it’s midday and there’s a headache pressing at the corners of taeyong’s mind, only growing stronger by the minute. it’s—annoying, if nothing else, as he stares at the canvas in front of him and tries to make sense of it. this time, he’s working on a max ernst painting. never again, he decides, dragging his brush against the canvas, marking the white a dark green. ernst’s brand of surrealism has never appealed much to him, but. work is work, after all.
he’s not able to dwell on that for very long, because doyoung comes home.
he doesn’t announce himself—doesn’t yell out anything into their apartment, but it doesn’t matter; taeyong hears him, anyway, recognizes him by the rhythm of his footsteps. it’s only a matter of time before doyoung sheds off his coat, takes off his shoes, and finds his way upstairs to taeyong’s makeshift studio. with all the money they’ve gotten from taeyong’s work, he could afford to rent a studio out of their home, somewhere else in the city, but this is safer, after all.
plus: taeyong likes being home when doyoung comes back. there’s something he wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else in how doyoung always comes up the stairs with a cup of taeyong’s favorite tea and a box of sweets from their favorite confectionary. taeyong’s stomach turns at the very thought of it; he hasn’t eaten since the morning, too busy painting. there’s no deadline for him to finish all the paintings—and there’s quite a bit of them—but he likes being ahead of schedule. being ahead of schedule means being able to convince doyoung to fly somewhere for a week or two, means spending the days strolling the city together and taking photos and doing nothing at all.
before that, though, he does have to finish the paintings. so taeyong shifts in his seat, pulling his knee closer to his chest, and swiping more green onto the canvas, just as doyoung enters the room. taeyong bites back a smile, hoping it doesn’t come through in his eyes, and doyoung leans over him to look at the canvas.
it’s always a question of whether it’s good enough; whether it’s believable, whether it’ll sell, whether it’s good. taeyong takes little offense to it, because even though it is his work, it isn’t, not really, and, as it turns out, doyoung has a good eye for things like this, art curator and all. now, though, doyoung doesn’t say anything—the critiques will come later, taeyong supposes—and instead sets his chin on taeyong’s shoulder, rests his cheek on the soft material of taeyong’s sweater and watches as taeyong’s grip on the paintbrush falters just slightly. he doesn’t comment but he does huff, hiding his laughter behind a smile.
“you’re so fucking annoying,” taeyong tells him, dumping the paintbrush into his mug from the morning, previously full of tea, now filled with muddy red water and dirty brushes. “do you need something?”
“just came to say hi,” doyoung says. he turns his head, pressing a light kiss to the skin of taeyong’s shoulder, “and to see what you’re doing. what’re you doing?”
“what does it look like i’m doing?”
“right,” doyoung says. “i brought you tea,” as if taeyong doesn’t know, as if he hadn’t seen doyoung bring in the mug, decorated with paint markers, dark tulips on a bland, grey background. “and i bought strawberry cake, if you want some later.”
“mm,” taeyong hums. he twists in his place, the stool he’s sitting wobbling underneath him. “how was work?”
“it was okay,” doyoung says. “yuta was annoying, jisung almost ruined three separate pieces, and donghyuck wouldn’t stop trailing after me.” he raises his hand, swipes his fingers against taeyong’s nose, wipes them on taeyong’s handkerchief, leaving behind a purple stain. taeyong doesn’t think he’s ever been more in love. “you know. the usual.”
“that means he likes you,” taeyong grins. his hands find doyoung’s and he intertwines their fingers, holding on tightly. “you should be happy about that.”
“i would be, if not for the fact that it takes that much more time to complete a single task,” doyoung says, but it’s all a front; his eyes are shining, his lips just barely not twisting into a smile. as much as he’d like to deny it, doyoung likes donghyuck as much as donghyuck likes him, always making sure to buy him a coffee if he gets one for himself on the way to work, being soft on him if he makes a mistake, bringing in sweets for lunch. “don’t look at me like that, i’m serious.”
“of course,” taeyong says. “i wouldn’t doubt you, you know that.” doyoung rolls his eyes and taeyong pulls on his hand, tugging him impossibly closer. it should be uncomfortable, how into each other’s personal spaces they are, but it isn’t. “tell donghyuck i think he’s doing a great job.”
“tell him yourself.” doyoung’s half-pouting, despite being a grown man. taeyong only grins, pulling on his hand again and sitting up to kiss his cheek, then his nose, then his other cheek. “are you high?”
taeyong bites back the incredibly corny reply that’s on the tip of his tongue and sighs, too loud to be serious, and uses his free hand to punch the side of doyoung’s arm, too light to hurt. “i think i’m allowed to show you affection,” taeyong says. “it’s not a crime, is it?”
“depends,” doyoung says, though he lets taeyong kiss him again, lets him cup his cheek, thumb gentle against cold skin, lets him drag a hand through his hair, fingers massaging his scalp. “i was thinking…”
“that’s a first.”
