miznarrator: (jw & el - an askance glance)
[personal profile] miznarrator
Part one



The perfect opportunity to take that chance landed in Johnny’s lap on Monday morning.

"Alright, listen up." Mark clapped his hands twice, and Johnny quickly hit ‘save’ before swivelling around in his chair. "As most of you know, the annual summer garden party is coming up—"

Someone whooped, and everyone laughed, just as Mark pressed his palm to his forehead. He continued, a little louder.

"I’d just like to remind everyone that nudity is at the individual’s discretion, but for the love of god, stay away from the cameras."

Everyone laughed again, and Johnny made a note to ask Carrie for the gossip, next time he had to run out for the coffee order. He also thought Evan.

Wednesday’s class followed essentially the same pattern as the week before, with Johnny taking his time and Evan rushing out to make sure he was waiting. This time, though, nearly half the class was waiting too, gathering themselves more slowly, heading out to grab something to eat in honor of the last day. Evan stood on his toes, looking past everyone else to catch Johnny’s eye, raising his eyebrows a few times like he was trying to communicate in semaphore. Johnny had to look away to avoid losing it, biting down on his tongue to hold in the giggles.

Meet you outside he texted quickly, glancing up see Evan shove his fingers into his back pocket in surprise.

Johnny didn’t wait for further eyebrow communication, hanging onto his phone instead as he followed one of the students leaving. His phone buzzed just as he got to the door, tantalizing smell of someone else’s cigarette pulling him outside before he opened the message.

Rite bhind u :-)

An hour later, Johnny shut the front door to his apartment and reached for Evan’s belt loop in the same smooth motion. The kiss was less smooth, but then Johnny was pinned to the door and Evan’s thigh was between his. It was forgivable.

"Um." Someone cleared their throat and Evan stepped back so quickly Johnny nearly fell over. Oh right. Steve. He was standing up next to the couch, TV on low, plate of spaghetti in hand.

"Sorry," Johnny said, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. "We’ll take this to my room."

Steve half-smiled, nodding his head. "I didn’t want to really have to say get a room, you know how I feel about clichés."

Johnny rolled his eyes, groping to find Evan’s hand, pulling him along, around the couch towards the bedrooms. "Evan, meet Steve, tortured starving—figuratively, yes yes— writer, my roommate. Steve, goodnight, feel free to turn up the TV."

And then they were in Johnny’s bedroom, door closed, and Johnny could exhale, looking up at Evan. He blinked once but Evan still looked like he might try to bolt. Johnny sighed. "C’mere."

It took a few seconds, but Evan relaxed into the kiss, holding Johnny’s ass with both hands. Johnny groaned into Evan’s mouth, rocking up onto his toes to drag his trapped erection down over Evan’s. The kiss broke this time when Johnny couldn’t hold back a delighted grin.

"Fuck, you’re hot," he muttered, his arms twining around Evan’s neck to try to repeat the earlier motion.

"No—no, I want to—" Evan said, interrupting himself with kisses against Johnny’s lips. He was pulling away, though, and Johnny whined, tugging at his hair.

"Wait—"

"No, please, let me—" And he was suddenly at Johnny’s feet, kneeling and looking up as he tugged on the fly of Johnny’s pants. "I want to—"

Oh. Right. Johnny let his hand fall where it wanted to automatically be, fingers pushing in to Evan’s hair. It was still softer than it looked, and Johnny shuddered along with Evan, Evan’s eyes closing as he leaned into Johnny’s hand.

"Well, then get on with it," Johnny demanded—though it didn’t sound particularly demanding. Maybe a little more desperate, actually. It was enough to make Evan open his eyes, though, dark as he looked up.

"I’ve been thinking about it for days." Barely above a whisper, Evan sounded like Johnny felt. He reached between them, popping the button on his pants, dragging his zipper down with his thumb.

"Well, then—" he started again, the rest of the words swallowed back as Evan pressed his face forward, nose brushing at the skin above the waistband of Johnny’s briefs, breath hot through the fabric. His hands were on the backs of Johnny’s knees, and Johnny was abruptly grateful for the support. He leaned into it, which just meant he nearly folded back onto the bed when Evan started tugging at the fabric, trying to get pants and briefs down.

"Wait, wait—" Johnny yelped, swaying before he could grab at Evan’s shoulder, tipping dangerously.

"But I want--" Evan whined, still pulling downwards, and Johnny was abruptly naked from waist to knees, Evan’s hands immediately going to his ass. Johnny squeezed Evan’s shoulder, steadying himself as Evan licked up his cock, and his knees went weak again.

"Do it," he said, other hand back on Evan’s head. It was abruptly quiet enough that all he could hear was Evan’s quick shallow breaths, and the canned laughter from the TV in the living room. "Show me what you’ve been thinking about, I want—"

And that was enough, Evan didn’t need any more encouragement, his mouth hot and wet, sliding down, down, until his nose brushed against Johnny’s stomach again, and Johnny stopped thinking in words.

He lost seconds, hours, weeks in the soft slickness of Evan’s mouth, not noticing when he closed his eyes. It wasn’t so much jarring as a gradual awakening when Evan moved back, and he opened his eyes, blinking a few times. The air was still and warm, and Evan’s hands weren’t touching him anymore either, both occupied trying to get his jeans open. He swallowed, curling his fingers in Evan’s hair.

"I want you to—" he started, licking his lips and swallowing again, throat dry. Evan looked up, one hand now tucked inside his jeans.

"What?" He sounded even more wrecked than Johnny did, and Johnny's dick twitched, hard. It got him a lick, and another long moment of oblivion. "What do you want, Johnny?"

He closed his eyes, then opened them again, tugging just a little on Evan’s hair. "If you’re not busy Friday—"

"…Friday?" His hand was moving in his jeans, and he kept leaning in, long licks that broke Johnny’s concentration, again and again.

"There’s this party, I want you—I want you to come with—" He gave up, pulling on Evan’s hair hard, tipping it up. Evan almost groaned, breathing hard. His hand kept moving in his jeans.

"I want you to come with me," Johnny said as quickly as he could, loosening his grip as soon as the words were out of his mouth. "Say yes, and keep sucking me off—please—"

But instead of saying anything, or getting back to it, Evan frowned, leaning back to look at Johnny. "Is my technique that bad?"

