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Hidden here below the fracture

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Irritation lurks at the other end of his high, not inspiration.

Why does he bother coming down when there is nothing waiting for him at the bottom of this particular barrel? He must be forgetting something. The insistent pull to create still yanks at him, but inside him is empty space. This trip has been a complete waste of time. He may as well have killed his brain for good this time, if ideas no longer flock to him.

Kavinsky scrubs his fingers through his hair, molds his palms into his face. His skin is numb and feels like gel paste over his bones. He's going insane. An overwhelming need is crushing his ribs, itching through his limbs, and throbbing against his temples. For days he's been unable to appease it. The pressure in his head is mounting, as if his brain was physically hooked to the idea of creation, squeezing and squeezing for a drop of something to take his mind off the boredom of stagnation. All his usual avenues have been exhausted, and his creative block walls off any track yet unexplored because he can't see or think of where to look for them.

He wants to put his fist through something, anything, but nothing is within reach. He's lying on his beanie bag in the middle of his studio, staring up at the off-white ceiling. It's like drifting on the ocean with only a pool lounger between you and death by drowning. Or possibly hypothermia; the windows are poorly insulated and even the minutest of breezes slip through the cracks. Kavinsky only notices after extended periods of inaction, when productivity is not burning him to the ground.

Like now. Like the past couple of days he's spent frantically pushing himself through all the stupid, mindless, fucked-up quick-fixes Skov and the rest proposed. Kavinsky prefers sex, drugs, and adrenaline to kickstart an artistic response, not something out of an Inspiration 101 course for fucking amateurs. Perhaps the zaniest suggestion was licking a toad for its hallucinogenic effect. They'd probably forgotten about that one time Kavinsky acquired cane toad poison in dried form and snorted it. He might have too, had the experience been less memorable. The hallucinations were good enough, the constant vomiting and inability to move his muscles were not. One out of ten, would not recommend.

His stomach roils at the memory, and his vision swims when he unglues it from the stray flecks some of his more animated painting sessions must have left on the ceiling. This irritates him more: he prefers his ceilings to be virgin white, so there's less interference when he stares at them.

In front of his eyes, spots clamber for attention like energetic amoebas, but no pattern emerges that would hook his interest. His head feels like a collection of lego blocks balanced on a gearstick, all pressed together too tight and at the wrong angles.

He's made up of all the wrong parts right now. His fingers are like matches tied to hollow tubes. He marvels at the incongruence between sense and sight.

Beyond his fingers, an expanse of white stretches out on the floor, and for a moment, he wonders how he could have kicked over a can of white paint when none is close-by. And anyway, to cause this sort of spill he would have had to upend it from his lap. Who knows? He might've. It wouldn't have been the first time he's done this sort of shit without remembering it later. His studio is a collage of his creative moods, with his finger paintings on one wall, like messages from a ghostly realm, his unfinished furniture projects obscuring another, like crouching goblins with crooked teeth, and his workbench with its forgeries of famous paintings and assortment of artbooks in between.

Maybe he's wanted white shoeprints to walk out across the floor to cover up the many-colored spatters and drips that whisper the story of past works. Maybe it was an accident.

Except, this isn't paint. It rustles against his restless feet: it's a jagged-edged sea of blank paper, spread out as if dropped from chest-height and left to flutter.

Kavinsky drags his sneakers over this arrangement on his way to the fridge. It's almost impossible to recreate his thought processes after the fact – whether he'd intended to create a large-scale and overlapping garden of drawings or was just venting his frustration. Going by his current disposition, the latter is a safe bet.

He downs a beer, crumples it into the trash can, and grabs another. A second glance at the paper spill reveals a slight change: it's not as blank as it had been the first time he laid eyes on it. There's a mess of dark lines that turns into a study of hands as he steps closer. A study of hands and wrists and leather bands.

