“Why is music so heavy?” JJ put down his box of records and took the other carton from Otabek. He turned to Squid-kun. “Did you bring in your case?”
Squid-kun set his flight case beside the board and opened it for JJ to see inside, looping one arm around JJ’s shoulders.
“Hey, Beks, Squid-kun got these new cartridges, they sound great!” JJ said.
Otabek glanced over to Squid-kun and they shared a look. The output voltage, the elliptical stylus – they’d discussed it already on their text thread. Too bad he wasn’t going to get a chance to hear them tonight. “Nice.”
He pulled his laptop out of his bag. He loved going head to head with Squid-kun at the silent club, competing to see whose channel had the most listeners. But then he couldn’t watch Squid-kun work or listen to his set.
JJ beamed and Squid-kun tapped the top of JJ’s head. “You guys need anything else?” JJ asked. “Drinks? Fish?”
“We’re good,” Otabek said and Squid-kun waved agreement. “Go get your headphones.”
“Whose channel should I listen to?” JJ grinned. “I can be bribed.”
“No,” Otabek said. Squid-kun flashed blue for a second. “Whichever one you like best.”
“Going to tear it up JJ Style!” JJ was coloured up like he was going to a warehouse rave instead of this downtown dance club: rainbow chalk in his hair, sequins around his eyes. Glow bracelets on his wrists and a pacifier strung around his neck.
Squid-kun had picked up some of JJ’s colouring: a splash of rainbow shading on his mantle, the arm that curled around JJ’s neck pulsing yellow and green.
JJ tipped his head to rest his cheek against Squid-kun’s arm, nudging it until Squid-kun turned the suckers up against his face. JJ’s eyes dropped and his smile softened. Squid-kun blinked too, turning away from the board, towards JJ.
And Otabek looked, longer than he should, before he glanced away.
Squid-kun pushed JJ towards the exit and JJ finally left, waving until the door clicked shut. Squid-kun’s colour shifted back to his usual neutral pink and he waved a tentacle fondly. It’s just JJ, you know?
“I know,” Otabek said. Then he got down to setting up his laptop, trying not to get too focussed on Squid-kun attaching the needles and balancing his tonearms. “Anything new?”
Squid-kun just shrugged as he carefully set records onto his turntables. The labels were all blacked out and even the sleeves were marked with an ink pattern only Squid-kun understood.
“Had to ask.” Otabek couldn’t blame him. He guarded his song choices just as jealously, even if a privacy protector on his screen was probably less sexy than Squid-kun’s method. The laptop was definitely less sexy than vinyl. One day, when Otabek had a fixed address…
The current set was nearly over, just enough time to cue up his starting choices and fix the feeds in his headset before channels cut over to their soundbooth. Squid-kun started his turntables and picked up a tonearm.
Their names flashed up on the marquee and they started their set: click on the icon, put the needle on the record.
Then Otabek looked out their window, down to the dance floor. Their numbers were up on a monitor screen in the booth but he liked to see the glow on the headphones, watch the ripples of light through the crowd as they switched channels.
He was blue tonight, up against Squid-kun’s red, but it would take at least a few songs before the numbers shifted meaningfully. He scanned his list of possibles, picked one, and matched the beat. It was harder without a monitor, listening to the cue audio in one ear and the master in the other.
Squid-kun was already into it, swaying with his own beat as he rummaged for the next record and pulled the fader down. He was so skilled, so graceful and nuanced, and Otabek kept catching himself watching Squid-kun instead of his own screen.
It was showing on the floor too, blue lights winking to red. If Otabek let it dip too low, he’d never recover. So he pushed the tempo and mixed in a new track, brand new this morning, trying finding that in your box of vinyl.
Eventually, the numbers evened and started to climb. Otabek shot a look at Squid-kun. Squid-kun waved a tentacle and glimmered green for a moment before he got back to it, spinning up the next track and adjusting the gain. Moving so fluidly with the beat, Otabek could feel it in his own body, throbbing against the feed in his headphones.