Johnny blinked, trying to make sense of the question. "What?"

Evan nodded at Johnny’s dick, then looked back up at him. "My technique. Is it that bad?"

"Wha—no, why would you—"

"Why are you thinking about Friday night?"

It took another couple of seconds for Johnny to catch on, at which point he rolled his eyes and tugged on Evan’s hair. "It’s not like that—"

"Should I be doing something different?" Evan interrupted, expression having gone all intent. "More with my hand, or should I be—" He reached up, cupping Johnny’s balls, squeezing them gently. It was neither erotic nor a total turnoff, but the action in itself was startling enough Johnny yelped.

"Hey, no—what you were doing was fine, c’mon—" he tried, endeavouring not to sound too grumpy.

"I’m trying to do this right—"

"It’s a blowjob, not a calculus problem," Johnny retorted. He could feel desire ebbing. Great. He tugged on Evan’s hair once more. "Please, just— could you do what you were doing before?"

Evan looked at him and Johnny tried to find a smile. "Please?"

"Would it help if I said yes to going with you?"

Johnny closed his eyes and tipped his head back. "Yes, Evan, thanks, now could you please—"

Evan’s mouth slid down again, lips meeting his fingers and Johnny lost all his words after that, dissolved into bright bright sensation.

*
Being out in public with Evan was, it turned out, a totally different prospect to drawing him and having sex with him on Wednesdays and Sundays. Evan wasn't especially taller—there were models everywhere, some of the men from the spring collection photoshoot last year, and even some of the women he knew were models were nearly as tall as Evan. He just--didn't move like anyone else there, like he had an extra elbow at the bar, or an extra foot whenever anyone pressed up close to squeeze between one group and another, and that foot had to end up on top of someone else's.

Still.

Johnny was well aware how many first and then second looks he was getting, the same kind of appraisal Johnny had given him on their first meeting. It made it easy to let his hand linger on Evan's arm, fingertips brushing electricity between them.

"This is Evan, he's an artist," was also easy to say, putting more space between him and Drew, between figure skating and now.

He had just got them drinks, pulling Evan away from his conversation with Heather's boyfriend—they were discussing basketball, of all baffling topics—when he heard a familiar squeal.

"Johnny, darling!"

Oh Christ. Well, it wasn’t like he could avoid her forever, not when they were in the same industry. "Tanith! You look gorgeous, as usual. Still at ABC, I assume?"

He took her hand in his, leaning in to match her airkiss on each cheek before turning slightly towards Evan. Maybe he could get this over with quickly, make the introductions and then invent an excuse to mingle elsewhere.

"Yes, I am, thank you," Tanith said, squeezing his fingers. "You look great too."

"You flatter me, sweetie. Let me introduce you, here, this is Evan—" Johnny paused, then, but it was more out of confusion than politeness. Evan looked—shocked. Scared? He was staring at his drink like there might be something other than ice cubes floating in it.

"Oh, I know Evan, we go way back," Tanith said, as Johnny tried to read Evan’s expression. "Are you two—"

Belatedly, Johnny registered what Tanith was saying, just in time for Evan’s head to snap up, for him to look right at Tanith as he said, "No."

Just for a second, everything stopped, and then started again, falling away like a fairground ride, dropping him so quickly for a moment Johnny couldn't catch his breath. It was obvious, he knew, in his voice, but he had to ask, "So, how do you two know each other?"

The party was still in full swing around them, but it was like they had a bubble of silence among the three of them, the kind of silence you got in movies so you could hear what the actors were saying. But Evan wasn’t saying anything, just breathing quick and shallow, not looking at Tanith, not looking at Johnny. He could hear Evan hyperventilating.

Johnny started counting backwards from ten. At one, he was going to walk away, get in a cab—

"We used to go out, last year, wasn't it, Evan?"

The fairground ride dropped again, but this time Johnny was expecting it. He clenched his teeth for a moment, then smiled. Tanith would see right through it, but it didn’t matter, not right now. Of course it was too good to last. "Oh, that’s nice. You never mentioned a boyfriend, Tan."

"Well, it was last year—" she started, as Evan flinched beside Johnny. Johnny felt his smile get a little more real, even as he spotted Carrie, raising one hand and calling out Tanith’s name.

"Darling!"

And just like that, she was gone, leaving Johnny still standing next to Evan.

He didn’t bother looking over at Evan. Instead he drew his shoulders back, drained the rest of his drink, licking his lips as he looked at the shards of ice at the bottom of the glass.

"Well, this won’t do. Excuse me."

"Johnny—"

He held up his free hand between them, swallowing once before turning back to the bar, walking his very best walk over to it. "A triple this time," he said, pushing his glass across the bar. The bartender raised one eyebrow at him, already reaching for the vodka. Johnny smiled his second-best smile at her, and pulled a ten out of his pocket to slide across the bar towards her. Free bar or no, tipping would get him drunk faster.

"It’s your hangover," she murmured, dropping a lime on top of the ice cubes and pushing the drink back at him.

"Thank you," he said, and didn’t think about how Evan hadn’t followed him to the bar.

Johnny didn’t see Tanith or Evan again for what must’ve been at least an hour. Or—he saw them, but he was busy talking—to Carrie, to Heather, to one of the models who remembered him from god knows where—and busy getting something just a hair away from shit-faced. The third time he dropped his lighter without getting his cigarette lit, Heather sighed and picked it up for him and pressed it into his hand with a twenty.

"Time for you to go home," she said. "Do you need more than that to get there?"

He shook his head, but it made the room spin a little. He held on to her arm for a moment, pulling himself together enough to look at her as soberly as he could manage.

"No, I’m fine. I’ve got a little cash. Thank you, you’re gorgeous."

That made her laugh, and she hugged him tightly. It made his breath catch, though it took another couple seconds to remember why. Oh, right. He was leaving alone.

"Alright," he said, pulling away, keeping his gaze from meeting hers. "I’ll see you on Monday."

"Take care of yourself, okay? Text me when you get home."

"I will."

He made it all the way to the elevators before Evan caught up with him.

"Johnny!"

"What—oh. It’s you." Johnny turned away, going back to trying to pull out a cigarette without bending it in half.

"Where are you going?"

"Home." Mission accomplished, he tucked it behind his ear, starting the search for his lighter.

