Tiger and Pigeon Ch. 06byMandartany©
Babysitting Daniel... It's like asking a wolf to mind a lamb.
The club I chose for us is called Bizarre, and it is located in the downtown area. Bizarre is highly popular and crowded every night, even during the week. They have the coolest visiting DJs and their music attracts hardcore dancers. It is a gay-friendly straight club, which is perfect for tonight -- not too wild, I hope. I know we can get in since my cousin owns the place and I'm on a list. I still have hard time believing I'm taking Daniel in, though. Daniel isn't a kid, I remind myself. He's eighteen. But damn if he doesn't look like a fifteen year old.
As we step out of the cab it is just after midnight. I can easily pick up the steady beat of the music coming from the inside the club. Daniel no longer has his usual gloomy expression on his face, instead he grins at me expectantly -- almost like a kid on Christmas before opening his presents. I hope I'm not screwing this up too bad... We'll just make a short peek at the club, maybe dance for a song or two and then hit the McDonalds. And then back at my place -- on separate bedrooms, of course. I grin at my plan. I see so many faults in it already. Daniel isn't easy to be persuaded.
"Tim! C'mon, the line is growing every second!" Daniel shifts his weight from foot to foot.
He is right, though. The line of people waiting outside the club is about twenty meters long and getting longer as we stand on the opposite side of the street. The women are dressed in high heels, knee-high boots, miniskirts and furred jackets; the men are wearing leather pants, shiny fabrics and hair gel. Mix that with some hip-hoppers and Hollywood Barbie dolls and you have your scene right there.
Yeah -- just another night of clubbing for me, but it is the first ever experience clubbing for my boy Daniel.
I scan around for any signs of trouble then frown at myself when I realize I'm likely the biggest danger to the kid. Daniel acts like he is much more experienced than he actually is, being all cocky and sassy, but I know there is more to him than that. I may be corrupting him on some level, yet I don't think he is the sweet and innocent boy that he is supposed to be at his age. There is something about him...
The bouncers, dressed in black leather from shoulders down, salute me playfully; one of the biggest guys even gives me a push on my shoulder and laughs at my facial bruises. "No fighting in the club tonight, Tim."
"Yeah, I've got no intention of going all 'Fight Club' here. This is Daniel; he is a friend of mine..." Daniel steps closer to my side trying to look cool -- and he succeeds, despite the fact that he isn't really dressed for clubbing as we didn't go back to Jerome's to get him changed. Daniel is wearing his faded black skinny jeans, which hang dangerously low on his hips and really bring out his thin form. Under his winter jacket, he's got a plain black shirt and under it a dark gray top. None of the layers hide his delicate form either. To top it off, he has an electric blue scarf wrapped around his neck.
The only thing we changed for the clubbing night was his hair. Daniel's thick dark curls now have a styled look and that really brings out his face. Even I hadn't noticed before just how gorgeous Daniel's features are when the bangs were hiding a big part of them. Daniel looks much like hid dad with the same deep gray eyes, but he has this pale skinned elf-like bone structure where Jerome has more of a golden, angelic face.
Daniel has also apparently added some of my mum's mascara and gray eye liner in the bathroom just before we left. The kid looks amazing.
"Nice to meet you Daniel. Step in. Have fun. No drinks for the boy." He puts on a white wristband on him -- and on me - that lets the bartenders know we are underage. Not that that had ever stopped me from getting wasted.
"Sure. I've got him under my wing." I nod hello to the other doormen as well as we pass them by and enter the dimly lit club that is already packed with party-goers. We look around, I, with doubt in my mind, and Daniel wide eyed and already moving his lean hips to the beat. Shit.
Bizarre is not the club I usually go to, but it is a cool club and safe compared to many of my regular hangouts. We walk to the bar to get drinks. I grave for a vodka-cranberry. I need something to soothe my nervousness. Normally the music and the drinks-drugs-friends combo create a buzz in me that stops me from thinking about my issues. I wish I could hide under that same addictive buzz now too. I just wanna let go. But I can't. Not with Daniel here. Not with the responsibility handed to me. This time I can't ignore my issues and let myself go when I have to focus on the kid.
