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by Raven

PG, slash. Daniel and Rodney in India.

Rodney hated India. He hated the heat, he hated the crowds, he hated the clinging beggars, he hated the food, he hated the stray dogs and snake charmers and happily chittering monkeys that always made a beeline for his head. Most of all, he hated the dust.

“The dust?” Daniel repeated. He wasn’t even listening, Rodney thought sourly; too busy having orgasms about the bazaar and its anthropological significance. He was about to launch into another tirade to this effect when Daniel abruptly stepped off the kerb.

“Bhai!” he called. After a moment, a rackety old rickshaw came perambulating along the road. “Chandni Chowk,” Daniel said.

Rodney felt a sensation vaguely akin to impending doom as Daniel started waving his hands. “No,” he said. “Daniel, no. I am not getting into a rickshaw to get buffeted about and pay for the privilege. Daniel. Daniel, no!”

Daniel ignored him thoroughly. From the hand gestures, he was in the middle of depriving the rickshaw-walla of his livelihood, food for his children, his self-respect, his family’s honour and his continued existence in this world, while in his turn the rickshaw-walla was taking Daniel for a fool, an ignorant American foreigner, paying three times the price whatever next who did the man think he was kidding and so on and so forth.

It eventually concluded with particular enthusiastic hand gestures on the part of both parties and none of the bloodshed Rodney had been expecting. Daniel turned to him and smiled happily. “It’s going to rain, and this will be quicker than walking. Get in, Rodney. I know you haven’t done it before. It’s fun, trust me.”

It wasn’t fun. It was painful and resulted in banged hip-bones and bruised fingers and a continual feeling that you were about to be tipped over the side. And it was dusty.

“Dusty?” repeated Daniel yet again, over the noise of traffic and people shouting that constantly filled the street.

“And noisy!” Rodney yelled, warming to the topic. “No-one ever shuts up! They scream and shout and it’s all right for you, you understand the language, but for me it’s just noise! Yesterday,” and he paused for breath as quickly as he could, “we went to that market, Jun-something...”


“Yeah, and I thought they were having a political demonstration, but it turned out they were selling shirts! And the dust gets everywhere! It’s in my ears and eyes and all the places I don’t tell my mother about and I’m never going to be clean again! And have I mentioned the heat? Or the food? Or the noise? ”

As Rodney finally ran out of steam, the rickshaw entered a gap in the traffic with particularly violent lurch, giving him a closer-than-average look at Daniel’s expression. He looked honestly nonplussed, you could say that for him. After a long (relative) silence, punctuated by the rickshaw almost but not quite having a collision with a bullock cart coming the other way, Daniel said quietly, plaintively, “But that’s the point.”

Rodney just stared at him.

“It’s supposed to be noisy, and dusty, and hot with people shouting,” Daniel went on. Somehow his voice carried over the traffic noise with no difficulty at all. “That’s why I wanted to come. The richness of culture” – he waved an expansive hand at the street in general – “and the people. It’s India, Rodney. This is what it’s like.”

“I hate that,” muttered Rodney.

“You hate what?”

“How you’re sounding all reasonable when you haven’t actually said anything to make me feel better. I mean, what you’ve basically said, dressed up in Daniel-speak, is that I have to put up with it. Isn’t that right?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “And it’s started raining.”

But against all expectations, Daniel’s face lit up. “Yes!” he said, holding up his palms and looking straight up at the sky. “It’s raining!”

Rodney glanced up. The sky was forbidding grey, with clouds rolling up even as he watched, and there was a roll of thunder from somewhere. The occasional spotting was giving way to proper raindrops, and yet Daniel was still grinning like the Cheshire cat.

“That’s it,” said Rodney, eyeing the drop from rickshaw to ground. “You’ve finally lost your mind. I’m getting out while I can.”

Daniel only laughed. “Rodney, you idiot, just look.”

Rodney looked. Even as he was staring upwards, the heavens opened. The mere raindrops gave way to a sudden deluge, water falling as if thrown from buckets and Rodney’s eyes filled with it until he couldn’t see. It was getting into his mouth, dripping through his hair and soaking his clothes. Around them, people had launched themselves from rickshaws, turned off their car engines, tethered their donkeys and oxen, and through the roar of the rain, Rodney fancied he heard other people laughing, just like Daniel. Ragged children were dive-bombing the sudden six-inch puddles, the storeholders were pulling down their awnings and staring reverently at the sky.

Daniel grabbed Rodney’s hands and propelled them both into the mud. “Come on!” he yelled. “Don’t you get it yet?”

“It’s warm,” said Rodney wonderingly, realising it all of a sudden. “It’s warm rain.”

“Water on the Deccan,” Daniel said. “It’s a blessing. Have you ever seen anything like it in your life?”

“The dust is all being washed off!” Rodney said, happily. The trees and bushes, dry as tinder only minutes before, were lush verdant green. As he looked, a small boy tore at a hanging palm to use as shelter and Rodney saw water gush richly from the cut leaf.

Daniel gave up the attempt to twirl him and kissed him instead. “Welcome to the monsoon,” he said fervently, and the language barrier ceased to be one, for a moment. The rainwater had fallen into Daniel’s mouth, and Rodney tasted it, along with the spices and the incense and the rich sweetness of the bazaar while all the time the water of the monsoon poured down on his head like a benediction.

When they emerged, the rickshaw-walla was staring down at them in frank disapproval. “Goreh,” he said severely.

“Oh, shut up,” said Daniel, and swung Rodney back up beside him. The first rush of the storm was slackening off now; it was settling into a steady downpour that didn’t have any effect on people already soaked to the skin. When the traffic started moving again, Rodney complained about the mud, and his wet clothes, and the congestion that would prevent him getting dry ones.

Daniel took one finger, held it to Rodney’s lips, and murmured, “Aashirwad. Blessing.”

“Blessing,” Rodney repeated. “Blessing, blessing...”

And for that one moment, sitting up there with Daniel and drenched by the monsoon rains, it was.


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