Drin scrubs the heel of his hand across his eyes. “Sweetheart, what are you–why are you up this time of the night– Oh.”

Another bad dream, no doubt of that, and some time ago. The kitchen smells of cardamom and cinnamon and mace and nutmeg and a dozen other aromatics. There’s a dirty teapot and a mug by the sink, a bread wrapper in the trash, and an empty jar soaking in the sink. Apple butter doesn’t last long in this house, not these days.

Dance’s eyes come up to him, and when Drin reaches out, he flinches away. Instead of trying to touch him anyway, Drin pulls out a chair, moving slowly. He’s about to ask when Dance starts talking. He sounds odd: flat, toneless, blurred, as if he’s talking with something in his mouth, like he’s chewing gum, but he isn’t.

“You had a blue uniform. It had gold bees here.” Dance touches his own collarbone. “You had a– a black thing in your hand. A tool. How do you say, a baton. I don’t know, a taser, I guess. It zaps me, it feels like a stinger, it hurts. I was waiting for you in this concrete pit, this cell, I was going to bite you and make you all better because you were sick, but you didn’t want me to. You– you zapped me with the stinger to make me stay back. I bit you anyway. Then I carried you to bed in white hospital room, I made you stay there while the medicine worked, and other people tried to sting me, and I wouldn’t let them. I let you, but I wouldn’t let them. I was too fast. I made them stay out of this hospital place, and leave you alone so you could get better, and it made them afraid. They kept chasing me. Why didn’t you want me to bite you all better?”

Drin sits on the chair so he’s not looming over his lover. “Did I get better?”

Dance rolls his head away, and then he’s covering his head in his hands. “I don’t know, I don’t know–”

“It’s all right,” Drin says. “I’m here. I guess it worked, huh? I’m fine. I’m all here, and you’re here, and it’s fine–” And then his arms are full of heavy muscle and bone, and he gives a grunt of surprise, and kisses the hot skin. Dance’s head is pushed against his chest. “It’s all right.” He’s not sure why it makes sense to say, “I’m not wearing any uniforms with bees, not ever again,” but it does. He can see the uniform as clear as if Dance had given him a picture of it. He’s not sure why the act of seeing it makes him feel so tired. That horrible dread: More doors to things he doesn’t want to see. “Never again, I swear.”

Dance gives a big sigh.

vintage locket

Drin kisses his forehead, murmuring, and hugs the smaller man. Hugs him very tight. “You’re safe, it’s all over. We’re home.”

“Home,” Dance whispers.

“Home,” Drin assures him. “You don’t have to fight anything now.”

Dance burrows in tighter. “‘m lucky, I’m so lucky,” and he’s shivering.

“I think I am, too, yes,” Drin tells him, stroking his back. Dance feels as hot as if he’s been running, when all he’s been doing in gobble up slices of toast with apple butter on it. Doctored up with an amazing collection of spices, if Drin is any judge. “Did the cinnamon help?”

Dance shivers. “Yeah. So hungry. ‘m always hungry. Want more. Something. Korean food. Indian food. Tex-Mex. Afghan. Chinese. Ethiopian–”

Drin strokes the man’s knotted back in long, slow sweeps. “It’s all right. We can get some chilihead goodies. Just chili heat, or lots of different spices?”

“Lots of things,” Dance says. He lifts his head, kisses Drin’s shoulder, and leans his head back into Drin’s arm, stretching back so his throat is exposed to Drin’s gaze. It’s a very odd posture. Drin used to think it was just Dance stretching out those violinist’s muscles. He’s not sure what to think any more, after hearing some of Dance’s dreams; but it’s a request, and he knows what to do.

Drin leans down and kisses him on the cords of his throat, up along under his ear, rubbing his hand along the warm skin, licking thoroughly along the side of Dance’s neck, and as he’s noticed before, those muscles ease. Those all-important shoulder and arm muscles, the sinews for playing violin, gradully relax, the incredible knots and bulges smooth out.

Dance gives a little groan of relief. “Better.”

“Good.” Drin reaches around with his thumb and kneads at the base of Dance’s skull, feeling around for any last resistant fibers, and massages them into submission. Massage will fix just about anything with his partners, he’s found. Well, anything except not being there to do it, or being too busy with work, and he’s not letting that happen again. Dance’s head rolls limply as he rotates the skull and pushes his fingers along in slow sequences along the man’s spine. “There. Magic reset button, yeah? Are you still starving for something spicy?”

Dance gives another sigh. “No, I’m… I’m not. That’s weird. I’m okay now.”

“Maybe it just took a few minutes for the toast and apple butter to kick in?”

“Maybe,” Dance agrees. He stares up at Drin. Solemnly he says, “You’re very scary with a stinger in your hand, you know.”

corridor in rainbow colors
corridor in color

“Hell, anybody would be, that’s the whole point of weapons like a taser,” Drin replies. His own sudden rush of anger is… odd. He’s not angry at Dance. He’s angry at something. Somebody else. What an appalling image– him going after Dance with a goddamn taser, of all things. How stupid. The image infuriates him, angers him, he can imagine it as clearly as it did happen. Like watching a disaster unfurl on a video, and nobody can stop it. Damn fools would do better to walk in on Dance unarmed, talk him down. A tool like that is an idiot’s caution, somebody’s smart idea of going after a bear with a peashooter. He sounds a little too fierce when he tells Dance, “I would never do something like that.”

Dance rolls his head down into Drin’s shoulder again. “You would if you thought I was going insane, if I was killing people, but that’s all you had.”

Drin snorts in disbelief. “I hope I’d never do something that stupid.”

Dance nuzzles into Drin’s shoulder with a huff of warm breath, and gets hugged tighter. Why would Dance dream of being abused by such a thing in his lover’s hand? What is going on, that he has fear dreams like that? Fears of going crazy, yeah. Pictures of dead girls, that’s enough to worry anybody. But would it do any good to tell him that nobody was going to chase him with a taser? Especially not any of the local authorities. Not after that one wacko silly interrogation they pulled on him. Hell, nobody is fast enough to stop Dance from taking such a tool away from them. Nobody. He says so.

Dance stirs, chuckles. “Oh, I’m not that good. Tired. I’m not practicing enough to keep up on my speed drills, you know.”

“You and your impossible standards, man.” Drin shakes his head.

“And yours, my love?” Dance says.

Drin smiles at him. “My standards say I carry you back to bed and kiss you and make you come until you are so tired out that you just can’t stay awake and you sleep like a baby.”

Dance rolls his head up higher on Drin’s shoulder. “I like your standards.”

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