Di/A/N: Doesn't belong to me. Based on an art-theme challenge. Pretentious references to the Aeneid, Dali, and the almighty Moldau. Snapshot style; mild, mild slash; the difference between hearing music and believing what it tells you. I happen to be a B major myself—and A major is the best key of all.

-- can see for miles

7/22/2k4

i.

For inspiration Mark often had to resort to standing on his head. Not for himself, but for Roger, and usually Roger told him to stop it anyway because Mark's inevitable look of sad constipation reportedly gave him the chills. His fingers would be lax on the strings; without his guitar Roger seemed incomplete, discontent, and without Roger the guitar sat morosely in the corner, strings fat with dust.

Mark was not musically inclined and probably never would be. He knew his voice was not unpleasant but his theory was abominable, and any instrument he attempted to play produced such hideous noises that he had to stop for fear of bringing war upon the east coast.

Roger's ear was infuriatingly precise; the honk of a horn and it would be out of his mouth—"B…"—before he pressed his lips together and blinked, humming a few notes. In a café the air was jittery with the voices of a thousand million customers and the breathless jazz crammed through the speakers, and Mark was certain there was no way he could possibly be right—but after a couple of seconds Roger would grin as if relieved, dumping more cream into his already heavily doctored coffee.

It drove Mark mad and it was worse, it was worse when there was no music present because Roger seemed content to hear it anyway. The pigtailed, knobby-kneed hopscotcher in Battery Park was a G major; the person who jostled them in line was an F minor; "That chick," Roger informed him, was a B major, and everything from the pattern of cracks on the sidewalks to the appalling plaid pants in the window of H&M fed the scales.

And Roger was of course full of shit; but Mark could not help but wonder if it was true, if it had basis, because Roger looked so sure most of the time and he could not help but wonder sometimes what he might be if he…

"Transition," Roger replied. A gentle slide-skip over the grate in the sidewalk; his grin was crooked. "D major to C major. 'Green Bushes'."

And Mark grudgingly tested it out later in a piano store downtown. It was almost beautiful.

ii.

Inspiration came in friendship; for Mark it was in the encouragement of those around him, but more so in the actual result of his endeavors, the purity of a given sequence of shots. Stills he had found to be a frustrating medium, temperamental in darkrooms and given to exposing and perpetuating faults, but actually filming… Filmingallowed each imperfection to smooth out, be replaced, be manipulated into something else entirely, so that in the end the only thing Mark had to be dissatisfied with was himself, and that usually was more than enough.

Roger was lovely in a frighteningly masculine kind of way; his eyes were clear and his hair was blond and he was sometimes so completely oblivious it was almost charming—but then night fell and the shadows would steal the color from his skin and the guitar would suddenly be a modern golden branch; never revealing when it might pull him down to hell.

Pre-sunrise in New York smeared ivory across any visible sky; Mark would lie awake, watching the daylight chase night from the ragged hair and shake the darkness from the creases in his brow, and could love it for that, just for a while.

iii.

"You're like Dali," Roger said.

Mark glanced up, passed a hand over his eyes. New York stumbled past the bus windows, sobered by rain and the haze of breath on glass. "What?"

"Dali. Salvador. Kicked out of art school. Spent time in jail?"

Art classes and discussions with Collins prickled his memory. He shook his head. "Surrealism?"

"Yup." Synthetic leather creaked as Roger shifted his weight. His guitar case was a stiff-backed shadow beside him; his hand curled jealously around its neck at every bump. "And melting clocks. Crazy fuck."

"And I'm like him how?"

"Dunno. You just kind of, you are. The Persistence of Memory. You know."

Mark wrinkled his nose. The bus sputtered sarcastically to a halt; a sleepy-eyed woman disembarked, clutching her gathering of GAP bags close to her chest. "Appropriate, but shit-ass ugly," he said. "Didn't he do anything else?"

"Mm." Roger's eyes closed sharply, reopened a moment later to focus blankly on the ceiling. "Uh…"

"Last Supper?" Collins would have his balls. "Last… Holy Thing. Holy Dinner? Something Jesus."

"It… Crucifixion."

"That's it." Mark let out a slow breath, looking down at his camera steadily. "How apt. And advertisement. Illustrations. He was good at that."

Roger's gaze lowered thoughtfully to rest on the adjacent windows. The bus slid to another stop, allowing McDonald's arches to pass gold over his eyes. "Who are you like?" Mark asked.

Silence. Roger's lips pressed together gently. The bus lurched forward again, and the gold haltingly fell away; his fingers ran wearily down the bridge of his nose before lowering to his side, nudging wry Lydians into the air with expert ease.

iv.

Autumn wind sent wrappers tumbling about like leaves; their breath was harsh in the clear mid-morning. "Think I'll compose a heavy metal version of the Moldau," Roger said, and Mark believed him, because Roger could do anything.

v.

