A Bottomless Ocean

They get another keyboard, and another guitar. Another soundboard, stereo headphones. Sorrento finds some “extra” microphones at Studio 54 and brings them over with a couple of stands, and they hire a contractor to hurriedly install soundproofing throughout Leon’s entirely-unused office.

In other words, instead of Leon going to the recording studio, they bring the recording studio to him.

“I don’t know why we didn’t just do this months ago,” he says as he and Rain sit down for their first session. “All this time we could have been playing in comfort instead of that hole in the ground you call a rehearsal space.”

Neither acknowledges the reality that the last time they went, Leon could barely make it back up the stairs. Rain had half-carried him draped over his shoulders, and Leon had pretended not to see the unshed tears that shone in the boy’s eyes while he hailed a cab.

“I like it there,” Rain says. He catches Leon’s eye with a secretive smile, and Leon suddenly recalls the time they made love on that horrifying couch, dust kicking up so thick in the air that they’d been forced to flee before they could finish, coughing and wheezing until tears streamed down their cheeks. He swallows a lump that rises in his throat.

“Street Life?” he says.

“Sure.”

This one has Rain on lead vocals. He’d protested when Leon first suggested it, but finally relented after a steady stream of encouragement, coaxing, and kisses.

“Wish everybody would leave me alone, yeah. They’re always calling on my telephone. When I pick it up there’s no one there, so I walk outside just to take the air.”

They use a simple beat from the synth to keep time; they’ll dub drums in later. Rain bends over the guitar during his feature, swaying as he connects with the music, and Leon thinks of the first moment he’d realized Rain was more than just a fleeting desire, watching him move hypnotically on the stage at Saratoga.

“Hey good-looking boys, gather around. The sidewalk papers gutter-press you down. All those lies can be so unkind, they can make you feel like you’re losing your mind.”

They’re the most suggestive lyrics the two have written yet, a middle-ground between Leon’s flamboyant style and Rain’s more reserved one. Anyone who doesn’t guess Rain’s sexuality after this would have to be completely oblivious. Not that it will matter too much longer. “After this,” Rain has told him. “This will be the catalyst.”

They make it through four songs, the time slipping away without either noticing. When at last they break, exhaustion slams into Leon like a truck and he stumbles, catching himself on the microphone stand.

Rain is at his side in a heartbeat. “Let’s get you to bed.”

Leon forces himself upright, shaking his head. “Couch.” Rain nods and gets under Leon’s arm.

“I told Skye and Simon I could rehearse tonight,” he says once Leon is draped with a blanket, propped up on a pile of throw pillows. “But I’ll call Simon and cancel. Who fucking knows if Skye even would have showed up anyway.”

It takes a few tries for Leon to make his voice work. “No. You’re here all the time, you need to go do something else for once.” He sinks into the cushions, closes his eyes, then jolts awake from the doze he’d slipped into in less than a second. “Sorrento is coming over soon, and you don’t want to just sit here watching me take a nap.”

For a moment Rain looks like he will argue, but finally nods. He kisses Leon before he goes, holding his face in both hands and pressing their lips together hard. “I’ll be back after.”

Leon does his best to grin. “I’ll just be here.” He closes his eyes again, and is unconscious before Rain even lets go.

***

He’s awoken by someone gently shaking his shoulder. Confusion: why is it dark out? Sorrento’s face slowly comes into focus.

“Something’s wrong.” He gives Leon his arm, helps him sit up and swing his feet to the floor.

His head is fuzzy with sleep. “I…” He struggles to lick dry lips with an equally dry tongue. “Um. What?”

“It’s Rain. Something’s wrong. Come on.”

Shaking off the remnants of his nap, he pushes the blanket aside and follows Sorrento out of the conversation pit. Rain is in the foyer, just outside the elevator. He looks shellshocked, his mouth hanging open, his eyes staring, unfocused and glassy.

“Rain?” Leon takes his love’s hands in his own, then gently touches his cheek. “Rain.”

His gaze stays somewhere beyond Leon, and his voice, when he speaks, is distant and dreamy. “It’s Simon.” At last, his eyes find Leon’s, and within them is a bottomless ocean of agony and exhaustion and terror. “He’s got it too.”


“Street Life” © Roxy Music 1973. Used without permission.

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