“Don’t do it,” Emma says.
The man is too smart to pretend he doesn’t know what she means; she’s caught his considering look far too often in the past week. And now he’s wearing that caught-in-the-cookie-jar expression, as if she needed any proof. Plus his quick glance in the direction of Dance’s room, where unending repetitions of some Baroque phrase have long since stopped being entertaining.
Drin is wearing carefully pre-torn jeans, the kind of thing a rich man would wear when he’s feeling Boho. But that feels like a disguise too– as if he’s pretending to be a rich man who’s pretending to be clueless. And that’s part of the peculiar charisma that Emma is currently fighting against. Because if he tried to take her to bed, she really doesn’t think she could say ‘no’.
“I’m really trying, Emma,” Drin says softly. “I–”
“You’ll do more than try, damn your eyes! If you step out of line, I’ll throw you out on the sidewalk.” She squeezes her eyes shut; “I won’t let you harm him in any way. And–”
Losing Drin now would hurt Dance. It would cripple his soul, and she won’t say that out loud to the man.
“How did you do it?” Drin asks. “And why? He was a virgin. At his age, how is that possible?” She hears a tremor in his voice, looks up into eyes as stormy as her own. “He never even noticed the wall you put up around him, he thought he was.. un.. unloveable.”
“He is un-loveable.” The lump in her throat is making it hard to speak loudly. She waves a tired hand and Drin gets out of the armchair and joins her on the sofa. “I don’t know why. You’d think, that face, that body, not that anyone ever sees it, that sweet kid, bloody hell …” She rests her head into her hands. “I never put that wall up. I’ve watched him slam into it, little pieces break off his heart, over and over, and he doesn’t even notice it happening!”
Dance’s arpeggios mutate into ‘G’ minor.
“That’s… You’ve been roomies for what, two years?”
“And let me tell you, I’ve worked damn hard– there’s not many men good enough for him as it is, and of them all, you–”
“I didn’t decide for the pretty second cello.”
“I still don’t. Emma, where are your lovers?”
“Oh, you blasted man you! What– are you expecting the two-for-one deal? Dance needs everything from you, and if you need more than he can give you, and I have my doubts, you’d better never let him find out. Or tell me now, so I can… make a new list, I suppose. Hell.”
“That would be an impossibly short list.” That would be Drin’s most infuriatingly autocratic intonation.
“Fuck,” she says wearily, “Off.”
“Dance is…” Drin’s chest expands and releases in a huge sigh. “He’s a miracle. I’ve never… Christ, I’m closer to.. to whole than I’ve ever been in my life, because of Dance. I’ve never… been given this before. Been given to. This sounds like an egotist, right, but I’m being given the gift of…”
“Body and soul.”
“This enormous responsibility, right.” Drin, Emma notes, does not disagree.
“So don’t look at me like that, damn you.”
There is another long pause, during which the violin stops playing– making both of them jump– and a viola takes up its duties. Locatelli, in moody ‘A’. It’s a short piece, but at least Dance is likely to play it in its entirety, before he disassembles it into repetitive single bars.
She and Drin begin a very civilised staring match. He breaks first.
“If that’s so, I’ve got to ask you for something.”
She stays silent, inviting him to continue.
“And it’s incredibly rude of me, in your home, but I can’t ask Dance to stay with me, you know. Leave his garden…”
Emma, quite suddenly, knows that Drin’s agents are discreetly purchasing, at that very moment, the house she’s been renting. She can see two young men in business casual leaning over a desk with papers awaiting her landlord’s signature, so clearly that the scene hovers in the air before her. She blinks herself back to here. Drin is saying;
“It’s not your problem, it’s mine, and it rather horrifies me. I can control myself, I solemnly swear. But you do know that the glimpses of you in the shower– I know that room steams up– Men are so damn visual, you see.” Drin is… blushing? “I’m slipping from one cliche to the next, aren’t I.”
She won’t help him out, her lips pressed together.
He strains out a laugh; “I need him, I want you, it’s hardly your fault for being so gorgeous, but I can’t help it– Christ!” His big hand slaps down into the upholstery, and Emma immediately thinks– her insane, highjacking imagination– -cut it out-, she orders herself.
Drin is saying; “And it isn’t only me.”
“Oh, stop.” Automatic response, the flirtatious smack on the arm.
“You affect Dance, too. He doesn’t know what to think about that.”
Neither does Emma, but she isn’t looking away from Dance’s sugardaddy’s tiger-yellow eyes. One memorable afternoon last week, sitting on a restaurant balcony off the sea-cliffs, Dance turned his head, laughing with Drin, and their eyes caught the very same sunset light. It was like looking at brothers laughing.
She should look away. She knows, by now, the gold eyes can go as pale as flame. She’s seen Drin sort a few things out during audits he’s just done for the Metro. To quote the lady in the witch costume: He’s not fair. He’s not nice. He’s just right.
She knows all about that one.
“He gets hard-ons looking at you.”
“Hell, Dance gets hard when he’s digging up dahlias for little old ladies, for chrissakes,” Emma snaps. “He’s young.”
“It goes both ways, you’re teasing us, too.” The big hand turns over, lays palm up. Emma stare at it, the long, deep lifeline creasing the very capable palm. It’s not your typical rich man’s hand.
“Who was your last lover, Mizz Librarian?” He’s asking that unforgivable question as if he had every right to.
“Who has the bloody time?” she snaps.
“Oh yes, because your life is a non-stop whirl of work and music,” Drin retorts. “But you can always find three hours to spend in the kitchen with Dance. I’m willing to bet you haven’t gone out with a potential significant for, ohh.. two years or so.”
It’s easier to listen to Locatelli, honestly.
“Why didn’t you fuck Dance two years ago?”
Emma rolls her eyes; “I am not in the habit of seducing gay men.”
“Because– I don’t have to tell you everything, now do I?” She’s feeling teary again, dammit. She can’t hold her anger, can’t keep it going. “Bastard.”
“Emma,” Drin reaches out a long coppery arm to take her hand. “You can have that, now. It’s safe– he’s not a virgin any longer, he’s… imprinted. God, that’s the wrong word, but I can’t think. Another damn cliche, the magic kiss. Christ.”
Emma lets herself move closer, her hand resting lightly in Drin’s. He never grabs. He never hangs on. He never forgets, with Dance, or with her, to keep those fingers relaxed, his hands open.
So she yields to impulse. She grabs onto his hand, and she grips tight, as tight as book-wrestling hands have ever grabbed anything, very fierce.
“Yes,” he says, as if she’s spoken. “Freed, maybe. Let out, so he can fly.”
She opens her mouth, but the sardonic voice in her head has dropped silent. Her mouth is waiting, but for once, nothing comes.
He seems to get words from it anyway.
“I know what I have, Em, and I know what it means, I promise.” Neither of them want to say; for the rest of his life, this man is your possession and responsibility. Civilised people don’t talk about… owning other people. “You can have him, or me, any time you want. You’ll be better at that than I am. It’s safer in your hands.”
“Can I have you both?” She doesn’t miss his quick shiver at that, the tightening in his face.
“Shameless woman,” Drin says with relief, wonder, and something that sounds a little bit like love.
“Shame-free,” she says firmly. “Much better.”