Soundtrack: CHERUB “Doses and Mimosas”
Story: Wild Arcana
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The DJ played the crowd like they were oversexed marionettes. “If ya love ya daddy, put ya motha-fuckin’ hands in the sky!” he commanded, and the majority of the dancers obliged him with shouts of delight.
Brand ordered himself a gin and tonic and nursed it, leaning against the wall and wishing he had the will to join the masses of people on the dance floor. Why was he so boring anymore? He supposed he knew the answer to that but wondered when the feelings would ebb.
He also wondered when he’d started to grind his teeth. Brand massaged his jaw with his hands, trying to relieve some of the tension. His heart felt like was suddenly vibrating, and he pictured a girl pressing it to her clit and coming in seconds. Had the lights always been so bright? The bass from the music coursed through his body and became a part of him, yet the noise around him felt so otherworldly and distant.
Was this normal? A sick, nervous feeling developed inside Brand in knowing he had no idea what to expect—and he was totally alone. He pushed through the sea of strangers cum lovers on the silvery dust of the dance floor. Then he crashed into a wall of a man.
Naturally, it was Anthony, the one person he both wanted to avoid yet desperately see.
Stunned into immobility, Brand could only stare as Anthony’s face underwent momentary annoyed confusion to surprise then concern. “Brand. You okay?”
Brand released a burst of air, the painful pressure in his chest too immense to contain it. “Yeah, I’m good.” His panic and desperation to escape the situation overrode his desire to be cool as he shoved through the crowd, his steps rushed and jerky as his heart hammered in his ears.
There was no way he could stay on at the club. Shame wracked his body. How many countless hours had he spent, hoping for such an occasion? Where were all the haughty laughs, the snide double entendres, the introductions to a current, more fascinating lover? He’d prepped for a comeback designed to bring regret and torment. He’d been given an opportunity but the regret and torment were all his. At that moment, Brand had complete understanding of karma.
He’d almost reached the door when someone fastened a strong hand onto his elbow and spun him around. Anthony gave him a confused grin and released his grip. “What’s going on? Didn’t you hear me calling you?”
“No, sorry.” Brand took a deep breath, trying to calm down. This was no big deal, just a conversation, and with Anthony, the person who’d known him best. The thought only fueled his anxiety—that he could treat someone who’d been so close to him like a stranger. Brand licked his chapped lips and swallowed the knot lodged in his throat, feeling the onslaught of a panic attack. “I need to get going though. I—”
“You want me to get you a cab?”
The only thing Brand wanted, if not Anthony, was something to distract him from the agony wreaking havoc on his heart. Anthony’s kindness—that of an overly concerned stranger—was far worse than any earned disdain.
Dazed, Brand turned to leave again, this time without bothering to fumble for an excuse, but Anthony captured his elbow again, this time more firmly. “Are you on something?”
“No.” The only thing Brand felt like he was on was his way to a full-blown nervous breakdown. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Can’t I just feel shitty without the third degree?” His anger mounted. “And who the fuck are you to even ask me that? It’s not like we’re—”
“Okay.” Anthony raised his hands in surrender, his expression contrite. “I’m sorry. Just let me get you a ride, all right? Please?”
“Fine.” Brand wondered if he was really as annoyed as he wanted to be.
Anthony held up a finger, signaling for him to wait, then disappeared back in the crowd again, granting Brand the privacy to make sense of his complicated thoughts. But by the time Anthony returned a few minutes later, Brand hadn’t managed to reach an understanding about anything. Anthony tilted his head in the direction of the door. “Ready?”
Brand shrugged, not trusting his voice as he trailed Anthony out of the club. A taxi waited by the curb, and Brand let Anthony open the door for him and slid inside. “Thanks for this. I guess I’ll be…” He trailed off as Anthony’s body nudged him across the backseat of the cab. “What’re you doing?
“I’m seeing you home.” The familiarity with which he then gave the driver Brand’s address sent a ripple of comfort through Brand. Anthony hadn’t completely forgotten him.
They sat in silence for the duration of the short ride. Brand couldn’t speak, didn’t want to break the spell by asking “Why?” He wondered if he should even care about the means justifying the end. Wasn’t the important thing was that Anthony was next to him?
At that moment, the promised effects of the drug truly kicked in.
Brand sucked in a gulp of air, tasting it, feeling the deep breath travel down his throat to his expanding lungs. A rush of giddy well-being coated his insides, and his skin prickled, the hairs on his arms rising to meet and tangle with each other. He pressed his warm face to the cool window, the juxtaposition of the sensations ringing a soft moan from him. Outside, he saw all the familiar sights—the beggars, the club kids, sleek buildings stretching toward the night sky—and felt an overwhelming compassion for it all. Everything somehow looked truer in color, detail and shape. Brand felt like for the first time, or at least the first time in a long while, he was viewing the world as it really was, how he always should.
A hand rested on his shoulder, sparking a flood of heat that flowed down his arm. “Brand? What’s going on?”
Brand turned to Anthony and immediately clamped his teeth on his lower lip, nearly severing it, but even the pain was pleasurable, making the moment even more excruciating. Anthony watched him, concern in his narrowing blue eyes, looking as beautiful as ever, but the sight went beyond aesthetics. The knowledge of having seen Anthony’s same expression before brought with it their entire past, and Brand’s heart seemed to both swell and constrict as he sat beside someone who’d really known him. Chances were he still did. Brand shook off Anthony’s touch, fearing any more contact would result in serious problems.