miznarrator: (jw - I has a heart for you)
[personal profile] miznarrator
Part two



Johnny’s Pandora moment came a week later, when he decided to surprise Evan at his studio. He got the address right off one of Evan’s sketchbooks, where it had been carefully printed in almost copperplate writing. The sketchbook itself had been left behind two days previously, and at the time, it seemed like a perfect excuse to surprise Evan with a blowjob and maybe lunch.

It wasn’t far away, as Evan had promised – a few stops on the subway, and a couple blocks over, an abandoned-looking warehouse with the door propped open.

There weren’t doors inside, so much as gaps between 1980s office dividers, where the old scratchy fabric served as a means to pin up letter-sized printout ‘door numbers.’ It wasn’t too hard to find Evan’s part of the studio without them, though, past all the architectural steel to wood—another tall post, or was it the original one? —and canvases. Lots of canvases, stacked so Johnny could only see their naked white insides.

He stopped paying attention to the canvases almost immediately, though, because all along the right side of the space there was a long trestle table, with stacks and stacks of sewing patterns on it. They looked, at a glance, to be about the same age as the rest of the furniture, envelopes with pictures of angular women with perms and poofy-sleeved blouses, little children with overalls and pinafores. Some of them were open, the thin brown paper inside all mis-folded in piles. Johnny touched the edge of one pile, the paper crinkling quietly under his finger.

There was a pile of the paper though, that looked like scraps, like the edges trimmed off to leave the shadow-shape of the clothing they might become. But when Johnny touched the pile, it scattered a little, and it was obvious they weren’t edges, they cut across the lines, oblong shapes, pointed at one end, cut off straight at the other.

He looked up, looked around properly. Maybe Evan was just watching him touch his art materials, but—no. He put the sketchbook down next to the still-uncut envelopes of patterns, glanced around.

"Evan?"

There was no reply as Johnny turned away from the table, toe immediately connecting with a stack of books. They toppled sideways, away from his foot and even as he muttered a curse under his breath, he ducked down to collect them back into their pile.

They were all bird books, he realized with a start. National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, he read. The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher, The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, The Easy Bird Guide: Western Region: A Quick Identification Guide for All Birders.

This time when he looked up, he saw the other divider wall – the wall covered with what looked like colour photocopies from the books. Birds – all kinds of birds – flying, swimming, sitting. Johnny recognized a robin, a sparrow, a swan, but there was also a sparrow-sized bird with a yellow head and wings, another black with red-shouldered wings photographed flying against snow, some kind of hawk.

The silence wasn’t quite absolute; the window that formed the back wall of Evan’s studio was all window, and Johnny could hear a kid shrieking, an adult voice raised to try to smother the first sound. A car went by, muffler rattling. Inside, though, he could almost hear the dust settling, and as he looked at the birds, the silence morphed from peaceful to ominous.

Johnny turned around in a circle, like there might be a man with a knife behind him, or maybe ninjas—he laughed once at the idea, the sound echoing a bit as a door slammed somewhere far away.

He turned around again, stopping in front of the window this time, finally noticing the two enormous canvases blocking half the light. Johnny could just see a chair in front of one of them, an actual wooden barstool, with an old music stand beside it, jar of brushes sitting on top, next to tubes of paint.

"For the light," he murmured to himself, taking a couple of steps forward. His shoes made no sound on the concrete as he walked, heel-toe, heel-toe, towards the canvases. The ominous feeling, despite the bright sunshine outside, wasn’t dissipating. Far off, he could hear the sound of someone else’s shoes, a rubbery squeak every third or fourth step.

It was clearly what Evan was working on for his show. Johnny took another two steps, now close enough to see that there was paint on an actual palette on the stand. It looked wet, like Evan had only recently put the brush down and gone—where? To the restroom? To get coffee? Johnny reached out, not quite touching a daub of bright red, the glistening surface of it tempting.

There was another squeak, and a brief whistle—definitely Evan, Johnny decided—much nearer now. Johnny glanced at the windowsill, then at the side of the canvas—only to look right back at the windowsill. There was a picture of him. There was a picture of him, printed in a newspaper, the page—

The page stuck in a scrapbook.

There was a picture of him from a newspaper stuck in a scrapbook, a picture of him on the ice, half of the Olympic rings cut off one corner.

He blinked and blinked again, but it was still him. Still him in a scrapbook in Evan’s studio.

"Johnny!"

He half turned, automatic, but he couldn’t stop looking at himself. "What is this?" Johnny asked, taking another step forward towards it, pointing at himself. He couldn’t remember the particular image, though he recognized the pose. He hadn’t started skating yet, arms wrapped around himself. Everything was still possible when that camera shutter had clicked.

He touched the page – heard Evan make a noise, something pained – and flinched as the book slipped, tipping down into his hands, instinctively stepping forward to catch it. The pages fluttered and for a split second, Johnny saw himself move in two dimensions.

"What is this," he asked again, tipping the book so it fell to another page. Him, again, a different pose, a different costume, still the Olympics. The ominous feeling was loud in his ears, something opening wide between his jaw and temple. He turned another page. Him. Again. Crying this time and he didn’t want to see anymore, turning towards Evan instead.

