|MJ's a little (flirty) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2013-05-24 02:07:00
|Entry tags:||cheshire cat, loki|
Lin had gone on what could be construed as blind dates before. A good number of them, in fact. He had met many a stranger in many a stranger’s home, to be sure. (Did that count?) He’d even done so with his copy of Titanic in hand, as he was now, with it tucked against his side as he jogged up a flight of stairs and squinted at the number scribbled on his right palm. He never really considered them blind dates, but they could be construed in such a way by the right mind. He had not, however, at least to his recent knowledge, gone on an arranged playdate. It was kind of exciting.
Louis he didn’t know. Not really. He didn’t know what he looked like and he didn’t know anything about him besides the little information offered by Sam, which was ...uh, a little less than generous. (She’d called Louis seriously pathetic, with no friends he didn’t share a surname or DNA with, and also specified he was mega-gay, whatever that meant. (Was he a unicorn?)) But, their few brief encounters on the comms gave Lin hope. The man was willing to endure Titanic, wasn’t he? And he seemed receptive to the idea of a glitter maelstrom, so that was something. It put him several heads above grumps like Daniel, anyway.
Though he’d teased Sam and Louis both about potench arriving in a transparent raincoat and/or bell bottoms and body glitter, Lin actually opted for something a little more traditional, a little more palatable for first meetings: a light blue, crew neck t-shirt and washed out tannish sort of jeans, and some—okay, the shoes were ultraviolet pink, but he couldn’t tone it all the way down. If he wasn’t going to wear a shirt with a spaceship on it, he was at least going to don cool kicks that could potentially blind.
Lin counted the doors as he strolled the hallway, until he came to the apartment number Louis had given him. Humming a little snatch of Janelle Monae, he leaned forward on the toes of his shoes and knocked, in time with his hushed song. And rather unlike his most recent encounters with doors of men he knew through journals and Sam, the boy was not the least bit nervous.
Louis had been expecting Lin, so the door opened fairly quickly, and he gave the new arrival a brief once over before sliding back to allow him entry. "Hello," he said, with a small smile. "Come in."
Louis had been sitting at the table working while he waited, and there were a few files arranged across it, one left open to a few glossy pictures of someone striding across a street. Louis was dressed the way he nearly always was - a simple buttoned-down shirt and slacks, blue in the shirt and black in the pants. He wore white socks for wandering around the apartment, and the apartment itself was clean and well-organized. He wasn't quite a neat freak, but things being in their place made him feel better on days when nothing else seemed to be in his control.
The apartment was decked out mostly with antiques and flea market acquisitions, an emphasis on good materials and warm colors. He'd wanted the apartment to feel a little like a library, or like a library room in an old manor house, anyway. There was one fairly well stocked bookshelf, and a decently sized television, and a couch. The expense of the furnishings and apartment definitely extended beyond the reach of even a very well paid private detective, which he was. It had been one of his only concessions to his parents. Generally, he refused their money, particularly since he'd uncovered their lies about his origins, but he had access to a trust fund he almost never used, and when his journey through the states had settled him in Las Vegas, he had decided to leverage it, this once, so that at least the place he lived would make him happy.
Louis had a mess of blonde curls but they were relatively well-tamed, something he'd only really gotten into the habit of doing recently, and they looked more dirty than blonde that way, more like Sam than like any of his adoptive siblings. The resemblance in the cheekbones was obvious, but Louis' eyes were slate gray, his nose a little long, his edges careworn with stress and running exhaustion. He was in good spirits today, though. He'd been looking forward to this very strange 'play date', or whatever it was, even though he could tell Sam had to have driven it to a degree. Lin seemed like an interesting person, and he was funny, and it would be nice to spend time with someone who didn't actually know all the ins and outs of what his life in Vegas had been like. Hopefully.
"I hope you brought Titanic," he said, with utmost gravity. "Because I bought wine to make sure maximum tearing of eyes at the love story is achieved. I heard that the boat sinks, you see, I assume that dampens the relationship at the center of the piece."
The man behind the door was thin and tall, blond-haired, fair-skinned, with hints of Sam about the face (weird), pleasantly accented, and, yeah, okay, like, really tall. Dude had nearly half a foot on Lin at least. Lin’s eyes blinked at Louis’ chest a moment, taking in the blue of his shirt, before drawing upward to meet the man’s steely-soft gaze and the downed curls. Pretty. The boy grinned immediately, brightly and without reservation, not one littered scrap of shyness lingering on his face or in his mannerisms. Janelle Monae was gone from his mind. There was nothing much worn about Lin. He was all sharp angles, black and white, hard lines on a short frame, moving a million miles a stretch. The stately, fair-complected man who seemed more than a little tired and the energetic kid, only in shades of brown and black with white in his eyes and smiles—well, they made quite a pair, didn’t they?
"Spice World, actually," lied Lin without a thought, waving the DVD too quickly for it to be inspected. It was safely tucked away again then. The boy didn’t think to wait until he was allowed in. He moved forward and inside the apartment, slowing only to consider his new surroundings. Narrow, generic hallway walls gave way to a wide, open room, done up like a law book kept in an 18th century library—browns, greens, neutral colors, nothing loud, classy, but ...handled; it wasn’t impersonal like the sad teal-and-black furniture of the Dom. There was a heavily-laden bookshelf, a worn, but nice—the emphatic kind of nice that bespoke money—couch, a rough table piled folders and loose paper, and a kitchen tucked into the corner, but without walls of its own.
The boy in the t-shirt wandered in with curious eyes, not bothering to be covert in his scrutinizing, before turning once near the couch. He was glad to find the room a bearable temperature. He held out Titanic to Louis, then frowned.
"Shit, who told you the ending? No one said anything about Dumbledore dying, did they? It doesn’t matter." Lin flicked his hand dismissively, to let the man know all was well. "The wine will help."
