Stratos hated this. This city, this weather, this hotel, this goddamn concert – he hated it. All of it. The only thing he wanted to do right now was to go home and file a hell of a report at the nearest militia house. He wouldn’t kill that son of a bitch himself, but he’d be damned if he simply let him go. He almost did it here, but then decided against it – he didn’t have enough time. The minute they got back home, however, it’s going to be an entirely different story. He didn’t care if this would become yellow-press’ wet dream, once all the details were known; he didn’t care if he had to be in every single tabloid for the next decade – he was going to do it.
Today was Friday, the last day before the concert, and to be honest, he didn’t feel like doing much today. However, he knew that he had to at least run through the program – pissed off or not, but he wasn’t going to be half-assed about his skills.
Gemini and he were about to leave the room and head to the hall (when Stratos said he would never leave him alone again, he meant it; he wouldn’t leave him alone even for fifteen minutes), when Stratos remembered, to his greatest frustration that the hall key was on his key ring, and that his key ring was currently in Leon’s possession.
He called him and was slightly puzzled when Leon asked, “Care if I am not alone?” He asked him who was it that was with him right then – mostly out of pure curiosity – and all of a sudden, Leon became strangely defensive. “A person!” he snapped, and Stratos left the matter alone, figuring that he would find out soon enough anyway. He told him to hurry up already and he meant it – he needed to run through the program and call it a day finally. He didn’t care that it wasn’t even evening yet (it was 3:10 when he talked to Leon); ‘calling it a day’ meant locking in the room alone with Gemini until tomorrow morning and taking a break only when they needed food.
They left the hotel, and when they were not too far from the hall (which Leon made sure would be available to them for at least two entire days before the performance), Stratos saw his black car flying into one of the empty parking spaces and coming to a sudden, perfectly-frozen stop. He watched Leon get out of the car, and another huge burst of guilt washed over him in a very unpleasant, stinging wave.
He knew that now there was a hell of a crack between him and Leon; he knew that, and he had no idea if it would ever go away. He didn’t blame Leon in the slightest – it was Stratos’ fault entirely. The worst thing was that he would do it. He would do it without even thinking about twenty one years they were together, and everything they’ve been through. He would do it, and he would not hold back, not in the slightest.
When he saw Gemini lying on that bed, all bloody and swollen, his mind went completely blank. He didn’t think or rationalize or question anything – he was incapable of doing any of those things. He could only react, and that was exactly what he did – he reacted. Without thinking, doubting or hesitating – he reacted. The minute he realized that he almost lost Gemini, he turned into nothing but a chunk of burning black ice. He was about to let the stream to burst forward, feeling it in his fingertips, in his very core, ready to let it to rip its way out, when all of a sudden, there was something else trying to break through the icy wall of his mind. He ignored it at first, for about two or maybe three seconds, and right before he lost his hold on the stream completely, that ‘something’ suddenly managed to slip through the ice, and then there was:
“Stratos, don’t...! He didn’t do this! He helped...! He helped!”
He didn’t hear those words – he felt them. He felt them, and all of a sudden, the ice exploded into sharp, melting shrapnel. He helped...? He helped?!
He grabbed onto the escaping furious stream so hard that it made him feel like he was about to be split apart by sheer force of it. He wasn’t, and a second later, he managed to pull the stream back and lock it away, ignoring the sudden painful numbness hitting his inner core with disappointed rage – this particular stream did not like to be forced into submission after it almost got out.
At first, he dared to hope that everything would be fine after Leon said, “We’ll be okay.” However, last night, after Leon’s indifferent “I don’t feel like wasting my breath anymore,” he knew that ‘fine’ would not happen for a while, if ever. Even if they would, in fact, get to that ‘fine’ point, it would never be the same.
He pressed his lips tighter without letting go of Gemini’s hand, and then slightly frowned when he saw the passenger door of the car open and some guy get out. That’s who Leon’s been with, he thought, eyeing the guy with unhidden curiosity. It’s been a very long while since Leon would get together with anyone unless it was a business meeting or another party. He studied the guy as Leon and he were walking towards them. He was the same height as Leon, skinny, and his hair was dark and slightly messed up, but it was the right kind of messed up – the kind that looked sexy instead of untidy.
