fluterbev_fic: (Three Spirals)
[personal profile] fluterbev_fic
Summary: Jim is not going to go set dancing with Blair. No way, no how, over his dead body. Until he does, of course.

Author's Note: This is part of the Irish Saga. It was written in response to a discussion on Prospect-L, which touched upon the likelihood that Jim might ever dance a jig. Consequently, the plot bunny of doom was activated! Strictly speaking, he doesn't dance a jig in this, but Ireland has more dance rhythms than just 6/8 time...

Rating: NC-17

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Cheri, Magician and MissFae, who gave me the idea to write this story.

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Nominee: Day in the Life (Slash)



Round the House and Mind the Dresser

By Fluterbev

May 2008



Since Jim had emigrated to Ireland – making the journey in the opposite direction to the thousands upon thousands of Irish people who had gone the other way – he’d come gradually to a realisation. He had the distinct feeling that, just like the fabled bull of Cooley (which had been contested by the forces of Ulster and Connaught just down the road from where they lived), Blair was leading him around by the nose.

Of course, he understood that Blair was already far more immersed in local culture than him. Jim might be the one with the Irish roots, but he was truly Irish in name only – his grandmother’s legacy had certainly not lived on in any tangible way in his family that he’d ever been aware of. But Blair? He’d lived here now for more than half a decade, burrowing in and making himself at home in that way that Jim knew so well. And he seemed determined to put Jim straight on the fast track to assimilation as well.

But… Jim had his pride. On this matter, he intended to stand firm. “No,” he insisted for at least the hundredth time. “No way, Sandburg. Forget it.”

“Aw Jim, come on!” Blair wheedled. “It’ll be fun!”

“I said,” Jim enunciated decisively, “no way.” He held his hands up to forestall yet another round of pleading from Blair. “I mean, come on, Sandburg!” he said. “Can you really see me dancing a jig, for Christ’s sake? I’d look like an idiot!”

Blair pursed his lips. “Well,” he said, “it wouldn’t just be jigs. There’s reels as well, and they said there’d be polkas to start with. In fact, that’s the rhythm for the first dance they’re teaching.” Blair brandished the small, blue booklet he was holding. “The Kerry Set, it’s called, according to this. I got a copy of one of the books the teacher uses, so we can practise a few moves before our first class.”

Jim had the distinct feeling that Blair was not taking him seriously. “Blair, you know I can’t dance. That one time, back in Cascade, when we went out to that club you dragged me along to, I made a total fool of myself.”

“You got lucky though, as I recall!” Blair countered. “What was her name, again? Georgie? Jenny? Something like that, wasn’t it? You totally impressed her with your moves, man!”

Jim didn’t see the point of correcting Blair about the name of an old – and extremely shortlived - girlfriend from his past; he’d just as soon forget there had ever been a time when he’d been too chickenshit to make a move on the one person who really mattered to him. So instead, he brought the discussion back to the matter at hand. “Blair, the point is, I don’t want to do it. End of story. If you want to go out and do your Riverdance impression, feel free. But keep me out of it, okay?”

“Okay,” Blair conceded sadly. “I hear you, Jim. I do. But,” Blair launched into his patent do-or-die spiel, “it’s just, this would be a great way for us both to meet people, you know? And Siobhán told me that there’s a ceili in a few weeks in that big hotel at the other side of Dundalk, where we’d get a chance to go out and do the dances we’ve learned. It’s a really big event – they hold it once a year, and the band they’ve booked for it this time is a really good one, triple-All Ireland champions, really exceptional. And so I thought, why not learn a few dances, just so we can join in at the ceili? Especially as there’s the local dance class right here in the village - it’s not as if we even have to drive miles to get to it, man! And things are usually a lot more fun if you can participate, right? Plus, the guys who play at the session in McManus’ will all be there, and they’re all great dancers, Jim. You should see Joe when he plays the fiddle and dances at the same time-”

Jim sighed. “Look,” he said, halting Blair’s continuous flow of words. “I’ll go to the ceili with you, all right? But I’m really not sure about this dancing crap. I just don’t think it’s for me.” Jim reached out and took Blair’s hand in his. “Go to the class and strut your stuff without me, Fred Astaire. Have fun, okay?”

Blair, it seems, had finally accepted defeat. “Yeah, well, I guess you’re no Ginger Rogers, man.” Blair’s gaze roved over Jim’s lower body appreciatively. “Though you’re pretty equivalent in the sexy legs department!”

***

Blair attended the dance class two nights later, and came home sweaty, tired and bubbling over with enthusiasm. “You’d love it, Jim!” he insisted, as he commandeered an ice-cold can of Caffreys from the fridge, popping the tab and pouring it into the waiting pint glass that Jim had put out for him. He took several huge swigs – it seemed that dancing was thirsty work. “It’s like an intense aerobic workout,” he went on. “But it’s done to these really primitive rhythms – polkas, slides and hornpipes. You dance with a partner – tonight mine was this really nice lady called Dolores – and you form a circle with three other couples. Kinda like a square dance.”

As Blair took a further huge draft of his drink, Jim asked, “So, did you do-si-do and swing your partner, huh, Tex?”

Blair grinned, foam from the creamy head of his pint adorning his top lip. “There was swinging, yes, but there the comparison with square dancing ends, my friend. Set dancing is complicated. I mean, you have to learn this really difficult step, then do it at speed as you move around. And the movements need to be really precise. You get where you’re supposed to be one second too late, and you get trampled on, or you collide with somebody else.”

Jim had noticed a moment ago that Blair was favouring one foot as though it hurt him. “I guess you misjudged it once or twice, huh?”

“Well, it was my first time,” Blair said defensively. “I’m sure I’ll get better with practice.” Then, predictably, he changed tack. “Why don’t you come along to the next class, man? Give it a try?”