"What? I thought—"

And that made something snap. Johnny turned, looking at him (god, still hot, hotter now, even, flushed, hair frizzed from the humidity just like after sex) as he snapped, "What? What did you think, Evan? I’m curious, go ahead."

Evan blinked and swallowed. "Um."

Fuck waiting for an answer. Johnny was on a roll. "I am fascinated to know what it is that you thought we were doing the last four weeks, if you’re telling your ex girlfriend—" He couldn’t help but spit the word, even if it was Tanith. Especially if it was Tanith, actually. "Your ex-girlfriend that it’s nothing."

Now he waited, watching Evan—as Evan glanced around the lobby like—like he was looking to see who was listening. There wasn’t anyone near them. Johnny clenched his fists and let the rage flood through him, out to his fingertips, squeezing his hands until they tingled.

"Right. Goodnight."

Behind him, with the only perfect timing of the night, the elevator chimed as the doors opened. Johnny didn’t bother turning around to step into it, holding his arms out to keep the doors from closing. He wasn’t close enough, though, to hit the button to keep them shut, before Evan stepped into the gap, into the elevator with him.

It started down, automatically, and Johnny could feel his heart rate kick up, if a little sluggishly through the alcohol.

"What are you doing?"

"I wanted to talk to you—" Evan started, taking a step towards Johnny like he might try to touch him.

"No, you don’t," Johnny replied, taking one step back, then another. "You made that absolutely clear just now—" He took another step back, and the edge of his heel caught against something and he was suddenly off-balance, tipping.

"Johnny!" Evan’s hand was hot on Johnny’s arm, hot and too tight, pulling him until they were almost chest-to-chest. It took a second, but Johnny managed to get his hands up between them, pushing hard.

"Let go of me, what are you even doing—"

"You were going to fall, I just—"

"Don’t touch me—"

Behind Evan, the elevator doors chimed quietly, and opened out onto the lobby. Johnny wrenched himself away, ricocheting off the side of the elevator before making it out the door, watching the patterned lines in the carpet to try to walk in a straight line. Everything was hazy and unreal except his anger.

"Where are you even going--Johnny—"

He whirled around, nearly losing his balance again in the process, hiding it a little by cocking one hip out, hand on it. "I’m going home. Without you, thank god."

"But I—"

"Tanith," Johnny interrupted, voice echoing a little in the lobby. It was really rather satisfying. "Tanith might not be that picky, but I deserve better than you."

He swept out to the street with a flourish, counting it as a win when he only tripped twice on the way.

*

Tanith called at an ungodly hour the next morning, and didn’t sound the least bit repentant about it. Having answered, Johnny couldn’t quite bring himself to hang up on her. Not once she said the magic word: coffee.

But—"Wait. What do you mean, you’re here? Where’s here?"

"Outside your apartment, stupid," she repeated, still managing to make it sound like an endearment. "Let me in."

"How do you know where I live?"

"I have my ways. Door. C’mon. I even have bagels."

He groaned but rolled out of bed anyway, dropping the phone on the mattress and grabbing the silk robe hanging on the back of the door. He checked his reflection and winced at the sight. Too drunk to wash your face was Too Drunk. He opened the door, scowl ready.

"Oh, quit your bitching," she said, stepping past him before he could even say a word. She was dressed down, Cons, jeans, a blouse. She looked like she’d got at least seven hours sleep. "I bring you calories and caffeine, and a little bit of free advice. Caffeine first, though."

"Why the hell aren’t you hungover?"

"Some of us have to maintain our girlish figure by being a bit more careful about the calories we swallow."

Johnny winced, tried not to think about the bigger consequences of last night. And then he was distracted, remembering the other consequence of last night, and why Tanith was here at all. He sat down at the kitchen table, folding his arms on it and leaning over, forehead pressing into his wrist.

"I don’t want to talk to you. It’s too early."

"It’s two o’clock in the afternoon."

"Like I said—" he started, startling when something thumped onto the table beside his head. He half-sat up, startled, blinked at the Starbucks cup next to his elbow.

"You have a toaster, right?"

"Yeah—it’s over next to the microwave." He picked up the cup and sniffed at the lid. Vanilla and hazelnut. He bit back a groan. "Sugarfree, right?"

"What, you think I’m new?"

"Maybe I won’t kill you," he murmured. "For interrupting my beauty sleep." Behind him, Tanith snorted, and the cutlery drawer rattled. Johnny wrapped both hands around his coffee and ignored everything in favour of pouring as much of it into his mouth as he could manage.

"Better?" Tanith asked as she sat down, plate with two bagels on it joining her at the table.

"Mmmm," Johnny said, mouth full of coffee.

She rolled her eyes at him, but she was smiling, so once Johnny swallowed he smiled too. Coffee.

"Coffee," he said out loud. "Thanks."

"And bagels." She pushed the plate towards him, grabbing one half for herself as she did, biting into it. "From Bagel Hole."

He grabbed half and bit in, closing his eyes for a second as he chewed. "Jesus."

"Not really their thing, down at the Bagel Hole," she retorted, and he laughed once, feeling a little more human.

"Okay, what’s the deal; you tracked me down and bring me coffee and bagels..."

"Oh, the bagels were for me. I’m not that nice. You only get one." She grinned and Johnny relaxed a little, only then noticing that he’d tensed. He took another big bite of bagel, picking up his coffee again.

"Hmm," he said, mouth full.

"And hey—maybe I missed you."

Johnny swallowed, shook his head. "Why now?" Even as he spoke, though, he remembered a little bit of free advice. He swallowed again. His hangover was making it hard to think. When was the last time they’d sat down like this, instead of waving from across the room? When was the last time he had her number in his phone?

"Why not now? It’s been a year, Johnny."

He didn’t flinch, but it was close. He missed the anniversary. How did that even happen? "Has it?"

"You know it has. Don’t you remember, we were at 79th Street Boat Basin, and it was so hot all day, and as soon as we got inside, the thunder hit—"

He did flinch, then. He remembered the cab ride through the rain, everyone damp and laughing, and then stepping in to the apartment. Distant thunder still rattling the windows while Drew looked at him, serious. "Ancient history. Why are you here now." He put the bagel down, appetite gone. The throbbing in his left temple bloomed, spreading behind his eye. He rubbed it, only belatedly remembering it would smear the old mascara. He scowled at the black smear across the side of his finger.

