“Fossluna, please,” Booster says brightly, and immediately shrinks under the look the cab driver sends him. He gives his most innocent, blue-eyed smile. Just a tourist. No need to call the police.
The cabbie chews his lip and studies him in the rear view mirror, and despite his moronic smile Booster feels a sense of panic creep in. What if his blonde hair is peaking through the wig? What if he looks like someone with something to hide?
Whatever the driver is scanning him for he seems to pass. With a grunt his chauffeur grips the wheel, and next thing they're off.
They’d just touched down in Bialya when the odd man had approached them at the airport. Booster and Beetle were lagging behind, trying to carry too much luggage, when this squat swarthy man had seemingly popped out of the shadows, telling them in a heavy accent where to get all sorts of sundries; drugs, and girls, and apparently, massages.
The driver turns on the radio. A DJ chatters on in Bialyan for a minute until the tinny music begins; “Now the king told the boogie men, you gotta let that raga dro-op...”
The man had seemed sorta... oily, within and out. He’d been undeterred by Beetle gently turning every sleazy offer down while Booster observed the conversation with mild amusement.
“Not interested in drug? Not interested in girls?” the man had eventually asked.
“Not interested,” Beetle had assured him.
“Ah," the man had smiled and winked knowingly. "You go to Fossluna! Is bar for men. For liking men.”
The immediate look on Beetle’s face had made something pinch inside Booster. “We’re not gay!” he sputtered. Like he was angry. Like he’d been insulted.
Booster looks through the windows, dappled with droplets from when it rained earlier. He must be crazy, deciding to visit a gay bar the moment he's in a country where he could be arrested for less.
Two years. Two years since he arrived in this age, 1986, and of all the bizarre and illogical things going on, few things are as baffling to Booster as the stigma of any kind of desire outside of straight-laced heterosexuality. He had learned as much just by how his first manager, Dirk Davis, had praised him for being seen at all the right clubs with his girl date, and the next week had yelled at him thunderously when he’d been spotted dancing with a handsome bartender from Delta City.
Dirk had given him a real earful, admonishments about how his career would be ruined, his friends would abandon him, all his prospects destroyed if it became known Booster Gold liked both men and and women. After, Booster had even checked in with Skeets. "It's not... illegal in this age, is it?" No. Not everywhere. Not in the United States. But.
But in the public eye it might as well be.
The absurdity of hiding something so straightforward. It was like he’d come to a world where breathing in was praised and glorified, but breathing out was seen as perverted and would ruin your life.
That'd been two years ago. That nice bartender had been the last person to see that side of Booster. (Though there'd been other people, tiny glances, subtle words, that might have... Or maybe not.) Even when he'd thought Dirk had been exaggerating, a quick glance at the gossip mags had driven the point home. You get spotted at the wrong place, confide in the wrong person... It's over.
Booster pulls his fingers through his hair, but stops himself when his fingers catch on the wig. Gotta be careful. Not that he thinks his face is so familiar to the average Bialyan, but all it takes is one person recognizing him. He's crazy to do this. Here, of all places.
It wasn't like Beetle had been angry when the weirdo had assumed they used drugs or wanted prostitutes. He'd just turned him down matter-of-factly, not bothering to really engage. But at the mere hint of there being a gay bar they might go to?
He chews his lip, looking at the cars as they pass. So okay, he'd figured early on he didn't have a chance with Ted. That's alright, people have preferences, nothing you can do, no matter how wistfully you might look at them as they're doing that jaw-dropping gymnastic routine at the League gym. Beetle's too smart for him anyway, too brilliant, surely, to have the patience for Booster's brand of idiocy. They had their jokes, and their quips, and the occasional late-night genuine conversation. And that had to be enough.
But some of Beetle's jokes. They'd kinda sting, secretly. Not just their subject matter but how confidently Beetle told them, so sure that he was speaking to someone who saw the world the same way, not thinking for a moment that Booster...
The closet, they call it. A place to lock yourself away from the bright world, hidden and secret and ashamed. A little trip to the 20th Century and Booster had been all but shoved inside, after a life spent in the sunlight.