"I haven't the slightest idea what that is," Louis rejoined with that same small smile, watching Lin observe the apartment and feeling the slightest pang of anxiety, realization hitting that someone was here, in his apartment, and how long had it been since that last happened? Since Joseph. What did the apartment say, to Lin? What did he think of it, and how did it reflect on Louis? "I know it's not very modern, or anything," he said, feeling obliged to apologize for himself, per usual. "I'm not much of an interior designer when left to my own devices." On closer inspection, the way Louis held himself tended to be with an air of apology. Whatever else, he tended to feel badly for people trapped in his company.
Louis accepted the DVD and walked over to the kitchen, opening one of the lower cabinets and pulling out the bottle of wine. "I believe...everyone," he answered. "In the entire world. They told me. Dumbledore is from Harry Potter, isn't he?" He was sort of proud of himself for knowing that one, and he pulled one of the drawers open to fetch the corkscrew, and set the DVD down on the counter.
The anxiety, while Lin would have been sympathetic toward it, was unfounded and unnecessary. Although the black-haired boy in the blue shirt was fond of drawing conclusions and making connections, putting puzzle pieces together before he even got a chance to see the picture on the box, he was surprisingly non-judgemental. It was all mostly a reflex. He just liked to know, and knowing asked for seeing and seeing meant treading out into the middle of a stranger’s living room and raking it all in, man included, unscrupulously. So that’s what he did. Shame had always been lost on him, anyway.
The apartment told Lin a great many things, dark woods raised like braille and exposed brick the tick, tick of Morse code—little messages felt and heard, regardless of whether they were true or false—it said something about a man living alone, a man who cared about the space he lived in, who bought old things instead of new, though he certainly had the means to do otherwise, it whispered something about façades, because the old things were sturdy and dark-colored in an open space, worn, soft on hard legs. Louis himself was tall, tall, tall, but held so close, like the curve of an end parenthesis. Sorry, he said. The cut manila folders indicated business, the taxed bookshelf a lively mind, and, thank sweet baby Jesus, the TV meant Louis D. wasn’t cut off from the rest of the world in some stupid attempt to resurrect the Dark Ages as a way to, whatever, match his surroundings to his extremely blackened, bitter soul or whatever the fuck bullshit. Lin brushed off the apology with the lifted corners of his mouth as he smiled, relinquishing the DVD.
Trailing his host to the kitchen-area, the boy leaned against the counter nearby with his elbows, spine edged by granite, and laughed. His gaze tripped from the wine to the curls on Louis’ head.
"The whole world? Damn. It’s a small world after all. That must’ve been some fucking memo." Lin amused himself. He rolled his head on his narrow shoulder to look at Louis as the man dug out a corkscrew. The Harry Potter question (answer?) only earned him a slow blink of apparent disappointment, but then Lin was smiling again. He peered intently, puckishly at his arranged friend. "Yes. He’s the mega-gay one."
The boy pushed himself off the counter then and pulled the DVD case back over to himself to fiddle with it, his back now to Louis. Lin’s mind briefly wandered to his own confession of giving Sam the money for the drug(...s?) and he frowned a little. But, whatever. He was here for Titanic and lulz, not for apologies and not to remember how stupid he was.
Louis fetched a pair of wine glasses, and poured out for Lin, sliding the glass down the counter toward him. "That narrows things not at all," he said cheerily, and poured one out for himself. He leaned against the counter. "I'm sorry there's no food," he added. "But if you're hungry, I think there's a thing or two in the fridge."
Hosting duties cared for, he took a longer look at Lin, who had the kind of below the surface energy and intensity he might have expected from their conversations on the journals. He had the hard-edged, wiry verve of someone who never got tired of anything, which was novel, and sort of fascinating. Louis circled around until he was actually within his line of sight again, because that seemed like the thing to do, and wondered. Would Lin be here if Sam hadn't talked him up somehow? He hoped so. Louis was hardly excellent at conversation in his best moments - feeling as if Lin had been shoved over here by Sam wasn't going to help anyone. He didn't get that sense, though, thankfully for everyone. He did, however, mark the little frown on his face. "What is it?" he asked. "I hope I haven't already done something socially horrifying. You don't strike me as the frowning type." It was said with the light self-deprecation of someone who felt it in a way much more deeply than was spelled on the surface. He took a sip of his wine, and waited for his explanation, unconsciously leaning a little over the counter to meet him better eye to eye.
In truth, Lin was not a wine drinker. He liked beer. He liked tequila. He liked vodka sometimes, in small, medicinal doses. He could even occasionally enjoy whiskey, academically. But wine—well, wine tasted fermented and bitter, like heady, briny things, anaerobic and noxious (the way cheese did, but, you know, that was coagulation of casein, rather than sugars being converted into ethanol and CO2). Which reminded him of vinegar (see: Lin’s feelings on pickles and cabbage). Which he couldn’t stand. He was one of those people with an extremely sensitive sense of taste, and if that shit—vinegar, I mean—was in a dish, even if only as a drop to add "flavor," he could taste it, like the princess and the pea, but if the story was about tasting things like peas, rather than feeling things ...like peas. Whatever. Anyway, he decided to try it. Normally, he would have happily informed his host that wine tasted like sweaty, fermented balls, but, well, he was inclined to give the shit a chance for whatever reason.
"I had my cookies and juice before coming over," the boy quipped merrily, a swift, oblique reference to Louis’ own words on the comms. The thin stem of the glass felt fragile in his hands, and Lin considered how easy it would be to snap it in two, like one would an icicle hanging from the gutter (before, obviously, throwing it like a javelin and pretending to be in the 1936 Olympics, even though there was no javelin throwing that year (imagination was wonderful)). But his musings were stopped short and his dark eyes lifted from the glass to the man nearby. Lin’s response was quick. He didn’t want to bring up the time he sort of sent someone trying to get clean into a downward spiral on accident. He wanted to shake that apologetic parenthesis into something surer, maybe a bracket or a Sheffer stroke. "You haven’t and I’m not. I’m just, you know, practicing for when Jack dies." A sharp pause, realization, a grin. "—I mean, when Dumbledore dies. Leo lives on."
