by Nijiiro Sumi (虹色墨)
illustrated by sevenswells
He’s not cruising, not really. Hitting the big 3-0 does that for a guy. That digit clicks over and you realize that you don’t have one foot in the grave, okay, you’re still pretty fit and you’ve still got all your hair. Then you look around and the boys at the bars are getting younger and younger and they don’t understand when you make jokes about cassette tapes or wax nostalgic about 21 Jump Street and beer pong seems really juvenile and you realize, you are really getting too old for this shit, and you’d like to come home to a friendly face now and then.
Which is why Shane is at this bar, but he’s not cruising. And he’s got his eye on this cute little twink who’s melting into the wall.
He’s small, maybe a full five inches shorter than Shane, with dark hair and prominent eyebrows and dark eyes. He’s thin, but not in a bony way: Shane can see corded muscle on his arms and underneath his t-shirt. He’s got a drink, and he’s sipping from it too often, the way a guy does when he’s nervous and doesn’t have anything to do. Shane takes his own drink and goes to hold up the wall next to the guy.
“Hey,” he says in what would be a yell anywhere else, but in Moby means he’s just able to be heard.
The guy reacts like he’s being held at gunpoint, all rounded eyes and hunched shoulders. “Hey,” Shane thinks he says; it’s hard to tell because all he sees are moving lips.
“My name’s Shane,” says Shane. “What’s yours?”
“Matthew,” the guy squeaks, barely loud enough to be heard, and in a Hell’s Kitchen club you really need to make an effort to be heard, even if they’re a little ways from the dance floor.
“Nice to meet you.” Shane extends a hand. Matthew shakes it; his hand is damp and cold where it’s been clutching his sweating drink, but his grip is pretty strong. “Do you come here often?” Wow, what a lame pickup line. He tells himself not to sweat it; he’s not here to pick anyone up, after all.
“Not really,” says Matthew. Shane has to lean really close to hear. “My friends dragged me here.”
“Let me guess: your friends are off dancing.” Shane nods at the dance floor, where a few dozen sweaty young men are grinding and gyrating and bouncing up and down. Some of them are shirtless, and some of them are in shirts so tight and translucent that they might as well be.
Matthew gives a forced little laugh. Poor guy. He’s probably been fending off wolves half the night. Some friends. Shane’s seen it before, though. He’s pretty sure he’s been that friend, insisting that someone “needs to get out more” and “meet new people,” dragging that someone out to drink and then abandoning them at the bar while he got sucked off over a toilet. Classy.
“I’m a shitty dancer, myself,” Shane says sympathetically, even though that isn’t entirely true. Well, he’s not a great dancer, but it’s not like you really need to know how to dance to bump and grind and smear yourself all over someone’s sweaty body. “Can I get you another drink?” He gestures to Matthew’s glass, which appears to be mostly melted ice.
Matthew shakes his head. Now it’s awkward, because Shane doesn’t really need another drink, but–oh, fuck it. He stays where he is with his Tequila Sunrise. “So, where’re you from?”
“Lawrence,” Matthew says. “Kansas,” he adds, in the manner of someone who’s been in town long enough to know that New Yorkers think they’re the center of the universe and have no idea where anything else is.
Shane nods. “Cool. How long’ve you been here?”
“A few years.”
“No, looking for work.” Matthew takes a nervous swallow of his drink. “What about you?”
“New York born and bred,” Shane boasts. “Okay, not really. I was born upstate. Came here for college, never looked back. What kind of work you looking for?”
Matthew licks his lips, and oh, isn’t that an appealing sight? He has nice full lips, the kind any guy wants to see wrapped around his cock, and they’re slightly shiny from the drink. Rrrrr. “I’m a dancer.”
Ah, that explains the body. But dating dancers is a mixed bag: great in bed (very strong and flexible) and total divas everywhere else. Well, they’re total divas in bed too, but that’s not always a bad thing. Matthew doesn’t seem like that, though. Actually, it’s weird that Matthew’s supposedly a dancer and he’s… not out on the dance floor.
“MmmmMMMMMAAAATTT!!” Someone shoots off the dance floor and nearly bowls Shane over on his way to splat against Matthew. “Are you gonna come daaaannnccceeee?”
“No!” Matthew squirms frantically, not unlike a cat that doesn’t like being picked up, with only slightly less clawing and squalling. He wriggles out somehow from the pile of touchy-feely blond twink and ends up almost pressed into Shane’s front, panting and disheveled. It’s a good look on him.
“Aww, c’mooooo–” The friend cuts off in mid-whine and squints at Shane. A slow smile spreads across his inebriated face. “Whozzis?”
“Shane,” says Shane. He doesn’t offer his hand; the guy doesn’t look coordinated enough not to pull Shane down on the floor on top of him, maybe accidentally-on-purpose and maybe just accidentally.
“Cute.” The friend waggles his eyebrows. He’s not so bad-looking himself, the flush of drink and possibly something else painting a broad pink stripe across his cheekbones, but Shane’s past the point where E was sexy and he could overlook cosmo breath in favor of a good time. But the friend glances at Matthew, then back at Shane, and says, “Okay. Okay. I get the picture. I’ll go.” He attempts an awkward sidle but succeeds only in an undead lurch, not unlike a Bad Romance backup dancer.