Jim snorted. “Not a chance, Sandburg. The only jig-a-jig I want to do with you is in the sack.”

Blair’s downtrodden expression at Jim’s rebuttal brightened considerably at that suggestion. “I’ll just grab a shower,” he said enthusiastically, finishing his beer. “I feel like an early night, suddenly!”

***

The day after Blair’s second class, Jim spent the afternoon doing a few odd jobs for Mary, their nearest neighbour. He’d been doing an increasing amount of work of that kind recently in the locality; painting and decorating, odd bits of woodworking, tiling, yard work and other miscellaneous tasks. He’d been thinking lately that he might even manage to make a proper business of it, although right now, all of his work was coming through the local grapevine rather from any kind of advertising - his satisfied customers, it seemed, were not shy of recommending him to their friends.

He supposed that, if he was to do it in a more formal way, he ought to start charging properly for labour costs. He’d not been able to bring himself to ask Mary for more than the cost of materials today, however; as an elderly widow, she was on a tight enough budget as it was, and he and Blair were not exactly struggling to make ends meet. Jim grinned the satisfied smile of a man with a full stomach as he turned his car into the lane which led up to the cottage. Since he’d refused to take any money off her, Mary had seen fit to ply him with endless tea, sandwiches and cake instead, as well as send him on his way with homemade chicken and mushroom pie and freshly baked cookies for him to bring home for Blair. Celtic hospitality, so he’d learned, was alive and well and living in a place called Ravensdale.

Blair’s car was in its usual parking spot, indicating that he’d come home early from the archaeological dig site he was currently working on. Jim pulled up alongside and shut off the engine, casting his sentinel hearing over to the house and automatically seeking his mate. What he heard was puzzling, to say the least.

“Heel one-two-three, heel one-two-three, heel… fuck! Oh man! Okay, try again.” Listening to the odd shenanigans inside as he walked up the gravel path towards the main front door, Jim heard Blair take a deep breath. “Right, here we go. In-two-three and out-two-three, turn-two-three and turn-two-three. In-two-three and out-two-three…”

As Jim reached the glass door, he could see Blair through it bobbing around the main living area of the cottage. The table had been pushed right over to one side of the dining area, and Blair’s feet were making an odd percussive sound on the tiles. Only… the rhythm, it had to be admitted, was more than a little lacking in regularity.

“Turn-two-three and turn-two-three, turn-two-three and turn-two-three,” Blair was reciting out loud as Jim pushed the door open and stepped in. Blair was moving now in tight little circles, which made Jim dizzy just watching. As he whooshed past Jim, Blair paused in his counting. “Oh hey, man!” he greeted, still whizzing around.

Bemused, Jim had to ask. “What the hell are you doing, Sandburg?”

“I’m dancing round the house,” Blair informed him, somewhat redundantly.

“That’s obvious,” Jim noted.

Blair stopped. “No, I mean I’m dancing round the house. That’s the name of that move I was doing just now, Jim. In shorthand set dance speak, it’s just called ‘house’, although sometimes people shout out ‘round the house and mind the dresser’ instead, to account for the fact that doing it in a small Irish cottage can be a bit of a squeeze and potentially detrimental to your best china.” Blair grinned widely, obviously pleased with himself. “How do you think I look, huh?”

Jim suspected that he wasn’t actually getting the full effect somehow, or perhaps he was just clueless, because what Blair had been doing had looked considerably less than impressive to his untutored eyes. But he loved Blair, and this was making Blair happy, so what was the harm in a little white lie? “Hey,” he said indulgently. “Looking good, Chief!”

“Damn.” As usual, Blair could read him like a book. His face fell. “I suck, don’t I?”

“Really, really well,” Jim confirmed.

Blair slapped him on the arm. “Jim,” he warned. “Get your mind out of your pants and tell me what you really think. Come on, I can take it. Am I making a complete fool of myself, here?”

The expression of uncertainty in Blair’s eyes, which had been so full of joy just a moment ago, cut Jim to the quick. “Maybe you just need a little more practice,” he tried to reassure, wanting to make Blair smile again. “You’ve got a great sense of rhythm.” Usually, he added to himself mentally. “And I’ve seen you dance before – not this stuff, obviously, but you always seemed pretty good at it.”

Blair ran a hand through his hair in a familiar gesture of stress. “The ceili is in two weeks, man. There’s only two more classes between now and then. I’m never going to be able to do this in time!”

“Just keep trying, Chief,” Jim advised him. “If you practice like this every day, you’ll get better, right?”

“I don’t think this is really working,” Blair admitted ruefully. “To do it properly, I really need to practice regularly with a partner.”

“So, why don’t you ask someone?” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Jim regretted them - even more so at the look of calculation which was steadily replacing the expression of pained disappointment on Blair’s face. He decided to leap in fast to try to stem the inevitable. “What about the woman you were dancing with the other week – Dolores?”

“She’s got a regular partner already – her husband, Brian. He just couldn’t be there with her that first night. And at the class last night I was paired up with Noreen, but she’s a nurse and she’s doing the night shift for the next fortnight up at the hospital in Dundalk, so there’s not much chance of getting any time with her before the ceili.” Blair turned pleading, puppy-dog eyes on Jim. “Jim…”

“I don’t think so, Chief.” Despite his rebuttal, Jim could already feel that he was on the slippery slope to jiggety-jig now that Blair had brought out the big guns – those goddamned eyes. “I haven’t got the first idea how to do anything like this. If you’re worrying about looking bad despite the classes you’ve gone to, how do you think I feel about it?”

“Jim, please!” Blair clicked into high gear. “Please, man! I’m on the ropes here! I’m not asking you to dance at the ceili or where anyone else can see. Just here, in the house with me, all right? Just to help me out, so I don’t look like a total dick on the night. Please, man!”

