The sound of shattering ceramic plates echoes in the flat and it is loud enough that it catches Elisei’s attention. He sets his pen down to stop working, his footsteps light as he slinks his way over to the kitchen, and Ethan stands there as still as a statue. There is a sponge in one hand, the other empty, and pieces of the broken plate surround his feet while he stares down at them unthinkingly. He walks noisily over to Ethan and he snaps out of his daze, looks up at Elisei then back down at the shattered pieces with wide, horrified eyes.
“Oh my gosh,” Ethan gasps out, “I’m so sorry.” he hastily puts the sponge away and kneels down, opens the cabinet underneath the sink, and starts to collect pieces of the plate to throw them in the trash. Elisei kneels next to him to help him with collecting them up before he backs away and he ignores the way Ethan looks up at him with apology in those big, wide eyes.
No more plates crash down onto the floor while Ethan is still in the kitchen and the sound of running water becomes Elisei’s company when he decides to move his work from his room over to the living room instead. The English words blur together often, his focus drifting off and back constantly, and he sighs heavily. The pen in his grip grows heavier and heavier the longer he stalls, and he finally gives up and just caps it up again and puts it in the middle of his notebook.
He comes back to the kitchen after Ethan is done doing the dishes to see what it is that causes such a reaction from him and he stops in place when he sees it, right away. On the shelf, where Ethan is wont to keep random knick-knacks on, is a picture of –
Unthinkingly, Elisei grabs at the frame, slips the photo out, and drops it into the trash. He settles the frame back onto the shelf and leaves the kitchen untouched besides that. He doesn’t enjoy cooking as much as Ethan does, so there is no reason for him to linger here longer than is necessary; he grabs a glass of water and a black plastic bag before he leaves, his head bowing down and his shoulders tense.
There is more cleaning he needs to do if Ethan reacts like that to an innocuous photo. He grabs at his notebook and pen, sets his notes aside – journalism can wait a little longer today – and he pads listlessly into his own room to begin. He grabs bits of clothing that he remembers showing to Ethan only for him to nervously respond with “I’ll deal with it later, okay?” and throws them into the bag.
Those aren’t the only bits of clothing in his closet that he doesn’t touch, with there being far more than there has any right to be. He drops combat boots into the bag, throws away Russian music CDs and a personal journal, gathers up cigarette butts and boxes from under the bed and throws them all away.
None of these are his. He has been slacking too long on cleaning his room up, always waiting for Ethan to do it because the day of Elisei clearing it out puts him on edge, and even if there is no joy or calm to glean from this he searches every little corner of the room. He shoves everything that isn’t his into the plastic bag – old phones that haven’t been thrown away, a broken charger, a vodka flask, and more cigarette butts and cartons.
A black lighter, well-worn hiking boots, a sleeveless shirt too big for him and pants too baggy. Mags of naked men or women, DVDs of terrible old movies, and he stops briefly when he finds a photo album.
His hand hovers above the photo album, trembling only slightly before he is quick to snatch it away and shoves it into the bag, and he leaves to throw all of the trash away. Ethan is busy with work today and won’t be back for another ten minutes, and Elisei stares at the door to their flat for a few seconds before he finally steps inside to avoid looking insane.
He heads back into his clean room, sits down onto his bed, and he wraps his arms around himself and leans forward. He doesn’t do anything until he hears the front door open up and he moves to greet Ethan, seems him in a turtleneck and jeans, and he jolts in surprise when he sees Elisei staring at him.
“I’m home,” Ethan says, a smile on his face that is quick to falter when Elisei doesn’t stop staring at him, “hey, what’s wro-”
“It’s summer,” Elisei says lowly, and Ethan tenses up. “They should have healed up by now.” Ethan looks down, to the right, to the kitchen, anything to not return his gaze, and he exhales slowly. “I’m not upset."
He doesn’t answer. He fiddles with the hem of his turtleneck and shuffles closer to his own bedroom and Elisei watches him, his gaze following every movement, every step, and the way he hunches his back over as if Ethan can feel his eyes roaming over him.
“I cleaned my room out.” Elisei calls out, his voice louder than usual, and Ethan tenses up before his door. “He has to die eventually.”
There is a moment of silence while Ethan rests his hand rest on his door handle and he bows his head down. “I know,” he says finally after the tenseness grows thick enough to suffocate, “I know. It’s – it’s hard. But I’m glad you did that, I am. I’m gonna go to sleep, I think.”
Silence dwarfs Elisei for a second and the urge to enter Ethan’s room and curl up next to him in bed, to hug and spoon him from behind, and feel him living in his arms hits him hard. He stops his feet in place and instead heads back to finish his notes and start his article, though he pauses in front of Ethan’s door, and his heart twists as he hears the sobbing.
There isn’t anything he can do. He can only wait.