An explanation of how Rosey and Bauer got to be Rosey and Bauer.
Warning: Smut (graphic sex scenes)
Length: 10-20k words
I Am the Giraffe by Maestro
Notes: Jumps around wildly in time and space.
Bauer wakes in the middle of the night covered in sweat, with Rosey’s name half-formed on his lips, and realises he’s fallen in love. Mina is asleep next to him, snoring like a chair being dragged across sandpaper, but suddenly he doesn’t mind. He doesn’t think about her at all. Naked, he runs the back of his hand across his forehead and thinks of Rosey, of his hand on his, of his eyes. How he forms the universe with a single word.
The night is breathtakingly hot, and he must get up, now. He thinks about attempting to tug a sheet free from under Mina’s sprawling limbs, but cannot face it, feels guilty looking at her and realising how far he’s fallen for someone else and how little she guesses. He swings his legs out of bed, the rush of air cooling them only momentarily, and crosses their bedroom to the balcony, the doors wide open in an attempt to catch any kind of breeze.
That strange, surreal time of night. Paris, asleep. He stands at the railings, unclothed but unashamed, and looks out at the city, two floors above the ground. The only one awake.
He feels Rosey before he sees him, standing below the balcony, tastes the edges of his mind in the air, or thinks he does. Where Bauer is naked, Rosey is fully clothed, in his ragtag, paint-stained everyday clothes, his hair neatly slicked back with pomade. Bauer’s is free, his hair-tie still sitting on his desk where he left it before retiring to bed. He doesn’t remember how long it is until he looks down at Rosey illuminated in the lamplight, and a curl of it drifts into his face.
Rosey knows. Rosey has realised that he is in love with Bauer. Bauer knows this as he knows everything about Rosey, knows that although he doesn’t speak he is already neatly arranging Bauer alongside his previous lovers: Cecilia. Armand. Petra.
There is something surreal about their poses, Shakespearean yet modern, shy yet explicit. And even as the thought occurs to Bauer, it occurs to Rosey; he can tell by the sudden twist of his lips.
Bauer builds on it, resting his arms on the balcony railing, and laying his head on them, leaning to one side, sighing into the night like Juliet.
Rosey sinks to his knees, his eyes ever on Bauer’s, the soft thud of linen on stone the only sound in the night. He slowly raises his arms to the side, as if to say, Here I am, as you see me, all yours.
Bauer lets one hand fall from the railing, the fingers gently curved towards Rosey. Ay me.
Rosey reaches into his jacket and pulls out something, gently tossing it to Bauer, who catches it one-handed.
It is a red rose, slightly crushed from where Rosey has worn it in his jacket pocket, a few threads clinging to one of the thorns. It looks as though he has stolen it from some Parisian windowbox, and Bauer feels his heart speed up to think of Rosey creeping through gardens for him, to see Rosey there on his knees for him. He holds up the rose and inhales the scent, and even with his eyes closed he sees him still. It smells like earth, and decay. It smells of passion, of temptation. It smells of him.
He hears Mina stirring behind him, knows she will come out to him soon and put an arm around him, but he cannot tear his eyes away from Rosey, has never been able to look away from those eyes on his.
And then Rosey hears it too. He gets to his feet slowly, two patches of darkness on his knees from where he’s knelt in the mud for him. He puts one hand on his heart, and then lifts it to Bauer on his balcony. Bauer does the same, stretching a little too hard, their hands too far apart. It is ludicrous, it is ridiculously saccharine, and yet it is true.
Rosey takes two steps backwards, slowly, not wanting to leave Bauer behind, and Bauer stretches after him, feeling his heart leap after him, watching the other half of his soul disappear into the night.
Behind him, Mina asks him if everything’s alright. In his left hand, a red rose is crumpled, the petals drifting onto the rough stone of the balcony between his bare feet.
The painting is of a man dancing with a unicorn, their hands clasped, the odd combination of hooves and fingers seemingly presenting no great obstacle. The unicorn’s head is held upright, proudly, whereas the man looks down at his feet, biting his lip, concentrating on getting the steps right. They dance in a world made entirely of mirrors, strange, angular constructions looming at them from every direction. In the mirrors, a thousand unicorns dance, a thousand men bite their lips. The sky is a leaden grey, but if you squint, the cloud formation in the top left corner could almost be a heart. Or a dagger.
Bauer stands in front of it open-mouthed, looking for all the world like an escapee from the local sanatorium. With one finger a few inches away from the canvas, he traces the edges of the shapes, of the dancers, and mutters to himself.
It is captivating, in the most literal sense, and Bauer cannot tear himself away from it. He hears Duchamps cross the gallery to stand by his side, hears his subtle, insinuating cough.
“It’s good, non?“ Duchamps says quietly, unnecessarily, considering that there are only a handful of people pottering around the old gallery.
Bauer nods, grudgingly. “Don’t try to tell me it’s one of yours.”
Duchamps holds up his pristinely manicured hands and bows his head modestly. “Alas, no. It belongs to one of my students.”
“Your students are shit,” Bauer mutters, leaning in to the painting again. It really is… he begins to see another meaning, a second meaning perhaps.
Duchamps gives a little squeak of dissatisfaction, but lets it go. “This one is not. This one shows promise.”
Bauer’s eyes shift to the label just to the right of the painting. The Waltz. M. Rosey. He looks back at Duchamps, who smirks, and tilts his head ever so slightly to the man behind the counter.
Bauer walks over to the battered desk, behind which a young man sits, eyes closed. His hair is short, but plastered to his head with entirely too much pomade. His clothes are ridiculous, he must have been given them out of charity or perhaps found them in a ditch. Layers of mismatched garments, a waistcoat, a thick woolen jacket, a black scarf, all spattered with paint and filth, entirely at odds with his pristinely neat hair. He looks young, dark hair, beardless chin. He would be someone’s type, no doubt.
Bauer hits the desk suddenly with the flat of his hand, but the man does not react, does not even open his eyes. Two, maybe three long seconds pass, and he opens one eye, but does not speak.
Bauer holds his gaze, and smiles. He points over his shoulder at ‘The Waltz’. “Did you do that?”
The man—Rosey, Bauer remembers—closes his eye. “Yes.”
“It’s very good.”
Rosey sighs. “It’s shit.”
Bauer cannot help but laugh. “Well, I don’t think so.”
The young man opens both eyes slowly, and looks Bauer up and down. There is no emotion there, no respect nor distaste, just a simple, dispassionate examination. “Then you are an idiot,” he says quietly, and closes his eyes again.
