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Of Hesitation and Doubt (Part 3) by Fantasy Weaver
Alright I'll admit I was listening to so music while writing a certain part of the story. I've marked that part with oOXoo instead of the usual XXXXX. So if you want to listen to the music playing in that scene, search for The Gypsy Waltz by Ezra Raymond Music. Otherwise enjoy.
1: Some foul language ahead.
2: Some adult content ahead.
Of Hesitation and Doubt
"Whoa, what happen to your hair-"
"Don’t ask." Theo had heard the question enough in the last week from every one of the people working at the book store. He had had enough of hearing it, and had had enough of responding the same way every time. He pinned his colleague with a stare, watching the guy as he openly gaped at his head. "You have books to put away" he reminded him none too kindly.
The kid uttered an apology and resumed what he had been doing.
Theo sighed, leaning his elbows on the counter as he finished filling out the next order on the laptop.
Who was he kidding? He hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything since having returned from his trip to The Lounge. His mind still taunted him with the memories from last Friday, replaying over and over and over until Theo drove himself mad.
Hands on his hair. Hands pulling his hair. Hands hacking away at his hair.
For the tenth time today, he turned a sourly gaze towards the barbershop next door, thinking of every way in which the place could go burn in Hell, especially the silver-haired barber which had done the splendid number on his hair.
He rubbed at his nape, still short and tidy and decidedly not his normal style. God, what a mess he had put himself into. He regretted having ever stepped foot in that shop. No, he regretted ever THINKING about stepping foot in there. He had been perfectly capable of trimming his own hair, had ample time to do it, but because he became giddy over one of the barbers over there, he had messed up, and not just a bit; this was a monumental f***-up. How long would it take to grow his hair back out, especially considering how short the back and sides were?
He would look ridiculous trying to grow it out as it was now, but he wasn’t about to go any shorter than it already was. It won’t even be fully grown back to its former glory in a month.
A month. That was how long until the appointment Dante had made for him. Well he could keep that slot open for him as long as he wanted, but there was no way he was about to go back there again willingly.
Never. The notion itself was ludicrous.
His hand stilled on the mouse pad of the laptop.
‘No’ he thought incredulously to himself, ‘You can’t be seriously doubting this decision? The guy practically forced himself on you.’
He shook his head, focusing on the order sheet.
He didn’t ever stop him though.
Clenching his hands, he sighed, his frustration mounting. He closed the laptop with a resounding snap, eyes going to the clock on the wall to check the time. Thank goodness: six o’clock. His shift is over. He could go home and drown his stupid mental voice behind the entertaining wall of the fifth season of his favorite show.
He grabbed his things from the backstore, giving a quick goodbye to the two other employees of the bookstore.
As he exited the store, he slowed, despite himself, to a stop. He turned.
Dante was at reception today. The man was talking on the phone from what Theo could see. He couldn’t hear what the man was saying, or read on his lips from this distance; not like it interested him.
The barber’s gaze lifted up momentarily, to stare right at him.
Theo shook his head, walking to the exit purposefully.
He glanced back. Dante had resumed looking at the computer.
Theo groaned agitatedly, giving himself a few light smacks on the face. Screw him. He could go jump off a cliff.
Theo became aware of a presence beside him.
It felt warm, yet the presence felt imposing, suffocating even. Yet he let it stay there, not giving it any mind.
The presence shifted, and a touch came to his shoulder. "…move…"
Whispered words fell on his ears. He couldn’t catch them all, as they were uttered too quietly for him to hear them properly. It was a continuous hum around him, quiet and deafening in equal measure. Soothing yet disconcerting, like hearing someone talk while underwater.
He shifted then, getting comfortable. The touch moved higher, his head.
The hums and whispers stopped. Why?
A deep voice resounded clearly in his ear. "Hesitate again and I’ll shave you bald."
Theo jumped awake, a craven, terrified sound leaving his lips. He greedily gulped down air, his hand falling over his eyes. His chest heaved as he reminded himself of where he was. He blearily opened his eyes again, fixing them on the TV screen which still played episodes of the show he had been watching.
He had been lying on his couch, blanket propped over his legs, head leaning in his hand as he stared at the TV. He must have dozed off for just a few minutes.
Recollections of his dream stirred something foreign in his abdomen. How terrifying it was to wake to those words ringing in his ears still, spoken so clearly compared to rest of the gibberish in his dream.
"Christ…" he uttered, getting off the couch completely. He needed some sleep.
He just hopped Dante wouldn’t visit his subconscious again.
He scanned the barcode of the few novels a client was purchasing, putting them carefully in a bag as the woman handed him her point card. Theo took it and scanned it as well, saying, "You have twenty-one dollars in points. Would you like to use them?"
The woman, a young thing who looked to be buying books for college, didn’t seem to catch his question. Her gaze seemed to be fixed on something above Theo’s head.
"Miss?" he asked, tilting his head to get her attention. Finally, the woman shook her head.
"Your card," Theo specified again, holding it up for her, "You have twenty-one dollars’ worth. Will you use it?"
"Oh! No, not this time, thanks." Her eyes went back above his head.
What was so interesting above him that the girl became so transfixed-
Oh. Of course. It hit him as he took her payment in cash and gave her the change back. There was nothing above his head that garnered her attention. The thing that she had been so fixed on was on his head, not above it. He tried to resist scowling unpleasantly at the notion, giving the bag over to the woman as he did. He had noticed it from others too, men and women alike. They all stared at his hair with stars in their eyes.
He was glad they liked his hair. He just wished he could feel the same for it himself.
He funneled his irritation towards the barbershop across the hall. If he could somehow burn holes through the places and suck the life out of everyone in it, he was sure that deed would already be done. Instead, he glared at it with his simple, human eyes, wishing for some tragedy to fall upon the silver-haired barber he could just make out cutting a patron’s hair.
His glared faltered the longer he stared. Why was it so hard for him to stay mad at Dante? Even now, as frustrated as he was, he still couldn’t help but think about the man’s hands digging through his mane and leaving him helpless but to sit still as he wreaked havoc upon his locks.
