Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The Cost of Living" - Act III Part I

Minimal experience from Dave was having Muscleman close to feeling guilty for having him in his bed. “I can’t believe I actually have him doing this. He’s good, but goddamn…” he thought. Once satisfied with Dave’s tongue in his ass, Muscleman let him apply the condom and lubricant. After lubing up, Dave whispered to him, “No mercy. I don’t have experience but that means you can do whatever you want to me.” Assuming the position, Muscleman slowly began inserting himself in Dave. Tightness all around explained the euphoria was indeed from a virgin. “Holy shit, you’re so tight.” He said aloud. “I’ll take it slow with you.”

Even at his most restrained level, the tightness of Dave was bringing electrifying pleasure to Muscleman that he couldn’t handle. “Goddamn you’re really tight!” he exclaimed. Dave thought to assume another position while sneaking kisses from Muscleman. “It should ease the nerves.” He pointed out. “Nibble on my ear…kiss my neck…anything else you can think of because I do want you.” Lubing him up again, Muscleman followed Dave’s recommendation and it worked to their benefits. Once kissing him and grabbing onto his short, jet black hair, entry was found much easier for Muscleman. Dave’s moans were ear candy to him as his thrusting and groove were to his normal pacing. Yet again, he faced the dilemma of climaxing inside his lover.
“Oh fuck…I’m about to cum!”
“Yeah…cum in me!”
“Ohhhh yes!”
Muscleman then fell on top of Dave’s back and the two of them snuck kisses to cement their elevated status as fuckbuddies. Panting heavily, he slapped Dave’s ass and led him to the shower.

Once in the shower, Muscleman and Dave kissed each other again right before they washed the remnants of their encounter off each other. After a thorough shower and toweling off, Dave was in his clothes thanking Muscleman for what happened. Before leaving he advised him, “He doesn’t have to know but if he asks, tell the truth. Keeping anything from him spells disaster.” Muscleman replied, “Thanks for the reminder. You sure you don’t want to spend the night?” Dave politely rejected the offer by pointing out, “I’m already catching a mental shit-storm from my Dad for not being home already. Thanks, though. You mean something now and I like that.” He kissed Muscleman while realizing he would momentarily suffer without someone to spoon after sex. With the champagne Lexus leaving the driveway, Muscleman was left alone to process all his thoughts in his sleep.

A deep sleep and a 9:00 AM alarm woke him to find that apart from Pop Goes the Playlist and an impending financial drought, he was unprepared for what was to come. His phone rang and when he answered it, his supervisor Miguel told him, “Sorry this is last minute. You have today off from work.” “Thanks for the heads up.” He replied. After ending that call, he received a text from Hi-NRG to call him as soon as he woke up. Two rings later, Muscleman had Hi-NRG on the other line. “Hey, just got your text. What’s up?” Hi-NRG replied by inviting him to breakfast with Jamie and Alejandro. “The three of us are heading to that restaurant right by you. Want to join us?” Muscleman accepted the invitation but wondered where Scorpio or Blondie was in the equation. “What about the other two?” he asked. “I haven’t texted ‘red hot’ yet, but blonde bombshell wasn’t interested. He thanked me for inviting him anyway.” Hi-NRG replied. “I’ll be there in about 10 minutes.” Muscleman assured.

Once in a tank-top, track pants and sneakers, Muscleman got in his car and met up with the others at the restaurant. Spotting Jamie and Alejandro, he seated himself and wanted to know if on the off chance, anything close to an exit strategy was even planned. “Tonight is the last theme night before the drought. Anybody think through a plan?” he posed. “If not a safe haven with Fuego or Uppercut, anybody thought through how we survive the drought?” Alejandro cautiously replied, “You and the other dancers might have a chance with Fuego or Uppercut, but as for me and Jamie? We’d be lucky if we get jobs at Charlie’s Horse that doesn’t deal with their fucking smoking section.” Jamie replied less pessimistically, but just as seriously when he used real names in conversation. “Truth is, you, Vicente, Dylan, Sean and Shane will be fine. Worst case scenario, Core closes in the midst of the drought. You’re not as expendable because guys come in clubs to see you. Besides, you and Vicente have lives outside of this. We have to take things slow because shit’s going left.” Hi-NRG showed up at the table after his brief absence to use the bathroom and wondered why his real name was used. “So yeah, this using our names type of shit. What’s up with that?”

