“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.