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Of Hesitation and Doubt (Part 2) by Fantasy Weaver
1:Some foul language ahead.
Of Hesitation and Doubt
Theo stared into the shining, smooth surface of the mirror in front of him, eyes lingering for more time than he would care to admit on the flattering outlines of Dante’s silver hair.
The question lingered in the air for a minute, being registered in Theo’s mind. He knew the answer he wanted to give. He had repeated the answer he would give to the barber all day yesterday and today. What did he want to do with his hair? He had the answer.
He cast a disconcerted look at the white cape in the mirror, having never thought of the possibility that he would be rendered speechless by a simple piece of fabric. He could feel it, wound just tight enough around his neck, tight enough that when he swallowed, he felt his Adam’s apple rub uncomfortably against the strip of paper folded over the cape’s edge.
Dante was looking at him with expectant stormy eyes. It did not help the bookstore manager in the slightest that he was being pinned with such a gaze, nor did the added pressure from those large hands on his shoulders lend him any sort of power over the stubborn lump in his throat.
He opened his mouth, trying to speak what was on his mind. His tongue was tied in impossible knots inside his mouth, unable to form even the smallest of sounds.
Dante watched him carefully from behind the chair, his eyes resting on the parted lips of the young man in his chair. There he goes again, hesitating on a trivial matter. Doubt, doubt, doubt; that was all he could see etched onto Theo’s features. Dante’s own features remained perfectly stony, his lips set in a straight line as his eyes focused on poor Theo as he floundered for words.
His gaze slipped down to look at his right hand, where it lay on the man’s shoulder. Remaining as stoic as possible, he slowly slid his hand towards the dark hair, feeling the muscle’s in Theo’s neck tense as his fingers slid along the skin above the cape.
"Perhaps I could offer help in your choice of hairstyle?" he proposed, voice a low whisper, eyes perfectly still on the back of the man’s head. His fingers dug into the dark tresses. It was like silk…
He didn’t need to look at Theo’s face to know what emotion would be displayed there. He could tell just by the change in the man’s breathing, how it turned from even and soundless to slightly breathless, shoulders rising and falling a little more rapidly; not panting, just deep, focused breathing.
He left the soft hair, growing impatient with his client’s continued silence, and walked around the chair towards the barber station. The silver haired man took a comb, and walked back around the chair. He flicked his eyes up, finding Theo staring at him intently. He met the gaze, hand running the comb through the man’s hair, untangling small knots.
His eyes went back to the hair, noticing the unevenness of some of the strands.
His eyes widened marginally. Oh?
Theo caught the way Dante was looking at his hair as he lifted strands between comb and fingers. He knew what that look meant. He could confirm what that look meant when Dante took two strands framing his face and measured them out between his fingers.
A smile of another kind lit Dante’s face then; one that didn’t send a reassuring feeling within Theo.
"Theo…" the man in question shivered at the way his name had been uttered. As bland as his last name had sounded before, he almost wished he had been called that instead of the blasphemy that came out from that smiling mouth. NO. His name had sounded absolutely sinful falling from Dante’s lips then, foreshadowing just how Dante would be handling him from then on. The tall barber leaned forward slightly, pinning the book keeper in place with his intense stare. "Do you cut your own hair?"
No matter how much he had rehearsed this encounter, no matter how many situations he had prepared himself for, this one, right now, was not one of them.
He should have gone home.
He found his face in the mirror.
Sure enough, his cheeks had turned a flustered shade of light pink.
He swallowed hard, embarrassment taking hold of his already compromised tongue and making him spew nonsense. "I-I don’t…No. No, I don’t."
He made the mistake of looking at Dante’s reflection. The man’s lips had twitched into a sort of sneer, and one of his silver brows had risen as if to say "Seriously? You think I’m going to believe that?"
He swallowed again. F***. He really didn’t want to be here anymore. The way Dante was looking at him did not make him feel like he was at the doctor’s or dentist’s office anymore. If anything, he felt like a child caught with his hand in the metaphorical cookie jar, and was about to get a severe time-out. But it was too late to get out of here now. He had already wasted time and product from the shop.