Jamie replied, “I know that caught you off guard, but Derrick wanted to know if any of us thought of at least a way to survive the financial drought we face. Alejandro and I were telling him you guys that dance can bounce back easier than us.” Hi-NRG countered, “You can bounce back to jobs that are less shat upon than any of us who dance. Don’t act like we have any chance of rebounding that easy.” Muscleman tried to diffuse any tension by pointing out, “Look, all I was getting at was that something needs to happen to make sure that we don’t totally go into tonight blindly.” Suddenly, Scorpio walked through the restaurant with Blondie and Ranger behind him. “Looks like a full house with this impending financial death sentence.” Alejandro said. Blondie and Ranger seated themselves at a larger table and had everyone else settle where they were. Scorpio on the other hand, asked Muscleman about last night.

“Not to start today off in a worse place than what we’re facing, but did anything happen between you and Dave last night?” he asked him. Remembering that Dave had advised him to tell the truth if anything related to them was brought up, he told him then and there, “Yeah, he and had sex.” Scorpio responded, “I didn’t think you’d tell me the truth this quick. I could see hints of afterglow but in weirdly subtle shades.” Muscleman pointed out, “I didn’t feel adrenaline with him. That probably makes afterglow stronger. I just felt intense, weirdly like electricity vibes throughout. Tight ass too.” Scorpio interjected, “Didn’t actually need to know that much, but wait…did you pop someone’s fairy cherry?” A nod of affirmation was all Scorpio needed to see from Muscleman to be left damn near speechless. “I’ll get on you about that later, we need to know the score about tonight.” They then joined the others at the larger table to discuss how to gauge how to repeat success on Pop Goes the Playlist night and then deal with the impending drought they face in the coming days turning weeks turning months.

Prior to Pop Goes the Playlist, no theme night had ever received this much monetary and public acclaim to where a second night of it was planned so quickly. Now with the third theme night in a row looming, Jamie explained which obstacles weren’t in the picture for tonight. “So, word is, Ima Cliché and Bae-sil Leaf are working other clubs and won’t even be near us the entire night. So, we’re avoiding tries at comedy that make us a little on the angry side.” Knowing that little dig was aimed at him, Scorpio playfully countered, “Well, when an unfunny drag queen like the fitting Ima Cliché keeps prodding someone who felt jilted, knocking the wig back to hell where it came from felt right.” Muscleman lightly chuckled while the others weren’t as quick to chortle along. Blondie asked Jamie, “Anything else we’re avoiding in terms of pitfalls?” He replied, “Apart from the mood being less forced, Alejandro did manage to sneak a peek at the expected crowd turnout and if it’s anything like last time, no having to hustle in the Inner Core for the dancers.”

“How high is the expected turnout?” Muscleman wondered. Alejandro whispered, “About double from the last Pop Goes the Playlist night minimum.” Muscleman thought, “Something about this seems short term. I have to hustle anyway; don’t I?” Scorpio then braced himself before prompting Jamie, “Alright, lay it on us in full; what obstacles do we have to face tonight?” Jamie replied, “Part of the reason demand for Pop Goes the Playlist were the low drink prices…so guess what happens from 10:00 to 11:00. $1 prices on beer, $2 on liquor and $5 mixed drinks for that entire hour.” “Oh for fuck’s sake.” Scorpio muttered. Muscleman added, “So for an hour, we’re delayed from dancing on the fucking bar top while we have to pump money from already cheap bastards there for drinks…I can’t deal with this fuckery right now.” Ranger and Blondie each didn’t want to sound unsympathetic when pitching potential exit strategies for after Pop Goes the Playlist.

Blondie carefully propositioned Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG to dance in Austin clubs he works at. “I could get you in and out of the city, plus I know where the legit but easy money is all around the clubs I work at. I can put in a good word for you if any of you consider it.” Ranger though not against Blondie’s commute-based offer, wanted to make his pitch appeal locally. “Uppercut can’t bring hustle driven nights, but you dance in a less sleazy environment than Core. The blue-ish lights are a bit weird at first, but the place has its niche, dedicated audience. I can put a good word with them if any of you consider this offer.” The three of them were on the verge of considering their offers. Muscleman asked Blondie and Ranger, “We can have this as a last resort or consider this a lot if we don’t have an immediate answer, right?” Ranger assured him, “Of course. Each of us just want to do our best to help out.” Blondie added, “We have to stick together somehow. We’re not deep friends or shit like that, but at the very least, this is like networking.”