A siren somewhere behind the cab makes Booster jump, reflexively touching his light brown wig. The cab pulls aside as Booster's heart seems to pound through his chest, and the police car speeds past. Easy, Booster. They're not going to nab you for getting into a cab.
After dinner at the hotel earlier today, Bats and Fire had gone out in their disguises to make some noise as billionaire Bruce Wayne and his plus one, leaving Booster and Beetle to play cards. It wasn't an exciting game, Ted too good at patterns and planning ahead, and the stuffiness of their shared room just made them drowsy.
Then came an hour spent sitting in the uncomfortable recliner in their hotel room, observing Beetle sleeping (his dark eyelashes fluttering, his t-shirt pulled up just enough to reveal the dark trail of hair on his lower stomach), and Booster feeling so anxious and restless and bursting with energy. He made up his mind.
It’d been two years, and it was time to exhale.
The two suitcases with sundry costumes and makeup had come in handy. A wig, a full moustache, some makeup to darken his eyebrows and lashes, and he’d been set. A double security: Both his anonymity in disguise, and his relative anonymity in a foreign country.
He’d even left a note to Beetle, just so he wouldn’t think he’d been kidnapped by Bialyan agents or anything. “Dying of boredom, going out to check out the nightlife. Please don't tell Bats. - Booster”
The cab stops with a jerk and the cab driver grunts, a sound of finality. Booster looks out the window. There must be some mistake.
There’s a worn half-lit sign saying FOSSLUNA out there in the night, but it’s certainly not a bar. It’s more like a shabby café -- he can see through the dingy windows at old sour ladies drinking coffee out of little mugs, chewing bread rolls with toothless gums.
Booster snorts, equal amounts disappointed and relieved. He must have misunderstood the stranger at the airport, or misremembered the name. He might even be able to tell this to Beetle, with a few details altered. How he traveled all this way to a night club only to find it was a pensioner’s café.
With a smirk he gives the driver his pay (only spending a few minutes sorting through the strange coins). Might as well have a cup of coffee and hopefully find a more pleasant cab driver on the way home. And just like that, he steps out of the cab and into the Fossluna Café.
There's a staleness to the air inside that gives the impression the door hasn't been opened in years, like the old ladies in the corner have lived here since they were young. The man behind the counter is a friendly-looking older gentleman. He looks Booster up and down with an overbearing expression, and Booster finds himself blushing at how much he’s standing out in this place, with his yellow crop top and tight white jeans. He’d been ready for a night of dancing, not tea and bread rolls in the sleepier part of the city.
As he steps up to the counter he pauses. There's a strange sensation he can't quite place. Like the room is pulsing ever so slightly, vibrating to a silent beat.
“I’ll have a coffee,” he tells the man.
The man says something in Bialyan and points behind him, to the back of the café.
“No, not toilet. Coffee,” Booster enunciates slowly.
The man says something more unintelligible, and points again.
“No, coffee. Coh-feee,” Booster repeats gently, miming lifting a cup to his mouth. Figures, he comes in here like this looking like he does, it’s easy to assume he’d only walk in wanting to use the can.
The man smiles kindly, nods, and gestures to the back.
Fine, okay. Maybe if he walks in and out of the bathroom it becomes clear he wants something else. Booster follows the counter, squeezing past two elderly gentlemen in muttered conversation, and turns the corner into a wood-paneled hallway. The strange pulsing sensation seems to travel in a wave from his feet to his head. What have these pensioners been smoking in here?
When he reaches the one doorway at the end and grabs the handle, he’s surprised to find the door swinging open on its own, an impossibly loud noise enveloping him, and a young man in a leather vest pulls him into darkness and flashing lights.
The heavy drone of synthesizers makes it impossible to make out what the young man is saying to him, but the colored blinking lights catch his teeth in a grin and then he goes back to guarding the door. Below him, at the end of the wide staircase Booster can make out a mass of people moving to the music, now and then a face illuminated by blue and purple lights.
Oh. Of course.
“...Things will happen while they can, I will wait here for my man, tonight....”
He walks down the stairs like in a trance, the bodies around him bobbing to the heavy rhythm, men kissing, grinding, drinking all around him. Just the sight seems to make the air crackle with energy around Booster. There’s a smell of sweat, but not old and rancid, this is fresh, the smell of bodies in motion.