Hadn’t he done exactly as he had thought, right before deciding to pay the barber a visit? He had surrendered complete control of his head over to Dante, the very thing that had seemed so enchanting and intriguing to him for the last year. And he hadn’t stopped it. He had protested -barely- a few times, but otherwise had let the man have his way.
Proud, cocky lips appeared in Theo’s mind. Lips that could go from straight and serious to teasing and playful to dark and sinful. Those lips had hovered close to his ears, whispering words and harsh commands to him. They had inched close to his face once, close enough that Theo could have leaned forward and…
He wanted to bang his head against the counter. And he would have, had there been no one in the store. ‘Stop’ he admonished himself, a hand pinching the bridge of his nose.
The day proved it could continue being a thorn in his side as he prepared himself to leave in just a few minutes. Before he could however, a client came up to the counter, book sliding on the counter over to him so it could be purchased.
He stood, hands taking the book from the customer’s. He stopped midway, his mind focusing on the black vest sleeve under which he could spot a crimson shirt.
His hard green eyes flicked up to the client.
Dante stared back at him, emotionless.
About a thousand different things ricocheted off Theo’s skull inside his mind. Particularly, a string of colorful words he desperately wanted to hurl loudly at the man standing across the counter from him, seemed a tempting option at that moment.
"Theo," the man greeted simply.
And then it was gone. The bright, cussing words the book keeper wanted to shout fizzed out of existence completely, his momentum broke, the pressure releasing like letting go of an untied, blow-up balloon. All at once, he could do nothing but take the book out of Dante’s hands and avert his gaze to the counter. Just how weak was he? One minute he wanted to rip the man’s head off, the next he felt like a dog with its tail between its legs.
Absentmindedly, he noticed Dante was purchasing Novecento, and scanned the barcode for it. "Twelve seventy-six" he muttered, eyes focused on bagging the novel.
"Debit," the barber stated, waiting for Theo to pass him the machine.
He did, eyes still averted elsewhere. The sight of those hands again, and of Dante’s handsome features…He wanted to laugh at his despicable state. Why was it so hard for him to sort through the contrasting emotions Dante made him feel? It certainly didn’t help to see him again, after a week, this close to him. He was still raw from the incident, still sore about having his hair cut so short, without Dante even caring.
The taller man returned the machine, and Theo ripped the receipt out and placed it along with the novel in the bag. He nearly shoved that same bag to the barber, still not looking at him.
He held the bag there, for three seconds, his patience starting to wear thin as the barber refused to take it. Irked, he turned narrowed green eyes to the man’s face, and nearly blanched at the sight of him.
His grey eyes were hooded, regarding him with an emotion he didn’t want to name. The lips were turned upwards into a sneer.
Dante took the bag from him only then, muttering a few parting words only Theo could hear. "It isn’t fun to wait while someone hesitates, isn’t it?"
His mouth fell open as Dante crossed back towards The Lounge.
He closed his mouth quickly, teeth gritting together in mounting frustration. The NERVE of the man to say such a thing!
And yet the way he said those words, in a sultry murmur that made heat flood his face and chest, had him cursing his contradicting thoughts all over again.
He sat at his computer desk at home, drinking a cup of steaming tea while browsing the net.
He pursed his lips, pausing his leisurely stroll through his different social media. He had a sudden urge, very much rooted into his present situation. He dragged his fingers through his short hair, still unused to the lightness of his head.
He opened a new tab, and started typing out. His eyes scoured the search results, resting on the Google ratings for The Lounge.
He scrolled through the numerous reviews, nearly all of which boasted about the excellent quality of service from the place. He didn’t care for generic good reviews. He was looking for something more specific.
Ah, here was one.
It was a five star review. The person who wrote it said "The Lounge is an excellent place to pamper yourself, if you’re willing to pay a little extra. Dante was my barber when I went, and I would recommend him to anyone. Very attentive, and very good at what he does."
Theo looked at another review. This one also boasted five stars. "Had Dante as my barber. Great guy, with a good sense of humor. Pretty damn good at his job too. My hair has never looked better."
Pursing his lips. Theo kept going. Five stars. Again. "Props to Dante being the most attentive guy to my sensitive skin. Had a hot towel shave by him and for once, my skin didn’t break out into razor bumps afterward. He gives great advice on how to get a good shave, and is very attentive to your needs."
He read another review, cursing under his breath as this one, too, was rated at five stars. "Hadn’t had a good haircut in a while. Dante was my barber, and he did a number on my hair and beard. Never thought my beard could actually look soft until the man worked his magic on me. 10/10."
Theo continued, his eyes roving over what he assumed was another twenty reviews left by more than just pleased customers. Every review he read rated Dante’s service at five stars and the people sang nothing but praises about the barber. Every. Single. One of them.
He read one which spoke highly about his shampoo technique, and he tired, he really tried, to disagree with the statement, but the memory of Dante’s hands massaging his scalp nice and slow prevented him from doing so. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had made him feel so at ease by rubbing his head like that.
Another review commented on how deftly and easily he cut hair, and again, Theo found himself agreeing along with the writer, finding no fault in the images of the dexterous hands wielding the scissors so expertly over his hair still haunting his mind. He had cut his hair so gracefully, with such ease and confidence Theo thought that the man must have the skill of a barber who’s been in the trade for fifty years, if not even better than that. The way he manipulated the shears showed skill beyond what one must learn in barber school.
Theo slumped in his rolling chair, fingers taping idly against the desk’s surface. His mind spun from what he had read. How could such a likeable character -from what the reviews were telling him- turn into such an arrogant, cocky a** with him?
For the umpteenth time, his hand found its way to his shorn head, fiddled agitatedly with the short strands at his neck. They were starting to grow out, not as neat as they had been when coming out of The Lounge. He combed his fingers through the longer locks on top, eyes closing contemplatively.
"Hesitate again and I’ll shave you bald."
The phrase, like a broken record, kept repeating itself over and over in his head, blocking out other thoughts whenever it would appear.
