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La Danse, 1910

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Slaine’s eyes snap open. 

“Inaho”, he whispers into the dark night, a bit urgently, a bit confused. “Inaho, Inaho.” The dream is still alive within him, and he needs to find the words before the emotions fade away, he needs to let it out, the confusion, the sweetness and the pain. The bed is soft and warm—and Inaho’s hand is there, curled over his waist, palm resting over Slaine’s heart, the scarred skin there.

“Bat.” The voice that answers is the light washing every one of his sorrows away, always after a nightmare, always in every part of their days, Slaine could know Inaho’s voice forever. “I see. Another nightmare.”

“No. I saw a very strange dream tonight.” Slaine whispers, and Inaho listens.

 #

 “You always wore brown. Your clothing was torn and your palms were rough. I was adorned with a cape that was brilliant, crimson with black roses, the needlework careful, exceptional. I first saw you in the local fair, selling beer and bread, your feet covered in mud. Everyone was dancing and cheering, the plague was a faraway threat at those times. The people invited me to join, and I danced with you, exultant and unashamed. The sunset painted the mud in shades of red, like blood, like your eyes. I was scared, but you held onto my hand. We met again, and again. It was a secret. At night we would play games, which would always end up with my lips on yours. I used to write you letters, but, as brilliant as you were, talking about the sphere of the Earth and the movements of the stars, you could never answer.”

#

“Bat.” Inaho interrupts him, “You dreamed of us having sex in the Middle Ages?”

“O-Orange!” Slaine sputters, glad for the darkness of the night, covering his intense blushing, “The dream had nothing to do with sex!”

“Why did I have to be the illiterate peasant?"

That’s what bothered you?!”

 Inaho’s fingers absentmindedly trace Slaine’s scarred torso. “Go on.”

Slaine sighs, glad that Inaho is listening. “It wasn’t always like this.”

#

“Sonnets. I wrote you sonnets. We were dressed in velvet and silk, heirs of rival baronies. I tried to best you in everything; horsemanship, mathematics, rapiers and heated duels, the tension mounting terribly between us. On the dance floor your sister soared, intended to be mine. It was a moonless night. You stole me away, pushed me against the arch of the alcove, crimson roses hanging over our heads, and you kissed me. I couldn’t breathe. We conquered one another within our stone rooms, beneath our silken sheets. We borrowed the clothes of the stable boys and ran, ecstatic and full of life and youth. The cathedral was under restoration, an enormous masterpiece painted on the roof far above our heads. I wanted you mine, but you explained that happiness isn’t eternal. We walked barefoot on cobblestoned streets and ate oranges, the taste sharp and tingling in my mouth. I could always taste them on your lips. We lasted for months until they found us. You lost your eye in the battle they sent you. Away from me. I lost my soul, committing evil in the wars.”

#

“Slaine…how much wine did you have, before sleep?”

“Orange! As if getting drunk has anything to do with dreaming about that stuff!”

“…Did we have sex, in that time period?”

“I-I don’t remember.”

“You’re lying.”

“…S-Shut up, Kaizuka!”

#

“Childhood was always miserable, for me. My stepfather would beat me up, sometimes a whip, sometimes a cane, and I would take walks to the very top of the hills, writing down everything I saw in nature without speaking. The birdsongs were wonderful to listen to. I saw you one day, in the woods, on your black stallion. You held a fresh orange in your hand even in the middle of summer. Your collar was high, pristine, and I was jealous, jealous, because if I could wear it, it would hide the bruises, the nasty evidences of pain. Your top hat seemed ridiculous, black yet extremely soft, and I thought exactly the same about your hair. You turned cold, red eyes to me, condemning me with that first glance, because I was the enemy, belonging to another country. I hated you. Oh, how I hated you. Whole continents trembled, were drenched in blood while you sat still for your portraits. ‘Get lost, Orange’ I wrote with an alphabet made of twigs near your mansion, and you answered, ‘Are you my enemy?’. It kept me up for nights. In the end, I could never answer, ‘Yes’. I read you my stories, the birds singing in the woods and the abundance of nature around us, and you listened and listened. We would surprise each other with secret messages, promises made of twigs. One night, you dressed me up in those elaborate clothes, smuggled me inside and I joined the modern waltz dances in your sister’s manor. I saw you smile and I thought my heart would burst. The first time you kissed me, lying on the forest floor in the middle of our clearing, I thought, I could die happy, now. I wrote poetry for you, resting my head on your lap and reading it aloud in the sanctuary of our forest. When they found us, they broke my bones. I cried for days without end in that prison, thinking of all the secrets we had discovered within our forest, the forest your war ravaged with fire, fire and blood until the turn of the century arrived and my letters to you, the Hero, the General, the Savior, went always unanswered.

#

“…”

“Yes!! Yes, we did, we fucked like bunnies in that forest, are you happy now?!” Slaine’s cheeks are burning.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to ask. Still, your erotic dreams are…interesting.”

“ORANGE!!!”

#

“I loved to put a record in the gramophone and do a few dance steps, in the basement of the bookshop I owned, hidden within the steel heart of the steaming city. It was a poor, poor life, but nevertheless, mine. Swinging and dancing and whistling in the dark, it was me, unbiased, unashamed. But there was war in the city, and my hands were already drenched in blood. One night, returning home, a sharp click of a cocked gun at my temple, and your voice saying I must either surrender or cooperate. I fought you with everything I had. I won. You fled within the darkness of the night, the ominous church bells sounding midnight. We met again, many times, over the battlefield of those dark streets. One night you caught me up in your strong arms and whispered, I found you. I was exultant.I am not your enemy, I said, and you, you never betrayed me. The night I took you home was long and violent. We kissed until our lips were bruised. You spoke words in a foreign tongue, secret whispers on my bare skin. We were enemies, but I knew I could die for you. Hidden in my basement, we danced until dawn, we danced until we couldn’t anymore. The single day we left the city we ate strawberries on fields of gold, glided on the river with the smallest boat through a burning sunset. Stumbling back, after a fight, to the place we called home, you spoke about the future, you spoke about forbidden books and sacred vows; until that night someone made a mark on our small window, and the night after, they broke down the door like wild beasts, and took you away from home.

