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Fool's Gold

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"Dext," Mike asks, because it's that kind of a moment, and that kind of a night, "What does the C.K. stand for?"

Dexter looks at him, at the glass of champagne he's waving around, with the bubbles that shine in the moonlight, and the way it will spill and soak into Mike's shirt, if he's not careful. The way that the shirt will become transparent, and the dark blush of Mike's flesh will show through like a promise. The way the champagne will trickle down Mike's chest until it soaks into the waistband of his pants. It will darken the fabric there almost infinitesimally, a spot of sharp dampness, sweet and sour at once, that will slowly dry as Mike leans against the steering wheel. It's an interesting thought. Heady like the champagne. As out of bounds as ever.

It won't do the leather seats of the convertible any good either.

"It's a tradition in my family," Dexter says, equitably. "To be named as often as possible. Far too many names for any sensible kind of a man."

"Well, I knew that," says Mike, waving his glass again, and Dexter smiles, his usual little ironic, self-mocking, self-defeating smirk. No-one more than Dexter knows how very not-sensible Dexter is. Except maybe for Mike. And sometimes Tracy.

"At least," says Mike, "At least, you aren't C.K. Dexter Haven the 4th, or the 40th, or however many C.K. Dexter Haven's there have actually been."

"Hundreds," Dexter offers.

"Thousands," agrees Mike.

They sit and look at the trees. With the lights off, they can barely see them, but there's enough moonlight for Dexter to see Mike in profile. His too high forehead. His slightly shabby suit. His wild hair, and too-full lips.

"At least you haven't been handed down," Mike says gently, smiling as though he's making sense.

Dexter cocks his head a little. "Not all of me. Just the C. and the K. That's enough, don't you think?"

"Not any more." And Mike laughs and begins to pat down his pockets. "Will you be passing them on, Dext?"

Dexter watches Mike's long fingers fumble through his jacket. He can see a shadow on his fingertips and wonders if it's ink, smeared and dark; smelling of classrooms, and print rooms, and Sidney Kidd's office. It's where he first met Mike, he remembers, with a vaguely nostalgic pang.

"I wouldn't wish the K. on anyone, and the C. is a little long for everyday use."

Dexter watches Mike's lips part on a satisfied exhalation as he finds what he is looking for. He's unsurprised when Mike thrusts a fat-bellied sweet-smelling Havana into his hand. Twisting, Mike shifts himself around until he can look Dexter fully in the eyes, and it makes Dexter catch his breath, although he thinks he hides it pretty well. Years of practice. Years of Mother Lord's cocktail parties.

With a solemn air, Mike lifts his glass, and obediently Dexter clinks it with his own. Does it really sound like the clanging of a very final door? Or has he had too much champagne this time, as well? Dexter wants to laugh at the fancy. He wants to, but he doesn't.

This is it then, no going back. Although he could run away this time. Surely it's his turn, Tracy would understand. He could give up. Prove that he's no more yar than Tracy was.

"Dext, hey Dext…" Mike is calling him, snapping his fingers under his nose. Dexter can smell the sharpness of the champagne, Mike must have spilled some on his fingers. He resists the urge to grab them and lick to find out. That's the taste of the forbidden, right there.

Mike is smiling widely, his happiness leaking out. Dexter wonders if the happiness is catching. Wonders whether he can buy himself some with his family's money. With the petty small change, like he pays for Mike. The way he buys him, and keeps him. But doesn't keep him. Not that way. More's the pity.

"A toast, Dext – to the future!" says Mike, all shining teeth in the moonlight.

Tracy wouldn't understand. And neither would anyone else. This is just nerves. Even C.K. Dexter Haven gets nervous sometimes, although he hides that pretty well too. Mike gestures at the cigar and Dexter obediently lifts it to his lips. He leans forward as Mike lights a match, and the flare of it limns Mike's face in pure gold. Fool's gold.

"To your family, C.K. Dexter Haven, and may your names never grow any shorter!"

Dexter can feel the small, warm puffs of Mike's breath as he speaks, and knows he's just projecting his desires onto Mike. Knows that however much he wonders sometimes, he's not going to go exploring. Knows he's just trying to deal with this momentous change in his life by flirting with a different kind of momentousness.

It doesn't help. Dexter puffs his cigar into life, and admires the animation in Mike's face with the longing of a true connoisseur. Then he takes another sip of champagne and looks through the trees to the private sanatorium, where his life has changed so profoundly.

"To your son…" Mike whispers, leaning forward and throwing a companionable arm around his shoulders. Dexter shivers as the wool scrapes the sensitive hairs on the back of his neck.

"To them both," says Dexter, as the cigar smoke blows into his eyes, making them itch and sting. He blinks hard and shakes his head. It's ridiculous, really. Ridiculous.

Because, after all, mother and baby are doing so well.