“Steve!” Matthew lunges and just barely manages to catch Steve in time. He must be stronger than he looks, especially since Steve’s got two or three inches on him. Matthew hauls Steve up by the shoulders and props him up against the wall. “Don’t. Move.” His tone of voice is the first sign of backbone that Shane’s seen all night. Interesting. But as soon as he looks at Shane he shrinks again. “I need to get him home,” he mumbles. Good thing Shane’s versed in noisy-club-lipreading. “But my other friend–”
“Still out on the dance floor, I got it.” Shane nods. This, too, is a tale old as time. If it were Shane he’d just text the still-dancing friend and leave, but Matthew apparently likes the personal touch. Must be the Kansas. “I’ll look after Steve; you go and find him.”
Matthew shoots Shane a deeply grateful look and disappears into the crowd. Shane watches him go, not just because he has a really fine ass–which isn’t really visible in those jeans, Jesus, why didn’t his friends get him to wear something tighter?–but because Matthew moves with a kind of grace automatic to dancers in their natural habitat.
“He’s an awesome dancer,” Steve confides.
Shane looks at Steve over his drink.
“Oh yeah.” Steve leans closer to Shane. Shane puts out an arm to steady him. “I’m gonna give you his number.”
“I really don’t think–”
“I am. I’m totally, I’m totally doing this.” Steve’s patting down his pockets. Steve’s pulling out a phone. And then the number’s right there, and well, Shane’s only human, isn’t he?
A week later, Shane’s glad he dressed down for coffee, because Matthew turns up in a pair of black skinny jeans, a gray hoodie, and beat-up black Vans. Of course, “dressed down” for Shane means jeans and a collarless shirt and, okay, a peacoat, but it’s the most casual coat he owns, and Matthew will just have to deal with the fact that Shane’s a little West Village. But really, that hoodie’s got to be some kind of crime. It’s shapeless and threadbare and probably came from Ross.
They get their coffees and find a little table by the window, still dusted with crumbs from someone’s coffee cake. Shane brushes them off and they settle in. Well, Shane settles in. Matthew puts his arms on the table and picks at the cardboard sleeve on his coffee cup and doesn’t meet Shane’s eyes. This doesn’t bode well. Which is too bad. Shane thinks Matthew is cute and intriguing and wants to know why this dancer goes to clubs where he doesn’t dance.
“So, you’re a dancer?” says Shane. “Let me guess: Broadway?”
“Something like that, yeah.” Matthew laughs, one of those little stuttered things when it’s not really funny but you laugh because you’re nervous, it’s a knee-jerk reaction, you don’t know what else to do. “What about you?”
Shane works as a graphic designer for an advertising agency. It’s boring but it pays the bills and keeps him in nice clothes, and he says so. He lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Midtown with a pet fish. Matthew says that sounds nice. Matthew has two roommates. They’re the ones who dragged him to Moby last night. They’re nice, but…
“They think you’re old-fashioned,” says Shane. “They think you need to loosen up and have fun.”
“Yeah, basically.” A long, thin strip of Matthew’s cardboard sleeve lies curled on the table, creased from having been repeatedly rolled into a cylinder and flattened again. “I mean, I dunno. Is that a bad thing? That I’m boring and old-fashioned?”
“Nah,” said Shane. “I think it’s a maturity thing. I think it’s cute, actually.” He grins. “Then again, I’m old. My knees can’t take those bathroom floors anymore.”
Matthew’s laugh is a little more genuine this time. “You make it sound like you’re ancient! But you’re what, thirty? That’s not old.”
Shane mimes shock and amazement. “You’re the only gay man in New York that thinks that.”
They go on a few more dates after that: lunch, a visit to the MOMA to see the New Photography exhibit, more coffee. It’s nice. Normal. Date-y.
It’s boring as fuck. Matthew’s father is a professor at the University of Kansas; his mother was a stay-at-home mom until her kids were old enough for her to go back to work as a bookkeeper for a local church; he has an older sister who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and works in marketing. He moved to New York City five years ago looking for work; right now he’s working as dance instructor part-time. (“Oh, really? Sign me up.” “No!” Matthew says, a little too vehemently, then explains, “Dating your students is weird.”)
Matthew is nice. He’s preternaturally sweet, actually: he never fails to say thank you when Shane hands him his coffee cup or holds open a door and apologizes profusely for inconveniencing Shane by showing up to their coffee date… exactly on time. (In Matthew’s world, being on time means he’s late. Shane wonders a little about his upbringing.) He’s soft-spoken and darling and has an adorable smile. And Shane has not even so far as gotten his hand down his pants. So far there’s been a couple of non-nasty goodnight kisses and a few more-than-casual touches, hand-to-shoulder and hand-to-hand and hand-to-small-of-the-back, that sort of thing. And Shane isn’t an animal, okay, this is not all about the sex, but there isn’t any chemistry here. He’s going to have to let this one go.