"Evan."

He pushed away from the table. Tylenol. Aspirin. Eye makeup remover. "I don’t want to talk about—him." He didn’t know, he thought abruptly, which him he meant. Either. Both.

"Look—sit down, would you?"

"Seriously, Tanith—"

"I took the subway all the way here—" She stopped, and he didn’t need to look at her to know that she had her lips pressed together. "Please, Johnny."

He wavered for only a moment, then shook his head. "I need some aspirin."

"He’s not straight, okay. He’s—maybe theoretically bi?"

Johnny rubbed at his temple and half-turned back to the table. "Theoretically bi? Did you not sleep with him?"

Tanith laughed. "Oh, no, I did. But there was a lot of pegging involved."

Despite himself, Johnny pictured it, and he laughed too, half-horrified, half-amused. "Right."

"Seriously, Johnny. It was guys before me, and—well, I don’t know what happened before he met you, we kind of lost touch, but I’m betting it was guys after me too."

He tried to think this through, but the hangover fragmented any attempt at logic. He shifted his weight, felt something sharp dig into his thigh and remembered the cigarettes in the pocket of the robe. He took the pack out, reaching for the lighter on the table. "Why do you care?"

"Believe it or not, Johnny, I want you to be happy."

He snorted, lit his cigarette, took a drag. "So you decided waking me up out of sleeping off my hangover was going to make me happy? Thanks for the coffee and the bagel—"

"Give him a chance, Johnny. Give yourself a chance—"

All of the implications of what Tanith was suggesting hit Johnny at once, complete overload. The headache spread to his right eye, just as his stomach turned over, a slow roll. He reached out, clutching the back of the chair in front of him. He was going to be sick. He put his cigarette out. "I—I can’t do this right now. Can you just—go."

He looked at her, then, until she broke the eye contact, sighing. "Fine. You don’t have my number anymore, do you?"

He considered lying, for a split second, then gave in, shook his head. "No. You want to give it to me?"

"Will you use it?"

"Maybe. Ask me when I’m not hungover as fuck."

That got him a wry smile, which he had the stomach to return. "Touché. Okay, I’ll leave you be right now, but don’t be a stranger, Johnny Weir. I’ve missed you."

It made his stomach clench again, hearing that. "Who gave you my address, by the way? Was it Heather?"

She didn’t smile right away, giving him a searching look instead, then shaking her head. "I’ll never tell."

He swallowed and thought Evan.

*

After Tanith left, Johnny went back to bed for another couple of hours. Eventually he gave up on sleeping, though—dozing was just a waste of time—and called Paris.

"How was your chi-chi party, then? Good, I’m guessing, or you would’ve called me sooner."

"The party was good," Johnny said, immediately aware of how much he was giving away. He closed his eyes as Paris pounced with a delighted a-ha!

"Something went down. Did you and the boytoy get nasty on the dance floor? Did someone take pictures?"

Better to just say it, rip off the bandaid in one go. "No, Tanith showed up."

"Tanith?"

"Yeah, and it turns out? She’s his ex."

Paris whistled. "Her sloppy seconds, ouch. In the closet?"

Johnny thought about what Tanith said—guys before me, guys after me—and then the way Evan had stuck by him for the whole party until she showed up. He shrugged. "Don’t know. Anyway, that’s not the point."

"Ohhh, it’s because it’s Tanith. Riiiiight."

Johnny sniffed. "I don’t know what you mean. Anyway, he’s a dick."

"Ooh, that’s not up to your usual catty—"

"Hung the fuck over," Johnny interrupted.

"So, what did he do?"

Johnny closed his eyes, tried to remember the conversation with Tanith. She’d said--are you two together and that was when Evan said-- Johnny opened his eyes. "Pretended that he wasn’t with me when his ex-girlfriend was asking."

There was silence on the other end of the line as Johnny reached for his cigarettes.

"Oh, honey. Do you want to come over and watch The Devil Wears Prada?"

Johnny blew smoke at the ceiling, closing his eyes. Fuck skating. He was done with figure skating. "I’ll be over in an hour."

*

Evan called twice that week. He didn’t leave a voicemail either time. He did, after those two calls, send a text which simply read Plz call me?, which Johnny also ignored. He did, however, leave Evan’s phone number in his contacts. He needed to be able to screen his calls.

Tanith, however, managed to get through. The first time, it was strictly work – could they do a piece on what it was like to intern for Zac Posen for Good Morning America, and did Johnny want to be that intern?

Exposure was exposure. He said yes.

The second time she called, she wanted to take him out for lunch. That was when Johnny’s life got infinitely more complicated.

"Working lunch?" he asked, paying more attention to the design on the screen in front of him than what she was saying.

"If that’s what it takes to get you out of the building, then yes."

"I can give you—" He glanced at the corner of the screen, checking the time. "Half an hour."

"I’ll take it."

He hmmmed but his answer was a given.

"There’s an Italian place a couple blocks from here that does a good salad," Tanith said as they stepped out of the building, Johnny trying not to squint behind his sunglasses. They were dark enough he shouldn’t have to, but there was a headache spreading out from the bridge of his nose that he knew was only in part due to how long he’d been staring at a computer monitor.

"Sounds good," he said, though, voice not revealing anything. It might even have been too casual—Tanith knew him, after all—and she glanced over, slowing so they were walking side by side, heedless of the other foot traffic.

"Unless you know somewhere better?"

"No, whatever you have in mind is fine, honestly."

She looked at him again, long enough he had to take her elbow and steer her around a person with a white cane. The distraction didn’t do much to distract, though; he was still uncomfortably aware of how obvious he was being. They’d never been this stilted with each other before. Never been strangers, not even when they’d just met. He let go of her arm, stepping aside to let a group of tourists pass between them.

"So, did they decide which week would be best?" he asked, as they stopped to wait for the light to change.

"I think they’ve got it narrowed down. You might have to come back for an extra week, though."

Johnny shrugged, taking a couple of quicker steps to follow her into the street as the walk sign flashed. "That’s fine, it’ll probably be easier if I’m not doing actual work."

Tanith glanced at him, then laughed as he shrugged again, letting himself smile a little. "It’s true," he said. "I’m a bitch when I’m really busy."

