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There Was No Net Then

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A brisk knock--surely the liquor deliveryman. Mike hopped to the door without his cane. Screw the damn thing. Another bottle and he wouldn't even be upright. Save himself the effort.

However. Framed in the doorway, cheeks pink and eyes dark: Tino.

"Maybe you thought you'd be hard to find," Tino said, unsmiling. But that might've been a sparkle in the depths of his eyes...unless it was just the reflection of the ice along the eaves.

Mike pushed away from the door. He didn't even try to close it; he knew Tino too well. That was part of the whole problem. He lowered himself onto the bottom step of the stairs. Anchored. No way to fall from here.

He stared at his hands, listening to Tino closing the door and hanging up his coat. Unhurried, like he'd been invited.

"Mr. North can send a car out for us tomorrow. Plenty of time to get back to New York for rehearsals."

Mike squinted up at him, as if squinting could filter out the virtual damn glow he carried. Fresh-scrubbed, well-dressed.

"Tino. Don't." Mike could hear himself. He didn't want to call it begging, but oh, did the shoe fit.

"Sorry." Tino didn't sound sorry. "But I'm fighting you on this one."

"There's just too much."

Tino bent forward and planted his hands on the floor, and with a flex of his hips lazily rolled up into a handstand. Then he lifted one hand, all his weight perfectly balanced on one palm. "Not too much for me," he said, slightly muffled.

"Oh, Tino." Mike watched him--he couldn't help it. The long, taut lines of him, the electricity and grace. "Please...don't show me what I want. Because I will, I'll take it. Don't you understand?"

Tino shifted his weight and did a walkover back onto his feet. He poised on his toes, grinned, and ran light as a deer for the easy chair. He vaulted it, pushed off, and used it to jump for the high rafters, grabbing one with both hands like a trapeze bar, hanging easily. "You'll take it, huh."

Mike wasn't used to that pricking disbelief, not from him. He frowned and pulled himself upright. "Listen--"

"That'll be the day." Tino merrily swung to a new rafter.

"Tino." Warningly.

Tino dangled from one hand and rolled his eyes.

Only a few hops up the stairs gave Mike the leverage he needed to spring for the rafters. And without a resting swing he powered himself in great arm-over-arm leaps across the room, snapping his hips out to seize a surprised Tino round the waist with his legs.

They froze there, hardly breathing

"Don't you see..." Mike began.

Tino slowly released his hold and let Mike take all his weight. "I do," he said. "I know you. You're strong enough. Believe me."

He climbed Mike like a rope, and clinging there, kissed him.

Mike held him in mid-air. Suddenly, hungrily, kissed him back.

Their clocks ticked, together.

Mike believed.