It's like a parallel dimension. Two years spent up there, in the daylight, where men only kiss women, only dance with women, and now he's journeyed to this underworld, this loud, pulsating realm where those stifling rules don't apply.
He reaches the main floor, and to the left there’s a bar with stools. A good place to get the lay of the land, to observe for a moment, drink it all in. He only spends a few minutes trying to communicate to the bartender that he would like to order some shots. Doesn’t matter what kind. The liquid he’s served is purple, and almost fluorescent under the lights. He knocks a few back and leans against the counter, observing the room. Gets a mad idea how weird it would be if he saw someone he knew here. Though who would that even be?
The fake moustache was a good call at least. There’s obviously a trend.
“...Neon on my naked skin, passing silhouettes of strange illuminated mannequins...”
He can feel eyes on him. Men looking at his body, studying him, wanting him, and that alone is a rush, allowing himself to be here, to let himself be desired. All these eyes taking in the tan skin of his exposed midriff, the curve of his ass in his tight white jeans. A warmth spreads through his chest, though that may be the alcohol's doing.
An older man in a gray suit approaches, he rests a hand on Booster’s arm as he mutters something into his ear.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know Bialyan,” Booster shrugs with a smile. When the man tugs lightly on his arm and motions to the dance floor, Booster shakes his head, still with a smile. Not his type.
He downs another shot, feeling the pleasant burn in his throat, the warmth in his stomach. He’s never been in a place like this. Back home there weren’t bars this specific. You went clubbing, there’d be guys flirting, women flirting, non-binaries flirting, everybody free to pursue the gender or non-gender they desired. If you weren’t into what someone had to offer you could just turn them down, no hard feelings.
In this age, it’s all so, well, fraught.
A slim young man with chestnut curls walks up to Booster and smiles, a little shyly. Motions to the dance floor as the purple strobing lights glow around him like an aura.
“...In the lot the boy that's idling by doesn't rev your heart, 'cause it's only lonely spots he shares with you...”
They move into the pulsating crowd and begin to dance, a few feet apart. The smell of sweat and sex is stronger out here, the air is heavier. Warm bodies brush against his own as they move to the rhythm, moving closer, moving together.
He is kind of handsome, this young man. There’s something earnest in his eyes that Booster finds really attractive. He reaches out, sliding a hand over the young man’s bare shoulder in his tank top, finally feeling him, the warmth of him, and pulls him closer.
Their bodies meet, gently bumping against each other to the rhythm, and Booster feels warm hands grip his waist, feels the young man’s slim thigh between his legs. And he likes it. They bob and move, and Booster lets his fingers trail over his partner’s chest. God, how he’s missed feeling a body like this against his own.
“...Back to school, it’s a bad situation, what you want is adult education...”
They’re dancing so close, their faces inches apart, delaying, teasing. Booster parts his lips, knowing his breathing is giving him away. Time to exhale. His fingers find the bottom of his partner’s tank top and he slides his fingers underneath, feeling the smooth warm skin. He thinks of Ted back the hotel, sleeping, his little trail of chestnut hair right there, and Booster pulls him close into a kiss.
It tastes of sweetened liquor.
Their faces pull apart again, their bodies locked together, swaying, moving to the music.
Booster wonders idly where they can go, feeling only a slight twinge of guilt at how he doesn’t know this man, doesn’t know his name, doesn’t know if they’re even capable of communicating with words. Their bodies close together, grinding, teasing. He can no longer tell himself that he came here just to dance and mingle.
“...The underclassmen are flashing hot and cool...”
So maybe he didn't come here looking for true love. Nothing wrong with that. But... He'd want to do this differently, if he could. Damn era forcing him to be this mercenary when he’d much rather flirt and tease in the daylight.
The stranger cradles his face and pulls him into a kiss again, tongue teasing his own, making Booster groan, a noise drowned out by the music. The feeling of the young man's fingers in Booster’s hair seems strangely numb, and that’s when Booster remembers the disguise. He quickly pulls the young man’s fingers from his wig and shakes his head with a smile, then kisses him again.
