[center 1. an average, yet introverted man]
[center 2. his consistent disbelief in love]
[center 3. and the man who changed all that]
James Davis was a 28 year-old American dog walker to say it quite plainly. He lived an average life and he liked it that way. He stayed out of everybody's way and they stayed out of his.
After several failed attempts at a love life, James took the easy road: he gave up. From then on, it was just him and Achilles They lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. James had a way of cutting himself off from society the moment his door closed. And he took pleasure in the fact that he had no neighbors to either side of him.
It wasn't that he was rude or insensitive. In fact, James was quite polite. As well as awkward, and most of all: shy. Due to these factors, James wasn't one for staying out longer than he needed to. He enjoyed his time alone.
That is until that one fateful day when he finally got a neighbor. A neighbor who, to poor James's realization, played his music too loud and had too many people over. His name was ________ and it was his house-warming party when the two met for the first time. ________ decided to introduce himself to his new neighbor and invited him to pop over for a couple of drinks.
The idea of facing this guy's friends in an environment that he had never been in put fear in James, and he politely declined, closing his door on the stranger. Who- to James's disbelieve- was so attractive that his face kept popping up in his mind.
One day turned into two, and two into three, and before a week, James had himself convinced that he should take something over to his new neighbor. A cake or wine or a gift of sorts. If only to make himself appear the friendly neighbor. So he picked up a bottle of wine and headed over. But the bass was thumping and the people were laughing and James almost backed out.
He forced himself to knock, adjusted his hair, and looked to his converse as he waited. The door opened to that perfect face. James stuck out the wine.
"This is- well I just- I mean-" James had to stop himself and rethink his words. "Housewarming gift. Belated. Sorry. Also, I just came to ask how long this partying might go on? Not that you can't party! It's just- my dog- he doesn't like loud noises." It wasn't a lie. Not really. Achilles didn't life loud thumps and bumps. It's just that James disliked them even more.
Little did he know however, that ________ found James's awkward charm to be endearing and developed his own little crush on his introverted neighbor.
"Why don't you come inside and meet everyone?" he asked. "We can get to know each other. As neighbors."
And for once, James Davis listened, unable to refuse a second time.
And ________ forms a plan to get James to stop being such a homebody .
But both men have secrets.
[center [pic http://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc477/linkthehero6/tumblr_me7jupDsK41qa365w_zps1vfnmlsu.gif]]
[center [b I want to make this story as interesting as possible. If I choose you, I want you to throw some curve balls and bounce ideas off me. I want there to be an exciting factor involved. Something from a dead sibling to something as far as being framed for a crime and they have to run away together??? I don't know, but I want this to GO places! :)]]
+ Understand that I WILL NOT be posting everyday. I have a hectic schedule.
+ Literacy, please. To me, this means simply: grammar, capitalization, punctuation, multiple paragraphs
+ I can be picky when it comes to pictures, but don't let that scare you. I'm always willing to help find one for you as well.
+ Please send me a sample post in your PM as well as a photo of the character you plan to use in this story.
+ Tell me what your favorite movie is in your request to join.
Eric's eyes lightened up at James' response. He was half expecting the man to politely decline, so he was more than elated to hear. He stood up, pulling James to his feet with him. [b "The shots for the date are usually more candid, with one centerpiece picture to top off that's more posed and prepared for."] Eric began walking through the lobby towards the restaurant. [b "I take pictures from a distance for most of the date and then approach later on when he gives the signal and take a few with them looking at the camera. She smiles so widely every time."]
Eric waved at the hostess who smiled back at them. [b "I'm a bit early, so we're gonna walk through the shops for a bit. Did they finish renovating the candy shop?"] The hostess laughed and nodded, then looked James up and down. Eric had already looked over at the direction of the shops and started walking. [b "And you're about to see my favorite place. It's down at the end of the shops, so we'll get there eventually. You can't miss it. So..."] Eric gestured before him, directing the man's attention towards the extravagant line of shops. There was everything from a little cafe sandwiched between a jeweler and a kid's toy store to a door to an Escape Room parlor next door to a collectible comic book store. Among other stores were eccentric souvenir kiosks and small stands advertising some obscure life-changing product.