"I was going to tell you," Evan said, and the look on his face was—oh. Johnny knew that look, he still remembered it, vividly. Remembered seeing it on Drew’s face while he said I’m sorry, Johnny, I just don’t think this is going to work anymore.

"Tell me what," Johnny asked, somehow magically still calm, even as his hands trembled under the book. He looked down at it again, then up—and that was when his eyes caught on the canvas in front of him.

"Oh."

It was—they were—unfinished. Two canvases, side by side, both still obviously in progress, lines sketched in pencil across the enormous white expanse, some of the colour filled in, some of it still blank. They were cut in half, a thin black line down the centre of each of them, separating and mirroring at once.

And in front of him, it was—well, him. The curve of his shoulder, the sharp angle of his shoulder blade, his arm outstretched past the edge of the canvas, much larger than life sized.

He looked over to the other canvas, finding his collarbone, the tendons in his neck, the side of his jaw, and the curve of his lower lip, all oversize again, and there on his lip, the daub of bright red. The other side had the outline of a swan, neck curved in pencil, carmine beak the only color.

"I’m sorry."

Johnny jerked his gaze back towards Evan, abruptly remembering the book in his hands, flipping through a few more pages.

"You have a scrapbook of my—of me. Why?"

"I was going to tell you—"

He looked at the canvases again, seeing the other halves for the first time. It was the same shape across the fabric – the same curve, and shoulder –but a bird’s wing. He took a step forward and—the small scraps of brown paper fluttered, just a little.

Feathers.

"What is this," he asked again. "What were you going to tell me."

"Johnny—"

"You’re—you’re painting me. You’re painting my—" He stopped, lips and tongue abruptly paralyzed. He flipped the page, holding it open to a different article, a different photograph, no Olympic rings this time. "My life. What—" Johnny stopped again, overwhelmed.

Evan took a few steps towards Johnny, his hands clasped together, then outstretched, then clasped together again. It looked like prayer. "I was going to tell you. I started a few weeks ago—"

Johnny looked down at the scrapbook, and let it fall open to the first page. It was him, again, but two years earlier. Him the first year he won Nationals, looking young. The first year for Nationals. He and Drew had celebrated—he slammed the book shut, holding it away from himself.

"I have to go." He looked around, gaze catching on the canvases one more time.

"I’m sorry." The weight shifted in his hand, and Johnny looked at the book again. Just a plain black cover, but now that he know what was inside—he shoved it towards Evan.

"Take it. Take it, I—" Not knowing what to say made his skin crawl. He let go, Evan ducking to keep the book from falling. It gave Johnny the chance to step past him, hurrying so quickly he stirred up the cut bits of patterns. They eddied up, then fell gently, a few handfuls between Johnny and Evan.

Johnny watched them for what felt like a long moment, not breathing, then turned and ran.

*

Sunday should have been spent lying in bed with Evan, dozing in between rounds of sex. Sunday might even have included pizza, depending on how athletic the sex had gotten.

Instead, Sunday was Johnny in bed, alone, the curtains drawn against the bright sunshine, fan trying to stir the close air. He kept the sheet pulled up over his head until it became absolutely unbearably hot.

Then he got up and cleaned everything, even dusting the tops of Steve’s books.

He left his phone off.

On Monday he came home from work to find an Utrecht bag hanging from his door knob. Art supplies he thought, first. Then, Evan. Once he’d worked up the nerve to look inside, he found the scrapbook. There was a yellow Post-it stuck to the front.

This is yours. I’m sorry. Evan

He pushed the book back into the bag and wavered. The temptation to take it straight to the trash, do not pass go, was almost overwhelming. But he hesitated, and then hesitated again, and it was easier just to shove it under his bed, behind the vacuum storage bags containing his best furs. To make no decision at all.

The next morning, though, as he got dressed and packed his skates carefully into his suitcase, he found himself staring at the bed, thinking of the book under it.

I have a surprise for you he texted, then pushed the book into the front pocket of his suitcase.

What is it? he got back from Tanith, just before he got to the subway.

Something Evan gave me. You’ll laugh, promise.

She was waiting for him outside the rink, slouching against the wall, staring at her phone.

"Hey girl," he called out, smiling when she looked up.

"Hey yourself, gorgeous. How’s it going? You nervous?"

"Cool as a cucumber," he lied, pulling out a Chinese fan from his purse, and flicking it open. "Well, metaphorically of course. Jesus, it’s hot."

"Let’s go inside. I want to see what Evan got you. I can’t believe you two have ended up together, can I just say?"

"Inside," Johnny said, glad for his sunglasses when his voice wavered just a little. Fine, he was fine. They were going to laugh about it and move on.

"I’ll just go get changed," he said, losing his nerve as soon as his eyes adjusted to the fluorescent lights, far less bright than the sun outside.

"What, by yourself?" Tanith asked, visibly surprised, and of course she’d catch the lie, she knew him—

"Don’t want to ruin the surprise, do you?" he replied, pushing his sunglasses back down onto his nose, striking a pose, and hoping.

"Okay…" she said, hesitating. She was clearly going to demand an explanation, but someone called out her name and she turned. Makeup and camera, Johnny noted, before taking the opportunity to disappear into the men’s locker room, pushing the door shut behind himself.

His phone was ringing, Pennsylvania area code at the front of the number, before he was even at a bench.