His eyes opened, staring at nothing as Theo thought about those words; thought about how they affected him.
He licked his lips.
Perhaps it was time to actually put his thoughts in order, for real, about the matter.
Theo had gone to The Lounge, had an appointment set with Dante -the barber of his choice, he might add- and had been serviced by the man in a private room. He supposed that he should consider himself lucky he had been granted his cut in the private room without needing to pay extra, but had they been out, in the broken chair among the other barbers, none of the other actions would have happened at all.
He sighed. He had his hair washed in a perfectly acceptable manner…alright, more than acceptable. The shampoo had been great. Had his appointment counted only that as the main turning point for the whole evening, Theo could easily say that Dante outperformed himself. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Things started getting a little odd when he had been sat in the chair and the cape had been secured around him.
Cons: Dante never waited to hear Theo’s wants in terms of his haircut. He had cut it without taking any time to consult him, and had even manhandled him multiple times.
He tapped his fingers a little faster on the desk.
Pros: The haircut doesn’t look terrible. Dante had looked positively sinful while cutting his hair, with the utmost calm. His firm approach kind of made Theo feel breathless.
His lips twitched.
Where could loss of control go between the Pros and the Cons?
Honestly, he didn’t know.
Dante had then gone out of his way to make a second appointment. He recalled the exact words he used, something about the barber paying for it himself? Suppose he did, and Theo actually went to the appointment in two weeks, what then? Would he be grabbed by his hair again and cave under pressure once Dante had his hands on him? Would they be in a private room again, or would they be out with the other barbers, where surely Dante would have to play nice and listen to him, right?
He couldn’t believe he was considering it, after everything that had transpired.
He scowled, wondering what the man had against him doubting his decisions. Was that really what had pushed Dante over the edge? Theo being unable to confidently stay true to his decisions?
"…and I’ll shave you bald."
His fingers played with the hair on top of his head. He tried to remember how, exactly, Dante’s hands had felt on the near-nude skin of his nape. He tried imagining it now, how it would feel if almost-naked skin were somewhere else on his head…
He jerked his hands away from his head as though the touch had singed him.
He shook the feeling off, not wanting to let his mind explore that possibility further for the night.
He was restocking and rearranging a display shelf in the middle of the bookstore, immersing himself in the perfect placement of the book spines on top of each other, feeling relaxed as the scent of new books wafted to his nose.
The day had gone by in a blur. Theo had kept busy enough that by the time the last of the books had been placed on the shelf, it was already six o’clock. He grabbed his work bag from the backstore and left the store to the other employees.
His eyes glanced for a second at The Lounge.
He shook his head, and reminded himself that he needed to pass by the pharmacy to get some toothpaste. He had run out this morning.
He decided to go through the mall to get to the pharmacy, not wanting to go out into the rain just get to get to his car. It was longer to walk inside, but at least he stayed dried for longer, and that was good enough for him.
He searched the aisles of the pharmacy to find the toothpaste section. For Heaven’s sake, the layout changed every week. He could never find himself in any of the aisles.
Eventually, he did find the elusive selection of toothpastes, and decided to take two of them. He hurried towards the checkout line, but a glance at it revealed he would have to wait behind four other customers. His brow knotted. Only one cashier? Were they low on staff or something?
Why did he suddenly feel like he was being watched? He subtly turned his head left and right, but no one was looking at him. Shrugging, he concluded it must just have been a feeling.
His nose caught a familiar scent. Strong. Fragrant. Masculine.
He turned his head again, less discreetly, still not seeing anyone-
His eyes caught something in his periphery, behind him, standing but a foot away.
‘Oh God, what have I done to deserve this?’ he silently pleaded in his head. Of all people to be in line with him, why did Dante have to be here?
Has he noticed him? He certainly hadn’t been very discreet when checking around him. He looked ahead of him. Three people left to pass before him. He wished he could make them go faster, if only to bolt away before Dante took notice of him. Unless, to his dismay, the barber had already noticed him, and that was the reason for the paranoid feeling of being watched.
"Are you nervous, Theo?"
His skin crawled. Dante had whispered those words from behind him, too low for anyone else to hear. Theo tried not to show his apprehension, keeping his gaze resolutely forward, refusing to look back at the barber for fear of losing his wits about him. The worst thing he could do was let his treacherous, greedy eyes take in the sight of Dante, who he knew probably looked just as good as he always did, the elegant son of a-
The line moved. Two people left. This was taking forever.
He felt Dante move forward some, slowly closing the distance between them. What was he doing here anyway? ‘The same as you, idiot: buying something and paying for it’ the dark haired man thought sarcastically. Though was it really necessary to be so damn close to him?
One more customer. Oh come on…
Dante whispered taunts to him again, sending shivers coursing down his spine. "I don’t suppose you would want to talk with me, now would you?"
The client was paying. Lord, it could not go fast enough.
"You know," Dante continued his mind games, "I still wonder if you’ll be brave enough to come to your appointment next week. After all, it just takes an inkling of doubt for me to take control again…"
It was his turn. The cashier seemed oblivious to the state in which Dante had put him. His heart was beating rapidly against his ribcage, threatening to rip a hole right through it so hard was it pounding. Theo quickly paid for his toothpaste and waited again as the cashier retrieved the receipt and bagged his things.
"You wouldn’t want to feel my clippers on your crown, would you?"
The final taunt lingered in the air as Theo practically stumbled over his own two feet in his haste to get out of the pharmacy.
He tried to sleep.
Every time he closed his eyes he could see him there, poised and stoic and beautiful.
The image never stayed so decent. His mind always spiraled out of control and twisted the man’s features into that sadistic sneer he had seen in the private room.
He tried to rest. But as soon as the darkness and silence engulfed his room, his ears would fool him, hearing sultry, dark taunts and the hum of a motor near his head.
Theo twisted and turned fretfully in his bed, his arm flopping over his face in agitation. The more he tried to force the thoughts back, the stronger and more potent they became, swirling to life in his mind’s eye.