"Please just…" Theo started breathlessly, refusing to look the barber in the eye, "I just want a haircu-"
"So you do cut your own hair?" Dante interjected, cutting off Theo’s plea.
His lips tried to form more words, trying to get the appointment back to a salvageable state where he could just tell Dante how to cut his hair and leave as soon as it was over and paid for. But the words that came out did not help his plight. He shifted uncomfortably as he stated, "Look, yes, I have, I have cut my own hair. But I just came to get it cut pro-"
"Properly?" Dante finished, his whole mannerisms having done a one-eighty in the span of but a few minutes. He no longer had his face set in statuesque emotionlessness; amusement, disbelief, impatience and what Theo recognize as…dominance?...were all written across the man’s chiseled features. He spoke again, eyes narrowing, "Is that so?"
Theo bit the inside of his cheek. Maybe this wasn’t so different to going to the doctor. He certainly felt like he was being put under the microscope.
He gasped, unable to hold back the sound before it escaped his mouth, as Dante dug his fingers back into his mane again, though; he noted breathlessly, there was a distinctly possessive feel to the hands at his scalp.
Then his hair was tugged, his head lolling back and forth as Dante played with him like a lion toyed with its prey. He pitched his eyes shut, mouth agape as mortification rose up within him. Was this truly how Dante treated his clients, or had Theo just caught the barber on a bad day?
Still, when he opened his eyes to watch those proud lips, issuing a low laugh, he couldn’t help but recall how many times he had told himself Dante was not bad to look at, and even now, sitting here helpless as the man took some sort of pleasure out of his embarrassment, Theo couldn’t help but want this to continue, if only to see where this would lead.
To give the reins, to give control, over to Dante…
He licked his lips, eyes closing as Dante’s lips came close to his right ear, hand still grabbing a fistful of his dark hair. He felt the man’s warm breath across his ear, so close he could distinctly smell the masculine aftershave on the man’s skin. There was a smile in the man’s very voice as he whispered, "What did you have in mind?"
Words eluded him; mind too overloaded with stimuli to respond properly.
Dante no longer sounded amused when he spoke next. "You try my patience."
He couldn’t respond. He couldn’t.
"Well then," the barber continued, eyes watching closely his patron’s closed ones, "How about I tidy you up while you just sit there nice and still, hm?"
Theo’s eyes flew open at the hidden implications of such a statement, his head turned to regard Dante, but the man had already lifted himself away and had gone over to the barber station. Theo panted when the barber picked up a gleaming pair of scissors, the shining tool held in his right hand along with the comb from before. He shook his head, following Dante with his eyes, hands moving the cape aside to grab at the man in panic. "Wait, wait, wait, what are going to do!?"
But Dante was ever the calm gentleman, and with tenderness which made a fresh wave of heat fly over the other man’s cheeks, he pressed his hands back onto the armrests, flicking the cape back over them nonchalantly as he said, with the utmost seriousness, "Cutting you hair properly."
That was unfair! The man was using Theo’s own words against him. He stared at his reflection, watching as Dante combed his hair unhurriedly, as though nothing was wrong.
He took a ragged breath, head shaking, "What do you mean-!?"
His question cut abruptly off, as Dante twisted a lock of hair and snipped it off without care.
In a trance, Theo followed the path that lock of hair made down the starkness of the white cape. How interesting the contrast was, between the pure cape and the dark, near-black strands separating and fluttering silently down into his lap.
His hands shook. He couldn’t find it in himself to move.
Dante combed another lock out, eyes boring into his gold-flecked green ones, not even blinking as he closed his shears around the strand.
Not even hesitating as he threw it on the cape along with the other.
Theo completely forgot exactly what he had wanted to say to the barber, about how his hair was supposed to look. The only thing he could focus on, at that moment, was the deliberate, unflinching way Dante grasped another twist of dark hair and snipped this one off as well.
All the while looking right at him.
A hush settled over the private room, broken only by the rhythmic, constant sound of Dante combing, grabbing and cutting off strands of Theo’s hair, with no care for how the man had wanted it.