Daniel seems to be thriving! He swings his body with the music and it looks like the rhythm just runs naturally through him. His movements are not big, but they certainly are impressive. He is like liquid; maybe that is something that he has inherited from his dad. Daniel keeps his eyes closed and is totally oblivious to the glances he gets from people around.
Fuck! I step closer to him. Every man and woman watching him seems to have that predatory look in their eyes. Daniel opens his eyes and is surprised to see me so close. "I think you should tone it down a bit. The night is young." I growl - with no effect. Daniel just keeps moving. Didn't he hear me? I don't take a step back and I keep myself as close to him as I physically can without embracing him. I probably look like a tower over him with my much larger form. I just don't care what it looks like! I have to make it clear to others that Daniel is 'hands off'. Jerome is so going to kill me if I fuck this up.
After few songs and him finishing his cola, Daniel pulls my sleeve and turns face to face with me stepping even closer than before. "I wanna dance properly. I wanna go into the fake smoke! Will you come with me?"
The warmth of his body transfers onto mine. I feel like I want to push him against the bar and feel those hips moving against mine. When I see the same need in Daniel's eyes, I kick myself back to reality. 'I'm not gonna mess around with Jerome's kid!'
"Dance properly? What were you doing just there?" I shout over the music.
"C'mon." Daniel flashes me his dreamy bedroom eyes and starts walking towards the crowded dance floor with a swing on his hips, not looking back to see if I'm following. Like I would let that little sex bomb out of my sight!
"Not so fast!" Someone grabs my bicep just as I'm about to enter the circle of dancers already surrounding Daniel.
I turn to look at the man behind the voice and take a step back. Oh fuck! It is Juan, the leader of the drug gang, one of the ones who beat up me and Aleksi.
"Isn't this cute... our handsome Rich Boy with his new toy." Juan glares at me with a really nasty look. He is a really good looking Latino - if you go for the dangerous, bald and tattooed look. "I thought you went down for good."
"Juan, I don't go down that easily." I shrug his hand off and puff up my chest. We are equal in size so he doesn't have the upper hand with me. "We're even now."
"Hahaha... Rich Boy thinks we're even... That is just too much!" As Juan turns around to look at his gang, I see four familiar faces behind him. "Why don't we go and sit back there, Tim?" Juan's words land like daggers.
I weigh my options. They are definitely dangerous. I don't want to leave Daniel alone on the dance floor -- to get groped by some pervs. But the instinct to keep him from getting hurt is even stronger. So I follow the gang into a dark corner of the club. We still have the view of the dance floor, to my relief.
"Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim... What are we gonna do with you? Did you really think you could walk out with the Snow you were carrying? We got distracted before we could finish our business."
"I don't have it anymore." I try to keep my voice down. I try not to look scared since that is like a death sentence with this gang. "I lost it then. I can pay for it."
"Now that would not work." Juan leans in and speaks right into my ear. "I have a message from the Artist. He's been expecting to see you re-enter the scene. Personally, I was expecting to see your obituary."
I snort to cover my fear. I know what I got myself into mixing up with the Artist, but I had been so self-destructive then. "You kick like a baby." I regret my words almost immediately. No reason to bait Juan even more. "What's the message?"
"You are a dead man walking -- we already almost finished the deal." Juan flashes a slimy smile at me. "Now return the Snow or follow the instructions you'll get tomorrow. Or you can choose the way you wanna get off this planet and I will gladly help you with that."
"There is no way you can threaten me. Remember? I don't care a rat's ass what happens to me."
"What about that young cutie on the dance floor? You want to keep him safe or drag him to meet the Lord with you?"
'Fuck.' My eyes focus on Daniel again until Juan's threat sinks in hard. I swallow and try to keep calm when all I want to do is grab the man's throat and rip it apart. I turn back to the man in front of me. "What do you want?"
"Oh, that is so cute. Look at his lovely ass shaking on the floor. He's so pretty that even I wouldn't mind having a piece of that sweet thing." Juan's sugary tone makes me blow steam out of my ears. That son of a bitch! "Boy, you move fast from queer to queer. Anyone you've been in contact is on my list now. Too bad for them..."
"Leave him - them - alone. I'm listening." I take a fast peek at the dance floor and the sight almost makes me go all 'Hulk': Daniel is dancing, his back against some lean, good looking twenty something guy, who is pressing his hips against his and touching him from the front. 'What the fuck!'
