Justin's doubts while he is living with Ethan. Once he moves in, Justin begins to realize how much he misses Brian and how much Ethan doesnt know about him. Title is from a ballet by Sergei Prokofiev of the same name. I just wanted a title that had to do with music. This story is very, very Anti-Ethan.
Ethan's hands are clammy and his hair is greasy and his breath isn't great. His apartment smells like cat and old socks and fermented potpourri someone put out a long time ago in attempt to mask the musty stench. The chocolate he buys is cheap and tastes like cardboard, but Justin pretends to love it. The bed is extremely lumpy, and breaks easily and often enough that Ethan keeps a hammer and some nails by the bed, which both of them often trip over in the night. Justin is sure he has at least one broken toe.
Justin hates that the only window is tiny and in an alcove and he can't get good light to draw by. Wolfram the cat makes his allergies go berserk, but he can't complain because this is Ethan's place, and unlike Brian, he probably won't toss his cat onto the street just because his boyfriend gets a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes.
Ethan practices his violin constantly, and it makes it hard for Justin to concentrate on his own art. Sometimes the sounds are loud enough and piercing enough to give him a headache, and when that happens, it makes his hand cramp up. He tries to pay attention when Ethan plays for him. After a while, one concerto blends into another, aria mixes with aria, notes blend and slur and become the same. He understands why Ethan's neighbors hate him and get annoyed so easily; one can only take so much violin music.
Before he moved in, Justin thought that maybe, instead of takeout almost every night like he had with Brian, he'd have picnics on the floor and grapes and fancy food from the gourmet market. But after a few days, he realizes that they're mostly living off sourdough French bread, apples, grapes and ramen. He's not sure what to make of this, but he knows he misses the taste of Thai food and the occasional night out steak.
Ethan's bathtub is claw-footed and ceramic. There's a brownish ring of water stain around the inside, and Justin sometimes wonders if it was maybe Ethan's grandmothers or something. It looks old enough. There's no mirror, so Justin is always surprised to see the lines on his face when he glances in the mirror in the bathroom at the diner. The cold water faucet on the bathroom sink doesn't work, so he either has to go to the kitchen to wash up, or burn his hands.
All the furniture is mismatched, found pieces that have been thrown away or given away. Justin is never sure if he should touch something, lest it collapse or disintegrate beneath his fingers. The peeling paint on the walls shouldn't really matter, but after the pristine condition of the loft, it's extremely annoying to him to find paint flecks in cereal or his hair or on the floor. He wants to go at the walls with sandpaper to get all the bits off, then sweep the entire apartment.
Justin is often awakened in the middle of the night by people yelling, druggies cackling and conversing loudly on the street below, the neighbors fighting or fucking or just thumping around. The water heater hisses erratically and pipes thunk and gurgle. He misses the quiet privacy of the loft.
Ethan's friends are pretentious dickheads, who think all he is, is blue eyes and blonde hair and a good fuck. They have no idea that he probably knows more than any of them. Ethan's condescending attitude toward him at that party makes Justin want to squirm. Ethan using him as an armrest makes him feel like a trophy wife, and worse, two feet tall. Ethan and his friends drop names like crazy, and Justin just smiles blankly; he has no idea who these people are nor does he care much about this or that concerto or symphony or whatever. He doesn't care what the people around him are talking about, he just wants to get out of there, away from the strangers eyeing him like he's Ethan's shiny new toy.
Ethan's hands around his shoulders or on his neck are more possessive than loving, his gaze more controlling than affectionate. He notices the shift in Ethan when he's around his friends, the way that he kisses him openly, but doesn't seem to want to mention that Justin is his boyfriend.
Justin stomach clenches a little every time he goes in the diner. Every little glimpse of Brian, every accidental (or purposeful) touch, every time he hears Brian's voice, he wants to touch him, to kiss him, he can feel the energy crackling between them. He tries to dampen it down, but when he helps Brian with his asshole nephew, when his fingers brush Brian's wrist as he ties the bracelet back on, when he feels Brian's pulse beneath his fingertips, it makes him ache, it makes him doubt. And when Brian asks for his work for Carnivale, it makes him grin a little, knowing that Brian chose him over all the other artists working at Vanguard, because he seems to still love him.
