“I think sex is art. How could it not be?” Basil stared down at the trembling liquid in his teacup. Pinkie always slammed the table as he spoke, as if he could only signify the power behind his words by actually making things shake.
Tea Houses were going out of fashion. Still, it didn’t prevent the sneers or disgusted snorts that came after Pinkie’s vulgar announcement.
“I’m not disagreeing with you.” Basil stirred more honey into his tea. “I’m just sure Gill will agree to a live performance.”
Pinkie shook his head, wagging his finger in the air. “The problem here is dear Gilverd thinks the only way to achieve intimacy is alone in your apartment and not in front of people craving to paint real passion.”
Rolling his eyes, Basil took a long sip. The waitress approached with his cake, and Basil scooted Pinkie’s books and papers out of the way. His old friend was on the verge of an artistic discovery, or so he claimed. He was writing a new show after a long break from the theatre.
“Do try not to call him that to his face.” Gill hated his full name, and he hated it even more so when Pinkie wrapped his lips around it.
“It’s a lovely name.” Pinkie patted the table. The cake was placed between them. A chunky slice of vanilla and strawberry buttercream. Basil was nothing if someone who didn’t appreciate simplicity when it came to sweets. Gill was a far better baker anyway.
Basil stuck his fork into the cake first. “Tell me more about your show.”
Pinkie flicked his wrist dismissively. “Drivel. An agonizing tale of the woes of a prince stuck between duty and love. Why won’t you consider my offer?”
Why not, indeed? Maybe because it involved Basil getting fucked in front of an audience. He shuddered at the thought. Not of being watched, but because the people watching would also be attempting to paint them. The last thing Basil needed was a painting immortalizing the way his eyelids flickered somewhere between open and closed, mouth forming an ‘o’, hands clawing at Gill’s back. No. He could certainly live without that hanging in someone’s house somewhere.
“Why don’t you ask Gill?” He stuffed cake into his mouth, moaning as his tongue rolled over the velvety texture and soft cream.
Pinkie leaned closer. Basil settled back into the forth. Often, Pinkie thought he was lowering his voice but he just managed to scream louder. “I think your husband is ashamed of his body.”
“No?” Basil widened his eyes as he gasped. He took another bit of cake.
Pinkie nodded, biting his lip. “That’s why you need to ask. When I asked him to pose nude for my last project he hung up on me.”
“I’m sure that has nothing to do with simply not wanting to be nude around you.”
Pinkie’s face screwed up in confusion. The thought never crossed his mind. “Nonsense.”
“Well, believe me when I tell you Gill has nothing to be ashamed of.”
Pinkie snorted, hints of red dusting his cheeks.
Teacups empty, cake gone, Basil said his goodbyes before shrugging on his coat and wrapping his scarf around until it brushed the bottom of his nose. He stepped out into the sprawling city, fingers already numb from the cold.
He loved winter. Loved his weekly meetups with Pinkie. Winter felt new and ages old all at once. The roofs covered with thick mounds of snow, sky grey, streets full of dirty slush. Each year the city council came up with new ways to get rid of all the snow and every year nature proved it could outsmart people.
The season was the busiest around the shop. People got sick, sought out herbal remedies for the added sense of comfort instead of the highly impersonal atmosphere of the newer clinics. And the season seemed to spur something in Pinkie. Their meetups consisted less of talking about the old days and what happened to their dreams, and instead became a time for him to bounce his ideas off of Basil. Not that he ever listened to his suggestions.
And this year it came with a new dread. It coiled and wriggled in the pit of his stomach like a hungry snake.
Basil was turning thirty that year.
He kicked the slush and snow off his boots before entering the shop. Gill had already closed for the day. The shelves and overgrown plants looked all the more haunting in the dark. Basil hopped up the stairs to their apartment.
He threw open the door. “I’m back!”
“Welcome back, Mr. Duran,” Gill said from another room. He could hardly hear him over the sound of the oven.
Basil left his coat and scarf on the hat rack. He passed through the kitchen first to turn off the oven. If he was right, Gill baked a roast that night and he definitely put it in so it would be done right when Basil was due to come home. Gill certainly liked life to revolve around a schedule.
“What have you been up to, Mr. Duran?” Basil called. He slipped his hands into Gill’s oven mitts. They were big on him. He removed the roast and left it on the counter beside the already prepared side dishes.
“Paying bills, Mr. Duran.”