Jim would truly rather take a bullet than do any such thing but, despite his misgivings, he guessed it wouldn’t do any harm to help Blair out a little. The worst that could happen, if they kept it here between themselves, was a pair of bruised feet, wasn’t it? “Okay,” he conceded. “I’ll do it. But just in private, okay? So long as we’re clear about that.”

“Oh man, I love you!” Blair grabbed Jim in a hug. “Thanks so much, Jim!” he said, his eyes shining. “I really, really appreciate it.” And in the next moment, Jim found himself being soundly kissed, which he returned with equal enthusiasm, loving the way Blair squirmed so delightfully in his arms as he tried to get close and closer still.

As rewards went, he had to admit, an armful of sweaty, happy, grateful Blair was way, way up there.

***

Jim’s lessons started the next day. “Okay, man,” Blair told him. “We’re just going to start with the basic polka step, all right? Just… watch what I do, and go with the flow, here. Just count as you go. One-two-three, one-two-three.”

It wasn’t too hard, Jim found, until Blair showed him how to put an extra little tap of the heel into it. “Jesus, Chief,” he said, after losing the thread once again. “This is complicated.”

“Believe it or not,” Blair told him, “this is one of the simpler steps - wait till you see the one for the Connemara Set. But I digress. Let’s go again, okay? Heel one two three, heel one two three…”

Together they worked at it for a while, and gradually Jim began to get the hang of it. He was beginning to feel pretty confident with his progress, in fact, until Blair tried to get him to speed up. “You’re kidding, right?” he protested. “I can’t do it any faster!”

“Jim, they dance this at high speed, okay? This is still pretty slow.”

Jim didn’t really believe that until Blair put on a CD for them to practice to. “I can’t do it that fast!” he said. “Chief, it’s just not possible!”

“Just do your best, man!” Blair insisted. “Keep trying, okay? You’ll get it eventually. I did!” And with that, Blair launched into his step with gusto.

Watching Sandburg’s attempts – which were scarcely better than his – Jim had to wonder how his partner could make that assertion with such confidence.

***

Jim had insisted that they take it slow, so he could have a chance to get the step down first before they did any actual movements. So it was a couple of days later before they got down to the nitty gritty.

“Okay Jim,” Blair said, with an ominous brightness of tone. “You know how to waltz, right?”

“Yeah,” Jim admitted.

“Then this should be really simple for you to understand, man. Come here.” Blair manoeuvred them both so that Jim was where he wanted him, grabbing Jim’s right hand with his left, and grasping him around the waist with the other hand. Then, he struck a pose. “In set dancing,” he explained, “everything is done in what they call a ‘waltz hold’. Like this. Kind of similar to the whole ballroom dancing deal.”

Jim was confused. “What about all that Riverdance stuff? You know, that tap dancing guy in leather pants? He didn’t do it like this.”

“You’re talking about Michael Flatley,” Blair intoned patiently. “And no, that’s not the same; that’s step dancing. What we’re doing here is set dancing. It’s a completely different thing.”

Well that made it all clear – not.

Of course, Blair had more to say. Which was fine, because his ability to enthuse knowledgeably about just about every topic under the sun was one of the many reasons Jim loved him, after all.

Well, during the times he didn’t fantasise about stuffing a sock in his mouth, at any rate.

“Set dancing,” Blair told him, launching enthusiastically into his lecture, “is a social dance form, not an exhibition dance like step dancing. It’s something that ordinary men, women and children have been doing together at small gatherings in houses for centuries, primarily on the west coast of Ireland, where most of the collected dances, like this one, come from. Traditionally, people also used to get together do this stuff outdoors at crossroads – back in the days before traffic was an issue, they’d lay down wooden boards at the joining of several roads out in the country for sets to be danced on; but these days it’s more usually done at big ceilis, like the one we’re going to. Oh, and occasionally you’ll get a set danced in a pub where musicians are playing – I saw it done a few times when I visited Miltown Malbay a couple of years ago-”

“Okay, Chief. I understand,” Jim interrupted. “Leather tap dancing guy is not our role model, here.”

Blair grinned. “Well, you know, Michael Flatley is a pretty amazing dancer, man, and I’m sure knows how to do this stuff too. But no, that’s not what we’re aiming for.” Undaunted by the interruption, Blair seemed determined to continue furthering Jim’s education. “Anyway, since the 1980s there has been a huge surge of interest in set dancing right across Ireland and all over the world, which has brought these previously little-known regional dances to a virtually global audience-”

Oh, where was a sock when you needed one? “Chief,” Jim interrupted again. “Spare me the seminar, okay? Let’s just get on with it.”

Blair gave him an exasperated look, but he obviously decided that it would be prudent to shut up if he was to ensure Jim’s continued compliance. “Okay. Let’s get to it, then. Are you comfortable?”

Jim wasn’t, but he couldn’t put his finger on why. “I don’t know, Chief. I did a little ballroom dancing as a kid – my dad made Stevie and me go to a couple of lessons. And by the way,” Jim put in, “you ever tell anybody that, and I’ll have to kill you.”

Blair smirked dangerously, but held his peace, exercising what had to be mammoth restraint. “So what’s bothering you?” he asked.

Jim shook his head. “This isn’t the same, somehow. It’s like I’m all switched around.”

“That’s because you’re dancing as a woman, Jim. In set dancing, just like in ballroom dancing, the man stands on the left and the lady on the right.”

“You’re kidding!” Jim was incredulous. “Why do I have to be the woman?”

Blair shrugged. “Hey buddy, you’re just helping me practice, remember? If you want to dance the male part, you’ll have to go to the classes, like me. In the meantime I need to learn the male parts of the dance, so I can do it properly at the ceili, ergo I need you to dance the woman’s part. Don’t worry,” he added. “I’ll lie back and let you assert your manhood later!”