A decent breakfast and light banter later, Muscleman was secretly resenting his friends for not having a backup plan as he headed to his car. He thought, “Even if I can escape with my other job, at least have something going you jackasses.” Once driving back to his home, he saw Scorpio’s car was parked next to his mailbox. “This can’t be good.” He muttered to himself. Treading lightly towards him, Muscleman asked from a safe distance, “Do you want to talk about me admitting to having sex with Dave?” Scorpio answered, “It’s not about him. I just need to…” “Need to what?” Muscleman pressed. “I need to talk about the only thing I came up with in terms of a backup plan.” Scorpio replied.

Muscleman opened the door and let Scorpio inside and bluntly prompted him, “Spit it out. What’s this plan you couldn’t say in front of everyone else?” Scorpio sat on the couch and explained, “The plan I came up with is for us two only. You and I leave Core and the dancing world behind and we make honest men out of each other. I love you and that’s why I have to tell you and just to you.” Muscleman though touched that he had actually been cared about from someone he had had sex with, his response was the harsh truth of their relationship at that point. “You and I are at two different points in our lives. You’re a student who’s barely under drinking age and I’m a seasoned dancer who’s considered a ‘daddy’ at 30 to a bunch of horndogs on hookup apps. We can take things slow but let’s be honest; we’re mainly in this because of circumstance. I’m barely in a place I can think about romance let alone making an honest man out of anyone else.” Scorpio could only do his best to convince him to reconsider in vain, or respect his decision to take it slow while wincing internally. His despondent face had Muscleman reassure him, “This doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for you. We’re in a bad place and we don’t know what the fuck to do now. That’s it.” Scorpio concurred despite his internal wincing and reminded him, “No ‘dress code’ for tonight.”

They kissed each other “see you later” and Muscleman was worried that he broke Scorpio’s heart due to the impending hell they faced financially. In a rare display of self-reflection, he thought to himself, “He’s way too good at trying to cover up his feelings. That’s coming from someone that ended up raising four daughters, none of which were mine, for someone I wasn’t even in to outside of pity.” The self-reflection ended up spurring a moment he had not braced himself for. His phone vibrated with a facetime notification from a number he didn’t recognize. “No solicitor goes through the trouble of showing themselves so better to answer this call.” He thought. Once he answered the facetime call, he could hardly believe that from her grandmother’s house, Catherine was talking to him.
“Hi Derrick!” she said in a peppy tone.
“Hey pumpkin…wait, how do you know my first name?” he replied.
“Well, Mommy told me who you really were.”
“…wait, what?”
“She told me you’re a really nice guy that did what deadbeats never do.”
He was floored that Catherine already knew he wasn’t her actual father. Catherine explained, “I still think you’re a better Daddy than I’m getting for a while, so I’m using Grandma’s phone to say, I miss you and everyone else is doing OK.” Muscleman could only try to hold back tears before replying, “I’m glad you’re fine despite what happened and how it happened. You be good to your Mom and Grandma, OK?” Catherine giggled before adding, “And my sisters too, silly.” “Right, and your sisters too.” He chuckled. “Bye pumpkin.”

As the facetime chat ended, Muscleman was relieved that some silver lining had been found in Catherine’s life. “She and her sisters are better off with their grandmother.” He thought. “Of course that merciless bitch they call their mother is another story but she did something right for once by leaving me.” He then spent the rest of the night preparing for the ever looming repeat of Pop Goes the Playlist. Leaving the bathroom door open, he stripped naked and showered, hoping some last minute plan could come to fruition. “I really need a way out.” he said. Getting what he wished for, banging on his front door got him out of the shower long enough to see Scorpio, Hi-NRG, Blondie and Ranger at the front. He opened the door bur prefaced, “Was in the shower, but what the fuck is going on?” Scorpio and the rest hurried inside where he grabbed the remote and turned on the news. The newscaster had just mentioned what the others couldn’t say at first. “Our top story tonight, there has been a police raid at the nightclub, Core, where authorities say, money laundering has taken place for the last five to seven years. Two men that work at the popular gay nightclub, downtown say they had some suspicions and when asked by police to give said statements, they had no issues in doing so.” Jamie’s statement was the first to air when he said, “We knew something was up when there was cash flow but we never seemed to make money let alone money to live off of.” Alejandro’s statement followed suit when he said, “It’s messed up that we were used to fund some type of scheme like this. Makes me sick, if I’m honest.” The newscaster concluded, “Although no arrests have been made today, authorities say the two men we spoke to did give the name of their former employer who at the moment is now based out of Houston.”