Then Matthew turns up to their latest coffee date with a couple of tickets to see the New York City Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet at the Lincoln Center. “One of my friends got ’em for me,” he says. He faces Shane a little off-center, so that one shoulder is presented ahead of the other, as if for defense. He looks up at Shane through his eyelashes and doesn’t quite make eye contact. “I dunno if ballet’s really your thing, but I thought…”
“I’d love to,” Shane says, desperately. What the hell. Maybe he’ll get laid.
Shane shows up to the ballet in a suit. Matthew shows up to the ballet in black Dickies, a plaid shirt, and scuffed loafers that don’t look like they actually fit and probably came from the Goodwill.
“I am so taking you shopping,” Shane says.
Matthew flushes. “Um, I can’t really aff–”
“Believe me, it’s a present for me as well as for you.” Shane steers Matthew towards the door. That statement was probably not a good idea, considering this relationship is not really a relationship and Shane’s going to end it before they hit the wall, but seriously.
The seats aren’t the worst in the house, but they’re far from the best: up in the balcony and slightly to the left. But Matthew seems excited to just be in a seat. “Usually, when I attend the ballet, I get standing room tickets in the back,” he explains. “Nobody cares what you wear there,” he adds. Shane can’t help but smile. It’s true that here in the balcony, there isn’t much in the way of pearls. There are a couple of families up here, the kids dressed in jeans, studenty-types in skirts and sports coats, and old couples in khakis and dresses. He flips through the program: car advertisement, jewelry advertisement, plot summary, profile of the choreographer, profiles of the dancers, biography of Prokofiev, another jewelry advertisement, an advertisement for season tickets to the New York City Ballet. . .
“Thanks for coming,” Matthew says softly. God, this guy is so sincere it makes Shane’s teeth hurt. “We can leave if you get bored.”
Shane looks at Matthew’s big, moist puppy eyes and says, “Well, we have a few minutes before the show starts. Give me a crash course on ballet.”
Matthew blinks at him. “Um?”
“I haven’t been to the ballet since I was seven years old and my mother dragged me to see The Nutcracker,” Shane informs him.
“There… isn’t really anything you need to know,” Matthew says. “You just like it or you don’t. Did you like The Nutcracker?”
Shane contemplates the stage. He vaguely remembers being dressed up–well, his family wasn’t the churchgoing type and there hadn’t been any weddings or funerals recently, so he wasn’t wearing a little three-piece suit or anything, but he had his good shoes on. He also remembers they weren’t very good seats, so they were in the back of the balcony, watching someone in a giant rat costume prance about the stage. “I think I thought ballet was for sissies.”
Matthew… giggles, is really the only word for it. “And look at you now.”
“Look at me now,” Shane sighs.
“It’s okay,” says Matthew. “Seriously. Just like what you like. The guy who plays Mercutio is pretty hot,” he adds.
“Oh,” says Shane. “Well, why didn’t you say so?”
Possibly, there’s a fight going on. At least, there are two men dancing really aggressively at each other. Shane cheated and looked at his program, though the light was so dim he had to hold the glossy page really close to his face and thus missed what was apparently a really spectacular leap, judging from the audience’s applause. The woman to his left glared at him for crackling the pages.
Matthew, to his right, has yet to take his eyes from the stage. The last time Shane glanced at him, he had the first knuckle of his right hand between his teeth. Before, it was the second knuckle, and before that, his thumb. It’s incredibly distracting, but better entertainment than what’s going on on stage.
At least he already knows the story: Romeo and Juliet is, after all, still Romeo and Juliet, even if the ballet version of fighting involves people in tights twirling around with fake swords. It’s actually pretty cool, in that “Wow, I sure can’t make my body do that” kind of way. The costumes are good, and all the men have great asses. He wonders why their balls don’t bounce around when they’re doing those jumps. Maybe they wear special underwear. It would explain why they all seem to have giant, prominent packages that don’t move much.
Mercutio wiggles his butt at Tybalt and blows a kiss. It draws a few giggles from the audience; Matthew lets out a sound through his nose that might be interpreted as a snicker. Mercutio is pretty hot, and he’s been great overall, swaggering and mincing about the stage in turns, stealing Romeo’s thunder. Romeo’s a tool, anyway. Shane remembers that much about the play. Oop, there goes the sword under Romeo’s arm. Mercutio staggers about the stage for a good five minutes more, cavorting with the ladies and crawling about under their skirts, before finally collapsing in front of a shocked Romeo with red blooming the front of his shirt. Romeo hugs Mercutio’s body to him and claws at the air.
Romeo avenges Mercutio’s death and is banished, stage left: the curtain comes down and the lights go up. Shane stretches and cracks his neck and is startled to feel Matthew’s hand on his shoulder.
“Bored?” Matthew licks his lips.
“Not at all,” Shane says. “I love watching men in tights.”
Matthew laughs, one of those stammered automatic things again, and presses a kiss to Shane’s cheek. “I’m gonna go take a leak. Be right back.” And he shuffles off, leaving Shane to contemplate that casual peck. That’s the kind of thoughtless kiss you give a boyfriend. So is this it, then? Have they entered boyfriend territory? More to the point, if this is boyfriend territory, does that mean Shane is finally in? Shit, man, it’s the ballet. He’s totally in. In Matthew’s pants.
