25. DREAM

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Flight Into Egypt, Elsheimer, 1609
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The whole art of gossiping never made any sense to Isaac. One would think that being friends with Asher for a while would help him understand, but he could never quite get why anyone would want to bury their nose in the book of someone next to them instead of reading the one right in their own lap.

It made no sense at all, really.

It disappointed him to no end when he found out that the adult world was even worse than the youth world when it came to minding one's own business. For with time they grew less shameful, and more nosy. Apparently there was this idea that younger people lived more interesting lives, and discussion was a way for older people to live through them vicariously.

He noticed that the people around him talked. A lot. Endlessly.

Another thing Isaac noticed was that his pay grew exponentially as he spent more and more time in Jesse's office. Unfortunately, everyone else did as well. They referred to him as Jesse's "little pet", and would snicker and whisper amongst themselves every time they saw him heading towards the photographer, or in his general area.

He went from not understanding gossiping to despising the act with a passion after becoming the main topic of their noisy break-time chatter.

"And here I thought he wasn't interested," he heard.

"Should've known he'd do anything to get to the top," one woman said, "I heard he was dirt poor before this. It's a shame, I thought he was actually going to work hard."

"None of the top models do, Anne."

It was directly after an intimate session with the photographer, when they'd started to dress and neaten themselves that Isaac grit his teeth in pent up frustration. Jesse looked up from his shirt buttons and cocked his head to the side.

"Have you been telling people? Because they've been talking about me and it's really starting to piss me off."

He frowned innocently. "Of course not. It would ruin my reputation, too, you know."

"Then can you just stop...doing whatever it is that you're doing that makes people talk." Isaac dragged a hand down his face.

"I don't understand. What exactly is it that I'm doing?"

"Everything! The job opportunities, the money, the treatment. They think I'm your goddamn puppy! You hold a treat and I come running with my tail wagging and wet tongue panting. Just stop!"

"But..." He was at a loss for words, and it showed in his face. "I thought this was what you wanted. Don't you want the money?"

"I'm not your personal whore, Jesse."

"I never said that you—"

"And I'm not an object. I'm not your goddamn work of art. I'm not your prized possession. If you want me to continue modeling for you, stop giving me money like I'm something meant to be bought and displayed."

He didn't want money because they had sex. In fact, his heart stopped desiring gaining money from the act a long, long time ago. He just didn't realize it until now.

"I'm sorry, Isaac." His voice grew weary. "I didn't mean for them to treat you like this. Honestly."

"But you clearly meant other things." He pulled his striped sweater over his head, tousseling his recently sorted hair. He opened the door before looking back. "Goodnight, Jesse."

✧・゚: *✧・゚:* ✦ *:・゚✧*:・゚✧

"That was amazing," Isaac said, out of breath and sweating from his recent throws of passion. "For once I'm glad that we did this stupid retreat."

Josiah turned to his side so that he could face Isaac in the bed they shared. "In case you forgot, we do have a project. It's not all fun and games."

"Sex isn't a game between us," he responded, "it's war."

"It's a war I always win."

He smirked. "I'm pretty sure you said that you always lose to me right before I seduced you."

"Well I'm pretty sure winners don't beg other people to pull their hair in bed," he mumbled.

Isaac narrowed his eyes. He was calculating his attack. Confused, Josiah wasn't prepared when the boy pounced on top of him like a cat. "Take it back!"

"Never!" he shouted, swatting at his flailing arms until they both grew tired, which wasn't long because they were already exhausted from all they'd done earlier. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity, he pulled the blonde on top of him so that his head laid on his bare chest.

Isaac had surprised himself when he didn't get up right away. Instead, succumbed to the loud beating of Josiah's heart, finding peace in the rhythm like it was a song meant for his ears and his ears alone. It belonged to him.

"What are we doing?" he asked softly after a period of rest. "Why do I never know the answer to that when I'm with you?"

"I never know the answer either."

Quiet.

"Do you...want to stop?" the prefect finally asked. It was a question both of them were afraid of.

"...Not really."

Josiah wrapped his arms around the boy lying on top of him to bring him closer. "Then I guess that's all we need to know right now."

Having fallen asleep to the memory of a thumping heart, Isaac awoke to the sound of a wailing child. He watched the kid's mother hum a quiet lullaby to him, wrapping her arms around him to calm him. He suddenly realized that his own face felt wet with tears and wiped it dry with his sleeve.

It wasn't unusual for him to have dreams about past memories. But growing up, he knew that most kids dreamt of their craziest ideas and wildest fantasies. Isaac never had dreams like that. For some reason he always found solace in the past, events he knew he'd truly experienced, not of what he knew he could never achieve. He couldn't find comfort in a fantasy. Not unless he could live in it forever.

Entering his flat, he felt like he was stuck in his dream and hadn't yet woken up. Perhaps it was a good thing he felt this way. It meant he'd grown so used to the dreary halls and smell of rotting wood that it became a place of familiarity. After all, that's all a home was to him. A place of familiarity.

When he walked right past a person sitting beside his door, with knees to his chest and head buried in forearms, he wasn't the slightest bit phased in his dizzying acosmic state. Then he did a double take, eyes widening at the fact that someone was literally outside his door, asleep.

Then the boy's head shuffled at the sound of Isaac's near yelp. He recognized the Eton uniform right before a pair of eyes met his. Red, shiny, tired eyes with irises the color of a still lake.

"Hey," Josiah said with a weak smile, "fancy seeing you here."

Yeah, Isaac was definitely dreaming.

He just didn't know if he wanted to wake up or not.

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