Once Scorpio turned the TV off, he had prompted discussion as to what happens next. “Chances are, Core is closed indefinitely because unless it isn’t, Jamie would’ve texted me about it.” Muscleman replied, “Wouldn’t he be signing some type of statement or something? If authorities know where to find our former boss, they’re at the station and can’t let us know what happened to the club.” Blondie then received a text from one of his Austin co-workers that was a Facebook screenshot. “Well, according to one of my friends in Austin, Core is closed for at least the next three days due to the raid scaring off some business.” Ranger then pointed out, “Other clubs might be holding off business and telling dancers to not come in. We’re fucked if we don’t know the score in full.” Muscleman then suggested, “Well let’s see what the clubs around Core are like because they might be dealing with 5-0 blowback trying to pin our old boss’ location here. They could think the Houston thing is a decoy which we know it’s not.” Scorpio greenlit his idea and had the others drive out and follow him around to see what the other clubs were like after word of Core’s raid got to them. In the midst of the convoy, Scorpio’s phone rang and he answered it with speakerphone on. “Hello?” he said. Jamie answered, “Hey. Me and Alejandro are OK but bad news. Core’s closed for three days including tonight.” Scorpio replied, “We found that much out from Facebook due to the fact this shit is making waves. You two need one of us to pick you up?” Jamie replied, “No, we got a ride from one of Alejandro’s friends from around the way. We’ll hit you up later once we figure out what we’re doing for the night.” “We’ll let you know what’s up with us first, dude. Talk to you in a little bit.” Scorpio countered.

Once passing by the clubs, Scorpio, Muscleman, Hi-NRG, Blondie and Ranger each saw that Core’s blowback was bigger than they suspected. Clubs had 5-0 questioning club managers that hadn’t even heard of Type A. Fuego was the least affected but turnout for tonight was significantly lower than it had been in years. Uppercut was fledgling as barely any employee let alone patron was occupying the space which made Blondie and Ranger the most nervous. “As if having to dance for dollars wasn’t bad enough, now our only non-scummy club in this city is struggling.” Ranger thought. Charlie’s Horse was the worst hit as Muscleman and Scorpio each noticed Ima Cliché and Bae-sil Leaf getting questioned by 5-0. “This has gotten out of hand.” Muscleman thought. The convoy reconvened at the fast food joint where they had to devise a last minute but necessitated plan to have Muscleman and Scorpio survive this major setback.

Seated inside at a table for the five of them, Blondie began this emergency meeting by having to make a call with him saying, “I’m calling my work and asking them to make room for the three of you.” Muscleman thanked him and had written down his full name and asked Scorpio and Hi-NRG to do the same. Once completed, he handed Blondie the list of their full names for him to tell his employer. As he was calling his employer, Scorpio decided to try and call Alejandro and Jamie to see if they had figured out a plan for the night. “We’re making lee-way in a risky situation, but I need to know if they’re OK.” He said. On the second ring, Jamie answered, “Hey, I was about to call you. Where are you and the others?” “We’re at the fast food joint.” Scorpio replied. “Cool, we’ll have Alejandro’s friend drop us off there. See you in five minutes.” With that settled, Blondie got off the phone with his employer and told Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG that the club in Austin would make an exception for the three of them to come as dancers for this night.

“He said it wouldn’t be a huge deal tonight considering that Core is as he put it ‘tiger-fucked from here to hell’. Also, he said that if you have a bartender and doorman to spare, that’d be fantastic.” Hi-NRG thanked Blondie for pulling some strings in the name of saving their asses. “Dude, you’re awesome for this. Seriously.” Jamie and Alejandro stepped inside the fast food joint where they learned from Blondie, “You two are coming with us to Austin. The club me and Ranger are working tonight is letting you work the bar and door respectively.” “Holy shit, really?” Jamie asked. “Dude that’s fucking awesome.” Alejandro began. “We thought we were fucked in terms of getting work. When do we leave?” “Pick a car and leave the rest to us.” Blondie replied. After confirming the route, they headed to the club in Austin; Blondie led the convoy with Ranger behind him, Muscleman behind Ranger, Hi-NRG behind Muscleman and Scorpio, Jamie and Alejandro being in the very back. The club they were headed to in Austin was named Sky, a high-profile club where gawkers of male beauty could do as the slogan of the club said; “Reach for the Sky…We don’t mind.” With night traffic being a bit of a pain to navigate for Muscleman and Scorpio, the two each had their thoughts as to how much the recent weeks had taken a toll on them. Muscleman thought, “I go from unhappy house Dad barely raising four kids right to sort of being an item with three guys to being in a convoy of dancers to Austin after having my place of work being raided by the fucking feds. Where’s Dave to put his tongue in my ass when I need him?” Scorpio on the other hand thought, “I go from faithful in a bad relationship to committed to a guy that’s barely out to tailing a convoy of dancers when I could be home sleeping and trying to get to class at 1:00 without looking like the pits of hell. Make this night quick so I can ride that beautiful son of a bitch in front of me.”