It’s going to be really awkward if they stop seeing each other after this.
Then again, it can’t be awkward if they never see each other again, because they’ll never see each other again.
Shane figures he’ll just roll with it.
The air outside is startlingly dark and cool after the artificial environment of the Lincoln Center. Shane takes a moment to shake out his limbs, resettle his jacket, then turns to Matthew and suggests, “Want to come back to my place for coffee? Or a drink?”
It’s a blatant invitation. Matthew regards Shane with large, liquid eyes, surprisingly calm for a guy who was defensive about his outfit three hours ago, and says, “Sure.”
They take a cab. Matthew doesn’t protest about the money for once, just knocks Shane back against the opposite passenger side door. Fuck seatbelts: Shane cannot be safety-minded with 135 pounds of wiry dancer pressed up against him, licking his way into his mouth. Shane thinks back to the first time he saw Matthew, disappearing into the background with that watery drink in his hand. Now Matthew’s got one hand on Shane’s crotch. He manages to get his hands under Matthew’s coat, so that he can feel Matthew’s hard, lean muscles. It’s messy and nasty and terribly exciting. It’s like high school all over again, only better, because everyone’s emancipated.
But as soon as they tumble out of the cab, it’s like Matthew shrinks back into his snail’s shell, if a snail was flushed and hard and had kiss-bitten lips. He keeps his hands in his pockets as he follows Shane up the steps and stands so close that Shane can feel his body heat. Then, once they’re inside with the door shut, Matthew’s all but climbing up Shane, attacking his mouth and pinning Shane against the wall with surprising strength. Shane lets his hands fall to his sides: this is going to be so awesome.
Matthew unbuttons Shane’s slacks with surprising dexterity and reaches inside to pull out Shane’s cock. He spits in his hand, puts it back down, and starts jacking Shane off with brutal, efficient strokes. No finesse here, nothing fancy, just pure pleasure all the way down. Matthew pushes his face into Shane’s neck and starts mouthing and licking the skin there. His other hand goes up under Shane’s shirt to scratch his nails across his belly, his nipples. Shane knocks his head back against the wall.
He comes, and Matthew slows down a little but continues to work him through it, until Shane whimpers and tries to push him away. Only then does Matthew withdraw his hand. He brings it up to his mouth and licks, looking up at Shane through his eyelashes. If Shane’s knees weren’t already weak, this would have turned them to jelly. As it is, he’s having a very difficult time standing up.
Matthew seems to notice, because he says, “Don’t you think you’d be more comfortable on the floor?”
Shane takes that as his cue to slide down to his knees, grateful for his carpeted hallway. Matthew gets his jeans open and his cock out for him. Shane buries his nose in Matthew’s pubes and just inhales at first. He’s actually a pretty nice height for this. Matthew gets his hand down into Shane’s hair and tightens: not painfully, just hard enough to urge him to get a move on. Shane doesn’t need telling twice, so he does.
“Yeah,” Matthew whispers. “Make it sloppy. That’s right, lick it all over. Can you taste me yet? Wait.” He pulls Shane’s head back, just a little, so that he can trace around Shane’s lips with the head of his cock. He’s oozing a little bit from the tip, and he paints Shane’s mouth with his precome. “That’s more like it. Now open wide. Just like that. Take me all the way down. Yeah, I want you to feel it, fucking gag on it. You love this, don’t you? You love having a mouthful of my cock.”
Who knew Lawrence, Kansas had such a mouth on him? Shane swallows down Matthew’s cock almost to the root, and then Matthew thrusts in the rest of the way so that Shane almost chokes on it. He does gag at first, but he gets it under control, and Matthew purrs in contentment and strokes Shane’s hair. Shane dares a look up, and Matthew has his head thrown back and is moaning at the ceiling.
“Fuck, your mouth is so sweet,” Matthew whispers, still stroking Shane’s hair. “I can’t wait to fuck you; that’s going to be even sweeter. It’ll be so hot and tight. I’ll fuck you until you’re begging for it, and then I’ll fuck you until you can’t even talk anymore. Would you like that? Huh? You’d fucking love it, wouldn’t you, you cockslut, being fucked by a dancer until you can’t walk, and all your coworkers at the big fancy advertising agency where you work will know exactly what you’ve done.”
Jesus, if Shane hadn’t already come he’d probably be jacking himself off right now. Instead he swallows and drools around Matthew’s cock and tries to keep up a consistent bobbing motion. His jaw is starting to hurt. Matthew’s precome is a constant bitter stream down the back of his throat, and he can’t use it to gauge how close Matthew is. Then again, the way it’s going, Matthew will probably let him know.
Sure enough, a minute or so later, Matthew gasps, “Don’t stop. Don’t fucking stop. Yeah, I’m going to come. I’m going to come all over your fucking face.” And he does. He yanks himself out of Shane’s mouth, leaving him gasping, and ejaculates across Shane’s cheekbone. some of it gets in his hair.
Matthew stumbles backward, then forward, so that he can brace one hand against the wall, shoulders heaving. Shane wipes the come from his face but leaves the stuff in his hair. Long experience has taught him that he’s better off just waiting until he can wash it out. “Jesus Christ.” He braces himself with his hands on his thighs and peers up at Matthew. “That was fucking hot.”
