Logs:Before Our Time
|Before Our Time|
"I've got awful big feet, too and I still manage to cram 'em both in my mouth somehow."
<PRV> Black House - Ridgewood
This stately townhouse has a cheerful yellow brick exterior, its front entrance spectacularly inaccessible but affording residents a commanding view of the quiet street below. Inside it's bright and airy and almost entirely empty of furniture. It has the pristine, sterile look that comes with professional renovation, but here and there the obvious custom touches -- whether from the previous residents or at the new owner's request -- shine through.
The first floor is expansive, with a longish open floor plan that's quickly falling out of fashion. One entire wall of the living room consists of tessellated geometric mirrors, reflecting the truly massive and functional fireplace and even larger mosaic stone hearth. Beyond this the dining room and kitchen are conjoined; the space left for the as yet absent dining table looks vast and strange. A small half bath is tucked at the rear of this space, beside which the back door leads down into a small back yard with a patio sheltered by a quaint little pavilion and a strip of a garden along one side.
The staircase winding through the heart of the house is lit by a generous skylight, and runs parallel the main hallway of the second floor, which joins two comfortably sized bedrooms, with an expansive and luxurious full bath in between and not one but two hallway closets. On the top floor is a massive bedroom with as much glass as wall and its own full, if smallish, bathroom. French doors one one side of this attic room lead out onto a roof deck, whose stairs lead own into the backyard far below.
Its inside entrance from the kitchen easily overlooked, the basement is cavernous and unfinished, still in the process of being renovated. At this point there's only a small laundry area at the bottom of the stairs and a bare concrete staircase leading up into the backyard.
The weather is lovely outside, and it's just as well for a day when the door is going to be standing open so often. Not, perhaps, as often as if Steve weren't on hand. He's managed most of the heavier pieces of furniture entirely by himself, and is presently in the process of settling a dresser into place in one of the second-floor bedrooms. Despite all that he's neither winded nor sweating in his painting clothes -- black t-shirt, faded blue jeans, and black combat boots all liberally speckled with paint. "That look about right?" he asks, taking a step back and looking around the room speculatively.
Though he's relegated himself to the boxes and left the heaviest of the furniture for Steve, Jax does look a lot more winded, a lot sweatier, currently dressed in faded overalls so splattered in rainbow bursts of paint, an old Xavier's tee, damp with sweat, and very faintly glittery purple Doc Martens. He has followed Steve into the bedroom, setting down the box in his arms next to the closet with a heavy thump.
"Oh, ummmmm." Jax bites down on his lip, frowning as he looks from the dresser to the bed, to the drafting table, and back. For a moment the room shimmers, changes, some of the furniture switching places and an easel manifesting itself in a corner by the (now-illusory) drafting table. "Oh gosh I'm so sorry I know I said it should go there but now that it's all in here I think it'd be better like this. Would it be a terrible trouble if you switched 'em now? I think the easel will go better that way."
Steve reaches out and passes his hand through the illusion of the dresser, now against a different wall, a faint smile on his face. "That's fine," he assures his host, "it's no trouble, I promise." His eyes trace lines across the room, already making a plan of attack for shifting the furniture around. "Though..." He's studying Jax critically now. "Do you need a break? We don't have to do everything at my pace, you know. Not like Ryan is here for us to get in his way." Though his eyes dart toward the other bedroom down the hall anyway.
Jax's gaze tracks reflexively towards the other bedroom as well. "Yeah, he's..." This trails off momentarily, his teeth sinking in against his lip. "Well, the first couple stops have gone well, anyway." He has a smile when he looks back to Steve. "I should probably get a snack an' a drink, actually."
Steve looks back at Jax, brows furrowing now. "How is he, really? I mean, touring aside." He runs a hand through his hair. "I haven't really talked to him much since the breakup, he's been so darned busy, and -- just didn't seem interested anymore. C'mon." He's ushering Jax out the door. "Moving that around won't take but a few minutes. I could use a snack, too, if I'm honest."
