One moment James Whitman's life was completely normal, even maybe a little bit great. He was at the reception for the first major show he'd curated at his new job, they'd already gotten press coverage in the local alt-weekly that morning and now he was listening to a local preparator tell a wide-eyed story about the horrors of shipping a Damien Hirst sculpture. The exhibition around them was the result of months of hard work and dedication on his part and he was understandably proud of how it'd been received so far. It was a feeling of accomplishment that even the extreme sleep deprivation from days of installation could not damper.
Then it happened. One glance up, one casual look over the meandering crowd and the next moment he was red faced and choking on his goddamn cheese and crackers as someone thumped his back and his brain sputtered in panic and denial. "Totally full of maggots," he distantly heard the preparator conclude in smug satisfaction, but his mind was elsewhere.
OhmyGod, OhmyGod, OhmyGod his psyche chanted, running down the familiar groves in his mind towards panic. James closed his eyes. What the hell was he doing here? They were in Portland for christ sake. It wasn't exactly like he was haunting their old neighborhood and this wasn't exactly a mecca for art world super stars. Maybe he was hallucinating? Maybe the exhaustion had finally caught up with him and he was having a waking nightmare. But fuck no. He'd know him anywhere.
And he'd only got a quick eye-full before he'd lost his shit and tried to inhale his provolone, but he was pretty sure the man looked ridiculously gorgeous. James, on the other hand, looked exhausted and haggard and before this very moment had just felt lucky to shower, change his shirt and run a comb through his hair. Life was so unfair.
"Whoa, James, you want me to get you some water?" His director, Andrew, asked, giving his back a few more hearty slaps.
"No. I'll get it. Be right back," he mumbled, ducking his head and making a mad dash for the office. He knew he couldn't hide in there for the rest of the night or anything, but he sure could use a moment to re-group. How could this even be happening? On this night of all nights. What the ever-loving fuck? He was steps away, literally mere steps to safety when he felt a tug on his sleeve. His stomach did a somersault.
"Hey James. There you are." He recognized the voice and relief flooded his system. If anyone was going to back him up on this, it was Danny.
"Oh uh, hey Daniel," he croaked out hoarsely, turning halfway on his heel. Danny had switched from his regular skater kid casual clothes to something halfway professional looking, taking him from the cute asian kid that could easily pass for one of his students, to something a lot more devastating. James frowned. Never mind. I'll ask about that later. No time for that now. "Look, this is kind of an emergency I just saw my fucking crazy e…eh…"
He stopped because there he was, standing before them in an impossibly tight pair of jeans and a red sweater. He was Persian by heritage, with thick chestnut brown hair, full mouth and dark black-brown eyes, eyes that were currently looking him over intently, making him wish he could just sink into the floor and disappear forever.
"Pardon me?" Daniel looked confused, his English accent putting a soft lilt to his words. "You just saw your watza?" James blinked and shook his head, mouth hanging half open in disbelief. Seriously, what was going on here? Daniel gave him a moment to elaborate, but when James only stared in mute horror, he shrugged and foraged on ahead without him. "Okaay, well I wanted to introduce you to someone. Turkish this is James Whitman he's the curator here. James this is…"
James' eyes narrowed as he cut Danny off. "Oh we've met." As in he lost his virginity to the guy met, as in they'd lived together for almost two years met, as in he'd once tore his heart to little pieces and then stomped it to mush, met. Turkish broke into a huge white-toothed smile, bright and handsome and sucking up all the light in the room. Wow, just, wow did he ever hate him.
"Oh my God man, I'd heard you'd moved to Portland but this is amazing!" He saw it coming and shook his head again in objection, trying to move backwards and out of reach, but then there were arms around him, warm and firm, and he was receiving the most awkward hug of his entire life. The wool of Turkish's sweater was softer than it looked as it brushed against his cheek, his scent startlingly familiar, a mix of citrus and something spicy. It had literally taken James months to wash that damn expensive cologne out of all of his things. Some stuff he'd simply thrown away.
He bit into the inside of his cheek so hard he tasted the copper tang of blood as his body went stiff. "It's really good to see you," Turkish said into his hair, breath warm. "Really really good."
This was probably what you're supposed to do when you run into someone you used to claim to love, whose body had once touched and moved with your's, speaking a secret language as powerful as any words. You're also probably supposed to be semi-polite after three years of near silence. But James pretty much hated this moment with every fiber of his being and it took every ounce of his willpower not to embarrass himself thoroughly.
I don't want to do the right thing, I want to get the fuck away from this man.
"Okay, okay," he said firmly, pushing and detangling until they were no longer pressed together, because seriously not only did he kind of want to punch him in the face, but he also still found Turkish appallingly attractive and that warring combination of feelings and physicality was the stuff of life long therapy. "Okay. Um yeah, so what are you even doing here, Turkish?"
He looked momentarily surprised, maybe a little disappointed. "Dan was just taking me around the city a bit. I'm showing at the Museum next fall and I'm here for a site visit. So you curated this show? Dude, that's hella crazy."
"No, it's my job," he snapped. "It's what I went to school for remember?" Turkish gave him a look, the skeptical one with the raised eyebrow and pursed lips that said he thought James was being unreasonable. He felt his face flush hot. "It isn't crazy for people to do the job they worked really hard to get." Now he was digging nails into the palms of my hands, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. If he thought he could still manage him with that shit…
"Oh well good then, you've already met," Danny said loudly, clapping James on the shoulder a little to hard. "It figures with you both being from San Francisco."
"Turkish doesn't live..." He started to protest but Turkish stopped him.
"I moved back."
"After Yale?" He asked before he could stop himself. It was stupid. Why did he even care about something like that?
"Yeah after Yale."
"I'm teaching now."
"Teaching?" James blinked. When they had been together Turkish had only done photography, keeping erratic hours, a tumultuous social life and traveling a lot. Teaching sounded practically domestic.
"At SFAI. Undergrad photography. It's a lot of fun, actually." James just stared at him in bewilderment so he added helpfully, "you can do that kinda thing after grad school you know."
"Yeah that's…" He forced a smile. "That's really great. Excuse me for a moment." He bolted, pushing past Danny and making a beeline for the door.