A soft knock came before the soft creak of the door opening to Jesse’s room. The room was illuminated by the yellow light from the lamp on the nightstand, giving the room a dream-like glow. The faint sound of the shower running behind the closed bathroom door indicated Jesse’s whereabouts to Gabriel as he stepped in. He hadn’t been in Jesse’s room much, despite it being in his own home. It was more reserved for being a private space for Jesse’s hobbies, as well as a place for Genji and Jesse to hang out in when released by their doms to do as they pleased.
The first thing that stood out to Gabe was the mass amount of photos adorning two of the walls. One of the first things Jesse had bought with his new allowance had been a Polaroid camera and several boxes of blank film. They had been expensive to procure, but Jesse had taken to carrying the thing around and snapping pictures, shyly at first, then growing bolder with the opportunities. Genji sometimes took the camera himself, helping in the strange documentation of Jesse’s new life that was now spread around haphazardly on the walls. Gabe moved closer to the adorned walls, seeing these particular photos for the first time.
A picture of Genji on Jesse’s bed, naked save for his signature ears and tail, also sporting knee-high socks with an imitation of cat’s paws on the bottom of the feet. It was a picture from behind him, showing him on his stomach with a handheld gaming device, obviously too invested in his game to notice his picture being taken. One foot was held lazily in the air behind him while the other stretched out to show the ‘paw pad’ design on the foot, his bare ass still tinged with dark reds and pinks, the only evidence that this particular picture had taken place after some play time. It was a stark contrast against the bright green tail trailing down his thighs. The comment scrawled along the bottom read “He said it’s called Animal Crossing. He didn’t get the irony.”
A series of pictures of Gabe. One taken of him at his desk in the home office, his focus on the computer screen in front of him, a hand splayed across his mouth and chin in thought. One of him noticing the camera, eyebrows raised. One of him crooking a finger at the camera, beckoning the audience. One closer, capturing his predatory smirk and warm brown eyes. One of Gabe reaching towards the camera, caught mid-laugh, his other hand holding a tanned wrist that came from behind the camera. A final picture of Jesse laughing, a kiss being pressed to his cheek as he fell into Gabe’s lap. A series of hearts had been drawn under each picture.
A picture of Jack and Gabe on the couch in the main room, leaning against one another and fast asleep. Genji was behind them, sticking out his tongue and throwing ‘rabbit ears’ up behind their heads. The caption underneath was scrawled in Genji’s handwriting in a sparkly green gel pen, simply stating “Old men!!!” They had fallen asleep during a movie they were watching, though in their defense, they had been working more than usual all that week up until that night. They had really needed the rest.
A picture taken in a mirror. A dirty public bathroom with poor lighting. The picture is slightly askew and a touch blurry. The photographer barely has the camera in his grasp from where it hangs from a strap around his neck. The photographer in question is a very tired looking Jesse, eyes unfocused and looking towards another figure in the mirror. The other is the curled up body of Genji on the floor by a urinal with vomit on the side of it. A cell phone is pressed against his ear, the other hand being run through his hair in nervous habit. The caption in purple reads “High and lost in New York. First and last time for everything” with a small frowny face. It struck Gabe as funny to see this picture, in an ironic way. He remembered that phone call they got from Genji. Jack had been pacing the hotel room that entire night, in a frenzy when his phone finally rang. Before he could ask where they were, Genji’s pathetic sobs had filled the room from the speakerphone setting, begging them to find them. “I fucked up, I fucked up” was all he could get out after that. They had found them via Jesse’s GPS on his phone, finding the boy himself leaning against the wall outside one of the subway bathrooms, Genji sitting between his outstretched legs, turned to cling to him. They had both been shaking, coming down from a bad high. Jesse had a cigarette between his fingers, though the end had burned out already from disuse. Jesse had no desire to try anything he was offered other than the occasional blunt at a party after that. Gabe was surprised to see such a bad memory on the wall amongst the nicer ones. Or maybe it served as a reminder. Either way, it was very out of place compared to the smiling faces on the pictures surrounding it.
A picture of Jesse at the range with his revolver, his beloved PeaceKeeper, the focus clear on his face as he lined up a shot. Dressed in expensive jeans, boots, a custom tailored cowboy-style button-down shirt, and a bandana tied around his neck to top it all off, he looked like a Southwestern wet dream. Genji’s handwriting underneath, “Deadeye!” with a winking smiley face next to it. A picture was directly next to it of Jesse in the same outfit, fingers touching the brim of a fancy looking Stetson perched on his head, newly purchased. Genji’s writing again, “We found a hat!!” with hearts drawn around Jesse’s alluring come-hither smiling face.
Next to those pictures was one of Genji at a weekly martial arts class, his gi white and his belt black. To Jack’s disdain, it was the only time Genji ever truly acted disciplined and focused. His strikes were fierce, his moves were calculated, and his sparring was quite a sight to behold. This picture in particular was of him halfway through a kick, the victim his sensei with blocking pads on his hands to catch the blows. Genji’s face was unfamiliar, older, serious. A dangerous weapon showing his true power. Right next to this picture was one of Genji fresh out of class, sweating but grinning wide, holding up a cutesy V with his fingers next to his face. This Genji looked more familiar, softer, ready to play. In Jesse’s writing in fat pink marker spread across the bottom of both pictures, “Cute but deadly.”
