Thomas is not an artist.
His lack of ability is neither new nor surprising, really. He was always more of a video game kid, choosing to set aside crayons and markers for the thrill of becoming a Pokemon master. His mom had made the mistake of getting him a paint set once in the hope that he would express himself. His self-exploration ended with stained clothes and a carpet so discolored it had to be replaced.
He had managed to paint a house and something that kind of resembled a stick family, complete with a dog he never had. His mom insisted on putting the picture on their fridge despite all the shame he felt from a failed attempt at art.
He's pretty sure his mom still has it somewhere, although she always says she doesn't know where it could have gone.
And now here he is, sitting in a classroom full of people who look too artsy to only be in Drawing 1, with a tackle box full of supplies. He doesn't even know what half of the stuff is, just went down the list in the syllabus and tossing things into his shopping cart.
The semester is a couple weeks in and they've started on still life drawings. The students got to help arrange the setup in the middle of the room under the watchful eye of Professor Paige and everyone chose the most difficult things to draw. Then again Thomas thinks there is nothing that's easy to draw so it might just be him.
He's already started over half a dozen times and when he makes a stroke that's too dark and the wrong shape he sighs, flips to the next page and starts again.
He glances to his left while he mentally prepares himself to start fresh and when he sees the perfect lines and shading, not marred by smudges, he wants to take his drawing pad and throw it down a deep, deep hole. The boy beside him must be some sort of professional artist disguising himself as a university student in order to makes everyone around him feel inferior.
It's working. Thomas wants to take his pencils and stab himself in the eyes.
The blonde teen is focused on his work when Thomas looks back over, the tip of his tongue sticking out as he concentrates. He smoothes and blends until the teapot he's working on looks like it's going to jump off the page, a perfect black and white copy of the once sitting before him.
He leans back with a small smile, wipes the back of his hand across his forehead, and then gets back to work with nimble fingers.
"You aren't going to get anything done if you spend all your time watching Mr. Newton here."
Thomas jumps and turns in his chair to see the teacher there. "I, uh, well, yeah okay, I'll just..." And now the guy - Newton? - is looking at him too, along with half the class. He feels the heat in his cheeks and avoids eye contact with the blonde as he turns back to his blank paper.
The embarrassment keeps him in check for the rest of the class, head down and trying to focus on sketching out the image on his pad. There's something that kind of resembles a suitcase. It's a lopsided rectangle at least and isn't that close enough?
When the teacher announces the end of class Thomas dumps his supplies into his box haphazardly, flips his drawing pad closed, and bolts for the door.
He doesn't go to class for a week.
He slinks into class the following Tuesday as if expecting everyone to confront him. When no one does he's only slightly relieved. He sets up his station and starts fiddling around with the placement of his supplies to waste time before class.
"Look who's finally returned. I thought you might've dropped the class."
Thomas sees that it's Newton talking to him and nearly knocks his drawing pad off the desk in surprise. "It's too late to drop." The blonde raises his eyebrows in surprise. "I was just joking around you know. Did you really try to drop?"
Thomas shrugs, too embarrassed to respond. So maybe he had accidentally gone on the school website and maybe, accidentally, he ended up seeing that the last day to drop classes was a few days before the classroom incident. But the other boy is still waiting for an answer so he says, "I...no?"
The boy laughs and if Thomas wasn't so mortified at the moment he would have wanted to laugh with him. Newton's laugh is genuine and contagious. Thomas wants to hear the musical sound more often, although preferably with him, not at him.
Thomas shakes the extended hand. "Thomas."
The teacher begins lecture and Newton, Newt, moves to his chair. Thomas barely listens to Professor Paige speak. He's too busy thinking about the fact that this drawing god sitting next to him noticed that he wasn't in class. He keeps telling himself that it doesn't mean anything, that it's only natural to notice when there's an empty chair beside you.
Thomas doesn't know why he cares so much or why it matters that Newt took the time to introduce himself when he obviously didn't have to. He thinks of a dozen different reasons but his brain insistently revisits one in particular, over and over.
Thomas has a giant crush. On Newt, the guy he doesn't even know.
He wants to slam his head against the desk and let despair strangle him. He hears the voice he vaguely connects as the teacher announcing that their first projects are due next Tuesday. He looks down at his blank paper, finger smudges around the corners, and his misery deepens.
There's a flurry of activity as the professor releases them to begin working. "You alright? You look at little green."
"Yeah, just… making art." Thomas should stop talking. He winces at how stupid the comment sounds to his own ears, but Newt just chuckles.
There's always a break halfway through class, and Thomas is only too happy to turn his back on the monstrosity that is his drawing to stretch. Beside him Newt keeps working, changing between pencils and charcoal sticks without even really looking at them.