Hi-NRG was again remembering his safe haven of graphic design but reluctant to let go of dancing. “I can get into graphic design whenever I want. Dancing isn’t lasting forever and I need to make sure I go out with some fucking dignity.” Jamie was contemplating his future as a bartender. “I know I can make easier money with this, but with how many setbacks I’ve had because of this, I don’t want to know what else this fucking job can throw at me. It’s cost me dreams, sex, sanity…I’ve had enough.” Alejandro was trying to look beyond the cynical realization that tonight in Austin would only be a temporary sigh of relief. “I know full fucking well that after tonight, we’re really on our own. Core is probably getting shut down as we speak and then what? How much of an escape/last resort is Austin really?” Eventually, the convoy settled in a park and ride that catered to dancers for Sky.

Each member of the convoy stepped out of their mechanical steeds and went toward the bus that would take them to an escapist laden promised land. “There’s your ticket to some money tonight, boys.” Blondie told them. “Watch your step and not just on the bus.” Ranger added. Once Blondie and Ranger explained how Muscleman, Scorpio, Hi-NRG, Jamie and Alejandro fit into tonight’s picture, they were greeted by a speech by the driver to the dancers who worked on the regular. “Attention, you selfish, money hungry, cutthroat bitches. We got special company by way of Core getting fucked over in San Antonio. Three dancers, a bartender and a doorman that are off limits in terms of boosting and being used as pawns in your fucking catfights. Leave them the fuck alone and don’t let me find out you’ve been fucking with their money, men or self-esteem or I will stomp you like a goddamn line dance.” After being ushered to board the bus, Muscleman, Scorpio, Hi-NRG, Jamie and Alejandro were welcomed on by an understanding and restrained group of dancers who understood the basics of having a stigmatized job to their name.

Once seated near the rear exit of the bus, Scorpio and Muscleman locked eyes and knew they had to cement their relationship then and there in case the situational camaraderie faded the millisecond the bus stopped at Sky. Scorpio rested his head on Muscleman who in turn cradled him in his arm. Blondie noticed two of the dancers within earshot of where the convoy was, were whispering about Scorpio and Muscleman and swiftly called them out under his breath. “Didn’t you two catty bitches even pretend to pay attention to what the driver said?” One of the dancers, a scruffy brown haired relatively muscly man named Travis, attempted to cover his ass for them both. “We weren’t saying anything bad about them.” Blondie wasn’t buying it when he pressed them for more information. “Well let me hear what you had to say about my friends if wasn’t bad.” The dancer looked away after giving a non-verbal cue of remorse. As for Travis, he tried to redeem himself by saying, “Personally, I think it’s risky to stick your pen in company ink no matter where you work…” before Blondie interjected, “…so it’s you lashing out that your catty, gym rat ass has no ink to dip your pen in. Stay quiet, jackass. It’s bad enough we’re mistaken for each other. I don’t need this bullshit too.” Travis was speechless and then remorseful.

The bus pulled up to Sky with the driver giving their reminders for this night in particular. “Remember bitches. Leave the San Antonio boys alone and that if you don’t make it to the bus on time, your ass is responsible for getting to your fucking car at the park and ride. Now get those asses off my bus until I need to babysit your asses again.” Ranger led the convoy off the bus while Blondie gave an icy glare to Travis in an effort to stave off further agitation. Hi-NRG took special notice of this and when he was close to the convoy again, he wrapped his arm around him and told him, “I like this war path you’re on. It’s really hot.” Baffled but flattered by his enamored state, Blondie replied, “Well if it makes you feel better, that dude back there is a wretched fuckwit I’ve wanted to deck in the face for years.”

