man draws back, his tiger-yellow pupils are relaxed wide open.  “I love you so much,” Drin says, stroking Dance’s hair, and he just accepts Dance’s urgent hug squeezing his ribs until they make creaking noises.  When Drin’s spine makes popping noises, he sighs in relief, and they both laugh.

It’s just more comic relief when Dance takes the tissue and squirms around getting himself cleaned up.  Nothing to be done about the wet spot in the sweatpants, and saying so makes Drin laugh.  It’s always gratifying when an attempt at a joke comes off well.  It always pleases Dance to make people laugh, anyway, since it means he’s understood the social interactions well enough.  Fights and tension makes that white-hot tingling in his tailbone get worse.  Sometimes when he tells jokes, that cluster of nerves will open up and relax, as it is doing now, so it gives a kind of satisfied thrumming sensation instead–much nicer.  He sighs in content.  “Garlic,” he says.

“Indeed,” Drin says, chuckling, and they climb out of the car.

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