"Good morning, Johnny."

"Hi Mama."

"How are you doing?" There was the distant sound of her office phone ringing, and Johnny closed his eyes.

"I don’t know," he answered, then opened his eyes as he realized the honesty of the answer.

"You’re skating this morning, aren’t you? Is Tanith there with you?"

"I’m in the locker room, but she’s out in the lobby, yeah." He pressed his lips together, breathing quick and shallow through his nose. A cigarette. He needed a cigarette.

"You’ll be fine, you know," she said, and Johnny sat down—no, more collapsed—onto the bench behind his knees.

"Mama—"

"No, honey. You don’t have anything to worry about." In the background, her phone rang again, and she wasn’t going to let him ramble today. She was already going matter-of-fact.

"I wish you were here," he mumbled, closing his eyes.

"Do you know what you have to do today, Johnny? You have to put your skates on and go out there and have some fun. That’s it. It’s as easy as that."

"How is that easy?"

"Because you love skating, honey."

"No, I don’t," he mumbled, petulant, even as he remembered the bite of the ice in the soles of his feet, the tensing of his thighs as he pushed down, flew.

"Yes, you do," she replied, patiently but still matter-of-fact. "I love you, go out there and make me proud."

"I wish you were here," he said, again.

"I love you," she repeated, in turn. "I believe in you."

He swallowed and nodded. "I love you too."

"I’ll call you when I’m on lunch, okay? You can tell me all about how it went."

"Okay." He looked at his suitcase, and thought scrapbook. "Patti—"

"I have to go, I’ve got three people on hold. Love to Tanith!" And she was gone.

"Okay," he said to the blank screen of his phone. "Okay." He took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. "Let’s do this shit."

*
Stepping out on the ice was easier the second time. He didn’t check for the camera first, just opened the door and let himself glide out to the middle of the ice and strike a pose. Tanith joined him, and it was easier to loosen up, find the joy with her laughing too.

"Work it, Johnny!" she called out as he tried a spin, surprised when he could keep it going, and going and going.

He came out of it breathless, and laughed, because it was ridiculous how good it felt.

"It’s too bad you were never in pairs," he called to her, halfway across the rink from her and the camera.

"What, so you could throw me?"

"No, so you could throw me."

He skated and Tanith egged him on, until the camera guy called them over and made some requests. Johnny then obediently repeated some of the spins, laughing as he tried to replicate the footwork sequence from his Zhivago routine, making a mess of it in different ways every time he tried it. They had enough footage before Johnny was quite done on the ice, and that in itself was a strange sensation.

"You looked great out there," Tanith said as he let himself coast towards her, towards the boards.

"So did you," he said easily, flexing his toes in his skates.

"We should do this again, just without the camera. I forgot how much fun it is just to fuck around."

He laughed and looked her up and down. "Girl, I don’t believe that."

She slapped his bicep at that and he let it push him into skating backwards, drifting towards the middle of the ice again.

"You know what I mean. C’mon, this was fun wasn’t it?"

He let the friction of ice against blades bring him to a natural stop. He took a deep breath – the air was so fresh, cold, like nothing else – and nodded. "Yeah, this was fun."

Johnny remembered the scrapbook again when he was getting changed, back into something more appropriate for the heat outside. It might be useful for Tanith. He pulled the bag out of his suitcase, and handed it to her as he came out of the locker room.

"What is this?"

"That thing Evan gave me. We’re done, by the way. Do you have time to get coffee or do you have to go back to work?" His sunglasses made it a little harder to read her expression, but he didn’t push them up on his head.

She peeked in between the pages, leaving the book still in the bag. "What—this looks like a scrapbook—"

"It is. Coffee? If not, I need to head back to work myself." He was already a morning behind, thanks to this, and Heather would have had to pick up the slack. He shuddered, thinking of her death glare.

"Yeah, coffee," Tanith said distractedly. "This is a scrapbook of your skating career, isn’t it."

People were starting to come in for the general skating and Johnny shifted his weight, trying not to fidget. "Only from 2004 onwards, but yeah. I thought you might find something useful in it."

"Where did Evan—" Tanith looked up, and then glanced around the lobby before shaking her head. "Okay, coffee. Let’s go. I have a rental, I’ll drop you off at work after."

He directed them to the Starbucks closest to Zac Posen, holding the door for her and following inside, trying not to focus on the bag dangling from her arm. She didn’t say anything about it until they were sitting down across from each other, by luck ending up with the armchairs, iced Americanos between them.

"Okay, so." She moved the coffee over a little, putting the book on top of the paper bag. "Evan gave you this."

Johnny nodded, picking up his drink, longing for his cigarettes. "Left it hanging on my apartment door."

She opened it to the first page, not replying for a moment as she scanned the article, then quickly flipping through the next few pages. Johnny saw himself, over and over, words and pictures, one sparkly onesie after another. He looked away, twisting to glance out the window. A woman was sitting at the table outside, cigarette dangling from her hand and he couldn’t stand it.

"I’ll be right back," he said, grabbing his purse as well as his coffee.

Johnny watched Tanith through the window, looking away the one time she looked up, smoking as slowly as he could manage. It was even hotter now, and he could feel the back of his shirt start to stick between his shoulder blades. Still. It was a different kind of hot inside.