The convoy was introduced to Sky and its multi-colored pathways to a night away from their problems. “Whoa, this place is swanky for hosting a bunch of dudes in underwear like us.” Muscleman noted. Ranger replied, “Sky treats the dancers the best and proof of this comes from the fact we have a dressing room to ourselves and not a changing area the size of a condom on the floor here.” Before Muscleman could pose a question of the dancers’ cutthroat nature, Blondie tapped him on the shoulder and assured him, “No one’s bothering you or anyone from our little convoy. Some of them came up to me and said ‘Even if they were new hires, we’re not bothering them. Make them feel welcome on our behalf.’ Guess me and him are good to have with you.” Muscleman did slyly indicate his shut down of Travis was to add to the dancers to put their cutthroat natures to the side. “Maybe it’s because of you two or because you shut down that punk back on the bus.” Blondie said nothing but didn’t have to. His body language let Muscleman know that was a fluke.

The convoy was situated where they needed to be for the night. Jamie at the bar, Alejandro assisting at the door and Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG in the dressing room. In the dressing room, Blondie and Ranger’s employer, Mikey came in to explain how things at Sky operated and to ease them into working a club in Austin for the first time. “Gentlemen, we’re so glad to help you three and the hot bartender and doorman you brought along with you. Now, here at Sky, you survive on tips and working the crowd. We don’t offer lap dance/private dance services here but considering the place is huge, you all can still make handsome money if you know how to work a crowd.” Muscleman was not particularly thrilled at the restriction although he understood why. Thinking to himself, “Well, shit. So much for a chance to really hustle. I mean this place is huge and there are a lot of people but son of a bitch I really could stand to hustle some lap dance money.” Mikey continued, “You’ll be dancing on the glowing white bar top you can see from here. That’s there for visual reference to make sure you feel safe when shaking those tail-feathers you have. We also have poles located at both ends of the club with a little ‘stage’ if you will, as another way you can make tips here. Any questions about money, fret not, we’ll get that sorted out right now.”

Mikey proceeded to ask Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG for their IDs as to get their addresses in order to send the checks for working tonight. After recording their information, Mikey handed them their IDs and said, “Happy dancing, boys. Your checks will come anywhere from 3-5 business days from tonight.” Once they were changed into their respective red and white thong, red and black pinstripe underwear and black and neon green underwear, the three of them were ushered to the bar top they would be dancing on. Sadly, it was not the bar Jamie was fronting that night, but it wasn’t that distant from them. Despite impending cash flow, Muscleman was secretly critical of Sky and its setup. He mentally assessed what Sky really had to offer and then thought to himself, “Another bar top I can’t do shit on moves wise and another pole with ‘stage’ that’s barely bigger than the bar top. So much for an escape from Core.” For all the issues taken by him, he was pleased to find out Sky’s patrons were just as generous as Core’s. Scorpio and Hi-NRG were also experiencing some relief as the cash flow was heading their way. Scorpio’s deliciously evil aesthetic was well received by a healthy amount of Sky patrons while Hi-NRG’s up-tempo gyrations resulted in a healthy chunk of Sky patrons of his own. Muscleman wasn’t convinced Sky was really offering anything until he saw two sets of the Stripper’s Rushmore lining his thong making it look like samba feathers during carnival. As bodyguards helped the three of them down to count their money in the dressing room, Blondie and Ranger were noticing trouble as they suspected Travis was up to something. Blondie began by saying, “If this punk ass tries anything tonight over what I did on the bus, he’ll regret every second of acting it out.” Ranger pointed out, “We got at least two options here; 1. He could try and screw with us on the clock or 2. He clocks out early but sends some of his friends in to screw with us.” Although the latter was a possibility, Blondie countered, “The bodyguards don’t get paid enough to put up with bullshit like that. They’re on their A-game 24/7.”

In the dressing room, Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG ended up more than pleased with their stage earnings alone but Hi-NRG was wondering about Travis’ cold stare at them. He was hoping his posing of the question was rhetorical when asking them, “So this Travis dude who gave you two shit knows we’re only here for the night and is pretty much trying to fuck with us for no reason, right?” Muscleman answered for the both of them, “I know I’m not thinking about him and I wouldn’t doubt if my little scorpion here wasn’t laughing at him on the inside.” Scorpio chimed in, “That’s about right. Shallow gym rats make me laugh, especially when they think they can get under my skin.” As much as he was satisfied with the answer, Hi-NRG still had them be on their guard when working the floor. “He could be up to something the minute we get on the floor, so can we at least act like he’s plotting some shit?” Muscleman assured him, “We’ll be on the lookout just in case. Scum like Travis can’t be that different from the scum at Core.” The lascivious litmus test Muscleman had used as reference included such recurring miscreants as Underwear Auction customers who went after the young, boyish types, an executive for an oil company with offices in the San Antonio area and countless others who caused a ruckus at Core.