"I already knew that, you know." She nudged him, and he took a step to the side, surprised. "We used to be friends."

"Is it on the right," he asked, rather than replying. He pointed, purse dangling off his arm, swaying a little. "I think Heather was telling me about this place."

And that was when things went even weirder. That was when Johnny abruptly started seeing Evan everywhere – that first time, coming out of the restaurant with a group of other people, laughing at someone else’s joke, wearing a suit of all things.

"Yeah, this is it," Tanith said, catching up the extra couple of steps to where Johnny had stopped. "Is it okay?"

He pointed again, but Evan and the group of people were long gone, lost in the crowd. It didn’t stop him from looking—still looking and looking, to see if they turned onto Canal Street.

"Did you see—"

"See what?"

He went up on his toes, but it didn’t help. "Nothing, never mind." Maybe it was just a hallucination. "I think I need to eat something."

They didn’t see Evan again, and Johnny made a point of not bringing it up with Tanith. They talked, instead, about what they might film.

"I want your ideas, okay? I mean, you’re the one with the experience—"

"Well, then you better plan on doing some time-lapse photography, because I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen. Or going out to get coffee."

Tanith laughed, and despite himself, Johnny found himself smiling. "All right, I’ll make sure we do that. But you’ll do some actual sewing stuff too, right?"

Johnny reached for his glass, raising one shoulder as he took a sip. The water fizzed against the roof of his mouth, and he held it there for a moment before swallowing. "I don’t know, I guess they could probably find something for me to do if it’s for TV." He put his glass down, leaning forward a little. "Honestly, off the record? It’ll be kind of boring. No one will decide to go into fashion by watching me do a couple days of interning."

Tanith waved one hand dismissively, leaning forward herself. "You’re charming, funny, good looking—everything they want for TV. It’ll be fine. But, there was something else…"

Now, she looked away, glancing towards the waiter, and Johnny tensed. Of course she was going to bring up Evan again, him being here earlier had been part of some kind of plan—

"Look, it’s not like my boss hasn’t heard of you. The Olympics—it’s only been two years—"

He blinked, stunned. Confused. "What?"

"You’ve got to think of how it’ll look in the completed piece—"

"I don’t—"

"Have you even been on the ice in the last year?"

And there it was, the unexpected blindside, and how much had he been thinking about Evan that he didn’t see this coming? Johnny dropped back, away from her, shoulder blades catching against the top of the chair.

"No."

"Johnny—"

"No, I’m not—I don’t do that anymore. You know that. You, especially."

Tanith glanced to either side of their table, and Johnny closed his eyes for a second, trying to find a quieter tone, trying to swallow away the thousand tiny clawed things scrabbling in the back of his throat. It took longer than he wanted, but at least Tanith didn’t try to talk in the meantime.

"Do you have any idea what you’re asking?"

"Come with me. Just the two of us. If it’s that terrible, we won’t do it. I’ll tell my editor you twisted your knee, and we won’t use it, I swear—"

"It was never my knee—" He was getting too loud again. He swallowed, started again. "It was never my knee, no one will buy that."

"Think about it, okay? Just the two of us. I can get us ice time at Chelsea Piers, no cameras, no pressure."

"And if I still say no?"

Tanith frowned, then shrugged one shoulder. "They’ll probably use footage from the Olympics. And I’ll still have to ask you about it."

He swallowed again, and tried to remember that they’d been friends, once. "Why," he said, as patiently as he could. "Why do they have to bring skating into it, why can’t it just be about what I do now?"

He looked at her, then, in time to see her just barely flinch, then grimace. "You know, darling, you know why. It’s your—it’s what makes you—"

Interesting, he finished for her, in his head. Worth something. "I see." He swallowed again. It didn’t help much. "Well, thanks for lunch, I’m sure we’ll be in touch." He stood up, dropping his napkin next to his plate.

"Johnny—"

"No," he said, all the claws and teeth in that one word. Tanith flinched again and Johnny almost laughed. "Shut up, leave me alone—"

"Fine," she said, expression set, and she could be just as vicious as him, he remembered abruptly. "You want to fuck yourself over—"

"You’re the one holding the goddamn blade to my throat--"

"No, I’m not. You’re doing that all yourself."

Everything whited out for a moment, and it was all he could do to spit out ‘fuck you’ as he stalked out of the restaurant.

*

Johnny saw Evan two more times in the following 36 hours. The first was probably not surprising—Johnny going to The Archive even though it was literally around the corner from Evan’s apartment was asking for trouble. But then, he hadn’t had any coffee yet, so it wasn’t entirely his fault. He walked in, saw Evan standing at the till two people ahead of him. Johnny turned around and left.

The second time, they were on the same subway train and it was like Johnny had radar, because he looked up from his book just in time to see Evan step on, just before the doors closed. He didn’t look over at Johnny, though, just turned the other way and sat down in the other half of the train carriage, like he wasn’t stalking Johnny at all.

All of it was ridiculous, of course, but it still took until they crossed into Brooklyn for Johnny to finish reading the page he’d opened the book to, when he’d first got on. Getting off was another exercise in yoga breathing, bracing himself to see if he would end up face to face with Evan on the platform, but Evan didn’t get off at all.

"Don’t fuck anyone who lives in your neighborhood," he said to Paris that Friday, after the third cocktail. "It’s weird seeing them everywhere, after."

Paris raised both eyebrows, propping one elbow up on the table. "Did you both reach for the same carton of milk at the bodega?"

"No, thank god, my corner store is still sacrosanct. But the train? Coffee place?" He shuddered, biting down on the straw in his drink.

Paris reached out and patted Johnny’s arm sympathetically. "There there, I’m sure it’ll all be over soon."

It was nice to sit and pretend everything was normal, back to the way things used to be before the life drawing classes started, back when Johnny only bitched about how long the hours were, how tedious going on coffee runs when he wanted to be designing. Johnny didn’t tell Paris about Tanith, or the filming; he was doing his best not to think about it at all, as a matter of fact.

That worked fine until Patti called him on Monday and said "Why didn’t you tell me you’re going to be on TV!"

"Oh my god," he muttered under his breath. "What?"

"Good Morning America called this morning to ask me for some pictures of you—"

"Did you give them anything? Have you sent anything to them," he interrupted. This swooping nauseous feeling had become too familiar in the last week. Damn them, damn Tanith—

"Not yet, I wanted to talk to you first."