Streaking through the Parthenon left you without feeling in your feet, Collins said. Which might have been true for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there was snow on the streets now and he had of course been barefoot. Collins was no Adonis, with or without clothes, but Mark enjoyed picturing it anyway, and regretted that he had not been there to get it on film.

Roger hated the fall and winter with a passion Mark, an autumn child, could not understand. The loft was an icebox but the streets were beautiful and the mood under snowfall was like no other. But despite his animosity, sitting on the roof of their building was Roger's favorite pastime and it annoyed Mark terribly because he never took up a coat, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't indeed been winter, and hadn't been Roger being the one doing it. Bringing one up always made him feel hennish and he hated doing it, particularly when Roger chose to blow him off. "Come on, you have to wear it," Mark said. "You'll get sick and then the loft'll smell like shit. You know I hate it when the loft smells like shit. And medication's an arm and both legs."

"I'll sell my body for the drugs," Roger said, a bit too tonelessly.

"What makes you think anyone would buy it? And anyway, I thought I threw out that shirt. You look dumb in it. Here, cover it up with this coat."

"I love how you're so, you're just, inspiring, and good for my self-esteem. S'better than that shitty penguin shirt you wear around town."

Momentarily distracted, Mark narrowed his eyes. "Low blow. Maureen bought that for me."

"She stole it off the back of a seat in Dunkin' Donuts."

"She did not, she—"

"And what's better, you watched her do it. From behind a camera."

"It isn't…"

Roger grinned up at him. The wind clawed up the side of the building and snatched a hold of his open collar, snapping denim against his neck. "While it was recording. And why would you care whether or not Maureen got it for you?"

"Put—on—the—fucking—coat," Mark snarled, and proceeded to shove him into it. As soon as Roger looked suitably ridiculous Mark plopped himself down, grabbing his bangs between his fingers and yanking them into his fist. "So damned frustrating…"

"You lived in Scarsdale, right?" Roger asked. "I mean, that was where you mostly stayed, right?"

After a moment Mark let go of his hair. "Mostly."

A breeze swept the distant sound of car horns from downtown. Mark sensed rather than heard Roger breathe out a pitch; he settled back onto his elbows, ignoring the knobby surface of the asphalt. "Any reason you just asked me that?"

"How's the view there?"

Mark furrowed his brow as he looked out at the neighboring, dilapidated buildings, perplexed. "You know," Roger prompted. "Were there buildings blocking your way, or could you step out on your porch or whatever and see the sky?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I… Porch. Yeah. There was a lot of room there, sure."

"Same with Westchester." Ignoring the half-melted puddles behind him, Roger fell onto his back, legs bent, folding his arms behind his head. "This time of year, it was actually pretty, sometimes. A lot of lights actually went out at night. You could breathe and it wouldn't be like sucking exhaust. You could see stars. When was the last time you saw stars?"

Mark rolled a shoulder. "Art fair?"

Roger laughed, muffling it as he turned the lower half of his face into the collar of the plaid. Mark glanced over again, curiously this time. "What's with the subject?" he asked. "School report? Attack of nostalgia?"

"M'bored out of my mind."

He recalled the guitar propped against the kitchen table, sporting a sad, curled remnant of its first string, and winced. "Can you pick up a new set?"

"Flow?"

His lips flattened regretfully.

"Whatever." Roger blinked at the sky sedately before closing his eyes, straightening his legs. "My fault for cranking the first up to an F when it's so cold. Cranking it up to an F period.I'll rustle up something later."

Another breeze rushed by, prickling the skin on Mark's arms. He rubbed them absently, wondering what it was about the metallic sheen of the sky that Roger found so fascinating.

Roger was silent for a long time and Mark was worried he might have actually somehow fallen asleep, but after a few minutes he spoke up again, voice distant. "But on a clear day… You bike outside of town, you find a tree, and on a clear day you can see for miles."

"It's cold out here," Mark said. "You're getting my plaid wet."

Roger turned his head, opened his eyes. They were the same color as the sky. "I can't remember what it looks like," he said.

And Mark couldn't either; but returning the gaze, taking in the pale irises and the flush of winter-worn cheeks, he didn't really need to.

vi

Inspiration came in the loft, in the whisper of chords and the closing of cupboard doors and the creak of stairs and Mark often had to resort to standing on his head, not for himself, but for Roger, to see the sarcastic quirk of his lips, to hear the laugh, to see the spark that returned as he reached for his guitar.

And winter melted inexorably into spring; and by the time spring eased into summer there were a multitude of new things brought about by the change. Mark could hear the subtle differences, the delicate change of pitch and the tentative brightness of the chords. Summer was A major, Roger said; and Roger was no chord at all, but a series of rhythms, tangled and somehow still connected, on the lip of an offbeat. Mark sometimes caught him turning his head slightly to listen, and his own thoughts would suddenly flow more easily, in cadence with the deft flight of fingers over the strings.

Inspiration came in that: the pre-dawn grey of restless eyes; the clandestine brush of lips against his skin.

(fin)