With their stage earnings stowed away, Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG worked the floor around them to see how much more they could make without having to hustle for lap dance money. They agreed to try and stay within a one table radius of each other as to keep out for any perceived threats from Travis or anyone else they feared could screw with their money. In the meantime, Muscleman made the most of his first table. “How’s everybody doing tonight?” he began. The table only responded with $1 tips from the five of them and a look that read, “Yeah thanks, but we’d rather be on Snapchat.” Muscleman thought to himself, “Travis is the last thing I have to worry about. These bastard patrons blew me off to be bored on Snapchat.” Hi-NRG fared slightly better with a rather generous $10 tip from a patron who was focusing his time to what was trending on Facebook. Scorpio fared the best with his banter about musical tastes garnering $15 total in tips, though he asked the table if he, Muscleman and Hi-NRG needed to do anything different to warm up the crowd. “We’re only here for a night, but what do we do to make the most out of this?” he slyly asked. A patron replied, “You’re doing everything you can. Some people are just too fucking bored to tip tonight.” Scorpio thanked them for the inadvertent intel. “Have a good night, sweetie.”

With the heads up, he rounded up Muscleman and Hi-NRG and relayed to them what the patron told him. “Apparently, tonight is just a night of bored people who barely tip.” Muscleman countered, “They’re probably nicer to the regulars on purpose. Anyway let’s see Jamie.” The three of them managed to work a few more tables and see a repeat pattern of minimal but frequent tips affecting not just them but the regular dancers as well. “Maybe that patron wasn’t lying after all.” Muscleman thought. Once at the bar Jamie was at, the three of them wanted to know how the night was going for him. “So, how’s things on your end?” Hi-NRG asked. Jamie replied, “I’m making a shit-ton of money but it’s because tap beer and bottled beer are the only things people want tonight.” Scorpio wanting to know why this was an issue asked, “Doesn’t this mean you’re close to getting out of whatever financial hole you’re in?” Jamie assured him, “Yeah, again; shit-ton of money so I’m not complaining. The thing of it is, I kind of wish a margarita was ordered. I mean it’s one of the easiest things to churn out but word is, this place goes on strong customer preference and they prefer a shit-ton of beer to complement their phones and being on them.” Muscleman wondered about Alejandro and what he was up to. “Assuming I can’t be near the door, how’s Alejandro handling the door?” Jamie answered, “From here, he’s been able to card a bunch of people and not throw anyone out due to rowdy shit. He’s good but I think he hates how subdued this place is.”

The four of them then gave non-verbal agreement that Sky was able to give them the money they need but adjusting to the environment for even a night made them wish Core hadn’t been subject of a raid. Silence afflicted the four of them until Scorpio gave the devastatingly true state of affairs. “We’ve been used to Core for too long. Sky is an electric, jumping place even with most of these bastards on their phones. We thought sleaze and having to tightrope around the law to survive was the right thing.” Muscleman interjected, “Oh God, please don’t make an allegory out of this shit. We’re dancers whose club got raided and now we’re in another city to make up the losses.” Scorpio continued, “We deserved better than Core, but let’s be real. All clubs like this kind of suck the same way. Bastards who don’t tip enough, dancers with enough bloodlust to make Ivan the Terrible look like a giant pussy, the fact that if we have to hustle for dances, money is taken away from us and places like this who don’t screw us out of that don’t even have us offer dances. Point is, this is a much needed escape from one ring of hell on our sanity into a slightly nicer ring of hell. Maybe this is limbo considering all the fucking nothingness that makes me want to scream.” Muscleman hugged him and whispered, “This is probably a weird time to say this but I love you just based on that poetic speech alone.” Scorpio whispered back, “I love you too, but no on the clock shit. Travis might show up and see blood in the water.” Hi-NRG and Jamie shot them a look that was confirming Travis was on his way to their end of the club. “Shit.” Muscleman thought. “Here comes all of this new trouble.”