But at the very end was Eric's favorite.
It was a store called CandyWorld, and very much looked like the board game from his childhood of a similar name. Outside, it had big pink and white candy hooks rising out of a patch of rainbow drop-shaped candies, while clouds of "cotton candy" hung from ceiling. And inside, it was even more colorful, with row and rows of self-serve candies and a tray by the register that usually offered a sample of their "Candy Creation" of the day, and Eric's mouth was already watering. He usually went there after his appointment, but he was glad to see he could go beforehand. It was one of the big reasons he always enjoyed this trip.
[b "You just walk on ahead like...I guess you would if you were window shopping? And I'll just do my thing. Sounds good?"] Eric beamed, raising his camera and snapping a few photos to start. He was excited.
James nodded along with what Eric was saying. He supposed there were two sides to every coin. Maybe you never really knew the answers unless you were in their shoes.
He was pulled out of his reverie when he heard the clicking of Eric's lenses. His eyebrows rose up in question and looked around. "H-here?" he asked, a bit taken aback by the request. Eric's next words were flattering, however, and just enough to convince him. He hands fiddled nervously. "Your favorite model?" He looked away and shrugged bashfully. "I'm sure I don't deserve that honor, but... alright." His shoulders rose awkwardly. "What... should I do?"
Despite still being unused to this, Eric had a strange way of making him feel at ease. Well, as at ease as he could be in a public setting where he was about to get his photos taken... He subconsciously moved to flatten his hair.
Eric nodded in response. It was romantic, that much he could see. [b "I think it's difficult, to have that burden, I mean."] He cleared his throat and sat more upright, resting his camera on his lap. [b "I don't know. To have the burden of being the only one who can remember what was shared sounds like it could take its toll after a while. But at the same time, I guess it would be nice to see someone fall in love with you over and over again as if it actually [i is] the first time."]
Eric shrugged his shoulders. He couldn't imagine not being able to remember the things he deemed important to him, especially the warmth and familiarity of a significant other after years and years of being together. It seemed even worse to him to think of having to be the only one who really remembered and had to keep that memory alive, all by himself. It seemed taxing.
To distract from the topic at hand, Eric had an idea. He took his camera out of his back and began putting together his lens attachments. [b "How about we do a little bit of a test run, what do you say?"] He said, looking to his side at James and offering a hearty smile. [b "I would hope my favorite model would be up to the task."]
The fact that Eric caught his slip of the tongue sent heat straight to his cheeks, but he tried to ignore it. Which was impossible when Eric bumped his shoulder with his own on his way past. James was stuck to the spot, a hand on his arm where Eric had brushed. He was biting his lower lip and he couldn't help the small smile that tugged at the corner of his mouth.
It was only when he heard his voice that he was tugged out of his small daydream and he turned around, shoving his hands in his pockets as if it might help disguise his embarrassment. He followed after a bit bashfully.
While sitting in the passenger seat of Eric's car, he wondered how he got himself into this. He hated leaving the house. Especially to go to some place he'd never been before with some guy he hardly knew. But as Eric explained the situation with the clients, James allowed himself a glance over at the wild-haired photographer. He had to admit there was something about him. Handsome, for sure, but in the short time that James had known him he was finding out he was also creative and caring and... he actually enjoyed spending time with him. Why else would he be here? Before he was caught staring for too long, he let his gaze move back out the window, trying to keep his long legs from shuffling about too much.
Despite the hour-long drive, James could have spent even longer in that car listening to Eric talk. But before he knew it, they arrived at the hotel and he followed him inside to the dining area before taking a seat. It was only now that he was starting to feel really out of place. He wasn't being paid to be here and witness this love story like Eric was, after all.
Eric's voice once again pulled him from his thoughts. And once again, Eric found a way to include him, like he had at the housewarming party.
