Joseph was going to murder that cabbie if he ever saw him again. The white-haired swindler had told him with a completely straight face that Pillars was “completely dead, my man”, and that Supplena was where all the hip and innovative dancers partied. It took him way too long, roughly around the time he had to pony up the comically high fare for being ferried out to the middle of nowhere, to realize he had been ripped off. Really, he was going to strangle the guy and hang him up by his stupid nose ring. Stiffing out-of-towners was probably how he could afford the thing—smarmy bastard.
Supplena was deader than dead, a tiny converted storefront off to itself, situated next to what looked like a pasture—he’d sworn he had seen more cows than people on the trek there.
American discos were filled to the brim with enough coke to keep the party going all night, so why weren’t people dancing? Most of the patrons lounged in the sticky-looking vinyl booths that lined the tiny mirrored dance floor, stony faces taking in the few folks who were struggling to get through the last minute of Foxy’s Get Off, a tune whose infectious groove always packed the floors in London.
Joseph crossed his arms across his chest. Honestly, sitting home and listening to Granny Erina’s gramophone seemed like a more entertaining prospect than staying, but he’d come to have a good time before facing the rigors of the corporate world. He’d construct it with his own hands, even if he had to build it out of the hay of this barnyard.
He stepped on the floor just as the wicked bassline of He’s the Greatest Dancer rung out through the tinny speakers. Now, Joseph didn’t like to brag, but…. the results spoke for themselves. He stunned all the yokels with his moves–all the dances he’d seen on Top of the Pops—no—Soul Train. The couple of folks who were still grooving on the floor began to orbit around him like minor planets caught up in the gravitational pull of his righteous moves. He didn’t mind at all, dancing was always more fun in a group.
“Don’t see you in here often,” A cute feathery-haired blonde yelled over the music, nasally voice getting slightly lost in the bass.
“Never been here before! Name’s Joseph.”
“I'm Suzi, and this is Smokey.” She gestured to her dance partner, a kid who looked like he’d rather be anywhere but at Supplena, decidedly morose expression a sharp contrast from the cheerfulness of his rainbow suspenders.
“Kinda dull in here, right?”
Smokey shrugged. “Beats sitting at home.”
Joseph couldn’t argue with that.
Over the span of the next few songs, most of the people camped out in the booths eased out on the dance floor, contributing to leavening the atmosphere to something more reminiscent of an actual club and not a funeral home.
All, except two.
Joseph squinted at the couple still lounging in the booths. The guy was putting some of the corniest moves on his obviously enamored lady friend, the kind of smarmy garbage befitting the type of slimeball who still wore leisure suits in 1979. He wrapped an arm around his date and whispered something in her ear, sending her into a fit of giggles. Gross.
“Oh, that’s Caesar,” Suzi said nonchalantly from besides him. “You should see him; he’s the best dancer here.”
“Hmph! We’ll see about that.” Joseph crossed his arms as he got within shouting distance of the couple.
“Hey, Caesarino! Heard you’ve got the moves,” He flashed his best shit-eating grin. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
Caesar didn’t rise to take the bait, only casting a sideways glare Joseph’s way, not even bothering to look him in the eye. However, Joseph’s antics had caught the attention of half the club. They gathered around him, slack-jawed faces taking in the spectacle hook, line and sinker—and Joseph was more than happy to give them a show.
“Suzi, you said this guy’s the best?” He wrapped an arm around her bare shoulders and pulled her close. “Probably couldn’t even get it up if he wanted to-”
“Your next line is going to be—‘I’ve got nothing to prove to you.’.”
“I’ve got nothing to prove-” The words skidded to a halt as Caesar sputtered and shot out of his seat, a few locks of slicked-back blonde hair falling in his face an obscuring his eyes. That trick always got to them.
Caesar barked something to his lady in Italian and led her out of the booth by the arm. Joseph thought he’d gone too far and had run them off until the couple stopped on the dance floor. Were they going to dance together? He had only wanted to challenge Caesar-
“Hey, I thought-”
“You wanna dance?” Caesar’s accent was thick, and the words flew out in a jumble of highly-punctuated vowels. “Let’s dance!”
Joseph had really done it now.
Suzi had moved on to another partner, leaving both him and Smokey the odd men out. The kid stood to the side of the dance floor, picked-out afro looking as deflated as his expression.
Joseph yanked the kid by the arm and dragged him back on the floor, just as the countdown for Le Freak pumped out through the speakers.