Bauer has been called worse, many times before, but there is something about this, about how this man speaks. The slow, careful way he says it makes it sound truer than words spoken in anger. As if he says nothing he does not believe.
He swallows, suddenly nervous. “Perhaps I am,” he says with a smile, trying to shrug the insult off. “My name is Bauer. I, too, am an artist, one of Duchamps’ old students. Why don’t you… would you like to come for a drink with me? Or food, we could go somewhere to eat? I find your art extremely interesting.”
Rosey opens his eyes and sighs again. He gets to his feet, picks up a piece of paper from the desk, and looks Bauer square in the eye. “No.” He leaves, heads off into the back somewhere, and Bauer is left almost winded from it.
How long have he and Rosey been working together, and yet this is their first party? Mina’s idea, naturally. They are starting to get noticed, get recognition, they are a force to be reckoned with in the stagnant pond that is Parisian art. Mina hangs off his arm, and he smiles and nods along with a conversation he has absolutely no interest in—the importance of good framing in the exhibition of art? Preposterous—because his thoughts are only on Rosey. Rosey, who sits silently in a dark corner.
Bauer wants so desperately for his friends to like Rosey, and yet he doesn’t. He wants him to be happy, but he holds his breath every time someone walks past Rosey’s little table, hoping they don’t stop.
Mina pinches his arm fiercely, and he realises he’s been staring at him across the room. He drags his mind back to the conversation.
The man standing next to him grins knowingly. “The famous Monsieur Rosey?” he asks… Jo, Josef, something like that. He points at Rosey with his index finger, the rest of his hand wrapped around a cracked wine glass. Everyone at the party thinks Mina and Bauer’s pretence at poverty is so charming, except Mina and Bauer.
Bauer can’t answer, suddenly feels nothing but hate for this man watching and judging his best friend.
“Yes, that is the enigmatic Rosey,” Mina flirts, still holding on to his arm but brushing Josef’s with her free hand. Bauer really hopes she isn’t angling for a threesome tonight.
“Well, Bauer. Call him over. Let’s hear what he has to say about your latest work.”
Bauer sighs, his heart sinking. This is the last thing he wants. He looks over at Rosey, whose eyes are inexplicably fixed on his, and he is already half out of his chair, like he already knows that Bauer wants him. His hands are jammed in his jacket pockets, the new suit jacket Rosey bought him, although he still wears it with his black scarf, tattered, torn, looking like a tramp.
He stands on the other side of Bauer, opposite Mina, and waits patiently.
“This is Josef, one of the art critics for Paris Match,” Mina explains with a giggle, and Bauer finally recognises the man he’s been talking to for almost an hour.
Rosey doesn’t acknowledge him, merely gives him the same critical and dispassionate examination he gives everyone, and then glances at Bauer.
“So,” says Josef, and there is the feeling of everyone in the room half-paying attention. “Rosey. Tell me all about ‘The Canonisation of Romulus and Remus’.”
The painting, not one of their best, takes up an entire wall in the apartment. Rosey and Bauer painted it in sections, trading them back and forth across their easels in Mina’s little spare room, adding to what the other had created, and back again. Bauer smiles with the memory of it, of Rosey looking at one of his parts and nodding, just a little. Of impressing Rosey.
Rosey turns slowly, and blinks at their painting, which dominates the room. “What would you have me say?”
“Well, why don’t you explain it?” Josef is puffed up with his own importance, and gestures at the room. “Explain it to all of us.” If everyone wasn’t listening before, they are now. The room goes silent.
Rosey blinks again, slow as a snake. “You need it explained?”
Bauer hides a grin behind his wine glass.
“Well, I… I… it would be interesting to get the artist’s point of view on his own work,” Josef splutters.
“If the artist is required to explain his work, then… then…” And for the first time maybe ever Rosey stops, mid-sentence, stammers a little. His eyes go wide, he looks to Bauer for support. What is this? This doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t. Rosey is calm, confident, he forms the world with his words and he never stops.
“… then he has not done his job properly,” Bauer hears himself say in the same, quiet voice, and Rosey grins at him, again a possible first.
One thought. Two minds. Josef, unused to such treatment, turns away and starts a loud and rude conversation with someone else. Beside him, Bauer hears Mina say something, and her tone is worried, possibly jealous.
But all he sees is Rosey, hands in pockets, quiet smile, looking right back.
The knock at the door to the apartment wakes him from the most glorious dream, and he burrows into the pillows, hoping to somehow crawl back to the world of the subconscious. Such colours! Bauer dreamt of artworks unimaginable, of creatures wrestling in a world of glass, their reflections repeated in every direction, a thousand, a million times, and of a man, watching, dressed only in blue, wearing not a hat, but…
There is the knock again.
Not a hat, not a hat, but… but it’s no good, already he is being dragged away from the images like how his mother used to pull him out from under the bedclothes by his ankles. He claws at the sheets, trying to resist, but: there. He is back in his dingy little Parisian apartment, on sweat-stained sheets, in reality.
The dream-wrecking bastard at the front door persists in his noise pollution, and with a shout of frustration Bauer drags himself out of bed, wrapping Mina’s headache-inducing patterned dressing gown around himself with one hand. He heads down the corridor to the front door, and wrenches it open with distaste. “What? What? For fuck’s sake, what requires so much noise at this ridiculous time of day?”
His eyes are still stained with sleep, but through the mist he can make out the silent man from Duchamps’ gallery, his eyes a little wider perhaps, one hand raised to knock at the door that is no longer there.
“You?” Bauer finds himself patting down his sleep-crazed hair, and stops himself, holding on to the anger. “What the hell do you want?”
The silent man—whose name is Rosey, as if Bauer had ever forgotten it—holds up a thick wad of francs. “Duchamps sold our painting. I came to give you your share.” His words are slow, chosen with care, complete. He says everything that needs to be said and nothing more. Bauer remembers this.
Rosey is holding out the money, and Bauer realises that he’s in danger of screwing up the meeting he’s been thinking about for a week now. He shakes his head. “What am I, a country yokel? You want to conduct business out here in the corridor?” He takes a step back, making room for Rosey to come in.
Rosey looks at him for what feels like a whole ten seconds, then crosses the threshold. Bauer closes the door behind him, feeling like a spider who has just caught a fly. He realises he’s still wearing Mina’s extremely short dressing gown, and nothing else. “Excuse me, please. I’ll go put something on.”
Rosey looks out of place in his apartment, standing there with the banknotes in one hand, the other by his side, not touching or looking at anything.
