crane

Silver and Black Interlude: Don't Tell Me

Title: Don't Tell Me
Series: Silver and Black
Characters: David and Chris
Rating:PG-13 for adult concepts of sex and death.
Summery: David does a little song and dance in answer to a question by Haslin
A/N: This is what David woke me up with a few mornings ago, and... it had to go down, but it ended a little differently than he'd intended. Still... stark_black came through beautifully and wrote Chris' reaction... We're not sure if this actually fits in the continuity, but... we'll see.
Disclaimers: This is fiction. The characters and names are not those of real people. Any resemblance to anyone real, living or dead, is purely coincidence. I also do not own or make money off of Madonna's "Don't Tell Me" off her Music album. I'll cheerfully urge you go to buy it, the copyright is all hers.



A spotlight shone on a chair, and by the chair stood a table. Around the single brilliant column of light there was nothing but darkness.

Ice rattled in a glass from the darkness, and then out of the darkness walked David. He held his shoulders hunched a little, and he walked a little stiffly into the light. He was dressed in a blue leather, single-breasted jacket over a black t-shirt, a pair of 501 jeans that had shrunk to fit his muscled thighs and legs, and a worn pair of Doc Martins did nothing to make his walk more graceful. Cradled in one hand, he carried a glass with ice and some dark gold liquid.

He sat down on the edge of chair. He leaned forward over his legs, took a long sip of his drink, and then set it on the table.

He pushed back his long bangs, tipped his glasses back up his nose, looked into the camera, and grinned, a little self-consciously. "Hi, I'm David Li. A little while back, Haslin asked me a question that I have to admit I blew off back then, but it was, really, only recently that I was able to figure out why I couldn't give her an answer."

David sighed and sat up a little bit more, but still on the edge of his chair. His hands went to his knees and he looked at them for a moment, before sighing again and then quirking a grin. "She gave me pretty simple question. It was something like: 'Since music is obviously so important to you, what is your favorite song and why?' At least that’s what I remember of it, and I'd given her a glib answer about the fact that I hadn't really listened to music since Luke, so, perhaps Chris' song of 'Twenty Four' was now my favorite."

He held up one hand, "Don't get me wrong, it's a good song, but there's actually a song that gets to me every time. And it's now important enough to me that I had to get this air time to tell the why. And why I couldn't answer that question nearly as well in the first place."

David reached for his drink again, and took a long, slow slug of it, rolling it over his tongue, his eye closing at the taste. "Smoky and smooth, I guess I also needed this twenty-five-year-old peat smoked Scotch to help me out, too."

"Twenty-five years. That's as old as Chris, probably as old or, perhaps, even older than some of you watching this. But that was back when I grew up, sexually, in the early to mid 80's. Being a geek boy, I was a virgin going into college with few romantic prospects, but I also had some clue as to what I was.

"My sister, Kate, and I are close. She went to UC Berkeley when I went to Caltech. The entirety of Caltech's undergraduate student body was 800 kids and was based in Pasadena. A single big Berkeley lecture hall could have held my entire class, easily. Berkeley had, nearby, San Francisco and Castro, had all the cool kids from high school, had those that actually knew more about what sex, social lives, and other things were about. And since she knew I was gay at that point, even though my parents didn't, she was on the watch for the same signs in those around her and found them everywhere.

"I was born in 1963, at the tail end of what they called the Baby Boom, but the other Boomers got their season of Free Love in the 60's. I never did. That's because the AIDS epidemic hit before I'd done little more than kissed someone who loved me. At Caltech, we were all clueless innocents, experimenting a bit for the first time. But my sister called me one weekend, and broke down over the phone because she couldn't deal with going to yet another friend's house to help him with moving into a nursing home.

"I drove up to help her, and walked into something that I think of, now, as a group under siege. The folks that were helping Jerry move from his home into a place he could be comfortable dying. There wasn't hospice back then the way there is now. None of the systems and support had even been really conceived of, yet. Older people were just shoved into nursing homes and forgotten until they died.