The dark, haunting image of Dante leaning oh-so-casually against the barbering station, hand lifting the purring clipper, still so ingrained within him from his appointment, never failed to have him whimpering, taking in shuddering breaths to calm himself down. At the time, Dante hadn’t brought the clipper to his forehead, as he had feared he would. He had teased him, intentionally, he was certain of it, with the notion that he COULD have. He could have done it. Theo knew that. The man had no qualms about slicing off his hair and reducing it down to but a short pelt, so what stopped him from taking his hair off completely?
Again, his mind played the man’s warning. Theo let out a breath through flaring nostrils, shifting on his bed.
The barber’s fingers on his nape came to mind once more. How wonderful they had felt, sliding against the smooth skin of his neck, the shaved hair at his nape. He thought again about the threat, the clippers, the sensuous glide of skin against skin…
What would it feel like, he wondered, despite his best efforts to avoid the darkening path in which he was treading, to have Dante’s warm hand, palm and fingers, completely touching his scalp, with no hair to block the heavenly way in which he could rub, scrape and slide over his skin?
He bit his lower lip, stopping it from trembling.
This month had been one in which he had had time to think about his situation. He had had time to forget about Dante, yet he hadn’t. Every day since that evening in The Lounge, he had thought about him, whether to be mad at him or to blush at how, what, he made him feel. He had interacted with Dante twice, outside of the barbershop, and both times the man had been capable of rendering him speechless, whether just by looking like sin on a stick or by his choice of words.
Theo admitted, begrudgingly, that he almost wanted the experience in the private room to repeat itself. It had been so thrilling. The rush, the adrenalin coursing through his body, the flutters in his stomach as Dante teased and commanded him.
He almost laughed, hysterically, at how vastly different going to a barbershop (with Dante as the barber, at least) was compared to going to his doctor, or to the dentist. There were no more similarities. He never felt giddy and confused when thinking about getting his annual check-up or getting a cavity filled. That feeling was solely kept for the barbershop.
The man turned on his side, hugging a pillow to his chest with one arm as he tried to get comfortable.
His thoughts came back full circle to Dante, who could very well shear him like a sheep, and all he had to do was give Theo one good, long, come-hither stare.
He sighed fretfully, hand rubbing at his face.
This would be a long night.
Steam rolled in thin wisps over the surface of the mirror, droplets of crystalline water slipping along the smooth surface slowly, as he emerged from the shower.
Hand still dripping wet, he grabbed the stereo remote on the bathroom counter, pressing on the skip button a few times until he was happy with the song playing. He increased the volume, hips swaying idly to the sweet, seductive tune drifting across his home.
He dragged the white towel at his hips across the rest of his body, picking up the moisture there. He slid the cloth over his arms, the muscles of his biceps flexing as he did. His chest, smooth and chiseled, gleamed in the warm lighting of his bathroom as he dried it. Down between his legs now, getting rid of the moisture there carefully. He threw the towel carelessly aside to focus on his reflection.
Proud lips twitched amusedly.
The music drifted through the house, emotional and orchestral, as he tended to his five o’clock shadow.
An elegant hand slid the razor carefully across lathered skin, the slow, deliberate scrapping an accompaniment to the waltz from the stereo. He looked smug even while shaving himself. He laughed. Of course he was, today was Friday.
Up his throat, being careful not to nick his jaw. Wipe of the razor on a strip, bringing it up to his left cheek, stretching the skin there, smoothing it out. Small strokes on his chin, swipes on his upper lip. He couldn’t stand having a moustache.
His hand dragged appraisingly over his chiseled jaw, examining the consistency of his shaving. Deeming himself presentable, he rinsed his face.
Hand selected an aftershave, housed in an expensive glass bottle, and splashed an appropriate amount on his skin, feeling it tighten deliciously as he did so. He smiled. His hair now.
A small, round brush made an appearance, along with his hair dryer, as he effortlessly styled the locks in their usual place, the razor-shaved part looking crisp and neat along with the rest of his hair. He dipped his finger in some pomade, and spread the stuff in his locks, giving them a matte finish and flexible hold.
A departure from his usual style, but a welcome one, he placed a few strands near his face, above his right eye, casting a more rebellious look to his usually neatly placed locks.
The smug smirk stayed planted firmly in place as his eyes traveled downward, past his navel.
A hand grabbed a small electric trimmer. Curled silver hairs fell to the floor, genetics having taken their toll on the tight curls there too. Foam was applied, a safety razor making an appearance. Gentle, downwards strokes, tug of the skin, drag of the razor, again and again, until even that part of him was smooth.
He wiped unhurriedly, trying to ignore the hardening organ.
A snort. He teased himself, dragging fingertips around himself, sliding them behind his hips, dipping along his buttocks. He curved into his own touch, and brought the hands back around dragging his blunt nails against the grain of his shaved virility.
He bit his lips eyes going dark as he wrapped his hands around himself, mind focusing on what could happen, this evening, in the intimacy of those private rooms again.
His head fell back slightly, ears filled with the sensual waltz drifting through his house, mind teasing him with images he had refused to think too much about until now.
Moisture still licked at his skin from the hot shower, sending his skin breaking out into goose-bumps, but perhaps he was just over-excited.
He exhaled, straightening himself. He would surely have enough time to dwell on that later this evening. He reached over to the counter, composed now.
A spray of Drakkar Noir on his chest. A rub of fragrant oil on his wrists, and behind his jaw, right under his ears. He shrugged, rolling his eyes, and rubbed the oil in the firm V-line of his hips, dipping close to his…
He wiped his hands, shaking his head at his antics, swaying lightly still to the music.
He walked over to his clothes he had set out beforehand, slipping on a pair of black briefs, watching how they molded to his firm behind. He slid his dress pants on, and slipped into his crimson silk button-up. It, and everything else, were ironed to perfection.
He tucked his shirt in, clasping his belt. He put on his embroidered vest, admired how perfect it fit him.
He stood in front of the mirror, hands at the opening of his vest, feeling a bit like Narcissus as he peered at his reflection staring back at him with hooded eyes. He didn’t care if he was flaunting himself like a peacock, even as he gave himself a wicked smirk.