Stratos blinked several times when the guy finally got closer and Stratos could see his eyes – unusually light-blue (or was it grey?) they looked very bizarre against his dark hair and tanned skin. They were so light that they looked almost white.
“Max – Stratos, Stratos – Max,” Leon said quickly and handed Stratos the key.
Stratos took the key and slowly shook the hand that Max stretched out. He didn’t like this guy, he suddenly realized. He had no idea why, he couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something about him that made Stratos’ inner defense mechanism to jump into ‘Alert!’ gear almost immediately. He slightly bit the inner side of his cheek, keeping the same facial expression, and broke the handshake.
“Thanks,” he said, looking at Leon. “Didn’t mean to bug you,” he added a few seconds later, and Leon gave him an indifferent shrug.
“I need to check it anyway,” he said, nodding towards the hall. “To make sure everything is right for tomorrow night. Might as well do it now,” he sighed, and Stratos slowly nodded.
He shot a quick glance at Max, who seemed to be uncomfortable, and then turned around and started walking towards the big building of the grand hall, holding onto Gemini’s hand. Leon and Max followed them.
“Who is the blond?” Max asked very quietly, making sure Stratos didn’t hear him.
Leon threw a quick glance at Gemini who was wearing big, dark sunglasses that covered almost half of his face – to Gemini’s frustration, he didn’t look as good as he hoped he would today; he looked much better than he did last night, but not completely fine, sporting a few light bruises underneath both of his eyes, left cheekbone, and chin.
“His kelari,” Leon answered in the same quiet manner, and Max’s eyes widened.
“Seriously?” he whispered incredulously, and Leon nodded without saying anything. He felt irritated again.
Max looked at Gemini.
“I thought that kelari were supposed to look flawless,” he said a second later, and Leon frowned at that. “He looks...” Max paused, looking for the right word. “...rumpled,” he finally whispered, and Leon’s frown smoothed out.
“That’s because he had all shit beaten out of him yesterday,” he nodded, and Max’s eyes became wider than they already were. “Wait until tomorrow... He’ll be fucking flawless...” Leon finished darkly, and Max frowned at his intonation.
He didn’t say anything else until they got into the building. He watched Stratos get on stage, and his expression was thoughtful. Leon looked at him, and a few minutes later, sighed.
“You want to interview him, don’t you?” he asked in a low voice, and Max blinked and looked at him.
“Well...” he said with a slight embarrassment. “I am covering the concert... I mean...” He looked at Stratos again. “I don’t have to interview him, but it would certainly be nice...”
“Journalists,” Leon sighed, and Max looked at him. Then he frowned.
“Uh...” he said quickly. “This is not the reason I started talking to you...!”
Leon looked at him with slight amusement.
“I know,” he nodded, and Max’s frown slowly smoothed out.
“Good,” he said. “Didn’t want you to think that I am using you to get to him...”
Leon gave him a quick smile.
“I don’t think that,” he nodded again, and then sighed. “Okay, before he gets into it...” he muttered and quickly walked towards the stage.
Max watched him as he hopped on the stage and headed towards Stratos, who was about to start playing. The musician lowered his hands the minute Leon started talking to him, listened with a small, thoughtful frown, and then shot a quick glance at Max. He looked at Leon again a second later, listened some more, and finally, shrugged, and said something. Leon nodded at that and started walking away when all of a sudden, Stratos called out rather loudly:
“Gem, come here...! Want to play something for you...!”
Max frowned at Leon’s expression when the other man heard those words. He frowned deeper and narrowed his eyes when Leon all but gritted his teeth the minute Gemini walked on stage. Max watched him with the same deep frown for a few seconds, and then he looked at Stratos. His eyes narrowed a bit more, he glanced at Leon again, shot another glance at Stratos, and then briefly closed his eyes, a bitter spark of understanding flashing across his face.
“I’m gonna go,” he said with a half-smile when Leon walked closer to him.
“Go where?” Leon frowned dumbfoundedly.
“I remembered that I had to be somewhere today,” Max said quickly. “I had to be there an hour ago, completely spaced,” he nodded, and Leon frowned deeper.
