Artistic Endeavors

Now this was a good day.

Michael sighed happily as he settled back into the comfy cushions of the couch. He'd finally finished writing up that contract, and could take the rest of the weekend – well, the last few hours of Saturday night and all of Sunday – off. Glancing through the TV Guide, he noticed a rerun of one of his favorite movies was on, and grabbed the remote, quickly flipping to the appropriate channel to enjoy Casablanca.

"Today was a really good day," he decided. He'd gotten all his work done – ahead of schedule, at that – Nicole was doing great in school – she was even now at Marcie's house working on an extra credit project, though he had a feeling it was more of an excuse for a sleepover, but that was all right, since her grades were fantastic as it was – and Joey was…

Michael quirked a grin as the not-entirely melodious sounds of his lover's voice echoed from upstairs.

Joey was attempting to sing while working on a present for Nicole's birthday.

"Ah, well. So he can't sing. I love the big lug anyway," he said prosaically. He settled back to watch Sam 'play it again', enjoying the not entirely in tune accompaniment that Joey's singing along to the Top 40 provided.

Halfway through the movie, Joey was still singing. Only louder now, and Michael could actually make out the words.

"Do a little dance! Make a little love! Get down to– Ow! Damnit!"

Michel shot straight up in his seat, completely forgoing Bogey and Bergman's conversation on screen in favor of worrying about how hurt Joey was. Though realistically he knew Joey was always careful, his roommate/co-parent/lover had been trying out metal-working…

Blowtorches. Eugh. He smiled reflectively. "But then, Joey always did like to live dangerously." Turning towards the balcony – or, as Joey preferred to call it, his 'artist's alcove' – Michael called, "You okay out there, Joe?"

A grunt reached his ears, followed by the sound of some sort of metal sheeting – and various other objects composed of a similar element – falling to the floor in a raucous crash. Another grunt, then, "Yeah, I'm good. Just dropped, like…everything." An aggrieved sigh followed, and the sound of metal scraping metal.

"Everything as in everything you were working on, or everything as in everything you were working on – and it fell apart?" Michael asked, knowing that if it was the latter, Joey might have just lost anywhere from half an hour to three weeks' worth of work.

A loud sigh reached his ears, then Joey's head popped inside, following by his arms, full of various objets d'art that had once been pieces of scrap metal from the local salvage yard. A resigned smile was on his face – the one that said, 'It's gonna be a pain to redo whatever I have to get done, but I'm mostly okay with it.' "Somewhere in between – a few things fell off and need to be reattached, but it shouldn't take too long." He lugged his armful of metallic detritus over to the tarp he had laid on the floor – covered with some of the smaller bits and pieces he planned to use – and carefully began rearranging his half-finished masterpiece on its canvas surface.

"What exactly is it that you're making Nicole for her birthday, anyway?" Michael asked, watching him work. Turning down the volume on the television in deference to his continuing conversation with his lover, he walked over and dropped to his knees next to Michael and began to move various scattered nuts and bolts out of the artist's path.

"I'm thinking abstract," Joey answered, grunting slightly as he set what looked like a hubcap covered with half a dozen lug nuts placed in various spots; it looked like a metal snowflake, some sort of punk rock version of a snowstorm. Very Joey, Michael thought.

Joey frowned at the contemplative look on Michael's face, thinking he was about to be berated for not putting any thought into their daughter's gift, and said, "And no, not because I couldn't think of anything. I'm trying to make something that's…" he waved a hand in that way which meant he was having a hard time illustrating his point with words, "…not really supposed to be anything, but more inspired by her."

"I know you'll make something she'll like," Michael said, choosing to forgo correcting Joey's mistaken assumption in favor of a compliment. I do not want to be sleeping on the couch tonight – especially since Nicole's not going to be home…

Joey grinned, the quirky little half-grin he only ever got when he realized he was wrong about something, but his pride wouldn't let him admit it. "Yeah, well, I hope so."

"It isn't, like, a weapon, is it?" Michael teased. He rose from the floor once he saw that Joey was finished with his rearranging. Going into the kitchen to make some coffee, he continued, "I mean, all that metal…and it isn't big enough to be a car. Though you did use enough parts from one." He grinned widely.

Joey snorted. "Why would she need a weapon with that pepper spray you got her? And no way would I ever make her a car. I do art, not…practical stuff." He shuddered theatrically, as if weirded out by the very thought.

Michael chuckled at his lover's antics as he poured the coffee grounds into a filter. "And besides knowing how to call AAA, you don't know how to fix anything in a car, let alone build one," he joked.

Sniffing in feigned affront, Joey said, "Hey, I know how to change a flat tire…" He frowned and chewed on his lower lip in that unconsciously nervous way which always turned Michael on, "…sorta," he finished reluctantly.

"Sorta. Riiiight," Michael said, all sarcasm shot through with hidden humor.

Joey huffed. "Art is my forte. Not auto maintenance."

"Art is your forte," Michael said agreeably, closing the coffeemaker and pushing the button to start it percolating. "But I'm not entirely sure your choice in medium is something you can make work this time."

Joey grimaced and cast an almost wary look at the piece of metal scattered on the floor. "I may have bitten off more than I can chew," he conceded. "But I'm not gonna give up my blowtorch until I finish Nicole's present."

Bitten off…blowtorch… Does he have any idea how much that sounds like blatant sexual innuendo? Michael wondered. Out loud, he said, "But then afterwards, you'll go back to sculpting and painting, right? Instead of burnt ozone, the apartment will smell like turpentine and wet clay again."

Joey snorted. "But you hate the smell of turpentine and wet clay in the morning." He grinned lopsidedly. "And the afternoon, and the evening…"

"Yeah, but I'm used to the smell of turpentine and wet clay," Michael argued back. "I've gotten kind of fond of it; it's almost like your signature scent. And you keep setting off the smoke alarm with your blowtorch – that's part of the reason why you work outside now."

"The other part being that you're afraid I'll set something on fire," Joey said dryly.

Michael flushed slightly. "Er…yeah."

"Well, you won't have to worry for much longer, Mikey; I'm gonna lay down my blowtorch once I finish this project." Joey shook his head as he stared at the pieces of his metal masterpiece. "It takes too frickin' long to get stuff to look right; you can't mold it like you do clay, and you can't paint over it like you do with canvas and oils. I just don't have the patience for metal-working."

"Well, I'm glad to hear that," Michael said honestly. "Because I gotta tell ya, Joe, I was getting tired of all your complaints."

"Oh, like your complaints when you switched your computer's operating system to Windows XP?" Joey asked archly, one eyebrow raised in inquiry.

Michael coughed and ducked his head, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "Uh, yes, well…" The coffeemaker hiccupped to signify that it was done brewing, and he got out the coffee cups and began to pour, adding a liberal amount of sugar to Joey's.

"Of course, you got used to it, finally," Joey continued. "After three months. I've been doing metal work for about the same length of time, but I've only been complaining for the past few weeks."

"All right, all right." Michael raised his hands in supplication and grinned disarmingly. "I'll stop complaining about your complaining. Okay?"

Joey grinned. "Okay. And in return, I will extend my…artistic endeavors…" He reached behinds Michael towards the refrigerator, opening the door and retrieving a brown bottle, "…into the bedroom." He gave his lover a lascivious smile.

Michael stared at the bottle of chocolate syrup in Joey's hands and could only say one thing past the lump in his throat, "Sounds good."

And now we get to the makeup sex portion of our evening. Damn, life is good, Joey decided smugly as he herded his lover up the stairs.