“that stopped being funny the first time you said it,” doyoung tells him, though a smile’s lifting his lips anyway. taeyong can always count on him to do a terrible job of ruining the fun. “i was thinking, if you were up for it, we could take photos with some of your paintings today.”
“today,” taeyong repeats. his hand slips away from doyoung’s face as he turns his body to glance at the wall, at the canvases stacked up against it. the paint shines against the glow of his lamp—and the photos are long overdue, no matter which way he looks at it. “weren’t we going to do it this weekend?”
“we also agreed to have dinner with sooyoung and her girlfriend,” doyoung reminds him, “which you know will go on for longer than just dinner. and johnny called today; he wants me to check out his pieces, see how well they’d work for his exhibit.”
“that’s work,” taeyong says. he narrows his eyes at doyoung, hooks his finger through his belt loop. “that’s work,” he repeats. “can’t you do that during the week?”
“it’s unofficial work,” doyoung says. “besides, yuta’s going to be taking care of organizing johnny’s exhibition, anyway. johnny wants me to give him off-record feedback. and it’s not such a bad idea to help him figure out how it should look, considering we should expect the worst if yuta’s the one planning it.”
“should i be worried?” doyoung tilts his head, confused, and taeyong squeezes his hand. “that you’re replacing me as your enemy number one.”
“you’ll always be my enemy number one,” and that’s corny, but taeyong doesn’t say anything. he’ll bring it up later, when doyoung makes fun of him for being sincere and saying something heartfelt for once. “yuta’s just annoying. you’re a menace.”
“mmh. in my defense, it was mostly your idea that i start an art forgery business.”
“it wasn’t a bad idea, though,” doyoung tells him. taeyong’s inclined to agree, thinking of the countless trips they’ve been able to take, the way he’s been able to afford better and better art supplies, no longer worrying about how much money he’ll pay. “so. you can’t blame me, and my point stands.”
“say that in court,” taeyong says. “use that line of defense, and we’ll see if you get let off the hook.”
“what, you’re thinking about turning us in?” doyoung asks. “the works are your doing, you know that, right? you won’t be able to pin them on me.”
“i’ll testify against you,” taeyong tells him. “say it was your idea to start this. you are the one who arranges everything. i just make the paintings. i’m as good as innocent, practically.”
“you’ll have no proof.”
“i’ll get a voice recording of you admitting to it, one of these days,” taeyong says, “and then you’ll be done for. don’t underestimate me.”
“i would never,” doyoung says, but he’s laughing, eyes bright as he reaches to kiss taeyong’s forehead, almost patronizing, fingers light on his skin as he smoothes aside his fringe. “let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.”
“why?” taeyong leans into doyoung’s touch as he cups his cheek. “i think it’d be exciting.”
he’s not saying it just to rile doyoung up, either, he realizes. what they’re doing has become routine—paint, paint, paint, wait for doyoung’s critiques, paint some more, take photos, sell the paintings under someone else’s name, and repeat. it’s been like this for… taeyong isn’t even sure how long. he can feel the itch in his fingers, begging for a change of scenery, for something new to happen.
“i think being convicted for art forgery shouldn’t be on your bucket list,” doyoung tells him, not quite understanding the underlying meaning. taeyong doesn’t mind—at least not yet. “that being said—the photos?”
“the photos—oh, right.” doyoung drops his hand from taeyong’s face, walking over to the canvases that are yet to be photographed. he drags his fingers down their length, narrowing his eyes at them, and taeyong just watches him. “i don’t have anything else to do, so. i don’t mind taking them today.”
“what about the paintings you’re working on?” doyoung asks. “maybe if you manage to finish them, we could get photos of those done as well.”
“wouldn’t that be too convenient? suspicious?”
“mhm,” doyoung looks up, giving taeyong a glance. “maybe.”
“doesn’t matter,” taeyong stands up, reaches for the cup of tea doyoung brought him. it’s a winter one, meant to resemble a warm fireplace. it smells faintly of cinnamon, hot on taeyong’s lips when he takes a sip. “i won’t be done today, so. by the end of the week, maybe, but it’s been going slow today.”
“and who is it, this time?”
“ernst,” taeyong says, “surrealism.”
“ah,” doyoung says and doesn’t elaborate.
taking the photos is probably taeyong’s favorite part of the job. the job—favorite part of the crime, he supposes, but then it’s not even true; his favorite part of the crime is the elation he feels after they’ve sold a painting, high on being able to pull that off, high on whatever doyoung’s gotten them for the celebration.
taking the photo is his favorite part of the actual work. the painting gets boring, despite the fact that he’d aspired to be a painter since he was younger. there’s better artists to copy and worse; ernst is definitely amongst the worst, while léger ranks amongst the best. there’s a part of taeyong that wishes he stayed with his own original work, wonders how it would be like to sign his paintings with his own name.
it doesn’t matter, ultimately, because without this, he wouldn’t have met doyoung.