"I think it's... romantic," he answered him, but he sounded sad, his mouth pursing as he thought. "That's love, I suppose. To be with someone no matter what gets in the way."
He thought of his mother and how she chose to stay with his father even after all the terrible things he had done. Was that love, too?
He looked at Eric and bent over the table slightly, hands clasped in his lap. "So, what do you really do with the pictures? Does he just want you to take them to make her happy, or does he keep them?" He imagined an envelope with years worth of pictures inside. All of them looked almost exactly the same. James knew that he would probably keep them, too, the sentimental person that he was.
Eric woke at about 7:30ish a.m., a light sweat over his body. It wasn't a nightmare he had, but it was enough of an intense dream to get himself worked up over, and he wasn't sure how to feel about it. Hell, as the seconds passed, the memory of it was fading until all that was left was a hollow longing. Even then, he couldn't tell if that longing was for the dream or what the dream showed him.
Nonetheless, Eric dragged himself into the shower to clean up. He already had his outfit laid out for himself, so the morning didn't take much preparation aside from making sure he had all of his equipment and that he would be ready at 9a.m. sharp. He didn't like being late, as punctuality did wonders for his reputation as a photographer.
It was just a bit before 8a.m. when Eric remembered to check his phone. He had hopes that James would be able to join him for something more professional than the project that the two of them were working on. Part of him believed that he just wanted to let James feel informed and more comfortable for the shoots they would have on future dates, while the rest of him felt a subtle desire to impress James with his professional demeanor.
But the only messages were for a confirmation for the appointment at 10a.m., and while answering it, Eric wondered if James got the message, and if he did, what did he think? He found himself dwelling on the thought too much and got to making himself a small bite to eat.
Around a quarter to 9a.m., Eric gathered some of his equipment and slung the carry bag it all fit in over his shoulder. With a click and lock of his door, Eric turned around and almost ran right into James heading towards him. [b "Oh, sorry! My bad. I didn't think I'd see you this morning. Did you get my text?"]
Eric listened to James's response and tried to hide his reaction to the pause James made. Whether it was a joke or an accidental slip, Eric didn't know, and he wasn't sure if he should comment on it or not. It could mean nothing...
[b "Oh, I don't mind having you."] Eric left a little pause to echo James's before continuing. [b "Along, of course."] He lightly bumped his shoulder against James's arm as he walked past, leaving his words to hang in the air for a few seconds. It was when he reached the stairs to call out behind him, [b "Let's go. We have some rubber to burn."]
The drive out of town to his client's house took a little over an hour, with Eric keeping James occupied with surface conversation and talking a bit more about the client. They drove through the sleepy town out into the mountains, taking them through the mountains and out into a valley where, in the shade of the mountain was a sprawling city. It was large, loud even in the mid-morning, and cars lined the streets in traffic. It wasn't long before they stopped at drive-around in front of a hotel in the city heights.
Eric explained the client to James. It was an elderly couple that he had photographed for the past three years as part of the work he took while in school. They were a couple that liked to go on a breakfast date once a month at the hotel in which they met some few decades ago. However, as the years passed, the wife began to develop Alzheimer's, but only really could remember her husband when they were at the hotel. It was like every date was their first date here, where it was for her, and although it was cute and romantic to Eric, he couldn't imagine having to do that date over and over again. But still, they photographed it, and he would always surprise her and say that he wanted to take pictures of their breakfast date so that he could have a pretty picture to hang up at his house.
It felt like something out of some sort of straight-to-TV Hallmark story, but Eric stayed with the job. And as they waited in the lobby, Eric sat next to James, almost shoulder to shoulder, holding onto his bag. [b "They always show up anywhere between 10 and 11, so we might be waiting a bit, but they'll show."] He turned towards James and smiled. [b "So...what do you think so far?"]
It's true. James was asleep when the message from Eric came through. And he would have likely missed the chance to tag along so early if it wasn't for Achilles needing to go out at seven in the morning.
James pulled on some sweatpants and grabbed his phone as an after-thought before heading outside to let Achille's do his business. He sat on the bottom step outside and checked his phone, more out of force of habit than actually expecting anything.