"Oh thank fuck," he murmured, just loud enough that she heard him, sucking in a breath to tut at him.

"Johnny—"

"Don’t give them anything."

"Why?"

"You know why—"

"They told me that they’re doing a profile of your internship, and they just wanted to talk a little bit about how you got into fashion in the first place—"

"You know why--" Johnny's voice almost broke into a whine, and he stopped, bit down on his tongue.

"Johnny." There was her no-nonsense mom-voice. He closed his eyes.

"Patti."

"What’s going on in your head, sweetheart? This sounds like a wonderful opportunity, a chance for you to get a little exposure, in the right field. What’s the harm if they want to mention that you used to be a skater? It’s all ancient history, you know that, I know that."

"They want me to actually skate for the show," he said, his voice sounding completely unfamiliar, even as he felt the vibration of the sound in the roof of his mouth.

There was a tiny pause, as Patti did the math, but she spoke much quicker than Johnny had been expecting. "And what’s wrong with that?"

He opened his mouth to answer, and found he had no idea what to say. Fifty answers crowded in his throat, trying to get out, but none of them made it as far as his tongue. He swallowed, tried again. "I—can’t."

"I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that much. You might not be able to do all your old tricks, but—"

"I’ll make a fool of myself."

"No you won’t."

Johnny laughed, hitting a hysterical note on the first try. "You’re my mom, you have to say that."

She didn’t laugh, but the edge was gone from her voice when she spoke again. "Why don’t you go to the rink by yourself? No cameras, just try it out. See how bad it could be. I bet you’ll surprise yourself."

He let that sit for several beats, trying to make the next words come out without the hysteria. It was a while before he could be sure of his voice. "Tanith said the same thing."

"I always thought she was a smart one. She’s doing the interview, isn’t she? Maybe she could go to the rink with you. She might still have her skates."

"Yeah, she—offered."

"Well, then there you go. You used to love it so much, Johnny, I don’t think—" She stopped, and Johnny held his breath. "Well. I’ll look into FedExing your skates to you. Can I send them to your office?"

"My skates—"

"Well, of course. Do you really want to use those awful rental ones?"

"I—no. No, I guess not." Johnny tried to picture putting on either kind of skate and everything went kind of blank.

"Fine, good. Can you email me your work address, I’ll get them sent out tomorrow."

Johnny reached for his cigarettes. The entire conversation hadn’t gone at all as he’d expected. He lit one before replying, relaxing a little with the first drag, relaxing a little more when he heard the answering click of Patti’s lighter through the phone line.

"Okay, good. So, how are you? Other than the work stuff, how are things going? Your class is done now, right? Oh, how’s Evan?"

And that was more than enough trauma for one phone call. "Sorry Patti, I have to go, there’s someone at the door," he said, taking two quick drags in a row off his cigarette, ignoring the slight tremor in his hand. It was time for some vodka. "I’ll call you when the skates get in."

"Okay, honey, I love you."

"Love you too, talk to you soon."

He hung up and went straight into the kitchen, not stopping until he got to the vodka.

*

The third time, Johnny literally ran into Evan. It was the next evening and they were in the grocery right by the subway station. Johnny was just turning away from the counter, concentrating on getting the cellophane off his cigarettes, when—

"Oh, it’s you," Johnny said, a fraction of a second before eye contact. Between the shirt and the smell of the same Whole Foods shampoo his roommate used, plus his luck, it couldn’t be anyone else.

Evan had the decency to look surprised. "Johnny!"

"You can stop following me around, you know," Johnny said, abruptly too tired to even get angry. "Tanith explained."

A guy pushed his way past them, up to the till, and Evan grabbed Johnny’s arm, tugging him out to the street. As soon as they were outside, Johnny took his arm back, ripping the foil out of his cigarette pack and taking one out

"What did she say?" Evan looked—good. Flustered, yeah, but good. Hot. Johnny bent his head, feeling through his pockets for his lighter.

"That you’re not a closeted asshole," Johnny mumbled towards his shoes. "Do you have a lighter?"

There was a brief moment of silence, and he looked up, catching an unreadable expression on Evan’s face. They looked at each other for a long moment, until Evan blinked and Johnny remembered his question. "Yes or no, I need to go buy one if you don’t."

"Yeah, here," Evan said after copying Johnny’s patdown, holding it out for Johnny to take. "Tanith said—"

"She promised you’re not a dick, yeah."

"Oh. You knew I went to art school, right? I mean—"

"I got it, " Johnny interrupted as he lit his cigarette, holding out the lighter to Evan automatically. "I’m going to go home now, if that’s okay with you."

"I’m—I wasn’t. I’m not following you."

"Okay. Can I go home?"

"Can we—do you want to—coffee? Or dinner? Are you hungry? I was going to make something—"

They were standing too far apart, Johnny realized. They were standing on a corner as everyone coming from the subway was heading home past them. He was tired, and he still had to call Tanith, tell her he’d meet her at a rink. The frisson of panic was muted; he was so tired.

"Not now, okay? I’ve got—I’ve got other things—"

"I just—please, can I make it up to you?" And it was like Evan realized a couple beats after Johnny, they were in danger of being the evening’s entertainment, without the benefit of front stoops for better neighborhood viewing. He stepped in close, almost too close.

Johnny swayed, took a drag, turning his head to exhale. "Look, I can’t do this right now. I’ll—I’ll call you."

He didn’t look back, and Evan didn’t try to follow him.

*

The rink was, as promised, deserted. There were only a couple of staff, loitering in the shadows, nowhere near the boards, and there was Johnny and there was Tanith.

"You can’t laugh at me," he yelled, closing his eyes and listening to the echo. With his eyes closed, he could be back home. Everything smelled the same. His skates, too, when he’d taken them out of the box. He’d almost put them right back in.

But—the rink. The ice, the air conditioning—it was all the same, familiar home smell. Johnny's throat was tight. He opened his eyes, everything too bright, light streaming in all the windows, everything bright white.

"Not even if you fall on your ass because you forgot to take off your skate guards?"

His own laugh surprised him as much as Tanith’s unexpected, quicksharp reply. When she laughed in turn, it set him off again. It was surreal; he was actually in a skating rink, laughing.