"I -- I mean, well, the tour parts kinda taking up a lotta his energy. You got no idea how much fighting he had to do with his road manager to make sure these shows was set up responsibly, they was like, well aren't you all past that out in New York, why should you still care? Like he's gonna go playing with other people's lives now that he's safe." Jax blushes, eye dropping to the floor as he heads out to the stair. "I know you said tourin' aside but it's -- there's just been a lot since you broke up and he." The blush is deepening. "I'm real sure he wanted to be in touch, just." He lifts one shoulder.
Steve nods, following after Jax. "That's very terrible but not very surprising, from other news I've been reading all around the country -- about his manager, I mean. Well. Not a surprise he's putting folks' safety ahead of expediency, either." Here he smiles, but only briefly. "I got the sense -- there was more to it than he was willing to tell me." He drifts through the kitchen to fetch up against a counter, bracing the heels of his hands on the edge as he leans back against it. "You know him best -- do you think I should...well, again, I know he's awful busy, but should I reach out? If he needs space -- if that's the reason he hasn't, even if he wants to, I want to respect that."
"Outdoor venues only, real strict distancing and masks required -- it sure was a fight, though. The way some people put money over pretty near everything --" Jax's head shakes. He opens a cabinet -- frowns at its near-emptiness, closes it again. Instead grabs two bottles of Coke from the fridge. "What these boys been living on here before I don't hardly know --" His head is still shaking. "I got plenty of granola bars but otherwise we might hafta order somethin' until my pantry boxes are unpacked."
The drawers, at least, do have bottle openers, even if the cabinets had no glasses. He cracks open one bottle, offers it to Steve as he leans forward against the counter beside the other man. "I --" A hesitation. "I do think he wants to hear from you. Things is just complicated sometimes."
"Well, I'm glad his concerts aren't going to be contributing to that mess." Steve shakes his head. "God knows folk need some joyful events in a year like this, but it can be done smart, like that." He smiles shyly. "Well, I wouldn't want to run you all out of granola bars, so if there's somewhere around here that'll deliver something you can eat, let's try that. Thank you." He accepts the bottle. "I -- I will, then. Just can't shake the sense I've done him a disservice. It seemed like harmless fun, but, well..." His head dips. "Feels like I complicate everything I touch, some days."
Jax opens the second bottle, sipping on it as he takes out his phone. "Granola bars is the least I can get you for your help, it woulda took me all day if you wasn't here. How you feel about Filipino?" He holds the phone out to offer Steve a menu.
His glitter-dusted nails tap lightly against the side of the bottle. "Maybe you're just a hard guy to get over," he suggests with a small smile that fades quickly. "Relationships is complicated. I don't think it's doing someone a disservice if they don't -- necessarily end the way that --" His nose wrinkles, head shaking. "I don't think he regrets it, for what that's worth."
"Filipino? Sure -- I've liked what I've tried, and I'm always happy to try more." Steve takes the phone. "Not as if I'm doing a whole lot with all these muscles anyway, and I get to spend some time with you, so -- it'd be well worth it to me, food or no food." He makes his selections and passes the phone back. "Maybe. The fella I was with back in the day -- he kept our letter all his life. Closeted, but he kept them." His face does something fleeting and complicated. "I keep thinking maybe I wouldn't break so many hearts if I could just get over him, but -- maybe it's like you say, it's just. Relationships being complicated."
Jax's eye lowers, a small frown crossing his expression that vanishes as he takes the phone. "So many? Steve Rogers, how many hearts have you left strewn across New York?" There's a small curl of smile that pulls at his lips, though he's mostly just looking thoughtful by the time he tucks the phone away and looks back up at Steve. "Do you ever really get over people you loved? I think they stay a part'a you. You just -- maybe gotta do some refiguring on where that part fits in a world they ain't part of no more."
"When I was a boy I thought, there'd only ever be one gal for me -- didn't know I was queer, then. But regardless I figured, if I could just find even one. That'd be it. And I -- I kind of thought I'd found that one." Steve's head gives a small, quick shake. "So two hearts seems like an awful lot to break." His smile is small, fond. "Three, if you count Howard Stark." He licks his lips. "I hope you're right, because...I'm not sure I can let him go. Not really. And I worry that's not fair to --" He looks up at Jax, uncertain. "--to the next person I love, like that. Does that -- do you think that's foolish?"
