The look on Dylan’s face was heartbreaking. But Ian couldn’t help but smile, when he looked up after bagging his guitar and saw Dylan standing in the door opening. Rain dripping from his hair, mouth a little opened and eyes that shone with defeat. He had missed the show.
Ian didn’t care. He had not expected Dylan to show up at all, and the butterflies in his stomach were fluttering happily surprised he did. The entire room seemed brighter, and Ian just smiled at the light that had entered.
“Good show man, do you have an album I can buy?” a man with a baseball cap that he was clearly to old to wear, asked enthusiastically.
“Just a home recording of some old songs.” He answered, plucking a generic CD out of his guitar case.
“What do you want for it?”
“Five euro’s?” Ian had no idea. He normally gave these out as a demo to people who may be able to get him more gigs. He had never sold one before. It looked too shitty to sell anyway and the recording quality wasn’t that good.
“Here’s ten. Thanks for playing.” The man said and gave him the money. Ian put it in his wallet and when he looked up, Dylan was standing there.
“I’m so sorry I’m late Ian…” he sounded utterly defeated.
“Don’t worry, I’m surprised to see you here actually. Don’t you have work?”
“No, I was at Mercury the entire day. But Tim spent the afternoon shift proving that he could manage it, and the rest did their very best to convince me they could do without me. Said I should go see you play, which I really wanted to, but yeah… late.” He scratched the back of his head. His long black bangs were still dripping water on his face. Dylan sucked a drop from his lip, then dried his face with his sleeve.
I want to kiss you now. Ian thought.
Then he put that thought away, since it wasn’t good for anything. Instead, he reached for the towel they gave him earlier and threw if over Dylan’s kissable face. “There you go”. Ian chuckled as Dylan apparently hadn’t seen the towel coming and was just standing there, startled, with his head covered like an idiot.
“You use it to dry your hair.” Ian said, still laughing.
“It’s a bit sweaty.” Dylan said, his voice a little muffled as he dried off his head.
Right, Ian hadn’t thought about it and now felt awkward. It shouldn’t be awkward. It should be nice. Friends hanging out. Like they had lots of times in the past two months.
“Sorry…” he muttered.
“It’s okay, you smell nice.” Dylan said, handing the towel back. It made Ian’s heart jump out of his chest. What?! Dylan didn’t even seem to grasp the impact of his words, since he looked as composed as ever. The fucker. Ian couldn’t handle it and excused himself to the bathroom.
“You really have no idea what you’re doing to me…” Ian sighed, as he sat down on the toilet to shove some extra confidence up his nose.
He felt he needed every help he could get not to make a complete ass out of himself. Also, he figured it would help him not get drunk. It was only half-past nine and he had an entire night of free drinks to go. With Dylan. Ian was terrified of what he might blurt out if he lost control.
The Ian that got back from the bathroom was considerably less flustered and found that Dylan had saved him a seat at the bar. Ian took it and ordered a glass of wine, which was on the house, since he had just played.
Dylan was staring intently at the beer menu. This bar did offer craft beers, so it was no surprise that Dylan had taken an interest. After he finally ordered he sniffed at the beer like one would a wine, then tasted it, making the first sip take ages. He even took pictures of the bottles and made notes about the smell and taste. Ian made fun of him for it, but he kept it up throughout the evening, trying a different beer every round.
They talked about the financial misery of being a musician. The subject had the entered conversation when Dylan had given him his money for the performance the day before, along with the voluntary contributions in the donation box. The sheer amount had made Ian’s eyes go wide. Which had startled Dylan, since his earnings were hardly enough to get by. Let alone pay the rent.
Ian hated that the bastard was still that sharp after the many beers he’d tried, and had retorted that live-gigs were mostly for fun and to build a name for yourself, when the real money was in royalties. Dylan hadn’t bought it.
“Okay, so what are you into? Dealing drugs? Running errands for criminals? Assassinations? Or are you some undercover agent?” Dylan said, leaning closer, too close, and smiling up to his eyes as if he unravelled one of life’s great mysteries.
He was starting to get drunk. It was audible in his voice and his movements were less coordinated. Ian was glad he noticed, for otherwise his silly mind might attribute the slinking space between them to something else entirely.
“No, really I’m just a poor musician.” Ian tried.