What must have been nearly 20 pictures of Jesse and Genji with various animals, all cramped together in one space, overlapping one another. Genji with an awed expression and a sparrow perched on his hand, eating pieces of bread out of his palm. Jesse grinning at the camera like a fool, his hand on the neck of a beautiful Arabian horse from the traveling horse show they had gone to per his request. Genji wearing a wire headband that resembled cat ears, whiskers drawn on his cheeks over the photo, seeming to point out the contrast to that of the big dog in the picture with him, licking his bewildered face while a panicked owner attempts to pull the dog away. Almost all of the rest of the pictures were cats and kittens. If anyone were in the pictures with them, it would be Jesse, expression tender. One in particular was Genji’s annoyed face with Jesse holding a kitten in the background over his shoulder. Written underneath in angry red, “Competition!!! There can only be one kitten!”
A picture of Genji in his massive walk-in closet at Jack’s house. The picture is taken from the ground; Jesse must have been sitting down on the ground while watching Genji pick something out, which always took a while. Genji is in the middle of a hissy fit, hands tossed up, mouth open as he speaks to someone to the left and behind the camera. Genji’s crop top, stopping loosely midway down his ribs, reads “Cum on My Face” in pastel pink. Gabe remembers Jack fuming over Genji’s insistence to, in his words, ‘wear something that invited the wrong attention’. Gabe had rolled his eyes and pointed at the one Genji had ended up wearing, asking “So ‘sex kitten’ doesn’t attract the wrong attention?” “‘Cum on my face’ is a request! An invitation!” Jack had retorted. Jesse’s messy handwriting under the picture, “Jack said no”.
The small desk against the wall by the dresser was littered with a hundred or more photos, in the process of being prepared for their own spaces on the walls. Markers and pens of all colors were scattered around the desk as well, some having rolled off onto the floor or the small stool under the desk where Genji surely sat to join in on this ongoing project with him. Jesse’s well-worn camera and several boxes of blanks were on their own small shelf above the chaos, waiting for another adventure.
On the wall at the head of the bed opposite of the desk was a small collection of photos. All had been carefully stuck to the wall, in comparison to all the other photos, as though they were dearly treasured. Their edges looked slightly more worn, like someone had spent a while holding and touching these a great deal more. Gabe sat on the bed now, sighing along with the mattress as it sunk down slightly under his weight. He leaned closer to the wall, observing the few photos there. None of these had captions, too sacred to mark on.
He recognized all of them. He himself had requested copies of those specifically so he could put them on his desk in the office downtown. Gabe gently plucked one down, its sticky backing giving easily as though it had been re-applied many times to the wall. A soft laugh escaped him, remembering the memory as he saw it through a different perspective.
It was a picture of himself and Jesse on the beach at the day’s end, the vast sky behind them orange and pink with no clouds in sight. The photo showed their side profile as they looked towards the sun over the beach in front of them, not pictured. Gabe was sitting in the sand, his legs parted and knees up and out to make room for the smaller man between them. Jesse’s shoulders were to Gabe’s chest, leaning back and held close by the arms that were hidden from the camera, one snaking across his belly while the other trailed right down his front. They were both wrapped loosely in an extra large beach towel, obscuring the fact that Jesse was not exactly being tightly cuddled, but rather had two large fingers pressing into him, the slow rocking movement known only to them. Gabe was calmly looking out to the sea at the sunset before them, head resting on top of Jesse’s own, while Jesse’s face was looking towards the camera, through it, with lidded eyes. His lips were parted slightly, caught halfway between the many soft exhales that had escaped him then. His hair was wild and tangled from the ocean’s abuse, telling the tale of many hours spent swimming that day. His face was aggressively pinker on his forehead and nose from the sun, not quite burned, but the pink tinge on his cheeks was much darker than those spots. Gabriel chuckled again, knowing he was the cause of that. The photo was innocent looking enough if you didn't know what was going on.
The bathroom door opened, steam from the shower wisping out and dissipating in the cooler air of the bedroom. Gabe looked up at Jesse, who was strolling out with still-dripping wet hair and a towel around his waist, being held up and closed by one hand. He hadn’t heard the shower cut off; he had been distracted by his reminiscing. Their eyes met, stopping Jesse in his tracks, raising his eyebrows in slight surprise to see Gabe sitting there. His eyes flickered down to the picture in Gabe’s hand for a millisecond, causing him to smile.
“Are we running late? Did I take too long?” Jesse asked, noticing Gabe was already dressed to the nines and ready for the charity banquet they were attending that evening. Gabe shook his head, eyes raking over his body.
“No, dulcito, we have plenty of time,” Gabe started, putting the photo aside on the nightstand and beckoning to Jesse with open arms, “But I think we could get away with being a little late.” Jesse grinned at the hint of suggestion in Gabe’s voice, moving forward to answer the call. The towel hit the floor, prompting Gabe to think that they may end up more than a little late.