“Wait...” he said slowly. “Hold on...”
“I’ll call you,” Max said in the same quick manner. “I got your number in my phone...”
He smiled once more, turned around, and walked towards the front doors.
“So, Leon,” Stratos called loudly from the stage, completely ignoring the fact that Max was leaving. “About tomorrow night...”
“Max, wait...!” Leon didn’t even hear him, it seemed. He quickly went after Max, and Stratos slightly stuttered.
“We will discuss it later then...” he muttered mostly to himself.
“Wait,” Leon said again when he caught up with Max. “Wait...!”
Max came to an unwilling stop and turned around.
“What’s wrong?” Leon asked quickly.
“Nothing,” Max shook his head and smiled again. “I just forgot about my appointment, that’s all...”
“Want me to drive you...” Leon started saying, but Max interrupted him.
“No, it’s okay... I... Uh... I’ll call you,” he nodded and almost turned around again.
Leon grabbed his shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” he asked quietly. “Did I do something? Whatever it was...”
“No,” Max interrupted him. “You didn’t do anything... I just forgot...”
“Don’t,” Leon said as quietly as before, and Max stopped talking. “You don’t have to be anywhere, and we both know it... What’s wrong? What is it?”
Max slightly bit his lip without saying anything, his expression hesitant.
“Max, please,” Leon wouldn’t let go of his shoulder. “What is it? Please...”
“It’s nothing...” Max said slowly, but his eyes darted towards Stratos for just a second, and Leon understood.
He closed his eyes for a few seconds.
“It ended four years ago,” he said after he opened them. “By now, it’s nothing but a bad habit...”
Max looked at him silently, his expression the same darkly-hesitant frown.
“Don’t go,” Leon said without looking away from the pale eyes. “Max, please... It’s just a bad habit that I should’ve quit years ago... There is nothing there... Don’t go...”
Max looked at him without saying anything for several long seconds, and then he sighed.
“There is a coffee shop five blocks from here,” he said calmly. “They have great espresso and they sell fantastic danishes... Want to go?”
“Yeah...” Leon nodded immediately. “Let’s go.”
“Didn’t you say you needed to check if everything was ready for tomorrow night?” Max frowned slightly, and Leon shrugged.
“I can do it tomorrow morning,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of time. Let’s go.”
“Yeah, okay...” Max muttered softly, and his frown slowly smoothed out. “Let’s...”
Leon slowly ran his fingers through the chestnut colored hair and placed a quick but deep kiss on the unsmiling mouth.
“By the way,” he said in a low voice after he pulled away. “If you still want to interview him, you can do it during dinner tonight... If you want, we could all meet in the restaurant across the street at seven-thirty...”
“Sure,” Max said slowly, his expression darkly-uncertain. He thought about something, nodded to himself, and let out a small smile. “Sure,” he said again, more firmly this time.
Leon smiled as well and ran his fingers through the dark hair again. He turned around and looked at Stratos who was watching both of them with a funny, thoughtful expression.
“See you at seven-thirty,” Leon said in a louder voice, and Stratos blinked at that. “I’ll check everything in the morning,” he nodded at the silent question. “Are you going to need your car?”
Stratos blinked again and straightened up.
“No,” he said calmly. “Want me to call the restaurant...?”
“I’ll do it,” Leon nodded again. “Later!”
He didn’t say anything else, turned around, and grabbed Max’s hand. Stratos watched them walk away, and his expression remained the same – very thoughtful.
“What is it?” Gemini asked a minute later without looking away from Stratos’ slightly narrowed eyes.
Stratos blinked and looked at him.
“I don’t know...” he said slowly. “I don’t like this guy...”
“Max?” Gemini frowned slightly, and Stratos nodded.
“I don’t like him,” he said again. “I have no idea why...” he answered a silent golden question. “It’s just...” he paused. “There is something about him...” he stopped talking once again, and a few seconds later, shook his head. “I don’t know,” he sighed and looked at the dully shining keys of the instrument in front of him.
“Huh...” Gemini said softly, and Stratos looked up.
“What?” he asked, and Gemini gave him a quick, tight smile.
“Well,” he said with a small shrug. “He’s been in love with you for all these years...”