Finally he couldn’t delay it any longer and he dropped his butt on the ground, kicking it into the gutter.

"This is amazing," Tanith said as soon as he sat down again, pulling his feet up. "Can I use this for the story?"

"You do whatever you want with it. I don’t want it." He didn’t mean to look at where she’d left it open, but it was too tempting. It was a picture of him, jumping, tucked up tight, a blur of sparkling pale blue.

"So, is this Evan’s scrapbook of Johnny Weir? How did you even find out?"

"Find out? I walked into his studio and it was lying open on the windowsill." He shuddered.

"Wait, you didn’t know about this before?" Tanith shook her head slowly, looking at the book, then up at Johnny. "Is that why you’ve cut him loose?"

"No, what are you talking about? Know about—"

"His ridiculous crush on you?"

"His what?" She looked genuinely surprised, but it felt like the floor had dropped out from under Johnny’s seat anyway.

"Oh my god, he didn’t tell you." She laughed, shaking her head. "He’s such an idiot sometimes."

"Okay, what the hell are you talking about," Johnny said, a little louder this time, trying to drown out the memory of Evan saying I was going to tell you. "Tanith, I swear to God, if you don’t—"

"Calm down, honey, shhh." She glanced over towards the rest of the coffee shop, but Johnny kept his eyes on her. "I’m just surprised, is all."

"What," he said, through gritted teeth.

"Evan was a total skating fanboy." She said it completely deadpan, absolutely serious. "When he found out I used to skate—we met at SVA, by the way, just like you two—he asked me about you."

The idea of Evan and Tanith discussing him was so bizarre Johnny was briefly speechless. "Wow. I don’t even know what to say."

"I thought for sure he would’ve said something. I mean, you disappeared pretty thoroughly from the media—" She paused, and Johnny could hear the and from all your friends unsaid. "It was a little creepy, but I don’t think he was actually stalking you or anything."

Johnny stared at the edge of the scrapbook, trying to imagine Evan, years ago, cutting out articles, saving them. Pasting them in a scrapbook. "Who even does that in this millennium?" he murmured, glancing up at Tanith, trying out a little smile.

She matched it, clearly trying to keep him from flipping out again. "I know, right?"

Johnny licked his lips, tasted the smoke there, and tried not to want another cigarette. "He was using it, though."

"Oh, yeah, I was going to ask. Why the hell would he have it out? I mean, why would he be looking at—"

"He was using it for a painting. Two paintings." He saw them again, half-him, half-bird. Evan knew all his programs. He knew what they meant, Johnny thought suddenly.

"He was painting you? What—why?" She looked at the book, then up at Johnny again. "I mean, why use these old pictures? Why not just ask you to sit for him? You’d have done it, wouldn’t you?"

"I guess he didn’t want me to know," Johnny replied, with none of the cool his haughty tone suggested. He curled his fingers over one knee, digging in. I was going to tell you.

Tanith put her fingertips on the edge of the book, her nails tapping on the blurred image of his skates. "What are you going to do about it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Are you going to call him?"

"Don’t start, Tan," he said, abruptly angry. "Stay out of it."

She held up her hands and leaned back, and for a moment he was frightened by his own response.

"Okay, Johnny. This is me, staying out of it."

*

Tanith took the book with her when she left, and Johnny went to work, where he stayed until the trains started running a restricted service. He was back at work early the next morning, but there was already a parcel on his desk when he got there.

The scrapbook.

Tanith had added her own Post-it on top of Evan’s: Thanks honey, this was useful. I’ll give you a call about next week. Tan xx. He dumped the whole thing—envelope, book and notes right into the garbage beside his desk, only to pull it out an hour later when he caught Heather glancing at it on her way back from the water cooler.

It ended up in the bottom drawer of his desk instead, where it stayed for the rest of the week. It was still there on Friday when he finally left to meet Paris at Vynl, two hours late.

"Ugh, god, I need a drink," he said as soon as he sat down across from Paris. "I was stuck on Reception all afternoon. I hate Heather."

"I ordered for you."

"What—" Johnny started, already annoyed.

"Kind of Blue. Your mom texted me and told me you might need cheering up." Paris tilted his head, biting down on the straw in his own drink.

Johnny glanced away, trying not to flush. "I was busy or I would have called you."

"Is this the skating thing? Because I’m hurt if—"

"It’s not about skating. I’m not even—" He sighed. "I—broke up—with Evan."

That made Paris sit up a little, which was a better indication he was surprised than the O he made of his mouth. "Patti knew before I did?"

"No, she doesn’t. I don’t think she does, anyway. Who the hell knows, she’s got spies everywhere." He huffed, propping his elbows up on the table between them, holding his head. He couldn’t even quite manage a smile even when their usual waiter brought over his drink. Paris noticed and shook his head.

"Wow, you really do need this drink, don’t you. What happened?" If Johnny couldn’t tell before that Paris was actually surprised, the lack of queeniness in his question would have given it away.

Johnny stirred his drink with the straw and took a sip. His whole body ached; still. Damn skating to hell. "Well—" he said, and told Paris everything.

"So, he painted you naked?"

Johnny saw his own bare shoulder, his collar bone, in his mind’s eye. "Well. Kind of.

"I don’t get it," Paris said, sitting back, slouching a little. "He wants your hot body and you’re mad?"