Theo’s eyes grew blank. Was he saddened by what he was seeing? Perhaps, but it never fully registered in his hazed mind. He could do nothing but stare, eyes filled with void, at the hand wielding the scissors, staring endlessly as a strand was carefully selected, and cast off without any reconsideration.
He felt light-headed, while at the same time feeling like his head weighed as much as a boulder. His head bent forward, eyes drooping to his lap as another strand was freed from his head.
A firm hand grabbed him by the (now shorter) hair on the back of his head, roughly dragging his head back up to stare into the mirror. Theo hissed, eyes pinching shut as another handful of hair was pulled outward and snipped off, less gently this time, as though to punish his slip.
He stared into the reflection before him, seeing Dante’s eyes stay as cold as ever as he combed out a strand framing Theo’s face. He lifted the glinting scissors, and slowly cut the taught locks, relieving the pressure of pulling them off of the other’s scalp.
Enraptured in the path those destructive hands took, Theo could not even begin to think of anything but the absolutely possessive way Dante ran his hands over his butchered hair, closed his eyes as his head was once again shaken back and forth by that rough hand.
He had a ragged mess of uneven locks on his head, shorter than he had wanted them to be, yet still, he could do nothing but stay complacently there, in the heavy embrace of the white cape littered with his fallen hair. There was something truly thrilling about this, something oh so freeing that he just couldn’t place his finger on.
Slowly, the scissors came back to rest upon the countertop, barely making a sound as Dante deposited them there. He had yet to say a word since saying he was to be cutting his hair "properly". Perhaps that was why Theo felt so helplessly pinned into place. The continued silenced made the air feel stifling. The silence didn’t continue for long though.
However, it wasn’t punctured by speech.
Dante grabbed something on one of the hooks on the counter, and turned to lean against said counter, eyes firmly fixed onto Theo’s flushed, near-frightened features. Theo continued holding the unflinching gaze, until his ears picked up on a loud snap.
Purring loudly as Dante held it up to eye-level, Theo began panting for real.
Dante held a clipper.
His breathing intensified, even as he tried to calm himself down. Surely, he wouldn’t…
But Dante brought the humming tool down to his face, and this time, Theo WAS able to move. He slammed his head back as far as it would go, keeping his eyes fixed solely on the thing coming closer and closer to him…
He shut his eyes, anticipating where the clipper would land, silently hoping someone would burst in the room and-
But the clipper was placed under his chin, and not at his hairline as he feared it would have. Slowly, he blinked open his eyes, pupils contracting fearfully as Dante’s face inched closer to his. He came within inches of his face, so close Theo could pick up on the exact pattern in the man’s stormy grey irises.
The clipper snapped shut.
Theo released the breath he hadn’t even known he had been holding. Incredulous eyes followed the barber as this one placed a guard on the clipper. What number, he could not tell. He focused between the clipper and Dante’s face, silently questioning what he was about to do. The barber wordlessly walked around the chair, pushing Theo’s head as he did so. He didn’t say anything.
One elegant hand draped itself gracefully over his dark crown. His head was pushed into his chest like this, and once his chin had come into full contact, the purring of the clipper resumed.
The shearing commenced at his nape, slowly, where he felt his skin prickle at the sensation that elicited. He clenched his jaw, trying not to whimper at the feeling. Dante passed the clipper again, twice, on each side of the initial pass, just as unhurried as the first time. Then, the man’s warm hand caressed the sheared patch, burying fingertips in the soft, short pelt.
Theo could tell he still had hair, just by feeling the fingers scraping against the grain of his hair growth. It still felt far shorter that he was used to.
He was manhandled again, head now tilted to the left, right ear catching the sound of that motor humming away as Dante guided the clipper up beside it, just up to his temple, before pulling away. It came back again, behind his ear this time. His right side was sheared like this, the barber’s left hand with the comb holding his head in place.
Theo sucked in a breath, licking his lips as he squeezed his eyes shut.
His chin was abruptly grabbed forced him to look into the mirror. Dante’s face had grown dark now. His eyes narrowed.
"Watch" he uttered ominously.