The fact that Blair had used the words ‘let you assert your manhood’ had not escaped Jim – it was becoming more and more evident to him who, more often than not, was the principal driver in their relationship. Accepting that there was nothing he could do about it – even if he’d actually even wanted to - Jim sighed. “Let’s just get on with it. The quicker we get this done, the quicker I can throw you down and assert my manhood. Assuming I’ve got any left by then, that is.”

Blair just laughed at Jim’s sulky tone, then proceeded to teach Jim to dance around the house and mind the dresser in his usual characteristic, bossy way.

***

Blair came back from his third dance class full of the joy of having learned something new. “Jim!” he insisted as soon as he came in the door, dragging the reluctant man out of the nice, cozy armchair he’d been resting in reading a book while Blair was out. “You’ve gotta try this, man! We learned the last figure of the set, and it’s a hornpipe. It’s a whole different step!”

“Calm down, Sandburg,” Jim said as he was all but bodily dragged over to the dining area where they usually did their dance practice. “It can’t be any more difficult than the stuff we’ve already done.” And, truth be told, Jim had mastered the polka step far quicker than he’d anticipated, and was no slouch at the actual dance movements too. If he was honest, he considered himself to be a little better at it than Blair, despite not having gone to any of the classes that his partner still religiously attended.

Not that he’d ever admit that to Blair, of course.

“No, no, this is much harder, man!” Blair insisted, shoving the table out of the way with a scraping sound on the floor which set Jim’s teeth on edge. “Watch. This is the easy way to do it, right?” Blair adopted a pose, then started to step, counting out loud as he went. “One-two-three, one-two-three. One-two-three, one-two-three.”

Jim blinked. “That’s about half the speed of the polka,” he said. “What’s the problem?”

“The problem,” Blair told him, “is that when you put in the battering,” which, Jim had learned, was the word for the complicated, percussive stepping element of this type of dancing, “it goes like this. Hop-heel-stamp-heel-stamp-heel-stamp, hop-heel-stamp… shit! Try again. Hop-heel-stamp-heel… fuck!”

Blair was obviously having problems, and Jim could see why. “That doesn’t look easy,” he said.

“I told you that, you doofus!” Blair exclaimed. Then he looked at Jim mournfully. “The ceili is just next week, man! How am I going to learn this before then? And Jim, the battering’s just the start of the problem. In this figure, you change partners continually, and end up dancing with every woman in your set before going back to your own partner. I’m going to screw it up, man, and mutilate some poor woman in the process. I just know it!”

“Chief, aren’t you getting a little hysterical, here? I mean, this is just a social dance; it’s not some kind of performance. Isn’t it supposed to be fun?”

“Well, yeah!” Blair admitted. “But man, set dancers take this stuff really seriously! The etiquette is that you don’t attempt to do it unless you have a pretty good idea what’s going on, and if you screw it up, no one will want you in their set. I’m getting flashbacks to high school already, here. You remember what it feels like, huh, when no one wants you on their team?”

Actually Jim didn’t, because that had never happened to him; but in the spirit of solidarity he decided not to inform Blair of that fact. “Yeah,” he lied. “I remember. But Chief,” he urged, “try to get some perspective here. If this is making you miserable, you don’t have to do it.”

“Are you kidding?” Blair grinned suddenly, every bit as mercurial as he’d been all the time Jim had known him. “I’m not going to let this beat me!” He grabbed Jim by the hand. “Come on, tough guy, get with the programme. I’ll show you the step, then we can practice it together.”

Shaking his head in bemusement, Jim allowed himself to be led. But he contented himself, as he tried to emulate Sandburg’s halting attempts to demonstrate the difficult step, with breathing in the delicious exertion-warmed aroma of his partner. And as he slowly learned what Blair had to teach, he basked in the anticipation of heading off to bed soon for a dance of a different kind.

***

At last, the big night came. Jim and Blair arrived at the hotel a little after ten o’clock – social events, like this one, tended to start considerably later than they were used to back in the States. Even then, as they walked into the big ballroom where the ceili was being held, they found that they were a little early. The band were only just taking their places on the stage, and the room was still half-empty.

They went to the bar for drinks, then found a table in a corner from where they could get a good view of the proceedings. Before too long, some of the musicians Blair had recently gotten to know came in and, spotting him and Jim, came over to join them. “Well,” greeted Siobhán – well being a substitute for hello in Dundalk-speak. “How’s she cuttin’, guys?”

“Hey, we’re good,” Blair told her, as she, Joe and Ciarán sat down. Before long, several more of their friends arrived, some of whom Jim and Blair already knew and some they didn’t, so both of them found themselves drawn into introductions and chat which had them laughing out loud before too long.

At last, the ceili started. Most of those at the table – but not Jim and Blair – got up to dance. “I’ve gotta sit this one out,” Blair told Jim. “It’s the Caledonian Set. I’ve not learned it yet.”

The dance lasted a good half-hour, and Jim could see what Blair meant about how complicated and skilful set dancing could be. Many of the dancers on the floor were performing incredibly complex steps as they moved in tight and unbelievably precise ways within each set, and the percussive rhythm of dozens of battering feet echoed round the room with primitive, addictive resonance.

Of course, Blair took this opportunity, as they sat watching on the sidelines, to educate Jim some more. “The Caledonian’s got seven figures, man,” Blair told Jim, as the dance progressed, “which is why this is lasting so long. A figure is the name given to each distinct part of the dance, like chapters in a book. The music stops at the end of each figure, but the dancers remain in place until the music starts again for the next figure. Most of this particular dance is done to reels, but the last figure is a hornpipe. It’s got different movements, but the step is the same as the one used for the hornpipe in the Kerry Set – you know, the one we’ve been learning? We should watch when they get to that part. You know, to see if we can’t learn something from observing the experts.”