Matthew pauses in the act of buttoning up his pants. “Oh. Um. Thanks.” He blushes. Shane stares. This guy has got to be from another planet. “I’ll just, um, go.”
“You don’t have to.” The words trip out of Shane’s mouth without any actual input from his brain. “I mean, there’s still. . . coffee.” What? Oh God, orgasms and dirty talk make him stupid. This is the only explanation.
Matthew turns the full force of one of those light-beaming smiles on Shane. Shane feels his knees go a little gooey, even though he’s still on the floor. “That’s sweet, but I should really–I have to get up early tomorrow morning for a, um, a thing.”
Early? On a Saturday morning? Must be an audition or rehearsal or something. Or he’s teaching a class. Something dancers get up to, early on a Saturday morning. “Okay,” says Shane. “But the offer’s open. Anytime.” Oh God, he needs to stop talking. Next thing you know he’s going to be giving the guy a key, and then they’re going to be picking out curtains, and then they might as well adopt some cats and call themselves lesbians.
“Thanks,” says Matthew.
Shane pushes himself stiffly off the floor to see Matthew to the door, even though it’s all of two feet away. Matthew stops with one hand on the doorknob and turns back, and those open lips invite him to swoop down and push in a hard kiss. Matthew returns it with enthusiasm and a little groan that sends shivers all the way down to Shane’s feet. His cock remains unmoved. He wishes he were ten years younger. “Changed your mind?” he murmurs.
“Huhwha?” Matthew pulls away and wipes his reddened lips. “Oh. No. Um. I was just going to ask which way to the E?”
“Oh,” says Shane. “Lexington and 53rd. Turn left when you go out the door, two blocks.”
They don’t have The Talk. The Talk is for girls and pussies. Pussies who are girls. But Shane figures they’re a couple now, or as close to one as you can get without actually being a couple, and a month after the night of the ballet he figures it’s safe to surprise Matthew with a present: tickets to Billy Elliot.
“Oh my Goooddd,” Matthew squeaks when he sees the Ticketmaster printout. (Not as romantic as a pair of actual tickets, but these are the times they live in.) Then his face falls. “Oh. Oh shit.”
“What?” Shane demands. Matthew’s probably seen Billy Elliot a thousand times, but they’re good seats. Seats Matthew’s probably never sat in, if he’s only ever attended shows either standing-room or with middle-to-shitty seats courtesy of his friends.
“Sorry,” Matthew moans, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling. He rolls them back down to give Shane a truly chagrined look, like Matthew just killed all his houseplants and left a sinkful of dirty dishes. “Sorry sorry sorry. It’s just–I have a thing that night.”
“A dance thing.”
Shane sits up a little straighter. It’s been a month into their relationship and Shane’s still never seen Matthew dance. Actually, sometimes he forgets that Matthew’s a dancer, which is just. . . weird. Matthew should be dragging Shane to clubs to show off every weekend. Instead, they watch So You Think You Can Dance together. “Really? Can I go?” He corrects himself to, “I’d like to go.”
“No,” Matthew says quickly.
“It’s. . .” Matthew chews on his bottom lip and spits it back out shiny and red. Shane is briefly distracted. “I’d just rather you didn’t.”
“Why not?” Shane persists.
Matthew draws in a deep breath. “I just don’t want you to, okay? Can we drop it?”
Shane sits back, stung.
Now the silence is awkward.
“I’ll change the date,” says Shane. “Sorry. I should’ve asked you when you were going to be free, but I got all excited and–I wanted it to be a surprise. Is. Um. How about the Saturday after?”
Matthew fishes out his iPhone–an expensive but necessary toy for the modern-day starving artist, according to Matthew, who needs to keep track of auditions, gigs, and of course his dates with Shane as well as outings with friends. He swipes his fingers across his phone a few times, pokes it twice, and examines his calendar with one finger against his bottom lip. “That should be fine.”
“Okay,” says Shane. He lets Matthew change the subject to crème brulée and the rest of dinner slides by.
Afterwards, they go back to Shane’s apartment and fuck. It’s always Shane’s apartment, because Matthew has roommates. Shane doesn’t mind. He doesn’t really like fucking with roommates around. Matthew hasn’t been really filthy since that first night, but he does talk a lot and sometimes it’s dirty. Also he bites, and Shane can’t help squawking sometimes when that happens.
But after that, Shane lies awake with one arm around Matthew’s shoulder. Matthew is on his side, his nose in Shane’s armpit. Shane stares up at the ceiling and wonders what Matthew’s hiding from him.
Matthew used to watch the episodes the day after on his laptop, on Hulu or Fox’s website or whatever, but Shane has a 45″ plasma TV and HD cable, so now Wednesdays and Thursdays are So You Think You Can Dance nights. Matthew comes over, they order some food (or Matthew picks something up on his way over), and then they cuddle on the couch and make critical remarks about Kat Deeley or Mary Murphy’s outfits. Well, Shane makes critical remarks. Matthew doesn’t talk except when he’s agreeing or disagreeing with the judges, and during the dancing itself he tends to go all quiet and intense. More than once, after a particularly soulful number (they’re all amazing dancers to Shane, and he can’t separate what makes any one of the numbers more or less successful than the others), Matthew turns to Shane and crushes himself to Shane’s neck, or mouth, or ear. Shane’s developing a Pavlovian response to quickstep.
