He’s fine at home. Comfortable, warm, easy as falling into a hammock. He doesn’t need other people besides his lovers. Both his lovers. So, a large hammock.
He does not need this.
Drin stares at the co-worker who’s planted himself, uninvited, across the lunch table from his beautiful musician, and Drin is furious at losing his precious lunch time with Dance, at the little sidewalk cafe, during a rehearsal break. On other days, he manages to sit down with Emma, who gets so rowdy that she makes him laugh until his belly hurts.
But work gossip spews across the table like garbage on a tide; Nathan is revving up for a good long visit.
Drin has never thought of himself of himself as a loner. He didn’t even think about it back when he had nobody else. Now he does have obligations, other places to be. He’s left behind the old crowd as if they were a roaring clown college, and the old crew noticed, as careful as he’s been not to flag it around. It shows anyway, a dark honest corner of Drin’s mind remarks.
“So is he a good lay?” one of the women had asked Drin twenty minutes ago, leering after Dance’s departing back. The tailored silk flatters a violinist’s shoulders nicely.
He paid for that. He is the musician’s patron, after all
A lot of people at work have been acting oddly. Making rude loud jokes, laughing like drunks. She had giggled, with hand gestures. For the last month, Nathan’s stories have been offensive enough that they should have gotten him fired. Hell, he’d always assumed there were some rules about all this. He’s a complete novice compared to Emma, who is pretty enough that she has to set firm boundaries all the time, and doesn’t even think about how hard she sets them.
Drin’s shoulders twitch. He has no patience for wasting the limited time he gets to spend with Dance or Emma. Time with people he really likes, hearing them laugh, or give that little cry of pleasure or delight. He wants to do ordinary things with them. Wash dishes, do the laundry, and once in a while give them fantastic camping trips and visits to amazing museums and toys that will make things easier for them.
He feels Dance’s sidelong glance. Do you want to leave? says the look.
No! his whole body protests. What’s more, Nathan will track him down here forever, unless Drin can chase him away. So, he introduces the man to Dance, who knows how to be civilized and remote and very slightly odd. People go away sooner.
Not this time. Nathan sticks, yammering things that shouldn’t be said in public with a sort of giddy sloppiness that Drin has seen from him before, but never quite so badly. Why am I surrounded by whackjobs and aliens? All I want to do is go home and hug the only sane guy I know.
He glances up at the sane guy, who cocks one brow sardonically, and excuses himself to use the restroom. Leaving Drin with the whackjob, of course.
Nathan opens his mouth into a noisy sucking gesture, and laughs. “So, tiger, gonna catch that skinny li’l boy doing some hustler in the men’s room one of these days, aren’t ya? I hear you guys are all into the whole blow job thing, oh yeah, I used to know this cheerleader who could suck the chrome off a truck–”
Drin used to feel pity for this guy.
Now, he holds up one hand, and says, “Let’s just say Dance has his talents, but he’s all about the violin, if you really want to know. Sorry, gotta get him back to rehearsals now.”
Nathan has just started to say the next offensive thing, unaware that Dance has come back by then, silently, able to hear every word. Nathan says, “I dunno how a great big guy like you could bother hanging out with some scrawny AIDS-spreading little–”
–scholar of serious rock and roll who could kick your butt into next week, but won’t bother with the likes of you. He glances up at his partner, seeing an amused little smile. He always forgets Dance is used to gossip, and the people who do it.
Nathan is just starting to open his big mouth again when something red explodes his neck. It hinges apart and his head falls–
Dance says sharply, “What’s that smell?” And Drin is up on his feet, arm out, blocking Dance’s view of the wreck that is tottering horribly in front of Drin. He reaches toward Dance, who is reaching towards him. He sees movement in the corner of his eye.
There’s a car driving up on the sidewalk, into the little block of tables. Straight at them, like a movie.
A shadow blots out his view, there’s a crunch and something thumps into him, a solid impact all down his back and his side, and then he’s rolling, with his arms full of Dance, in the one clear line through the tangle of furniture. His feet are kicking away the light plastic chairs in bright high arcs, each shape an outline frozen in his mind like multiple camera shutters snapping.
Then he’s on his back, with Dance gripped tight, and Dance’s knees get purchase under them both, and he simply hugs Drin like a football and lifts him by the ribs, hoists him up bodily, and carries him in ten driving steps past the end of the restaurant. Drin can’t breathe, the grip is so tight. Chips of brick spang and spatter past them, sting his cheek. Dance jerks aside, head twisting, and he shifts in mid-motion to a new direction, hauling Drin up like a bundle over his shoulder. Five long steps and they’re behind a brick divider. Dance hurls him down there into the planter bed, banging one hand down on Drin’s chest to keep him flattened there, while Dance kneels, head low, to look back around the divider, checking where they came from.
Okay, Drin tells himself, waiting for air to come back into him, along with those wheezing noises. Okay, it’s not textbook. But it worked, we’re alive.
Dance twists around, hair swinging in an arc, and he’s up on his feet, offering his hand to Drin without even looking at him. “Let’s go.” Drin gets jerked up to his feet, and Dance is moving before Drin is quite ready, heading back into the mess, weaving right through people screaming.
Their table has folded like a wet tissue. The car has dead people in it, necks at odd angles. Nathan is half-hidden under the rear of the car. The front end of the car has a round box-shaped hollow in it. There’s a cracked green lamp post just in front of it which is equally bent in the other direction, man-height. More people are starting to scream, at last. They’ve fallen in heaps on the ground, heads covered tightly in their arms, like people who’ve been through bombings before.
Dance weaves through them with his eyes staring wide, not blinking, lips moving. He’s humming to himself.
“Pass here,” he says, crossing the street and slamming aside a heavy glass door. He says, “Call nine-one-one,” to the slack-jawed, white-faced clerk, and he shoves the desk phone into her hand as he passes. Then he’s dragging Drin out the back door, and turning up an alley. Dance jinks and zigzags at each intersection, hair flying as he looks around. It’s a good mile before he’s walking swiftly on the main sidewalk, not making it look like an effort. “We need to get Emma,” he says.
That’s when Drin sees the long rips in Dance’s silk jacket, the crushed buttons, the fragments of old green paint on the middle of his back.
Author’s note: More collaboration, and definitely much the better for it!
me=Nagasvoice, and GreenJudy, Kiyakotari, Stella_Omega and numaari