A shudder of clammy apprehension grips him, like he's about to open up an ancient tomb and cannot know the curses that wait inside. He puts his unfinished beer to the side and flips over more sheets. On every single one of them is a charcoal sketch – arms, shoulders, the wrinkles in a muscle-t depending on which way the torso bends. There are lips, thin and chapped and sneering, flashing teeth. There are noses, ears and eyes, body parts from every perspective and incidence of light. It's like playing memory, but instead of turning over one tile and looking for its match among the rest, he turns over a sheet and searches his recollection for a hint of himself drawing any of this.

He does remember, vaguely, trying hard to focus, like he wasn't strung out of his mind and could see perfectly clear, could coordinate with precision.

Taken on their own, each of these depictions is as insignificant as any practice run. Kavinsky rips up different pieces. realigning them until he's puzzled together a monochrome Picasso of one person, a person that had been dragged into his life through the commission of another, then had decided to stay there. For a while, at least.

Fucker, Kavinsky thinks, unsure whether he means Lynch or himself. These drawings are all shit. He can do photorealism just fine, yet these scribblings are an insult to the craft, drunkenly inspired or no. Now that he sees what they're supposed to be, the flaws practically jump out at him. A pair of lips too full here, a brow too high there. His aesthetic ideal has started to override the image he has committed to memory, and with it all the details about Lynch that would not be considered conventionally beautiful. Like his nose that is too long for his face, the jaw that is too narrow for his mouth, or the eyes that are too sunken and not on a straight line.

Conventional beauty is overrated.

Take Gansey, for example, Lynch's... employer? boyfriend? leash-holder? (Kavinsky has yet to figure out the precise nature of their relationship; neither of them has let on, but Kavinsky can imagine. He's not an artist for nothing.) Gansey has been blessed with everything the gene pool has to offer – except maybe a lethal allergy to wasps, from what Kavinsky has gathered, but you can't have everything, right? Even Michelangelo would have considered himself to be in God's favor had he fashioned Gansey's likeness out of marble.

Yet Gansey is boring. Kavinsky has spent enough hours caressing his features with a brush to arrive at this conclusion.

Lynch is not that. His features are not refined like Gansey's. The only thing refined about him is what he has refined himself, through practice and application, to make other people uncomfortable around him.

This is why he'd asked Lynch to pose for him: so Kavinsky could capture all of him, raw and unfiltered and true to organic, breathing life. All that's on the outside, at least. They hung out sometimes, when Kavinsky's obsession waned enough for him to veer outside and Lynch was unleashed by his master. Yet even teetering drunkenly on rooftops, Lynch was quiet about himself. After all, the purpose of these meetings was to get a better sense of Gansey from a position Gansey himself couldn't illuminate. Kavinsky wouldn't pry too openly into what made Lynch tick, though he teased out some bits.

Lynch scrutinises his work with a longing only another artist would display, determined to one day master the same skill and then surpass it. Lynch scrutinises him too, when he is mixing colors or applying them first with broad strokes, then increasingly finer ones; when he is sawing wood into a desired shape, sanding it, then coating it with varnish; when he is melting tin soldiers down into their original form and casts them into something new, like a mask or miniature trees he solders tiny leaves onto. He has an entire miniature forest that Lynch has taken a special shine to.

Behind this interest, an unvoiced question lay hidden, one that Kavinsky chose to understand in terms of apprenticeship. He had been ready to grant him this, if only for the pleasure of watching him work, discover a medium for himself and be as destructively talented through it as Kavinsky himself is.

Yet Lynch had shot him down. A little too harshly, if you asked Kavinsky.

This mess in front of him must be a manifestation of this denial. A mad scramble to materialize some impressions before they've gone stale.

Or maybe it's a process of disengagement. A deconstruction – a banishment, of sorts. If only he managed to force Lynch onto paper, he'd be freeing his thoughts of him, piece by fucking piece. Stripped down to his parts, he should lose his appeal, his power to hook Kavinsky's interest.

He scoffs. As if such a cheap exorcism would have been fruitful. Lynch's appeal is not tied to his looks as he first believed, or the sum total of his parts; it's something insubstantial, something that cannot be seen or touched, or even captured with a frenzied pencil, it appears.