Lin braved a sip of wine, but his distaste was obvious. He shook his head at Louis.
"I probably should have mentioned that I only drink wine from the Areni-1 winery," he said seriously, only beginning to touch the tip of the (ha) iceberg of his general predilection for offhand, bizarre facts. "If it’s not upwards of 6,000 years old, I don’t want it. Same goes for my men."
"Practice frowning," Louis intoned, and made a face. "The things you learn when you meet a hipster face to face." He watched Lin sip the wine and raised a brow. He listened to his explanation, and the expression fell. "Ah. I see." He paused. "I think there's some beer in the fridge?" Who knew how old it was, though - was it the stuff he'd purchased when Joseph had come to visit? Oh god, a literal artifact of his last failed social outing, that couldn't bode well. Best not to bring up the provenance. "If you like men 6,000 years and up, I imagine your dating pool must be rather small," he added, attempting to recover from his misstep with grace, which he was fairly sure was what you were supposed to do - step around your mistakes instead of wallowing in them and feeling mortified, which is what he likely would have done once upon a time. He couldn't have possibly known Lin's tastes in advance, he reminded himself, and then his self-conscious, needling anxiety reminded him he could have asked, and avoided this. Christ, it was just wine.
Louis huffed a faint sigh at the generally pathetic bent of his thoughts and gently plucked the glass of wine away from Lin, setting it beside the sink. "I shouldn't have assumed others share my taste in non-ancient wines," he added, with a faint smile. "My mistake."
"Geek." Lin corrected with a lofty hoisting of his eyebrows, though his smile remained amused. He clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. It was with a shake of the head that he withdrew a streamer of white wax paper from his back pocket. It was wadded and folded into the size and shape of your average wallet, 3.5" x 5.5", and indeed, Lin had had to swap out his actual wallet for it. (Sacrifices had to be made.) It was a collection of stickers. Because what adult didn’t have his or her own collection of stickers, gathered over years of visits to the dentist and trips to the local craft store? And because Lin Alesi didn’t lie about motherfucking stickers. He said he’d bring them, and so he did. Reed thin brown fingers poked through leaves of hard-edged white, until the boy found what he was looking for. "I’m sorry to have to do this, but you said you wouldn’t forget and you forgot."
Sonic the Hedgehog blue, it was a simple circle with two eyes and a frown. Lin’s brown-black eyes, alight with their usual impishness, flicked up to Louis’. With a smug smile, the boy pressed the frowny face to his new friend’s chest, one finger covering the sticker in its entirety until he was sure it’d stay. No telepathy was required to read the thoughts that flitted through Louis’ mind. Lin could see the worry tugging at the corners of the man’s mouth, in the parenthetical curve of his spine as it threatened to curl in on itself. He heard the sigh and saw how lightly the smile was traced over his fine features, and he felt bad. He patted Louis’ chest, palm over the frowny face, and smiled.
“I’ll forgive you this once for not immediately surmising and accommodating my beverage proclivities, because it’s obviously your fault.” Lin stepped back a little, belatedly realizing he was crowding Louis’ Scottish(?) bubble of anxious personal space. He replaced the stickers in his back pocket then and left the man in the kitchen to settle himself on the brown sofa. He rested his head on the back cushion more out of habit than anything and sank. Sitting up like an adult was beyond the boy. “But only if you stop worrying that I’m going to run out on you or whatever it is you seem anxious about. You’re stuck with me until the movie is over at least. No one gets off that easily.”
Lin offered his most charming smile to his host.
Louis, for whatever reason, hadn't actually expected Lin to follow through on his sticker promise, but now he could see that he had underestimated him. Before he knew it, the frowny face was pinned to his chest with a firm press of fingers and adhesive, and he felt a vague slice of apprehensive pleasure at the brief, silly contact. He pulled out his shirt a little so that he could better see the sticker. "He seems very positive," Louis observed, looking up with a smile that was more genuine, less worried. "Upside-down, at least. I like it. Thank you."
Lin's gentle admonishment drew a short, awkward laugh. He was right. Louis was being ridiculous. He was a little regretful when Lin pulled back, but then it was only a matter of following him over to the couch. He picked up his wine along the way, and the DVD.
When Lin spoke again, Louis was around the back of the couch, and he slowed in his approach. That was exactly what he was worried about. He was less than confident at the best of times, and though he'd been getting better lately, he couldn't help but think of the times he'd been run out on in just the past few months. It was enough to make anyone skittish, and he'd been well beyond that to begin with. "I should have given you more credit," he said, and while it was a joke of a kind, there was a warmth of relief in it, that Lin had managed to clear the air without making Louis feel like too much of an embarrassment to himself. He set the glass of wine down on the coffee table amongst the scattered files and putting the DVD into the player. Then he shuffled the files that remained back into their folders and set them aside, safely out of range of a spill, and sat down on the couch. It was big enough for two people but that was about it - it wasn't as if Louis entertained on a regular basis, if that wasn't obvious already. He looked over at Lin and that winning smile, and asked, a little amused again, "Does that usually win you a lot of favors, that smile?"