It’s ten minutes until the show starts. Matthew and Shane have been necking comfortably on the couch when Matthew pulls regretfully away and says, “I’m going to take a piss.” He levers himself off the couch and adds, “Get the phone if it rings; it’s probably the delivery guy.”
“‘kay.” Shane lounges back against his couch and watches Matthew’s ass leave the room.
Sure enough, the phone does ring five seconds later. Shane swipes his finger across it without really looking at the display. “Hello?”
“Hey, Matt?” says a young female voice. “Sorry I didn’t call you sooner, but I wanted to say that you were so awesome on Sunday. Thanks. It was amazing. Um, Gary wants to know if you’re free on Saturday the 27th?” The words come out all in a rush, like she needs to spit them out all at once or they won’t come at all. Maybe she’s drunk? Or high?
“Um,” says Shane. “I’m not Matt.”
“Ohhhhhh,” says the voice. “I’m sorry. Um, is this a wrong number? Because–”
“No, no, it’s not a wrong number,” says Shane. “Matthew–Matt’s. . . unavailable.”
“Oh,” she says. “Then. . . can you take a message?” She sounds blonde. And dumb. Shane pictures curled hair and long, perfectly manicured nails.
“Sure,” he says automatically.
“Great! Can you tell him that Ashley called? About Sunday? Tell him it was awesome? And tell him that Gary wants to know if he’s available on Saturday.”
“The 27th,” says Shane.
“Yeah. And he, um, he knows my number.”
“Well, he has it now, because you called his cellphone,” says Shane.
“Right. Okay. Um. Thanks!”
She hangs up. Shane stares at the phone. He checks the log, which does indeed say “Ashley.” He contemplates going through the rest of Matthew’s logs, maybe checking his calendar, but decides that’s an unforgivable breach of privacy. He puts the phone down on the coffee table.
Matthew comes back from the bathroom. “Was that the delivery guy?”
“No, that was Ashley.” Shane’s still staring at the phone on the coffee table, but he sees Matthew tense up in his peripheral vision. “She says Sunday was awesome, and Gary wants to know if you’re available for Saturday the 27th.”
Matthew sucks in his next breath and lets it out from his nose. “Okay,” he says. “Thanks.”
Shane cracks his neck and looks up at Matthew. Matthew’s lips are white but he’s otherwise composed. “Is this–”
“It’s work,” Matthew says quickly. He crosses to sit on the couch next to Shane. He picks up his phone and slips it into his pocket. “Ashley is someone from work. It’s a work thing.”
Shane watches Matthew’s hands move. He doesn’t know why this makes his stomach flop around and around like this. He’s not threatened by women. Matthew’s gayer than Bert and Ernie, and Shane’s never been particularly possessive. But there’s something about the way Ashley said so awesome and who the hell is Gary? Something about the whole situation makes Shane want to bare his teeth and snarl. Ugh. Me Shane. You leave Matthew. Go away.
Matthew’s phone vibrates and starts playing the first few bars of Footloose. It’s the delivery guy.
Shane suggests Barrage. Matthew vetoes it on the basis of not liking the music. Shane suggests Cocktail. Matthew says it’s too full of straight people. Finally, Shane gives up and lets Matthew suggest one. He picks Jungle, a tiny little place on the edge of Hell’s Kitchen that Shane’s never even heard of.
It’s not actually a club. The music’s too quiet, and the dance floor is maybe the size of Shane’s bedroom. There’s one older lesbian couple on it, self-deprecatingly reliving their disco-dancing youths, hooting and giggling as they bump asses. Matthew makes a beeline for the bar and clambers up onto the seat. He orders a mojito, and Shane watches the bartender, a straight-looking guy with a shaved head and muttonchops, freehand a liberal pour of rum into the glass over a fistful of mint before topping it off with lime juice and a drizzle of syrup.
Shane takes the seat next to Matthew. “You know, you’re weirdly picky about clubs for someone–”
Matthew jerks, then freezes, like there’s a T-Rex in the room. A guy stands up from one of the tables next to the sad excuse for a dance floor and jogs over to Matthew’s seat. Matthew gives him a nervous smile. There’s nothing scary about the guy, as far as Shane can see: he looks about Matthew’s age, with a fuzzy short mohawk. “Hey Derek.”
“I didn’t think you came to places like this,” says Derek. “Figured you’d be living it up at Pacha or The Ritz.”
“Oh, um,” says Matthew. “They’re not really my kind of scene.”
“Not your kind of scene?” Derek laughs, not one of those nervous little stuttering things that Matthew does, but a sincere, full-throated guffaw, like Matthew just said something hilarious. “Dude, you are–”
“This is Shane,” Matthew says quickly, nodding to Shane, who’s on Matthew’s far side. Shane gives a little wave. “My, um, boyfriend.”
