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Shadows

Gradiva

Promised to viola69
Inspired by seperis who wanted 2nd person POV fic. Yeah, I find myself craving that too.

Personally I think the writing is better, although the content is kinda give-or-take. Warnings for mildly-schmoopy Brian again. Bah. Someone get this Brian out of my head!!! I identify with the Brian of my first two fics... this Brian is just way too corny for my tastes.

Also, warning for unbeta-ed and unedited.

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Part 1

There are things you find yourself doing these days, unconsciously, and when you catch yourself doing these things you snarl angrily, shake your head and pretend it never happened. Nevertheless, they do happen, and as time goes on they happen more often, until they overwhelm you and form the only coherent thought in your mind. Your loft is empty, and you find yourself thinking back to when Justin lived here, when he covered the emptiness with smelly socks and day-old cargo-pants, filled the few square feet around himself with a vibrancy betrayed by his tiny figure. He always was so much bigger than he seemed, his every movement taking up so much space that you would not notice the bareness of the walls or the starkness of the furniture, or the cold insouciance of your minimalist lighting. The more you picture your loft filled, teeming with him and his boyish exuberance, the more you want it back, want him to move back in... except you can't ask him, and he hasn't asked you.

Justin takes up so much space - formerly it suffocated you, now it completes you. When you lay on the bed in your drama-queen moment bemoaning the loss of your possessions, he held your neck firmly, and placed his lips upon yours with such pride, such warmth, that it gave you the strength to laugh, and to later shrug off your sacrifice with an offer of chewing-gum. When Stockwell lost, you buried your face in his neck and rocked from side to side, marvelling that his tiny, slender frame was wiry enough to hold the both of you up. It is his strength that takes you forward, he is the one who advances, dragging you behind him as you bitch and moan and complain. Your strength has always been an accident, arising out of the weakness of others. As you realize this, you wonder where you got such a profound thought. The voice that spoke it sounds like Justin... but then, any voice of reason always sounds like Justin.

Your power has always been your knowledge of human weakness. You know how to take a complete stranger and assert your superiority, draw your hand over their features in a play for dominance, stare them down, then take them to the backroom, take them to the edge of ecstasy, and drive them insane with begging for release. But that power stems from your skill at sex, from your pugnacious competitive killer-instinct, from a deep-set insecurity and fear of others, not from self-assurance, which is where Justin finds his strength. And it is Justin's strength that must lead you out of darkness, must lead you anywhere.

This is why you find it disturbing that he hasn't asked to move back into the loft. He doesn't push anymore. He doesn't try to wedge himself in, ingratiate himself into your life with the tenacity of a child, and you no longer feel him seeping into your life with the adroitness of water seeping into the tiniest cracks in the hardest metal. And one day, in a rush of panic, you realize, he doesn't say it anymore. He hasn't said it since he came back. And now it's all important to you that he say it, because if neither of you can say it, then it may no longer be true, and then there would be nothing left to hold you together.

You almost said it once, standing on the steps of Woody's, you on the lower step, he on the higher staring out in delight and surprise at the liberated crowd. You looked at him and you wanted to say it, but he caught your glance and looked... afraid and you chickened out and said something about testing Rage's powers of mind-control. He laughed. In relief. You palm your face in despair that you didn't notice this before.

Suddenly all these moments you share beg analysis. Is it sex? Is it sex and affection? Is it habit and security? It isn't what it used to be. You remember when you told him you'd got him a birthday present, he stopped dead in his tracks, grabbed your hand with painful ardour and gasped, "No way. No fucking way." You'd overwhelmed him. He wanted to feel something and you'd just given it to him, and he was giddy with it, squealed and giggled as you guided him to the bedroom with your hands over his eyes. You want him to feel that way again, want to overwhelm him, surprise him, but damned if you know how.