Louis’ ‘thank you’ received a laugh, a ‘you’re welcome,’ and some offhand comment about perspective from the boy on the couch. He didn’t think the man was being ridiculous per se, he just didn’t want him worrying about something that wasn’t wont to happen. It was a waste of mental energy that could be applied elsewhere—like to mourning the fictional loss of Jack later on. Lin simply would not—and did not—leave before his welcome had been absolutely and utterly exhausted, then roused one last time, jump started with black and red alligator clips, and killed off violently. He needed a boot to the ass nine times out of ten when paying a visit. It was either a serious character flaw or a confusing, semi-useless virtue, depending on the day and the host. Today, it was a good thing, he thought, because apparently Louis needed reminding that people didn’t mind hanging around him, that it didn’t necessarily take a sense of familial duty or arranged friendship to leverage them and keep them past the stroke of midnight or whatever.
The previews played and the man tidied up. Lin observed from the sofa. His feet dangled to the floor and he considered peeling his shoes off, but decided he would wait. When Louis finally sat, the menu was up on the screen and the title music played gently.—Honestly, Lin couldn’t say what it was about the stupid movie that he liked so much. It was probably nostalgia at this point, but fuck if he didn’t feel like crying every time that fucking flute crescendoed. The movie would start playing by itself in thirty seconds.
“It’s not the smile so much as the deadly, glamorous combination of the smile with my extremely palatable personality that is not at all abrasive, enviable wit, eminent intellect, and my obviously rad bod.” Lin grinned. It was mostly a joke. (Not about being hella smart and fine though.) He was nearer to Louis now, on the loveseat. The sticker frowned out at the room at large and the boy, with his head still back against the couch’s spine, bit his bottom lip as was his habit. His left foot jiggled thoughtlessly. He scooched—only a touch, just a touch—closer to his host, sideways on the brown cushions. He wasn’t aiming for anything. He just liked to sit close. It helped keep him warm and it was friendlier that way. They weren’t quite shoulder to shoulder, but it was close enough. “But, yes, I suppose it does.”
Lin’s volume dropped off at the end as the movie started up and immediately, he turned to the glowing screen, like the obedient, television-raised child of the ‘90s he was.
"Not that you would brag," Louis pointed out, smile widening a touch. "I'm sure this is all based on hard data of some kind. Polls amongst the people."
Louis was fairly good at bluffing in most situations, one of the time-honored benefits of his stint as a cop. Thus, he managed not to seem surprised, or to notice at all, when Lin got cozy with him. He had no objections. It was nice, sitting comfortably close with someone else. It wasn't as if that happened very often. In fact, what happened next was a revelation of its own - Louis took another sip of wine, slid down a little on the couch, and actually got comfortable. Within a few minutes, his tense limbs had loosened, and he actually felt at ease. Some of it was the distraction of the movie, but Lin's easy company certainly helped, the vague, soft heat of his body on the couch. By the time Leo was busy being king of the world, Louis was altogether relaxed in his seat, amused with the love story and the old school class-war Romeo and Juliet structure of the whole thing.
“Longitudinal study over 28 years. Highly controlled. Very serious. Very academic. Conclusive as fuck.” Lin prattled cheerfully, not bothering to look away from the opening credits. He just smiled, eyes glued to the press of waving families and ill-fated passengers dyed sepia. Rewind fifteen and a half years and he’d look exactly the same, only a good foot shorter. The boy tilted his head, resting it on his own shoulder as he watched with the hushed reverence that came with a favorite movie. Sure, it was all more or less encoded into Lin’s DNA, likely easily detectable in a blood sample even (Blood type: O(cean liners that hit icebergs in the years just before the Great War)), at this point, but whatever. It was a rare moment when the boy’s mouth wasn’t moving and it really ought be enjoyed by all.
Lin was rapt with attention, frowning distractedly at Danny Nucci. Fabrizio was especially tragic, wasn’t he? Sure Leo was a god amongst men and his—Jack’s—death in the freezing wasteland of the Atlantic under starry skies and amid a love affair only just blossomed, was all sad and shit, but fucking Fabrizio. He was so fucking cute. And then he was smushed by a falling funnel. The end. What the hell blow to the psyche was that and why? James Cameron was an asshole.
The boy huffed to himself and shook his head. He sat up straighter and lifted himself a bit above the smooth cushions of the couch. The stickers came out again with the sounds of crumpling paper. Lin flipped through some pages with his tongue peeping out in concentration, gave a soft ‘aha’, and smiled. He peeled back plastic from wax paper and leaned closer to Louis,—onto Louis, sideways on the sofa. A small ship—really more of a tugboat—was stuck beneath the frowny face. It was daubed only in primary colors and had its own smile. Then, after another moment’s rifling, a boulder was placed in front of it. Not quite an iceberg, but close enough.
“There.” Lin said of his work, withdrawing back into an upright sitting position, his weight leaving Louis’. “I can see why you went with the blue shirt.”
Louis felt Lin moving around before he turned his eyes away from the screen, and watched bemused as Lin adorned him with more illustrative stickers. "Are we going to narrate the film in stickers on my shirt?" he asked, as Lin pressed them into place. They were very snappy, the stickers, though they undoubtedly wouldn't last long clinging to the fabric. "You can? So good of you to notice. I was actually thinking of your sticker needs when I picked it out." Louis liked the movie just fine, but Lin's fascination with his stickers was most certainly of more interest. The last time he could remember someone giving him a sticker was in the doctor's office when he was roughly seven years old.
"Do you put stickers on everyone," Louis asked, "Or do I have special privileges?"
It was the second time Louis referred to Titanic as a ‘film,’ which Lin found endearing. He knew it was more a vocabulary thing—a Scottish thing—rather than an association with artistic merit or especial appreciation, but still. The cockles of his heart were warmed regardless. The boy smiled almost shyly, it was a thing a little more closed off than his previous series of grins, but it reflected genuinely. Then coffee-brown eyes averted back to the stickers as Lin sifted through, wondering if he had an approximation of an appropriately buxom ginger and an adorable blond man with whom they could narrate aforementioned film.
