Just saw a picture of fetus Robert Sean Leonard in Dead Poets Society, smiling so sweetly with impossibly more of a babyface than he already had 15 years ago, and I literally cannot stop thinking of baby James Evan Wilson in this prestigious fucking boarding school and there’s this boy with bright blue eyes and a tongue like a razor who got sent there because his father was fed up with him (because his mother saw the belt bruises, because she saw the blue-purple tint to his wet skin after those hours in the garage, because she got tired of finding the yard door locked on winter nights and an empty bed that belonged to her son, because she realized she could see his ribs even under a shirt, because she couldn’t do anything else but send him away -let me pretend for a moment that the mother he loves cared about him), who speaks too many languages and knows too many obscure things and makes a point of very loudly hating everyone. His uniform is never proper, his insults always hit too hard, he’s too brilliant to be liked even if he wasn’t such an asshole. James watches him on the racetrack, graceful like a greyhound, watches him climb down the trellis of his window wall at night and escape, finds out what he does in secret is play piano, of all things. And then this new teacher comes and bit by bit James has his own secret too, one that has nothing to do with ice-blue gazes and sharp words behind kissable lips, this time. He expects the boy to mock his passion as relentlessly as he does everything else, but for once he says nothing.
And not too much later the boy is climbing his trellis, up into his room this time instead of away from his own, and the kiss is lingering and warm and everything neither of them ever had, and he leaves behind a music sheet -“Puck”, for piano solo, by G. House, age 17; now James has three secrets and a hummingbird for a heart.
He lets him listen, after he starts sneaking out for rehearsals, after he gets the part. He doesn’t look at him, those glacier eyes deeper-colored and distant, hands flying over ivory like there is nothing else in the world, but he lets James be there, with him, and he knows how much that means, and he’s never been so beautiful. He still has a tongue like a shard of glass, but inside James’s mouth it’s warm and yielding and careful, and sometimes he will mock how stupidly perfect his hair is because he can’t stop wanting to touch it, and sometimes, apropos of nothing, he will mention that he used to consume his weight in lollipops, but now he’s practically addicted to chocolates, and James never thought his own eyes were special, even less when he looks into the sapphires G-d encrusted on Greg’s sockets, but the tilt of his head, the quirk of his mouth, the direction of his gaze when he says that, time and again, sometimes in earshot of everyone, makes him change his mind.
They kiss again, and again, because they just can’t not, especially after Greg plays, after James steps down from a stage, either or both euphoric and high on adrenaline and endorphins, and Greg indeed cannot keep his hands away from James’s hair, and he does indeed taste of chocolate mixed with nicotine, and he says that James has girl eyelashes, girl lips, girl skin, and then, hushed, private, girl things aren’t supposed to be bad, even if he thinks otherwise, even if he hurts him for it. James doesn’t ask who “he” is, doesn’t need to, and says that he must have a girl heart too, then, and kisses the smile from Greg’s face but it’s etched forever in that blue.
They have one night, just one. James premiered as Puck, and Greg took him away to Lord knows where and finally played that piece, the one from so many months ago -from memory, because James has the paper tucked into his breast pocket, into every breast pocket he’s wearing at that moment. The carpeted floor is plush and soft when they lay down on it and Greg’s body is longer than his, his hands larger but his fingers so delicate, in every sense of the word, his cutting mouth gone gentle and searing and soft. James doesn’t mind that he’s not Greg’s first. He minds that Greg is his first, because it’s what he wanted and what matters, because Greg touches him both like he knows what to do and like there’s never been anyone else, like James is made of silk and glass (there have been, yes. None that mattered. None that will ever matter like this again) and James was wrong, so wrong, about having seen that steel blue focused before. The way he looks at him now, there might as well be nothing else and no one else in the whole expanse of the universe; they’re wide and tinged dark and so intent he feels cut open and bared, his soul a raw red thing for him to see, and he doesn’t care. That’s how he wants it. To be devoured whole, suffocated in blue and piano notes that had his name from the first day. And Greg, as much as he gives, is greedy; he can see it, the blood-glass soul, and wants it, wants to take it, to tuck it in his chest and keep it warming his own blackened one. He gives to James’s body instead, and takes as much of that palpitating life-warmth as he can in return, and neither of them say three words, eight letters, because there’s no need, because they know.
They come back at daybreak, and two days later, somehow, both of their fathers know, someone told them. They only know, thank G-d, about music and theatre and breaking the rules; of what regards to them, of just kisses (they were never “just”. Neither of them will understand this for as long as they live). They both get pulled from the school, both sent elsewhere. James home, for the time being, Greg to his father’s current post in Japan.
James has bruises on his face and arms and copper has replaced the chocolate and cigarettes on his teeth and tongue when he puts the barrel of the gun to his temple, sparing a thought for how Greg must be even worse for wear. He hasn’t gone into medicine yet, despite his father’s forceful orders; he doesn’t know how to shoot better, how often the temple fails.
He wakes up from the coma and goes back to studying. He chooses McGill, as far from this place as he can manage, the foreign language mix and vast outdoors soothing to him, but he doesn’t join the theatre club there, and he hides the round dime-sized scar with the part of his hair. He martyrs himself and goes into oncology, hearing the last scoff from his father about his useless specialty over a long phone line. He gets married, and it’s a mistake, and he always knew it, but little rebellions or no, now he is what his father wanted. What he demanded.
It’s been a decade. He closes his eyes and sees it, the glitter from his cheeks getting everywhere, the pretend-insult of how good he looks with painted eyes, hands on his hair and everywhere on his skin. He knows -has known always- that it branded him forever, that it’s burnt into his skin as deep as the marrow of his bones and it can’t be erased. (He’s tried. He’s tried so much, with so many. Always girls, because he isn’t supposed to want what he wants. He gives and gives, and gains a reputation, and feels nothing except for the futility of it.) He sees it, has every day for ten years. He doesn’t understand why that stupid manila folder hurts so much when he never wanted the marriage in the first place. Perhaps because of how Sam bled him dry, used his neck for a stool to reach what she wanted, and now that she has it, she’s discarding him, like he’s nothing. (He was only ever something to one person, he thinks.)
A stupid song won’t stop repeating, his every last already frayed nerve snaps, and the antique mirror shatters before he can register he’s been the one to throw the glass. He clutches the folder in his hands, in the holding cell, still unopened, and doesn’t need to ask himself where it all went wrong.
But then, how many times did he hear his rabbi say that the Lord takes care of His people? He’s not particularly religious, never has been, but this, this feels like a miracle the size of the one that kept oil burning for eight nights, of the one that split the sea wide open.
Because New Orleans couldn’t be more different from Welton, but the laughing, teasing lilt to that voice, the flutter to those hands, the quirk to those lips, the blue blue blue blue of those irises, those haven’t changed at all. And the greatest miracle yet -what hasn’t stopped burning in his heart for all this time, with oil for only one night, is alive and alight still in him too.
They go to the hotel, which of theirs he doesn’t remember and it doesn’t matter, and when Dr Greg House kisses him again, unsure and halting at first, it feels both like crossing the greatest bridge ever built and like not enough time has passed for him to completely wipe the glitter off his cheekbones all at once. They make love like they intend to devour each other whole, like they couldn’t and now will every chance they get, and the world and time don’t exist inside these four walls as they while the conference away like this.
(There’s no Bonnie, no Julie, no Stacy. No more nurses and no patients. Greg has an offer in Princeton, and James goes with him. The first time was a mistake, but the second time around James stands under the white chuppah, blue eyes that never stopped looking at him like that bore into his, and everything’s right with the world).