I try to storm up, but again a stern hand stops me. "You have until next Saturday. You have to make up for your mistakes the best way the Artist decides. If you don't show up here then, then... it's 'tick-tock-tick-tock'." I count the days 'till the deadline..
With that the guys move away from the table, leaving me sitting alone. I follow their retreating backs with my eyes and suddenly feel cold. 'Fuck. What am I gonna do now?'
I turn my eyes to the dancers and find Daniel missing.
'Shit. Fuck. FUCK. I lost Daniel.'
Circling around the dance floor, I keep looking for him without any luck. My panic starts to peak as the music stops and a high pitch alarm goes off. Did Juan's gang take him with them?
Suddenly a hell breaks through around me. Some women start to scream and people push against each other to get out. The deep bass music stops without any warning.
There is a hint of a slightly different smoke in here than before.
A fire? I stand frozen for a second, people rushing around me.
Daniel, I must find Daniel! I run towards the toilets, but one of the familiar club workers stop me before I get any nearer. "You can't go in there Tim! The fire started at the back. Better get outside now and wait for the fire department."
"Have you seen a young boy, this tall," I make a desperate gesture with my hand, "dressed in black?"
"I'm sorry, not in this direction. The fire started only few minutes ago and everything is under control now. There are no customers in the toilets."
"So the fire isn't bad?" I look at the stylish guy, Devon or Damien or something, who once had blown me in the toilet here.
"Nothing serious, it is just the protocol we have to follow when there is a fire: we have to empty the club for insurance reasons. You can walk out calmly; there is nothing dangerous here, Tim. I'm sure your friend is waiting for you outside."
I wince and turn my back on him. It is reasonable to suspect that Daniel is with the crowd that has rushed out.
The fresh, cold night air hits my lungs as I rush outside. Some people just stand there in small groups; some have started to walk down the streets to find other places to party. I look at my watch: it is only 1 am.
"Tim!" A nervous yet surprisingly loud voice comes from my right.
I turn around, it's Daniel! I'm almost knocked off my legs with the relief of finding him in one piece and alone. Without a sight of the slimy guy that dry humped him on the dance floor.
I take his hand and start pulling him with me away from Bizarre. "We need to get the hell outta here." I glance around the streets to catch a glimpse of Juan's gang. I get none, but it doesn't help at all with my hurry to get Daniel to safety.
"What's the rush? Let go of my hand!" Daniel tries to free himself. His efforts are in vain, he is like a butterfly caught in a web with me. I'm so not letting go of his hand now!
"It was such a stupid idea to bring you to this club to get molested. We are going home now." I know my tone is harsh, but I can't help it. "You're just a kid, for God's sake."
"Tim! I so am not! I knew what I was doing! Though, I wanted more to dance with - you." With the last word Daniel stops entirely yanking me to stop too. So he has some muscles after all in his thin body...
I hiss in frustration. "That is so not gonna happen, and you know it!" Shit, this kid is annoying. I wave at the cab driving past us. "I think it is way past your bedtime."
My eyes widen when I see a shiny, black limo parked outside my apartment building. It is the Artist. Fuck! What is he doing here already? Is the Artist here to land some threats personally too? So not going to happen...
I lower myself to the seat and knock at the dividing window inside the cab and the driver opens it. "Yes?"
"Don't slow down when you get close. Just drive by normally. I want you to drive us to a different address." I give him Jerome's.
I should have seen this coming. Juan never makes empty threats and the Artist is not someone to play with. I just thought I'd have more time to deal with this. Till Saturday evening, Juan said. I can't go home now. I need to go into hiding for a while. Make a plan to take them down.
I feel responsible, but protective at the same time. There is no way in hell I'm going to start digging a grave for myself now that I have other people to look after. The rush of adrenaline is such a different feeling from the funk I was in only few days ago. I'm solely responsible for this mess.
I might have let it go before, but now they threatened even Daniel. I'm not sure if they know more about Daniel and Jerome yet. They know my connections to Aleksi and Jaime too. I must make sure they are all safe! Fuck. All of this is my fault. I have put us all in a danger. They won't take the money; they don't really need the cocaine I lost either. It is the canon of the streets. They want revenge and they don't plan on letting me just walk out.