The best he found was a small, round boy’s face, white skin freckled orange, ringed with fiery hair. There was a blond, but it was a girl with pigtails and a lollipop. Lin figured this was good enough and, after shifting into a cross-legged position, feet on the sofa (sorry), and turning to face his host, knees butting thigh, pasted Louis’ shirt with the redheaded boy. He found a rope and put that in too, since they’d already passed the part where Rose tried to jump and Jack—added now to the other side of the brown stick of rope—saved her.
“Close enough,” declared Lin with a tone of finality. He’d find a dude to play Cal, too. He knew he had something somewhere. He probably had a plate too. To stand in for the dinner scene. (“You shine up like a new penny!”) The boy had almost forgotten about actually watching Titanic at this point. Instead, he leaned forward, a bony elbow biting into his own thigh and chin plopped on open palm. He looked at Louis. “I’ve saved these for years, man. Dentists, doctors, Michaelses, old women who leave me alone in their scrapbooking rooms decorated with kittens wearing bows. Totes special privileges, girl.”
There was a pause and Lin grinned now, much more like the trickster from before than anything coy. But rather than say anything, he simply found a sticker of a paintbrush, small and black-tipped, and stuck it next to pigtailed Jack with a thumb.
“Paint me like one for your French girls,” recited the boy with a laugh. There.
Louis was now totally distracted from the movie, watching Lin shift around to get a better sticker-placing angle. He wondered for a moment how old Lin could possibly be. He looked like he was roughly the same age as Louis, but he acted like a kind of eternal ten year old. There was something stupidly endearing about it. "I'll wear them with pride," he promised, gently patting the stickers so that they didn't fall off. "Since you've clearly been through adversity to get them."
The last sticker drew a small laugh. "Isn't that the naked scene?" Louis asked. He had heard a thing or two about the movie despite not seeing it, after all. He wasn't in the dark, pop culturally. Well, not completely anyway. He noticed then that Lin had turned completely toward him to put the stickers in place, so he turned more fully to face him, the movie all but forgotten. This kind of intimacy was strangely comfortable. He didn’t feel his usual fear or misgivings about being so close to someone, didn’t feel the usual thread of nervous energy. Now that he felt sure he would have to actually try quite hard to scare Lin off, it was easier to relax and not worry.
“Thank you.” Lin closed his eyes solemnly a moment, as if Louis’ promise meant a great deal to him, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He grinned like a cat and his eyes popped open, whites bright. “It’s not the naked scene, but it’s one of them. Though, Sam didn’t think the one in the car counted because all you see is a bare palm plastered to a steamy window, but I disagree. It leaves the details up to the viewer. I like it when people give my imagination the benefit of the doubt, you know. Because I can imagine it. I can. And I have.”
The boy settled against the spine of the sofa with one light shoulder. His head met the top of the brown leather, and his eyes swept sideways to the television screen. For a good while, he watched, moving again on the couch, but this time to face the television again, only just, chest opening a touch toward the room. Still, his knees met Louis’ thigh, oversharing space as Lin was wont to do, and he leaned forward, almost unconsciously. He may have acted like a prepubescent boy obsessed with glitter, stickers, and the pretty Leo DiCap, only he wasn’t a prepubescent boy. He was a 28-year-old. And he was a 28-year-old who blurred lines nearly all the time. A 28-year-old who, up until recently, had no qualms with that fact, saw nothing at all wrong with it. And though Lin had told himself, after the fiasco with Daniel, after Aubrey, that he was going to stop, that maybe for a while he would just fold into himself and let things settle (he’d turned down Shai, hadn’t he?), that he didn’t need to do anything with anyone—despite all that, he could feel the nebulous thoughts, fuzzy warm and diverting, starting to form into half-realized wants at the back of his mind, and they urged him as ever. (It never crossed his mind that he might be turned down. Why would he be?)
Lin sucked on his lip as he watched quietly. The dinner scene played out, after that awesome third-class dancing bit with the ‘you think you’re big tough men?’-Rose-sucking-on-a-cigarette-and-sh
“What does it mean—” The words came before he bid them, spoken as one might pick up a thread of conversation. Lin didn’t try to stop himself. He smiled at the TV. “—when someone is called ‘mega-gay,’ anyway? Like, what is the definition of that? Does it go beyond unicorns? Beyond '90s roller-skating in parking lots of malls, all hell of geared up, with jazzy knee-pads and bared midriffs? All of which, by the way, is—are?—my jam. I just honestly don’t know, and I was told you were the expert.”
"I believe that completely," Louis said. Lin did, indeed, seem the type to imagine the sex scene in Titanic with a level of detail and care that most people could hardly fathom. He admittedly was only really halfway paying attention to the movie. It was entertaining, surely, but he was more interested in the eccentric boy to his left.
When Lin started to talk again, Louis turned away from the movie to watch him smile his way through. "'Mega-gay'?" he asked. "I can't say I've ever heard that one before. Nor have I ever been roller-skating, so I can't say that I have a strong opinion about that aspect of it. Are unicorns inherently gay as well?" He leaned back a bit further. "I think I have some homework to do, I'm clearly out of touch." His smile was knowing. "I can't imagine who might have said that."
Tegan and Sara played on a loop in Lin’s mind, suddenly, loudly, ‘80s synthesizers offering harmony. He ignored them with close-fisted determination. All I want to get is a little closer. All I want to know is, can you come a little closer? They didn’t mix well with Titanic and he didn’t want to hear it from them right now. But these things happened and he was powerless to stop them. All he could do was recall Janelle from earlier and will her to start a mental sing-off. Guitar, a beat. Am I a freak for dancing around? Am I freak for getting down?
Goddamnit, Janelle. You had one job.
Lin laughed at the smile. He shuffled the stickers with idle hands. (The devil’s playthings, those.)