“Hell no. You’re a young and talented man with an expensive apartment in the city centre, a probably equally expensive cocaine habit and no day-job.” Dylan chuckled, wagging his finger at him.
He had noticed the coke? Ian felt completely caught now. He tried denying everything. “I have no idea what you’re talking about Dylan, is this the beer talking?”
“You’re a bad liar Ian… Issuch a waste. Why would you need those drugs anyway?”
“Shut up Dylan.” Ian bit, getting up from his stool and tossing back the last drops of wine still in his glass. The people here probably didn’t care, since he was sure he wasn’t the only one here snorting confidence, but still. You don’t talk about that shit out in the open and it was none of Dylan’s business anyway.
It was dangerous for him to be around Dylan in this state. The places where his mind wandered off to when they were just talking were already bad enough. And now drunk Dylan was kind of obviously checking him out, which was bad. Not only because his heart was ready to pounce to the wrong conclusion, but also because the cocaine he’d been shoving up his nose throughout the evening had made him horny. Another glass of wine would be the recipe for disaster.
Ian decided to take his leave. He slung his guitar on his back, said goodbye to his fans, sold another cd, then thanked the staff for another wonderful evening and left.
Dylan was waiting for him outside, smoking. He was leaning against the wall trying to look casual, like drunk people do when they’re actually preventing themselves from falling over. He smiled a perfect lopsided smile at him. The sight was as heart-warming as it was annoying. He needed to get away from this man, but at the same time he wanted him to be so much closer.
“Don’t pout, here’s one for you too.” Dylan slurred, clumsily handing him a cigarette. Ian hadn’t even noticed he was pouting, but Dylan had been right. He rolled his eyes at himself and lit the cigarette.
“Nicotine is a drug too, you enabler junkie.” Ian joked to lighten his own mood, then proceeded to blow smoke rings as they started walking. It took only a three rings before Dylan noticed and started squeezing his cheeks.
"You're cute." Dylan stated, which made Ian choke on his smoke rings. However, since his cheeks were currently being squashed between Dylan's fingers, nothing came out but wheezing and a faint whisstle.
How does this man do this to me? Ian thought, trying to find an 'out'. His brain had nothing, so he just proceeded whisstling and finally produced a tune.
Dylan recognised it, and let go of Ian's cheeks. He started singing along.
“Always look on the bright side of life…” It was completely off key, but with a face like that you can get away with anything. As Dylan wrapped an arm around his shoulders, Ian didn't know what else to do to distract himself from that wonderful fact, but to sing along.
"If life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten. And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing. When you're feeling in the dumps, don't be silly chumps. Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing. And... always look on the bright side of life"
Ian was quite a good whisstler, which was fortunate, because he almost choked on his laughter seeing Dylan struggle to produce any real sounds. The man looked so elated, his eyes were smiling and it was the most wonderful thing on he planet.
There was no way anything else could ever be this perfect. He loved this drunk idiot, his heart said so, loudly. And the way it felt right now, Ian couldn't imagine it would ever go away. Ian knew he was completely doomed.
“For life is quite absurd, and death’s the final word. You must always face the curtain with a bow. Forget about your sin, give the audience a grin. Enjoy it, it’s your last chance anyhow. So always look on the bright side of death…”
Dylan suddenly stopped singing, and only then Ian had realised this may not have been a very well cued song. Ian stopped singing too and glanced sideways at Dylan, who was looking up as if deeply immersed in his thoughts.
Ian was already thinking of a better song to start singing, but couldn’t get rid of Stand by Me, which was even more inappropriate. In his hesitation, suddenly Dylan spoke up.
“Sean hanged himself in the stairwell.”
Holy shit, was he actually going to talk about this? Now?
“I came back late from work and there he was, clearly already dead for hours. I should have screamed, cried, anything. But I just called 112 and sat down. I watched the police take in the scene, the coroner take him down. I just sat there watching, answering questions. Feeling empty, defeated. Like the final whistle in a football game you knew your team was losing, but with that final whistle it became reality. Insane huh? I loved him with everything I had, but that was how it felt. Like something mundane, something you shrug to and continue on your way.”
Ian felt his heart clench in pain and his breathing caught in his throat. He looked at Dylan, but he was just looking straight ahead as he continued his story.