"And we were doing this to a 20-something guy that could have been me in a few more years. And my sister was telling me that this was happening to people she knew or those that they knew nearly every week. These days I can see that a lot of us started suffering from survivor's guilt, and it didn't help that back then there were no reliable tests for AIDS. The guys in the Bay Area were on the front line, and we in the back could only support them. Having sex with a condom was a bit like playing Russian Roulette, and bareback sex was more like grabbing a grenade and throwing away the pin.

"I knew how to maintain respirators, use catheters, deal with bed sores, and knew what the smell of someone dying was like before I was even old enough to legally have this drink." David took another slow sip.

David frowned at the glass in his hands. "I know a lot of you are upset about how Prop 8 turned out in California. The simple fact that so many people are so angry about it passing delights me. Back then no one could even talk about this kind of thing in the open. The Internet saved me in some ways, because of soc.motss back then there were actual people to talk this stuff over with. Now with livejournal and Y!Gallery, it's like I'm living in a world I'd only ever dreamed of back then, where it's obvious to so many what should happen.

"I'm not saying it's easy now, or simple, or safe, yet. There's still a ways to go, as you all well know, but I guess I'm trying to lend a bit of perspective. To those that want to just give up because Prop 8 passed, I want to lend a touch of hope, or maybe a touch of why you should just keep fighting. Just eight years ago Proposition 22, that would have legalized same-sex marriage in California was defeated 60-40. That Prop 8 only barely passed with a 51-49 spread is huge progress. Compared to when we were dying in silence, it is a miracle."

He looked up and grinned at the camera. "You folks are a miracle."

David then raised his glass. "For Michael, Jerry, Alex, Rich, and Sam, there's now a whole generation that's fighting for those of us like you. Bless those that believe you should have always had the right to be known and to live a life we couldn't have imagined back then."

David knocked back the rest of his Scotch and threw the glass off stage to a satisfying smash.

"And back to Haslin's question. Yes. Music means a lot to me. And the reason it does is that half my collection of CDs are from the guys that died back then. It was when CDs were new things, and geek boys, being geek boys, had to have the newest and latest things, even when disks were ridiculously expensive compared to the records being pressed then.

"So my early Sondheim collection, my musicals, my Cole Porter collection, my blues and Alan Parsons, k.d. lang, Indigo Girls, Peter Gabriel, and Annie Lennox collections have the names of dead men written on them in Sharpie and every time I pull one of those silver disks out, I remember..."

David frowned, and then gave a wry grin. "And the prizes of my collection, my favorites are something I'm half-ashamed of, but that's fitting, I guess, given what it represents. You see, my favorites are by Madonna, a woman who is the same age I am, who lived through the same seasons of death, when a great deal of her dance troop was right in the middle of it as well. She spoke up in a time when it was still daring to do so."

"And there is one of her more recent songs that just... grabs me every time I hear it, still makes me stop and listen and replay it if I have the control to do so. So, I'll give it to you myself. I hope this answers your question, Haslin."

David stood up, his stance suddenly more fluid than it was when he walked in. He took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and pushed the hair out of his face again. He shrugged off his jacket, which was worn around the edges and at the elbows to a blue as pale as periwinkles. And you could suddenly see the white writing on his t-shirt: "A mind is not a vessel to be filled, it is a bonfire to be lit. -- Plutarch"

He walked forward two steps and looked over. His eyes hooded a little, and it was like a switch being thrown as his focus, his intensions and emotions moved visibly into his body. The same intensity that David brought to any project, to anything he practiced and pushed, he now brought to this.

David's hip cocked, his foot tilted, and his head turned to his right shoulder. His thumbs hooked into the pockets of his jeans, and suddenly he was simply a man standing, poised and listening.

The acoustic guitar started, swung into an easy western rhythm.

And David danced, easy, confident in his body, the simple steps of the Texas two-step. He moved gracefully, as you might expect of an ex-martial artist, but with a confidence and freedom that few people manage on a dance floor in front of others. David added simple kicks and turns, and did them solidly and smoothly.

And right on the beat, David's breathless tenor came out sure, but wistful, with an edge of laughter.

"Don't tell me to stop
Tell the rain not to drop
Tell the wind not to blow
'Cause you said so, mmmhmm...