"It’s not just that—it’s not even really that he—"

"The scrapbook?" Paris interrupted. "Oh girl, who cares. So he thought you were hot when you skated. What’s the big deal?"

"I’m not that guy anymore," Johnny said, molars bitten together, frustrated. "Don’t you get it?"

"No," Paris said, blunt. "You were happy last time we had dinner and now you’re miserable, and the only reason is because you decided to freak out about him liking you."

Johnny opened his mouth to retort but Paris just held up one finger and shook his head once. He shut his mouth, belatedly hearing what Paris had said.

"You’ve been watching too much Oprah." He sounded petulant even to himself and Paris’s eye roll was about as much of a comeback as Johnny deserved.

"I’m right and you know it."

"Bitch."

"Takes one to know one."

Johnny blinked, then stuck out his tongue, immediately laughing at himself. "Oh my god, I’m such a pathetic princess."

Paris just sniffed. "You said it, girl."

*

Johnny had almost the same conversation with Patti that night, after he got home, lying across his bed, head propped up by his arm as he watched her in the Skype window. She stayed quiet as he spoke, just watching.

"Well, he should have told you that he was going to use you for his art, there’s no question that would have been just common courtesy," she said when he lapsed into silence.

"But?" Johnny prompted, tiredly.

"You know I love you, Johnny. I’ll always stand by you, you know that." She stopped and looked at him, direct, and he nodded, abruptly a little afraid of what she was going to say.

"I think you need a little dose of perspective here, a little honesty, if you will. What I’m seeing you doing here is something even worse than throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

She paused and Johnny tensed. He opened his mouth and she held her hand up, palm out. "No, I’m not done yet. You know I didn’t say anything when you decided to pull back entirely from skating last year. You said you knew what you were doing, you were going to deal with the consequences, and despite my misgivings, I let you go ahead and make that mistake."

She paused again and Johnny held his breath. "Everyone needs to make mistakes, that’s how you learn. I’m not going to keep my mouth shut this time, though. You haven’t learned, Johnny, and as your mother, it hurts to see you hurting."

"I’m sorry Mama—" he said, before he could help himself but she just kept talking.

"No, no, shush. Now’s not the time for apologies, just listen for a minute, okay?"

His throat was so tight he couldn’t trust it for words. He nodded instead, and kept watching, even as she glanced away, took a breath like she was bracing herself.

"I know you’ve been hurting, sweetheart, I know it hasn't been easy. Giving up something you loved to try to make a relationship work is—well. You know I stood by you when you made that decision, and I would do it again, because you were being true to yourself and your happiness."

"Mama," he said, unable to help himself. He was going to cry. God, when was the last time they’d tried to talk about this, really talk about what it had been like?

"Johnny," she said, in the exact same tone, and he clawed his way across the bed, grabbing for the box of tissues on the nightstand.

"Please stop—" he mumbled into his fist, tissues clutched tightly. It was that last shot of vodka, he thought. This wouldn’t be so hard, if he wasn’t that little bit drunk—

In Quarryville, Patti had her own tissues, and after she’d blown her nose, she coughed and shook her head. "No," she said, voice already almost back to normal. "I’m going to finish what I was saying, you need to hear this."

Johnny wiped at his cheek, and hiccupped once. She was blurry for a second, and he blinked, wiping at his cheek again.

"You decided to cut skating out of your life when things ended with Drew, and that—well, that was one decision, more than a year ago. But this—what you’re doing now, with Tanith, with Evan—well, it’s a new decision, and I have to tell you that I don’t think you’re doing the right thing at all."

"I—"

"You love skating, Johnny. Just because your relationship with Drew is over, doesn’t mean you have to give up skating forever, too."

Johnny sniffed wetly. "But Evan—"

She sighed, reached out for the screen before dropping her hand. "He sees you as you are now, Johnny, and as the person who made skating their full-time job up until two years ago."

"How do you know?"

Her expression softened and Johnny felt a fresh wave of tears threaten. "You told me, sweetheart."

He frowned, sniffling again, trying to figure out what she meant—and abruptly remembering calling her, after the weekend with Evan. It felt like it belonged to a different lifetime. How had they had so much to talk about?

"What happened to my son," Patti said, smiling just a little, wistful. "The one who said he’d never lie about who he was?"

"I’m not lying," he said, after a brief pause, but they both knew that in itself was untrue.

*

In practical terms, not much changed in Johnny’s life, post-epiphany. When Tanith interviewed him, asked him about skating, he was able to say, "No, I haven’t done much lately, but since you dragged me out on the ice, I can say that I think I’ll be doing more of it in the future."

Tanith laughed. "Does Jeremy Abbott need to worry about his national title?"

Johnny grinned, because it was easy, so much easier than he thought it could ever be. "I think I’ll stick to runways from now on, leave the ice for downtime."

Still, he couldn’t bring himself to call Evan. He looked at the scrapbook in his desk drawer, but closed it again.

Evan didn’t call either.

The last day of the internship, they all went out to a bar. Johnny brought his camera and made a point of matching Heather drink for drink. This meant that he was asleep in the corner of the bar by eight o’clock, and only woke up again an hour later, when Heather fell on him.