Thomas chances a glance over the boy's shoulder to get a better look at his work. The background is fully filled out and Newt is finishing up the middle ground. It looks like a photograph so far. He shuffles back to his own chair before the teacher has a chance to embarrass him again, looks at the shaky lines and poor shading of his own work.
He works on it diligently for the rest of class, only stopping to look over at Newt's work every so often. And Newt, even if he doesn't want to admit it.
Thomas doesn't finish his drawing on Thursday either, but Newt does.
He's beginning to think that Newt sold his soul to the devil because no one should be that talented and attractive. It's just not fair. The drawing is flawless, at least in Thomas's opinion. He heard Newt telling someone earlier that it was 'ok' and 'not his best work'.
At this point Thomas would kill someone with his blending stick if it meant he could make his work look even half as good as the other boy's did.
He sulks for the rest of the day, knowing that he'll have to go back to the classroom to finish his piece over the weekend now.
The classroom is empty. Which is pretty much what Thomas expected on a Saturday night. It's almost ten o'clock and he's pretty sure that everyone else on campus is starting to party. His roommate, Minho, had terrorized him ruthlessly when he found out that Thomas would not be going out this weekend. Homework was apparently not an excuse and Minho had continued to pester Thomas right up to the time he walked out the door with his art supplies in tow.
He sets up at his usual desk and gets the proper lighting turned on. He's almost tempted to start over again when he opens his pad and sees the poor excuse of a drawing there. But he's already sunken so many class hours into this one and really, it'll just end up looking like the same, crappy piece it does now so it would be a waste of time.
Thomas doesn't want to show his artwork next Tuesday for the whole class to see. For Newt to see. He's done a pretty good job of keeping it covered so far and the idea of hanging it up so there can be a class critique discussion about it is terrifying. Even if everyone else has to do the same thing.
He puts his ear buds in, turns on Pandora, and starts working with a quicker-it's-done-the-faster-I-can-go-home attitude. He finishes the vase of flowers, then the assortment of cutlery, a Styrofoam ball, and a hat. He works in earnest, eyes flicking from the setup to his paper and back again. He falls into a rhythm as he works.
Oblivious to his surroundings he doesn't even see the other person enter the room or walk closer. So when a hand lands on his shoulder Thomas jumps so much he almost knocks his chair over and has to pinwheel his arms to regain his balance.
He feels the other person helping to guide the chair back onto four legs and Thomas whips around, pulling his ear buds out with a quick tug as he does.
And there's Newt, laughing so hard he's got tears beading in the corner of his eyes. He tries to say something but it's interrupted by another fit of laughter and Thomas feels himself flush with embarrassment.
"Why are you even here?" Thomas's voice is strained and a little accusatory, and Newt finally manages to stop the laughter.
"I'm didn't mean to scare you. I didn't even see the headphones," Newt apologizes.
"It's alright," Thomas says, but it's really, really not because for some reason he cares way too much about what this boy thinks of him and the whole purpose of coming to the classroom this late at night on a weekend was to avoid this exact situation.
"Good that. And to answer your question I came to work on a project. I hope that's okay with you?" Thomas can hear the teasing in his sentence and nods dumbly in response.
He is supposed to be cool and calm but he is currently neither of those things. He contemplates packing up his things and coming back another day but he has that test on Monday in his Chemistry class that he needs to study for. So he sighs inwardly and decides to stick it out.
Thomas is thinking about the fact that with so many empty desks there is only a slim chance that Newt will sit next to him. It's a comforting thought for all of two seconds until the boy does just that. The only difference is that Newt sits at the desk to his right, instead of his left.
The brunette must look confused because Newt grins at him and explains, "It's good to get a change of scenery sometimes. It's boring drawing the same bloody stuff all the time."
And Thomas doesn't really understand how moving two seats to the right gives all that different of a perspective but he doesn't question it, squashing down the hopeful feeling that flutters at the blonde's words.
It's harder to hide his drawing with Newt on his right but he does his best to try. The mini Da Vinci doesn't seem to notice, instantly falling into that deep concentration that Thomas has seen in class. The brunette gets back to work as well, wishing he had a few more hands to help him finish more quickly.
They work in silence until Newt speaks and Thomas realizes that the boy is suddenly standing behind him, peering over his shoulder. "Huh?"
Newt repeats his words, "I said if you draw what you see behind the vase first and then use the side of your eraser instead of the short end to make it look faded out it helps create the effect of seeing through the glass."
"Oh." Thomas hears him this time but the only thing he can think about is the fact that Newt is looking at his subpar work and he's leaning closer than necessary as he does.