It would be too good to see Theo’s face.
Theo sat in the backstore, a check-list in hand, for taking inventory of the novels and products. The words and check-boxes had blurred again, as his concentration broke, and his mind went back to thing in his pocket.
He reached behind, digging into his back pocket, and retrieved the card in it. Sliding a finger over the embossed lettering, and the neat handwriting, the man tried not to shake.
"6:30. July 27th."
That was today.
Under the date and time, the name of the one who had made the appointment, stood out boldly in excellent penmanship.
He placed the clipboard with the list aside, his pen along with it, eyes just staring continually at the piece of smooth cardboard in his hand. He blinked, mind completely blank.
He was an adult. He had no obligation to go. Dante couldn’t control him outside of the shop as he wished.
He thought about the restless night he had, rubbing at the bags under his eyes. He couldn’t lose sleep over this, if he decided to go home. He had done enough of that in the last week leading up to today.
He rubbed at his nape, a gesture he had become increasingly familiar with since his visit with Dante. He toyed with the hair there, how it was no longer neat and tidy, how he could lift the hair at his hairline with his fingertips easily.
He had gotten used to the haircut. He hadn’t really had a choice on the matter, but he had. His colleagues had stopped looking at him like he had grown a second head, though he still received the occasional stare from a client, or, rarely, a comment from an admirer of his cut. He never knew how to respond when someone would complement his hairstyle. Most of the time he just muttered a strained "Thank you" and changed the subject.
Doubt dug at his being over what the best course of action was. What if he didn’t go, and Dante took that as a personal offence? What if the guy would continue to hound him, taunt him, as he had done every time they had seen each other this month? What if it got worse? Dante seemed like he was capable of holding a grudge, so it wouldn’t surprise Theo to see the man trying to play even more mind games with him.
But then if he did go, would he be able to have some input this time? Could he demand the haircut be done in the public shop, along with the other clients and barbers? He had a feeling that if he were to step into those private rooms again, he would succumb to anything the barber would ask of him.
He closed his eyes. But hadn’t it been exciting? Time and again he had thought this, without any doubt in his mind. He had ENJOYED being controlled. And even now, he wanted to give in again, just this once, to Dante.
Maybe, if he showed the silver haired man his desire to be controlled again, he would be nicer with him and ask him how he actually wanted his hair.
He lowered his head into his sweating palms, the card gripped firmly between thumb and forefinger.
He eyed his work bag, in which he had brought the same clothes he had worn last time.
What to do?
An elegant hand swiped a patch of lather from his client’s neck.
Eyes slinked to the clock.
A smile tugged at his lips, but he pushed it down.
Hands hung limply at his sides, the reflection in the restroom mirror doing the same.
Green eyes stared at his attire.
Grey dress shirt. Black trousers. Leather belt.
He was alone in the restroom. Theo could at least take some amount of time to think this through.
His eyes left the reflection as his right hand lifted his cell from his pocket. 6:27 it flashed. His heart galloped in his chest, the sound thundering in his ears in the silence of the restroom.
He bit his lip, slid it between his teeth for a few seconds, the motion hinting at his internal struggle with himself.
He could go home.
He wanted to burst out into hysterical fits of laughter. Hadn’t he thought the same thing last time?
His hand went to his mouth, rubbing it agitatedly. A ragged breath left his nose, as his eyes scanned the tormented man in the mirror. The hair on top of his head was disheveled from having raked his fingers through it all day. A strand stuck up at an odd angle. He smoothed it down, only succeeding it mussing up his hair further.
The longer he stared at his sorry reflection, the less he wanted to move; even to go home.
A twist in his abdomen materialized as his subconscious reminded him of how incredibly handsome and devious Dante had looked, hacking away at his hair last time. He had looked perfectly composed, not in the least bit sorry, and absolutely confident in his actions.
His left hand gripped his thigh as his right hand slid down to his nape.
He replayed the images from that appointment, recalled Dante’s proud figure as he loomed over him, recalled the dexterous, graceful way he had combed his hair, lifted it between his fingers, and snipped at the uneven strands.
How positively cold and calculated he had been, sliding his hands through his hair, gripping it from the roots and making him watch the whole, enticing process…
He panted, barely having noticed the path his left hand had been taking. He snatched his hands back up, letting them form into fists as they rested on the restroom counter.
Slowly, he made his way out of the restroom. As though in a trance, he traversed the halls of the mall. The loud drone of the people passing by became nothing but a quiet hum in his ears as his mind blanked.
Everything around him slowed considerably. The walk towards the bookstore seemed to drag out forever. The throngs of people passed by him in a blur. The world around his periphery seemed to grey out, or fizz out of existence completely.
Slowly, he stepped by the bookstore.
And turned, feet carrying him on auto-pilot.
He opened the glass door.
Grey eyes caught sight of him as he finished up with his client.
The smile he had been keeping down all day manifested.
Theo sat, coming to realize he had made his decision, just by being here, sat once again in the cushion of the waiting seats inside The Lounge.
Like last time he had entered this place, a few patrons sat in the waiting area with him, one of which he recognized from his last visit, once more having abandoned his suit coat and loosened his tie. The other two men waiting with them were chatting with each other, each holding a drink in hand, having been served by the barber at the reception no doubt.
And just like last time, the barber at the reception, a blond man with a neat slicked style, offered him refreshment.
He barely acknowledged the man, telling him "No, thank you."
As the receptionist went back to the desk, Theo stirred in his seat. His hands lay on his lap, fingers intertwined, thumbs fiddling as he waited, with baited breath, the arrival of his barber.
He checked his phone again. He knew he had been late in arriving at The Lounge to begin with, but it was six thirty-eight now. He tried not to scowl as his eyes scanned further into the shop. He couldn’t see the silver haired man anywhere. Maybe he was still busy with a client? Or perhaps he had gone to the bathroom, or taken a five minute break.