At long last the hornpipe figure was imminent, and Blair sat up attentively. “Watch this, man!” he directed. “This is it!”

The music started, and Jim watched raptly as feet deftly hopped and heeled and stamped in a perfect rhythm, the cleverest dancers amongst them sticking in a few extra little flourishes of their own as they moved around in an incredibly complex pattern. It was fantastically impressive, and bore little or no resemblance to the amateur attempts they’d been practicing diligently in their kitchen.

Jim and Blair shared a look. “Oh my god,” Blair said, apparently terrified. “I can’t do that!”

Jim shrugged. It wasn’t as if he was intending to get up and dance, after all. “Just do your best, Chief,” he said, grinning. “I’m sure you’ll cope just fine!”

The set ended not long after that, and the other occupants of their table returned to sit down and take a break, laughing and perspiring and generally having the craic. Blair had once described set dancing as an aerobic workout, and now Jim could see – or rather smell - exactly what he meant. Fastidiously, he turned his sense of smell down for the duration.

The night rolled on, the two men watching and intermittently chatting as the South Galway Reel set, the Clare Lancers and the Derrada were performed. The band was, as Blair had said, really good; fiddles and flutes predominating, with vamping piano and drums forming a percussive, bass backdrop. Pints were consumed, and the chat during the times their dancing friends took a break was entertaining and fun. Jim had to admit, he was having a really good time.

Then the announcement of the dance they’d been waiting for came. “This is it, man,” Blair said nervously, standing up. “The Kerry Set!” He stood there looking pitiful, like the kid he’d been in high school, wanting to join in but unsure of his welcome on the team. Until, that was, one of the dancers at their table took him under her wing. “Come on, Blair,” said Linda. “Let’s see what you learned at your class!”

Happy that Blair had found someone to strut his stuff with, Jim stood, intending to refill their glasses at the bar while Blair was busy. But Siobhán grabbed his arm, obviously misreading his intent. “Hey, you can dance with me!” she said, pulling him inexorably towards the dance floor.

Shocked, Jim tried to resist. “You’ve got it wrong,” he said. “I don’t… I can’t… I have no idea how to do this!”

Siobhán shrugged, not letting up for an instant as she manoeuvred him into place. “Blair said you’d been practicing together at home,” she said. “If you know the basic step and movements, you’ll be fine. The rest of us will steer you straight if you get lost!”

But Jim, now he was on the dance floor, had another problem. Aware all the time of Blair’s surprised and delighted eyes upon him from across the set, he protested, “Look, Siobhán. When we did this at home, Blair insisted I dance the woman’s part. I don’t know how to do it as a man!”

Siobhán’s eyebrows raised at that, a twinkle of mirth in her eye. “Let’s swap around then,” she said. “You’re not the only ‘flexible’ dancer here tonight.” And with that, she steered Jim into the woman’s spot before taking up the male position herself.

Even with the most cursory of glimpses, Jim very quickly determined that, while there were several women dancing as men at the ceili, since there seemed to be a general shortage of the latter, he was emphatically the only man dancing as a woman. This revelation did not fill him with reassurance, especially as more than a few amused glances were being directed his way from the other sets up on the floor, as well as from several onlookers.

The music started after that, so Jim had little option but to accept his fate, despite how self conscious he felt. Luckily for him, Siobhán really knew what she was doing. She kept him on track, calling out instructions as they went: “Body. That’s right. Now, watch what the top couples do. We’re sides, so we do it second. Okay, right hand star!” At intervals, Jim met Blair in the centre of the set, their hands joining and separating briefly, their eyes meeting for brief, mirth-filled seconds before the shape of the dance took them apart again. The eight dancers in their set weaved in-and-out in a pattern that reminded Jim obliquely of celtic knotwork; entwining, curling, interconnected.

The first three figures were over all too quickly, passing without incident as, so far, neither Jim nor Blair had made a complete ass of themselves. In fact, Jim was incredibly gratified when, during the brief halt between figures, Siobhán informed him, “You’re really good at this! You’ve got great coordination.” Across the set, he could see that Blair was apparently not doing quite so well, since Linda was teasing him roundly for his mistakes, though with obvious good humour.

The music started up again, and they launched into the fourth figure – known as The Ladies Chain. Jim cast Siobhán a dirty look when she told him, “Go on, Lady Jim. Right hand to Linda, left hand to Blair, dance round behind his back and then back to me.”

Meeting Blair on the other side of the set as they chained, Jim had a brief moment to share his pain. “I’m going to kill her, and they’ll never find the body!” he said. Then he was moving away from Blair and back to his smirking dance-partner.

When the time came for them to repeat the chain, and Jim once more danced around behind him, Blair took that brief opportunity to share his pain as well. “Forget about Siobhán,” he said. “I think Linda’s gonna kill me if I step on her foot one more time! You’ve gotta save me, man!”

Finally, it was time for the fifth and last figure – the hornpipe. And the significance of that suddenly struck Jim – given that he was dancing the woman’s part, he’d be obliged to dance up-close-and-personal with every man in the set.

Looking around at the smirking faces of Joe and Ciarán and their partners, as well as Blair’s expression of wide-eyed trepidation, he realised that everybody else was well aware of it too.

There was no more time to think about it. The music started, and all four couples launched into the body of the dance, followed by ‘house’. Then came the first partner swap. As Siobhán danced in towards the centre of the set alone, Jim moved off to the right, to meet Joe coming back out of the circle. Joe pursed his lips at Jim and blew him a kiss. “Well hello, darling,” he said, as they moved into waltz hold. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

The whole set – plus some of the other people dancing in sets nearby – broke out into laughter. His cheeks hot with embarrassment, knowing that the only way to save face in this ridiculous situation was to give as good as he got, Jim blew Joe a kiss back. “Hey baby,” he drawled. “Wanna come out back afterwards and show me your best moves?”