“Ohhhh, a boyfriend! I get it. I get it.” Derek nods. “I’ll just. . . mind my own beeswax, then.” He backs away, hands up, palms out, grinning the whole time. Then he spins on his heel and heads back to his table, where his own partner? friend? is waiting for him.
Shane drums his fingers on the bar. “Who was that?”
“Derek. He’s… someone I know from work.”
Shane turns this over in his head. “You wanted to come here because you didn’t think anyone who knew you was going to be here. Why?”
Matthew chews on his lower lip and doesn’t look at Shane.
Shane rolls his head back on the shoulders to look at the ceiling–huh, interesting light fixtures–then glares down at the bar. He cracks his neck. “Okay,” he says. “Okay. Okay! So you’ve been hiding something from me, and it’s been really pissing me off, but I haven’t said anything because I figure a guy’s entitled to his privacy. But now it’s just–now it’s–are you not out at work or something? Are you ashamed of me?”
“No! No.” Matthew runs one hand through his hair, then both hands. He leaves his fingers locked behind his neck, elbows propped up on the bar. Shane once found the sight of Matthew chewing on his bottom lip simultaneously erotic and endearing, but now it fills him with weary irritation. He rubs one hand over his face. Matthew says, “It’s just.” It’s amazing he hasn’t chewed a hole through that lip. “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea–”
“You know what.” Shane stands, knocking his barstool back a few feet. “Never mind. I don’t want to hear it right now. I’m going home. Maybe I’ll call you later.”
Matthew’s voice follows him out the door: “Wait! Wait, I can explain–” but Shane doesn’t listen. He doesn’t even slow down. He just keeps walking and walking, hands shoved into the pockets of his coat, until he reaches the subway, and he takes the E train home.
He wakes up to an email from Matthew in his inbox:
If you want to see me dance, come to Therapy on Saturday the 27th at 10pm. I’ll tell the door guy your name.
Shane scowls and deletes the email. If Matthew thinks he’s getting off that easy, he’s, well, he’s got another think coming.
A minute later, he digs the email out of the trash and reads it again. Therapy’s a Hell’s Kitchen hot spot and their shows are pretty well-known. You don’t get booked at Therapy unless you’re a good performer. They also don’t showcase, you know, ballet dancers. Shane wonders what kind of act Matthew’s going to do. Surely he’s not a drag queen. Some kind of cabaret, with a bunch of other guys? He can see how Matthew might have been a little embarrassed about that. But so embarrassed he’d lie about it and drag Shane all the way out to Jungle so nobody would recognize him?
Fine. He’ll go. But he won’t call Matthew to let him know he’s coming.
“Shane Westin,” he says to the guy at the door.
The guy looks at his clipboard, looks Shane up and down, smiles, and says, “Go on in.” Pretty cool.
Therapy’s a new-ish sort of place in Hell’s Kitchen, one of those slick, modern places where the music’s always loud, the drinks are always strong, and the lights are bluish and sort of dim. Shane feels a little weird being there by himself, when all the tables are filled with groups laughing over their cocktails and taking pictures of themselves and each other. He finds a seat in one of the armchairs and orders a drink without really thinking about it. If he was there with someone else they wouldn’t really be able to make conversation anyway.
He’s there a few minutes early, thanks to Matthew’s brainwashing; three months ago he would have shown up ten minutes late. And of course the show doesn’t start on time, so Shane is left nursing his rum and coke and has to brush off two guys who offer to sit with him. One of those guys was pretty cute, too. Irritation buzzes beneath his skin. Goddammit, Matthew.
Finally, a voice announces, “Ladies and gentleman, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Please welcome. . . The Apostle of Dance!” Scattered applause, but most people are still talking. Shane props his face up on one hand and turns his attention to the stage, where the light illuminates two floor to ceiling poles. The music’s so loud that Shane can feel the beat reverberating up to his chest: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Shane doesn’t really care for this song.
Then Matthew’s on stage. Matthew’s on stage in a leopard print leotard and nothing else. Well, nothing except leopard print heels. Dark makeup stripes his eyebrows back to his temples and outline his eyes, and is that glitter in his hair? Shane’s face slides off his hand, he’s gaping so hard, and he almost hits his head against the table. Matthew’s doing a sultry walk around the pole, shaking his shoulders and his hips to the beat, to a few appreciate murmurs. Then–there’s no other way to describe that effortless glide–he just sort of slips up the pole until he’s six feet off the ground and spinning around it with one arm held out, smiling beatifically down on the cheering audience.
He arches himself into an inverted position and splays his legs open to appreciative catcalls and howls from the audience. Somehow he manages to bounce himself along in a little spin in that pose, so that the V of his legs can be appreciated from all angles. His hand slips, and for a moment it seems like Matthew’s going to plummet and crack his chin on the stage. But no, he’s crossed his legs around the pole and he’s going into a spin, one arm held out, smiling brilliantly at the audience. Shane holds his breath as Matthew takes hold of the pole with his hands again and plummets down until he lands in a split on the stage. Christ, Shane doesn’t think he’s seen this level of athleticism in the Olympics.