The book store manager shifted in his seat again, left foot tapping anxiously on the floor as he was made to wait longer. ‘Breathe’ he reminded himself. It took an immense amount of self-discipline to stay in his seat, and not get up and leave the premises as quickly as he had entered them. His shoulders lifted and fell once, as he took in some much needed oxygen, something he thought his brain might be lacking at that moment.
A client came to pay for his cut at the reception, no barber in tow. The dark haired man thought this a little strange, as he had always seen the barbers coming along with their patrons once they were to pay for their service. He shook his head, thinking nothing of it as a red-haired barber with a curling moustache -which he recognized from last month’s appointment- came to take one of the two chatting clients into the barbershop.
The minutes ticked by. The other man that had been chatting was greeted by his own barber and swept away as well. Only the sloppily dressed middle-aged man and Theo himself were left.
And even that didn’t last long. Someone came for the other guy as well. Once again, Theo was waiting for Dante, alone with nothing but the barber at the reception who was speaking on the phone with someone.
Being unable to keep still in his seat anymore, Theo stood, pacing the waiting area nervously. He crossed his arms. Was Dante doing this on purpose? He wondered about that.
Echoing, confident steps drifted to Theo’s ears then, and his head snapped up.
His breath caught in his throat at the sight of Dante.
Grey eyes stared into startled green ones. The barber’s face was graced with a tiny, welcoming smile as he stretched his hand out to his client. "It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mr. Williams," he greeted warmly.
Theo stared at the man, arms still crossed on his chest.
There was something decidedly different about Dante today, an air about him that screamed at Theo that he was not going to be able to get through with his sanity untouched.
He swallowed thickly, carefully taking the man’s handshake. Certainly, he looked just as handsome as before, but there was a regal, less elegant air about him. He looked at his face, and lifted his eyes to his hair. Maybe it was the way those stray strands of silver hair fell so seductively into his icy irises. Yet they looked placed there almost INTENTIONALLY.
He clamped his mouth shut as Dante squeezed his hand in his strong grip, feeling himself slowly loose bits of his sanity, as he had predicted.
The man blessedly let go of his hand.
As professional as ever, Dante motioned for Theo to follow him with a gesture of his hand. "Let us go into the private room then."
Theo stopped himself before he could follow the man. He glanced at the receptionist, still busy talking on the phone. He started to shake his head at Dante, who regarded him with a sudden air of malice sparkling in his eyes, though his polite façade remained in place. He tried to form a cohesive sentence, "Maybe…maybe we could do this in…" he took a breath, eyes snapping between Dante and the receptionist. "In…" he tried again, but felt his conviction slipping out of his grasp.
"The chairs are all full," Dante then stated matter-of-factly, his eyes roving over Theo’s features unabashedly.
Oh surely not.
The barber then smiled insincerely, whispering words so only Theo could hear them, "I made sure of that when taking appointments."
Theo bit his lip, wanting to curl up in a ball and fade out of existence.
"Come," Dante stated, more firmly this time, maintaining his professionalism. Theo suspected he did this to not alert the receptionist of anything going on between them.
He could stand his ground here, the dark haired man thought. He could look Dante in his stupid smug face, turn on his heel and head out of the shop.
The flame steadily warming his insides prevented him from doing so.
Dante stepped towards the shop, and Theo followed without a word.
Theo slipped his eyes at the packed barbershop. Sure enough, every seat was taken, every barber was hard at work. He found the chair that had been unresponsive last time had been fixed, and it too had a client sitting in it.
Dante, he concluded, was an evil man.
They walked into the familiar hallway with the mahogany doors. Dante reached for his set of keys and unlocked the door, his lips tugged constantly back in a smile. As the door swung open, the barber turned to him, hand on the doorknob and the other gesturing to the inside of the room, reminiscent of the last time Theo had been in this exact situation.
"Go on inside, Mr. Williams," the taller man invited, his eyes daring Theo to refuse.
He didn’t. Theo stepped through the threshold of the room, took a few steps into the room in an attempt at putting some distance between him and the ice-cold flame that was Dante. He heard the man close the door, and his heart sunk when his ears picked up on the distinctive sound of the door locking in place.
He wouldn’t panic. The other barbers probably had the key to the room anyways. Dante was just playing with him, seeing how long it would take until he would succumb to fear.
It wasn’t fear he was afraid of succumbing to. He was for more worried about the heat pooling in his loins.
Fingers slowly circled his biceps, and Theo became aware of how close Dante was. He gasped. He hadn’t even heard the man moving, so lost in thought had he been.
Dante’s lips brushed the shell of his right ear, as the man leaned his muscled frame into Theo’s back. His voice dripped darkness as it whispered hotly into his ear, "Are you afraid of me, Theo?"
His mouth fell open, taking in a shuddering breath as he tried to sort through his muddled thoughts. "I…" his voice faltered. It was hard to think with the man pressed so close to his body like this.
Dante’s right hand, where it grabbed his bicep, moved up, dragging across his shoulder, sliding over his concealed collarbone possessively as it came to grip him under his chin. Theo let out a meek sound, one he couldn’t recall ever making before. His own shaking hands grabbed blindly at the taller man’s limbs, trying to find something to support himself before his legs gave out.
"Hm?" Dante hummed; a mocking intonation as though to inquire why Theo hadn’t answered yet. The hand at Theo’s chin tilted his head back.
The dark haired man closed his eyes. The other hand on his arm moved towards his neck, and Dante buried it in the short hair at the back of his head. Theo exhaled, mouth trying to form words.
Was he afraid of Dante? Yes, but not in the way he was afraid of getting stabbed by some random psycho on the streets. He was afraid of Dante for what he made him feel, for how easily he could get under his skin, for how terribly Theo ached for the barber to have his way with him again, despite every part of his being telling him that Dante was nothing but trouble.
The hand at his hair traveled back down, coming to rest on his heaving chest, fingers splaying across the expanse. Dante leaned closer still, if that was even possible, and murmured a dark inquiry in his ear, "Why did you come here, Theo?"
The man in question squeezed his eyelids tighter, left hand shifting subconsciously to hold Dante’s wrist.