I look at the beautiful boy who has fallen asleep on the seat next to me. Daniel looks so calm and serene. The innocence in him is now clear. Whatever issues this poor kid is carrying, they weigh heavy on him. I have to make sure I don't make things worse for him. I want to hug him. Like I want to be hugged, too? But there is nobody to hug me and tell me everything will work out one day.
Jerome's tentative smile pushes inside my thoughts. I can't rely on his big heart, he's got enough to deal with without me.
I look out of the cab window and touch the aching shiner on my cheek bone. It's going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better.
It doesn't take long to get to Jerome's apartment building. I gently shake Daniel's shoulder to wake him up. I pay for the ride while Daniel yawns out loud next to me.
"What are we doing here? I thought we'd go to your place." He looks so cute when he is pouting his lips.
"No, I thought it is wisest to go to Jer's."
Daniel is disappointed, I can tell. He doesn't say a word when we take the lift up; he just leans on the elevator wall, counting the floors. I don't even attempt to get into a conversation with him after some of his comments. They are way too inflammatory to get repeated under his dad's nose!
Outside Jerome's apartment door, I turn to Daniel who is putting his key into the lock. "Should we like ring the doorbell just in case Laura is there too?"
The boy just looks at me with a blank face and to my horror he turns the key and opens the door. I really hope we won't be walking into some X-rated situation!
As we enter the living room, I'm caught off guard as the very first thing I see is Jerome sleeping on the sofa -- alone. We haven't woken him up so far, so I put my finger in front of my lips and shush Daniel to keep quiet.
I look around to see any evidence of Laura's presence; shoes, jacket, anything and see none. I give Daniel a sign to stay where he is and to my surprise he stays put, studying his dad with a peculiar expression on his face.
I tiptoe to the bedroom door that is open and find the room empty. I tiptoe back to Daniel.
"Laura seems to be gone... I think it's best if you go to bed. Try to keep it quiet, I don't want to wake Jer up now." I really don't want to explain what happened before morning.
"So, you are staying too?" Daniel gives me a questioning look with a hint of hope.
"Yeah, I think I have to talk to your dad tomorrow." I try to whisper.
"Will you come and sleep with me? In the bed I mean." There was nothing innocent in that question.
"Nice try. I'm gonna take the comfy chair there. I can sleep one night in it." Well, I suspect I'm not going to get much sleep tonight anyhow, not after what happened. I have to make a plan; I need to process everything that is going on. I need to make this right again, find my way out of this jungle with dangers and traps everywhere -- I need to sharpen my night vision. A deep growl from within myself startles me.
"Just go now." I turn Daniel around and push him towards the bedroom. He glances at me over his shoulder and throws me the same sultry look he had in his eyes at the club. When he shuts the door silently behind him, I allow myself to breathe again. I'm in so much trouble with this one.
I peel off the top layer of my clothing and sniff my shirt; it has caught some smoke in the club. I decide to leave only my boxers and the wife beater on. I grab a woolen blanket, take a final stretch and land on the comfy chair as quietly as possible. Jerome doesn't make a move on the sofa. Whatever happened with Laura doesn't seem to have any effect on his sleeping ability...
'Let Jerome sleep, forget about Daniel too. Try to remember every word Juan said, don't let go of any string of thought about what happened escape. Your survival, as well as others close to you might count on it.'
I shut my eyes tight and try to focus on the urgent and potentially very dangerous issue, yet in a minute I notice I am actually staring at the sleeping form of Jerome. How he looks just as innocent -- and as young - as Daniel, when he slept in the cab. How Jerome's tight blonde curls seem longer than I remember, how his eyelids move when he is dreaming, how cute his nose is as he moves it like he smells something... likely the smell of smoke that we brought in with us.
He is just so darn cute, lying only a foot away from me. As I study him, I see that his blanket is about to fall off. This is going to be a long night. Should I rise from my seat to pull up the blanket and cover him again or should I just enjoy the view of his nude upper body, presented to me all of a sudden?
I decide it is better for me to cover him up.
I am still in a leaning position hovering above Jerome as he turns onto his back. I freeze and wait for him to relax into his dream again. Instead Jerome opens his eyes -- and smiles. "Tim, you are home."
The word 'home' hits me hard in the gut, even more than the heated look in Jerome's eyes.