Theo’s throat constricted. He wanted to close his eyes again, but fought against it. Slowly, he nodded. Dante let his chin go, and came over to his left side, twisting his head to shear at his left sideburn.
He watched, as he was commanded, as his hair fell to the cape, noting how short his hair looked where the clipper had passed. He cringed at the sound of the clipper ruining his hair. Ha, could it really be ruined, when Dante had slashed so inconsiderately at his mane? At least now the back and sides were even…
His head was yanked back in a straight position. The barber hurriedly changed the guard for a shorter one, then passed over the back and sides, closer to the hairline this time, blending the previous work with the newer passes.
Still, Theo kept his eyes glued to the sight in the mirror, slowly coming to realize what he was letting happen.
He could be HOME.
His lip twitched as he grit his teeth. He wanted to bury himself somewhere and die, but the firm hand on his head kept him rooted in place, unable, unwilling, to escape.
Dante hung the clipper back on its hook, Hand going back to the scissors where he had left them. Without a moment’s hesitation, he came back to his patron, comb and hand lifting a perfectly straight section of hair, right hand bringing the scissors to the strands going past the grip of his fingers.
A flurry of dark hair fluttered down to the cape, as Theo sat mesmerized by the lightning-quick snips Dante made over the hair on top of his head. He alternated between a straight cut and pointing his scissors downward and snipping numerous times like that. The book store manager could barely keep up with the movement, and dared not move his head in fear of invoking Dante’s wrath again. A part of him screamed that he should not be sitting here letting this happen, yet another part of himself was transfixed by the carnage, how beautifully and deliberately it was executed.
Dante moved in front of him, hand tilting his head to look towards him. Theo’s lips trembled as he sucked a breath into his nervous lungs. "Close your eyes." He did, gladly, happy to have a moment without that cold grey stare boring into his soul.
He felt his fringe being attended to, cut and snipped at like the rest of his hair had been. Strands of hair brushed against his nose as they fell; he had to resist the urge to rub at his face to be rid of the tickling strands, knowing Dante would probably not let him do such a thing.
His head was pushed back straight again. "Open your eyes." He obeyed, spying how much shorter his hair was, but, he conceded (for now) at least he could still grab it between his hands. The top that is. The sides weren’t even and inch long, much less the closer it got to his hair line. He saw Dante grab a small, slim, battery-powered clipper from its charger and rounded the chair again.
Theo’s head was once again pushed to his chest. Dante turned on the small clipper, and the barber took no time in sliding it along his hairline, creating a perfectly neat line from his nape, to his ears. The tool ran along his neck, which Dante pushed the strip and cape down to reveal, nearly choking Theo in the process. Then the clipper was placed back in its slot.
Theo almost choked a second time when Dante began inserting a thin blade into his straight razor. The taller man’s intense gaze pinned the other into place.
He set the blade aside for now, and went over to a small box-shaped machine near the end of the counter. A whirr came from it as Dante pressed on a button, and a small mound of white foam appeared in his hand. The barber came over, and Theo bent his head before Dante could this time, starting to get fed up of being pushed around like a rag doll. He heard Dante snort lightly, as if this amused him, but no other sound came from the man as he applied the foam to his client’s neck.
After it was applied, and another of those neck strips had been placed on Theo’s shoulder, Dante rinsed his hands and wiped them, before taking the straight razor he had prepared before. Theo still had his head bent as the man crouched down to eye-level with him. Guiltily, the dark haired man looked up into hooded, narrowed grey eyes.
Dante lifted the straight razor, bringing it under his chin as he had done with the clipper, forcing him to look more deeply into his eyes.
A pause. "Don’t. Move." The words, uttered low, echoed deafeningly in the closed room.
A warning. Theo gulped.
Dante came back around the chair, and didn’t wait before stretching the neck of the other’s skin and guiding the razor over the goose-bump-ridden skin. He wiped the blade on the strip at Theo’s shoulder, then continued.
The process could not have taken more than two minutes, but by God, those were the longest two minutes of Theo’s life. When finally Dante set his razor down and threw the foam-covered strip into the garbage, the dark haired man was about ready to pass out.