He turned away, not the time to get distracted by Squid-kun. Time to pull more tracks, time to focus, time to watch the numbers change.
Instead, he looked for JJ.
Even with those colours, he was hard to find. Until Otabek stopped scanning the edges of the crowd and looked in the centre.
Dancing in the middle of a group, moving with that easy tall grace, pacifier in his mouth, the lights pulsing with the roll of his body. And his headphones glowing—
“Blue,” Otabek said. “He’s mine.” He glanced at Squid-kun.
Squid-kun snaked out a tentacle, one swift poke on Otabek’s shoulder, then nudged one of his platters. Otabek knew that look: the real contest was starting now.
JJ had pulled a tight crowd around him, not grinding, that wasn’t his energy. He had that rave exuberance, hands in the air, moving with the music, with the people next to him. His friends, he’d call them, even if all they’d done was dance beside each other.
Otabek saw the lights on JJ’s headphones flicker back and forth, then switch. Squid-kun had him now. Otabek looked over in time for Squid-kun’s arm roll, half smug, half challenging.
“Not for long,” Otabek said and matched another track.
He worked a lot of clubs these days, here and on the road. But it was never the same if JJ wasn’t out there. A focus for Otabek’s energy, a bright spot in the roil of the dance floor.
A few tracks later, JJ’s headphones flicked back to blue. Otabek didn’t look over at Squid-kun this time, just let himself sink into it. Into JJ dancing to Otabek’s music, into the way Otabek could make him move, respond to Otabek’s touch on the sliders. Into the vibe flowing between them.
When JJ switched to red, Otabek blinked and woke up, slow to react to Squid-kun’s tentacle mussing up his hair. “He just wants to be fair.”
Squid-kun crossed three arms above his head, his flipping you off but affectionately gesture. He chose another record and spun it up, holding Otabek’s gaze.
And Otabek looked back, a flutter in his stomach that had nothing to do with their contest. Or maybe it did. A beep in his headphones warned him he hadn’t cued up another track and he turned to his screen.
The truth was it wasn’t the same if both JJ and Squid-kun weren’t there. Competing like this, yes. But also when they came together for one of Otabek’s solo sets. And then they did grind with each other, down in the middle of the dance floor.
Otabek chose the music so he could keep them there, watch them move together, touch each other, pulled along by Otabek’s invisible hand. And later on at home, it was Otabek’s not-so-invisible hand that pulled him along alone while he remembered it.
He sifted quickly through his tracks, picked a couple, scrolled down. And there it was at the bottom of the list: JJ’s jam. Otabek never played it when JJ wasn’t there and, actually, not that often when he was. It was unsophisticated and obvious, painfully popular, a surefire banger. Not what Otabek wanted to be known for.
But he pulled it up now without even hesitating. He mixed in another track to give some complexity to the bass, to give himself some plausible deniability. Altin’s ironic take they’d say. And then he looked for JJ.
Still red for now but it wasn’t long before JJ’s light flickered and lit blue. JJ’s face lit too and he looked for the booth, flashing JJ Style up at Otabek and rolling his hips to Otabek’s beat.
Otabek looped the jam; the crowd loved it too, a wave of blue undulating across the floor. And he watched JJ dance: sweat glimmering on his forehead, showing dark at his armpits. Joy on his face, in every gesture, every sway.
Otabek could almost feel it, that damp warmth next to him, the weight of JJ’s arm draped over his shoulder, that too-loud, too-excited voice in his ear. And Otabek fighting his need to turn in, wrap his own arms around JJ’s chest, press his forehead to JJ’s shoulder.
He glanced over at Squid-kun nudging his platter as he spun up a new track. And he wanted that too, the curl of Squid-kun’s arm, softer than JJ’s and more insinuating, that brush of Squid-kun’s suckers against Otabek’s neck that made him feel the same need, the same desire: to tangle with his friends like they tangled with each other. Touching, pressing, rolling together until they were all gasping.
JJ’s headphones flickered again and he switched back to red, mouth opening in a shout of laughter.