You trusted him to push, to never give up. You remember him asking you, upon his return from Vermont, "Did you miss me?" and you turned just in time to catch the flinch on his face, the burst of embarrassment, the look of defeat. You had another chance then, to redeem yourself, to give him more than he expected, but instead you pulled him up by his wrists and fucked him against the coldness of the metal beam, fucked him hard in anger that he could even ask you such a question, fucked him with the extent of your unhappiness because he'd left you. He'd left you.

It wasn't the last time he left you. If there's one thing you'll never forget, it's the look he gave you just before he walked out of the Rage party, the look that said he wasn't doing what he wanted to be doing, the look that blamed you. The one that said if you were any kind of man you would fight, you would show some fucking backbone. But you weren't a man then, just a broken shell that depended upon him to fill you up and you knew he deserved better, so you gave up. You Gave Up. It's an epiphany that strikes you. How can you blame him now for doing the same thing?

You decide on a plan of attack. That night you take him to Babylon and casually drop it into the conversation that you are planning to leave for Chicago to follow up on a job possibility. It's true. You wouldn't lie.

"That's wonderful!" he says unselfishly, and you want to thunk him on the head for being so unselfish.

"Yeah, I'll probably be gone for a few days," you say, carefully gauging his reaction. He has none. So you press on, "I can't wait... so many hot guys, so little time. It's a big city, you know." He smiles, a little careless smile. But that's it. It's driving you crazy, so you show your hand a little, "What? No tears over the absence? No requests to remember you, or write to you every day, or call you?"

"It's just a few days. Time flies." Again with the urge to throttle him.

"You really don't care that I'm going there with every intention of being unfaithful to you?" you say, as sarcastically as possible so he doesn't see that you mean it with the utmost sincerity.

"Nope." And then he grins, a sideways grin that you're not used to seeing on his features, "I'm the last person to gripe about you being unfaithful."

Suddenly, throttling him seems too nice a fate. Maybe you should tie up his cock to a dumbbell and sink him to the bottom of the Susquehanna. Doesn't he know that you're the only one allowed to wallow in guilt and self-loathing? Asshole.

The night before you leave for Chicago, you've decided on a strategy to normalize the situation. You take him home and fuck him. Yes, you've done this before, and this should be your first clue that it's not going to work. But you're kind of stupid that way.

Sex is frenzied and intense, it's desperate and raucous, and the neighbours will be complaining in the morning. You take him first against the door to the loft, because you can't wait and all the dancing at Babylon and the incessant grinding has made you frustrated, and you can't even wait to get his clothes off, so you just undo the button and the zipper of his jeans, turn him to face the door, yank down the backside of his jeans and his silly underwear and fuck him with your pants on. The zipper of your jeans scratches frantically against his ass, and your hand inside his pants is warm, and when he comes, he comes into your hand, in his underwear.

Then you take him on the floor, his cum spreading and slicking the tiles, his hands squealing as they grapple for something to hold on to, your knees hurting against the hardness of the wood. And it's still not enough, even though you've whispered, shouted his name, bitten into him in agony, it's simply not enough because you're not getting to him and he's not entirely sure what's gotten into you. The next morning when you leave for Chicago, he's curled up happily on his side of your bed, humping a pillow with a blissful smile on his face. You kiss him so softly he doesn't even stir, run your hand along the smooth skin of his backside, then leave with the despondent realization that you can't give him back his innocence. All you can do is give him hope, and hope is something you can't fuck into a person.

When you get back from Chicago, he's in the loft, drawing something and looking incredibly frustrated. You're just glad to see him drawing again, a little overcome by the picture of him being so domestic, filling up your holes again with his art. He always did do that for you, covered your wrinkles, the tiredness of your eyes, the swelling of your joints after a hard day's work, erased them with a stroke of his pencil as if they had never been there.

He's frustrated now, and you try to be supportive, kissing him on the head and asking him what's wrong.

"Nothing, just this stupid drawing."

