True North / Out of Kilter
North / Out of Kilter
the nice boys dancing in pairs
Real Men: Tori Amos, from the album Strange Little Girls
"Thanks, but I'm straight," Duncan said, to the blonde stranger in the mesh singlet and the nose stud who had, very politely, propositioned him by the cigarette machine. It's not that Duncan was interested in the machine (or the blonde): it was the kind of bar furniture that usually passed by his eyes, but the space in front of the machine was space to regroup, find his friends. Find his centre.
There had been five of them at the start of the evening, Richie and Joe and Dot and Lisa from the bar, when it seemed like a good idea to leave Joe's (if not Joe) behind them and head out for a night on the tiles. Going out the door, laughing already, they'd picked up Methos on his way in: a Methos who'd pulled on world weary and tolerant and looked impressively down his nose at the people between him and his beer. It worked for Dot and Lisa, who were smaller and therefore susceptible, but for Duncan said proboscis was the same height as his own and the effect was more familiar than intimidating. He'd clapped Methos on the shoulder, spun him round, and headed him in the direction of out rather than in.
Looking back, he wasn't sure if that had been one of his better plans. It had been Joe whose head had risen at the sound of butchered dance-cut jazz from the back door, and Richie who'd taken the girls by the hand and headed for a club where he'd never been before, but it was Methos who had sailed them past the surprisingly obstinate bouncers with his nose in the sir, his hands in his pockets and the corners of his mouth folded in private amusement.
It had quickly become apparent exactly why Methos was so amused. From the under-dressed, over-pierced and shiny-haired boys behind the bar to the table of beer-drinking, tartan-clad dykes in the corner, from the man in the PVC coif to the way the dance floor strutted its stuff: Joe's ears had taken them straight into the Seacover scene.
It wasn't that Duncan had anything against the concept of gayness. He owned a dojo: he'd had gay friends - hell, he'd had segregationist gay friends, which was something of an oxymoron in itself, even if he'd always been careful to watch where he put his eyes and never mentioned cooking oil. But he'd always thought of the social scene as being a little 'them' and 'us'. He went to straight bars, listened to music, chatted up beautiful women, got drunk. They, er, went to gay bars, listened (danced) to music and chatted up beautiful men. Hell, some of them chatted up women, but that was a different kind of them anyway and one which seemed a little easier to accept.
He had been looking, blind, across the tables at that moment, but suddenly became aware that he'd been staring for rather a long time at a very attractive woman in a pink T shirt so torn it might as well have been a string of necklaces. A woman who was giving him a seriously hard glare in return while gripping the hand of the short-haired (female) bull-terrier beside her. He looked away: he hoped, miserably caught between fantasy and reality, she hadn't been thinking, dammit, was there no safe space to put his eyes? He settled for the beer label on the very expensive bottle of Coruna Methos had bought him.
The worst of it was that none of the others seemed to be having the same problem. Last seen, Joe had been sitting in one of the corner booths with a couple of lads from the band, both of whom he seemed to know and like. Richie (God help him) had melded into the sweating, shirts off, up for it (and up on it) crowd on the dance floor. Every so often he'd see that distinctive curly head bobbing enthusiastically to music that seemed to mix the worst of disco and heavy metal now the band were through the first set. Dot and Lisa had met, surprised but welcoming, one of the girls from the bar along the street and settled down to talk shop (with a startling degree of innuendo) amidst a group of lively youngsters. Methos had actually, Methos had .
Oddly enough, he hadn't seen Methos since the man had handed him his beer and Duncan had walked away from the bar, unnerved by close scrutiny of three (men? It was difficult to tell under the make-up: gorgeous was the word but gender clearly not an issue) people standing at the counter. He'd taken a walk round the club, finding himself both wanting and reluctant to stick to the shadows: spent at least five minutes contemplating the mixing board, and attempted to join Joe, who'd merely waved his fingers - go away, MacLeod, this is Musician Business and you wouldn't understand. After that he'd perambulated a little further, drinking nervously, too quickly, until he'd found the men's john (busy) and decided that there was no way in hell he was going in there. When the time came he was going outside, or home. He'd heard stories. Dark stories.
It was at that point that Dot and Lisa passed him, smiling, but clearly on their way to the ladies with friends in tow. Why was it women went in pairs? He relaxed a little, at this staple of heterosexual life, and was thus caught unaware when they took one look at the queue outside the ladies and went straight for the gents. He was even more disconcerted when the door was held open for them by one of the guys whose lycra shorts No. Really don't go there. Sweating, Duncan gulped more beer, rolled the bottle in his fingers and realised how little was left in it Ah, Methos. He must owe Methos a beer or two by now. Looking around quickly, unwilling to let his eyes rest long in one place, Duncan found Methos where he'd left him, by the bar. He hadn't realised how relieved he would feel: Methos, beer, bar, all part of Duncan's firmament, familiar and therefore safe. He relaxed.
