Fenris stared with some amusement at the wreath gracing the door of apartment 509. It was made out of entwining fresh flowers, greenery, and fuzzy felt cat faces. The cat faces confirmed that this was, indeed, Anders’ apartment. It had to be.
The man had talked about his cat for a good thirty minutes when they had had coffee last week.
Ringing the doorbell and shoving his hands into his back pockets, Fenris swayed and glanced up and down the hallway. It was a nice apartment building. One of those student high rise apartments that existed near campus reserved for upper classmen and grad students. The halls were long, beige, and carpeted…in more beige. Very beige. The wreath stood out carnival bright against the onslaught of institutional blah.
He was just about to knock when the door was pulled open to reveal Anders. The man was wearing tattered cut-offs that hung low on sharp hipbones, and an inquisitive smile. And paint… purple and yellow splotches that dotted over his upper chest. And a blue line over his left shoulder.
“Fenris!” Using the back of one hand, Anders brushed back his hair and gestured. “This is a nice surprise.”
“You said I could stop by…this was my first day off,” Fenris shuffled a bit and peeked up through his lashes at the blond man. His hair was down today and brushed over his shoulders. It made Fenris’ fingers twitch.
Laughing, Anders pulled the door open wider, “Come in. We’re relaxing.”
“It looks like I interrupted you painting,” Fenris stepped into the apartment and was immediately assaulted by a jumble of color. Brightly hued decorative pillows were scattered over slightly tattered thrift store furniture. Blankets were draped everywhere – also brightly hued – and no two in the same color. Art hung on the walls – vivid swirls and smatterings in a rainbow palette. On one chair sat a lean short-haired calico. The cat lifted her head and offered Fenris a single “mrrp” before settling back down.
“That’s Pounce. Pounce, say hi to Fenris,” Anders bustled over to the cat and picked her up, nuzzling her under his chin. The cat turned twin yellow eyes to Fenris and blinked as if to say “I’ll claw your face off if you touch me.”
Right. He wasn’t much of a cat person anyway.
“So ahh…am I bothering you? You said “we,”” Fenris was still processing the eclectic collection of colors and prints. “This is…ah…colorful.”
“Merrill’s doing. She’s fond of color and light. Says it looks more like a garden,” Anders shrugged and put the cat down, smoothing fur. “Come on. We’re doing relaxation painting.”
“Relaxation painting?” Fenris stepped over a stack of magazines about botany and dodged a pile of pillows.
Anders chuckled, “You’ll see.”
One of the bedrooms had been draped with tarps, a large canvas setup against one wall. Music was blaring – something folksy and bright. A tiny woman danced around the room, short black hair bouncing with each movement. She stopped for a moment, pondered the canvas, picked up a large brush, and flung paint in a large arc. Most of it landed on the canvas. Some landed on her.
“Hey Merrill, I want you to meet somebody,” Anders said from the door. Turning to Fenris he grinned, “You may want to take off your boots. And your shirt. She gets a little enthusiastic.”
Fenris was still processing the entire “taking of the shirt” part when the woman bounced across the room to them. She looked maybe thirteen and was dressed in denim shorts covered in paint splotches and butterflies, bright-red suspenders, and a lime-green sports bra. Big moss-green eyes blinked up at him and she grinned.
“Hey! You’re the guy! The guy from the place, right Anders?” She turned that grin to Anders.”He’s cute.”
“Thanks Merrill,” Anders was covering his face, shoulders shaking. “Mind if he joins us?”
“What? No. Wait…what time is it?” She peered around the room, tugging at her hair. “Time?”
“Ah…it is two in the afternoon,” Fenris watched with some concern as she let out a shriek and started digging at one corner of the room.
Words filtered back to them, “Late….work…stupid…argh!” She threw a boot across the room, found the matching one, and chucked it after the first. “Work. Haha…forgot. Wanna get sushi for dinner?” She danced a bit as she pulled on boots over bare feet and grabbed a shirt from a corner dresser.
The shirt also had butterflies on it.
“I don’t know, Merrill. Fenris is over…” Anders shook his head as she peeled off her suspenders and shorts, tugging on the shirt and then bending over to rifle for some not-paint-stained pants. “You have to excuse her. She’s incredibly focused – but only on one task at a time. Makes her a phenomenal gardener but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck watching her change clothing.”
Fenris was trying to keep his eyes up on the ceiling as Merrill’s pert ass swayed, “Ah…and it’s just you two here?”
“Her girlfriend drops by frequently. Merrill, why don’t you invite Izzy over? She likes sushi.” Anders called out, biting his lip when Merrill lifted her head, confusion on her face. “Dinner. Go get dinner with Izzy.”
“Right! Pants…pants…have them. Why are my boots on already? Sweet Maker I’m late and covered in paint. Do you think they’ll care?” Merrill tugged the boots off and pulled shorts on before pulling the boots back over bare feet.
“You’re grubbing in the dirt at work. They won’t care. Have your key? Yes? Yes…ok. I’ll see you later,” Anders let out an “oof” as she threw herself into his arms and kissed both of his cheeks. “Love you too, sweetheart.”
“Have fun with him, Fenris. Nice to meet you.” Merrill skipped past both men. There was a loud, “Bye Pounce! Stay outta the rosemary!” and then the door slammed shut.
“She’s your roommate?” Fenris was gazing at the trail of clothing and paint stains.
“Mm…she’s sweet. Yes. Well then…I guess I no longer have an excuse for you to take your shirt off…” Anders realized what he had said out loud and bit his tongue.
Fenris stared at the large canvas and then glanced over at the slowly reddening blond. “I would not be opposed to throwing paint at a large canvas.” He bent down and untied his boots, leaning against the hallway wall as he pulled them and his socks off. Straightening, he pulled off his shirt and stuffed it in one boot with his sock.
“Ah…” Anders said brightly, eyes tracking down the muscular chest. “Wow, the tattoos go all down your chest.”
“Yes. They go all over,” Fenris raised his eyebrow as Anders sorta choked, turning redder. “Is that a problem?”
“Maker no. No. We should…paint…” Anders fumbled for a moment and inhaled when Fenris stepped closer.
“Paint. Yes.” Fenris nodded in agreement, green eyes steady on honey brown.
Anders reached out one hand to touch white hair, rubbing his fingers through the strands. “Painting,” he murmured as he bent down, brushing his lips over Fenris’. There was a hum of pleasure, the feeling of strong fingers in his hair, and then Fenris was pulling back just enough to break the kiss.
“I’m sorry…” Anders inhaled.
“Don’t be,” The words accompanied a half-smile, “Have dinner with me tonight and I’ll kiss you again.”
“Oh well…” Laughter welled up. “How can I refuse? You still want to paint?”
“I do, yes,” Letting one hand slide through blond strands, Fenris moved into the room. He chose a brush dipped into blood-red paint and turned to look at Anders, paint dripping down onto one dusky toe. “Are you coming or what?”
“Oh…yes…” Anders let out another breathless laugh. Stepping into the room he chose a brush with vivid green and turned towards the canvas. “So…tell me Fenris…what are your views on picnics?”
Husky laughter followed the question, the laughter picking up as paint was splattered over the canvas, the tarps, and black jeans.