Drin scrubs at his brows tiredly and wonders if it’s worth trying to volley another message off into the random reaches of the Internet. There’s no sign that his recent messages got back to teslamomma, who doesn’t always answer questions, and he’s reluctant to advertise their little den.
It smells rather like one, to be honest. The bed is a wreck.
Drin looks over at the night stand by the bed, looks at the clutter of two days of hotel living. He reaches out and picks up the crumpled used tissues, the scraps of food wrappers and the latest of the empty baby oil bottles. He puts them into the plastic shopping bag he’s used to line the little hotel trash can. Then he turns in the chair and picks up two long shreds of shed skin from the wrinkled sheets next to Dance’s butt, and puts that in the trash too. Drin has been meticulous about cleaning up all the disturbing visible scraps, but that doesn’t begin to clean up the tiny dander flakes that have been falling like rain into the weave of the sheets.
The maid hasn’t been inside for two days, and it’s beginning to show. It’s going to be memorable when they leave.
Drin sets down the trash can and looks at the two of them sprawled together in the bed. Dance still can’t bear to pull a sheet over his body. He can stand now to wrap the tip of his tail around Emma’s bare waist. Touching her bare skin is all right, but her clothes still hurt him. Dance tries hard to be polite about it, but they all know he finds it reassuring to rest the tip of his tail on her, knowing where she is, like a little kid or something.
He can bear it if he’s touching Drin with some other perfectly normal part of his body instead, so Drin has got used to resting one hand on him all the time, making sure he knows where Drin is.
Progress, Drin thinks, looking at him.
Drin glances at his watch. It’s Monday night. People will be calling around, asking alarmed questions about Emma. People care about her, they’ll think to ask.
The musicians will have been asking one another about Dance since Friday, when he had rehearsals scheduled all weekend, and didn’t confirm, didn’t show up, didn’t cancel. Drin knows better than anyone how out of character that is for the man who was first chair and held the orchestra together and expanded the list of patrons and kept the show running through an unenviable series of guest conductors.
He’s pretty sure Richard Young will not go to a lot of trouble to track down his stray first violinist. The image of how Young would react to Dance now, complete with tail, has been a running gag. Dance set off that that joke, sitting on the edge of the bed and drinking tea with Emma while Drin kept fending off the inquisitive tail tip reaching for his hairbrush.
Drin smiles grimly at the image of Dance in white tie and a long black coat, gravely conducting with the baton poised lightly in a curl of his tail tip, his hands spread widely over the rest of the orchestra sections.
Then he thinks of Dance playing guitar with the tail doing bar chords at the top of the fretboard, while his hands are busy plucking furiously near the sound board. It would certainly be good for his fine coordination to practice like that.
Drin thinks about rebuilding large, whole-body coordination. If Dance was up for sex, that would help, but he seems to be shut down completely. No surprise, as much as he’s hurting. When it eases, Dance may rocket back up into heat the way he was in the car. In that state, Dance is perfectly capable of rolling them both into little puddles of happiness, giving Emma multiple orgasms and mopping the floor with Drin. Talk about full-body exercises–one way to get Dance to train all that new muscle.
Drin has the idea of going out at night to a children’s playground and having Dance work out on the monkeybars. The image makes him smile. It’s going to be awhile before that happens.
Swimming would be good. Dance still has most of his normal body skills for that, and he was good in the water long before this. Drin just doesn’t know if the weight of the tail will be able to support itself in the water, or sink like a stone.
He’s not sure whether the skimpy little hotel bathtub will provide a good enough buoyancy test. He figures Dance will insist on a real bath as soon as the new skin is toughened enough to bear the contact with the local water. He seems to taste and smell and almost see things with the last foot of that tail. Chlorinated public pool water would burn him right now, but it may be all right later.
The vivid memory of Dance climbing out of the blue depths of the gym pool, shaking the water out of his hair, swamps his brain in a haze of desire for a moment, and he blinks it away. Of course, Drin’s happy little man isn’t worried at all about any of the strange biology that Dance has been putting in condoms for months now. It isn’t worried a bit about how it will feel to slide down between Dance’s legs and sink into his ass with that tail arching beneath them both. Drin’s happy little man is convinced that any time now would be a great time to try it out.
Drin keeps telling his little man to shut up, but it doesn’t. It thinks that Dance and Emma spooned together, fast asleep in total exhaustion, are the hottest thing since lesbian videos were invented. Or since he first got to peel the swim trunks down off Dance’s wet hips. Just because Dance’s body isn’t responding now doesn’t mean that Drin’s has gone to sleep. Yet. Dance knows it, too. Being out of heat won’t stop Dance making love, even if his body is torpid now in some sort of chemical sleep. Dance will go on doing things they like, pleasuring them, offering himself up if Drin wants him.
The real pleasure is in seeing him sleeping like this, deeply, healing up. Drin massaged that lidocaine and oil into his skin, using that effort to touch him intimately, gently, making sure Dance’s body knows that it is still appreciated and loved and welcome to him, his fingers sliding ever so lightly around the nervous opening with the new tendons.
That it has become an incredibly sensitive and intimate part of Dance’s body was clear from how Dance’s breathing changed. That the opening gradually relaxed wider, trusting him as he stroked it, was such a turn-on that Drin wanted to start kissing him there.