Kavinsky grabs fistfuls of paper, shredding and dumping them into his metal trash can. They flutter like so many fat snowflakes, yet he can't count on them to disappear by themselves. Droplets of spirit spray on his hands and jeans as he soaks the paper scraps. The rasp of his lighter is incongruously loud. Holding the edge of an uncrumpled sheet into the flame, he watches it come alive, then flake into dead remnants of itself. The flame shoots high and hungry, and he lights a cigarette with it, the heat so close it nearly singes his skin. Before it starts gnawing at his fingers, he flicks it into the trash can. The fire takes hold, orange-yellow bleeding into a bluish-green dance of northern lights.

Sheet by sheet, he feeds it the remnant of his obsession. Watching Lynch's features blacken and disappear gives him a satisfaction somewhere on the spectrum between grim and gleeful. Take that, you asshole.

This is what he should have done in the very beginning, burn this shit like a fever, instead of protracting the disease. The column of heat from his impromptu indoor campfire is cleansing. It caresses him like an embrace.

Just as he lights up a joint, someone bangs on his door. Hold your fucking horses out there, nobody's home. Kavinsky is not in the mood for visitors, especially not those who are about to tear him a new one for not making good on his promises, whatever those were – some people come up with the best excuses when they're not inclined to pay artists, after all.

"K, you fuckweasel, I know you're in there. Open up."

Kavinsky leisurely puffs at his joint before the pounding becomes too much for his nerves. He rips open the door, if only to get his asshole of an assistant to stop making such a goddamn racket. Proko stumbles over the threshold and nearly falls flat on his face. Kavinsky curses his reflexes for catching him, because Proko nosediving would have been infinitely funnier.

"What the shit are you doing, man?" Proko asks, still draped over Kavinsky's arm like a dishrag, as his gaze zooms in on his smoldering trash can. Thankfully, most of the damning evidence has already been destroyed. "Are you trying to immolate yourself again? Motherfucker."

"I know you wanna fuck my mom," Kavinsky says, shoving Proko against the doorjamb. "Get in line."

Proko shoves back and fixes Kavinsky with a death glare. "Quit your stupid jokes. I was worried, man. We all were. You haven't been answering your phone for, like, five hours." He then storms across the room to tear open the windows. The slowly dying fire ripples one last time before it extinguishes into a rope of smoke.

Kavinsky closes the door with his back against it, one arm crossed over his chest, thumbnail between his teeth, watching Proko through a white haze. "Good thing you acted so fast. Can't imagine what I'd have done if I'd had a seizure four hours ago."

"Don't give me that bullshit," Proko rounds on him. Every word brings him closer to Kavinsky, until his hands are balling the front of his washed-out T-shirt. "You're notoriously late, you like to withdraw, and you threatened me with knife action if I ever disturbed you during your creative phases again. The way you've been struggling with ideas lately, you would have lopped my head clean off if I took you out of your zone too early."

"I take it you forgot your chill pills today," Kavinsky says and pats one of the fists keeping him within Proko's radius. His other hand practically forces the foot of his joint between Proko's lips. He nods approvingly when the ember glows brighter, and ruffles Proko's shaggy hair. "There's a good boy."

Proko's eyes jerk away reflexively. Christian boys and their guilt complexes that never go away. They're too easy to have fun with. "Look, I know you're frustrated," Proko mutters while Kavinsky takes another few pulls and runs his thumb over Proko's beestung lips, marveling at how so many of the boy's parts are cartoonish or uneven. "I get it. But I'm not gonna let you mope around here alone."

"Open up," Kavinsky says, echoing Proko's earlier words back at him. Smoke billows from his mouth in tiny tendrils when he presses it to his friend's. A small gurgle escapes Proko's throat but, obedient as ever, he parts his lips for Kavinsky. He shudders as though Kavinsky is breathing death into him. Perhaps he is. But right now, Proko's fingers digging into his shoulders and nape, the insistence of his mouth on his own, tell him they're both still magnificently alive, through no fault of their own.