"Are you coming out here?" Tanith asked, finally, when he’d subsided into spasms of giggles, holding on to the bleachers for support. She was standing on the ice already, in front of the door he’d have to use to join her. She was just a little distorted through the glass.

“Do you still talk to Ben?” It struck him, belatedly, that he had no idea what had happened in the last year.

“I talk to Ben every other day,” she said, cocking one hip out. “Ben’s fine. Quit stalling.”

"Are you going to tell me the water’s fine?" Johnny asked. It took a moment to get used to the rocking step of walking in skates again, for the ten steps to the boards.

"It’s frozen, yep," she said, stomping one foot, making chips.

He flinched automatically, then clenched his hands. No, this was fine. Fine. "Good. I can’t walk on water."

"Take your skate guards off. I don’t want to laugh at you just yet."

He lifted one foot, reaching down to slide the plastic off the blade, not looking at her. "Are you warning me because you already fell when you forgot?"

"Oh, fuck off," Tanith said, laughing again, but it wasn’t a denial.

He grinned at her, probably a little forced at the edges, but the best he could manage. Both skate guards went on the edge of the board and he rocked back and forth on the naked blades, getting used the sensation again. He looked up at the girders—nothing like Delaware, and yet.

He took a deep breath, and let it out. "Okay, let’s do this."

Tanith opened the door, and held out her hand.

"I’m pretty sure I don’t need that," he said with an eye roll, and then put his hand in hers anyway, and stepped out.

Patti was right. He didn’t fall on his ass. Sure, his flexibility wasn’t what it used to be, and he was definitely slower on his spins, never mind jumping, but—it was skating.

It was a slinky little black dress, a postcoital cigarette, a hug from his mom.

Even when he stopped with his back to most of the rink, looking towards an audience that wasn’t there and thought Drew and Torino, the ache didn’t quite overwhelm the joy.

"You look surprised that you’re happy," Tanith said when he met her back at center ice. She said it quietly, like she wanted to give Johnny an out. Let him maybe pretend not to have heard.

"I am," Johnny said, skating around her to feel the twinge in his thighs. The tightness in his throat was easing, relaxing as his legs tensed and flexed.

"What, surprised or happy?" She turned to follow him, and he skated backwards, making her chase.

"Both," he said, and the honesty didn’t even sting.

*

After skating, after lunch with Tanith and a shared bottle of wine, they started edging back into territory Johnny recognized—friendship, something they used to have with almost no effort.

He was tipsy, then, when he got home, tipsy enough that when he scrolled through his phone and it seemed like a great idea to just—call Evan.

"I promised I would," Johnny told his reflection, standing in front of the mirror in his bedroom, listening to the phone ring. He didn’t look any different despite the day’s activities—still just Johnny Weir, fashion student.

"…hello?"

"Evan?"

"Yeah, hi. Johnny—I—didn’t expect you to—huh." He coughed and Johnny cocked one hip, still looking at his reflection.

"Am I getting you at a bad time?" Yeah, these pants definitely needed to be taken in, just a little. Tanith was right. He popped the button, pushing them down off one hip.

"I—no, it’s fine, I’m just—"

"Surprised? Well, that makes two of us." He shifted his weight quickly from one foot to the other, working the pants down to his knees, still watching his reflection as he bent to pull them off his feet, one leg at a time. "But today’s been full of surprises, so I figured, why not just keep going while I’m on a roll?"

"I—okay?"

Johnny licked his lips, surveyed himself in the mirror—shirt and briefs was not that bad a look. He still had the legs for it, at least. "You said something about dinner the other night."

"You want to go out for dinner?"

"Unless you want to cook? I’m not really in the mood to get hot and sweaty in the kitchen." It was maybe a little much innuendo, but he shrugged at his reflection. Sometimes being obvious was necessary. Especially with Evan.

"I—oh. Oh, okay. Um."

"Are you busy right now?" A thought flashed up in Johnny’s mind, neon sign sparking to life - takeout. Obvious and practical. "Are you home?"

"I—no. I’m at my—studio. But it’s not far. Do you want me to—" There was a clattering sound – falling paint brushes? "I can come—give me twenty minutes and I’ll be on the subway, I’m only at Bushwick Ave—"

Johnny tipped his phone against his shoulder, folding the pants, smiling to himself. Fuck, it was nice to have someone so eager to see him. "Honey, relax. It’s only—" He looked at his watch to confirm. "It’s only four thirty."

"Oh. Okay. So, not right now?" There was another clattering sound, but more metallic. Ladder, maybe?

"No, you keep on painting or whatever it is you’re doing over there. We could meet somewhere, though, later. If you want." He put the pants down on the end of the bed, pressing his hand into the mattress. He wouldn’t say no, Evan wouldn’t say no. He wouldn’t.

"I—yes. Yeah."

Johnny exhaled, shoulders dropping. He smoothed his hand over the pants. "So, where are you taking me to dinner?" He turned to his clothes rail, running his fingers over the shoulders of his shirts.

"I, um. I’ll need to change, I guess. I got a little—carried away. I’m kind of covered in paint." He laughed, and it made something warm bloom under Johnny’s ribs, something that wasn’t the wine.

"Okay. So, somewhere close." Close enough to end up back here, after.

"Roberta’s? Pizza?"

Johnny winced. "I had a late lunch. What about—"

"Oh, okay. Um, the Life Café? I’ll come and pick you up?"

Johnny closed his eyes, pressing his hand to his chest, trying to keep the smile out of his voice, failing. "You sure know how to treat a girl right, Evan Lysacek."

Evan laughed. "I—"

"What time?"

"Um. Six? Is that too late?"

"No, that’s perfect." He could shower, try on half the clothes he owned, get his face on, and make Evan wait twenty minutes. "My roommate’s out, so come to the front door."

"Great, see you then."

Johnny hung up first, before murmuring ‘can’t wait’ under his breath.

*

Evan was early. Johnny took pity on him and made drinks before abandoning him to finish getting ready. They walked over together, Johnny doing most of the talking, though later he couldn’t remember what he’d been saying. Evan asked the right questions in the right places, though, so Johnny almost regretted keeping his hands to himself for the whole journey. He settled for pressing the side of his knee against Evan’s as soon as they were seated, smiling with promise. He smiled a little more at Evan’s startled look—like he still couldn’t believe they were here, this was happening—and bent his head to study the menu.