Otabek slumped, like JJ was beside him, pushing him away. The crowd was switching too. But it wasn’t a wave this time: the lights were blinking back and forth, red-blue red-blue, all over the floor. JJ too.
What? Otabek looked over and Squid-kun winked, his mantle rippling red-blue red-blue along with the crowd.
Otabek had to know. He switched his cue audio for Squid-kun’s master and pressed the headphones to his ear. “Bastard!” Squid-kun was playing the same track, JJ’s track. Otabek pulled the headphones fully on, one master in each ear. Squid-kun had matched it perfectly, no lag between them at all. Just different tracks mixed beneath them and Squid-kun bumping and dragging the platter.
“Respect,” Otabek said and held out his fist for Squid-kun to bump. “But I won’t lose to you.” He left JJ’s jam on loop and pulled up another track, fading back and forth between them.
Nice, Squid-kun waved. He wasn’t backing down though, dropping the tonearm back at the beginning of the track, barely a stutter between the feeds before they synced up again. He flipped on the external monitors so the music filled the booth.
And they both kept at it, spinning for each other instead of the dancers, moving together, responding to each other in a duet that only they could hear. Otabek felt that glow inside his chest, that exhilaration in his body that only came from a great performance. And more, because it was with a partner. They were dancing, they would float here together, caught in a perfect loop, a perfect moment, synchronized forever.
JJ crashed into the room.
Squid-kun’s new cartridge skittered across the record. Otabek’s hand jerked on the fader and the pitch climbed. They both scrambled to fix it.
“It sounds better out there,” JJ said.
Otabek looked at Squid-kun. Squid-kun looked at Otabek. And they laughed, the sound bubbling from Otabek’s chest, the colours pulsing over Squid-kun’s mantle, one last perfect loop.
“What’s so funny?” JJ said. Up close, he was as dishevelled as Otabek had imagined: face glowing with sweat, clothes rumpled from dancing, a blank spot by his eye where a sequin had come loose. Throwing off that JJ energy that came to him so easily. He stepped closer and took one of Squid-kun’s arms, wrapping it around his waist. “You’re almost done, right?”
Squid-kun waved at the monitor board: nearly ten minutes still.
“That’s too long!” JJ said. He shifted in Squid-kun’s grasp and his energy shifted too, like someone was sliding his pitch fader, exhilaration modulating into something more intense, something unsatisfied. “I don’t want to wait.”
Squid-kun slid another arm around JJ, reaching around his neck and stroking his jaw. JJ tipped his head, leaning into it, eyes dropping closed for a moment. Squid-kun was picking up those rainbow colours from JJ again but in a deeper hue, running up the arms coiled around JJ. The loop closing between them.
Otabek turned away. He stared at his screen, ten minutes left, got to find another track, got to keep his eyes right here. Got to keep breathing even though his chest was aching.
“Did you ask him?” JJ said to Squid-kun. “Come on, I’m not that early.”
“I’m not playing it again.” Otabek switched off the monitors and pulled his headphones on, both ears, and turned up the volume. Not too late to get his numbers up for the night. Not too late to play something better.
He felt a touch on his shoulder. Squid-kun’s reaching arm, squeezing once, then resting there. Otabek shivered, like the booth was freezing instead of stifling. He set his jaw and kept his eyes on his laptop.
Then JJ moved into his peripheral vision, a glimpse of colour, a whiff of cologne and sweat. A murmur of “Come on, Beks!” which JJ must have yelled because Otabek could hear it perfectly. And then JJ’s hand on him too, beside Squid-kun’s, gripping Otabek’s shoulder.
Otabek stood still, not just JJ and Squid-kun touching him. The stuffy air, the music in his ears, all crowding in while inside him heat was expanding, blood as loud in his ears as the music, pressing at the inside of his skin, hammering on his breastbone.
Squid-kun reached out another arm. JJ grinned down at Otabek.
Otabek slipped off his headphones, not speaking, just listening. Just waiting on the tip of a moment that had been rising all set. Just breathing, barely.
“We were going to wait until the end of the set,” JJ said. “But Squid-kun’s not good at waiting.”