"What's wrong with it? Looks fine to me." It's a picture of queers standing around what Liberty Avenue, smoking and chatting, captured unawares.

"It's not strong enough." Now that's a confusing statement. Since when does a picture of ordinary life have to be strong, and, more importantly, how can it be strong? Confusion registers on your features and he sighs; you try to recover by asking, "What are you trying to say?"

It's evidently the wrong question, but he has the graciousness to smirk, "If you have to ask me that, it's obviously not saying it."

You consider repeating the question, but he stares at the painting and says softly, as if to himself, "I want to fight the empty rhetoric that's infiltrated art, that's destroying everything about it that redeems us... Picasso said that every painting is a war. I want to punch the fucking lights out of the artist at the PIFA November showing whose works were supposed to be a mark of consequentialism and deontological Stoicism. I mean, what the fuck are those things anyway? I bet they're not even words... I want to fight for simplicity of expression. Sure, life is complicated, but even complicated things can find expression in simple things." He looks up at you, as if suddenly realizing that you exist, then blushes, "Sorry, I got kinda carried away. Didn't mean to ramble on."

You resent the implication that you wouldn't be interested, but instead of railing him for it, you say calmly, "It's worth fighting for... now you just need to figure out why it's not working? Maybe your subject matter doesn't fit what you're trying to say."

"Or maybe I'm not strong enough to fight for it," he says, staring pensively at his work, nibbling on the edge of his paintbrush.

"Quit fishing for compliments." It's all you can say, although you know you've just ruined yet another opportunity to step up to the plate and be the kind of man he needs and deserves.

He stares at you, trying to read into your soul, and you shiver slightly with the intensity of his gaze. He sighs melodramatically and starts packing up his art supplies.

"I made you dinner. I'd stay to eat it, but I've got to work a shift at the diner tonight." He's avoiding the issue, and you know this because you're an expert at doing the same thing. As he trudges toward the door carrying his heavy satchel, you decide you'll do it for him, you'll be the irrepressible, indomitable little trickle of water and you say, despite the frightened thumping of your heart, "You're the strongest person I know."

His shoulders sag a little and he drops a half-smile in your direction that never reaches his eyes. "But I'm tired of fighting," he says as he walks out, and you wonder if the words really left his lips, because it's so much easier, so much less painful to imagine that what you heard was the light swish of the wind or the whistle of the teapot, or the shrill of the microwave, or anything but what they were - words of defeat.

You can't eat dinner because your ears are burning and your mind is churning with bone-chilling fear, now that you know, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's not fighting anymore. He's no longer that force to be reckoned with, that annoying voice perched on your shoulder urging you to be better, to be more than you are. He's not going to push you to stop tricking, not going to fight with you to move in, not be out there stomping on one foot expecting you to give him a ring. He's no longer that cocky, self-assured, romantic, sensualist youth. He's a child who's had to fight too hard and too long for too much, and he's tired. And if you ate your dinner you'd find that the pain in the pit of your stomach had nothing to do with being hungry and everything to do with being afraid.

That night, after his shift at the diner, he comes over, cheery, affectionate and horny. But it's not enough. You want him to be exuberant, loving and passionate. He comes out of the shower, naked and wrapped in the virgin-white cotton towel, and lies down on the bed. You know what you have to do, and if you believed in God, this would be the moment you'd pray to him for the strength to follow through.

You start with his arms, with his fingers, then the back of his palm where the tendons are raised from effort and finally the slim wrist, you place your lips there in feather-light touches, soft, tender, worshipping. You keep your eyes either closed or on him, and watch his gaze, watch his eyes glaze over in expectancy. You run your palm down the curve of his sides, hold on to his slim waist and kiss his stomach softly, then rise up and kiss his nipples before laying your head down on his chest and listening to his heart race in his chest. He looks up at you in surprise, wondering why you haven't gotten around to fucking him yet, and he bucks up against you to kind of prod you into getting to it, but you're in no hurry. You beam at him, run your fingers along his cheeks and look into his eyes, forcing him into patience. He smiles at you, and asks, "What brought this on?"