A gasp resounded from Theo’s lips as the barber removed the strip at his neck and the cape covered in the ruins of his hair. The strands fell to the floor as Dante shook it and flung it in the laundry basket.
It was like a switch had turned on in Theo’s head. He could almost see it, how laughable it was, like a big neon sign you see in Vegas above any number of casinos, the difference being the sign in his head read "You f****d up!".
"Ohmygod" he whispered in alarm, the words merging together as his right hand flew to his mouth and his left hand to his hair. The commotion caught Dante’s attention, just in time to see Theo try to bolt out of the chair.
The chair gave a loud sound of protest as Dante pushed Theo back into it, just as the crazed man let out a pitiful whimper of despair. No! How could he have let this happen!? His hands tried to push the barber’s away, futilely.
"Stop. Calm down."
Calm down? Calm down!? He wouldn’t calm down, was the man ridiculous? He absolutely would not-
Dante’s hand grabbed his chin, making him look directly into his eyes.
Lower, slower, Dante once again uttered, "Stop."
Theo panted, hands gripping the armrests of the barber chair tightly. He swallowed, all at once silent.
Dante removed himself, and did the familiar steps to stand behind the chair. His hands gripped Theo’s shoulders tightly, and he lifted him back upright. Green eyes searched the other man’s features in the reflection of the mirror, breathing slowly, deeply, trying to gather the thoughts that sat in shambles in his mind.
Dante had something in his hands. He lifted the thing, showing it. A jar of product. He opened it, unscrewing the lid while watching his client, knowing he could try to flee at any moment. His finger dipped into the product, retrieving a small glob of it, before the lid was screwed back on and the jar tossed haphazardly onto the counter. The loud noise it made while landing had Theo jumping despite himself. He reigned in his fear.
Hands spread the product evenly between them, then came to spread it along the dark, shorter (and even, Dante might add) strands of hair. Fingers combed through the locks, placing them flatteringly to the side and back. He rinsed his hands as Theo stared after him.
The barber leaned his weight on his elbows on the back of the chair, looking at Theo’s reflection. The two men gazed at each other, as the one sitting in the chair regained his composure.
At long, after a minute of silence that made the tension grow thicker, Dante spoke words that would etch themselves into Theo’s mind for the rest of his life. "If you hesitate in my chair, I get to choose what happens to you. Understand?"
Theo, completely in shock the barber could say this so casually, after having been nothing but gentle with him earlier, sputtered indignantly. He moved to stand up again, but Dante’s strong grip planted him back in the chair.
"Hesitate again," Dante was now whispering in his ear. The next words made a shiver course through Theo’s body. "And I’ll shave you bald."
Green eyes became impossibly wide as he stared at his reflection and the barber’s.
The hand gripping his shoulder let go. This time Theo stood without restraint. He didn’t dash for the door though. He waited. Waited for Dante to open it. He didn’t. Dante circled him, took the time to pass a stiff brush over his face, neck and clothes, even rearranged Theo’s collar, but he didn’t open the door.
A sadistic smile tugged at the barber’s lips. He was being toyed with, without a doubt.
When he did open the door, the smirk vanished; his features and voice became professional again. "We’ll go to the reception for payment and a follow up appointment if you would want to, Mr. Williams."
Theo almost didn’t follow the man, but a twist in his gut told him to do it, otherwise who knows what else Dante would do to him.
He self-consciously ran his hand up his nape as he passed by the other barbers and their patrons in the main shop. Not as many people were here now. How long had it been? A look at his phone showed it was seven-thirty. An hour. And yet Dante had mentioned a haircut was around forty five minutes.
Then again, he thought, as his fingers felt the smooth skin of his neck, where Dante had passed the straight razor, his barber had been thoroughly slow on him…
The barber that had been at the reception before was nowhere to be seen, so Dante had Theo pay for his appointment himself. The book store manager averted his gaze to his hands, where he held his card, ready to insert it into the debit machine as Dante passed it over to him. He couldn’t bear to look at him.
