Blue. Green. Purple. Blue. Red. White. Magenta. Blue. Blue. Red. Blue.
Despite what people may tell you, New York’s colors at night are even brighter if you aren’t on cocaine, not even a little. They blur slower, yes, thin strips of light flashing past through a taxi window too grimy to be semi-legal, but the clarity makes them sharper in your vision. Piercingly direct if you have a headache, which Theo currently does.
The headache’s name is Boris, and he’s currently sitting in the middle fucking seat of the taxicab instead of, perhaps, the perfectly spacious seat to Theo’s far left like a normal person. But Boris has never been normal, knows it, relishes in it just a little too indulgently, and over the past year or so Theo has learned to accept it. The doses are small enough in between trips that he hasn’t become addicted just yet, but this isn’t Vegas anymore, and Theo’s not as young as he used to be. The sensation is creeping in.
Theo balances his chin in one hand, staring dazedly out the window as the neon washes his face with a different color every few seconds. The driver plays a muted pop song on the radio, unintelligible through the plexiglass. Boris watches him closely, gaze direct out of the corner of Theo’s eye. He hasn’t blinked in half a minute.
Theo glances over, not moving his chin. “What?”
“What?” Boris repeats, just barely mocking him. He rolls his eyes smoothly.
“You’re staring at me. Did you get high when you went to the bathroom before we left or something?”
Boris’ forehead creases for just a millisecond before he lets out a dry guffaw. “No! Always the same conclusion with you, God. Am just looking.”
Theo blinks. “At me?”
“Yes, Potter, at you. Is that a crime now?”
Something sharp burns in Theo’s gut, and he turns his eyes back to the shops outside. “I don’t care. Do whatever you want.”
Boris sighs. “Don’t be like that, come on. Tonight was good! Fun, one could even say! You smiled sixteen whole times!”
This time, Theo’s head whips around to look at Boris in surprise. “You were counting?”
He flicks his eyebrows up and down. “Figured I should start a record. See if I could get you up to a normal number.”
“Fuck you,” Theo says, but not cruelly. The phrase has become their own little term of endearment, in a purely platonic and social way. Boris grins.
“Make it seventeen? Just for me?”
Theo draws his cheeks back in the fakest smile he’s ever made, and returns to a glare two seconds later. “There. Happy?”
“Extremely,” says Boris pleasedly. “Now, what do we have at home?”
We? Theo thinks, but doesn’t say it aloud. It’s true that Boris has taken to staying at Theo’s apartment above the shop whenever he has business in New York, and Theo has given him a key for when he’s away on work trips, but he wouldn’t consider this a “we” situation. The only thing of Boris’ even in the apartment is a spare coat. And a toothbrush. And nightclothes, but only because Theo’s are too big. And the toothbrush is purely for sanitary reasons.
The situation is really quite simple: just two friends sharing an apartment for reasons of pure logic and convenience, and occasionally being in the bathroom at the same time (there’s only one goddamn bathroom in the apartment. What is Theo supposed to do, just let Boris run up the hot water bill like some kind of Swedish prince? And not clean out the sink when he’s done brushing his teeth? And-- well, the point’s been made. Anyway.)
Anyway. Theo thinks for a moment; what do they have at home? He’s already pleasantly buzzed and, triumphantly enough, not aching to extend the experience. Dinner was filling. He supposes they could watch a movie, but he’s not in the mood for Boris to spend ten minutes picking what language he wants the subtitles in only to pause every five seconds and ask Theo to define a word. Bed? Too early?
“Let’s make a pie,” Boris says out of fucking nowhere, and Theo startles at this.
“A pie?” he says incredulously. Boris nods excitedly, already appearing to get into the notion.
“Yes! We didn’t get desert, and Kitsy brought you her Vermont trip apples, and it is far too early to go to sleep, not on a Friday night! Come on, Potter, it’ll be fun!”
“Boris, do you know how to make an apple pie? Because I don’t. And Hobie doesn’t have a cookbook.”
Boris flaps his hand nonchalantly. “So we Google it! Scroll through some sad old lady’s introduction, you cut the apples and I pick best one, and into the oven it goes. Easy peasy.”
“No,” Theo insists, “not easy peasy. I don’t even think we have the ingredients besides apples.”
“So we go to the grocer!”
“At ten o’clock at night? I’m not in the mood to get mugged, thanks.”
Boris gives him a very obvious elevator eye. “Lose the coat, maybe don’t look so fruity?”
“Boris, it’s fucking January. This is Peruvian wool. I’m keeping the coat.”
He throws up his hands. “Fine then, I go! Give me a list, I will get what we need!”
“Fine!” Theo snaps, then pauses to think for a moment. “Wait. When did I agree that this was what we’re doing?”