The young man studies him for a moment, confused, then motions to his hair, miming flattening it down, and laughs.
"Yes, I’m just vain about my hair," Booster nods. "Don’t mess it up."
The tall young man shrugs with a smile, saying something in Bialyan, then pulls Booster close again. There's heat where skin meets skin.
There are more people on the dance floor now, crowding, slick bodies brushing against each other. Booster feels a second pair of hands on his hips, feels a warm body pressing against his back.
He looks over his shoulder, a little dizzy, a little confused, and sees a blonde mustachio’d man in a black shirt dancing close, smiling impishly when Booster’s eyes meet his. He’s a bit shorter than Booster, a little pudgier, but handsome in an old movie sort of way. Booster moves his hips to the rhythm, grinding against the man with the mustache, body still wrapped around the young man from before.
"...You got me living only for the night, before the morning comes to the story's told..."
The young man seems incensed by this intrusion and steps back, yelling something to this new man, sharp words. The mustachio’d one laughs and shouts something back, but his fists clench, his chest puffs up. They argue back and forth, and Booster, still swaying to the music, feels weirdly unattached to the situation, uninvolved. He already misses the heat, the movement.
With a flush of frustration Booster makes a move. Might as well go for it. He raises his hands, trying to defuse the situation, and wraps his arms around both of them. He pulls the new man, the shorter blonde one, into a kiss. He tastes of whiskey, and his moustache tickles. Then he kisses the young man from before. It’s alright. We can share.
He grins good-naturedly at his two partners, who regard each other with some hesitation. Then the younger man speaks, softer now, to the newcomer and they seem to reach an agreement. The young man moves in close to Booster again, both hands trailing up his bare midriff, while the shorter one steps behind and grips his hips, pulling him close, letting him feel the heat and hardness there. Booster welcomes the intensity, being squeezed between them. Two warm and willing bodies against him, moving, grinding to the music. Obviously desiring him despite of the laws telling them not to. Wanting him even when it's illegal.
Booster just wishes he could know their names.
"...I live among the creatures of the night, I haven't got the will to try and fight..."
The shorter man pauses for a moment and points towards the other end of the dance floor, and the young man grins in response. They share a few words in Bialyan, urging Booster to come. And Booster tags along, not so naive that he doesn't have a suspicion what they're after. The floor is so crowded now it takes some time and negotiation crossing the floor. Booster enjoys the heavy air, the heat and movement surrounding him. The far wall reveals a heavy steel door, and they enter.
It takes a few moments for Booster’s eyes to adapt to the stark white light within. He blinks. They’re in a gray concrete corridor, the music echoing dimly behind them once the door slams shut. There are a few bar stools and other bric-a-brac stacked up against the wall, and they squeeze past until they’re at the end of the corridor. Booster’s about to open the door at the end when the young man stops him and smiles, before he kisses him hungrily and presses him against the wall.
Ah. This corridor was the destination, not the path.
Booster kisses back, curling his tongue, dragging his fingers down the young man’s chest, which earns him a silent gasp in return. Oh, he hasn't forgotten his little flourishes. Then strong arms grip his arms and pulls him aside, the shorter mustachio'd man kissing him, rougher, more demanding, grabbing Booster’s erection through his white jeans. Booster hears himself groan in response, and then he giggles, almost in relief, his breathing heavy.
Yes, he wants this. He’d wish for a sumptuous bed with cool cotton sheets, but he’ll take it, he’ll manage with this. He grabs the shorter man’s hips and grinds their bodies together, not knowing quite how he wants to do this or how he’d communicate it if he did.
He can feel the younger man behind him, his hands following the waistband of his jeans with warm fingers, until they meet at the front and start tugging at the fly.
Booster's desperate for this, he wants this but it's still not quite --
“Wait just --" he giggles between sloppy kisses. "I’m Boo--, no, I’m Michael,” he breathes, gently nudging the shorter older man away. He points to himself. “Michael,” and then he gestures to the shorter man with a friendly, questioning look.
Give me a name, just tell me a name, any name. Lie if you have to.