Bauer makes a vague gesture at the room. “Make yourself at home. I won’t be long.”
He swears frantically under his breath as he hurries around his bedroom, dragging clothes out of the wardrobe and trying to find the perfect outfit, worried that Rosey might decided to make a run for it with him gone. He wipes his face quickly with a flannel at the same time that he primps his hair, teasing it into some kind of order, and then steps into his favourite suit, pinching at the creases to make them stand up.
He listens intently, smoothing down material, slipping on his watch, lacing up his shoes. There is no noise at all, immensely worrying—and from what he’s seen, Rosey doesn’t really get social niceties. He doesn’t understand them. If he thinks that his job is finished in handing over the money, that there’s an end to it, he will simply leave without a goodbye.
Bauer gives his reflection a satisfied nod in the mirror, and steps out into the shabby living room-slash-kitchen of Mina’s apartment.
Rosey is gone.
His heart sinks, and he curses himself inwardly, both for not getting dressed faster and for actually caring about this stupid silent imbecilic son-of-a-bitch, bastard whore of a syphilitic… his mental rant continues as his feet instinctively lead him to the front door, to peer out after Rosey. He passes the door to Mina’s spare room, now his studio, and sees a shadow.
He nudges the door open carefully. Rosey stands in front of Bauer’s latest work, perfectly still, arms by his sides. Bauer runs a hand over his forehead and it comes back wet. He straightens his outfit before walking into the room and standing next to Rosey, in front of his painting.
Like many of Bauer’s ideas, it came to him in a dream. A dream of a giraffe and a dinosaur, locked together in an epic battle, on a grey wasteland. The giraffe’s long, slender neck coiled like a snake around the dinosaur, who is biting it, the blood a vibrant and garish red against the muted wildlife colours of the combatants. But, like most of Bauer’s works, it remains unfinished. The idea is solid, but the painting lacks something, and he is unable to figure out what. Mina, and everyone else he knows, are all pressing him to give it up as finished, to leave it be and give it to Duchamps, but he cannot.
He has to speak first, as Rosey will not. “What do you think, my friend?”
“It’s incomplete.” Rosey’s voice is almost a whisper. And what he says is true.
Bauer sighs. “I know. But I cannot… I do not know what is missing. Only that it is.“
Rosey narrows his eyes, sweeping them over the canvas, absorbing every last detail. Bauer waits for the insight, the short, sharp phrase that will solve his artistic block. Perhaps merely one word, a colour that is missing.
Rosey turns to him, his arm brushing Bauer’s for the briefest of moments, and Bauer hadn’t realised he was standing so close, actually leaning in to hear the words of wisdom from his muse.
“Here is your money.” He hands the notes, precious few, to Bauer, and turns to go.
Bauer must keep him there somehow. “This is all it sold for?” he asks, waving the notes.
Rosey pauses. “Half.”
“Half? But I did all the work! You merely came along and added to it.”
Rosey holds his gaze, unflinching. “It was my idea. It was our painting.”
Bauer opens his mouth to protest, but finds he cannot. Rosey waits for a moment, and then leaves the room.
Shit shit shit… Bauer has always been one to follow his instincts. He drops the money to the floor, forgotten, and grabs the canvas, unwieldy in size. “Wait!” he calls, following Rosey out of the room, dragging the painting.
Rosey has already opened the front door, but not walked through it, which is surely a good sign. He turns, hands clasped behind his back, and waits, head bowed slightly like a valet.
Bauer shoves the canvas into his hands and lets go, and Rosey has to take hold of it. Bauer nods, breathlessly. “To… to complete. If you think of anything.”
Because he doesn’t know anything about Rosey, not really, and if he wanted to leave and never be seen again it would be the simplest thing of all. So he needs something to make him come back, something that will hold his interest.
Rosey looks down at the canvas, and back up, and there is a heartbreakingly long moment where it seems like he might hand it back.
Bauer feels the warmth of Rosey’s leg pressing against his as they sit side by side on Breton’s sofa, and knows by the way it twitches slightly that Rosey is doing it to reassure him. They are both still so new to this organisation, les surrealistes, but they have been living and breathing surrealism together for so long that it almost seems impossible that anyone else could feel the way they do.
Breton sits behind his desk, smoking a pipe absently, the clouds of smoke obscuring his face as he stares out the window. Bauer sees patterns in them, and feels Rosey mentally sketching something… a man smoking a pipe, but in the smoke is an image of another man smoking a pipe. Bauer hides a smile, and adds to it—the smoke-pipe’s smoke is actually what has created the original man, wavering at the edges. Rosey tilts his head ever so slightly, and Bauer has to stop himself from laughing, knowing that Rosey feels it anyway.
Yoyotte is watching them both, and Bauer knows that Rosey thinks he is wondering why they sit so close on a sofa that can happily seat three people. But Breton coughs, and Yoyotte turns, half out of his seat, responding like a dog to its master. A dog to its pack leader, Rosey says in Bauer’s mind.
“Which one is which, again?” Yoyotte asks Breton, pointing but not looking at the two of them.
Breton cocks an eyebrow.
“—Rosey and I—”
Yoyotte blinks. “Oh, that’s much clearer.” He jots down something in his little notebook.
Bauer turns to look at Rosey, although he doesn’t need to, but his eyes on Rosey’s cheek force him to speak. Bauer likes it when Rosey speaks first, because it reminds him of how he’s given him a voice.
“We have things—”
“—paintings—” Bauer softly amends.
“—we could be doing.”
Yoyotte is still scribbling away. “How do you two know what you’re going to say before you say it? Is there a code?”
Rosey and Bauer don’t understand the question. “We just know,” they answer in tandem, because they do.
Yoyotte glances at them, his eyes dark under his thick eyebrows. “It’s creepy.”
“Breton disagrees. It is interesting,“ Breton’s voice breaks in, and Yoyotte sits up at once. Rosey thinks of a dog barking.
Breton gets up from his seat and walks around the desk, still puffing away on his pipe. He leans against it, looking at the two of them carefully. They are the newcomers to the movement, after all. They still have to prove themselves. “A test,” Breton says to Yoyotte, who turns over another page in his notebook.
Breton stares into the smoke, and speaks simply. “Rosey or Bauer will close his eyes, and Yoyotte will show the other a number on his pad. Without opening his eyes, the first will name the number.”