James figured he had nothing better to do and went to type up a reply... But he remembered how early it was. The last thing he wanted to do was wake his poor neighbor up. So when Achilles was finished they trekked back up the stairs and headed back inside.
After showering, James chose an outfit much like the one he wore the day before and fixed himself some breakfast. While he ate, he looked at the text message once again. That smiley face... James realized he was looking too much into it. It was just a smiley face... Right?
At 8:45, James started listening for Eric to open his door. When no such sound came, he decided he might as well go knock on his door now that it wasn't so early. He opened his front door and turned to Eric's, but when he didn't see was Eric doing the exact same thing at the exact same moment. They almost collided and James gasped.
"Sorry!" a bashful smile crossed his face. "I didn't get your text till this morning... but if you're still willing to have me... Along! Have me [i along]!" He cleared his throat.
"A model, huh?" Eric looked at the pictures and then turned to face James. "I'm sure you could easily be one, though," he added with a smile. He looked at James for a few seconds longer before he turned back to his computer. Whatever he had wanted to say was lost in his head.
As Eric went about selecting some pictures to add to the project portfolio and began some base editing. He focused on how he could make the picture work with the natural lighting, changing some of the saturation of colors and the softness of the image. He brought James more into focus than the backgrounds in the picture, trying to emphasize the subject more than the setting. He didn't completely fade out the backgrounds, though. He did leave a bit of clarity to have some sort of understanding of where James was.
It had gotten dark when James left, and Eric found that his energy and motivation reached a slow decline on his editing process. He remembered as he saved his work and shut down his computer that he did have an out-of-town client in the mid-morning that he hadn't prepared for, so he set out to slowly set up the equipment. He contemplated asking James if he wanted to come with, but James was already gone and probably asleep now. Still, he sent James a text asking if he wanted to come along on a photo shoot in the morning and that he would be leaving at 9 am. He made sure to note that there was no pressure and that he was free to say no. It was after he sent it that he thought that adding a little smiley face to the message might have been overkill.
After he had everything set up and ready by the door, he went straight to bed. His mind was wandering too many places, and at least sleep would quiet them for a bit.
At first it was awkward. James didn't know what to do with his body, which was a usual occurrence, but now he had an observer. That only seemed to make things more difficult for him. But, as all things, he got used to Eric's presence and he relaxed. In fact, he almost forgot that Eric was holding a camera and documenting almost every move he made.
He went about it as if he was just enjoying the fresh air. At one point he picked up a decently sized stick and went to tossing it about for Achilles to chase after eagerly. The mutt had never been good at bringing his toys back to James, though. He had given up on trying to get the animal to play fetch a long time ago. It always turned into an elaborate game of keep-away.
In the end, James found himself sprawled on the ground in a failed attempt to get the stick back, but Achilles was too strong for his own good and their tug-of-war backfired. Achilles gnawed happily on his stick while James panted, staring up at the clouds.
The day moved on and soon enough they were making the hike back up the steps to the top floor. James was hoping they'd get the elevator fixed soon for Eric's sake. James might not care about the trek, but he wasn't sure about Eric.
Once back inside Eric's apartment, James followed him back into his office. Or so that's how James thought of it. A man had his office no matter the job. Just because Eric's was full of cameras and cords and other equipment didn't make it any less of his work space. James pulled up the chair from the corner of the room for a better view of the photos that James pulled up on screen. It was strange and exciting and he was surprisingly eager to see what the next shot would be. Him sticking the toe of his shoe in the grass, him scratching Achilles behind the ear, him sprawled out on the ground...
"I'm no expert but... I feel weirdly like a model," James joked when Eric asked for his thoughts.
Eric set to choosing out his favorites of the day and began to mess around with some editing. It was interesting to see him work and James stayed for perhaps too long, watching the progress. They would exchange a few opinions on a photo or talk about something random, or they just enjoyed a comfortable silence. Whatever ice breaker this was, it was certainly helping.