The shorter man shrugs, not understanding, and tries to kiss him again, but Booster pulls away. Instead he turns to the young blonde one. “Michael,” he repeats, tapping his own chest with his hand, before gesturing towards him.
The man frowns in response, then suddenly seems to have an epiphany. “Ah! Djari,” he gestures to himself. He points to Booster. “Michael,” he says, his accent thickening the consonants. Then he points to himself: “Djari.”
“Djari,” Booster smiles and gives him a kiss. He’s with Djari, pulling his fingers through Djari’s blonde hair, about to go to bed (well, not bed) with Djari. That helps. That makes it more the way he wants.
Djari turns to the older one, the one with the moustache, and speaks low in Bialyan. The man laughs and turns to Booster and points to himself. “Hafil,” he grins.
“Hafil,” Booster repeats and gives him a kiss for good measure. Here they are, Booster (no, Michael), Djari and Hafil.
Satisfied, Booster pulls the two men closer again, crowding him, Djari behind Booster, Hafil in front, touching, kissing. Booster teases Hafil’s lips with his tongue before turning his head to taste Djari. He can’t tell whose hands are doing what to him, but they're under his top, trailing over his chest, cupping his ass, kneading, grasping, and his erection is pounding, he needs more.
He turns to face Djari again, the young man who approached him first, and it’s like Booster feels a strange sort of loyalty to him, a sense of gratefulness for getting him out on the dance floor. Booster pushes Djari against the wall, and with a quick kiss Booster drops to his knees.
Booster’s had one night stands before. He’s had multiple dates in one night before. But still something nags at him tonight, the way he’s acting. He tries to push it away, asking himself what would be different if they’d gone and had a dinner before this.
Booster definitely wants this. He starts unbuttoning Djari’s slacks, feeling the tension of the fabric, the warm hardness under it. This is for him, because of him. And he’s missed this. He pulls Djari’s pants and underwear down in one swift moftion, the slim cock bouncing slightly, unsupported by clothing. Booster can feel himself growing harder at the sight, at the smell. Two years.
He grasps the base with his hand and shuffles closer, lips parted, when a hand pushes him away. He looks up, confused, not understanding the word Hafil, behind him, is saying to him.
Djari groans slightly, his hips pushing against Booster’s hand. Then Booster sees something held out in the corner of his eye, a small flat foil packet.
Oh right. Condom. That little rubber tool Booster still can't help finding a little funny in its simplicity. He got the Detee vaccine when he was fifteen, so efficiently protective that in his own time, most of the major STDs were in the process of being eradicated. And protection from pregnancy was as easy as taking a pill, man or woman.
In the 20th Century they’re still pulling a little rubber balloon over their genitals to catch fluids. Just as well, Booster figures. His vaccine is only protective against the STDs of his own time, anyway. Who knows what kinds of scary diseases they have in this age.
He pulls the packet open, revealing the strange little rolled up gizmo. His attempt at putting it on Djari is so clumsy both Djari and Hafil have to help, and he giggles at his own ineptitude.
Once on, he smiles sheepishly up at Djari. “Good?” he asks, knowing Djari doesn’t understand, but he gets a passionate half-lidded look in return.
Grasping the base again, Booster lowers his mouth over the head and sucks in his cheeks, earning him a groan from Djari. The rubber feels tacky against his lips, but he can still feel the heat of the cock against his tongue, and with enough spit the tackiness is almost gone. Hafil is standing close, behind him, watching, idly rubbing his own erection through his pants.
Booster kisses the shaft sloppily, enjoying the gentle smacking sound, enjoying the twitch he gets in response. He trails a broad wet tongue up the entire length, closing his eyes. Hearing the sharp inhale from Djari as he wraps his lips around it and teases his tongue right below the head. He knows he’s good at this, a little relieved he hasn't forgotten. His face flushes with a strange sense of pride at every groan, every sigh he elicits. His own erection is pressing against his jeans. He opens his eyes and looks up, wanting to meet a gaze that meets his own, low-lidded eyes that look at him shamelessly, warmly, adoringly. But Djari’s face is turned upward, groaning with every stroke, every lick.