Squid-kun jabbed JJ in the side but his eyes were on Otabek, huge and glimmering. Please.
“Please, Beks,” JJ echoed. “It will be better with you.”
And Otabek’s heart turned over. Even if all they were offering was a single dance-club fuelled night together, that one time with Otabek, remember?, he was already past the point of saying no, weeks past. Months.
He put up his hand, fingers sliding together with JJ’s, under the tip of Squid-kun’s arm. “Okay,” he said. Something slipped loose inside of him, a great sigh of tension released, and then it began to gather again, but now it was anticipation, hot and twisting. “I’d like that.”
Squid-kun flushed and JJ grinned. They looked relieved, glad and sparkling, and Otabek’s breath caught in his throat to see it.
“After the set?” Otabek said. “Or did you want to stay a while first?”
JJ stepped in and kissed him.
The music! Otabek tried to say but that just opened him to the kiss, JJ’s lips moving against his, JJ’s tongue pressing into his mouth. Otabek started to push JJ away but his arms went around JJ’s neck instead, he tipped up on the balls of his feet to get closer.
Squid-kun’s arm slid around Otabek’s neck above the bridge of the headphones, tightening his suckers lightly against Otabek’s skin, just where the pulse was beating, and Otabek remembered those dark round marks he sometimes glimpsed on JJ’s torso when they were changing at the rink or at the gym.
Squid-kun stroked Otabek’s cheek and curled another arm around Otabek and JJ together, working up between them and teasing at the buttons on Otabek’s shirt.
Otabek reached out and found Squid-kun, so that he had one hand on JJ’s warm back and the other on Squid-kun’s cool mantle. He felt Squid-kun change texture under his fingers, JJ sigh against him. Heard his own heart throbbing in his ears.
And the frantic beeping from the headphones. “Fuck!” Otabek wrenched back to his laptop. Already more than ten seconds of dead air. He scrolled frantically through his list, trying to ignore JJ’s mouth still moving against his cheek.
Otabek found his emergency program at last and slammed it on. It would run for the rest of the set but it had been at least three months since he’d updated it, so it would sound stale. Which would definitely be worse for his reputation than getting caught having sex in the booth at the club. But fuck it, he was past caring about that now.
Squid-kun, of course, was still keeping up with his own board easily, changing records at the same time his arm crept up under the hem of Otabek’s shirt.
“Come on.” JJ pulled the headphones off Otabek’s neck and settled behind him, mouth at Otabek’s ear and hands on his waist. “You’re not good at waiting either.”
But I am, Otabek thought. I’ve been waiting so long, I’m an expert. But here it was at last, the perfect moment, here in the stuffy soundbooth: JJ’s hair chalk smearing onto Otabek’s shirt, Squid-kun’s numbers rocketing up on the board. Otabek’s whole body ready.
“You’re right,” Otabek said. He leaned back against JJ, reached out and pulled Squid-kun closer, until he was between them, in the middle of that jostling tangle, where he’d always wanted to be.
He wrapped his arms around Squid-kun, pressing against him, kissing his mantle and feeling the texture changing under his mouth. Behind him, JJ moved closer, rolling his hips against Otabek like they were grinding on the dance floor, kissing Otabek’s neck and helping Squid-kun pull up Otabek’s shirt.
Otabek kept his eyes open so he could see Squid-kun, watch his colour change so he matched Otabek now, the dark blue of his shirt with just a ripple of JJ’s rainbow. See the pleasure in Squid-kun’s huge eyes.
Squid-kun’s arms were wandering, curling around Otabek’s torso, sliding up his trouser leg. JJ’s hands too, with less finesse but more enthusiasm, stroking Otabek’s abdomen, grabbing his ass. Dipping his fingers down inside Otabek’s waistband.
Otabek’s eyes dropped closed, he couldn’t help it. He couldn’t help the way his mouth opened to gasp when Squid-kun flexed his suckers against the inside of Otabek’s thigh. He couldn’t help the way his body jerked when JJ flicked his tongue inside Otabek’s ear, the spot, how did JJ know the spot?