"Whoa," said the voice at his elbow. "You ok?"
"Fine," Duncan said, (not) and looked down.
It was the blonde, who'd removed 'Could it be my lucky night?' and put on a rather more realistic worried frown. "Thought you'd zoned for a minute there," he said, still not, as far as Duncan could tell, attempting to put either his eyes or his fingers on any part of the Highlander's anatomy not permitted exposure by the Koran. "But you're not on anything, are you?"
Duncan recognised, both horrified and amused, elements of his own mother-henness in the friendly blue eyes. "No," he said, and, excruciatingly aware of not wanting to appear rude, added: "It's my first time."
"No," the blonde echoed. There was a cheeky grin trying to get out behind his eyes, but he swallowed it manfully. "I know you're straight. It's cool, appreciate you being honest. You take it easy now and I'll spread the word, ok?"
"What?" Duncan said.
The blonde boy blinked up at him, stubby pale eyelashes and laughter-lines - he was younger than he looked, younger than Richie - "That was some promenade you just took," he said. "I just caught up with you first. You really don't know what you're doing, do you? Who did you come here with?"
Duncan vacillated between running, now, (and he's a MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, who have never been known for discretion as a better part) and fingering his (straight) friends. He looked up, and discovered Joe alone as the musicians warmed up for the next set. "I'm with him," Duncan said, pointing, and found himself tugged across the dance floor and deposited next to his watcher.
"He's chicken feed." The blonde admonished Joe sternly. "Keep an eye on him."
He bounced, quietly triumphant (nearly!) back to the dance floor as Duncan and Joe exchanged looks of equal and calculated emptiness, before Joe put his head back and laughed.
"Fish out of water, MacLeod?"
Duncan leaned back in his seat and said nothing. In moments, Joe would be absorbed in the second set and unaware of his Immortal's unusual and disconcerting discomfiture. He turned the Coruna in his fingers and discovered it was empty: looked down, looked at Joe, with a full glass of beer in front of him. Methos?
Methos had been at the bar. He looked round.
Methos' head was bent over his own beer. Under the dim, shifting light by the bar his skin looked extraordinary, damask smooth and tactile: Methos himself younger, perhaps a little lost. But as Duncan began to frown, Methos looked up. Not up, really, just a glance slanted sideways at the man who stood beside him: Methos flaunting cool innocence in the slow rise of his black eyelashes. Then Duncan realised, with a recognition that imploded along the length of his spine in petrifying, incinerating aftershocks, exactly what Methos' hands were doing on the smooth glass of the beer bottle.
He was running the tips of his fingers up and down the beer bottle. Just the tips, the bones of his hand flexing with the stroke, defined and graceful as a falling leaf, explicit as a hard core short.
(Duncan was: frozen in place, shocked into stillness, feeling his eyes widen and blur. There was a sickening warmth in his groin, and the world about him lurched sideways with a knowing and vicious smirk.)
Methos circled the lip of the bottle, very, very slowly, slid his fingers up and down, hand curving with the glass. Chased an errant drop of condensation.
(Duncan was: suddenly and painfully as hard as he could ever remember being, hands clenched, light headed and breathless and panicking.)
And brought it to his lips, pink slip of tongue catching the drop that trembled from his index finger, head tilted back. Showed the long, cool, tender line of his throat. Swallowed.
Then his eyelashes flicked up. Across the room Duncan could feel the heat of those greengold eyes. He couldn't move. For the life of him, he couldn't move. It was Methos who moved, dipping his eyes unsmiling and turning to face the bar with the man beside him turning in paired conjunction.
Sometimes the world changed in ice, so slow it's impossible to notice.
Sometimes it changed in fire.
There was nowhere but the bottle he could put his eyes. He was shaking. Thankfully, Joe was watching the musicians: they'd started to play, and he hadn't even noticed.
The world had changed its colour, shed its skin, handed him poison ivy on a porcelain plate. Kicked him in the balls with an arrogant and unwarranted lightning strike of lust. He scrabbled for equilibrium, retired to the corner with his empty beer bottle, found himself picking at the label and had to drop the bottle before his mind took him somewhere he could not countenance being. He closed his eyes, counted kata.
Five minutes later, calm, he looked up to discover the barman bent over him. He jerked away, into Joe, who shot him a 'not just now' look and turned back to the music.
The barman put down, with excruciating slowness, two glasses, two napkins, and a bottle of exceedingly good whisky. " With the compliments of the gentleman at the bar," he said, arch and shamingly curious. " He thought you might need it."
He did. He poured himself a drink with fingers that had, thankfully, steadied, and looked up.
Methos had gone.