Newt starts to say something else but Thomas cuts him off, blurting out "I suck at art!" in his panic. He inwardly winces at how stupid he sounds and Newt laughs.
"No one sucks at art," he counters and Thomas turns his head to see the blonde staring straight at him.
Thomas gestures to the desk where his supplies lay scattered. "Have you seen-"
"No one just sucks at art, Tommy. Art is about practice and discipline and doing it over and over until you get to a level you're proud of. If you think you're work is bad it's just because you haven't had the chance to get there yet." Newt has a serious look on his face but all Thomas can think about is the fact that the boy called him 'Tommy'. No one has called him that since grade school but he finds that he doesn't really mind when Newt does it.
Thomas can't think of a proper response so he asks, "are you an art major?" instead. The serious look is replaced by a smile as Newt says, "that obvious, huh?"
"Well you're really good. And passionate," Thomas shrugs and then gestures towards the boy's drawing pad, where the picture is already starting to take shape.
"I don't know if I'd say 'good' exactly, but I'm definitely better than my freshman year. You should've seen my stuff, mate, it was a shucking mess."
"How long have you been here? Because this work is phenomenal even if your humble ass won't admit it."
Thomas is confused when Newt says he's a junior because Drawing 1 is a freshman level class, especially for art majors. Thomas is only a sophomore himself, and nearly all the other kids in the class are younger than him.
Newt answers the question before it's asked. "I'm, uh, not technically enrolled in this class." He looks almost embarrassed, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck and shifting from foot to foot. "I just use it for extra practice since it fits into my schedule so well, and Professor Paige doesn't mind as long as all the other students have a place to sit."
"You're crazy," Thomas laughs, because he cannot imagine sitting in any of his major classes just to get more experience.
"Maybe," Newt agrees, "but it's nice. Most of the classes I'm in this semester are focused on different things though and I like using charcoal. Plus I've met some nice people."
Thomas thinks his heart might leap out of his chest, wondering if Newt includes him in that group. He wants to keep the conversation going but he doesn't know what to say and the blonde looks like he might be about to resume working on his drawing. So he asks the only thing he can think of- for help.
"Can you show me that thing you talked about before? The drawing and erasing and glass thing?"
Newt's eyes light up and he's grinning as he steps in close. Thomas picks up the pink eraser and Newt reaches over, turning it to the right position and then guiding Thomas's hand with his.
"So if you just pull it like this- lighter, you don't have to push so hard at first. Yeah, that's better. Now use long, even strokes. It'll help make the shading look more even." Newt continues narrating as he moves Thomas's hand around, correcting him when he does something wrong.
Thomas is starting to see what Newt had been talking about. The glass pitcher he's working on actually appears translucent, compared to the vase he did before that just looks...as far from glass as possible.
"You didn't tell me you were coming here to go laid, dude!" Minho's voice scares them both, Newt springing away at the same time Thomas jerks his hand to create a thick off-white line through the suitcase on his page. And sure, it sucks anyway, but he's still annoyed.
"We're not- he's helping me with my project," Thomas says quickly, hoping to shut his roommate up.
"Good because your stuff sucks dude. Anyway," Minho has crossed the room by now and he jumps onto the desk to the left of Thomas's, using the chair as a foot stool, "is this the guy you were going on and on about the other day? The one from your class that you called a golden god? What was the name...Ne-ouch! No need for violence!"
Thomas doesn't see where his eraser falls after it hit Minho in the face, but he wishes he had bought more than one so he'd have more ammo. He also wishes that a hole would appear under him so he could fall into it. He's glad the lights in the classroom are somewhat dim because he's so red that Minho would surely use it against him for the rest of his life.
Minho pretends to be hurt by the order and sticks his lower lip out in a pout. "You'd just kick your roommate out? After all we've been through together? Getting a boyfriend has made you heartless!"
"I- he - I mean… Minho you suck."
Thomas has almost forgotten Newt is standing there until the boy clears his throat. The roommates look over at him and he extends a hand to Minho. "I'm Newt." Thomas can practically see the second Minho recognizes the name and that, yes, this definitely is the guy Thomas hasn't shut up about since he realized he had a crush on him.
There's a devilish grin on the Asian boy's face as he introduces himself to Newt. The mischievous look on his roommate's face is too much and Thomas decides he needs to find a way to make him leave before he can embarrass him to the point where he has to transfer schools.
"I thought you had plans with Frypan and Teresa tonight. Don't you think you ought to go over there? Now?"
"You do realize that it's after 3 in the morning don't you? We hung out for awhile and when I got back you weren't home so I came to make sure you were okay because I'm such a great friend. And all you want to do is chase me out so you can make out with your art buddy, here."