More laughter filled the air, and Joe grinned delightedly, seemingly not at all offended or creeped out by the innuendo, propelling the two of them skilfully round the set as they completed the body and launched into the ‘house’ movement. Once that was over, it was time to separate. “Like ships in the night,” lamented Joe, as Jim moved off. “I’ll miss you sweetheart.”

“Yeah, like a rash,” Jim muttered. To his relief, his next port of call was Blair. “Just put me out of my misery right now,” he told his grinning partner as they began the body. “One shot, right between the eyes.”

“Aw, come on, Jim!” Blair said. “You’re having fun, right?”

“I am now I’m dancing with you,” Jim groused, holding tight to Blair as they moved around. “Not one of your brightest ideas, Darwin,” he added. “Only teaching me the woman’s part.”

Blair was merciless. “You had your chance to come to the class, buster. Don’t blame me!”

All too soon, it was time for them to part. To Jim’s chagrin, Blair patted him on the ass as he moved away into the waiting arms of Ciarán.

Jim immediately propelled Blair to the top of his list of people to kill once this night was over.

Ciarán, at least, seemed to have some sense of decorum about this whole thing. He kept his eyes elsewhere as they danced, and didn’t hold Jim any closer than he absolutely had to. Joe, dancing just across the set, seemed to feel it incumbent upon him to step into the breach, however. “Hey, Ciarán! How’s your new girlfriend?”

Ciarán met Jim’s eyes apologetically and shook his head. “Ignore him, Jim,” he said. “He’s just jealous that he lost you to me!”

Jim snorted disgustedly. One more to put on the list – at this rate he would be in danger of running out of bullets.

At last, it was time to move back to Siobhán for the final run through the dance. “Don’t say a word,” Jim pre-empted, as they started on the body for the last time.

“Aw, come on, Jim!” Siobhán said. “You know none of us have any problem about you and Blair being a couple, don’t you? We’re just having a bit of fun with you. No one means anything bad by it.”

Some people have a problem with it,” Jim insisted bitterly. He’d heard the murmurs on occasion, about the two ‘quare fellas’ up in Ravensdale. Cursed with excellent hearing as he was, he knew the true nature of his relationship with Blair had not gone unnoticed, and that there were people who strongly disapproved.

“Well not us,” Siobhán said emphatically. “You’re not exactly the ‘only gays in the village’. Joe’s cousin Aidan, who went to school with Ciarán and me, lives across the water in Birmingham with his husband – they had a civil ceremony there last year, which we all went to.” She winked. “And I already told you that I’m flexible.”

They’d moved into the final part of the figure – the house. It took all Jim’s concentration to get round the set, so conversation ceased for a few moments. Then the music stopped, and the dancers broke apart to applaud the band.

As everybody else clapped, Jim caught Siobhán’s eye, feeling reassured by what she’d said despite his lingering embarrassment. “Flexible, huh?”

She grinned. “I’ve been known to swing both ways. I had a girlfriend when I was at university, though I like men too.” She put a reassuring hand on Jim’s arm. “You’re among friends here, Jim,” she said. “Anyone ever gives you real trouble, you can rely on us to stand up for you. Just do me one favour.”

Jim frowned. “What?”

“For the love of god,” she pleaded emphatically, “talk Blair out of getting a bodhrán. Gay fellas are always welcome down at the session. Bodhrán players,” she shuddered, “especially novice bodhrán players, that’s another thing entirely!” And with that, Siobhán headed off towards the bar.

As Blair came up beside him, flushed with exertion and happiness, Jim had to ask. “Blair, what the hell is a bodhrán?”

***

Of course, Blair regaled Jim with the full history and etymology of the bodhrán all the way home. About how it was a goatskin drum, played in traditional Irish music, and wouldn’t it be cool, man, if he could get himself one and learn a few beats and go join in down at the session? “Because the guys who play at McManus’s are really great, Jim, don’t you agree?” Blair said, for about the thousandth time. “And their music is awesome, really, really incredible, Jim, and it would be so amazing to find a way to be a part of it. And it's not as if I'm not musical, after all. Maybe this dancing thing is just not where my skill lies…”

Blair was driving, so Jim sat contentedly allowing his partner’s words to wash over him, breathing in the ripe smell of their mingled sweat in the close confines of the car, his heart pounding just a little faster than its usual resting speed with anticipation and longing.

He couldn’t wait to get Blair home.

***

No sooner were they through the door of the cottage than Jim pounced. “You smell incredible,” he said, burying his nose in Blair’s hair and taking in lungfuls of rich, perspiration-scented air.

“Hey, I stink!” Blair chuckled, his deep, sexy voice sending shivers up and down Jim’s spine. “You’ve got such a thing for sweat, man.”

“Only yours, Chief,” Jim declared unashamedly.

By mutual, unspoken agreement, they moved straight into the bedroom. Clothes soaked with the sweat of their exertion were removed and discarded, and Jim revelled in the more potent aroma which was revealed underneath. He was busy snuffling at the aromatic feast of Blair’s chest when his partner spoke up. “I guess you’d like to reassert your manhood now, huh?”

Jim shook his head, pausing in his ministrations to look deeply into Blair’s gorgeous, passion-filled eyes. “I guess I can handle dancing the woman’s part a little longer,” he said. He leaned in close to Blair’s ear, feeling his lover shudder as his breath stirred that sensitive zone. “Blair,” he demanded huskily. “Fuck me. Please.”

