I missed last week thanks to an inner ear infection, but this week’s Friday Flash Fics inspiration solidly landed me back with Michel and Clive from “Pentimento” (which appears in Of Echoes Born, and who we’ve already visited once in a previous Friday Flash Fic piece, “Morning After, After Mourning” (which this piece follows a short while after).
After weekend late shifts at Chances, Clive always wanted nothing more than a hot shower, a large glass of water, and to fall into bed. Chances was closed on Mondays, and that meant Clive was always guaranteed to have the day off. Over the last couple of years, it had become the day he allowed himself luxuries. Sleeping in, grabbing a late breakfast out from somewhere and not considering the level of grease or nutrition involved, and then a day spent luxuriating in sloth with music or Netflix and zero other human contact. Mondays were also the only day he didn’t hit the gym, though he still often went for a run or a swim if the weather was nice.
He loved his job, and he was—if he allowed himself some hubris—a damned good bartender, but after the Friday-Saturday-Sunday stretch of closing the bar down, he was ready for silence and solitude.
Except right now he wasn’t.
He’d done the shower and dive into bed thing, but waking up there the following morning, he’d found his apartment too quiet.
Or, well, not too quiet so much as missing a particular voice.
He’d tried to shake it off, getting up, getting dressed, and heading down to his car. He tried to decide where to hit for takeout breakfast, but…
Clive rolled his eyes, pulled out his phone, and tapped away on the screen.
His thumb hovered over ‘send’ but it wasn’t like him to waffle like this. He tapped it, and his message: Are you up? appeared in a little green bubble.
The dancing three grey dots that told him a reply was incoming had him pausing at his car, waiting with his keys in hand.
In the studio.
Clive smiled, and tried not to think overmuch about how much he was smiling due to a single text. Had breakfast yet?
I have a theory that takeout breakfast is better shared. Want to test it? There. That was just flirty enough, but not too flirty, right? Clive blew out a breath, and tapped ‘send.’
It would be a crime against science not to. Back door is unlocked.
Clive grinned, and got in his car.
There were two reserved parking spots behind FunkArt, but only one was occupied. Michel’s little Mazda was there, and Clive pulled in beside it. Nerves hit his stomach then, and he blew out a breath, checking his reflection in the rear-view and then feeling like an idiot for checking his reflection.
After all, the last time they’d seen each other had been the morning after a wake, and neither of them had exactly groomed well. At least, not before they’d ended up in Michel’s bed and talking away most of the day.
Maybe that was it. All they’d done was talk. That was kind of new for Clive. They’d gotten to know each other pretty well, had exchanged compliments and numbers, and they’d already seen each other mostly naked and spent an entire rainy day together and, okay, there’d been a pretty great kiss near the end…
Then they’d parted with a promise to get together again.
Which was now.
Clive picked up the to-go bag from the twenty-four hour diner on Elgin, and got out of his car.
Above the gallery proper at FunkArt, Michel had turned one of the two apartments into a studio space he rented to artists for photo shoots, classes, or just for artists who needed a space for a major project. Climbing the stairs, Clive glanced at the other door, the one that led to Michel’s apartment.
The studio door was open a crack, so Clive came through, turning down the short hallway to the large open front space lined with windows and…
Michel was crouched on the ground, down on one knee, surrounded by bowls and bottles of paint, oils, and an array of paint brushes and water and pallet knives. His hands were stained with paint, and he’d shucked the top half of a pair of denim overalls, tying them in a knot around his waist. He was smooth and very lean—something Clive remembered well from their rainy day together.
He had a paintbrush held between his teeth, and it was one of the sexiest things Clive had ever seen.
He cleared his throat.
Michel turned, and smiled around the paintbrush, putting down a rag to pull it from his mouth.
That was when Clive noticed the canvasses. There were a half-dozen of them, some leaning and apparently waiting to dry, others still on easels. Abstracts, with emphatic colours and a mix of brush-strokes and pallet-applied paint.
“Breakfast,” Clive said, raising the bag.
“Hi,” Michel said, with a shy little smile. He reached for a t-shirt, blushing all the way to the tips of his ears. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you coming up the stairs.”
“It’s fine,” Clive said, a little sad to see the t-shirt make its appearance. “It looks like you’ve been in the zone.”
“I haven’t painted this much since school.”
“If I’m interrupting…” Clive held up the bag of food. “I can do a drop-off.”
“No, no, not at all. I didn’t mean that.” Michel bit his bottom lip. Clive found himself staring at it, and forced his gaze back to Michel’s paintings.
“They’re really good,” Clive said.
“I don’t know about that.” Michel blew out a breath. “But they’re not mimicry. Or at least, I don’t think I’m doing that.”
“It’s something Hans said,” Michel said.
“Right, the master forger,” Clive said. He and Michel had talked about this on the rainy day. Hans had been Michel’s art professor, and had never been one to sugar-coat his feedback. According to Michel, Hans had been very clear that Michel had technical talent—he could mirror the technique of pretty much any artist—but not much voice of his own.
“But thank you,” Michel said. “They’re turning out the way I pictured them, so that’s something.”
“Hey,” Clive said, and waited for Michel to meet his gaze. “I may not know art, but I know what I like.”
“Yeah?” Michel said.
Clive didn’t look away. “Yeah.”