"Oh, gosh," Jax answers with a soft laugh, a light pink flutter in the air around him, "you askin' me from my vast troves of experience on the subject?" He shakes his head and takes a long pull at his soda. "I don't know which part you mean. It sure ain't foolish to love him, still. Gotta be plain with you, though, I do think it's a little silly to act like loving one person means you got less love to give to the next. You're a big guy, I'm sure if you come at it right there's room enough in there for Howard's memory and whoever's lucky enough to be with you when you're ready. If some hypothetical future-person thinks you gotta push him out to be with them fully, sounds to me like they ain't gonna be the right one."
Steve blushes fiercely. "Sorry. It's just -- well, you've clearly thought about all this a lot. I mean, you teach about love and relationships, right? Gotta understand a thing better to teach it than do it." He suddenly blushes harder. "I don't mean -- to say that you -- haven't. Ever. With anyone." He scrubs a hand over his face. "Well, I've got awful big feet, too and I still manage to cram 'em both in my mouth somehow." Shakes his head again. "Guess I better learn to come at it right. And have a little faith that I can find someone who won't mind sharing me with a ghost." He chuckles. "I guess it is kind of silly, considering I don't have any doubt my future sweetheart would be alright sharing me with all the living folks I love. Even the ones whose hearts I've broken."
"Years of not dating nobody leaves me plenty of time to think on it good and long." Jax's grin is a little bit crooked. "I ain't exactly the kinda guy that nobody wants to --" His hand waves dismissively. The breath he pushes out is slow, fingers tightening around his bottle. "Anyway. World we're living in now -- feel like you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who don't got their share'a ghosts written into their hearts. Don't love that everyone's gettin' a collective education in grieving, but, I feel like some folks are bound to come out of it more understanding of what we're all carrying 'round."
Steve tilts his head quizzically. "I admit, I kind of thought you were single by choice -- on account of having a kid still at home." Red creeps back into his cheeks. "Meaning you're so -- amazing that it's just hard to imagine you wouldn't have a full dance card if --" He scrunches his eyes shut. "I think I'm doing that thing with my foot and my mouth again." But when he relaxes there's something approaching real ease in the set of his broad shoulders. "I know too much grief to think it's lucky that more folks will know what it's like. Your generation and mine --" He meets Jax's eyes, his smile a little tired and a little sad. "-- both old before our times."
Jax reaches out to clink his bottle against Steve's. "See? Future ain't so different after all." There is not, admittedly, a lot of humor in the small huff of an almost-laugh that comes with this. He leans down against the counter, nose wrinkling up. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I get plenty'a guys at the club askin' about -- whatever. But wanting to hook up and wanting an actual relationship is whole different things, y'know? I think generally people want relationships with someone who's -- I don't know. Better."
"Sure isn't," Steve agrees softly. "More things change, as they say." He blinks. "I know -- probably they know, too. Guess I just don't think you give yourself enough credit." He's quiet a moment. Sips his cola. "I'm not sure how often this comes up, and you can tell me if it's not my business, but do you -- want to be in a relationship?"
Jax doesn't immediately answer this. He looks down at his bottle, turning it one way and then another in the light. "I'on even know how to answer that," he finally says, apologetic. "Like -- with who? I think it might be nice, sure. Ain't like I don't get lonely, but -- I just -- I'm not --" He bites at his lip ring, then shakes his head. "Sorry, ain't important. But s'not like my life's exactly empty without one, neither."
"I guess it's not...the most concise question," Steve admits, rubbing the back of his head. "But it's..." He hesitates. "If it matters to you, then it's important. I just figure maybe I'm not the only fella who thought you weren't interested -- in a general sort of way." He swallows. "But I don't think it's at all because you're not attractive, or not interesting, or not good enough in any way." He smiles gently. Drapes an arm around Jax's shoulders. Squeezes gently, careful of his strength. "And no, it's not empty. Not at all."