And no, Thomas had no clue whatsoever as to what time it happened to be but what he does know is that he hates Minho. He'll definitely make him pay. Maybe he'll shave off an eyebrow while his friend is asleep or hide his car keys.
"We're working on the project!" Thomas explains desperately, looking to Newt for validation. The blonde boy holds his hands up and shakes his head, signaling that he wants to stay out of it. At least he looks amused, he thinks, and not like he's just realized that Thomas is a creeper that he needs to get away from.
"Yeah sure, whatever you say dude." Minho turns his attention to Newt and Thomas wants to die.
"So… Newt. Be honest with me here. On a scale of 1 to 10, how good of a kisser is Thomas?"
Newt looks like he's trying really hard to keep a straight face, only lifting his eyebrows in surprise. "I couldn't say, we haven't had a proper snog yet."
"You mean to tell me that he finally got the guts to ask you out but he still hasn't kissed you yet? Tsk tsk Thomas."
"He hasn't asked me out either," Newt shrugs. Thomas decides he hates them both for conspiring against him. They seem to be having fun, bantering back and forth about the things that Thomas hasn't done yet, and the things that Thomas isn't even sure that he wanted Newt to know about. He buries his face in his hands and silently wills for it to stop.
When Thomas hears Minho starts talking about the likelihood of him being good in bed he snaps, reaching for the closest thing he can find and chucking it at his best friend. He sees the blending stick hit the desk and bounce to the floor as Minho yelps and starts rubbing his head.
Thomas walks over and pulls on Minho's arm until he gets off the desk and then he starts pushing him to the door. "I hate you and you suck."
Minho laughs but lets himself be herded to the door. "Nice to meet you Newt. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around," the boy calls over his shoulder as Thomas pushes him into the hall and closes the door. Minho's face immediately appears in the square glass window but Thomas makes what he hopes is an angry face and points away.
"You're no fun!" Minho calls, voice muffled by the door, but he disappears and Thomas can only hope that he really has left.
He doesn't know what to say to Newt that could make this less awkward so he spends longer than necessary looking around on the floor for the supplies he had launched at his roommate. Newt is still standing where Thomas left him, a strange look on his face that he can't place.
Nervous, Thomas returns to his desk and needlessly rearranges his supplies, aware of Newt's presence behind him. He wants to make the awkwardness go away but he doesn't know how and finally settles on asking for more art help. Newt seems to enjoy teaching and maybe it can distract them both.
"Do you have any tips on how to make these metal bead thingies look reflective? The more I work on them the worse they get."
The blonde doesn't answer and eventually Thomas looks over his shoulder to make sure that he's still there. He is, the same strange look on his face.
"Is all that stuff Minho was saying true?" he asks, taking a step toward him.
"As a rule of thumb I never listen to what that guy says," Thomas replies, and he feels the panic rising in his chest.
"Was any of it true then?"
"I, uh, well the thing is..." Thomas tries to come up with something that is clever enough to avoid answering but he comes up blank. Lying to Newt is out of the question so there's only one option left- the truth. Thomas squares his shoulders and takes a deep breath before he swivels the chair around to face the blonde boy.
"I like you, a lot. I've had a crush on you for a while now and I was trying not to be weird about it but Minho has a big mouth so I guess you know now anyway. I won't be weird or anything though I promise. I'd never do anything that you wouldn't- oomph!"
Newt silences him with a kiss and Thomas practically melts into it. He runs a hand through Newt's hair and angles his head to deepen the kiss. The blonde boy runs his tongue along his lower lip and Thomas opens wider willingly. Newt's lips are softer than he expected.
When they break apart neither boy pulls far away. Newt laughs, slightly breathless, and Thomas grins at him, their foreheads resting together.
"I've wanted to do that since the first day of class," Newt confesses quietly.
"Why didn't you then?" The thought that they could have been doing this for a longer period of time was maddening.
Newt huffs. "I was waiting for your shuck face to ask me on a date. Lot of good that did me."
"I thought you'd only date guys who could draw," Thomas jokes.
Newt laughs in surprise. "I'm not that shallow!"
Thomas rubs a thumb over the blonde boy's lower lip, chasing it with a kiss. Newt tries to follow when Thomas pulls away too soon, making a needy sound that almost sends Thomas over the edge. He takes a deep breath and goes for it, tipping the other boy's chin up so their gaze meets.
"Newt, would you go out with me on a proper date? Dinner, movie, the whole thing?" He sounds more confident than he is, afraid that Newt will change his mind and run away. Maybe all the charcoal is getting to his head.
But Newt looks pleased and his smile is so genuine it makes Thomas want to grin with him. "Only if I get to pick the movie."
"Somehow I think I can live with that," Thomas agrees, leaning in for another kiss.