“Why?” Rosey asks, and Bauer frowns, because he doesn’t share Rosey’s apprehension. He nudges him slightly with his knee, imagining that it is Rosey’s fear of exposure, of remaining in public but unable to see, that worries him, and tells him that he will be the one to close his eyes. But this isn’t it. By the way Rosey looks down slightly, it’s something… it’s… Bauer listens.
This is simple to us. It is breathing. It is living. We should not have to explain.
But behind that, Rosey is afraid. Afraid that if they start to pick away at it, it will disappear.
The jumble of emotions inside Bauer’s head is dizzying. He feels but does not share Rosey’s fear, along with his own need to comfort Rosey, and Rosey’s worries that he is burdening him with this. It confuses him, a blur of images and feelings. He needs contact.
He reaches out and takes hold of Rosey’s hand, holding it firmly, and feels safe, their fingers intertwined until he can’t tell where he ends and Rosey begins.
Bauer clears his throat. “I will close my eyes.”
Rosey’s voice is quieter, resigned. “And I will read the numbers.”
“Good,” Breton nods, and motions for Yoyotte to begin.
Bauer feels Rosey’s gaze on him as he closes his eyes, his other senses sharpening. The feeling of Bauer both next to and within him. The smell of Breton’s pipe. The scratching sound of Yoyotte’s pen on paper.
He conceals a smile. From the sound, he already knows that the number contains two digits.
There is a shuffling of paper which must be Yoyotte turning his pad around so that Rosey can read it.
He feels… itchy material against his skin. Something around his neck, tight like a noose. He smells wet earth, rose petals, and hears the low murmur of an old man reciting a sermon.
The burial of Rosey’s father. “Twelve,” he says out loud.
He opens his eyes and sees Yoyotte, his mouth open, holding a pad with the number ‘12’ on it. Breton makes a circling motion with his pipe, that they should continue.
Bauer squeezes Rosey’s hand and closes his eyes again.
Flashes of red material, a scarf of some kind. Rain falling. A woman screaming, something… cursing him for not speaking, for keeping himself inside. This, then, is Petra, and it is late November, two months before they met. “Twenty seven.”
“Very good,“ Breton says, the sound of his pipe tapping against his teeth painfully loud. “Continue.”
Blissful summer’s heat and something sweet on his tongue. Ice cream mingled with Rosey’s kisses. That was only last week, but it is… the ice cream, the price of the ice cream. “Two hundred and forty-five.”
Yellow paint on a shirtsleeve… his shirtsleeve. And him as Rosey saw him, proud and stupid, and intrusive, a blur of noise and colour. His cut from the proceeds of the first painting. “One thousand and eighteen.”
Something shifts, and everything is dark again. Bauer feels lost, alone. The connection is gone. He squeezes Rosey’s hand, and feels… he is doing this on purpose, he is keeping something back. Bauer reaches out, desperate for contact, refusing to be brushed aside. Then there is… with his free hand he clutches at the arm of the sofa slightly. There is pain, pain without end. His soul is splitting into a thousand pieces. He hears voices, his own voice, but it is blurred. This is imagination, this hasn’t happened yet.
His voice raised, screaming. That Rosey keeps too much back. Petra all over again.
He opens his eyes and looks at Rosey in shock, who avoids his eyes.
Yoyotte’s pad reads, simply, ‘2’. Rosey gives them two years at the most before they fall apart.
Rosey pulls his hand away and Bauer feels cold.
Rosey and Bauer stand side by side in front of their latest work, a sort of self-portrait, not that anyone other than they will see it that way. Bauer stares intently at the painting, trying to see it for the first time, trying to lose the images of could have and might have been that cloud the way he is looking at it. It is infuriating.
He raises a hand to his mouth. “Perhaps…” He trails off. He’s found himself doing that a lot lately, words somehow seeming useless and unnecessary. Rosey is rubbing off on him.
But he’s still Bauer. He throws his paintbrush to the floor, specks of turquoise spattering on the bare wood. He throws his hands into the air and swears. “This is ridiculous. This is shit.”
“It is unfinished.” Rosey doesn’t look away from the painting to talk to him.
“But I don’t… I can’t see what needs to be done to finish it!” he shouts, hating himself for trying to shock Rosey into reaction.
Rosey turns and looks at him. “But you see that the work needs to be done.”
Bauer opens his mouth to scream and what good is that with the landlord crying out for his share of my earnings, but just says, “Yes.”
“Then we wait, and watch. And soon we will see what is needed.” Rosey turns back to the painting, and Bauer gets the feeling of the sun disappearing behind a cloud that always happens when Rosey stops looking at him.
“Fuck this.” He takes a step forward, impulsive to the last, one hand outstretched to pick up the canvas and throw it into the street. If Rosey will not look at him, he will make him look at him, and—
Rosey takes hold of the hand about to grab the canvas, and wraps his fingers around Bauer’s, warm and a little rough where they are covered in paint. He brings their joined hands down between them, where they stand together. He still doesn’t look at Bauer.
Bauer… calms. He clings to Rosey’s hand, and watches the painting, waiting for inspiration.
Bauer doesn’t hear from Rosey for three days after he gives him his painting. Mina yells at him, the cost of the canvas alone would make it worth selling, and he just gave it away? To a man he’s only met twice before? Bauer has nothing to say to that, but he covers it up by saying a lot of meaningless things, and eventually he starts to wonder why he did it. Why is Rosey so different to all the other struggling artists, all those fresh out of Duchamps’ little art classes and desperate for someone like Bauer to look after them?
Is it sexual? Possibly, Rosey is appealing in a certain scruffy way, and Bauer is a bohemian at heart. But it is more than that. It is… the way Rosey looked at him when he put his picture up in La Gallerie DuChamps. How they worked side by side, instinctive. Bauer knows instinct. So to imagine that Rosey has somehow ripped him off, that he played such a connection simply to take Bauer’s art… the canvas was expensive, but such a partnership…
It is early morning when Bauer sees Rosey again, not that he has changed his sleeping habits for him. Simply that he finds himself awake earlier, and unwilling to go back to sleep. He is enjoying an early morning cigarette on the little balcony outside the bedroom window, Mina already up and gone to her job at a little caf� nearby. The wind is unruly, and he cannot judge from which direction it will blow next. The smoke from his cigarette is constantly in his eyes.
The third or fourth time he swipes at it with his handkerchief, when he puts it back in his pocket, he thinks he sees someone in the street below. He blinks, a trace of tears still obscuring his vision.
It is Rosey. And he is carrying a canvas. Bauer cannot see what’s on it, but those around Rosey obviously can—a young mother shields her child’s eyes, an elderly man spits into the street, two young boys giggle and point at it. Rosey is oblivious, staring up at Bauer.