He came to stand in the doorway of their small living room. It could hardly be called that. Just large enough to fit their couch and an end table to rest their radio. He found Gill sitting on the ratty couch, so old the cushions had permanent outlines of all the butts that sank into it. One hand brushed through his hair, the other hovering over the papers he had spread out on his lap.
“How much do we owe?”
“Oh. Fuck.” Basil slinked over to the couch. He threw his arms around Gill’s shoulders as he sat down. He leaned his head against his.
“A lot, a lot? Or just–”
Gill turned to plant a kiss on his forehead. “I don’t want you to worry about it. We won’t drown.”
Telling him not to worry about it was something Gill always did when Basil had every right to worry. He knew how things were. The city was moving on. The world was moving on. Elven anything didn’t hold the same weight as it used to. Herbal medicine especially was being pushed out by more modern methods.
“I can see if I can sell another painting or get one of those jobs.” He shuddered at the last word. Gill cracked a smile.
“You? Working? I promised I would never hurt you.”
Basil kicked his leg up in the air, stroking the length from his ankle down to his thigh.
“I can go back into acting,” he said with a dramatic shake of his head.
Gill raised an eyebrow. “We’ll be bankrupt within the week.” Another kiss on his forehead. Gill brushed the bills out of the way and pulled Basil into his lap. “Tell me about your day.”
Basil crossed his legs. He tightened his hold around Gill’s shoulders. Gill’s hand cradled his waist, thumb rubbing circles on the exposed strip of skin where his shirt pulled itself out of his pants.
Closing his eyes, he sighed. Gill smelled like cinnamon and old wood. He felt warm. His ears filled with the subtle drumbeat of his heart. Even the slight brush of the pad of his thumb on his skin made him shiver. No one else could touch him like Gill. It would never feel the same.
“Went shopping with Pinkie–”
Gill groaned at the mere mention of his name. Basil snorted in laughter.
“–you know he’s writing another play? He was asked to, even. Getting a nice check to write one of his masterpieces.”
Gill shook his head. He squeezed Basil’s waist. “Poor bastards.”
“Anyway, I didn’t buy anything. I just watched him try on gloves. Then, we went to Cozy’s for cake and tea.”
“Mm. Did you save any for me?”
“No, but I might still have some sugar on my lips.”
“That’s what I asked.”
Gill grasped his chin with his other hand and tilted him towards him. Their lips met and Basil melted into him. He shifted in Gill’s lap to bring himself closer, straddling him as their mouths moved together.
Yes. He agreed. It was all art. Could a painter match the curve of his back as Gill’s hands pressed into him? He imagined a paintbrush caressing a canvas the same way his fingers did the shape of Gill’s jaw. Perhaps a part of him would like a frozen still of the moment Gill’s hands laced in his hair and pulled back, his neck craning and teeth sinking into his flesh. But what could represent the sound that escaped his lips? Halfway between a moan and strangled cry.
No, it could only capture the look in his eyes when Gill laid him down on the couch, the hazy look of awe as Gill removed his apron and unbuttoned his shirt. Nothing he hadn’t seen before but so beautiful every time he got to see it. Paint wouldn’t capture his trembling fingers as they trailed down Gill’s chest, remapping every inch of his body as if he was afraid he would never be able to touch him again.
Gill’s mouth on his. Their hands in each other’s hair. Gill’s lips wrapped so tightly around his cock and teeth just barely grazing a vein that his eyelids flickered and his fingers gripped the couch so hard he was sure his fingers would break through the scratchy fabric.
Even when it was over, Basil laid on his chest, curling a finger around an especially long strand of curly chest hair.
“Do you really not want me to worry?” He spoke directly into Gill’s chest, and he knew his breaths tickled him by the hitches in his breathing as he held back laughter.
Gill ran his fingers through Basil’s hair. “We’ll be fine. If it gets really bad…” Basil didn’t need to look up to know he was pursing his lips, eyebrows scrunching together in thought.
He patted his chest. They had options. Basil’s parents had a lot of oversized, a bit too whimsical children on their hands, but they’d be more than willing to help. And Basil supposed he could find a job, or try to sell more paintings.
Gill buried his face in Basil’s hair. He inhaled deeply. “I love you, Mr. Duran,” he mumbled.
Basil snuggled into his chest. “And I love you, Mr. Duran.”
Psst this is the end. Like what I do? Help a brother out