A Beginning

He doesn’t even make it ten paces before a familiar figure steps into his path. “Leon,” Chain says with a seductive pout. “How come I never see you anymore?”

Tonight he has literal chains on, thick metal links wrapped around his neck and ribcage and connected to a round ring nestled between his beautifully defined pecs. Aside from the chains his chest is bare, and while his skin-tight leather pants couldn’t possibly be in danger of falling down, he’s nonetheless wearing a belt covered in three rows of sharply-pointed metal studs. A matching collar is fastened around his neck.

He steps in and wraps his arms around Leon’s neck before he even has a chance to react. Leon’s hands move reflexively to Chain’s waist, and next thing he knows the boy’s lips are on his.

Shit. Somehow he still hasn’t discussed the subject of monogamy with Rain, and until this moment it simply hasn’t come up. He finds himself returning the kiss; it lacks the passion of his embraces with Rain, but there’s a pleasant comfort and familiarity in it. Leon feels himself begin to respond.

“I’ve been super busy,” he says when the kiss breaks off. He steps back slightly – not quite pulling away, just getting a little space to breathe. “Recording an album takes a hell of a lot of work.”

He’s also had his head together with Rain much of that time, engrossed in their side project. His own attempts at lyrics are still almost entirely hopeless, but between them they’re slowly beginning to find a sound that meshes.

“Then you definitely need some time to relax. Take me out after this. We’ll have some fun.” Chain’s fingers feather over the back of Leon’s neck.

It’s tempting. Incredibly tempting.

“I’ll call you.” He puts the tip of his finger inside the ring lying flat against Chain’s chest, stroking the skin in a small circular caress. He’ll talk to Rain and find out for certain where things stand. If it comes to it, he can always call Chain, take him out for a drink, then tell him he’s gone on the straight and narrow.

Well. Narrow, at any rate.

He releases Chain and notices, for the first time, that he’s with a few other men from the Cruisers Club. Bret, Andrew, and of course Steven. And… huh. Howard. He looks slightly awkward in leather chaps and a jacket that are still stiff and new, so much so that Leon can hear them creak when he moves. It’s still a better look than the turquoise shorts he’d been wearing the last time they met. Leon catches his eye, and Howard immediately flushes and looks at the floor. “Hey, uh… Leon.”

It seems overly cruel to pay the kid more attention than he’s already uncomfortable with. “Nice to see you here, Howard. Bret, Andrew. Steven.” They’re all in varying amounts of leather and denim and vests and chains and jackets, tight and revealing. The exception is Bret, who has on acid-washed denim shorts that cover next-to-nothing over bright pink tights. His one nod to Cruisers style is a black fishnet shirt. “Looks like you’re having a whole Cruisers outing.”

“Something like that,” Steven says. He actually smiles, and moves to shake Leon’s hand, a single firm stroke. “Plus my nephew Bret. Chain really wanted to come see you, and Diane talked me into coming and, well. Here we are.” He hooks his thumbs into his belt loops and rocks back on his heels. “You were pretty great back at Saratoga. Better than I expected.”

Leon sighs inwardly at the backhanded compliment, but keeps a smile on his face. “Thanks. I’m pretty excited about the new album. HI-NRG is where dance music is going. Chain, you’re gonna put some of those dance moves on the floor tonight, right?”

“You know it.” He rolls his hips, and Leon becomes painfully aware of exactly how tight his own pants are.

“Good. I’ll look for you.” He starts to move through the crowd again, then abruptly turns back. “By the way. Have any of you happened to see Diego tonight?”

“I saw him earlier,” Bret says. He’s been looking around at the room and the lights and the crowd with an expression of wide-eyed amazement, a wide and unwavering grin stretched across his face, but he pulls his attention to Leon with an effort. “Over at the bar with Claire and Kimberly. I think he might have been flirting with the bartender. Want me to get him for you?”

Leon chews his lip, considering. “No, I’ll make my way around. Thanks guys.”

As he leaves he notices Andrew settle his hand on the back of Bret’s neck, and the anguished look Howard gives them both. Ah.

He hesitates for several minutes, standing in view of the bar but unsure if he should approach. More guests pass by and he smiles and chats and shakes hands, welcomes them to the club and thanks them for coming even as his stomach knots up and his palms sweat. The words are automatic, the smiles formed with the unthinking ease born of years of practice. Finally he makes the decision: he heads to the bar.

