Room Enough To Breathe

Bauer had only ever been truly frightened twice in his life.


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Room Enough To Breathe by Amy Wolf

Bauer had only ever been truly frightened twice in his life.

The first time was at a Dadaist exhibition in Paris. He’d come to see the great Andre Breton. Show him his art. That should have been the frightening thing; Paris was full of young artists, eagerly harassing the famous for recognition. Most of them failed.

Nearly all of them failed, to be honest. Bauer had studied art. He knew exactly how many of his classmates had given up to become carpenters or clerks.

Failure didn’t frighten him, though. Andre Breton would see his work. If it was good enough, that would be it. He’d be in the world of art. Under Breton’s wing, with a bright future ahead of him.

If not, he’d go home and make more art. Bauer had no doubt that he would be good enough one day. It wouldn’t have occurred to him to believe anything else.

So he wasn’t frightened standing outside the exhibition with a portfolio of drawings. Not until he saw those eyes.

Nor Breton’s. Just a face in the crowd. One of the assembled artists, presumably. Dressed better than most. Dark hair, combed back neatly, and sharp little brown eyes.

Ordinary eyes. Eyes that shouldn’t leave him feeling pinned to the wall like a butterfly.

The face turned away from him. And Bauer nearly forgot how to breath.

Breton cut through the crowd, brushing past the cluster of eager young artists, stopping to examine the odd sketch. Bauer fought through the crowd, ignoring Breton, chasing the retreating figure.

The man was on the edge of the crowd, standing there with a cool smile. Like he’d been waiting.

Like he knew Bauer would come after him.

Bauer took a deep breath, and looked up into the strange man’s eyes. “You’re…”

“Rosey. And you’re…

“Bauer.” There it was again. Something in the eyes. Like he could stare into Bauer’s mind and read his soul.

Bauer had a sudden image of the two of them running together like raindrops; becoming so hopelessly lost in each other that no one could say what the original had been.

And for the first time in his life, he felt real fear. Nothing was so terrifying as the prospect of being truly known.

Except what would happen if he wasted this chance.

The art world would be there when he was ready. Rosey might not be.

“Will I…” He broke off and swallowed. “Will I see…”

“… me again?” Rosey smiled. “Your choice.” He turned and walked away.

“Do you know someone named Rosey?” Bauer asked. “An artist, I think? He was at Breton’s last exhibition.”

Marcel laughed. “Him? Yes. Tall, quiet, just stares at everyone?”

Bauer nodded. “You know him then? You’ve met?”

“Of course. Remember Sophie? That girl I was with last spring? She used to see him, before he went mad.”

“Mad?” Bauer took a sip of his wine. “He seemed quite sane.”

“Well he would. He used to be. You know the type; plays at being an artist. No offense.” Marcel patted Bauer’s hand. “Not like you. Rich family; doesn’t need to do a day’s work in his life. Came to Paris to dabble in art. Threw parties, bedded his models, and wandered around with his little book, sketching. Until the green fairy caught up with him.”

“Absinthe?” Bauer tilted his head. He’d had absinthe before; it never caused him any trouble. But he’d heard stories of it taking people in a peculiar fashion.

Marcel nodded. “Sophie said he drank a whole bottle, and started going off about the meaninglessness of life and the missing half of his soul. Said all the luxury just disguised his incompleteness. The next morning he sold half his possessions, moved to a loft across the city, and refused to see her. His new place was absolutely bare.”

Bauer shrugged. “He doesn’t look poor. Dresses well.” Quite handsome in his suit, Bauer thought.

“Well, he would.” Marcel signaled for more wine. “He still has money, and he needs to wear clothing. Sophie says he provides for all the necessities. Quite well, too; good food, soft bed, tailored suits. But he doesn’t have anything else. Only the essentials, and his art. Hasn’t had a girl since, either. Like I said, mad.”

“Do you know where he lives now? Does Sophie?”

Marcel cocked his head. “Why are you so interested in the lunatic?”

Bauer looked down at his glass. “He’s… fascinating. And madness in an artist can be a great asset. Look at Van Gogh.”

“He’s not Van Gogh.” Marcel snorted.

“Who is he then?”

“How am I supposed to know? I’ve scarcely met him.”

“Exactly,” said Bauer. “He’s uncharted territory. Someone needs to find out.”

Bauer knocked on the door. “Rosey? It’s me.”

The door swung open. “I know.”

“How?” Bauer asked. Before knocking, he’d know with absolute certainty that Rosey would be on the other side of the door. Known that Rosey was waiting for him. Hoping that by walking away, he hadn’t lost his one chance.

Bauer knew all that. But he didn’t know how.

“Does it matter?” Rosey asked. Something in his face, and the tilt of his head said; you know why. Because we are two halves of the same soul. Because there’s only really one of us.

It shouldn’t be possible to convey all of that with an expression, Bauer knew. He suspected it wasn’t possible. But he read Rosey’s face, and he knew.

“I don’t suppose it does,” Bauer said. He didn’t like Rosey’s unspoken answer. He’d never felt incomplete. But there was a possibility here. Something bigger than he’d ever imagined. And he didn’t want to lose it. “You’re…”

“… an artist? Yes. Not entirely…”

“… a Dadaist? Neither am I. Entirely. The movement is…”

“… interesting, but flawed. I hear Breton is talking of…”

“… a new direction. A step forward. Then again, with Dadaism…”

“… everything could be considered a step forward. And everything…”

“… could be called a step back.”