"Why," Dante pursued, nose sliding behind his ear, "did you come back, only to hesitate once again?" His right hand squeezed the smaller man’s chin, as his grey eyes opened into slits to stare at Theo’s profile. "You haven’t answered me, Theo…"
The other opened his mouth, willing himself to say something, anything.
He knew why he was here.
He just couldn’t bear to tell Dante.
"Are you really that keen on losing all your hair?" The barber asked at long. His fingers had somewhat relaxed their hold on his chin.
Theo’s body trembled violently. His left hand squeezed Dante’s wrist in a death grip. He dared not open his eyes as his voice finally returned to him, the words coming out in a harsh, whispered plea. "I haven’t been able to think about anything else, so please…" he nearly spat the word out, "do what you want."
Dante relaxed his hand completely on his chin. The hand Theo gripped began making soothing circles on his chest.
The barber shifted against him. "Are you sure?"
Theo’s eyes flew wide. Dante was turning his head around, so they were looking at each other’s faces. He panted.
And didn’t respond.
"So you don’t want me to do what I want?"
Gold-fleck green stared into cool, stormy grey.
"Why do you hesitate?"
He lowered his gaze. He couldn’t handle how Dante looked at him. "I don’t know…"
He looked back up. Momentarily, Dante took pity on him, and his eyes softened, tough they still retained that ever-present commanding aura. He gulped. What was the man thinking?
Then, softly, Dante asked, "Do you WANT me to decide for you?"
Theo sighed, eyes lowering guiltily. To succumb to Dante’s control again…
He lowered his head. A nod.
Carefully, Dante released him from his hold, staying close to the breathless man as he straightened himself, in case he was to crumble to the floor. He didn’t. But Theo certainly did feel like his knees were made of jelly. He took a tentative step towards the washing basin on the left side of the room, but a finger hooking into his shirt collar stopped him dead in his tracks.
He turned, regarding Dante cautiously. The barber shook his head, stating, "No. In the chair."
Theo’s eyes flicked to the throne, imposing as ever, and back to the other’s face again. His features had turned stony. He was serious.
It already faced towards him, so he only had to walk up to it and turn. He sat rigidly, hands quaking as they settled on the armrest. The barber watched him like a hawk, arms crossed on his chest as he stared at him down the barrel of his nose.
The man circled the chair, expensive black shoes clacking soundly on the hardwood floors. His heart beat in time to those slow, calculated steps. He felt sick, but not like he was about to throw up. His lower back felt clammy beneath his dress shirt, palms moist with his perspiration. His eyes stayed glued to the man as he did another tour around him.
Dante stopped, and Theo felt the man grabbing the back of the chair. The foot lever at the bottom of the chair made a sound as the locking mechanism was released, and Dante smoothly faced the chair towards the mirror, offering his nervous patron a full view of his pale face. The lock clanked back into place. Theo closed his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply. When his eyes opened again, he focused them on the barber, standing directly behind him, poised, the very essence of confidence.
Grey eyes slipped to his hair. Taking as much time as he could, Dante raked his fingers through the grown-out cut. He inspected every strand, hands gentle as he did so, and Theo almost wanted to hide his face in his hands over how this made him feel.
The barber then looked at him. "Your hands stay on the armrests."
Theo almost lowered his head, but fought against it, not wanting to be grabbed by his hair and pulled back like last time. He bit his lip. He didn’t know if he would be able to.
Dante’s voice was a bit louder when he questioned, "Understood?"
The tone he used informed the book keeper that he was not messing around. Quietly, Theo agreed, "Understood…"
Dante’s eyes narrowed approvingly.
The barber made his way over to the barber station, opening one of the drawers to retrieve one of those neck strips. Internally, Theo mourned the fact that Dante didn’t look like he was going to wash his head today, and tried to keep his disappointment to himself. Besides, he thought, he had agreed to let Dante do whatever he wanted, so the fault was partially on himself for that.
The taller man came behind the chair, the neck strip held out in front of Theo. "Up" came the simple command. Theo obeyed, his chin lifting to expose his neck.
Dante closed the strip securely around his neck, hands lingering for a second on the smooth skin, before walking back to the counter. Theo watched as he produced one of those stark, white capes, and felt himself shaking. This was it. The moment Dante cast that linen around him, he would become nothing but complacent, trapped in the hypnotizing white embrace of the barber’s cape, as though the material was made from Dante’s very essence.
The barber stalked forward, placing himself behind him again.
He made the cape clap in the air as it soared around Theo’s body, and pressed it to the strip at his neck. The linen fluttered silently around his form, and engulfed everything, even the chair, from the neck down.
The heat in his abdomen burned hotter at the sight.
A shuddering breath entered Theo’s lungs when, without warning, Dante buried his hands in his hair and PRESSED. The breath came out when the pressing turned into rubbing. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift off, his subconscious retreating in the darkest recesses of his mind as those hands massaged his scalp and tugged on his hair.
Tug. Release. And again, his roots gripped and tugged, his scalp lifting from his skull in a tantalizing motion. Dante did this all over; his hands took the short hair at his temples in tandem, the tension smoothing over. He gripped the hair at his crown with one hand, the other resting firmly along his nape as he pulled there too.
His hands raked upwards from his neck, eliciting a helpless moan from the back of Theo’s throat. Lord help him…
This went on for minutes on end. At one point Dante made circles on each side of his head, going from his forehead to his nape in a slow, soothing path. He switched techniques, and with his left hand supporting the dark haired man’s head, made quick zigzag motions across his whole scalp. Theo leaned his head in the man’s hold, breathless.
He didn’t know how long this lasted, but he was barely aware of anything as it was, and he didn’t want to think about what other things Dante had planned for him. So, he closed his eyes and savored it.
Dante watched the man in the mirror with amusement shining in his eyes. Theo could barely keep his head straight under his constant ministrations. If he let go for one second, the book keeper’s head would just loll forward as though it weighed a ton. A smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth.
He pressed his hands again, extracting one of those desperate little sounds from Theo once more. An intonation left his own mouth; a smug hum, short and succinct, the kind of sound one would make when pleased with themselves.