That night, when James finally made it back to his own apartment, he wondered where on earth this would take them...
"Just walk around. Explore the area. Play with Achilles. Anything that comes to you naturally. Even just stand there if you want." Eric offered a smile. Whatever James decided to do was up to him. Even though Eric had essentially contracted him into this project, he still treated James as if James was the client, the one who had contacted [i him] regarding some photo shoot. Besides, everything forced always showed up on camera, no matter how much effort was put into an attempt to look natural.
Normally, Eric would take a high volume of pictures without screening each one. It made the process go quicker and took up less of the client's time. But this time, Eric felt relaxed enough so that he could screen each and every picture as he took them. Partially, he wanted to get a feel for what was going on and also understand a direction for where they could go. And the rest? He kind of enjoyed spending time with James.
Eric wasn't exactly a quite person in expressing his pleasure or displeasure with each shot. Occasionally he would direct towards James a "nice shot" or "I like it," but if he had a personal displeasure with the shot, he would only mutter to himself his own fault in the shot. Sometimes, the sun would peek through the clouds and cause a blinding glare in the shot, while others Eric got too excited in taking the shot and didn't bother to steady it or pull it into the right focus and ended up with an overly blurry shot. He normally wouldn't make such rookie mistakes, but he couldn't help himself in this case. Eric attributed most of it to his excitement over being able to kick this project off the ground. The rest of it...
"Okay, sir," Eric began as he felt a slightly muddy paw make a mark on his socks. "I think we've got enough. Let's head back up and go over these."
Again, they made the trek back up to the top-floor apartments and stepped into Eric's apartment, with one small difference. Eric hadn't been pulling on James's wrist this time, and as much as Eric wanted to, he fascinated himself with idle chit chat, mostly asking James how he felt about the photo shoot. When they got there, he plugged his camera's SD card into his laptop and began cycling through all the pictures, good and bad. He stopped on a few he liked and showed James, such as a picture of James bent down to pet Achilles, or him walking around and debating whether or not to sit on the rusted benches, and another in which James tested the softness of the grass with his shoes.
"I think we did well on the first day," Eric said with a smile. "What do you think?"
James couldn't help but eye Eric as he fiddled, almost bashfully, with his camera. But it was over as quickly as it had come and James had hardly any time to register that he was being pulled to his feet and out the door. It wasn't until they'd made it down the stairs outside and around the building that Eric finally let go of Jame's wrist. It was cold now, where his hand once was. James absentmindedly rubbed the area as Eric gestured to the small sitting area.
James had never took much notice to the area. In fact, he could hardly remember ever seeing it. The grass was overgrown and the metal chairs and table were rusted by the weather. But something about it must have grabbed Eric's attention.
Achilles was pawing at the long grass excited for a new spot to roam and James was taking a casual look around. He turned back to Eric in perfect timing to get his photo taken. James smiled, biting his lip, before looking down to his shoes as he always did when feeling bashful. He dug a toe into the grass, hands in his pockets.
[i He called it perfect,] he told himself. Of course he was convinced that Eric was talking about the lighting or the framing or... something else photography related and not about James himself. But the comment still struck him and his heart missed a beat, only to pick up again, twice as fast, when Eric suggested they take more photos.
"What... should I do?" James asked, looking around awkwardly. "Should I pose or...?" He let out a small laugh. He never thought he'd be in this situation. "I don't know," he shrugged.
If it were anybody else, James would have felt foolish. He'd be worried that they were secretly laughing at him, thinking him incapable or awkward. But for some reason, he didn't feel that way with Eric. Eric seemed genuine and honest. James wasn't used to that.
Eric listened as James spoke. He could understand that feeling of dissatisfaction towards the image of self too well. Too many times over the years had he spent fixated on his own image, hoping that there was some way he could just edit it with some Photoshop tools and make the changes stick. The list went on and on along the lines of things he wasn't too happy about, but he had eventually learned not to fixate on them.