Kavinsky draws back with a hiss as his fingers grow dangerously hot. One last drag and he drops the butt to the floor, crushes it underfoot. Gripping Proko's head with both his hands is an unconscious motion, as is slotting their lips together again, but it seems to always take Proko by surprise. Another startled noise claws itself out of him. Kavinsky eats it up.

Kavinsky has never been accused of being a nice person. He can fake politeness for first-time clients well enough, but his people know how difficult he is to deal with. Not only does he cut communications for hours on end if he's in a mood, he purposely endangers himself for inspiration without a care about who finds him. He's OD'd on Proko several times and nearly bled out on him once when he refused to go to the hospital for stitches until he'd finished his metalwork project. He lives and dies for his art – sometimes literally.

Run-of-the-mill people don't get to see that part of him.

That's why Proko clings to him like he might disintegrate, like he's both so glad Kavinsky is all right and so afraid it's not going to last. Kavinsky is an addict: he's used to getting his fix in the end, even if it takes some time; not getting it rends him on a level that is hard to detect and even harder to ward off against. All he can do is deal with the fallout in his way.

Proko is a snarl of breath and a tangle to teeth against him when Kavinsky's hand dips below his waistband. He's not wearing any underwear – he must have expected this night to turn steamy eventually. They usually do when he meets the guys for a pretentious, artsy get-together where they plan to talk about their ideas and their progress but end up wasted and talking shit.

Kavinsky curls his fingers around Proko's cock, rubs his palm against the half-hard length of it, and drinks in the moans Proko tries to strangle.

"Fuck, K," Proko stutters, eyes dewy and breath short. He presses his forehead into Kavinsky's shoulder as if that would keep him from overflowing.

Kavinsky's grin is shark-like, all teeth and no emotion. Too bad he doesn't have his shades on. They wall him off from the outside world. "That's the idea."

Proko is warm and pliant, but not entirely ready to be handled just yet. "You're changing the subject again."

"Want me to stop?" Kavinsky squeezes the back of his neck.

Proko's answer is nothing more than a prolonged gurgle. Indecisiveness is a good quality in followers. They will look to you to for guidance and even when they're not, they can easily be swayed. Kavinsky pops Proko's trouser button and slips to his knees. Proko sways for a second, but then his spine goes rigid. Kavinsky can feel the tension in the backs of his thighs. Proko's fingers scratch over his scalp, both frenzied and reverent. Kavinsky merely breathes on his length as he jacks him off, and puts his mouth to the top of his thigh, at the juncture to his hip, where the bruises are fading.

Proko cries out when Kavinsky sets his teeth there, half-surprised and half-embarrassed as he spills himself over Kavinsky's shoulder. He keeps pumping him slowly, dragging out everything he has to offer, never breaking eye-contact. Proko swallows thickly, and the look on his face makes something inside Kavinsky plunge, something he's been ignoring all this time.

"Let's," Proko's voice breaks and he tries again, "let's go to my place and I'll return the favor."

"You'd return the favor here if I wanted you to." Kavinsky grins as he tucks Proko's softening dick away, and rotates his wrist. He really needs to stop doing this with his dominant hand. No wonder he can hardly hold a pencil after a night out with the guys.

"Come on, a change of scenery will be good for you," Proko says and for the matter of a moment, his eyes flicker into the room before he squeezes them shut. "You can create shit at my place, too."

Kavinsky glances over his shoulder at the few remaining sheets scattered across the floor. Proko is probably right, though. "In that cramped storage closet you call your art corner? You gotta be kidding me."

Proko folds his arms over his chest and looks at him askance.

"Alright, fine. But just because I'm freezing my ass off and your place has an actual heating."

Proko shrugs and clasps hands with Kavinsky to help him to his feet. "Whatever you have to tell yourself."

This much is settled: Kavinsky would be spending the night apart from his half-abandoned projects and the ghosts dwelling inside these walls. Yet more than a change of scenery may be needed to get him out of his own head.