Stratos frowned at that.
“...and now he is with someone else,” Gemini continued without looking away. “So...” he stopped talking without finishing the sentence, and Stratos blinked a few times. Then he frowned deeper.
“You think I am jealous?” he asked incredulously, and Gemini looked at him without smiling or saying anything. Stratos let out a quick laughter. “Gem, believe me, I am anything but jealous! I don’t like that guy because there is something about him that bothers me, and it has nothing to do with me being a dog in manger about Leon...! It’s probably nothing but some weird first reaction... I don’t know,” he sighed again. “But please, believe me when I say this...” he paused and looked into the golden eyes without blinking. “I am not jealous, okay...? And he is not in love with me!” he added a second later. “It’s been four years!”
Gemini looked at him for a few seconds without saying anything and without smiling. Finally, his mouth slightly twitched and he slowly nodded.
“Okay,” he said quietly, and Stratos gave him a quick smile.
“Good,” he said. “Now, as I was saying...” He brought his hands up and lightly touched the keys of the piano. “I want to play something for you... I am trying to figure out which one I should keep for tomorrow night and which one I should get rid of, because the last time I timed it, it ended up way too long... So, listen to this and tell me which one you like better...”
Gemini blinked at that and almost said, “Why didn’t you ask Leon?” but at the last minute, he smiled and nodded instead.
...“You like playing pool?” Leon asked when they left the grand hall, and Max looked at him with a funny, mischievous expression in his pale eyes.
“Playing pool...” he asked in a low voice. “...or playing in the pool...? Because honestly...?” He shrugged, and his expression became innocent all of a sudden. “I like both,” he nodded, and Leon laughed at that.
“I do too,” he nodded as well, feeling suddenly relieved. He didn’t even need to try figuring out the reason for his relief – Max didn’t have that tense, dark look in his eyes as he did five minutes ago, that was the reason. “I mean actual pool,” he said with another nod. “The game. Playing in the pool is a very good option, but not right now.”
“I like pool,” Max smiled at him, and Leon gave him another nod.
“There is a decent place not far from here,” he glanced at his watch. “Let’s stop by the restaurant...” he nodded at the building across the street. “...so I can make the reservations for tonight, and then we could head over there. Umm...” he suddenly remembered. “Unless you want to hit that coffee place first...”
“Pool sounds good,” Max gave him a slight nod, and Leon smiled without letting go of Max’s hand.
They got to the restaurant five minutes later and marched towards the front desk. Leon started making the reservations, and suddenly, Max had a strange, uncomfortable expression on his face.
“What?” Leon asked with a small frown.
“Uh...” Max said and his face immediately started glowing pink. He looked at the person behind the front desk. “Uh...” he said again. “Is there any chance I could use your...” He coughed. “...facilities...?” he finally finished, and the woman behind the desk smiled at that in a polite way.
“All the way down there and to the right,” she gestured, and Max nodded and walked away, his glow close to red by now.
By the time Leon finished making the reservations for tonight, Max came back and he still looked slightly embarrassed. Leon laughed at that when they went outside.
“So you had to use the bathroom,” he said, digging in his pocket for Stratos’ car keys. “Big deal!”
“Uh...” Max sighed. “For me...” he sighed again. “...it kinda is,” he nodded and opened the passenger’s door when they got to the car. “I have a thing with public bathrooms...”
Leon was about to get into the car when he heard those words. He straightened up without letting go of the door.
“Really...” he said slowly. “A thing with public bathrooms, huh...? Do I even want to know what kind of a thing?”
Max blinked at that, and then his face bloomed in a very entertaining gamma of colors – it ranged from light-pink to dark-maroon.
“Shut... Up...” he said very evenly, got into the car, and slammed the door shut.
...Leon could not stop laughing until they got to the club he was talking about earlier.
It was almost seven in the evening when they left the club. Max wasn’t lying when he said he liked to play pool – to Leon’s surprise, he turned out to be a very worthy adversary tonight.
They were walking towards the car when Max slightly frowned, grabbed his left wrist, frowned deeper, checked his right wrist, and came to a complete stop.
“What?” Leon stopped as well.
Max seemed very thoughtful for a few seconds, and then he closed his eyes.