Bauer stubs out his cigarette on the balcony railing, and makes a little gesture for Rosey to come up, his heart pounding. He practically races to the front door, waiting impatiently for Rosey to make it up the single flight of stairs. What has he done to Bauer’s picture? Is it any good? No, it must be good. Surely.
Like Bauer, Rosey is an exhibitionist, and he keeps the canvas pressed close to his body as he ascends the stairs, keeping the secret of his painting to himself.
“Well? What have you done? Is it finished?” Bauer asks, unable to hide a grin.
Rosey walks past him into the apartment, and Bauer can only follow him, practically dancing, as Rosey opens the door to Bauer’s studio. The easel is empty, Bauer has attempted nothing since giving Rosey his painting, only some pathetic doodling in his sketchbook. Rosey stands next to the easel and looks at Bauer slyly. “Close your eyes.”
“What? You must be kidding.”
Rosey just waits, and eventually, still smiling, feeling like a child at Christmas, Bauer places both hands over his eyes. He hears the creaking of wood as the easel takes the strain of the canvas, and footsteps. Rosey is standing just next to him, at his right, just as before.
“You can open them.”
Bauer blinks a little and struggles to focus, to take everything in. It is still his painting, but, oh, it is so much more. The giraffe and the dinosaur, locked together, entwined around one another, fighting to the death. But in Rosey’s version, they are not fighting. They are making love. The dinosaur is bent over the giraffe, penetrating it roughly, and the giraffe’s eyes are half-closed, its mouth open in lust. The dinosaur is so overcome with its desire to possess the giraffe, to make love to it, that it is killing it, biting into its neck, and the giraffe enjoys it.
It is exactly what Bauer had seen in his dream, he knows it now though he lacked the words before, and somehow Rosey saw this. Somehow Rosey knew.
“It is…” He wants to say perfect, fantastic, he wants to shower it in praise and kiss Rosey full on the lips, but he doesn’t. It isn’t perfect. “It is better.”
Rosey ducks his head. “Yes. But not complete.”
It’s not. It’s better, far better than it had been, and it’s so close, but it lacks… Bauer finds his hand instinctively searching for a paintbrush, reaching for his palette, and he takes a step closer, Rosey matching him, staying at his side.
With a few quick brush strokes, he changes the dinosaur’s expression from lust to something harder, something unreadable. He shows the violent and sexual impulse there, clarifies it. At his side, Rosey simply breathes, but he knows he approves.
It is almost, but not quite… he sees it at last, at the same time that Rosey does, and he reaches out with his paintbrush at the same time that Rosey tries to take it away from him. Their fingers brush against each other, their eyes meet, and Bauer grips the paintbrush tightly, not willing to give it up.
Rosey takes a step back, and Bauer feels sad momentarily, but then Rosey is standing behind him, his body pressed up close against Bauer’s back. Slowly, luxuriously, he stretches his right arm out along Bauer’s, matching it like its shadow, and wraps his hand around Bauer’s, his fingers holding the paintbrush too.
Rosey’s head is on Bauer’s shoulder, perfect, like the two of them were made to fit together, and then something takes hold and Bauer isn’t sure who decides to move the brush but they’re moving anyhow, applying the last touch to the painting. It should be clumsy, they should be fighting to go different directions, but it’s just perfect, they follow the same thought, move the same way.
Forgetting, Bauer takes a step back to admire it, but it’s fine because Rosey has the exact same thought, and they step back together, Bauer’s arm now by his side but Rosey’s hand never leaving the paintbrush. He watches the painting, feeling Rosey’s breath on his ear, feeling every inch of him curved around Bauer, their relative heights working perfectly, just the right proportions. He closes his eyes and presses back, forgetting himself, and when he remembers that this is business and not pleasure it’s too late because Rosey has already put an arm around his waist and tilted his head so that it is buried in Bauer’s neck.
Their positions are ridiculously familiar, and Bauer’s eyes snap open suddenly. He looks at the painting, the dinosaur, the giraffe.
I am the giraffe.
There is the sudden bang of the door to the apartment flying open, and Mina’s overly loud voice calling out, telling him that she forgot her purse, she’s dashed home during her break. Rosey has already sprung away, pulling at his clothing, adjusting the crotch of his trousers. Bauer, too, is hard, although he hadn’t noticed, but he is an expert at hiding that sort of thing.
Mina doesn’t even come into his studio, simply calls out a farewell and that Bauer is not to forget to make something for dinner tonight, as she will be starving. The door slams again, and the apartment is quiet.
Bauer feels small, and he rubs his neck where Rosey’s cheek was pressed against it, feeling the shadow of teeth.
Enough time goes by, after Bauer is thrown out of Mina’s apartment and moves in with Rosey and they can devote all day to their art, that they accumulate enough paintings for a full gallery showing. Duchamps realises that they are on the cusp of being taken away from him, and so negotiates a large slice of the profits for himself in exchange for exclusivity—theirs will be the only art on display.
The turn out is surprisingly large. They have already built up a devoted fanbase, young things who crowd around them waiting for pearls of wisdom. People who copy their style of dress—because Rosey and Bauer have now begun to dress alike, Bauer oils his hair back to mimic Rosey, Rosey has disposed of his tattered paint-stained clothing and now wears sharp suits, and they are looking more and more like each other’s twin.
They recognise Breton, of course, with two men in tow—a blond man with a notepad, constantly scribbling and hopping around, and a serious man with a moustache and a leather jacket, who says little. They watch them carefully, but don’t approach them. Bauer wants to, but Rosey keeps tight hold of his hand.
Eventually, Breton and his compatriots approach them, standing in a dark corner of the gallery, side by side, still holding hands.
Breton leans on his walking stick. “This is Aragon,” he says, pointing to the moustachioed man, who nods. “This is Yoyotte,” here he gestures to the blond man, who stammers a hello and writes something down. “And this,” here he puts one hand on his chest, “is Breton.”
Rosey and Bauer bow together.
“Breton is impressed with what he’s seen here today. It is crude, in parts, but it shows promise. Breton particularly liked the painting with the dog.”
They can’t help it, speaking like that has become second nature to them now, and as Breton furrows his brow, eyes flicking between the two of them, Bauer suddenly wonders if it will hamper them. If they shouldn’t be more different. But he grips Rosey’s hand, and doesn’t want to let go, and he takes that as his own answer.
“Breton wishes to know… which is Rosey, and which is Bauer?”