They did the ‘getting to know you’ conversation—siblings and pets and hometowns, all the things you were supposed to talk about on a first date. As Evan spoke, there was an echo of a memory in the back of Johnny’s mind, like everything was both new and a reminder, like he’d already known some of this about Evan, before.

And Johnny finally explained why he’d been in the drawing course.

"I can’t believe they couldn’t just take the word of your instructor," Evan said, putting his drink down, careful to put it on the coaster.

"I know, right? And I had to pay for that course too."

"Bullshit," Evan said, and something about the succinctness of the response made Johnny laugh.

"Well, yeah, but then we might not have met."

Evan looked a little startled for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, that’s true. Well. I’m glad—I’m glad we met."

Johnny smiled. "Yeah," he said, only a little surprised at his own response. "Me too."

He remembered to ask, once their food arrived, how Evan had ended up naked in front of his class.

"Oh, SVA is where I went for art school. So when Dave needed a life model, he asked me."

"Your ex?" Johnny asked, on impulse, words sharp in his mouth with unexpected jealousy.

"Oh! No, no, no—it’s not like that. We’re friends, that’s it." He was blushing and Johnny was both endeared and relieved enough to press his knee against Evan’s just a little harder, smile at him with all sudden affection he was feeling.

"I’m just teasing," Johnny said, lying easily. "Don’t panic."

"I’m not, I’m not—it’s just." Evan stabbed a couple of fries and looked at them, then put his fork down.

"What?"

"I like you," Evan said to the fries. "I like you," he said again, a little more firmly, when he’d looked up and made Johnny momentarily speechless. "That’s all."

Johnny licked his lips and swallowed. He took a breath in, then let it out, nodding at Evan. "Okay. I think I’ll get the rest of this to go."

"Is there something wrong—"

"Yes. I can’t take your clothes off here, Evan."

"I—oh. Oh.." The blush that had never quite left his cheeks got brighter.

Johnny bit down on his smile, and signalled for the waitress.

*
Evan reached for his hand when they crossed at Morgan, despite the fact there was no traffic. Even when they were safely on the other side, he didn’t let go. Neither did Johnny.

They were in the door for no more than five minutes, Johnny’s hand down Evan’s pants, Evan’s down Johnny’s, before they were both coming hard.

"Shit," Evan said, panting into Johnny’s mouth, not-quite-kisses keeping their lips brushing.

"You better have another couple rounds in you," Johnny murmured, still aftershocky, clinging a little, one-handed.

Evan kissed him in response, picking Johnny up and dropping him on the bed. It made the fact he smeared come everywhere in the process more forgivable.

*

Patti called in the morning, and Johnny pulled on his robe, wincing a little, and stepped outside with his cigarettes to answer it.

"Mama."

"So, how did it go?"

It took a second for him to realize she meant skating rather than sex with Evan. He was already smiling by that point, though, so he let it come out in his voice. "You were right. It was—fun."

"Oh Johnny, I’m so glad to hear you say that."

He laughed, too much joy to keep it in, settling down on the step. "Thank you for sending the skates." He wedged his phone between ear and shoulder to light his cigarette, leaning back to exhale the first breath.

"Oh, you’re welcome. I’m looking forward to being able to watch you again."

Johnny paused for a second, the implications suddenly hitting. He was going to be skating again, on television. It was too much to deal with.

"Hey, so, Patti," he said, with as much of the cheer as he could hang on to. "I went on a date last night."

He heard her little gasp of delight and let himself grin, taking another drag from his cigarette. "Did you! With Evan?"

He nodded and spoke at the same time. "Yep. We went for dinner. It was really nice. He—he’s great, Mama."

"I’m so glad to hear that, sweetheart, it’s about time. You deserve it."

*

Evan stayed again, Saturday night, and was still in Johnny’s bed on Sunday morning, scruffy and smelling of sex and sweat. Unbelievably hot.

Over breakfast, which Johnny cooked—naked except for an apron—while Evan watched with all the appreciation Johnny could have asked for, they got to the subject of Evan’s art.

"Yeah, four years at SVA," Evan said, as Johnny glanced over in between watching for bubbles in the (oh-so-gloriously-forbidden) pancakes. "It kept me from going nuts to start with, but I was always really into art in high school and stuff, so it was pretty easy, I think."

It made something in Johnny’s chest clench a little, but he couldn’t—wouldn’t, didn’t want to—think about skating right then, so he let it slide.

"You must’ve been good. PS1, huh," he said instead, flipping a pancake out of the frying pan onto the plate next to him.

"I still can’t believe you saw that show. That’s so crazy."

"I like art," Johnny said, mellow enough not to snap, pouring batter in for the next pancake. "And I wasn’t just being nice when I said I liked yours. What’s next for you anyway? How does it work, do you get asked to do things, or—"

"Oh!" Evan said, abrupt enough that Johnny turned away from the stove, wiping his fingers down the side of his apron. "I guess I didn’t tell you. I got asked to do a solo show at the Deitch."

Johnny frowned, thoughtful. "I know that name…"

"It’s super-prestigious," Evan said, obviously excited. "It’s on Canal Street—"

"Oh god, I know exactly where it is, it’s not far away from where I work." Then the penny dropped. "You were having lunch at Pepolino last week, weren’t you? It was about your show."

"Yeah," Evan said, also frowning now, even as Johnny could feel a smile pulling at his own lips. "But how did you know?"

"I thought you were following me, but I guess I must’ve been kind of following you. I went there for lunch with Tanith, we saw you leaving."

Evan laughed and Johnny joined him a beat later, pancakes momentarily forgotten. "No way, that’s so weird. Well—you won’t still be working there in January, will you? That’s when my show opens."

"No," Johnny said, turning back to the stove belatedly. "School starts again, and trust me, fashion school is enough work without the internship-from-hell at the same time."

"Man, I don’t even know half of it, I bet," Evan said. "What do you even do in fashion school?"

Johnny flipped the pancake and reached for his coffee. "Well," he said, deliberately ignoring the warm feeling in his cheeks. "The first two years is one thing. Things start getting hard after that."

"Tell me what that means," Evan said.

And over pancakes, Johnny did.

*

Part three

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