“Son of a bitch...” he muttered when he opened them. “I left my watch by the sink in the bathroom...” he said in defeat. “I always take it off when I wash my hands...”
“You and bathrooms,” Leon sighed. “Want me to go with you? Since you have a thing with public bathrooms and all...”
“Ha-ha,” Max replied seriously. “You are hilarious, and no, I can perform that task by myself, thank you!”
“I’ll warm up the car then,” Leon gave him a quick smile, and Max nodded and let out another sigh.
“Be right back,” he muttered and quickly walked back to the club they just left.
Leon found the car keys in his pocket and started walking towards the car without looking back.
...Max was almost next to the club when he shot a quick glance above his shoulder as if looking for someone. A second later, his slight frown smoothed out, he turned his head, and continued his walk when all of a sudden, his entire body performed some strange, bizarre twist, and a few seconds later, he was standing by the shadowy wall of the club with someone pinned against that wall by his elbow that was methodically cutting every single ounce of air out of that someone’s throat.
“Why are you following me?” Max asked with cold calmness, and the person between his elbow and the wall tried thrashing harder. Max instantly proved to him that was a very bad idea.
The person stopped thrashing immediately, and Max released his hold on him just a little. He semi-patiently listened to the frantic, torturous cough for a second or two, and then grimaced.
“Speak,” he said quietly, and the person immediately stopped coughing.
“I...” he stuttered. “Follow you...? What are you...? I have no idea wha-agh...!”
“Wrong answer,” Max said in the same icy-calm manner after he cut off the air supply once again. “Now, before I start asking you again, listen carefully. I do not have time for wrong answers right now, so if you give me another one...” he leaned just a bit closer, his pale eyes dangerously cold. “...no one will ever find your body,” he finished in a softer voice. “Now...” He straightened up and slightly released his hold. “I am going to ask you once again,” he said, ignoring the coughing. “Why are you following me?”
“H-he...” the person stuttered feverishly. “H-he... s-sent me...!”
“Why?” Max frowned without clarifying exactly who the person was stuttering about.
“H-he... H-he thinks you... you are not t-trustworthy be-because of... of your activit-ties last n-night...”
Max’s eyes became even colder, and the person by the wall started hyperventilating.
“You spied on me?” Max asked very evenly, and the person did his best to shake his head.
“N-no...!” His teeth were clanking so badly, he almost bit his tongue. “N-not me...! I... I swear...! H-he... He just knew...! I d-don’t know how... I s-swear...! He s-said he wasn’t sure if you w-were... if you were... t-t-t...”
“I got that part,” Max interrupted him impatiently.
“So he wanted t-to make s-sure you were still on th... th... the c-case...!” the man finally managed to spit out, and Max let out a short, irritated sigh.
“All right,” he said quietly. “Listen and try your best to remember because I hate repeating myself... Tell him that if he spies on me one more time, the deal is off. I do not let anyone to keep me on a leash. I am a professional, I know what I am doing. If he has questions, he knows how to contact me. If he chooses otherwise, then he should either let me work in peace or terminate the contract. Next time I catch a tail, I am not going to get into a pointless debate; I will simply dispose of them, and then I will terminate the contract. Are you going to remember?”
The man’s teeth clanked even worse by now.
“Y-y-yes...” he finally managed, and Max nodded and released his hold.
“Good,” was all he said before turning around and walking away, ignoring the man who slid down onto the ground, holding onto his throat and coughing so violently that he almost vomited.
Max walked towards the car, and his hand was quickly digging in his pocket. Finally, he pulled it out, stopped walking for a few seconds, and slipped a silver watch bracelet onto his wrist. Then he resumed his walking, and when he made it to the car, Leon rolled down the passenger’s side window and grinned at him.
“Was it still there?” he asked, and Max smiled and demonstrated his wrist.
“I was surprised,” he nodded, and slid into the passenger’s seat. “Let’s go,” he said after he shut the door.
“You sure he will come?” Max asked with a small frown when it was 7:40 in the evening and Stratos was nowhere in sight.
“He’ll show,” Leon nodded absent-mindedly, while studying the menu. “Punctuality was never one of his strengths...”