Breton taps the handle of his walking stick against his lips. “Perhaps not.” He smiles, and motions for Aragon to step forward.
Aragon reaches into his jacket and pulls out a crumpled slip of paper. “Breton wishes to invite you to a meeting of like-minded artists and intellectuals, at his home.” He holds out the slip of paper, clearly not sure who he should give it to, and Rosey and Bauer take hold of it simultaneously with their free hands.
“Be prompt,” Breton says, and nods to them, and leaves. Aragon gives them a tight smile, but Yoyotte simply looks at them in bafflement, a reaction they are used to by now. The three men leave, and Duchamps scampers over.
“Well?” he asks breathlessly. “You know that Breton himself bought two of your paintings today?”
Rosey shrugs, but Bauer can’t hide a grin. And then Rosey has to smile too, not because of Breton, but because Bauer is happy.
The whole day buzzes with this new knowledge, this new love. Mina leaves, none the wiser, and Bauer finds himself doing stupid things, rearranging cushions, making the bed, polishing his shoes. He finds himself organising his paintbox for the second time and has to have a glass of wine to calm his nerves.
He opens the front door of the apartment just as Rosey approaches it, before he even has time to knock, time to speak. Bauer grabs him by his stupid paint-stained jacket and drags him inside, slamming the door closed behind them.
He stands painfully close, rubbing the coarse material of Rosey’s lapels between finger and thumb, and looking into his eyes.
“Hello,” Rosey says, and it’s so beautifully him that Bauer grins, their faces maybe an inch apart.
Rosey reaches up, and Bauer waits to feel those hands against his cheeks, waits for Rosey to pull him in for a kiss. Fuck, they are in Mina’s apartment, the woman who has supported him these long years it has taken for him to get good, and yet he doesn’t feel guilty, just elated. He feels complete.
Rosey reaches up and takes hold of Bauer’s hands, forces them to let go of him, takes a step back. “Let’s start work.”
Bauer stands there blinking as Rosey disappears into the studio. He puts a shaking hand to his hair, takes a handful of it, pulling it out of where it is tied back, pulls hard. Has his subconscious been torturing him? Was the night before, Rosey, the balcony… was it all a dream? He dreams paintings, he could dream his heart’s desire, surely.
But there, in the back of his mind, he feels Rosey, he feels his thoughts and feelings and how he is… leaning against the wall inside Mina’s spare room, head thrown back against the cheap plaster, breathing deep. Bauer closes his eyes and feels how Rosey’s body is sprawled against the wall in front of their latest painting, and inside—he feels Rosey’s fear. And his need. Rosey is hard for him.
He walks into the studio firmly, a little surprised to see Rosey standing exactly where he knew he was, his eyes closed, and plants himself in front of him.
To see Rosey surprised is perhaps the most delicious thing of all, surpassed only by Rosey’s lips on his as Bauer leans in and kisses him roughly, his hands pulling at all of Rosey’s stupid goddamn layers of clothing and desperate to make contact with skin.
Rosey pulls him in close, kissing him back with a fierceness Bauer never knew he had. He reaches around him to his hair, and with one sharp twist of his hand he snaps Bauer’s hair tie. His hair falls around his face, and Rosey tangles his fingers in it, nails scraping across Bauer’s scalp almost painfully.
Rosey’s tongue is in his mouth then, the tongue Bauer has spent four long months listening to and admiring, and he clings on as Rosey tastes every part of his mouth, dragging across teeth and around and up and down until Bauer pulls back, breathless.
Rosey’s eyes are thick with wanting, with need, and his erection presses against Bauer’s thigh.
But he leans back, plants his head on plaster, and lets go of Bauer, reaching down to disentangle Bauer’s hands from his clothes.
“No!” Bauer yells, slapping at his hands, but Rosey continues, calm, dispassionate, pushing Bauer’s hands away and sliding out from under him, walking away.
“Goddamnit, a man needs to breathe! You begrudge me that?“ Bauer shouts, the lust he felt all-too-easily converting to rage. He pulled away first, he did, but not like that. He just needed air! Surely Rosey isn’t… fuck, but he doesn’t know.
“We mustn’t do this.”
“Why?” Bauer takes a step towards Rosey’s turned back, but Rosey walks away again, over to the little window in the corner of the room, and Bauer starts yelling again. “You want this. I know you want this. I can feel it. And if I couldn’t, the lump in your trousers would tell me pretty quickly!”
Rosey opens the window and leans against it, breathing in the fresh air, staring at the floor. “It isn’t right.”
“Why, because of Mina? Fine, I’ll… I’ll move out, into a hotel, anywhere.”
Bauer kicks the wall in frustration, specks of white paint flicking onto the floorboards. “Why? You can’t deny this, you and me. This is unlike anything ever.“ He kicks at the floor moodily. “You can’t deny the balcony, last night.”
Rosey’s voice is almost a whisper. “I do love you.”
Rosey is silent, and Bauer clenches his fists inside his jacket pockets, a pain arcing through his chest. He leans back against the wall, throwing his head back violently with a loud cracking sound, a parody of Rosey, and closes his eyes.
He concentrates. This is a test, or something like it—Rosey’s inexplicable problem with speech when it comes to the important things in life.
Okay, okay, okay. He feels the cool breeze of the wind on his face, and on Rosey’s face. The thin streak of warmth on Rosey’s ribcage where one of Bauer’s fingers managed to find skin for just a second. And mentally…
Rosey is scared. He’s scared that if they go any further, if they have sex, they won’t have their art any more. He thinks it’s sexual frustration that drives their imaginations.
Bauer’s eyes snap open. “I don’t care, I’ll give it all up. To have you.”
Rosey stares at the floor. “I won’t.”
Bauer doesn’t even try to hide the yawn this time. “I didn’t get any sleep last night. Mina and I… fought.” He had slept out on the balcony, and the only blessing was that the stone was blissfully cool.
“I know,” Rosey says, even though Bauer hasn’t said anything about it, and Bauer wonders if Rosey also knows that they were fighting about him. About how he’s rubbing off on Bauer, how he’s talking less, he’s not who he used to be. The sex between him and Mina is still fantastic, but it’s not Mina’s name he struggles to keep from shouting.
“You should sleep.”
Bauer blinks at Rosey. “Now?”
Rosey nods, and takes hold of his hand, pulls him away from the easel and out of the room, to the bedroom. Bauer gets a terrible pang in his heart at Rosey dragging him to the bedroom but in every way not how he wants, and his head is filled with stumbling, wet kisses, overturned furniture. In his head they don’t make it to the bedroom.