And pleased he was.
Eventually, he stopped the massage, hands guiding his slumped patron’s head to fall back. Dante shifted, his hand cranking the lever to make the chair recline back. His left hand lifted the headrest from the back of the chair as it slanted into position. He walked towards the front of the chair, and after bending over, he took Theo’s legs and lifted them to lay on the footrest.
He came to stand on the right side of the chair, eyes sliding over the other’s features, peaceful, relaxed. His right hand reached for Theo’s, where it lay under the cape on the armrest. He lifted it by the wrist.
He let it go, watching, pleased, as it fell back with no resistance. The man was practically asleep.
Theo became aware of Dante moving away from the chair (barely). To be honest, he was barely conscious of anything, other than his still-tingling scalp. He didn’t even know whether he was fully awake or not, if this was perhaps some dream he was fabricating in the backstore of the book shop. Maybe it was. Maybe he was still filling out his check list and had started fantasizing, and soon six o’clock would roll around and he would go home.
He heard Dante place something heavy behind the chair, which he was now laid out on. As if he wasn’t sleepy enough as it was, now he was lying on his back, the cape around him like a blanket and the head rest as comfortable as his pillows.
Footsteps round the chair, and he registered the barber fiddling around near the counter. Blearily opening his eyes, Theo tilted his head, peering at Dante who had his back to him.
The man turned around.
The clipper was in his hand.
Theo bit his lips, eyes closing and opening to stare at the ceiling apprehensively. He had known from the moment he came to this appointment what Dante wanted to do to him, but to actually be here, to see Dante holding that device of torture-slash-pleasure (bite him), felt surreal. He inhaled and exhaled once, feeling the heavy stare the barber was directing at him.
Slow steps came around the chair. Theo opened his eyes slowly, head tilted back slightly to watch Dante lower himself behind him. The man had brought the rolling stool from the washing station, was now perched on it, at the ready for the show to begin.
Those stunning grey eyes were looking into his own worried, slightly confused green ones. Should he feel scared? Or aroused? Or both?
Certainly, his body had already started reacting to what was to come, and what had already been done. He could feel his once sleeping organ stretch along his thigh, hardening bit by bit the more Dante toyed with him.
They stared into each other’s gaze, for a minute more. Dante lifted the clipper into his field of vision.
That deafening sound echoed musically in Theo’s ears, drowning out all other thoughts other than ‘Oh God, please God, F***’.
But Dante continued to tease him. He shut the clipper off, watching the immediate relief flood Theo’s face. Then he turned it on again, and Theo flinched, fingers jumping on the armrest. He turned it off.
Theo snapped his eyes shut, mouth eliciting an impatient, terrified whimper. Please, let the man stop toying with him like this.
A gasp caught in his throat when Dante dragged the purring clipper across his cheek, jaw and neck. He had shaved last night, so there wasn’t anything there for the clipper to catch onto, but feeling that thing, with no guard to protect his scalp from those shearing, metallic teeth, slide across his face had goose-bumps breaking out over his entire body.
The barber turned the clipper off again, letting it rest right under his chin as he leaned forward, coming eye-to-eye with Theo as he struggled to remain composed.
"Relax," he uttered simply, the word washing over Theo’s sense like a cool, refreshing tide, dampening the fire blazing within him.
He breathed, closing his eyes as Dante removed himself.
This time, Dante turned the clipper on, and it stayed on.
To be frank, Theo was glad now that he was lying on the chair, because he might have passed out when Dante started the agonizingly slow process of removing every single strand of hair on his head.
The clipper was placed at his forehead, just at his hairline, while Dante’s other hand held the side of his head lightly. He slowly pushed the humming tool down, teeth eating through the dark locks on top of his head with ease. The first past had to have felt like the longest, as Theo’s blow mind tried in vain to understand and sort through all the things that pass over his scalp made him feel.
The sound it produced…a low, constant crunching as his hair was clipped down to almost nothing…The release of pressure and weight on his scalp, and the sudden way cool air hit the nude skin for the first time…felt exquisite.
His mouth fell open, a low moan reverberating in the private room. It both pained and pleasured him how different that felt.
The clipper stopped at his crown, and was taken away. Dante’s fingers brushed fleetingly over the patch of denuded skin, and that feeling had another sound of pleasure breaking out of Theo’s mouth.
The barber’s free hand caressed his cheek and jaw, allowing Theo a moment to regain his bearings. After a moment, the book store manager heard him say, "Breathe. Nice and easy."
His body obeyed those calming words immediately. He breathed, in his mind counting three seconds between each intake and expulsion of air. He dared not open his eyes, and concentrated on the next pass the barber made over his head, to the right of the first strip.
The process repeated, the clipper dragged oh-so-deliciously along the top of his head, as the freed hair tumbled to the floor between Dante’s slightly spread legs.
Again, on the left side of the initial pass, clipper sliding along his scalp from his forehead to his crown, the sound of hair being sheared loud and clear in the silent room. The blades, Theo registered, he could feel them vibrating as they were dragged at that same snail’s pace over his head. They felt warm, a contrast to how cool his scalp felt without the hair on top of it.
"Oh God…" he whispered reverentially, barely heard over the harsh sound of the clipper Dante used to free him of his hair.
The man never hesitated when shearing a new path. The pass was controlled and slow, certainly, but it never ceased until the man was satisfied he had removed enough.
This was madness.
After two other passes beside the second and third ones, Dante passed over the denuded area again, making sure he had gotten every hair he could. The feeling of the tool on his head felt so foreign to Theo, but it wasn’t unwelcomed.
Then, Dante turned the clipper off.
Theo blinked his eyes open into tiny slits, head tilting back to look at the taller man.
Dante was smiling. His hand was petting his cheek again. Theo held his breath, unable to look away from him.
Dante then said something which caused his heart to plummet to his feet.
Eyes glinting with dominance and sadistic intent, his proud lips parted to form those words, "Let us continue with you current hairstyle, shall we?"