Emma hates tying her hair up in a ponytail. It makes her look like a middle-aged bitch trying to play cute and drop twenty years, in her not-so-humble opinion. But it’s the only thing that works when she’s trying to complete a Wii workout, using the gear that Drin gave her for her birthday. By God, she will use it, and be seen using it on a regular basis. At least it’s decent cardio, she thinks grimly. It’s not a patch on the yoga she does, or on the kind of merciless exploratory stuff that Dance will put her through in his damn dojo, trying to find out what she needs to strengthen for the next month, but by God it does get her blood pumping, and–
“You look fine, stop fussing,” Dance says, reading her mind effortlessly as he pulls out a cookbook, and walks back into the kitchen.
She throws a look at him, and misses her next sequence. Catches up again.
“You should play him the MUD games,” Dance says then.
“What?” Emma exclaims.
“You only not play because of winning too much,” Dance says.
“They’re not even very inventive on the ordered sequences, how hard is that?” Emma snarls, speeding up the Wii unwisely, and stomping through the set of steps.
Dance clicks his tongue. “No pounding, I hear your ankle bones breaking. Stepping on paper, no rustling, Grasshopper, yes?”
“God, how long am I gonna rue the day I ever let you watch Kung Fu–” Emma growls, softening her stomps a little. No point in being noisy, but she wants to pound on something. It’s been a helluva day, including comments from the unseen coach from the back of her skull, laughing at her puny efforts.
And no yelling at Dance either–he’s had a helluva week. He only starts yanking the fancy cookbooks and trying complicated things when he really, really needs to focus on just one thing, and force his brain off all the things that are giving him fits. Performing an egg-oil suspension well-mixed means no thinking about how they can’t afford things at the grocery store, or how Drin covered the gas bill last week, or how the Metro is talking about paycuts and laying people off, with some very nasty specifics on laying off the more expensive, competent, experienced musicians and admin folks–or how their ticket sales are going way down, or how they need to hire somebody to assist a conductor who’s openly courting other jobs anyway–
“–goddamn that sonuvabitch anyway–” Emma growls.
Dance doesn’t look up from his cookbook. Absently, he says, “We’ll survive him, too.”
“Who him?” Drin asks, standing suddenly in the doorway.
“Richard Young,” Emma snarls, and simply flings herself at Drin.
He catches her, of course. He always does. Just plucks her out of the air, both big hands around her ribcage, swings her around tidily in the limited space, puts her back down on her feet, and drops a kiss on her forehead. Then he picks up a thick couch cushion, holds it up, and says, “Box it, man.”
She hunkers down, clenches her fists, and starts pumping knuckles into the cushion. Rising uppercuts, wild roundhouses.
“Don’t lean into it, keep your weight balanced over your feet,” he murmurs, watching. “Keep that other forearm up, fist guarding your face. Good. Bring on that Mohammad Ali lacing-twist. Now gimme a side kick. Ooh, nice. Combo. Chicken kick. Spinning kick. Back up now, you got me on the wall.”
Another two advancing trails, back him up into the wall each time, and Emma is panting hard, mopping stray curls out of her eyes.
“Jog in place, shake out your arms, loosen up,” Drin says, smiling. “Feel better?”
“Yeah,” Emma pants, stretching her hamstrings.
“I had to go to the dojo and get Dance to beat me up last week,” Drin says. “I need him to do that anyway, remind me to get out of my boxing bias now and then.”
She gets down on the floor, stretches more thoroughly, twists, while her muscles are warmed up.
“Pretzel woman,” Drin says fondly, and drops the cushion back into the couch. He yawns and scrubs at his face tiredly.
“When did you get in last night?” Emma asks.
“Oh God, with the flight delays I think it was about 4 am,” Drin says. His hair is sticking up in awkward cowlicks. “Decided to come home instead of layover in an airport hotel. How come Young always pulls this shit when Bud and I are out of town?”
Emma laughs, and Dance cocks up a sardonic eyebrow at Drin.
“Now what is this bit about getting bored playing on the MUDs, because you’re just that damn good?” Drin asks.
“Emma is,” Dance says, stirring something in a bowl. “Emma plinks on parameters, makes programs go hinky.”
“Hinky, huh?” Drin asks, looking at Emma.
“Emma gets design code to make new game variant herself. Reprograms. Here look, your orcs are too easy. Make mine realer orcs. Eat coprolites and die, suckers!” Dance waves his hand like a magician.
Drin looks at her sternly.
“Tattletale,” Emma says.
“Meanie. You make baby gamers cry.” Dance goes on stirring things.
Drin just keeps looking at her, under those bushy brows.
“Well, their game balance was way off, and a lot of people complained, but they didn’t want to stop with the easy win. It was one of those sites where they ask everybody to help out. Here, you want feedback, I’ll give you some goddamn feedback–”
“They have a net-nanny filter for underage players. Hey, the twelve-year-old dorks all got it. And you should’ve seen what they did with the restriction codes–” Emma rests her ankle behind her ear for awhile, gesturing. Then her other ankle, yoga-style.
“Dance,” Drin says.
“Your best girlfriend is a secret gamer dork and she never told me,” Drin says. “And she talks sexy. And she’s making herself into pretzel shapes right in front of me.”
“I did warn you. She’ll kill you if you tickle her.”
“Coprolites,” Emma says, drawling it out, and starts giggling just before Drin flings himself onto her.
By the point they have rolled over almost under the TV, and Drin has admitted defeat in the tickling department, breathless, Emma is sitting straddled across him with game controllers in either hand, and she’s got their net connection open on that same crude shoot-em-up game. “Here,” she says, and starts playing herself, controller in either hand. “Now this is the way it ought to run.”
“Ho shit,” Drin says, watching.
“It’s a little awkward with just one thumb, so I changed the controller buttons.” Her body rocks and sways, she grimaces, leaning into it, with her knees clamped on his hips as if he’s a horse. “Die, you sonuvabitch,” she growls, playing both sides, “Oh no you don’t, take that, ah hah! Didn’t expect that one, did you–”
She only blinks and comes back to herself when Dance is standing over them, holding out bowls with spoons. He had to thump her on the back to get her attention.
“Okay, enough beatings up. Eat your chocolate pudding.”
She blinks. “Ahhh, you made us pudding for dinner?”
“A lot of it, mine with cinnamon, bad me,” Dance says.
“Oh good,” she says. She takes both bowls, looks down at Drin’s interested face on the floor. “Here, have a bite,” and she feeds him a spoonful.
“Oh man,” Drin says, licking the last of it off his lower lip. “Sex in a spoon, my God, Dance.”
“When we have sex, there should not be spoons.” Dance looks at him, shakes his head, and walks away.
“So much for you two. Moan about bruises from the floor, I give no pity.”
“More please,” Drin says, eyes twinkling at her. She spoons another bite into that big lush mouth of his, and watches him smile. Dance is right, of course. Three more bites, and she’s set aside the empty bowls.
She figured she’d look up and find Dance sitting there happily observing them. But she hadn’t counted on having Dance pick up the game controllers, hand one to each of them, give that evil little chuckle, and say, “Now play fair,” and settle back to watch her and Drin battle it out like two obnoxious little kids, yelling at each other.
There was warm soup for dinner, afterward. It was very satisfying. It was even better when Dance asked her to pile into bed with the two of them in Dance’s new bed, with Drin in the middle, a warm heap cuddled together under the blankets in the cold house.
“Coprolite,” Emma mutters into Drin’s neck.
“Gamer dork,” he mutters back.