You want to tell him the truth, you really do, because then you could end this charade and this pain, but you continue with your game, and say, tongue-in-cheek, "I want to sing your body electric." He stares at you in disbelief, but his cock jumped at your words, so you know you're getting somewhere. The old Justin, your starry-eyed schoolboy, was a sucker for Walt Whitman, and you plan to use this fact to your full advantage.

You start again, this time at the toes, teasing him as they curl up against the ticklishness of your six-o'clock shadow. You build up to the heel, the ankles, the curve of his calf, the insides of his knees, slowly driving him insane. You spread apart his thighs and massage the insides softly, run your fingers along them until he gasps in pleasure, and when you look at him his eyes are rolled back in his head and spit runs down the edge of his lips. You've never seen him like this... never ever, even though you've seen every visible inch of his body, had him contorted into more positions than anyone would imagine possible, seen him writhe in ecstasy, watched his forehead wrinkle in concentration, and his mouth pucker into a gasp of wonder.

When you reach his waist again without touching his cock, he begs. He wants this over, but it isn't his call to make. You inch upward, through the soft golden hairs down the centre of his chest, kiss his jaw. You run your fingers leisurely through his hair, stare at him as he struggles to open his eyes. When you kiss his forehead he arches up into you, moaning incoherently from the base of his throat, unable to bring his lips together to even attempt to kiss you back. You raise yourself up to look at him in wonderment, and he manages to speak, to beg, this time with his little-boy voice. You run your fingers along his cheekbone and build up your courage, then whisper, "Open your eyes, Justin." You want him to see you, to see the look in your eyes right now, the one that sees him as the most beautiful creature ever to grace your presence. He struggles, but he does, and when he sees it, he looks away. You tighten your hold on his cheeks and pull him to face you again and you see the truth on his face, the fear, the guilt, the shame, the tiredness, and everything else you never want to see again.

You whisper his name and kiss him softly, reverently, then look at him again and smile. You wait a little for him to catch on, to see himself as you see him, and finally he swallows and says in a voice that sounds more like a squeak, "Why are you doing this?" He's afraid, and you know this, because what you're admitting to him changes everything about your non-conventional non-defined relationship, because it shoves the both of you out of the complacency of thinking that all there is between you is sex and giggles, but for the first time you're unafraid, because it's not yourself you're protecting, not yourself you're fighting for. You kiss his temple, the infamous right temple that you've never kissed before, and whisper without the slightest doubt or the mildest hint of fear, "I want you back. I want you back." And it seems to work, because he clutches you hard enough to leave marks for days, buries his head in the crook of your shoulder, and cries out your name in unaffected release.


* * *


My favourite quotes from "I sing the body electric":


you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of the gang,
You would wish long and long to be with him, you would wish to sit
by him in the boat that you and he might touch each other.

:
:

To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

:
:

Examine these limbs, red, black, or white, they are cunning in
tendon and nerve,
They shall be stript that you may see them.

Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant backbone and neck, flesh not flabby,
good-sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires,
reachings, aspirations,
(Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in
parlors and lecture-rooms?)

This is not only one man, this the father of those who shall be
fathers in their turns,
In him the start of populous states and rich republics,
Of him countless immortal lives with countless embodiments and enjoyments.

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?
Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all in all nations
and times all over the earth?

If any thing is sacred the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man is the token of manhood untainted,

:
:

Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eyebrows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-hinges,
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the
ample side-round of the chest,
Upper-arm, armpit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews, arm-bones,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, forefinger,
finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-side,
Ribs, belly, backbone, joints of the backbone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round,
man-balls, man-root,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under-leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
body or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame,
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman, and the man that comes from woman,
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening,
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sunburnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels when feeling with the hand the naked
meat of the body,
The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!

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