That it made Drin rigid in his pants was perfectly obvious.
It made Dance laugh a little, wryly, but his eyes were grateful, too.
Drin thinks about the body parts he touched, thinks about how they work, how they felt.
His little happy man still wants to make free with Dance’s crotch in ways that would give an epidemiologist nightmares. Common sense goes out the window. Emma’s right, most men would go right on fucking a mermaid while it was cracking open their heads like a praying mantis.
A cooler part of Drin’s brain speaks up at last and remarks that it might be informative to track just when his happy memories of being fucked to a standstill would match up, in the calendar, against Emma’s cycles of ovulation. She’s fairly irregular, so it would be much more definitive if it matches her scribbly records in the medicine cabinet at home, next to the tampons and the band-aids.
He looks at his watch. He has gone over Dance’s body every four hours with more oil and lidocaine cream during the night, while Emma slept.
Each time, Dance whimpered into the pillows, trying hard not to wake her up. He was still in enough pain that he didn’t sleep much. Between skin cream sessions, Drin sat with him, propped up in the chair next to the bed, talking softly, asking questions about how things felt different.
For a long time Drin just sat quietly massaging Dance’s arms and legs, handling the muscles he could dare to touch, getting the pain-tensed shoulders to ease. Dance rested his head in Drin’s lap for quite awhile, breathing into his legs, while Drin stroked down his neck and scalp and brushed the tension slowly out of Dance’s face with his fingertips.
Now Dance is turned on his side, asleep, with his arms and legs hugged around Emma, because she is warm. She is asleep as deeply as he is, and needs it. There are hollows around her eyes the color of an old bruise.
Next to her, breathing softly, Dance’s face looks gaunt, the cheekbones stand up sharply and the muscles of his jaw clench and bulge now and then, as if he’s grinding his teeth in his sleep.
Drin hasn’t tried to discuss the teeth, or to pretend he understands enough herpetology to peer into Dance’s mouth safely.
He hasn’t tried to talk about false memories with either of them. They haven’t asked yet. That is not going to be easy. They all liked their jobs.
It was hard enough to listen to Dance talk about losing the orchestra. Losing the experience of the Mozart Requiem thundering through the floor boards and every piece busy with its own necessary part, Dance’s violin rising above the horns in wild passages only a fiend would have composed. He sounds calm and resigned and numb when he says that he liked the unity, the drawing and easing of tension as solos come and go, the excitement when a piece was working and he could feel all the other musicians pulling the piece together in a cohesive, tangible sound. He says he will miss that.
Drin looks at his husband.
Our Dance. Ours.
Whoever grew him out in some illegal sarcobox far too small for his full size, they probably thought they were building an assassin.
What they got, instead, was a civilized guy who gets all excited about weird instruments and odd bits of music nobody else knows, and who insists that he’s not going to hurt anybody if he can possibly help it. But if their pursuers hurt Drin or Emma, then he might get a little too cross about it.
Drin smiles. There are a lot of things he should be thinking about, things he doesn’t want to remember, and while he’s focused down into his fingertips giving Dance as much energy and attention and blazing hot righteous love as his whole heart can bear, he doesn’t have to think about any of those other things.
Sometimes he just needs to burn all the crap out of his system, burn away the anger, put his hands on them and just pour his strength out into their bodies, like tonight.
He massaged Emma’s aching back tonight until she fell asleep under his hands, and he can think of no greater compliment from her, under the circumstances.
Then he turned to Dance, and put everything he had into touching Dance everywhere that doesn’t actively hurt. He could feel the energy pouring through his shoulders, down his hot palms, flaring out into Dance’s body in a thousand different tasks. He felt Dance soaking it up and cooling his hands, just like Dance’s new skin has been drinking in all the oil.
It used to be he only felt it when Dance was making love to him, eager and impatient and hungry to get into his pants. Then he started to feel it whenever he touched Dance, like an extra electrical drain that clears his head and calms him down and helps him think better.
Now when he touches Dance, he feels it ramping up from a constant low-level trickle that is drawing down the extra tension in his chest, pulling from the gritty burn of energy bunched and frustrated in his body. He can feel his own capacity is heavier in him, too, that the store of it in him has grown like a muscle under the load, answering Dance’s increased need.
He knows Dance gets hungry for it, too, when he touches Dance after he’s been away from the room for too long.
He knows what Dance is doing with the energy: building himself a new body with it.
He almost can’t bear to see Dance looking back at him with the same wry human eyes as he’s ever had, conscious and aware and hurting in there.
It feels good, pouring strength and order and healing out into the beautiful thing looped along the bed. He knows Emma is doing it too, feeding Dance in her own way, brushing her hands hypnotically along Dance’s curves, singing under her breath, stroking along the bones and teaching the muscles how to flex and respond where she asks, keeping track of the changes, pointing out where it’s outgrown the old coat and begun shedding.
Drin feels tired, and empty, and at peace. It’s been a long time since he felt so good. He’s not going to give it up. Not this time.
Title: I Sing the Body Electric
Writer’s Notes: I owe stellaomega a huge debt of gratitude for suggestions on things to do which will help them make Dance more comfortable.