Matthew crawls across the stage, his open mouth such an unnatural shade of deep, glistening red that some of it has to be makeup. He tosses his head, throws himself up on his knees, and thrusts his hips in time to the music, caressing his chest with both hands. The audience whistles and howls and drums on the tables. Matthew sprawls and wriggles his way across to the other pole, takes hold of it, and starts… humping the pole in time to the music, is the only way Shane’s fried brain can make sense of it. He turns around and grinds his ass against the pole, sliding up and down, thighs flexing and glistening in the stagelights. Then up Matthew goes, to begin another fantastic series of contortions. He holds on with one leg and one arm and spins backwards; he keeps hold with his hands, tucks in his legs, and spins around the pole forwards in a cannonball shape; he fastens his legs and arches backwards so that his head hangs down towards the stage, fingertips nearly touching the floor. He drops from there into a handstand, flips onto his feet on the stage, and blows kisses to the audience. The music has faded away. Shane realizes the performance is over.
The lights come back on, and the conversations gradually start back up, this time with an excited buzz: Did you see that? Wasn’t that awesome? Man, that guy would make a million bucks cagedancing. I saw him at Babylon two weeks ago… wonder if I could get his phone number…
I already have his phone number, Shane realizes, and he pulls out his phone. There’s already a text message from Matthew on it: You can come backstage if you want. Tell Gary your name.
Matthew’s in the middle of taking off his shoes, but Shane is not having any of that shit. He crushes Matthew up against the dressing room mirror, knocking off a feather boa (not one of Matthew’s, surely). An can of hairspray and a couple little bottles of nail polish or whatever the fuck go rolling around on the floor. Shane doesn’t give a fuck: Shane is biting Matthew’s neck. Matthew throws his head back with a thunk against the mirror and hisses. He closes one hand around Shane’s bicep and digs in his nails. “I’ve always wanted to fuck someone with my heels on,” he says dreamily, and it’s like someone struck a match against Shane’s back and lit his spine on fire.
Matthew has to hit Shane a few times and yell at him before Shane can keep his big, clumsy man-hands to himself and let Matthew strip his leotard off. Well, really he just gets it down to his knees, because to get it all the way off he’d have to take off his shoes, and that is just not happening. Shane, meanwhile, shucks off his pants and briefs and leaves them in a crumpled pile on the floor. Matthew bends Shane over the vanity and holds him down with one hand in the middle of his back while he rummages in one of the drawers, muttering expletives to himself. Shane’s cheek is squashed up against the mirror as he pants little white clouds of condensation against it. His sweaty hands leave oily fingerprints. Gary had given him a knowing smile and a wink. He wonders how many people have had sex in this dressing room.
There’s apparently lube stashed in the vanity (lending credence to Shane’s theory that many, many people have had sex in this dressing room), because the next thing Shane knows there’s slick fingers probing the crack of his ass, then into his hole. No teasing here, just more and more lube, until Shane’s open and dripping with it. Shane hears the condom wrapper crinkle, the slick of more lube being applied over the condom, and then Matthew pushes in. Then he’s being fucked by a poledancer in the dressing room of a club in Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s fucking amazing.
It’s over too fast, and then Matthew collapses onto Shane’s back. Shane is squashed against the vanity, various bottles and brushes sticking into his squishy midsection, but he’s too blissed to care. Much. Right now. He’s going to be excellently sore later.
Matthew rouses himself enough to pull himself stickily away from Shane’s skin. He nuzzles the back of Shane’s neck. “You still mad at me?”
Shane flips himself over, braces himself on his elbows and looks up at Matthew. “Lucy,” he says lazily, “you got a lotta splainin’ to do.”
“So you really are a dance teacher,” Shane says. It’s Sunday morning and they’re having brunch in Shane’s apartment: eggs and toast. Shane’s squeezing the orange juice at the counter; he woke up feeling very tender and affectionate.
Matthew brushes crumbs off his lips and swallows before speaking. “Poledancing. Although we call it pole fitness, on the schedule, so that people know it isn’t just strippers and being sexy. It’s hard work, you know,” he adds, defensively.
“I can believe it.” Shane brings two glasses of orange juice to the table and sets one in front of Matthew. “You were amazing. Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”
Matthew’s lips twist into an expression somewhere between sheepish and chagrined. “I’ve… dated, um, gone on dates with, a couple of guys who saw me dance, and they… they weren’t really into me, they were sort of into the dancing.” He shrugs. “Like, there’s, there’s kind of a… what do you call it, it’s like, either it scares guys off or it makes them think I’m an easy fuck.”
Shane snorts. He can see what Matthew’s talking about, though: if he’d seen Matthew dance before he’d gotten to know him, he probably never would have worked up the nerve to ask for his number in the first place. And the kind of guys who do have that kind of nerve are egomaniacs with giant cocks and not much else. Not the kind of thing a sweet, shy dancer from Lawrence, Kansas is looking for.
“But this is it, right?” says Shane. “This was your big secret? You’re not, like, Mormon or married or something, right?” He catches the stricken look on Matthew’s face and his heart plummets. “Oh. God, what is it?”
Matthew puts down his toast and says, very soberly, “Actually, I’m gay.”
Shane throws a napkin at him.