Rosey nudges the door closed behind them and lets go of Bauer’s hand, smoothing out the sheets. He sits down on the bed and starts to unlace his shoes.
“You’re… are you…” Bauer manages, even though he knows that Rosey has no intention of making love to him today. Possibly not ever.
“I cannot paint without you,” Rosey says simply, kicking his shoes off and lying down on, ironically, Mina’s side of the bed.
Bauer shucks his shoes quickly and lies down next to him, fully-clothed, for all the world like two nuns lying side by side, not touching.
This is stupid. It’s so stupid. It’s pure torture, and Rosey has to know that, and somehow Bauer thinks that’s the point. That maybe… it’s possible that he’s simply creating his own brand of logic to explain the inexplicable Rosey, but what he thinks is happening is that Rosey knows how sexual he is. How many partners he’s had. Bauer is, Rosey has not forgotten, a bohemian, and to him acting on the sexual urge is as automatic as breathing. So to restrain himself, to lie side by side in a bed with a man he wants, desperately, and do nothing, this is a sort of… test? Is it?
Oh, he doesn’t know any more, he’s just so tired, and he rolls onto his side away from Rosey and closes his eyes, one hand wrapped around his waist.
He hears the creaking of bedsprings as Rosey moves, and then another hand joins his, pulls him tight. Rosey is pressed up against his back, breathing into his neck, it’s like painting all over again.
Bauer is so exhausted he can do nothing but sleep, but he remembers thinking: bastard.
Yoyotte approaches them while they are walking hand in hand in Breton’s gardens, and they stop, perfectly in step, in front of him. He eyes them nervously, ever-present pad in one hand, pen in the other.
“Breton’s having a sort of party thing, this weekend. And he’s letting certain people stay over.” Yoyotte stares intently at his pad. “You two are invited.”
“Yeah…” Yoyotte mutters, pulling out the one syllable to extraordinary lengths. “So I was… he’s asked me to make the arrangements, see what’s what. And I, um, I didn’t know. How many rooms do you want?”
Rosey and Bauer look at each other and smile. “One,” they say together, perfectly.
Yoyotte scribbles this down in his notepad and leaves, looking over his shoulder at them and shaking his head.
They resume their walk. Rosey wants to see the rose bushes that share his name, and collect petals to scatter on their bed tonight. Bauer thinks Rosey is a ridiculous sentimentalist, and so Rosey threatens not to, and Bauer suddenly decides that he doesn’t mind sentimentality so much, but if anyone asks they’re doing it ironically.
How long have they taken these afternoon naps together? Bauer doesn’t remember. He looks forward to them, now that he’s learned to restrain himself a little better, has started to understand what Rosey was getting at. They fit together so perfectly.
So when he hears the door slam, waking him out of a particularly sexual dream (his or Rosey’s? He doesn’t know any more) he doesn’t even think about getting out of bed. He just curls back into Rosey and holds on tight, feeling him tense.
Rosey hates confrontation.
Mina walks into the room and just stops, looks at them both. “You bastards.“
Bauer lets go of Rosey’s hand and sits up slowly. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly.
“No! No you’re fucking not, not together, not in my apartment, not in our bed.“ She clings to the wall, sags, and Bauer feels sorry for a moment until Rosey takes hold of his hand.
Mina watches them, and her eyes narrow. “You putain. The fucking hand-holding, I should have known.“
“We haven’t—” Rosey starts, but Bauer shushes him, knowing that Mina won’t believe that they haven’t had sex, and even if she does she won’t understand.
“Get your things, and get out. Don’t come back.” She leaves the room, and doesn’t cry, doesn’t yell. She, like Bauer, is a bohemian. She will go out, get drunk, get laid, and she will forget him. Bauer hopes he is forgettable.
Rosey helps him pack his clothes into one of Mina’s canvas bags, and carries his paints. The canvases are too large, they have to leave them behind, but Bauer hopes he can count on Mina’s business sensibilities not to slash them. Then again, she can be an emotional woman.
The third night of sleeping on the sofa, Bauer wakes up in the middle of the night to find Rosey sitting on the floor next to him, dressed only in a loose pair of trousers that are his pyjamas.
“Come to bed.”
Bauer blinks, sits up, the sofa ridiculously uncomfortable underneath him. “No.”
Rosey waits for a second, and then gets to his feet. Bauer grabs him by the wrist and pulls hard, and Rosey lands on the floor with a bump.
“I want you to tell me,” Bauer says quietly, letting go of Rosey’s hand. “Why now, and why not before. I want you to explain it to me.”
Because it’s a form of torture too. Rosey likes to only say what he absolutely believes, which means he says little. And when it comes to emotions, complicated and messy things, Rosey finds words useless. They twist as he uses them, no combination of language can express his heart.
But Bauer needs to hear it, both as a test and a reassurance.
Rosey clears his throat, and bites his lip, and his voice falters in the night. “We… we are. One mind, in two bodies. And this is painful for us. We should do what we can to make it less painful. If our bodies are… together. Perhaps it will be as if we are one again.”
Bauer’s hands are slick from Rosey’s words, from the images in his head, from Rosey’s eyes fixed on his. He forces himself to speak. “What has changed?”
“I… I thought that, not being together was good. For our art, and for us. I was not sure that our connection would survive if we were… together.” Rosey plays with the edge of the sheet that is all that is hiding Bauer’s nudity right now. “I thought that maybe, if we made love, that the part of me that is you would go back to you.”
It’s insane, but it makes Rosey-sense.
“But now. To have you in the next room, to feel you everywhere and not to touch you…” Rosey shakes his head, and Bauer feels his frustration because it is his own. “When I could leave, and come back here alone, it was bearable. Not any more.”
He looks up at Bauer, a strand of hair loose over one eye, and his eyes are unreadable in the dark. Luckily, Bauer doesn’t need light to know what Rosey is thinking. He climbs off the sofa onto the floor next to Rosey, the sheet slipping off and pooling around him. He is naked, but he doesn’t feel naked.
Rosey takes a hold of his hand, and gets up, walking him to the bedroom. Bauer has flashbacks, but suddenly, maybe, feels that all the waiting was worth it. He hears only one set of footfalls on the floor, because he and Rosey walk perfectly in time, effortlessly.
Rosey’s bedroom is small and spartan. One bed. One window. One chair.