Booster closes his eyes again, stroking the cock tightly as he bobs his head. Calm down, Booster, you didn’t come here to make love. Didn’t dress to show off this tan skin, this trim ass, to hold hands and proclaim love undying.
Kneeling in a concrete hallway at the back of a gay bar is not the place to play the naive innocent.
Motion against his back makes Booster jump slightly, then insistent hands grab his waist. Hafil is kneeling behind him, and Booster grins, Djari’s cock against his lips, and arches his back to feel the hardness pressing against his jeans. Hafil sighs in appreciation, thrusting against him, and moves his hands from Booster’s waist to his stomach, fingers teasing along the waistband. The top button is quickly loosened, and Hafil’s hand slides inside and grasps Booster’s cock so hard he whimpers. Booster thrusts with an urgency that's almost embarrassing, but the jeans are so tight they don’t allow for much movement within.
“Just-- Shit, I wanna --” Booster groans, his knees starting to ache, his frustration, his horniness, burning in him. He knows they don’t understand, can’t understand, so letting go of Djari’s cock in front for a moment he undoes his own fly and pulls his jeans and Y-fronts halfway down his thighs, freeing his own cock, a string of precum elongating between the tip and his underwear. Hafil laughs behind him, saying something to Djari who grins in response, and Booster can feel his face burning.
“Yeah, I'm eager, I know,” he mutters to himself as Hafil grasps his hips again and thrusts against his naked ass, now only Hafil’s clothes separating them. Booster groans in response, feeling another hand coaxing his head forward. He looks up to see Djari’s eyes, dark in the dim light, and Booster offers a shameless grin in return before he bows his head to take cock in his mouth again.
Behind him Booster hears the crinkle of foil, and just as he remembers the tacky-feeling thin rubber tubes they have now, something wet and cold pushes against his asshole. He yelps and tenses in surprise, then realizes it’s Hafil’s fingers he’s feeling against him. They circle and prod, flashes of heat inside the cold, and Booster eases into the sensation as he sloppily kisses and licks the cock in front of him.
The teasing heat and cold gives way to an insistent pressure, then a sharp shock of being entered by Djari's fingers.
“Ow,” Booster groans softly. “Easy, it’s -- it’s been a while.” Hafil’s fingers pause for a moment, probably in response to Booster’s tone or tensing. Booster leans forward, taking in all of Djari’s cock, who whimpers softly in return.
What an idiot you are, Booster, he thinks as the fingers start moving insistently inside him, not unpleasantly. If this suddenly took a wrong turn you wouldn’t even be able to tell them you weren’t into it. You finally chose to do this in a foreign country where you can’t even communicate.
He tries to swallow the nagging feeling down, involuntarily moving his hips as the stinging is gradually giving way to gentle ripples of pleasure. Booster’s cock twitches, the precum trailing down, feeling cold in the still air of the corridor.
His knees ache. How he’d love to do this on a bed, or even on a carpeted floor. A hotel room, like the one he and Beetle shares, with thin white curtains waving softly with each breeze, the noise of traffic below sounding muffled in the night air. To kneel on that carpeted floor, maybe even a pillow to support his knees, hands up like his hands now, brushing against the soft chestnut hair on Ted’s thighs as he takes his cock deeper inside his mouth.
Booster groans against the cock warming his tongue, rocking his hips, fingers curling and moving inside him, and it feels so good. He thinks about Ted's hands, broad and strong from building things, warm fingers so precise, always moving with intention, with grace. Feeling those fingers inside him, strong and insistent, going deep, moving with him, following the rocking of his hips.
So good, exhaling, thinking the thoughts he’s been trying not to think (“We’re not gay!” Beetle yelled, contempt dripping from his words), but this feels good, body against his body, wanting him, and he wants this so bad, to move and thrust and rock and feel that hardness against his skin, the warmth, he wants to come and make someone else come, he’s rocking against those fingers, so deep, so insistent inside him, and he wishes he could feel the salty, earthy taste through the condom, feel the strong spurt inside his mouth, and taste, really taste Ted’s --
Muffled voices cry out behind him, shouting that seems so far away. Djari pushes him abruptly, a trail of spit hanging between them. and at that moment Booster feels the strange sensation of something dropping from his head.