Blair had never been a man who needed to be asked twice, and tonight was no exception. He sat up, calculated intent in his eyes, and pushed Jim decisively down on the bed, taking charge with ease. Jim lay quiescent as Blair took his own sweet time to lovingly prepare him, his movements methodical and careful; making Jim feel things that, just a few short months ago, he’d feared he would never get the chance to feel, no matter how much he wanted it.

No matter how much he wanted Blair.

“Blair,” gasped Jim, helpless before the onslaught as Blair’s body eventually breached his own; slowly, reverently. “Love you. Love you so much.” Overwhelmed as he always was by this act, Jim was barely able to express the intense emotion which consumed him. “Blair,” he gasped, the pleasure so close to pain he couldn’t separate the two sensations. “Blair…”

But Blair understood – he always did. “Hush,” he whispered. “I’ve got you, Jim. I love you so much.” His eyes penetrated deep into Jim’s soul, offering him everything and more; all that he was and all that both of them would ever be. “I’ll take care of you, Jim. I always will. Trust me.”

Jim couldn’t look away from the face of his lover as Blair brought him relentlessly, thoroughly and completely to the brink, just as Blair seemed unable to look away from him; his beautiful eyes darkened and softened by his own pleasure. And as the intensity built Jim knew himself to be cherished and held safe, even as he became lost to sensation and emotion so powerful he thought he might die before it was over.

Afterwards, broken and consumed, soothed and comforted in equal measure, Jim rested in Blair’s arms until dreams of swirling dancers swept him away on a tide of ethereal sound; leaving a lone fiddler to stand guard at the gates of dawn.


~ End ~





Comments are welcome, but absolutely not necessary - all of my stories are offered freely and without obligation. If you do wish to comment below please sign your name/pseudonym if you are not logged-in to Dreamwidth or Open ID, or alternatively you can email me at fluterbev@gmail.com



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Date: 2008-05-18 05:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurie-ky.livejournal.com
That was an entertaining story and I enjoyed Blair's wheedling and Jim being swept into the dance. Blair's enthusiasm and Jim's caving were totally in character for them. There was that bit of bitterness on Jim's part, of being discussed by unfriendly people, but the warm and teasing interactions on their friends' part balanced it out. I had to chuckle about the Bodhran bit. I remember your other story that featured it, so I knew how the musicians feel about amateur hour with a inept player. I bet, though, that nobody can talk Blair out of learning. Maybe his sense of timing for it will be a tad better than his sense of rhythm for dancing.

My twin nieces did the step dancing for ten years, and I would watch them sometimes just break into dancing across the kitchen floor, as well as seeing them in a competition or two.

Laurie

Date: 2008-05-18 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks for your lovely comment, Laurie! I am so pleased you like it :-).

And wow, another LJ person I know with Irish dancing connections. So many people all around the world!

Date: 2008-05-18 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janedavitt.livejournal.com
Oh, this was lovely. This 'verse is just so full of peace somehow and the secondary characters are wonderful, too. Jim's insights into who's in charge and his final acceptance of that on his own terms really worked for me.

And this made me grin:

Oh, where was a sock when you needed one?

One tiny typo catch:But,” Blair lunched (launched) into his patent do-or-die spiel

Date: 2008-05-18 06:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw thanks, Jane, I'm so happy you liked it! It was such fun to write :-)

Huge gratitude for the typo catch! ::hugs::

Date: 2008-05-18 06:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] admiralandrea.livejournal.com
Hee. I really enjoyed this. Very Jim and Blair. And the dancing sounded great!

Date: 2008-06-01 08:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks! Glad you liked it :-)

Date: 2008-05-18 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mab-browne.livejournal.com
This was fun. I did a few months of *Scottish* country dancing many years ago (I was very bad at it) and I totally empathised with Blair's efforts to get his footwork right.

And um, yeah. Blair will *let* Jim assert his manhood later. And the good and bad sides of being gay in a small community. I liked. :-)

Date: 2008-06-01 08:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks! And poor Blair never did quite get it right... ;-)

Round the House and Mind the Dresser

Date: 2008-05-18 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ponders-life.livejournal.com
Oh, this was delightful -- funny and charming!

You made the dancing come alive on the "page" for me; I was so intrigued that I went to YouTube and searched for Irish set dancing "Kerry set" (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Irish+set+dancing+%22Kerry+set%3A%22&search_type=). Wow, they really do dance close together!

Henry (my significant other) and I are planning a trip to the Dublin area in the second half of September -- now I have one more thing added to my list of fun things to do/see while I'm there (if I can find it, that is)!

Edited to correct typo
Edited Date: 2008-05-18 08:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Round the House and Mind the Dresser

Date: 2008-06-01 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hee! Thanks for the link. It's essential to dance close together, because if you don't, you can't get round the set in time when you house. Also, it was often danced in confined spaces. Having lived in exactly that kind of Irish cottage, I know how small the dance floor can be! :-)

You should have no trouble finding set dancing in Dublin. One place to contact to get info on where to go is the Culturlann (which I'm sure I've spelled wrong *g*) in Ballsbridge, Dublin, which is the headquarters of CCE (a worldwide Irish cultural organisation). The home page is here: http://comhaltas.ie/

ALso, there is Set Dancing News, which lists dance events:

http://www.setdancingnews.net/news/ireland.lp

Also, I'm really pleased you liked the story!

Date: 2008-05-18 09:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luicat.livejournal.com
Loved it!
And I got to dance with Blair!
(Although I had to change my job and move to Ireland)
Cool!
(Yep, I know however rare we are over here, there are loads there - but it was still a nice choice of name. Thank you :o) )

Date: 2008-06-01 08:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Yay! I'm glad you enjoyed your dance with Blair. Though I pity your poor feet ;-)

::hugs::

Date: 2008-05-18 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] magician113.livejournal.com
Sweetie, that was just wonderful. As always with your Irish stories, I get an entertaining tale AND a cultural lesson. As for what would make Jim do something against his will, obviously the best reason he has for it is love of Blair.