Rosey lets go of his hand to strip naked, and Bauer makes himself comfortable on the bed, which sags worryingly under him. He finds himself wondering, jealously, how many other people have slept here with Rosey that the mattress is so over-used, but Rosey shoots him a little glance that means you can talk as he steps out of his underpants. And Bauer knows, he knows that this is different. They are different.
Bauer stretches out on the sheets, and Rosey stretches himself out over Bauer, skin against skin, lowering himself maybe an inch at a time, relishing contact. It’s blissful and confusing. Bauer feels Rosey’s skin on his, and how Rosey’s skin feels with his pressed against it, and then how Rosey feels to be Bauer feeling Rosey’s skin against himself… and he imagines a painting of a man painting a man painting a man painting a—
Rosey kisses him gently, pulling him out of his circular train of thought and back to reality. He puts his arms around Rosey, pulling him in for a longer, deeper kiss, and the remains of Rosey’s hair oil makes his fingers slippery, they skid over Rosey’s back and can’t make contact.
He can’t help but grin against Rosey’s mouth as a wickedly appropriate thought comes into his head, and Rosey pulls back, buries his face in Bauer’s neck, nipping and sucking. Because, of course, he already knows.
Still paying Bauer’s neck the attention it so richly deserves, Rosey pushes himself up off Bauer just a little, enough room for, say, Bauer’s hand to slip between them. Bauer puts both hands on Rosey’s head, holding him down to his neck, and feels Rosey’s teeth there, pressing. He moans.
He combs his fingers through Rosey’s hair and they come back slick with his hair oil. His hands unsteady, he reaches between them. Tip to hilt, he coats both their cocks in the slippery lubricant, gasping at the strange mirrored circles of lust—his touch on himself, his touch on Rosey, Rosey’s pleasure, his pleasure at Rosey’s pleasure… and Rosey holds himself above him, kisses him, reaches down to intertwine their hands.
Rosey lets himself fall, kissing Bauer, and their hands around their cocks start to stroke, gently, perfect rhythm, perfect speed. When Bauer loses control from the feel of Rosey’s palm against his shaft, Rosey is there to keep their hands going. When Rosey stops, forgets himself in a moment of passion, Bauer is there to urge him onwards.
Every part together, every part a part of each other, like masturbation only so much better, because Bauer’s hand on himself never ever felt like Rosey above him, pressing down, like he wanted them to melt together and never let go. It’s just so much, trapped between two mirrors and spiralling on into infinity but with Rosey, always with Rosey.
He sees stars, he sees colours. For one moment he feels it, what an injustice nature has done to them, to separate one soul into two bodies. He feels what it would be like to be one again, for a split-second, for a moment, and it is desperately cruel.
Then it is over, and Rosey is on top of him, their hands trapped between them but Rosey knows this without him having to say and so he tilts just a little to let Bauer let go.
They sleep as they have always slept, Rosey wrapped around Bauer, skin to skin.
Bauer kicks open the door to the gallery and heaves a canvas across the threshold. Rosey, behind the counter looks up, and there is an edge to his eyes that suggests he is possibly shocked. Impossible to tell with this enigmatic and above all rude young man.
The gallery is almost empty, yet again, and Bauer sees with relief that Rosey’s painting, ‘The Waltz’ is still unsold. He drags his canvas across the floor. Rosey watches him go, but doesn’t get up.
The painting next to Rosey’s is drivel, some ridiculous still-life of fruit, and Bauer feels justifed in hurling it to the floor and hanging his own painting in its place. He plays with it for a bit, trying to get it straight, and then stands back.
A small crowd, three or four people, and Duchamps himself, of course, gather around him, and there is muttering.
Next to Rosey’s painting, Bauer has hung his own version of it. A better version of it. The colours are brighter, the lines sharper. The image is clearer, the anxiety in the man’s eyes, the scorn in the eyes of the unicorn. And also, Bauer has changed it, he has worked out what was missing. In Rosey’s version, the man and the unicorn dance in a world full of mirrors, and every reflection is perfectly worked out, the angles all matching up.
In Bauer’s painting, the reflections are not reflections. Around the man and the unicorn dance their dopplegangers, but they are perfect partners. In the reflections, the man is confident, holding the unicorn firmly and instinctively knowing the steps, and they stare into each other’s eyes, full of love and respect. The original unicorn watches the reflections sadly, and hates his partner for not being as confident as them.
Duchamps is at his side, examining the painting. “It is interesting. But what are you trying to prove? That you are better than him?”
“That I have something to offer,” Bauer says, half to himself.
There is a sudden hush in the people around him that indicates something is happening, and he turns to see the crowd part for Rosey, who stands in front of the two paintings. He looks at his own, and then at Bauer’s, and Rosey knows that he knows it is better. He says nothing for a long time.
Eventually he turns and stares at Bauer, and then walks off.
“This was a bad idea,” Duchamps mutters, and Bauer struggles to control himself, to make sure he stays in place. He folds his arms and looks back at the paintings. Has he done wrong? How would he feel if someone copied one of his paintings, proved it could be done better?
Rosey is back at his side, paintbox in hand, ignoring everyone and everything except Bauer’s painting. For one horrible moment he thinks Rosey will destroy it, will cover it in paint until his is the only version left, but he just takes out a brush, dips it in red, and stands in front of Bauer’s painting.
The crowd is bigger now, there is a vibe to the gallery that can almost be physically felt, and his arms crossed, Bauer watches Rosey carefully.
Rosey tilts his head, and starts dabbing away at the painting, adding to it, focusing the elements Bauer has put in, softening others. There is a collective murmur from their audience—this is live action art.
Rosey works for maybe ten minutes, before coming to a halt, a brush covered in yellow paint and dripping onto the floor as his lips move silently, contemplating the painting. And Bauer sees it, suddenly, clearly. Almost unconsciously, he steps forward and takes the brush from Rosey, muttering, “No, no, no… you see? You need it here. And here.” He adds a little yellow to the canvas, a few broad strokes, and Rosey nods alongside him.
“And there,” Rosey murmurs, pointing just past Bauer, his arm coming perilously close to Bauer’s face. Bauer sees it at once, and nods, adding it in.
Together, working as one, they take a step back, and look at the painting. The crowd starts to applaud, Bauer hears a couple of people approach Duchamps and start talking prices, and thinks—before the paint has even dried. That must be a record.
Rosey speaks, barely above a whisper. “It is… better.”
Bauer turns to him. “No. It’s still shit.” He walks away, doesn’t turn back or look over his shoulder, knowing that they have a link now. He’s tired of doing the chasing.