As if in a trance he turns his head to look at the floor, only returning to the present when he recognizes the brown wig he’s been wearing. His pulse thrumming in his temples he looks up, only to realize Djari’s not looking at him. He’s looking at the closed door separating them from the club, panic in his eyes.
Booster twists to look at Hafil, who’s already on his feet, hastily tucking himself back into his pants.
“What’s going on?” Booster asks, his own heart rate speeding up. “What’s happening out there? Hafil!”
Hafil’s already squeezed past the bar stools, through the door, back inside the club. The short moment Booster sees through the open steel door he can tell all the lights have been turned on in there. The music’s stopped.
Booster shuffles to his feet, pulling up his underwear and jeans with clumsy fingers. “Djari?” He turns back to the young man, whose eyes haven’t left the door into the club. He’s standing like a statue. Terror in his eyes. Booster grabs him by the shirt and shakes him.
His partner for the night blinks and finally looks at him, brow furrowing for a moment at the sight of Booster’s uncovered hair.
“Djari, what --” Booster points meaningfully at the door. “What?” He turns his palms up, looking as clueless as he feels.
Something in insistent Bialyan, a sharp-sounding word. When Booster doesn’t respond he tries sounding out something else. “Po... Porveez?" Djari stammers. "Poveez.”
Booster’s heart seems to beating into his throat. “Pov-- Police? Are you trying to tell me police --”
Djari nods desperately, a string of Bialyan running from his mouth. Then: “Police! Yes, police!”
Booster hides his face in his hands. “Jesus Christ!” He sinks to his knees, palms pressed against his face. The one night he visits a place like this there’s a raid.
It’s just like Dirk Davis had said. You try to act like yourself for one night and they find you out. Holding cells and journalists and front page news. Jesus Christ. It’s so unfair. It’s so unfair!
A gentle tap on his shoulder. He looks up. It’s Djari, of course it's Djari, looking so concerned. Well, obviously they should be. Djari pulls at his shirt, motioning to a door on the right. Should they hide? What if the police infers -- if they went out into the club maybe he could get away acting like the dumb tourist. Just here to dance, how could he ever know. (“We’re not gay!”)
Djari takes a few hesitant steps towards the door he pointed at, looking at Booster with concern.
Fine. Fine, it’s worth the attempt. Booster shuffles up to his feet, casting a glance back at the door to the club. He can hear faint shouting back there. Angry, authoritative voices.
What will Max say when he has to bail me out of a holding cell? If he’ll even do that. What if he leaves me there to rot? If he does get me out, will I still be allowed in the League?
What will Beetle say?
Djari grabs him by the shirt and pulls him through the door, away from the club. The moment the door slams behind them they’re enveloped in total darkness. Booster blinks, realizing the blinking makes no difference. He just follows the tug on his shirt, hears Djari shuffling ahead of him slowly, making their way through the inky blackness.
Booster’s shoulder catches on something sharp and cold, and he yelps in surprise and pain. Djari shushes him. That, at least, sounds the same in English and Bialyan.
They continue moving, Booster cradling his stinging shoulder, his fingers wet with something. The only sound the soft noise of Djari’s hand brushing against objects, following a path he obviously knows by heart. How often does Fossluna get raided?
Djari lets go of Booster’s shirt, and Booster feels a flash of panic, standing all alone in darkness so total it feels like he’s gone blind again. He urgently stretches his hands out ahead and is relieved to feel Djari still in front of him, standing still in the darkness. Djari seems to be trailing his hands on something in front of him, and he mutters to himself.
They’ll find us in here, they’ll shine their torches and find us, huddled in the dark like rats, Booster thinks. Or best case scenario, the police will miss them completely and lock up the club, and then what?
The scraping, metallic crash in front of them is so loud it feels like a flash of white hot light. The air moves, the ground shakes, and every one of Booster senses gets a half second of screaming information he doesn’t know what to do with. He realizes he’s clinging to Djari, pulse thrumming in his temple, and after a few seconds he realizes he can see something, A tiny, tiny sliver of light.