“do you think this looks believable?”
taeyong glances up from where he’s been toying with his antique camera—his baby, as he refers to it, half to annoy doyoung, half because he means it. doyoung’s standing in front of him, too comfortable in old clothing. he looks good, especially with the glasses perched on his nose, his hair straightened and arranged away from his face. taeyong tells him so.
“i’m not asking whether i look good,” doyoung says, though he’s smiling. “i’m asking whether it looks believable.”
“whether you look like kim doyoung senior?”
“that’s the cover story, yes,” as if taeyong doesn’t know. “so. does it pass?”
“the camera does most of the work,” taeyong says, getting up from his seat. he resists the urge to ruffle doyoung’s hair, to flick off his glasses, to kiss him, even if just briefly. “i think it’s fine.”
“you’d think it’s fine if i came out in a nirvana shirt and sunglasses,” doyoung accuses.
“guilty as charged,” taeyong says. “at least you’d look hot for once.”
doyoung makes a face at him and taeyong just grins. he motions towards the seat and doyoung takes it, positioned squarely in front of the newest kees van dongen painting, of an elegantly dressed woman staring into nothing. rings and various bracelets adorn her hands, and taeyong wonders if he took too much artistic liberty he doesn’t have with the piece. hopefully not.
“maybe we should start looking into taking the photos in different places,” taeyong says as he takes a few steps back, figuring out what the best camera angle would be. doyoung doesn’t tell him to hurry up and get it over with as he did the first few times, now used to taeyong’s particularities with photography. “so they’re not all… you know. terribly similar.”
“you think so?” doyoung sets his hands in his lap, reconsiders, and takes hold of the teacup that taeyong had placed on the table earlier. he crosses his legs, uncrosses them, crosses them again. “it’s not like we’re selling to the same people.”
“they could be in contact,” taeyong muses. he holds the camera up, watching doyoung through the lens, just barely able to stop his smile. he takes a few steps back, letting the painting enter the frame. “six degrees of separation and all.”
“six degrees of separation doesn’t mean they’re going to be showing each other the proof that the painting’s legitimate,” doyoung says.
“they could,” taeyong says. “i would, if i bought an expensive painting with funds that could’ve very well gone towards anything else.”
doyoung’s silent for a moment, brows pulled together as he looks at taeyong, deep in thought. taeyong takes the chance to snap a photo on film he can’t waste, immortalizing this doyoung.
“it doesn’t matter,” doyoung says, finally. “they’re not… made unbelievable if they’re all in the same room. if my grandfather really had been such a collector of fine art, he would’ve wanted to be photographed with it, with such a treasure, anyway. it makes sense.”
“it’s not me you have to convince,” taeyong says. “just the buyers.”
“if it gets out.”
“if it gets out,” taeyong agrees. “are you ready?”
“i was waiting for you,” doyoung tells him and taeyong rolls his eyes behind the camera, getting to work.
the photos turn out well. at least—taeyong thinks they do. doyoung’s not going to get a chance to see them before the photos are developed, which is going to take a few days. taeyong already knows they’re going to look good; they always do. it’s less of a testament of his skill than it is of doyoung, who might as well have gone into modeling.
not one picture they’ve taken with the forged paintings looked bad. and it’s not just taeyong romanticizing it, either, a filter of the time that’s passed fogging up his senses; he has copies of all the photos of doyoung with the forged paintings stocked up in his studio. he flips through them every once in a while, fingers reaching out to trace over doyoung’s face.
they’d look good in an exhibition, he thinks, sometimes.
he drew up names for them, a few weeks ago, during a particular bout of boredom, so on the back of each shines his handwriting, with the title and the date. the medium, too, because he’s funny like that. it’s not too difficult to imagine them hung up against white walls, a small name tag by each.
he tries not to do that too often, though. he straightens them in his lap, setting them back inside his desk, along with his camera.
“why don’t you let me take your portraits outside of the whole art forgery thing?” taeyong asks. they’re on the couch, doyoung reading some boring book about something—the history of sculpture, from what taeyong can see—and taeyong’s occupying himself with threading his fingers through doyoung’s hair, gentle against his scalp. his hair is soft to the touch. “wouldn’t it be nice? immortalized on paper, as yourself.”
“you’ve taken photos of me before,” doyoung tells him, only half-listening.
“for your id,” taeyong says. “i mean like, i don’t know. just normal portraits, for the fun of it.”
“for the fun of it,” doyoung repeats. “what use would you even have of my portraits?”
taeyong blinks, unsure how to reply. none, theoretically, is the answer. the portraits would have no use, as portraits tend to. none, but taeyong still inexplicably wants to take photos of doyoung out of costume, no matter how minimal said costume is. he wants to take photos of doyoung and proudly display them on the walls, for when their friends come over. he wants to display them in his studio, have something to look at that doyoung wouldn’t disapprove of, the way he’d disapprove of taeyong display the photos with forged paintings. he wants to be able to have them, if nothing else, for the proof that doyoung’s his as much as he’s doyoung’s.
still: “i guess none,” he says, and that’s that.