"I’m going to tell everyone you fell asleep," she yelled, over the sound of the DJ in the corner.

"I’m going to tell everyone your underwear is from Sears," he retorted, pointing to where her dress had ridden up over her hip.

Her shocked face sent him into hysterical giggles, but he was still sleepy, so after tequila shots at the bar, he made for the men’s room and left instead.

He dozed through the journey, waking up just in time to notice they were at Morgan Ave. The stairs seemed longer than usual, but maybe that was just him, taking them slower, gradually emerging into the mild evening. He yawned, glancing across the street, and—stopping.

Evan.

Coming from the studio, Johnny thought, the other direction. He looked at Johnny and Johnny looked back and thought, in a moment of clarity, in the eye of the storm, let him come, let it happen.

When Evan glanced both ways and stepped out across the street, Johnny didn’t move. He stood there, distantly aware it was strange that he was so calm, but between the tequila and the smell of someone else’s barbecue, Evan’s paint-covered shoes and the lemon-wedge sliver of the moon in the sky above them, he couldn’t get to worried.

"Hi," Evan said, before he even made it to the sidewalk. Like Johnny might not let him finish crossing.

"Hey. Nice night." He looked up and around them, the neighborhood strangely alive though there was only one other person coming out of the subway, heading east. Johnny’s gaze swung back around to Evan, who had his head tipped up, looking skywards.

"I guess so. Well, I hope you enjoy it." He was looking past Johnny now, shoulders up, awkward.

Johnny waved one hand, taking in Evan’s clothes, worn-in jeans, tshirt reading Neuqua Valley High School striped with paint, like Evan had wiped his hands down his sides, long tiger-stripes of ochre brown. "You’ve been working?"

Evan flinched, and Johnny blinked. "Sorry," he said, turning away. "I hope you have a good night."

"Wait—"

Evan looked over his shoulder, so tense. "What?"

"Everyone thinks I should give you another chance."

Evan didn’t move, so Johnny did, taking two steps to stand beside him, still in the middle of the strange calm. The night breathed around them; it didn’t look like Evan breathed at all.

"Evan." He wanted to reach out, to touch. The impulse surprised him enough that he didn’t.

"If you want to talk—can we not do it here?" Evan glanced around and the street was as empty as it had been a moment earlier. There would be another train, though, any minute, and people coming home.

"Yeah, okay. My place?"

There was a long pause before Evan nodded once, jerky. They didn’t speak, the whole walk back, or touch, but Johnny was still in that strange calm quiet place and it didn’t hurt. He was aware of Evan beside him, though, every sense attuned.

"Looks like Steve isn’t home. You’re coming inside, right?"

"You’re not going to try to kill me or something, are you?"

Johnny glanced at him, a little confused. "No?"

Evan laughed, so awkward. "No, of course, right, okay. Sure, why not?"

The calm lasted all the way through opening the door, making drinks and sitting down, Evan in the armchair, Johnny perched on the edge of the couch. He lit a cigarette, putting the pack down on the coffee table and nudging it gently towards Evan. Evan looked at it.

"So," Johnny said, on the exhale of his first drag. "Why are you painting me?"

Evan startled so badly he nearly dropped his drink. Then he looked at Johnny and all the calm abruptly vanished, someone killing the music and turning on the lights at two am in the bar. All the flaws made visible—the sticky floor, the scarred walls badly painted, the crushed cups, the broken glass. The vomit in the corner.

Johnny’s heart rate doubled, hand holding the cigarette trembling for a moment, before he could think steady.

"I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now," Evan said, voice pulled strange, thick then thin.

He took a quick drag of his cigarette, then reached for his drink. "Figured it out?" He glanced at Evan, who was holding his drink in both hands and staring at it.

"You’re not dumb," he said, almost mumbling now. "Don’t pretend—"

"I’m not—" Johnny said, a little too quick.

"Tanith told you before, anyway, didn’t she?"

Something to hold on to. Johnny took a quick drag, reaching across to push the cigarettes a little closer to Evan. He looked at the pack, and finally reached for them.

"She told me you had a crush on me, yeah," Johnny said, and Evan fumbled the cigarettes, pulling the lid open as he dropped the box. Three fell out and Johnny watched as Evan tried to pick them up one-handed, cursing under his breath.

"I’m sorry," Evan said at the cigarettes.

Johnny took another drag, trying to force the smoke down into the very bottom of his lungs. His chest was too tight, though, and he tried the drink instead, swallowing hard, as Evan managed to put all the cigarettes back into the pack, putting it back on the coffee table. He didn’t leave one out for himself, Johnny realized, just as Evan put his drink down, still untouched.

"I should go."

"No!"

Evan flinched. "I don’t get it. Why did you even—I gave you the book." He looked up. "What do you want me to say?"

"I want you to tell me," Johnny said, quickly, not sure of the words until they were out of his mouth. "Tell me why me."

Evan kept looking at him, then, a long drawn out moment without air. Even the smoke from Johnny’s cigarette hung motionless in the air, curling up over itself.

"Okay," he said, finally, and Johnny tried not to gasp, hiding it in the filter of his cigarette. "You want to know? It’s the lamest thing in the world. It’s because you were always so free."

"What?"

"Your—everything. Your skating, your interviews, you—you were always so—" Johnny couldn’t look away, not even when Evan lifted his head, met his eyes for a split second, one word. "Free."