“It might have been the girl who doubted the hand-car-sex scene, but I’m naming no names, except for the name I named like, two minutes ago, but we can ignore that. And I don’t think unicorns are inherently gay, I just like them a lot. I feel like they get me.” The boy’s eyes almost drifted back to the TV, but then he went rigid and his mouth opened in an offended ‘o.’ He looked at Louis, hands leaving the stickers, as if they were going to clamp over his ears against the blasphemy he was hearing. “Wait. You’ve never been roller-skating? What the fuck? Girl, no. Don’t tell me that. Here I was starting to like you and everything.”
It was a gentle jab. Lin didn’t think about it. He didn’t worry over it. It was the type of thing he used to say to Aubrey, a sliver of assholeishness, meant innocuously enough, but often misconstrued and taken to heart. He shook his head.
Louis smiled, genuinely, and clearly didn't take the roller skating comment as anything more than the joking tone in which it was meant. He was self-conscious and anxious most of the time, yes, but he usually knew a joke when he heard one. "I think it would be a catastrophe for all involved," he said. "I understand it involves things like coordination of the limbs. I think that rules me out entirely."
Louis paused, and then decided, the hell with it. It wasn't going to do him any good to beat around the bush, was it? Lin had already indicated that it would be practically impossible to scare him off. And Louis would want to know the answers to his questions sooner than later anyway - why not now? "If I were to ask you exactly what my sister told you about me, could I trust you to answer honestly?" He was still smiling, but there was a tentative curiosity behind it, and maybe a little worry. He had no idea what sort of things Sam might have said. She would have done so in the spirit of her own version of good intentions, but she might have said anything. Lin hadn't literally gone running in the other direction, so it was doubtful that she'd said everything there was to say. He could pretend it didn't matter all he liked, but he would hate for Lin to be there out of a sense of pity, rather than merely a desire to show a perfect stranger Titanic and be his effusive self.
Lin gave a thumbs down, and he was ready to boo the proclamation. But Louis’ subsequent pause, the lull after his last word that seemed... expectant, had him waiting. And he was glad he did. The question wasn’t wholly unexpected, however far out of left field it seemed to have come (okay, it wasn’t totally out of left field considering Lin had just admitted to the fact that Sam had called the man mega-gay, but ...you know, still). Lin would have wanted to know what Sam said about him had he been in Louis’ position.
“Yeah, dude. She didn’t say much.” The boy on the couch thought back to the one or two comments from Sam, the truly little information he’d been endowed with regarding Louis and/or his character. He tapped his chin with his thumb, but only briefly, because really, it wasn’t much to remember and he hadn’t forgotten it in the first place. Lin smiled reassuringly, hoping that might help ease whatever insult the words might offer. “Um, I asked her if I could come over in body glitter and bell bottoms, which you may or may not have seen—sorry you missed out on that, by the way. She said not to scare you and that you had no friends who you didn’t share DNA or a surname with. She... did call you pathetic. And then she branded you as mega-gay. I made a joke about that, and she assured me that I still outgayed you, and that was all she wrote.”
The brief hesitation before admitting to Louis that Sam had called him pathetic (seriously pathetic, technically, but Lin was taking some liberty here) wasn’t quite enough time for Lin to consider all the potential ramifications of someone saying such about their obviously already not-so-secure brother, but it was enough for him to feel bad.
“I really only listened to the part about the mega-gayness to be perfectly honest with you.” He gave Louis another bracing smile and reached forward to pat his hand in a way he imagined was comforting and warm.
No friends and pathetic. Sam had really worked hard to sell him, hadn't she? "Ah," he said, not exactly sure how to react to that. It wasn't as bad as he might have feared - there seemed to be nothing in Sam's description that covered his abysmal relationship history, for instance - but still. The pat on the hand was comforting in the sense that it was strangely sweet, though it was more a gesture he associated with grandparents than friends. "I wouldn't take anything Sam says too seriously," he said, more a reminder to himself than to Lin. It was no surprise that Sam thought he was pathetic and had no friends - she'd said something similar to his face, if he remembered correctly. The real question was why she couldn't have seen fit to at least told a small white lie, or omitted the 'pathetic' bit. "I do, in fact, have friends who aren't related to me," he said, with a faint smile. "In case you were curious." Not many, but they did exist. "I don't really know about 'mega-gay', but I think she may have been right about you winning the contest," he added, his smile growing a bit more genuine.
Lin’s own grandparents hadn’t been very grandparent-y. Or if they were, it was to their biological grandchildren. But mostly, they kept to themselves and Lin kept to himself and that seemed to work out just fine. (In truth, as accommodating as his own parents had been to their son who fancied the wrong sorts of things in the wrong sort of town, he had always felt more like Pluto, the odd one out. A planet, that wasn’t a planet, far, far away from the rings of Mercury, Venus, and Earth, and that feeling spilled over to his grandparents.) He wasn’t aware that hand-patting was relegated to the elderly, unfortunately, or he might have apologized. As it was, he appeared sympathetic as Louis spoke, eyes trained on him closely, waiting for his reaction.
The trace smile was disheartening and Lin felt even worse.
“I thought I sensed some hyperbole in Sam’s statements,” replied the boy with feigned thoughtfulness. “My problem is that I have no friends with whom I share DNA or a last name. So I think we can strike a good balance together.”
It was a joke, thought it rang with truth. Lin still smiled, a little happier both because the music in his head had gone and because he was relieved Louis hadn’t, you know, run him out for being the asshole messenger. He laughed at the prod of humor, relaxing a bit more now.
“I,” said Lin Alesi, the skinny boy in the light blue shirt and pink shoes, who was currently peeling a flashing gold heart from the sticker booklet, which he stuck just to the swell of his left cheekbone Marina-style, and whose eyes were back on the fine form of Leonardo DiCaprio in suspenders, “am the epitome of all that is hetereosexual.”