He glanced at Max above his menu, sighed a second later, and lowered his hands, letting the menu to get back onto the table.
“He’ll show,” he said again, and Max looked at him with a crooked smile.
“Sorry...” he muttered with a slight embarrassment. “I guess, the whole ‘interview’...” he made air quotes with his fingers. “...idea kinda got to me... Sorry,” he said again with a nod, and Leon sighed again and picked up his menu.
“You are a journalist,” he shrugged. “Don’t be sorry...”
He studied the menu for a few more seconds, then glanced above it, frowned, sighed, and lowered the menu on the table once again.
“See?” he said, and Max turned his head.
Stratos was standing not too far from the politely smiling hostess who was about to lead him to the table, and there were at least four people next to him who were trying to shove pens and papers into his face.
“Autograph hunters,” Leon sighed when he saw the expression on Max’s face. “You get used to shit like that,” he shrugged when Max looked at him.
He looked at Stratos again and slightly narrowed his eyes.
“Where the hell is his kelari...?” he muttered mostly to himself, and then his expression became almost dumbfounded. “Be still my heart...” he said slowly. “He is not...”
“He is right there,” Max interrupted him suddenly, and Leon blinked and shifted his gaze.
“Ah...” he said a few seconds later when he finally spotted Gemini who was trying to blend in with the shadows behind the hostess’ back. “Of course... Would be the end of the world otherwise...” he muttered, and Max blinked at that and tried to hide his sudden frown.
Leon noticed it right away, however. He sighed.
“It’s a goddamn knee-jerk reaction,” he said tiredly, and Max looked at him without saying anything. “I see his kelari, my knee pops, okay...?”
Max’s mouth twitched and he was about to say something, when there was:
“Sorry we are late,” right next to the table.
“You are fine,” Leon glanced up.
He moved his chair slightly to the right, closer to Max, and Stratos’ expression hasn’t changed a bit. Gemini and he sat down, and Stratos picked up a menu.
“So...” he said a minute later and looked at Max. “An interview, huh?”
“Spur of the moment, really,” Max gave him an uncomfortable smile. “If you don’t want to do it...”
“No, it’s all right,” Stratos interrupted him and glanced at the waiter who came to the table.
They ordered their drinks and a few appetizers, and after the waiter walked away, Stratos looked at Max again.
“It’s all right,” he nodded. “Ask away!”
“Uh...” Max carefully put his menu aside. “After the drinks if that’s okay...”
Stratos slightly hemmed.
“You are unusually polite for a journalist,” he said with a small smile. “Didn’t make me think of a vulture once...”
“Yet...” Max muttered with a crooked smile, and Stratos laughed at that.
He looked at his watch; it was already 7:50. He sighed and was about to say something when all of a sudden, he snapped his fingers as if remembering something important.
“Leon!” he said quickly, and Leon gave him a questioning glance. “I toyed with acoustics today, and figured that the best setup would be for the lid not to go all the way up. That place is built differently, the ceiling is weird...”
“Actually, I noticed that too...” Leon nodded with a thoughtful frown.
“So,” Stratos continued in the same quick manner. “The best result today was when the lid was only three-quarters up, not all the way.”
“Three-quarters, got it,” Leon said seriously and looked up when there was a waiter with their drinks and appetizers.
Five minutes later, when they started working on their drinks, Stratos looked at Max again who seemed thoughtful. Max noticed the look, let out a quick smile, and swallowed a fat mushroom he fished out of the appetizer bowl in the middle of the table.
“I guess the most obvious question would be...” he started saying when suddenly, the quiet music that’s been playing in the background had slightly stuttered, as if someone was hurriedly changing discs, something clicked, and then there was another melodic track weaving its slick way through the air, filling out a sudden short gap.
Max blinked at the interruption, drank more coffee, and was about to start talking again when he looked at Stratos and frowned instead. The musician’s expression was astonished, to say the least.
“What is...” Max started saying when suddenly, Leon straightened up next to him, his head slightly tilted to the right, as if he was listening to something quite intently.
“What the shit...” Leon said incredulously. “Isn’t it that melody...?”