Eric was prepared to list James's finer qualities in hopes that he would be able to appreciate the picture. He could comment on the hair that rarely seemed too much out of place, or his decent posture against the height he carried. He could comment on the charm of the uneven smile that James occasionally flashed in a few pictures. There was a lot he was ready to comment on and was about to do so when James conceded a liking of the picture.
Eric couldn't help but be surprised. Often times, he would encounter clients that had a hard time accepting any sort of image captured of themselves. He would often spend more time than necessary trying to convince them of their redeeming traits and qualities but would hit roadblocks when he would eventually understand the client's belief that Eric was some sort of magician with the camera in a way that it could make them look as if they were someone completely different.
Eric stood and stretched. With the cleaning done, much of what Eric had planned for the day was pretty much complete despite it only being mid afternoon. As he played idly with his camera, he eventually came to an idea as he glanced towards the kitchen window. "I have an idea. Let's go on an adventure!" Eric pulled James off the couch and pulled him towards the door, his camera in hand. He could hear the little footfalls of Achilles as he followed with practiced ease.
A few moments later--moments filled with Eric evasively chatting about where they were going without really explaining while holding fast to James's wrist, the emerged from one of the side doors in the apartment complex to one of the little grassy enclave amid the apartment walls. It had a small sitting area composed of rough metallic benches and a wooden sun covering overhead. With the slight overcast in the sky, it still looked a bit like morning.
"I was scoping this place out the other day," Eric began, letting go of James's arm. "I snapped a few scene pictures here for a bit of backing. The views of the windows seemed to work for the theme I wanted, and the lighting here was more than I could dream of." Eric turned around without missing a beat and snapped a picture of James standing there. His gaze looked distant, posture somewhat relaxed, with Achilles a little blur at his feet. His towering frame took up most of the shot. It was a nice, casual candid. "Wow...this is perfect," Eric said with a smile. He looked up at James and his grin grew. "Let's get some more shots."
James didn't hear the question. In fact he wasn't even aware that Eric was out of the shower yet. He only shook his thoughts away when a bottle of water made its way into his sight. He took it gratefully.
"Thanks," he said softly, cracking the seal and taking a long drink. Achilles was begging Eric for attention, which was interesting, because he usually had to warm up to someone before he fell in love with them.
James listened to Eric's voice as he spoke about to-be plans, tripping over his words almost as bad as James often did. It was a good voice. Smooth. Not a minute later, he was looking at Jame's camera again. It was strange to see himself in motion, but he liked the way he looked in these candid shots. James had always tried too hard in pictures. Smiles never came easy when he had to force it. But Eric wasn't looking for smiles apparently.
When it got to Eric's favorite picture of the day, James stared at himself as if seeing himself for the first time. He was scrubbing a plate and a dish towel was draped over one of his shoulders. Yet despite the common subject, James felt like Eric turned doing dishes into something way more important.
When asked for his thoughts, James's mouth opened, yet no words came out. He couldn't look away from the photo. "I'm not used to seeing myself like... that. You get so used to just... looking in the mirror and learning to hate your face. But you never think about your body and how it functions and..." James trailed off. He knew Eric was probably the one person who understood what he was saying, but James still felt stupid for saying it. "I like it," he finally said. "A lot."
For James to say that about something he was a part of was a huge stepping stone for him. He instantly realized why he needed this project in his life. Through Eric, James could learn to love himself. After years upon years of being talked down to, heaven knew he needed it.
A shower was just what Eric needed. To feel the smell of bleach and sweat fade into the sweet scent of a sporty shower gel was among the best feelings he could hope for right now. It wasn't all that long of a shower--just a brief one in the event that James was still waiting in the living room. He felt kind of bad just leaving him there, but he could imagine the tall man finding some way to keep himself busy. Probably Achilles was some help with that.
Eric slipped on a bright blue shirt with a comic logo on the front and a pair of track shorts after drying off and stepped back into the living room. His hair was a mess of hair in all directions and, no matter how much he tried to smooth it over, he couldn't get it to go right. "Nothing a shower can't cure..." He tugged at a loose curl. "Okay, probably not wild hair. But I can say it can cure almost anything." He laughed at his own terrible sense of humor and walked to the fridge. "Do you want anything to drink?" Eric asked as he grabbed two bottles of water. He handed one to him, then realized he didn't catch James's answer, but before he could apologize, Achilles started pawing at his leg for some attention.