Justin feels much more at home in the chaos and darkness and vulgar, sensual scene of Carnivale. He wrinkles his nose and grins brightly as he wades through the crowd of people, excitement and thrill coursing through him. He wanders the streets for hours after leaving, just those few minutes inside the club giving him enough energy to run a marathon. Or fuck a marathon. Ethan complains about being woken up when Justin gets home at three. He never even thought about staying out later, three had become automatic for him. Ethan rolls away from him in the night, and Justin doesn't think he minds.
And it bugs the shit out of Justin when Ethan calls him 'Jus.' He hasn't been called that since he was in middle school, and he'd complained enough back then that everyone had stopped. Brian's friends never even thought to call him that. It's a childish nickname that he feels utter animosity to, unlike the word 'Sunshine.' He misses being called that, although he wonders if he even deserves that nickname anymore. His smiles all seem fake or strained, recently.
Ethan's cock is no where near as impressive as Brian's, and the noises he makes during sex are more obnoxious than hot. There's no shower to give blowjobs in, and no chairs sturdy enough to fuck in. Justin's vulgar sexual jokes and dirty ideas don't amuse Ethan or make him even a little bit aroused. Sometimes Justin will mention some sex game or position or toy, and Ethan wont even know what he's talking about, and once he's had it explained to him, he seems more disgusted than interested. It's a strange sort of experience, after living with Brian, who is always so eager for new games or new toys. Ethan doesn't even want sex half the time, he just wants to cuddle and talk. Justin thinks that's a little weird, especially for a gay man.
At the Heifitz competition, Justin isn't sure what to think when Ethan tells him he's his muse, when Ethan kisses his fingers repeatedly and looks at him constantly. The word 'muse' makes Justin feel like a stone statue, like some sort of trophy or absurdly expensive piece of art or literature that everyone pretends to contemplate and understand, but really they just want to seem larger than they are. 'Muse' doesn't make him feel special or like a god, it makes him feel less than human, like an object. His 'muses' have always been experiences or places or objects or sounds, never people. So this new title makes him feel more like stone than sunshine.
And he doesn't feel much when Ethan loses. Ethan complains later that his fingers had tightened up during the cantabile, and Justin wants to laugh. What the hell does Ethan know about tightened, cramping hands? Ethan's always had the strength, the ability, the control to do what he loves, to practice his art. He's always been able to move his fingers and grip the neck of the violin. What does Ethan know about being physically unable to create at your own free will, to be unable to work for twenty minutes without pain? What does Ethan know about having your hand seize and tremble uncontrollably in the middle of creation, in the middle of inspiration? What does Ethan know about having to massage the muscles of your palm and fingers for five minutes in order to draw for ten, maybe fifteen? What does Ethan know about cramping, clawed fingers?
When Ethan takes decides to take the contract, decides to go in the closet for his career, Justin doesn't know what to do or say. He listens to Ethan's soft voice, gently pressing, trying to convince him that this'll be okay. His fantasies seem wild and ridiculous, something out of an old movie or romance novel. Secret rendezvous', torrid encounters, an adventure? Justin wants to scoff at the naivety of those hopeful statements.
He grimaces as Ethan makes simple promises, stares blankly toward the wall when Ethan pulls him into an embrace. It angers him that the musician actually listened to what Brian had to say, actually went through with it. Ethan has gone back on his promises, something that Brian would never do. Brian would not disappoint him like this. Brian never promised anything he knew he wouldn't be able to keep. Justin also knows that Brian would never hide him or their relationship in order to continue his career. He was trying to be the best homosexual he could possibly be, and cowering in a corner just wasn't part of that plan. Brian had always said, the worst kind of homosexual, besides the kind that pretend to be happy heteros, are the ones that hide who they are.
Hearing the lie of, "This is my cousin" glide easily out of Ethan's mouth feels like a stab. The ring on his finger suddenly feels like a lie, not like a validation. Justin sees Daphne's confusion and tugs her away. Her eyes flash fire and her face contorts with annoyance as soon as they're out on the street. He tells her to drop it, and she does, until they're sitting downtown together. He agrees with her, he really does. Brian would never do anything like this. Because Brian knows; he was there. Justin uprooted his entire life, he changed the rules and the game, he acted braver than he really was and he pushed hard; he nearly died coming out and he was still dealing with the effects. He didn't want to have to go back in the closet and hide something that he worked so goddamn hard to hold dear.