They fell into a rhythm like that, a patter of finishing the other one’s thoughts. It was easy and unconscious; Bauer found the tail of Rosey’s sentences waiting in his own mouth. He wondered if it was like that for Rosey. Or if Rosey was doing it intentionally. Drawing him in. Leading him deeper until they became inextricably tangled.

Rosey shot him a look that said; you will never know the answer to that question.

Bauer found that strangely reassuring. At least there’d be one secret they wouldn’t share.

“You’re friend’s quiet.’ The woman toyed with her hair. “Do you do the taking for him?” She was a pretty thing with too much jewelry and carefully styled curls. Bauer had been shocked to see Rosey bring her over. He rarely showed much interest in women.

“We talk…”

“… together.” Rosey gave Bauer as smile that said; relax. She is for us.

The woman giggled. “Do you two rehearse that routine when no one’s looking?”

Bauer shook his head. How could they rehearse? How could they hope to anticipate what everyone was going to say? Why would they go through that trouble?

It made no sense, and yet everyone asked that question. Sometimes, he didn’t understand people’s logic.

“I bet you do.” She smiled and toyed with Bauer’s hair. “You have wonderful hair. I was watching you earlier. Both of you. Then your friend here made a wicked suggestion. Do you know what he suggested?”

Bauer nodded. Of course he knew. How could he not know, with Rosey so close?

She ignored him, and leaned to whisper in his ear, “Ménage a trois.” Then she giggled again.

Bauer smiled at her. She didn’t notice the slight flicker as his eyes glanced at Rosey. Or didn’t see any meaning in it.

Rosey did, of course. He always did.

They were in different positions. Asymmetrical. He was sprawled out on the bed, the woman bending over him. Rosey stood behind her. They didn’t match.

That shouldn’t have nagged at Bauer, but it did.

He was beginning to suspect he’d caught Rosey’s madness. And beginning not to care.

The woman (Bauer couldn’t remember her name; he decided to call her Fantine in his head), leaned down, and took his cock in her mouth. She let out a muffled squeal as Rosey entered her from behind.

Rosey’s eyes locked on Bauer’s. Bauer found he couldn’t look away.

Not that he entirely wanted to.

Fantine closed her lips and began sucking. As Rosey drove into her, she lessened the pressure and exhaled. As he pulled back, she drew a breath and sucked.

She moved to Rosey’s rhythm. Which meant that Bauer did, too. And from the look on his face, he knew it.

Knew exactly what he was doing.

Coward, Bauer glared back. Why bring her in, then?

Rosey’s answering expression was nothing but triumph and lust. He thrust deeper into Fantine, making her moan around Bauer’s cock.

Bauer gasped.

Rosey smirked.

This was all going too far.

To his surprise, Bauer found his hips moving. Thrusting up into Fantine’s mouth every time she sucked. Pushing deeper.

Moving to Rosey’s rhythm. Thrusting up when Rosey drew back. His hips sinking as Rosey drove deeper in.

And he still couldn’t tear his eyes away.

Bauer moaned, his hands gripping the bed sheets. The first moment he’d seen Rosey flicked through his head, those eyes making him feel like a butterfly under glass.

Sprawled on the bed, naked, arms stretched out he was readying for a crucifixion, he felt more like a trapped butterfly than ever.

The hot mouth on his cock and Rosey’s hungry eyes on him blurred together in his head. His gaze finally broke as his eyes tore upwards, and he came.

Rosey came at the exact same moment.

Of course.

It wasn’t the last time they shared a woman. Far from it. Sometimes Rosey picked, sometimes Bauer did. Sometimes Bauer managed to set the pace. They never found a position that felt quit symmetrical. And they always kept a woman between them.

Safer that way.

Some only stayed one night, like their little Fantine. Her real name was Antoinette, Bauer had learned, just before she walked out the door. There were a lot of women like her. Bauer called them all Fantine, and ignored the looks when Rosey heard him. They vanished in the morning, confused but pleased. Rosey made rather point of seeing them out.

A few lasted a matter of weeks. Tried to linger. Edge between them on a permanent basis, cuddling up to one and the other.

That never worked. There wasn’t room for a woman between them. They were too close. Many women could love two men, but few could love them identically. And Rosey’s mania for matching had infected Bauer; neither of them could stand the asymmetry involved for much longer than a night.

Still, their work was improving. And Paris had plenty of women seeking to sleep with aspiring artists. They could always find a new one when they felt the urge.

“So, you want to be Surrealists.” Breton paced up and down in front of the sofa.

“We are…”

“… Surrealists. We want…”

“… to be…”

“… good ones.”

Breton stared. “Are you supposed to be Surrealist artists, or Surrealist art?”

“There’s a…”

“… distinction?”

Breton smiled. “I like you.” He folded his arms. “Your art needs work, of course. More potential than achievement.”

“We know. That’s…”

“… why we’re here. We…”

“… wish to…”

“… learn from…”

“… the best.” Shameless flattery, Bauer knew. But with some truth in it. He caught Rosey’s eyes.

“Excuse me,” said Yoyotte. “Can you speak independently? Without each other?”

“Yes, but…”

“… this is more…”

“… interesting.”

“They’re in,” said Breton. “If they don’t improve, we can always set them up as an exhibit.”

“Or sell them to a circus,” sniped Aragon.

Bauer turned to look at Rosey, seeing a smile that matched his own.

This was it. The cusp of everything he’d wanted. Everything they’d wanted. And they’d reached it together.

Rosey was right. Together they were complete.