He clambers on ahead, past Djari, striking something cold with his foot, bending down to feel some kind of metallic cabinet, lying on its side by the feel of it. That was the heart-stopping sound. He steps up on it, shaking hands reaching for the minuscule glimmer of light, now at eye height.
His fingertips meet something, a barrier. Texture like... rough cardboard. A little prodding, a little clawing, and he’s torn it away, the sliver of light becoming a beam, and Booster realizes he’s looking through a cellar window.
Djari says something behind him, excitement in his voice, and Booster hopes it’s a good kind of excitement. He starts working on the rusty latch in front of him. If he can get the window open they might just --
The latch opens with a horrible dry sound, a metallic whine in the silence of the room, but it’s open, and the window is open, he can feel the breeze against his skin, and if they can just squeeze through they might get home, their careers and reputations intact. Booster braces himself to pull himself up, but stops and looks back at Djari.
Booster would still be cowering in the hallway if Djari hadn’t pulled him ahead.
Booster smiles, somewhat anxiously, and offers a hand to his partner, who takes it and allows himself to be pulled up on the fallen cabinet. Booster folds his hands, offering a step up, and Djari says something -- softly -- and lets Booster help him up, through the window and after a bit of squirming, into the alley beyond.
Booster doesn’t really expect him to stop, to offer a hand through the window to help, but he feels a wave of gratitude when he does.
It’s a tight fit, Booster has pull one arm through at a time, and when he places his hands on the wet littered asphalt to push himself through, the frame of the window digs painfully into his chest and back.
Jesus, I can’t get through!
Panicking, he tries to push himself back down into the cellar, but he can’t get purchase, can’t move back. He pants, every inhale making his ribcage burn against the sharp edges of the frame.
They’ll find him like this, they’ll write about this in the newspapers. Pervert hero stuck in window trying to flee police at gay club. That will be his legacy, that's what strangers will taunt him for, that's what his former colleagues will think about every time someone mentions his name.
He hears someone speak urgently, and realizes it’s Djari, tugging at his arm.
“It’s no use,” Booster mutters, trying to smile bravely. It feels more like a grimace. “I’m stuck.”
Djari continues speaking urgently, and for a moment Booster seems to hear someone else. Another voice, muffled by his body, behind him. There are people in the room.
Djari pulls his arm again, and Booster claws at the asphalt, his fingertips stinging, trying to find purchase, trying to get unstuck. His chest hurts so bad, every breath hurts so bad. The voice behind him is louder, less muffled, and joined by other voices.
A hand grabs his ankle tightly.
Booster twists desperately, placing a bloody hand on the outside wall, and with a wheeze he exhales as hard, as deeply as he can, and pushes with all his might. His ribcage seems to creak, every nerve in his torso screaming, but like a pop the pressure is gone and he’s through. He kicks at whoever’s behind him, unaware of what he's hitting, just scrambling, squirming the rest of his body through the window, and just as he can see Djari taking off running he’s on his feet, running too. Not daring to look behind him towards the frenzied shouting.
He can’t think, can’t plan, he’s sprinting through the cool damp night, sprinting harder than ever did at football practice, taking random turns through the streets, until his lungs and throat feel like they're on fire, his legs weak and shaky.
He finally stops, leaning against a trash can, the cool wet metal like a shock against his burning skin. Heaving for breath.
Djari’s gone, run off in a different direction. Booster tells himself that’s good, that makes both of them harder to catch. Or maybe Booster only got away because they caught Djari.
What a hero you are, Booster, he tells himself with a grimace, still heaving for air.
The sky is starting to lighten. Booster looks around and seem to recognize the shopping district he accompanied Fire to earlier. A few people, probably on their way to work, pass him. One glances at him and quickly looks away.
Sure. He looks like absolute hell. His white jeans are caked in dust and mud, his shirt ripped and bloody from the cut on his shoulder. Booster touches his face. His moustache, at least, is still securely attached despite it all.
Somewhere in an underground gay bar lies an abandoned brown wig.
Booster chuckles bitterly and starts hobbling on towards the hotel. He’ll have a long, cold, shower and try to patch himself up. Beetle will greet him with a thousand questions, no doubt. Better have a story prepared.
He went out dancing and got mugged, that’s all.
He won’t make that mistake again.