The moment Justin sees Ethan speaking to that other boy, he knows. It doesn't matter that they're just talking. Justin has been hit on before, and he knows what it looks like. He also knows what it looks like when the response on the other end is positive. On the drive back home from Harrisburg, he suddenly feels weary, too old for his age. When he sees Brian in Woody's later, he's not sure if he wants to yell "Leave me the fuck alone, all of you!" or throw himself at Brian and ask for forgiveness. As soon as long, golden fingers tap the cold, deceitful metal of the ring, he feels the certainty of Ethan's infidelity. Brian leaves him alone at the bar with a pack of matches. Justin only feels warmth when the flame burns down close to his fingers.
Even when Ethan reassures him that he wasn't cheating, Justin still doubts. He still knows, knows the look, knows the actions, knows the simple brush-off cover up lie. He was one of those people once, too. He can feel the drop-off coming, feels the need to stave it off for just a little longer, and so he tries for trust and buys a feast. He almost laughs at the pseudo-romantic look of Ethan's apartment. Over the weeks, it's lost its thrill, its new, adventurous beauty, something that never happened to the loft. Their conversation together is romantic, but completely surface. Justin hates that he feels no deep connection, no complete understanding, no intellectual equality when he's with Ethan. He misses conversations about philosophy, books, movies, politics, whatever, where he can say exactly what he's thinking and have an intellectual parry and riposte with someone, each responding quickly to the other's opinions.
When that boy from Harrisburg is standing there sheepishly with a bouquet of roses when the door opens, Justin is already jaded. He already feels weary and ready to go. He'd gotten his hopes up, he tried to trust, but it's all washed away now. The musician's goose is cooked, and the inside of Justin's mouth tastes like ash. He just looks at Ethan with hurt, pitying eyes, spitefully saying "I'm his muse." But what angers him, what fuels his fire and his jabs and the tears that leak out and spill down his cheeks, what makes him more furious than it should, is the fact that he broke his own rules, he betrayed Brian, left Brian's love and comfort and understanding, his utter unfailing support, for this musician with false ideals, this boy who went back on his word at the first chance he got and only cared about his own success, never his lover's, this man who loves only his music, only his violin.
He runs back to Daphne's, to the one person who was right all along. The entire walk to her house, his own words ring in his head: I never forgave Brian. Because he never promised me anything. You did. And he knows that it isn't quite true. Brian has promised him some things, but he's never broken them, and he's never promised anything he isn't sure he can keep. His utter honesty works, because it keeps him faithful and it keeps him able to support without impossible expectations.
When he settles onto Daphne's couch and she hands him a mug of tea and a pile of cookies on a matching plate, Justin realizes how incredibly happy he is to be out of that dirty, dingy, mismatched apartment, and back to a place where everything goes together. He suddenly feels a lot less tense when he realizes that the kitchen is organized and the bathroom has a shower and a mirror and that the couch is soft and the walls match the carpet that matches the curtains and pillows and his best friend in the whole wide world is sitting here with him, still. Daphne blinks at him softly and sits down, prodding the situation from him with a small word. And then Justin is ranting and raving, and Daphne agrees that yes, Ethan is a lying sack of shit, and yes, he's a slimy little greaseball and she knew it all along. He hugs her and apologizes for ever doubting her.
Justin feels Brian's eyes on him everywhere; at the diner, at Woody's, at Babylon. He watches Brian, too. They circle each other with lingering gazes and fleeting looks. He can still feel the heat, the needy, passionate energy that jumps between them. He thinks they should probably be at least talking now. They're not, really.
He's fucking some nameless trick in the back room when he sees Brian lean against the wall. Justin cant look away from the older man, and Brian cant look away from him. They watch each other, an electric sort of pleasure glancing between them that only the other would know. Justin feels more grounded, more peaceful, more right, more connected to Brian than he has in a long time. It feels wonderful.
At night, Justin stares out at the street, smoking, wondering if Brian might be doing the same. He wakes up in the middle of the night, in the early morning, biting back a moan, covered in his own release, Brian's name on his lips and his face in his mind. When the crazy, wildly weird dreams about Brian begin, Justin thinks he's going insane. He needs a plan. He needs to start feeling again. He needs to go home again, where he belongs, with Brian.