Time stopped again and Johnny was trapped, speechless.

"I forgot, after you stopped skating. When I saw you again," Evan continued, mumbling again, his hands rubbing over his knees, curling and flattening. "I remembered."

Johnny looked away, overwhelmed. Looked towards the bedroom door, and abruptly thought of the book, there, under the bed again. "But why—skating?" Why not me, now, he thought, cheeks a little hot with the narcissism of the thought.

Evan shrugged, shoulders rolled forward now. "I don’t know. I just had this idea—you and—you always did bird themes."

"But I’m still free," he said, before he could stop himself.

Evan managed eye contact for a moment, then shrugged again. "I don’t know. Anyway. I should go. I’m sorry."

He started to stand, and Johnny did too, leaning over quickly to drop his cigarette in what was left of his drink. He took a step towards Evan, reaching out towards him when he tried to take a step back, knees hitting the back of the chair.

"But what about now?" he said, not quite making contact with Evan’s arm.

"What do you mean?"

Johnny made a frustrated noise, glancing towards the bedroom door again, gesturing with one hand. "You didn’t even know me then, not really. What about now? I’m not that person anymore—"

"Yes you are," Evan interrupted, and Johnny looked up at him, mouth still open.

"What—no, I’m not." Feathers, made out of patterns.

Evan shook his head and stepped forward. "I don’t know what you want me to say—"

"I’m—" Johnny interrupted and then stopped, toe to toe with Evan and the thought I am still that person, I am—I am still—. "Am I?"

Evan looked at him for a long moment, and Johnny held his breath. "I don’t know what you want me to say," he repeated. "I’m sorry. I just—wanted you." He swallowed. "Want you."

It wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t as perfect as Patti’s promise, but Johnny wanted to take it, so he did.

He reached up, both arms around Evan’s neck and kissed him, until Evan wasn’t surprised anymore, just kissing him back.

*

January 2009

The gallery was cool to the point that Johnny was glad he’d brought the mink and the fox stole.

"Ah ah, fingers off," he warned, smacking at Paris’s hand with his gloves.

"But if it’s in your pocket, you’re not even wearing it."

"That doesn’t make it yours for the taking, bitch, it’s Dior."

Paris hmmmed beside him and rewound his own scarf around his neck. "So, you’re going to stand here like some Russian mobster next to the wine and watch everyone look at paintings of you? Because you need sunglasses if you’re going to look properly menacing."

Johnny rolled his eyes and tried not to be too obvious in his scanning of the room to see if Evan was there. "You can barely even tell they’re me. I’m here to support my boyfriend, thank you. Just because you’re jealous doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch about it."

"Oh, there’s Tanith. Are we talking to her this week, or—"

"She took back that thing she said about leopard print, I have it Tivo’d."

"Oh, good, I’m going over there, then. I have opinions on the dress she’s wearing. Are you coming?"

Ah, there. He could see Evan with the gallery owner, in front of one of the most recent paintings, one Johnny hadn’t even seen properly before an hour ago. "I’ll join you in a minute, you go ahead." He raised his glass a fraction, and Evan glanced over, like he’d been waiting for a signal, just as the gallery owner turned away, attention caught by someone else.

His wave was the opposite of subtle, small though it was, but Johnny just smiled and blew him a kiss. It made Evan duck his head a little, and glance around to see if anyone had noticed, before curling his fingers, beckoning.

"You look great," Evan said, before Johnny had even made it all the way across the room. It allowed him to strut the last few steps, throwing his hips forward, coat swirling obligingly around his knees.

"Why, thank you." He kissed Evan, once on each cheek, then on the mouth. "So do you."

Evan glanced down at himself—entire outfit picked by Johnny—then looked back up at the wall, distracted. "You didn’t see this one finished, did you? Michael was just saying that he’s got a buyer for this one—"

"I like it," Johnny said, interrupting to stop Evan from going off into an anxious spiral. He leaned in a little for a better look at the brushstrokes that made up his nipple. Then he leaned back to take in the other half—and he’d need to read the caption to see what bird Evan had used.

"Does that mean you want me to—keep it?"

Johnny looked at Evan, shrugged one shoulder. "It’s up to you, it’s your work. Do you want to?" He looked back at the painting, tilting his head. He’d need to stand back, to see what the three of them looked like together.

"No," Evan said, finally. "I don’t think I need to. I’ve got the real thing."

Johnny smiled, reaching out for Evan, pulling him close enough to kiss. "Aw, that’s sweet," he said, deliberately flippant. His tone did nothing to diminish the feeling of warmth, though—which, incidentally, had nothing to do with the fur.

Date: 2010-08-25 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jackycomelately.livejournal.com
This is an awesome AU. I love that they have the same history without having shared emotional baggage. Terrific outsider perspective of Evan. Really enjoyed it.

Date: 2010-08-25 09:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, I'm so glad it worked for you! :D I love that they have the same history without having shared emotional baggage. Do you know, it never even occurred to me that that was what I was doing. Amazing!

♥!
Edited Date: 2010-08-25 09:36 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-25 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vickyducky.livejournal.com
I don't often read au's, but something about this pulled me in, and I'm so glad that it did, this is amazing. You made them such real people and the gradual way Johnny's back story was revealed was so well done. I've stayed up way too late to finish this, but it was such a pleasure to read, thank you.