"Hey, there," he said, softening his voice as he bent down to pet and play with the dog. "Can I help you with something?" he asked in a playful voice. He laughed a bit and then stood up. He looked over at James for a second and could have sworn he caught a glimpse of something, but before he could even catch hold of it, it seemed to go away. Perhaps it was best that he didn't pursue it.
Instead, he thought of something different to say. "So, I [i was] hoping that we could probably go over all this stuff we'll probably be doing together." He paused for a moment, then realized the possible connotation with the camera. "I mean with the camera and the photo shoot. Not that we can't do anything else together." By then, Eric was fidgeting with the hem of his track shorts that sat just above his knee. He had to think of something to do. "Here, let me get my camera. I wanna show you the pictures from today."
Eric got up to grab his camera and sat next to James, leaning in close as he powered his camera on and pulled up the pictures under today's date. They were mostly pictures of James cleaning, with some of Achilles running about or sitting and watching. There was one that Eric stopped on of James washing the dishes. He had just looked up at the camera and hadn't smiled yet, so he had a look of concentration that just found a bit of a distraction in something going on. "I think this one is my favorite," he said, looking at the focused look on James's face in the picture as it had been when he turned towards Eric. "This is the kind of picture I want for the project."
Eric lifted his head towards James. "What do you think?"
James felt horrible that he may have woken his neighbor up, but the huge welcome he received lessened the blow. Eric was simply ecstatic at the promise of coffee. James handed one of the cups to him, which Eric promptly took a sip of, before setting it down and running to his room. James froze for a moment and when Eric returned and he saw the camera in his hands, he almost started to protest. But Eric was quick and got the shot before the look of realization came onto his face.
James just let out a shy laugh before handing the sack over to Eric. He took a seat next to him and was glad that Eric was finding his breakfast so enjoyable. There was something strangely... domestic... however. James sipping away at his coffee, Eric taking a bite out of a doughnut, and Achilles enjoying the pets he was being given. And that [i compliment].
"Oh... Thanks," he replied and swallowed, unsure how to take it. But he smiled down at his shirt as he pulled at the fabric. Had he not been bickering to himself over his wardrobe? Something about Eric's opinion, and the clear, unabashed away he said it, made James feel a little better about his fashion sense. Maybe it wasn't as boring as he thought. Or maybe, instead of boring, he could go with... minimalistic?
After the two of them had finished their breakfast they set to cleaning the place up. They found the surfaces of side tables that had once been covered in cups, they put away the leftover food, and they wiped down the counters. Without being told to, James set on scrubbing a second sink-load of dishes. Eric snapped a photo before James could realize. He'd been doing that all morning and James was surprised that he didn't mind it... In fact he almost [i enjoyed] it.
Not an hour later and the apartment was just as clean as it was before the party. Perhaps it was even nicer than before Eric had even moved in. James collapsed on the couch and sighed. His eyes found Eric as he leaned against the island. James tried not to stare, but the temptation got even stronger when the photographer peeled off his tank top. James tried his hardest not to let his eyes drop lower than Eric's face.
He almost didn't catch the words coming out of Eric's mouth. "Oh, um. Yeah... I'll wait. That's fine." He surprised himself with this answer. Anyone else and James would have been daydreaming of his own couch.
He heard the water turn on and pulled out his phone to entertain himself.
[i 3 missed calls].
James swallowed. What could it be now? Just as he went into his phone to investigate, his phone started to ring again. Unknown number. James answered.
He forgot how to breathe when he heard the familiar voice, but somehow he managed to croak out, "How did you get this number?"
"A father always knows how to find his son," the voice answered back. James didn't reply. "I'm dying," the voice lied. "I've got cancer. Only a month or two left."
James couldn't listen to it anymore. "We both know you don't have cancer."