The price on the screen just added to the bitter taste in his mouth as he entered his PIN. The barber took the machine back and handed him his receipt.
"We didn’t get to do the hot towel shave, but perhaps we could do that another time if it would please you, Mr. Williams?"
Theo blinked, looking up into Dante’s face this time. He had nearly forgotten about all that in the heat of the moment. But then, the man’s words registered, and he almost scowled at him. Another time? Surely Dante didn’t think he would want to come back after this?
Surely he didn’t want to.
Even as he thought it, he doubted himself.
The rush, the thrill, the power play that had ensued, Dante’s dark allure…
"A month from now then, same time, same day."
Theo snapped out of his reverie, shaking his head, "What?" He hadn’t even agreed to another appointment yet.
But through the professional façade, Theo saw the remnants of the Dante from before, the one who pushed and pulled on his head and paid no heed to his wants and needs. In a hush, so no one other than them could hear, "You hesitate, I choose. You’re appointment is a month from now. I’ll be sure to pay for you."
Before he could protest further, Dante handed him a card with the appointment information on it, as though it was already done and settled. Theo pushed the barber’s hand back to refuse it, but the man grabbed his wrist and slid the card in his palm even so. As Dante closed his fingers over the card, he whispered, "Don’t test me."
For what seemed like the hundredth time that evening, Theo swallowed his saliva.
His wrist was released, and Dante sauntered towards to back of the shop, a pleasant smile plastered to his proud lips.
Though his eyes betrayed his true intentions.
Theo shook his head, slowly pushing the glass door of The Lounge open, and started heading towards the mall’s exit.
He walked faster, and faster still, until he reached the doors, and nearly ran to his car. He flung the door open as soon as it was unlocked, turned on the ignition, and drove home, trying to not go over the speed limit in his haste to do so.
He practically tore through his home when he got there, bolted his way to the bathroom and cursed as he tried to get the damn light switch to flicker.
Light flooded into the small space, and he finally looked more carefully at the cut he was given, no, the cut that had been FORCED upon him.
He ran his hands up and down his back and sides, fingers combing through the longer (yet still short) strands on top. He turned his head, eyed the short, pelt like fuzz on his left and right sides, knowing it was just as short in the back.
It wasn’t what he wanted.
Did it look good?
He hated to admit it did.
It looked like Dante’s.
His right hand flew to his mouth, a sound he was quite unfamiliar with echoed in his throat. He slid to the floor of his bathroom, struggling to remain composed.
What had he done? How could he have let Dante have his way with him?
Would he have been able to stop him otherwise? No, probably not. Did it make the fact that his hair had been cut so short any better? Absolutely not.
The man’s words echoed in his mind. The warning, the threat of being clipped down over as minor a thing as hesitancy on his part, bounced around in his skull, reverberating over and over again until that’s all he could think about.
Still, his feelings contradicted themselves as he ran his hands through his hair again. It was so soft, silken and lustrous even as short as it was. Had it felt terrible to have it cut?
No, he realized with a sickening twist in his abdomen, in fact it had felt nice at times, despite Dante having pulled and tugged at his hair with such a domineering hand that he thought the man extracted some sick pleasure from controlling him like that. At times those same hands had been gentle.
Just the way he had massaged his head while washing his hair, before everything, had felt…it had felt nice. The scissors shearing through his hair, the clippers reducing the mass of his mane to but a ghost of its former glory…
He picked himself up from the tiled floor, and slid his eyes back to his distraught reflection. A little more stress on his being and he might become as grey as Dante, and then he wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between his hair and the barber’s. He snorted, but the sound strained in his throat, and he once more felt himself losing his grip on reality.
His hands found the sink’s edge, and he gripped it tightly; tight enough to cause his knuckles to turn white.
‘Breathe’ he told himself, exhaling long and hard. He looked at his reflection again.
He reached a hand into his pocket, where he found the card Dante had given him. In the man’s neat handwriting was the date and time of his appointment, or rather, the appointment that had been made FOR him, in one month’s time.
He bit his lip, closing his eyes tightly, thinking this day over.
He didn’t even want to eat the leftover soup anymore.