"Really?" Louis asked. "I don't know about that. It's not like Sam to exaggerate in any way." He followed Lin's gaze to Leo onscreen. Yes, he was indeed admirable, in all his various endowments. "I think we will even out then, yes."
The edge of the heart on Lin's face was sticking up very slightly, and, without thinking, Louis reached out and smoothed it down, so that it would stick properly and not immediately fall off. He smiled a little, withdrawing his hand, embarrassed for some reason. "There," he said, his hand falling down to his side much less suavely than he might have liked. "As utterly heterosexual as they come."
Lin wasn’t suave. He never could do suave. He could do charming. He could do endearing. He could dazzle with wit, maybe. He could list facts (sexy). But he wasn’t suave. He was a boy of angles, of oversized expressions, too much energy, and overblown hyperbole. Suave, it seemed to him, was accompanied by a certain subtlety, and of that mysterious quality, he had absolutely fucking none. So when Louis’ finger was finished re-affixing the sticker, Lin continued smiling his out-and-out grin (not good news for the little heart) and he made some considerations.
“It’s technically an exaggeration if she says you have no non-blood, surname-sharing friends, and you do. Though exaggeration implies intent, so maybe you’re right.” He shrugged, flipping through his mental dictionary a moment before slamming the heavy thing shut. Mentally. Lin looked at Louis very seriously. “Okay. Remember my warning that you'd need to gird yourself for my visit? I'm going to lean against you now in a friendly manner. If you want me to knock it off, just hip check me. It’s what everyone else does.”
And with that warning out of the way, the boy made good on his word. He didn’t pull his knees up, as he wanted, but he did let himself slant sideways enough to place the weight of his shoulder against Louis’. He was warm. There was a sideways glance accompanied by a smile. Then, once the rearranging was finished, Lin was immediately snapped up yet again in the early 20th century naval romance drama with a killer (hooo) ending that played out on the television.
Louis wasn't quite sure what to do when Lin declared his intention of leaning and then did, except to promise himself he wouldn't tense up or get nervous. What was there to be nervous about, really? It was a lean. And it was comfortable, the warmth of Lin resting gently against him. It made him sort of pleased, actually, glad that he not only hadn't managed to run Lin off, he'd put him in a position where he felt comfortable enough to lean on him - even if it did come with a careful warning.
The ship had hit the iceberg and people were dying in droves, but Louis wasn't really playing much attention to the action. He had a vague memory of seeing a little of this movie once before, on VHS, playing in the background during a mediocre date in college. "You'll note I haven't hip checked you yet," Louis said, a couple minutes later, picking up his wine glass from the table and draining the last of it.
Lin could tell he was making Louis a little uncomfortable, but that had been ongoing, nonstop, he thought, since he’d stepped through the door even. He smiled nicely, like a little boy, and placed his head next on that extension of shoulder under ocean blue. He was comfortable like this, and he only bore his own weight when the man stretched forward, hand grasping the thin neck of his wine glass, and then, once Louis’ spine was once again to the back of the sofa, Lin returned to his perch, head and all.
“Oh, I’ve noted it. Hard. Jotted it down when you weren’t looking even,” replied the boy with a smile and a nod, his ear on the soft material of the man’s shirt. Lin, finally unable to resist any longer, drew his legs onto the sofa, and pressed them to his chest. If he looked like a child before, it was nothing compared to now. He didn’t seem to notice. He watched that one dude fall and pinwheel off the propeller of the ship and repressed a laugh. Finally, he managed to tear himself away from the movie to look at Louis and say with his unwavering certainty, “It means you like me.”
There was another hand pat and Lin continued to curl up like a cat.
Louis looked down at Lin and felt a rush of surprised fondness. 'That means you like me.' It was such a simple conclusion to draw, sweet almost too innocent trust. Louis had never felt that whether others liked him or didn't could be read so simply, with such utter ease. "It does," he said, and settled his hand on Lin's back. He had narrow hands, long-fingered, and it rested comfortably under Lin's shoulderblade. He suddenly felt as if someone ought to be looking out for Lin, and wondered if anyone was. He seemed like the sort of person who might not do so well when the world tried to break his doors down and take his stickers away.
"Do you always snuggle while you watch Titanic?" Louis asked. "Does it bring that out in you?"
Honestly, ...Lin generally browbeat people into liking him. He badgered them until, somehow, someway, through some turn of phrase or especially pointed comment, he managed to endear himself to them. He didn’t make friends easily for all his trying. He was a little too much to handle at first. More similar to Louis than apparent, the boy most often assumed he was irritating to someone and that they rather wished he would go away. He was different from the more subdued man only in that he never did. He stayed. He acted like it didn’t matter, and he stayed until they wanted him to stay too.
It was easier with Louis. He was... nice.
Lin smiled happily at the hand on his back and at Louis. The stickers had slid out of his lap and into the small space between the bodies on the sofa. He forgot about them.
“I always snuggle,” was the only answer Louis got from the boy.
Louis had forgotten about the stickers as well, as bedecked as his shirt now was, and he let himself sink in and relax fully, staying just upright enough to keep Lin fully supported.
The movie was drawing to a close, with people screaming and sliding down the tipping deck of the ship, but Louis was hardly paying it any attention. He looked down at the head resting on his shoulder, paused a moment, and then leaned in to look at him more closely. The last person that Louis had tried to kiss had been Joseph - that hadn't turned out very well, not for anyone. So he felt real hesitation, looking down at him. It would be nice to have a friend like Lin - could he really afford to risk ruining it?
But he was trying to be a different person than he'd been. He was trying to be someone who ran risks and tried things even if they didn't work out. And Lin seemed so very light with everything that, most likely, if he wasn't interested he would just give him a 'just say no' sticker or something and kick it to the curb. Someone so comfortable with leaning into his lap after only knowing him a short while didn't seem like the type who would practically knock him over to escape, as Joseph had. So Louis leaned down and kissed Lin on the forehead, lightly, almost chaste, in part because he could really reach no further, upside down and leaning over.