::sigh:: what a man!

Date: 2008-06-01 08:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thank you me dear - I'm so happy you liked it!

Date: 2008-05-19 03:13 pm (UTC)
spikedluv: (ts: jim&blair_somarried_sandrainthesun)
From: [personal profile] spikedluv
Beautiful story! Loved this series of fic set in Ireland, and learning along with Jim, though we probably appreciate it more. *g* Loved this bit, The fact that Blair had used the words ‘let you assert your manhood’ had not escaped Jim – it was becoming more and more evident to him who, more often than not, was the principal driver in their relationship. Accepting that there was nothing he could do about it – even if he’d actually even wanted to - Jim sighed. “Let’s just get on with it. The quicker we get this done, the quicker I can throw you down and assert my manhood. Assuming I’ve got any left by then, that is.” as well as the dance itself, with Siobhan dragging Jim out onto the dance floor, and Jim having to dance the woman's part. *g*

Date: 2008-06-01 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw thanks so much, for this comment and the rec too. I'm so pleased it worked for you!

Round the House...

Date: 2008-05-19 07:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrs-tilford.livejournal.com
Ah, another lovely sculpture-in-words from the fascinating world of Three Spirals. It's like coming home, to join the boyz again in this 'verse and find them happy and (mostly) at peace.

Well done!

Re: Round the House...

Date: 2008-06-01 09:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
I'm really pleased you liked it! Thanks so much :-)

Date: 2008-05-19 08:08 pm (UTC)
ext_9226: (Default)
From: [identity profile] snailbones.livejournal.com


Ah, so lovely to come home to this after a crappy day at the salt mines *g*
(even with my own horrible memories of attempting Irish dancing)

I love poor Jim getting suckered into doing whatever Blair wants - why does he even think he's going to get his own way? Bless. The last paragraph is so beautiful and full of peace... ::happy sigh::

I have no idea how you found the time to write, but I'm so happy you did.

::beams and wanders off to read again::

Date: 2008-06-01 09:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Oh wow, another Irish dance victim! There are so many of us.

I've no idea how I found time to write either - I'm not doing too well at it this weekend! I can has mor hours in the day naow, plz? ;-)

Thanks for your lovely comments ::hugs::

Date: 2008-05-21 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snycock.livejournal.com
Aw, that was so wonderful! You write them just incredibly well; humorous and teasing at first, and then embarrassed and then pleased as Jim learns the dance (and I agree, I think Jim would be a natural dancer, as graceful as he is). And then so beautiful and intense when they're in bed together in the end.

Just goes to prove Cheri's point: a good writer can make ANYTHING believable... even a jig-dancing Jim.

Date: 2008-06-01 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks so much! It was such fun to write :-)

Date: 2008-05-21 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reddwarf75.livejournal.com
An absolute delight to read *bounce bounce* :D
Marie

Date: 2008-06-01 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thank you! I'm so pleased you liked it :-)

Date: 2008-05-22 04:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] betagoddess.livejournal.com

A fun addition to this Universe. *g*

Date: 2008-06-01 09:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thank you! :-)

Round the House

Date: 2008-05-22 05:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabina1956.livejournal.com
I love this story and the universe you've created. I hope there will be more to come in this series.

Sabina

Re: Round the House

Date: 2008-06-01 09:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! I'm really happy you enjoyed it :-)

Date: 2008-05-25 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tayla36.livejournal.com



“I guess you’d like to reassert your manhood now, huh?”

Jim shook his head, pausing in his ministrations to look deeply into Blair’s gorgeous, passion-filled eyes. “I guess I can handle dancing the woman’s part a little longer,” he said.

Date: 2008-05-25 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tayla36.livejournal.com
Ooops, sent to quick

I like a needy Jim.

This was a lovely story,
you have their voices down really well

Date: 2008-06-01 09:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm so glad it worked for you :-)

Date: 2008-05-29 04:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kireseth.livejournal.com
I don't think I've commented in your lj before but your stories on 852 are some of my favorites, especially the epic AUs (Conforming to Requirements, Lasting Imprint). I love the feel of the Three Spirals series too. I've done quite a bit of contra dancing and a few English set dances (and one brief venture into step dancing), so this story had me laughing. You really nailed the details... learning the steps, the whole dance scene. The way you portrayed Jim and Blair's differences in ability/style was well done. I'm glad you gave Jim sympathetic dancer partners. ;-) And my heart went out to Blair when he stood up to dance, all uncertain.

Date: 2008-06-01 09:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Thanks for your lovely comments! It's always nice to be told that smeone has enjoyed something you've written. I really appreciate it :-)

And, another dancer! There are so many of us on LJ - it's great that the dancing worked for you in the story. It was a bit of challenge to make it accessible in print! :-)

Date: 2008-06-21 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] runriggers.livejournal.com
Haven't read this yet, but LOVE that last sentence!!!! Powerful or what! But then again, I always enjoy your stories!!

Date: 2008-07-11 01:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks so much! Belated reply here, but I do appreciate you taking the time to comment :-)

Date: 2008-08-16 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missfaeagain.livejournal.com
How did I miss this story? I have to give you a Mr. Bean happy dance for the shout out... Image and a more cowbells to boot... Imagehugs...

Date: 2008-09-06 10:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
How did I miss this comment? Apologies for not responding sooner. Your Mr Bean made me giggle :-). Thanks so much for your kind words!

Date: 2009-02-09 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lapetite-kiki.livejournal.com
Hee! That was fun!

Date: 2009-02-10 08:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks! Glad to make you smile :-)

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