Tell the sun not to shine
Not to get up this time, no, no
Let it fall by the way
But don't leave me where I lay down"

During the interlude, David moved more surely, the aw-shucks posture more pronounced, fluid and completely unself-conscious. His stances widened, motions quick and solid, using his limbs to accent and take the phrasing further.

"Tell me love isn't true
It's just something that we do
Tell me everything I'm not but
Please don't tell me to stop

Tell the leaves not to turn
But don't ever tell me I'll learn, no, no
Take the black off a crow
But don't tell me I have to go

David's grin got wider as he shook his head to the "no no"... and his swagger got bigger, more pronounced, with each further iteration. Gone was the cautious engineer, and any hint of fearfulness.

Tell the bed not to lay
Like the open mouth of a grave, yeah
Not to stare up at me
Like a calf down on its knees

Tell me love isn't true
It's just something that we do
Tell me everything I'm not but
Don't ever tell me to stop"

And again, David's body language strengthened, and he put a stomp into the steps, nearly touching on anger, on a particular confrontation with his own fears.

"(Don't you ever)
Tell me love isn't true
It's just something that we do
(Don't you ever)
Tell me everything I'm not but
Don't ever tell me to stop

His face turned quiet, the steps quieter and more regular. His body swayed on, supple and loose now, moving easily, smoothly to the music, and for a moment, his arms moved out into empty air, as if dancing with some unknown other. The plea touched his voice, rendering it even softer, outright sad instead of wistful.

(Don't you ever)
Please don't, please don't,
Please don't tell me to stop

(Don't you ever) tell me
Don't you ever
Don't ever tell me to stop."

As the words ended and the music wound down, he was, once again, simply a man dancing by himself, kicking up the dust of what life turns into. He stilled, loose and graceful as the music died away, hip cocked and hand on his hip.

David said quietly to the camera, "Please don't tell me to stop."

And the spotlight clicked out.




Chris pushed the button on the remote, and the screen went blank. He sat in the darkness, staring at the floor in front of the television. The square outline of after light from the TVs picture stood out from the carpet and stayed fixed in Chris’ vision wherever he looked. When he was a little kid, Chris had always enjoyed looking at something bright for several seconds and then closing his eyes. The outline would stay, and it fascinated him how he could see the contrast of whatever he had been looking at with his eyes closed.

Now, he sat on the couch, one shoe off and one in the process of coming off. He had been undressing when he popped the disk into the DVD player, and David coming on the screen had startled him so badly, he had frozen in place for a few minutes.

He lifted his leg, pulled the tattered Converse off his foot, and dropped it on the floor beside its mate. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do now. When David came home, there was no way he was going to be able to pretend like he hadn’t seen the recording. He hoped to Christ that David had meant for him to see it, otherwise… Shit, how awkward…

Chris stood slowly, and made his way to the kitchen. He opened the fridge to grab a bottle of water, but as the light from the inside spilled across the floor, he changed his mind. He closed the door and moved back into the living room.

He felt like he was suffocating for a split second. No, not suffocating. It didn’t feel like he couldn’t breathe, more like he was being crushed. Smothered. That was the word. He felt the weight of David’s words come pressing down on him, and he leaned heavily against the wall. The man had seen so many tragic things, experienced so many great losses, and yet he was still so…

Chris slid to the floor, a soft breath escaping between his lips. He sat, staring down the dark hall way as tears ran from the corners of his eyes to trail down his neck. He sniffed and leaned the back of his head against the wall, crying quietly into the darkness of the apartment.

He stayed that way for a while, and when the tears stopped, he wasn’t sure if he had been sitting there for minutes or hours. He wiped at his face with the palm of his hand and said quietly into the stillness.

“I won’t ever tell you to stop…”
I... Wow. Wow. This was... Intense. I never really realized all that, really. Now admittedly, this was before I was even born but still... Wow. Reading this kind of stuff, and knowing there are a lot of people out there who've gone through the same thing... That's so incredibly... Confronting? Intense? I don't even know how to describe it. I do think, that I understand a lot of the parents out there, who don't turn away from their teenagers when they find out about their sexuality, but are worried. This is something they have lived through. Something they saw happening around them.

