(Edited slightly for coherence amidst incoherence. :D)
To all who tolerated all my bad puns and unsatisfying chapter closures and the complete lack of character development or descriptions, I present the following wave as an ultimate reward.
- Wave 11 -
We reached the highest landing at a small flight of metal stairs. I swung the door open, pushed him inside, and locked it behind me.
It was one of the backstage dressing rooms, with a long bench, a chair and one of those mirrors framed with big naked bulbs. I put down the jangling mark tree and flicked the only switch there was on the wall, and the bulbs snarled and hissed into life.
Tate was obviously confused. "What are we here for?" he jabbered, looking around the small room. In reply I grabbed him by the sides of his head, and stared right into his face. Those bright black eyes. Loose black curls. Demi-god.
But I only pecked him once on the lips.
"For saving my life earlier," I whispered. Then I ravaged him against the wall.
He resisted, out of political correctness, but from what I had learnt so far I could tell he wished he could leap down my throat like a little jewelled frog. "Not now, Rubin," he insisted, quite painfully. His hands were gripped tight around my shoulders. "Mrs Ridley wants to debrief us first —"
"No matter," I said. "I can do the same . . ."
My hands started unclasping the front of his grey trousers, and he gave a groan of surprise. But before he hurriedly did them up again I managed to catch a quarter glimpse of a pair of black boxers. With red pinstripes.
"Wrong underpants," I muttered.
Tate seemed both amused and relieved at the same time, though his face was an obvious pink in the lights. "If you do that again I'm going to have to remove the rest of your clothes in return," he warned. "See that vent up there?"
"No!" Then I changed my mind. "No. Just the vest and the cravat. The rest stays."
He smiled, smug at last. "Sure," he said, and kissed me long and hard, his hands working finely at the scarf under my collar.
We broke apart just as both our vests went over our heads, and I was left in delirious inertia for about five seconds. But then I felt him weave his fingers into my hair, and then his tongue was seeking honey deep inside my mouth once more, piecing me together from dispersed silver umbrellas into a golden explosion of pollen and summer and sweet extravagance — all under a sky of singing clouds that whispered my name over and over, in a medley that was both Tate's voice and the tinkling of a mark tree.
And tinkle it did, ever so soothingly, from the far corner of the room. And from overhead — the warm air passing through the vent, so very harmlessly. And right before me — the best drummer boy I had ever known, so wonderfully, wonderfully engrossed.
I let out a tiny sigh.
Tate chose to draw away just then. It was so hurtfully anticlimactic I could have punched him at his boxers right there and then. "Rubin?" he whispered in a somewhat curious voice, when I thought he heard my agonised breaths.
"You idiot," I snapped at him nonetheless. I pushed myself away from his arms and against the wall beside him instead, sulking.
He only laughed in reply. "You know," he said pleasantly, turning such that I was sandwiched between him and the wall, and his hand sliding down in such deliberate slowness to cradle one side of my face. "I think that was the nicest insult you've ever hurled at me all these years."
And before I could even try to correct him he kissed me once more, lightly this time, and left a tingling trail from my lips to my chin to the inside of my collar. The cinnamon scent of his hair caught me by surprise again, and I just about forgot everything he said before.
Now he was gently planting every stray dandelion seed there was back onto my skin, and sealing each with a speck of moist warmth. His lips inched closer still towards my chest, and I would not let him undo anything, except those two topmost buttons on my shirt.
In that equilibrium of giddiness and awareness, all I could dream about was the way something big and metallic crashed together in such fanfare. The way Horace went about it right beside me — him and the Zildjian twins as one, whipping up such a loud mockery at my phobia that Tate had to step in and threaten to break the bass drum through his head . . . And the way something velvety guillotined through the air, and Tate appearing by my side and rescuing me from an untimely and embarrassing death right there on stage . . .
And in such gratitude I was now warm against him, all snug and tight and wonderfully buffered, as he pressed his body against every other part of me he had not managed to get his lips upon. Amid rapid torrents of blood and secret flashes of endorphin, I managed to whisper my thanks to him.
"Mm," he murmured in reply. "So let's get the shield complete today, shall we."
"No, you were supposed to do that before the concert."
"I'm making up for it right now, don't you see?"
I had to admit he was doing a good job at it, even with most of our clothing still on. And now he tasted something like lemon meringue. And wild mint. And truffles. I very nearly gave in.
"No. I still don't think I can face that vent. What makes you think you've made me able to withstand your box fan? Or that army of jellyfish rapists on the ridge?"
"Mmm. We'll go there again tomorrow and try."
"Mrs Ridley will kill you."
But then he did a curious little thing with his tongue at the shell of my sensitive left ear, and it killed me first. I let out a soft cry, and slipped into an arcadia of desserts and tinkling mark trees.
Moments later Tate returned, blinking nervously beside me. The ceiling receded behind him along with my imagined saccharine heaven, and I realised I was lying wretched on the floor. "My divinity," I complained, reaching out an arm.
He burst out laughing. "You cute little fainting bastard," he cooed. "I'm so honoured."
Then he gently pulled me up from the floor and into his lap, and killed me several times over with the tip of his tongue, this time between my lips and on my eyelids and all over my cheeks and neck and chest, as he untucked my shirt and undid just one more button.
I let him.
But his fingers only paused at the empty buttonhole. "I take it that you're not angry with me over anything anymore?" I heard him ask softly by my collarbone.
I pondered his question, shuddering slightly at the giddying scent of cinnamon from his hair and at his warm breaths on my skin. "No, not really . . ." I decided at last, closing my eyes and smiling dreamily. "Just your cousin. Not you."
He gently moved the open flap of my shirt out of the way. "I'll tell her that," he whispered. His hand started its wandering trail inside the flap, and his lips followed in its wake.
In that lingering stretch of strangely tantalising seconds I spent dreaming incessantly about taffy cymbals and pinstriped dandelions and withering wind socks — and Tess and Lyle and Cathy and Horace not seeing all this — and me triumphant in my victory and Tate in his, in the long blades of grass on the faraway ridge that would only tickle my skin and threaten it not.
Tomorrow I would wear a T-shirt and Bermuda shorts.
Tomorrow maybe Tate would wear another pair of pinstriped boxers.
Tomorrow would be a really nice day.
I smiled indulgently into his lips.
– – –
". . . Rubin?"
Tate drew away from me slowly, and I opened my eyes. The lights around the mirror had long gone out. And we were still nestled against each other in the middle of the floor — me in his lap, and my arms draped languidly over his shoulders. I was sore, and winded, and lacking something all of a sudden, even though his hands had somehow landed up inside the back of my shirt. But we listened hard, and realised.
The vent had stopped humming.
We blinked at each other for a while in the semi-darkness. Then he grinned, and said:
"I think we're locked in for the night."
And that's it. The very end. Because the eventual state of Tate's shield ought to be left to the demented imaginations of happy readers and no more. (Hell yes!)
Special thanks to all of you who have been bookmarking and supporting this crazy story! I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had plotting and writing it. :D
LONG LIVE JELLYFISH.