Before this, he’d only seen what JJ and Squid-kun did with each other in public. And he’d been dreaming of doing that with them too, and more. But right now, caught between them, he could barely respond. He was losing control, dizzy and dishevelled, and he couldn’t even remember if this was how he’d fantasized it would be.
Squid-kun flipped the monitors back on, the music from his board filling the booth, and while he slithered an arm up Otabek’s back, tight between Otabek and JJ, he put on a new record.
A ripple of pleasure went through Otabek but it took a second for him to wake up to why. The track. He had the same one in his collection but he rarely heard anyone else play it, rarely played it himself. Because it was his favourite and he didn’t want it to get stale.
He opened his eyes and saw Squid-kun ripple too, a shimmer of green as Otabek pulled him closer. “How did you know?” Otabek said.
Then JJ tipped Otabek’s head back and kissed his mouth, hand on Otabek’s throat, while Squid-kun pressed against Otabek, wrapped around them both, the three of them moving together.
And Otabek felt like he was the one changing colours, picking up JJ’s enthusiasm and Squid-kun’s sweetness, becoming them, mirroring them back. Falling into them until he was part of them, a three-strand knot that no-one could untie.
But he couldn’t say the same about his belt: JJ was fumbling it open. Squid-kun unzipped his trousers, they both reached in and Otabek felt his cock jerk up to meet them, his whole body straining to press closer.
“Nice dick, Beks!” JJ said. He squeezed Otabek’s cock and stroked the tip with his thumb. Squid-kun curled an arm around too, squeezing the base, a little gentle suction, while he yanked Otabek’s trousers and underwear down to his knees.
Otabek arched back against JJ. The pacifier around JJ’s neck dug into Otabek’s spine but he didn’t care. He tried to reach behind him, god, he wanted JJ’s dick now, managed to get his hand against it, grabbing it through JJ’s trousers, felt it move for him. He got his other hand on Squid-kun’s mantle, where should he touch?
“We’ll take care of you.” JJ wrapped his other arm around Otabek’s chest, bracing him, dragging him closer so Otabek had to drop his hand.
Squid-kun pressed closer too, more arms sliding across Otabek’s bare skin, a tentacle coiling around his neck. He stroked the crease of Otabek’s thigh, curled softly under Otabek’s balls.
Otabek shivered and let himself go, leaning his weight on JJ. Resting his hands on JJ’s thigh, Squid-kun’s mantle. Lifting his hips as they both jacked him, in sync with each other, with the music.
Squid-kun’s arm brushed his face, teasing at the corner of his mouth. Otabek pulled in the tip and sucked on it, that same rhythm, opening wide to take more of it in, as much as he could, his tongue moving along Squid-kun’s suckers.
All he could feel now was the beat, throbbing through him, through all of them, tension rising like a climbing pitch. His muscles pulling tight, his hands clutching at his friends, his breath rough in his throat. JJ’s cock hard against his back, rocking in with every stroke of his hand on Otabek. The glow of JJ’s bracelet moving with his arm. Squid-kun rocking too, up on Otabek’s hip as his arms reached everywhere.
“You feel good, Beks,” JJ said. “Really good. We weren’t sure if you’d want to.”
I did, Otabek wanted to say but his mouth was full and his head was empty. His body strained, his skin flared. I always do. And he tipped over the edge, flinging back against JJ, groaning around Squid-kun, pleasure expanding and contracting again and again as he came.
Then he sagged in their arms, not quite breathing, not quite anything yet, boneless as Squid-kun, self-satisfied as JJ. Happy as Otabek fucking Altin.
“Amazing,” JJ said and laughed, warmly, while he smeared his messy hand against Otabek’s belly. Squid-kun reached around to jab JJ before he wiped Otabek up a bit.
Otabek stretched, taking some of his own weight again. JJ was still pressing against him, not quite grinding, but leaning in, his cock still hard in the small of Otabek’s back while he reached past Otabek to touch Squid-kun.