Suzi was right; Caesar was a natural. He and his lady friend could have easily been on television. A crowd surrounded the couple, making it a bit difficult to see what they were doing at times.
Completely undeterred by his lack of knowledge of couples dancing, Joseph turned to the only trick he knew when he had no idea what he was doing—it hadn’t failed him yet.
Time for bullshit.
Every move Caesar made with his partner, every spin and complicated foot routine that would have made even the most competent dancer on American Bandstand weep from envy—Joseph copied with his beleaguered partner.
“Shit!” Smokey howled as Joseph stepped on his foot during an aborted spin, groaning and hopping towards the booths. Joseph shouted an apology as yanked Smokey back to his chest and tried to spin him again. This time the kid complied and hopped in a tight circle like a dog performing for tricks.
Caesar dipped his partner nearly to the ground, supporting her back as she kicked a leg high in the air, exposing her underwear and earning a loud series of whoops and wolf whistles from the crowd. He could do that, too.
Smokey, still limping, seemed to have an inkling of what Joseph had planned and pulled away, hopping towards Suzi, who was watching the goings-on with the guy she ditched Smokey for. Joseph yanked the little guy back by one of his suspenders. It was simple—just a little dip and kick—kid wouldn’t even have to use his bum foot!
When he tried to dip the kid, Smokey wouldn’t bend backwards, legs uncooperative and stiff. Joseph wrapped the other man’s arms around his torso and leant back, hoping the kid would take the hint. He felt Smokey’s arms lock in place, trying to hold his weight. It wasn’t enough—Joseph broke through Smokey’s grasp as soon as his equilibrium went out of whack and hit the ground like a mighty oak after being cut down in the prime of his life. Kid really needed to eat his Wheaties.
The cool night air felt like ice against Joseph’s flushed face. He fanned his shirt back and forth to cool the rest of his body–polyester wasn’t exactly known for its breathability. He had been prepared to run out of there with his tail between his legs, not willing to admit defeat, but received an out by the name of Caesar Zeppeli.
Caesar, to his credit, did not mention what happened after he helped Joseph up, apparently far too interested in running outside to inhale a cigarette to even spare another glance his way. Joseph took in the man’s features; his strong nose and kissable lips–if he hadn’t had fucked things up so badly, he’d really have liked to take the guy for a spin.
“The fuck were you doing in there?” So much for silence.
“Just some of the best damn dancing you’ve ever seen.” He put his hands on his hips and stared Caesar down. “Avant garde stuff—you wouldn’t understand.”
The glare he received could have melted the entire Arctic Circle.
“Why did I even bother-” Caesar was as humorless as he was gorgeous. He flicked the cigarette to the ground and crushed it with a scoff before turning to head back inside.
“Yeah, why did you?” The question hung in the air, suspended like the final wisps of cigarette smoke.
“What you did in there—with him.” Caesar murmured as he turned back, brilliant green eyes looking anywhere but Joseph’s way. “It was bold. I would have never-”
“You got a problem with it?”
“No, it’s just-” Caesar seemed to be a loss for words—a sharp contrast from the rapid spitfire from before. He licked his lips and stared at the ground, pale eyelashes catching the neon light from the club’s blinking sign. “That was really brave.”
Oh. Joseph’s fists unclenched. He was grateful to have such a supportive family and knew that others weren’t so lucky.
“Yeah, well… My granny’s always been there for me no matter what, and I’ve got my uncle to look up to,” He smiled at the thought, running his hands through his hair. “It’s never been a big deal to me, y’know?”
Caesar nodded, a gesture so minute Joseph barely caught it, eyes finally meeting his. It was time to try his luck.
“What’s up, Caesarino? Wanna be my new dance partner? I think Smokey’s out of commission,” He waggled his brows. “Up for a little horizontal tango?”
That seemed to break the hypnotic trance Caesar had become entrapped in. He growled something under his breath and stormed towards the parking lot, arms crossed and posture guarded. Shit.
“Wait, wait, wait-” He ran and grabbed Caesar by the arm, pulling him back close enough to smell his aftershave and floral notes of his cologne. “I’d really like to get to know you better. Please.”
Caesar stared at him, a kaleidoscope of emotions flickering across his strong features, before he let out a loud sigh and gestured towards one of the few cars in the dirt lot, a cute yellow Fiat parked right in front.