“I don’t understand...” Stratos started saying very slowly, and suddenly, there was a loud clanking sound, and a second later, Gemini shakily stood up, pushing his chair backwards and ignoring the fork he dropped on the floor.
Max looked at him and frowned deeper – Gemini was deathly pale right now.
“What...” Max muttered, and Gemini shook his head almost furiously.
“I can’t...” he said in a very strained manner. “I am sorry... I... I can’t...!”
He pushed the chair farther away and stumbled towards the exit. Stratos blinked several times, as if suddenly waking up, and turned his head.
“Shit...” he muttered and got up as well. “Sorry...” he said quickly after looking at Max. Then he looked at Leon. “Leon, I...”
“Go,” Leon slowly waived his hand. “I got your drinks, just go...”
Stratos nodded and quickly walked away, catching up to Gemini.
“What was that...?” Max asked a minute later, his expression completely dumbfounded, and Leon looked at him without saying anything for a couple of seconds.
“Holy shit,” he muttered finally. “It was that goddamn melody...! How would it... Holy shit...!”
“What melody?” Max frowned deeper, and Leon thought about something for a few seconds.
“Okay,” he said slowly. “A couple of weeks ago... Actually, no...” he frowned thoughtfully. “The day before the last concert,” he continued a second later in the same thoughtful manner. “Stratos was improvising while warming up...”
Gemini was outside when Stratos caught up to him. He stood on the sidewalk, holding onto his own elbows, and remained rigidly-still, ignoring the cold January wind that kept attacking him with growing rage.
“Gem,” Stratos called, and Gemini slightly turned his head, still ignoring the wind. “You left your coat in there,” Stratos said when he walked closer.
He slowly wrapped the short dark coat around the rigid shoulders, and lightly tugged on one of the arms, trying to unlock the frozen semi-circle. Gemini blinked and let go of his elbows, lowering his arms, and letting Stratos to pull the coat sleeves over them.
“Come on,” Stratos said a minute later. “Let’s go back...”
“I am not going back in there,” Gemini said dully. “I can’t go back in there.”
“To the hotel,” Stratos nodded, and Gemini looked at him. “Let’s go back to the hotel.”
They started slowly walking down the dark street, casting strange-looking shadows on the sidewalk every time they walked closer to another street light, and they were completely silent until they finally got back to the hotel.
Gemini sat down on the bed without taking off his clothes, and Stratos sat next to him. He slowly ran his fingers through the golden hair, and Gemini’s shoulders stiffened just a little. He looked at Stratos with a hesitant expression, but said nothing, slightly leaning into the musician’s touch. Stratos sighed.
“I know that you don’t want to; not right now,” he said in a low voice, and Gemini looked at him without smiling or saying anything. “You don’t have to be in the mood twenty-four-seven... If you don’t want to, just say it; don’t force yourself just because you think you have to... Right now I just want to hold you. Go to sleep.”
Gemini looked at him with the same serious expression for a few long seconds, and then he suddenly leaned closer and placed a long, trembling kiss on Stratos’ mouth. Stratos kissed him back and ran his fingers through the golden hair once more.
“Go to sleep,” he whispered after Gemini pulled away just a little.
Gemini sighed and fell backwards onto the pillows, closing his eyes and never bothering taking off his clothes. Stratos never slept with his clothes on – it would always feel weirdly-restricting to him. Right now, though, he sighed, shrugged to himself, and got off the bed, heading towards the light switch. He turned off the lights and went back to the bed. He lay down next to Gemini and was immediately trapped in a semi-circle of the rigid arm that locked around his waist. He entwined their fingers together and closed his eyes.
“What is happening?” Gemini suddenly whispered, and Stratos opened his eyes. “What is happening? What is that music...? Why does it scare me so much? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Stratos answered slowly, thinking that he was wondering the same.
Why does that damn melody keep coming back? Why does it just kick its way in whenever the hell it pleases? What in the world was happening to Gemini the night he exploded the window in that room? Stratos remembered his eyes that night, and almost shuddered. He tamed that shudder and held Gemini’s hand tighter.
“I don’t know,” he said again and kissed the warm temple. “Go to sleep...”
Gemini let out a sigh and wouldn’t say anything else. Half an hour later, they were both asleep.