The second of the Ocean-class luxury liners went perpendicular to the Atlantic. There was a lot of commotion associated with simulated gravity, quotations from the Bible, and Jack and Rose running hand in hand. Lin could feel about two seconds before Louis came in closer that it was going to happen. The man’s eyes were on him, he could tell, and he did nothing to stop what followed. Not because he didn’t have any War on Drug stickers, but because he didn’t want to stop it.
When the lips met the warm skin of his forehead, the Cheshire smile softened a bit, turning into something altogether different. The kiss was an innocent gesture. Sweet, too. Nice, as nice as Louis himself. And it almost gave him pause, it almost had him think over what he was doing, it almost had him offer a hug and nothing more. Almost—, but not quite.
Lin’s face turned up to the man’s and he scooched up on his arm, still using Louis for leverage, just enough, turning just so, closing that last bit of space between them with Tegan and Sara cheering him on. His own kiss, the press of his lips to Louis’, was less chaste, but still relatively light. Warm, but still gentle. It was a probe, a toe in the water. Because, you know, the dude could have just been being nice and giving this weird kid on his sofa a fond kiss on the forehead and maybe he didn’t want said kid latching his mouth on his, and there was only one way to find out. ...Well, two, but the other involved words and wasn’t quite as fun. After a moment, Lin pulled away an inch or so.
He fished the stickers from where they’d gotten lodged between the couch cushions and the men’s bodies, and he found a pair of kissy purple lips and stuck them to Louis’ cheek with a soft slap and a wide grin.
The fresh sticker application actually did make Louis laugh, a little nervously, still very amused. He couldn't entirely banish his worry over doing the wrong thing, and when Lin shifted, but then he scooched closer to him and kissed him back. That was unexpected in the best of ways, and he felt almost triumphant. He was proud of himself. He kissed back, not even for a moment considering that Lin might be concerned he wouldn't reciprocate, and smiled, still close, when he put that sticker on him.
"Do you mind -" he began, and stopped. In this shadowy space so close together, his slate blue eyes were almost grey. "Could I ask you out on a proper date? Would that be...would you mind that?"
Tegan’s voice cracked and Lin blinked in momentary confusion. A date? The boy couldn’t even remember the last time he’d been on a proper date, let alone been asked out on one. ...Maybe when he’d been with Aubrey...? And even that didn’t really count, considering they were already together for years. Since the break-up too, he’d mostly run amok, doing more sleeping with than dating in a ratio of about 100:0. This was... unprecedented and unexpected. Like, really. Like, Lin thought that they’d reached the end of the evening’s surprises, that this was pretty much it. Like, forget Titanic, now they were going to make out. He was into it.
He’d been ready to be into it.
The fox’s smile, wily as it was, didn’t fade from Lin’s face, but it took the boy a second to respond. The number of ways this night differed from Lin’s last semi-sexual interaction could not be counted. Or, if they could, they were like the 32nd digit of pi (0)—that is, eventually, shit reached a point, a number too difficult to fathom, where no one really fucking cared anymore. Lin thought briefly of Daniel, of the shoe leveled at his head, of QP, of JB, of everything else that came after that, initialism or no. He thought of Aubrey and what he’d told him about (not) hooking up. He considered Louis and his eyes the color of the ocean that swallowed the people on the screen whole.
“Yes, no,” laughed Lin then, answering the questions in short order. He ignored the sudden flutter of nervousness, the kaleidoscope of butterflies set loose without warning and without care in his stomach with a practiced resolve. He did like Louis. He worried about Sam, about what Sam told him. He tipped his head to the side again and resettled against the man’s arm, dark eyes unmoving on Louis’ face, but glinting with amusement. “You’re classy as fuck, you know that?”
His smile widened and the heart on his cheek peeled back with the movement.
Louis laughed. He couldn't help it. "So I've been told." He was nervous, and he hadn't expected Lin to actually agree. Lin didn't precisely strike him as the dating type, and maybe it was an awkward thing to ask him to do in the first place, but that serious consideration of the question before answering, that pause, made him think he might be wrong. Maybe dating was Lin's thing, but he didn't usually. Or maybe he didn't mind. Whatever it was, Louis was glad he'd said yes. "Nothing serious," he assured him. He couldn't imagine Lin doing a serious thing.
Louis paused. "So...is the protocol now to continue watching the movie?" he asked, looking down at his head on his shoulder.
It honestly wouldn’t have surprised Lin if Louis had oft been told of his classy as fuck status, and many times at that. The man was polite, accommodating, intelligent, his apartment was well-decorated and warm, and he, you know, was a molasses-type kisser. Not that he kissed molasses. You know what I mean. He took things slowly, which didn’t necessitate classiness, but it didn’t preclude it either.
The boy shrugged at the reassurance that it wouldn’t be serious. He caught the pesky butterflies in a net and pinned them, one by one.
“If it’s not in a ball pit, I’m calling bullshit,” he replied airily, flitting through his stickers for the nth time that evening, giving his host a sideways glance and a grin. Then he cut a nail beneath the adhesive of a squarish-shaped sticker and pulled it from the paper. He placed it on the back of Louis’ hand, which he had taken into his own. It was a Chinese takeout box, complete with a jutting pair of chopstick rabbit ears. Lin smiled. “Consider that a hint.”
He then led Louis’ hand to the heart sticker on his own face and helped him smooth the thing back down. Lin released the man and snuggled up closer again.
“I think it’s actually protocol to shut the fuck up at the ending of a movie. Look—she’s about to throw a priceless diamond into the fucking ocean and go 'oh!' ‘Never let go,’ my sweet, sweet ass.”