I mean, my mom never even spoke one word that indicated she might not accept me for being bi... But she did tell me to please look out and look after myself very well. Back than (this is... 4, 5 years ago?) I really didn't understand what she meant. I think I might understand a little better now; she's about 10 years older than David, and she must've seen this happening around her, too. That, and she can still remember the times when being gay wasn't as accepted as it is now, not even in the Netherlands.

Back to the writing itself. It was slightly awkward in some points because on one hand it's third person and on the other hand he's telling a personal story from a very personal perspective. It's by far not awkward enough to undermine the enormous power that it has though. Wow. Really. Wow.
Mmm... yeah... that makes a lot of sense, about your Mom, and, for her, it might have been people that she'd known well that were doing the dying. David was still young enough he missed the point where he wouldn't have known what hit him. He hadn't had the sex to pay for it after, but he saw the consequences, all out of proportion.

Thank you for the critique!! I honestly don't think I could have written this in the first person.. he kind of had to tell it. It's interesting seeing how that impacted you.

And... in a really good way, it's nice to know that you didn't experience or really know *any* of this growing up. It gives you and those like you more... leeway as to the possibilities in your lives, too, I think. Anyway.. it's cool to know that the world does get better in its own way, and doesn't just fulfil our fears.

Edited at 2008-11-12 07:09 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty damn glad I didn't have to see this happen. It still shocks me though. I'd heard about the AIDS epidemic, but never any specifics. Just that it started at some point, got a hold of the gay population and now we all really, really have to use condoms.
I never thought about what it meant for the people involved. Might be shortsighted of me, but really, I never had any reason too, either.

I definitely do believe that the world does get better... It isn't all that long ago when being gay was classified as a mental disease in the main manual for diagnosing those. Now we're at the point where gay people have the right to get married in more and more places and despite minor setbacks that's huge. There's HIV-slowers and stuff too, now. So you don't have to die of the disease anymore.
Yeah, they're even talking about a *cure* in Germany now, as a side effect of a bone marrow transplant. Too soon to know, yet, but... just wow...

It amazes me where the world gets to, sometimes.

Yeah... it's hard to know how these things impact people, until someone... says something. So it's cool for David to say something. *grins*

thank you, so much.
I know, it's just... O.O Sometimes, the human race leaves me thinking that it consists of utter idiots. But than I think of things like these happening, and I always manage to put a smile back on my face and faith back in place.

Yeah, it's good of David and you to say something. It's good to know and realize these things. They've been important factors in the lives of many people and something that still influences the way people today look at things.
You're very welcome. I'm glad you found it beautiful. *grins* It was supposed to be encouraging in its own way.

Edited at 2008-11-12 05:20 am (UTC)
wow....that's all I can say now cause I can't see past the tears to type more. *hugs*
*hugs* I think I finally stopped crying an hour later. I found it very moving. There were some stealth tears with it too. I am really not sure what to say other then it moved me greatly.
*hugs you gently*

Glad the stealth tears got out, too. Sometimes it's good to let them go.

He was trying to be encouraging. *laughs softly* Ah well... poor David. *grins*
It is. *smiles* this coming from someone that bottles tears and other emotional acts and emotions up like crazy.

It felt oddly good to cry like that from something other then my own issues and something that moved me so strongly.
Holy.....

I was somehow all right until I got to Chris' part and then I started crying when he does and now it won't stop.

*runs for tissue*
Mmm... yeah. It's interesting having the two perspectives across generations, as David doesn't see it as... sad anymore. For him it just was.

Chris, on the other hand...

*gives you a box of tissues*

Thank you.

And many thanks as I'd completely forgotten about this piece. I've now added it to the Silver and Black story page.

Edited at 2009-04-07 05:49 pm (UTC)
Just read it again. And cried again. Damn, powerful stuff you've got there.

And I'm glad I reminded you to add this piece to the page. No one should miss this.
*laughs* even updated the link to something that works, now...

Thank you, very much.

It was something that hit me in a dream. David just sat down and told me the story and I had to write it down while I was visiting a friend in Oakland. I actually blind-typed it while riding in the car to a function we were going to, because I *had* to get it down while it was still 'sharp'.

I'm very glad I got it now.