Date: 2010-08-25 09:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Best compliment ever, when people stay up to read because they don't want to stop. \o/

Thanks so much for reading, and for letting me know you enjoyed it!

Date: 2010-08-25 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sandwich-armada.livejournal.com
I feel the same way about this fic now that I did when I was one-and-a-half parts through it, and I flailed and capslocked this very run-on sentence at you in real life: OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD IT IS WONDERFUL I WANT TO MARRY YOUR BRAIN. OH WAIT.

I want your Johnny to come be my friend and hang out with me always. If I c&p'd my favourite lines, I'd be here all night maxing out this comment. Seriously. You are just. so. good.

*keeps you* ♥

Date: 2010-08-26 08:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Thank you thank you darling.

*millions of kisses*

Date: 2010-08-26 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hildigunnur.livejournal.com
I really liked this. I liked how you build the story and I particularly loved the way you wrote Johnny's and Evan's first hook-up. Also loved how "visual" the story was in a lovely effortless way. Great characterization as well.

Date: 2010-08-26 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I struggled a little bit with characterization in the wake of Twittergate, but this Evan has a totally different history and that made it easier to write someone who I didn't want to punch in the face. *g*

♥!

Date: 2010-08-26 07:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] extemporally.livejournal.com
I enjoyed this lots, bb! I love fork in the road AUs, and I liked that you explored the consequences of Johnny leaving skating and how he couldn't quite let that go. Also there's a very detailed sense of place and I love fics which incorporate that.

Date: 2010-08-26 08:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
I think it's interesting to imagine different ways for that relationship to have ended - and also I just wanted to write Evan as an artist, because I think he would've turned out so differently.

Hahah you can blame [livejournal.com profile] yeats for the sense of place! Without her, it would never have had a chance.

♥!

Date: 2010-08-27 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kat-nic.livejournal.com
You realize you are an amazing, technically skilled writer, right? God, this didn't even read like fic; I got so lost in the story I forgot it was about real people. I love all the little details you added in, like with Johnny and Patti talking on the phone, and him hearing the sound of her cigarrette lighter. And the way you wove together the first sex scene with the painting session; too many times (in published writing, no less) people try to do that back and forth time lapse thing, and it feels jerky, but you did it seemlessly, and I am just very, very glad I clicked, because I'm not normally into fic at all, just sometimes curiosity gets the best of me. Most of the time it's crap and I suffer from severe second hand embarrassment, so I usually don't make it past the first few lines. And I ended up reading this all in one sitting, no less. :D

Date: 2010-08-30 07:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you! I'm really glad you feel that clicking rewarded you with an engaging and interesting story. As with most people, I do try v hard to get the right sentiments across with the ideas, and to do it in such a way as to engage with the reader, to make them give a shit about the world I've created. I'm so glad that it worked for you.

Thank you!

Date: 2010-08-27 08:27 am (UTC)
sandrine: (Evan/Johnny)
From: [personal profile] sandrine
I don't generally like AUs as a concept, but I really enjoyed this story. It was hot and sweet and very awesome. Thanks for sharing! ♥

Date: 2010-08-30 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Thanks so much for letting me know you liked it! I'm glad you gave it a chance and feel like it was a good choice.

♥!

Date: 2010-08-28 04:52 am (UTC)
ext_32173: (Johnny - eyes closed (NY))
From: [identity profile] katienyc.livejournal.com
ugggghhh, this is so amazing, I want to read it forever. I love everything - how it looked at what could've happened with Evan and Johnny if things had gone a little differently, and how nyc was practically a character, and how Paris and Patti were completely awesome. Just EVERYTHING.

Date: 2010-08-29 04:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
YAAAAAAAAAY thank you! I had such a good time being 'in' New York while I was writing this, I'm so glad it comes across in the text. Can you IMAGINE how less neurotic Evan might have been, had he gone to art school instead of carrying on with skating?! I mean, srsly!

Thank you so much, darling, for the lovely lovely comment.

Date: 2010-08-29 12:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anitac588.livejournal.com
This was a lovely AU. Evan/Johnny are my OTP in FS slash, this was nice.

Date: 2010-08-29 03:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miznarrator.livejournal.com
Thank you! It can be hard when he's such a dick irl to write him getting together with Johnny in a non hatesex kind of way. Thank goodness for AUs!

♥!

Date: 2010-09-01 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tagalongcookies.livejournal.com
You really took this in a very interesting direction and I love the characterizations of Evan and Johnny and how they seemed so natural together even when it was awkward (I love awkward!Evan) and there were misunderstanding and all of that. You used Paris and Patti and Tanith really well too. This was just so well done and well crafted, I really enjoyed it :)

Date: 2010-09-03 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/maybelater__/
I forgot to comment on this when I first read it! I really liked a lot of aspects of this, like the descriptions of the art and the sense of place and Johnny's characterization and all the secondary characters. :)

Date: 2010-09-10 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/maybelater__/
PS - I just downloaded the playlist too and I really like it :)

Date: 2010-09-11 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] burkesl17.livejournal.com
That was a really good AU. I loved the development of their relationship and the way the story developed overall was great. Awesome fic!

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