Travis did note Muscleman and Scorpio’s relationship, snidely commenting, “Well I didn’t know San Antonio boys dip their pens in company ink.” Hi-NRG responded, “What’s your problem with us? We’re here for tonight and then we get ghost. What could possibly be up your ass about us being here?” Travis assured him, “Nothing at all, but I can’t help but think ‘Why the hell am I competing for tips with a bunch of Joe Schmoe types, tonight?’ You can’t blame me for having to hustle, right?” Scorpio wanted to pounce on the chance to take him down a notch, but Muscleman surprisingly had just the line of questions that would do the job for him.
“You say you have to hustle.” Muscleman began. “What do you consider hustling?”
Travis answered, “Dancing, acting through improv videos online…”
“0 for 2 on what hustling entails but go on…”
“…and having been a video model for a Christmas themed cover for an indie singer.”
Muscleman wasted no time in nailing the coffin on Travis. “So the reason you’re acting like such a pain in the ass is because your fledgling career as a comedian or actor has had to do things like dance for tips, ‘resorting’ to posting online ‘comedy’ videos and be…what; a love interest maybe in a music video for a singer on the rise? Motherfucker that is easy street compared to the fact that once upon a time, I was a personal trainer, dancer and whoring myself to make ends meet for a bitch of an ex and four children that weren’t mine. After her walking out on me, I end up sort of in love at first with that sort of ginger in certain lighting dancer you’re dissing and now I’m in a slightly less shitty place. What I’m not doing, besides putting up with your punk ass after this exchange, is any better besides the fact I have someone I like fucking regularly. I still have to work three jobs to make ends meet, one of which was subject to a raid that led to two friends we have by the skin of your ‘comedy career’ getting us to work today. The day you can ‘improv’ hustle in your life, is the day you can maybe have attitude. Until then, shut the fuck up about struggling and leave us alone. You tried to come for me, but I’m not coming for, on or in you.” Unbeknownst to Muscleman, the five surrounding tables, bar and dancers nearby had witnessed what happened.

Travis was speechless as were Jamie and Hi-NRG with Scorpio chiming, “Take a look, it’s not in a book. That’s how you rip a bitch to shreds.” Blondie then tapped Travis on the shoulder. Travis turned around to see Blondie, Ranger and five other dancers who had heard all of the rant and were ready to pounce. “You’ve done it now, you son of a bitch.” He sternly began. “This is way overdue, but hold still.” Blondie then proceeded to punch Travis out cold. Cheers erupted as a literal takedown of Travis had long been overdue. Choruses of “YAAAAAAAAS”, “Get him again bitch!”, “You got knocked the fuck out!” filled the club as Alejandro was bestowed the honor of taking Travis to the dressing room, gathering his stuff and leaving him with the other doormen to make medical arrangements and then travel arrangements home. With the shift already over, the other dancers hugged Muscleman, Scorpio and Hi-NRG as they wished they would move to Austin to work at Sky. For now, they would count up the money in the dressing room, change back into their clothes and head out to the bus stop. Outside the dancer sect of the convoy, Jamie and Alejandro locked eyes and Jamie ended up kissing him. Although he liked it, Alejandro asked him, “What made you want me now?” Jamie replied, “Fuck it, why not? Impulse is impulse, right?” Alejandro smiled and smacked Jamie’s ass as a thank you. Meanwhile, one of the dancers told Blondie, “The driver’s going to flip her shit in the best way once she finds out Travis got decked.” Blondie then asked, “Wait, there wasn’t video of it was there?” Ranger double checked on Facebook, Twitter, etc. and replied, “No video, but plenty of reactions that sound like bullshit about it, so you’re fine.” “Whew.” Blondie began. “I want certain precious memories to myself.”

The bus pulled up, opened its doors and the driver began, “Which of you bitches knocked out Travis? You’re my hero and I want to thank you right now because that motherfucker got on my damn nerves with his punk ass acting like he knew how to hustle.” Ranger proudly pointed to Blondie to which the driver replied in amazement, “Well goddamn Goldilocks, I’m proud of you. First time your fist hurt without sex being the reason for it. You and those San Antonio boys get in here, meanwhile the rest of you, single file and no fucking on my bus.” The drive back to the park and ride proved to be less of a recovery process than previously anticipated. Jamie and Alejandro ended up snuggling in their nook of the bus while Blondie and Ranger were still being praised for dealing with Travis with Hi-NRG giving Blondie some special attention. “Hey.” He whispered. “That was kind of hot what you did back there. I know I have to go back to San Antonio tonight, but how about some alone time in one of our cars?” Blondie playfully replied, “After my fan club gets their kicks in.” As for Muscleman and Scorpio, they confirmed that everything they went through together made them a couple tonight. “We’ll talk back at my place.” Muscleman said. “You mean we’ll fuck back at our place.” Scorpio countered.

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