“Leon, hey.” It’s the new bartender, whose name he still can’t remember. He has dark hair in loose curls around his neck, and it brings to mind his own former honey-colored mane. “What’s your drink?”

“Harvey Wallbanger.” He winks at the kid. “But not right now. I’m looking for Diego. Have you seen him?”

The bartender nods at a nearby table, making his thick bangs fall across his eyes, then tosses his head to settle them back into place. “Sure I can’t get you a drink?” He waggles the bottle of vodka enticingly.

Actually, maybe a drink wouldn’t be a bad idea. “Make it two.” He takes the drinks when they’re finished and heads toward the table the young bartender had indicated. It occurs to him a beat too late that he still forgot to ask the kid for his name.

He hasn’t seen Diego in person since the night after the 4th of July party, though with the boy getting more modeling work it would have been nearly impossible not to have seen him. Most recently he’s appeared in a larger-than-life advertisement for Drakkar Noir right in Times Square, gazing soulfully out of the frame with his arm crossing his bare chest to lay his hand on the side of his neck, his dark lashes and square-jawed profile and softly-open lips inviting women and men alike to imagine everything the picture doesn’t reveal.

Now he’s at a table with Claire, smiling and laughing at something she’s said. An unpleasant shock goes through Leon as he watches Diego’s hand land on Claire’s, their fingers caressing with easy familiarity.

Claire sees him first. “What the fuck do you want?”

Indignation flares up. “You know you’re at my album unveiling party, right?”

Diego, who has risen from his chair, looks over at Claire. “It’s okay. Give us a minute?”

Her eyes bore into Leon, but after a few moments she gets to her feet. “I’ll go powder my nose,” she says, picking up a sparkling clutch from the table, “but I’m coming back in five minutes.” The last two words are spoken while glaring daggers at Leon.

“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass while you’re in there.”

She flips him off as she flounces away.

Diego shuffles his feet. “Um. Hi.”

“Hi. I’m… glad you came.”

“Sorrento wanted me to.”

“… oh.” He offers Diego one of the drinks. “Harvey Wallbanger?”

Diego takes the glass hesitantly. “You know I’m actually seventeen, right?”

“Yes. But I also know what you’ve been telling everyone.” They both drink. “Can I sit?”

Diego shrugs. He retakes his own seat, and Leon edges into the neighboring chair. The boy dips his fingers into his shirt pocket and comes up with a pack of smokes. Still not making eye contact, he offers the pack to Leon before taking one for himself. They each take a long deep puff, blowing the smoke up to the ceiling. Leon slides an ashtray across the table and flicks his cigarette over it.

“So, um. How are you doing?”

His son rubs the back of his neck, a motion disturbingly reminiscent of the image of him currently adorning the heart of the city. “Okay. I found an apartment. Getting work.”

“Yeah. I saw your billboard. You look…” He takes another drink to steady himself. “You look stunning. Like your mother.”

For the first time in the conversation, Diego looks up at him. “I look like you.”

Leon shakes his head. “You look better.” They’re quiet for another minute.

“I’m sort of seeing Claire.” Diego’s gaze goes back to the table.

“I kinda figured.”

“You’re not upset?” He glances up once more.

Leon toys with his glass, spinning it in the condensation that’s collected on the tabletop. “I figure it’s not really my place to be. If she makes you happy… then be happy. You’re… you’re still my son, whatever… whoever you want to be with. Plus,” he adds with a self-deprecating grimace, “there’s zero chance of me stealing this one. Accidentally or otherwise.”

Their eyes meet, and the ghost of a smile touches Diego’s mouth. “I wanted to be here, too.”

Leon’s answering smile is slow, hesitant, hopeful. “I’m glad you did.” He picks up his drink and tilts it toward Diego. His heart seems to stand still. At long last, his son lifts his own glass and touches the rim to Leon’s. They both drink again, Leon leaning his head back to finish his off.

“I should go,” he says. “I’ve probably kept the band waiting long enough already. And I don’t particularly want to wait for your girlfriend to come back and rip me another new asshole.”

This finally gets a chuckle from Diego. “She can get kind of stubborn. I’ll ask her to let up on you a little.” He also finishes his drink. “See you up there?”

“Yeah.” Leon stands up. “See you on the dance floor.”

It’s not much. But it’s a beginning.

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