“Didn’t you?” Boris asks innocently. His eyelashes flutter in a way that’s almost certainly deliberate. “Apple pie, Potter. Excellent winter treat.”
“Apple pie is for autumn you moron.”
Without warning, the glass divider slides down and their driver raps on the wheel. “If you two don’t fuckin’ mind,” he says gruffly, “I’m tryin’ to win a radio contest for my daughter, and I can’t hear the damn thing. Maybe mind keepin’ this little lover’s quarrel down two to three fuckin’ notches?”
At the words “lovers quarrel” Theo goes beet red and shuts up immediately, but Boris just flips the man the bird. He returns the gesture and rolls the window back up, muttering something about “no-mannered new-age Abercrombie queers”. Boris flops back into his seat and sighs.
“Right, where were we?”
“Apple pie,” Theo answers faintly, still a little hung up on the driver’s remark. Boris doesn’t seem to notice his preoccupation, or maybe just doesn’t care. The man does wear women’s cologne after all.
“Yes, yes, thank you. So apple pie is not a ‘winter desert’, does not matter. You look up the recipe, give me the list, I run down to the bodega while you preheat the oven. Come back just in time, chop chop chop, and baboom! Pie.”
“Boris,” Theo says without thinking, “do people think we’re dating?”
“Sure,” Boris replies, “happens all the time. Probably because we’re both gay. Anyway, do you want vanilla ice cream to go on top?”
“Yeah, sure, but come home quick so it doesn’t me-- I’m sorry what the fuck?!”
Boris frowns. “You… ‘no’ on the ice cream then?”
Theo’s face shifts from white as a sheet back to crimson. “I-- I’m not gay! Are you gay? Did you think I was gay? Why didn’t you tell me you were gay?!”
“Potter, I need a clear answer about the ice cream.”
“How the fuck can you think about ice cream right now?!” Theo screeches, loudly enough that the taxi driver reaches back and bangs on the glass. Boris looks at him blankly.
“Easily. I am gay and you are gay and we are going home to make pie and I need to know if you want me to get ice cream from the bodega. Cinnamon instead?”
“I’m not gay, Boris,” Theo says tightly, shoulders stiff and now fully turned towards him. Boris laughs even harder than the first time, and every second makes Theo’s blood boil hotter and hotter. “Boris. I’m not.”
Boris sniffs and tries to compose himself. “Potter, I knew you were a homo before I thought I was. Had a hunch the first moment in school! Big glasses, big sweater, your skippy little walk? Like Popchyk?”
“I did not walk like our fucking dog!” Theo shouts at the top of his lungs.
“Correct. You continue to do so.”
The driver gives a final pound on the window, and Theo turns away sharply, folding his arms firmly across his chest. His jaw is set so tightly it hurts, and the colors outside feel like they’re digging into his skull with icepicks. From behind him, Boris makes a confused noise.
“Do not fucking talk to me.”
He sighs. “Potter. Theo. Come on.” Boris reaches out a hand for Theo’s shoulder, but he shoves it away. “Oh for fuck’s sake.”
Theo remains coldly silent, and Boris sighs heavily. He jams his hands in his coat pockets and shifts an inch closer. “You started it.”
“I did fucking not,” Theo says icily. Boris shakes his head.
“Not that. This. Us. You know it was you who first kissed me, right?”
Instantly, Theo feels the heat rise up inside him again. He turns ever so slightly towards Boris. “I-- what?”
Boris shrugs with only one shoulder. “You were drunk. I was drunk and high.” He snorts. “Your breath was fucking terrible.”
“That’s because you always bought us the shittiest beer in the aisle,” says Theo, forgetting his ire for just a moment. Boris smiles.
“I know how to treat a guy, no?”
Theo’s about to say something back, he swears, but the cab stops violently at the curb and he and Boris are thrown back against the worn, heavily stained seats. The message is clear: get out of the fucking car.
Cold, New-York-winter air bites at Theo’s face as he steps out onto the sidewalk, pulling the collar of his coat up to face the chill. Boris slides across the seat and follows him, snickering at how badly Theo shivers. “Vegas ruined you, Potter. It’s barely five below.”
Theo still isn’t feeling too friendly towards him, so he glares peevishly over the lip of his collar. “You were there longer than I was.”
“Yes,” Boris says, “but: I have far more experience in various cold weathers. Ukranian winters make this feel like tropical vacation.” He grins, full teeth. “Peruvian wool not so useful as it is pretty, eh?”
“This coat cost six hundred dollars, Boris.”
A burst of incredulous laughter. “They ripped you off, then! Money can’t keep you warm; you’ll freeze to death with pockets full of bills.”
Theo shoves his hand into his coat pocket and fishes around for his keys. “Then let’s get the hell inside, you ass.”