#

“So, what you are trying to say is, that over the years…”

“Centuries, Orange!”

“That over the centuries, we got overwhelmingly, increasingly close to killing and hating each other…”

“…yet each time, we found each other. Each and every time.” Slaine murmurs. “Despite the hate, despite the violence. And there’s more to it. To the dream. But I cannot remember. As much as I try, I cannot remember.” At this admission, a strange, bittersweet feeling spreads inside Slaine’s chest. “Perhaps this is the end of it…and we are safe, now…”

“We are safe, Slaine.” Inaho yawns. “Dreams are merely a projection of our subconscious—”

Slaine shuts his silly Orange up with an almost bruising kiss. Then, as if to make things clearer, “Shut up, Orange.”

Even in the darkness of the room, Slaine can feel Inaho smile. “Is that a challenge, Bat?”

“It’s always some sort of stupid challenge, with you!” Slaine is half-shouting, half-giggling, now.

“I see.”

“What?”

“Your dream was an excuse.”

“What?”  Incredulous, now.

“Sex.” Inaho says, then quickly avoids Slaine’s playful kick with another one of those mesmerizing smiles. “You shouldn’t worry, Bat. Even if it’s the middle of the night, you only need to ask for it, and you will get it. Always. Even…right now.”

Slaine shivers at the hidden lust within Inaho’s voice. “I know.”

 “Hard and fast or gentle and slow?” Inaho asks, now taking off his pajamas. (Even in the middle of the summer, his Orange sleeps in those ridiculous orange pajamas. The first time Slaine saw them, he was laughing inside for days.)

“Both.” Slaine murmurs, a rash of anticipation dancing madly over his skin. “I want both. I want everything. I want you.”

#

Inaho slides inside him quietly, slowly, and Slaine lets out a soft gasp. With every thrust, Slaine is pushed closer to sweet release, every movement of Inaho’s body over his own is harsh and overwhelming. Slaine twists his fingers into Inaho’s hair, the sheets, his nails scrape frantically against the soft wood of the bedframe, his thighs opening wider for Inaho, welcoming him inside, because pleasure is such an overwhelming, exploding, mesmerizing thing. Slaine wants to cry. Inaho’s hands never stop exploring his body. Time seems surreal; the bed cracking under their fast, writhing activities, the silence of the night interrupted by Slaine’s passionate cries. Their kisses are slow and soft, lips barely touching during sex, their mouths hovering close over each other, each of Inaho’s breaths sliding between Slaine’s lips like a secret caress, a chant of tenderness.

When Inaho comes, Slaine holds him close, close, feeling his heartbeats as his own orgasm crashes through him, swift and powerful like lightning.

#

The next morning, Slaine is standing in the garden, surrounded by the hum of bees and the endless flowers; Inaho loves using Latin names to describe them. He is watching the first rays of light being reflected off the large windows of their home. Moments from last night rush through his memory; the mysterious, now half-forgotten dream; the way Inaho’s body moved over his own, passionate and loving, tender and violent all at the same time.

Inaho is standing a few steps away, looking toward the place where the horizon of the sea is melting with the sky.

Slaine’s thoughts are lost in the moments of the past, his memory rushing over his whole life like water rushing over forgotten, useless stones on the bottom of a stream—the neglected child, the abused servant, the blood-covered Count, the miserable prisoner.

However…he remembers, now.

He remembers.

How much he loved dancing, as a child, before Vers and its misery.

How much he loved writing, and poetry, and dreaming of someone holding him close, holding him tight.

How much he missed Earth on that cold, hostile planet.

How much he loves nature, surrounding him, the flowers swaying in the gentle breeze, saluting him in delight, the songs of the birds congratulating him, waiting for him to start the next great adventure.

Yes, there are certain things in life that stay ever unchanging; like the sunlight as it hits Inaho’s hair, hiding shades of color among the darkness of his hair, so soft, almost like silk (Slaine knows, so well, so good…)

And Slaine knows, it is all Inaho’s fault. Those forgotten memories of childhood happiness, it is Inaho’s fault he’s remembering them now and crying.

“Slaine?” Inaho approaches, a shelter always, a light always, chasing away Slaine’s nightmares. “Bat.” Orange’s voice is soft, concerned. Strong arms wrap around him. Slaine raises his gaze at the sky and lets more tears fall. He feels protected, cared for. As if Inaho has been hugging him for centuries.

What a ridiculous thought.

We spent half our lives hating each other, Slaine thinks, and more tears fall.

“Slaine. Bat. It’s alright, Slaine.”

“D-Dance with me.” Slaine whispers. Inaho inhales in surprise.

Slaine has long forgotten how to dance, and he’s certain that Inaho has never, ever in his life tried it. That, however, doesn’t stop Inaho from gently wrapping his arms around Slaine and luring him into a clumsy sway on their feet, right there, in the middle of the garden, under the light of a rising sun and the gentle breeze surrounding them.

Slaine lets his burning eyelids drift shut. With Inaho, his life sometimes seems like a never-ending dance. A dance he can never imagine, extending into the future…boundless, revolutionary and brilliant...full of tender, everlasting promises.