“I thought maybe the pain would come. It didn’t. Not later that day, not the next, not when I called his family, or mine, not at the funeral. There was just emptiness, the tears never came. Then there was that poor guy from the bar and I just… I couldn’t feel that either. He was the one that jumped off the building, you know.”
“There was only my mind spinning out of control contributing arguments to all sides of ‘the dead people vs Dylan de Jonge’. I just wanted to feel something. But clearly, I ended up using some fragile soul again. Jesus, I can’t even get laid without someone dying.”
“Dylan, that’s…” Ian started, but Dylan wasn’t looking at him. He was still staring up at the sky.
He snorted at his own remark, then added, with a hint of sarcasm: “Next time I wanna get some, I probably should hire a professional…”
“I’m a professional.” Ian thought. Then realised he had said that out loud. His hand shot up towards his mouth as if tying to catch his words and fling them back inside. The look on Dylan’s face told him he hadn’t succeeded.
Ian dropped his arms in defeat as they stood facing each other a mere 200 meters from their apartment building. His heartbeat was banging against his eardrums from the inside, drowning out the sounds of the city. He could feel Dylan’s gaze upon him, but didn’t dare to return it.
“Wow, okay… Really?”
“No, it was a joke.” Ian said quickly, adding a nervous chuckle. But Dylan, even in his not nearly sober state, must have figured out he was lying. He immediately shook his head and put a hand on Ian’s shoulder, he looked worried.
“Why are you telling me this?” Dylan voiced the question Ian had been asking himself.
Confronted with the fact his lie was seen through so easily, defeated by himself and his stupid mouth. Ian replied with a dry: “You asked.”
That obviously wasn’t the answer. Ian didn’t even know the answer, but it was technically true.
“Do you…” Ian stiffened as Dylan grabbed his shoulder tighter. Not forcefully, more like a combination of caring and keeping himself upright. “Was it your own choice?”
“Not at first. It is now.” Ian answered honestly, without looking Dylan in the eye. Why had he said anything?
“I told you about them. That was the truth. If you ask a whore how they got into the business it’s never a happy story, Dylan. But it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’m not a victim anymore. I’m my own man, I make my own choices and I’m alright with them.” Ian tried to look confident as he uttered the last words. He was confident about that, right?
Dylan wrapped his arms around him in a warm embrace. It made Ian feel safe. He always felt safe in Dylan’s arms. This man was everything he was not. Reliable, responsible, stable… Well technically not physically stable right now, he was sure that if he stepped away fast enough, Dylan would fall down. But yeah, you get the point. And Dylan was the one that was just opening up a minute ago, and yet he was comforting him again. Ian wanted to give something back, something more than music and craft beer.
Ian wanted to give this man everything.
If Dylan wanted it, he’d give him his heart and his soul and his future, just like that. But Dylan didn’t want any of that. How could he? How could anyone?
But maybe, just maybe he did have something Dylan wanted. Something that would drive him crazy with jealousy if Dylan went to find it somewhere else.
“I can help you out.” He blurted out.
“What?” Dylan let go of the hug and looked at Ian quizzically.
“You know what. Don’t worry, I’ll get you neighbour discount.” Please say yes, hold me, don’t sleep with anyone else…
“I couldn’t…” Dylan stammered. His gaze was still a little unfocussed from the alcohol, but he had clearly sobered up a little during their walk.
“I’ve seen you looking Dylan, I know you’re attracted to my physique. As I said, I’m a pro, I help out people like this all the time, it’s how I pay my rent. With everything you’ve done for me, I’d be glad to make you feel good.”
The words rolled off Ian’s tongue easily. He wasn’t lying. He just wasn’t telling the complete truth. Dylan would never say yes if he told him the truth: that he‘d do anything to keep him closer. Anything to lay in his arms.
Dylan opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He was thinking about it. He was really considering it. Ian could see it in his brilliant blue eyes, they were flickering with conflicting emotions. His eyebrows twitched a little as he started to shake his head.
Ian could see the impulse to speak and decline the offer climb up through Dylan’s throat. Ian sucked at his tongue piercing, pondering his next move, when he suddenly saw a familiar emotion flash in those beautiful eyes: lust.
He should go with that, right now. Ian thought, and leaned in.