Boris bounds up the front steps of Hobie’s shop, standing in front of the door to block Theo’s way. He pokes his bottom lip out in an exaggerated pout. “You are mad at me.”
“Yes,” Theo grumbles, “I am mad at you. Astute observation. Move.”
He does not. “I still do not understand why. What is so bad about what I said? Is who you are; nothing to be ashamed of. You are man in furniture business in Peruvian fucking wool coat, Potter, is not like nobody assumes.”
In lieu of a response, Theo grabs Boris’ hand and tries to pull him out of the way, but Boris stays planed. “Theodore.”
“Will you please,” Theo bites out between gritted teeth, “fucking drop it.”
“You Kashan-munching fuckstick, why not?!” With Boris on the steps above him, he’s the perfect height for Theo to snarl directly in his face, eyes flashing. Boris flicks his eyebrows up and down.
“Because the sooner you admit I am right, the sooner I get my goodnight kiss and we can go inside.”
“If you want me to give you so much as a goddamn handshake, you’re going to have to make me,” Theo says, sure that Boris is joking/bluffing/being a general asshole. He learns five seconds later that he’s not.
Boris (fucking Boris, wry, reckless, insufferable Boris) grabs Theo by the lapels of his coat and pulls him into kiss so intense it sends him reeling. His head spins. He can’t feel his feet. Boris has strong hands and soft lips and tastes like the heavy wine they had at the end of dinner, and he kisses Theo hard enough to make metaphors into real bruises. He pulls back, far too pleased for the dazed look he’s left on Theo’s face.
“There. As your people like to say here, ‘gay rights’. Pie now?”
“I can’t feel my feet,” Theo half-mumbles, pupils the size of hockey pucks. Boris huffs out a laugh, genuine and sweet.
“Christ, Potter. You cheap little queen.”
“I’m six inches taller than you.”
He laughs again, taps a finger on the tip of Theo’s nose. “You didn’t deny the other two things.”
Theo regains enough self-awareness to straighten his shoulders, ducking his head to try and will away the blush burning his skin. He rubs at the spot Boris touched with his finger. “Fuck off.”
Boris reaches up, takes the hand gently, and squeezes it. Brings it to his mouth. His lips brush Theo’s knuckles, still scarred from every fight in Vegas and white as the snow falling around them. “Why are you so scared of this? Theo. Is only me.”
“Yeah,” Theo says softly, breath gone from his body the moment Boris made contact. “It is you, isn’t it.” Not a question. Not disappointed. He doesn’t think he could be if he tried.
It used to be he’d dream about Boris; still does, but they’ve changed since Amsterdam. Formerly this: Boris wild and far from sober, grabbing him clumsily, too-sharp teeth and eyes like a fox and feathers falling around them as he bled to death from a white-tipped nose. Boris dies, or he kills Theo, or they go down together like Bonnie and Clyde in a swirl of smoke and ripped canvas and sunlight streaming through it all. Indistinct. Aftertaste of tequila. Dancing on the border between bad dream and nightmare.
Then there was Antwerp and cheap movies on the couch and a plate of cold salmon eaten with their fingers between them. Hands almost brushing while guns blazed on the TV screen. Boris still high, Theo slightly less so, and the world was a waterlogged painting. Now Theo’s dreams are softer; Boris under his chin and sighing like a puppy. He isn’t exactly used to all the sleep he’s getting, but he’ll take these guilt-tinged memories that didn’t happen over another dream of flying limbs and blood on marble.
It used to be he thought Boris would eat him alive, but looking at him now, dark eyes and parted mouth and the streetlamps shining on the snow in his hair, Theo wonders if it might just be the other way around once they get in the door. Tell me it’s okay, he thinks desperately, tell me I can have this, tell me I’m not broken, tell me not to fight anymore.
“Potter,” Boris says, blinking childlike as snowflakes land on his eyelashes. “Can I—“
“Yes,” Theo says, not even caring what he’s selling his soul for, and Boris kisses him again just as desperate as the first time, except this time Theo can see it. He’s hungry, wanting, not appearing to care who sees them in the doorway. Boris fists a hand at his back and another in his hair, tangling it tight enough to burn, and Theo feels lighter than air.
They break away, panting, and Theo knows that if they don’t get inside right this moment, he’ll be sucked into the black hole of Boris’ punch-drunk eyes and they’ll freeze to death out in the snow. It’s either a sign of how dangerous or wonderful this feeling is that he finds he doesn’t care.
“Remember when I said you were the only boy I had been in bed with?” Boris asks, voice hoarse, still gripping the back of Theo’s coat in a shaking fist. Theo nods dumbly. He grins, a wicked fairy king. “Is still true.”
“Fucking asshole,” Theo says tenderly, and wrenches open the front door to pull them both inside.