And Otabek wanted to watch JJ and Squid-kun with each other, still here in the middle of it all. But also… He dragged up his trousers and turned, sliding to his knees. Rubbed his cheek against JJ’s dick, hands on JJ’s ass to pull him closer.
“God, Beks,” JJ said. “Please.”
Please. Otabek took a deep breath. He opened JJ’s trousers and got out JJ’s dick, no time right now to admire, just sucked it in, opening wide even though his jaw was still sore. Too long since he’d had his mouth around a cock, so long since he’d been thinking about sucking this one.
And it was as good as he’d been imagining, throbbing against his tongue as he moved, JJ’s hand grabbing at Otabek’s hair, not to push Otabek deeper, just to clutch while JJ gasped and swore in his too-loud voice. Good thing the booth was soundproofed.
Squid-kun slid an arm around and made a ring around the base of JJ’s dick, leaving the end of his arm free to tease the corner of Otabek’s mouth, smearing the saliva that collected there. Another arm slid down Otabek’s back, inside his open waistband, between his buttocks.
Otabek shuddered, god, was he going to be ready again this soon? No time even if he were, but just the thought of being filled by both JJ and Squid-kun, almost more than he could take, made his eyes sting and his pulse bump.
And above him, around him, he felt JJ and Squid-kun touching each other, jostling and rocking, while the music played on. The set might be over by now, feeds switched over to the other booth, Otabek had no idea any more. They were in another loop, over and over, around and around.
Then JJ’s fingers tightened in Otabek’s hair, Squid-kun’s arms squeezed them both, and JJ shook and came, shouting, shuddering, Otabek almost choking with it, Squid-kun vibrating too. All of them ringing with the deepest music of all.
Otabek gagged a little, then rocked back on his heels. He swallowed, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. Squid-kun’s arm grasped him firmly and he felt a smack against his chest. It was a glistening little package stuck to his shirt, translucent with a shadow of tightly packed strands inside.
JJ laughed. He dragged up his trousers, then dragged Otabek up too, one strong hand around Otabek’s wrist. “Spermatophores. It’s polite to hang onto that.”
Squid-kun bumped against Otabek’s shoulder, wrapping another loose arm around him. Otabek took the pack in his hand, it was just a little sticky. “Thank you,” he said. But what to do with it?
“Here.” JJ fished a plastic bag out of his pocket — did he just carry that around in case? — and held it open.
Otabek slipped the spermatophore pack inside and tucked the bag into his own pocket. Hopefully, he’d get a chance alone with JJ to find out what he should do with it now.
And then he realised: it was over. He did up his trousers and ran his hands through his hair while JJ and Squid-kun pulled themselves together too. He was still warm, almost glowing, languid as he closed his laptop and reset the board. But it had been so fast, this awkward bump and tangle in a semi-public place. It will be enough, he’d told himself but he’d been wrong. That one time with JJ and Squid-kun was worse than watching them together on the floor, wondering what it would be like between them.
He turned away. “The new cartridges were excellent,” he said and pulled out his phone to get a car.
“Hey, Beks,” JJ said. “Aren’t you coming home with us?” He looked back at Squid-kun. “Shut up, I’m asking him now.” He squeezed Otabek’s shoulder.
Otabek looked up at him, glanced over at Squid-kun packing away records. They were both flushed, a stain of rosy pink, blinking at him. He didn’t speak, his heart twisting in his chest, and he wondered if he was pink too.
Squid-kun looped an arm over too, brushing Otabek’s cheek and shading into an uncertain purple.
“We want to talk to you,” JJ said. “About…maybe…” He gestured at the three of them. “Us.”
Us. Otabek sighed, that squeeze in his chest loosening, hope rolling warmly through his whole body. Maybe us. Then his pocket twitched. He clapped his hand over it, the spermatophores pulsing a little, like they were asking him too.
JJ laughed. “They do that. Come on, I’ll make pancakes in the morning.”
Otabek stepped in, reaching his hands out to them both, completing the loop. “I like pancakes.” Squid-kun poked him. “And fish.”
“But first,” JJ said. “Let’s dance.”