"I do, though, son."
"Don't call me that. You don't. You-you can't just call me like this. You think I don't know you come up with all these excuses to call me?"
"It's you mother. She misses you."
"Uh-huh. Look, I'm hanging up. Don't call me again."
"I'm just..." the voice sighed. "I'm trying to make up for wrongs, don't you see that?"
James held his forehead in his free hand. "It's too late for that. Twenty years too late."
James hung up and stared at his shoes. The water turned off and James was stuck trying to figure out how to be happy again. It seemed that his father always knew just when James was finally happy again. He always knew when to butt in and ruin everything...
The evening held little in store for Eric after the party ended. He did a little pre-cleaning of some debris on the floor here and there, but there wasn't anything major he needed to do. He looked at all the bottles of various alcoholic beverages and decided on a mixed glass of something before bed. Maybe it would relax him.
Sleep wasn't an easy thing to come by when Eric finally made it to bed, riding on a buzz. His thoughts were all over the place, from the party and the people there to his photography projects and...James. He tried not to dwell on anything in those mental spheres. He wanted nothing more than to relax his mind and ease into the next day. And, before he knew it, the next day came.
With a knock on his door.
Groggy and somewhat out of it, Eric jumped out of bed and began heading to the door. It was when he realized that he was only clad in his pajama pants, he passed by his laundry room to throw on a red tank top. To his pleasant surprise, it was James at the door with a bit of a saving grace. He could smell the delightful warm aroma of coffee and heard tell of doughnuts. It was surely enough to bring a smile to his face.
"You are a saint, my neighbor! Come on in." Eric stood aside to allow James passage inside and grabbed a coffee from his hands to alleviate his burden. The smell alone woke him up more and re-inspired his coffee addiction. He was convinced James was some sort of angel of inspiration or muse at this point. "Hey...hold onto that coffee and those doughnuts for a minute. I have an idea."
Eric set down his coffee among the empty or half empty bottles before he ran to the spare studio room and grabbed his camera. He ran back into the room and called for James's attention. When he turned around, coffee in hand with the box of doughnuts on his arm, he snapped a few quick pictures of him. "Perfect. You're helping me already."
Eric set his camera down on the counter and sat in one of the four stools up there. As he did, he motioned for James to sit next to him so that he could speak without strain and also chow down on a doughnut or two. As he bit into one, he couldn't help but moan in the pleasure of the delicious taste. "Mmm...so goooood!" he said with a full mouth. He had a few more sips of the coffee and then turned to James. "I like the shirt. It looks good on you." Absentmindedly, he found himself petting Achilles gently on the head, responding to the nudges the dog occasionally gave to him. He was distracted, of course, and there wasn't much he could say to fill the silence.
"So, we should probably get to work on this, huh?"
Over the next hour or two, Eric and James got to cleaning. There wasn't much to clean, but dishes pilled up here and there and Eric was against the idea of running the dishwasher and the sink at the same time, saying that he didn't want to waste the water. In reality, he wanted it to last a bit longer, mostly because he didn't mind seeing his tall neighbor in motion. There was something awkwardly graceful about the movement, and he couldn't tell if it was he curiosity as a photographer or as a human being attracted to another.
Occasionally, Eric would snap a picture of James as they cleaned. It occasionally elicited a laugh from James or a nervous shuffle, but Eric would always say something about how it was for the project so that he could get some ideas. Whether or not that was true, Eric wasn't quite sure himself.
Three trashcans full of glass bottles, three dishwasher runs, a deep scrubbing of the counters and kitchen tile, and lastly a vacuuming later, Eric sighed with relief at his now clean apartment. "Finally," he breathed, leaning against the center island. Though it wasn't that much work, it was pretty time consuming for Eric, especially when he was a person who liked things to go either really fast or savoringly slow.
He smelled himself and inhaled a whiff of sweat and bleach and grimaced. "I think I need a shower." He started to head to the bathroom, taking off his tank top. "You're free to hang out here until I finish. I'm just going to take a quick one."
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