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in the studio today with THOMAS CASTRO 🕊

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Still Life of Hands

Being an art student, one would think Ronan would be used to half-naked models by now.

Usually, he is. His figure drawing class brings in a new model every time they meet twice a week, though sometimes they bring back old models if the class is particularly inspired by them. The models are everywhere from female to male to non-binary, and Ronan had thought he’d seen it all. Of course he’s attracted to the male models if they have nice bodies, but usually it’s just a thought. He’ll look up from his notebook, appreciate their body for a second, and then start sketching their muscles, zoning out as he lets his pencil or charcoal do the rest. If Ronan thinks about them outside of his artwork besides that, it’s usually because he feels sorry for them having to sit in weird ass poses requested by the class for what must be two painfully long hours. He looks at them as a project to tackle more than anything else. He doesn’t feel flustered around any of them. He definitely doesn’t raise his hand and request a pose.

So why the hell is he doing that now?

His professor looks surprised – of course she is. Ronan has hardly even spoken in this class, let alone raised his hand. A small smile soon adorns her face however, she has always supported Ronan for whatever reason, and nods in his direction. “Yes, Ronan – go ahead.”

Ronan looks back at their new model and abruptly forgets how to speak.

He doesn’t know if all of the models before him were just shitty or what, but Ronan swears he has never seen a more beautiful human being in his entire life. He has short, dusty hair that falls across his head in what can’t be described as anything but a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess, like fucking movie star hair perfectly tousled by the wind. He has ocean blue eyes that seem to pierce right through him when he turns to look at him, and the utterly bored look on his face just makes Ronan ache more. His face is dotted with thousands of freckles, Ronan would love for an opportunity to count all of them, and his figure is tall and thin. But the part about him that completely floors Ronan is his hands – oh God his hands. They’re boyishly big, jutting out from his slender wrists and supporting large knuckles and long fingers. His hands look like he’s been working hard all of his life and Ronan can’t stop staring at them. He wants to kiss those hands – he wants to feel those hands all over his body.

He has never reacted this strongly to a model before. Ever.  

No matter where he looks Ronan feels like he’s going to explode. Oh, and did he mention that the guy’s shirt is off? Ronan can’t even begin to describe what the sight of that scarred and muscled chest is doing to him.

“Ronan?” Professor Kawalski’s concerned voice somehow penetrates into his brain, and he realizes with a start that he’s been staring at the model like a love-struck fool for who knows how long instead of requesting his pose.

Cheeks dusting pink with embarrassment, Ronan looks at his notebook in an attempt to escape and clears his throat. “Uh, yeah – could you…”

And he directs the model through the motions. He has the model—Adam, his brain supplies him unhelpfully—sit with his back facing the class, leaning back on his hands. His legs are stretched out in front of him and he tilts his head over his shoulder, looking like someone has just called for his attention. Ronan wants it like that, to seem like they stumbled upon a scene of Adam’s life rather than making it obvious it’s just a figure drawing. And while he laments that he won’t be able to stare at his chest through the whole drawing—someone else will surely request that anyway—he wants, needs, Adam’s hands to be the foreground of the picture.

It wouldn’t be right otherwise.

Once Adam settles into position, his eyes lock with Ronan’s. “Is this right?”

Ronan struggles to swallow through his suddenly dry throat. “Yeah. Perfect.”

The class settles down then to get started on their sketches. Ronan finds that Adam’s shape comes to him effortlessly, little details he’d never bothered to identify on other models popping out at him every time he looks up. It’s a wonder he gets anything done at all, actually, because every time he glances up and stares for just a bit too long, Adam catches him and stares back with what looks like a smirk on his face. Ronan wants to hate him for it, but he loves it instead and he slowly loses his mind as he drowns himself in everything Adam Adam Adam.

He finds himself adding the smirk on when he gets to his face; it improves the casualness of the pose, he thinks. It looks like Adam was relaxing, and then turned to smirk at someone who just told a dirty joke. Or at least, that’s the scene Ronan is imagining in his head.

While most of the figure itself doesn’t take him too long, Ronan gets caught up in the features that he can’t stop staring at in real life, too. He spends about half an hour just getting his freckles right, dotting them all around his face and on his shoulders. He’s absolutely in love with the freckles on his shoulders. The last hour he spends entirely on Adam’s hands. He draws them with care and affection, adding in every detail he can see. Maybe it’s just an excuse to stare at Adam’s hands (it definitely is), but Ronan’s proud of how it turns out. If someone looked close enough at his drawing, they could see the freckles on Adam’s fingers, the way his large knuckles jut out and give structure to his hand and fingers, that tiny little scar he has on the back of his hand.  

He’s paying more attention to detail than he ever has before. While his classmates request different poses throughout the two hours, Ronan just focuses on his original pose for Adam, using the new poses to add details to it that he couldn’t see before. As he brushes in the way Adam’s hair lazily sprawls along his forehead he wonders what it would be like to draw his fingers through it, if it’s as soft as it looks.

He wonders if he may be idolizing Adam just a bit too much.

“Alright, pencils down!” Kawalski calls, startling Ronan so badly he literally drops his pencil on the ground. Noah, the guy who has sat next to him all semester, snickers at him. Ronan flips him the bird. “Let’s all thank Adam for his patience with us today!”

Adam looks utterly embarrassed as the room is filled with light applause. Ronan wonders if he’s new at modeling or if he’s just like this every time. He wonders which one is more endearing.

As Ronan carefully tucks his notebook into his bag and shoves away all of his pencils and erasers, he wonders if it would be too strange to request Adam back again. Ronan believes he can’t be the only person who was so enthralled with him, so surely the class would back him up if he did…

“Um, hey, Ronan, was it?” a voice says from behind him. When Ronan turns, scowl already sitting habitually on his face, he nearly has a heart attack.

Adam is standing there, right in front of him, within touching distance. Ronan illogically has the urge to pull away, suddenly flustered, but then he realizes: Adam is standing there. Right in front of him. He has a ratty old Coca-Cola shirt on now, Ronan realizes sadly as he stares at Adam like he’s an apparition.

Holy fuck.

“Uh?” he says intelligently. He has no grasp of what Adam could possibly want to say to him – how does he even talk to this boy? He can’t very well tell him he’s enjoyed staring at him and imagining him in mildly erotic situations for the last two hours, though that is the truth. Ronan doesn’t lie. He just smartly doesn’t say everything that runs through his head.

“Sorry if this is weird,” Adam says, luckily filling in the conversation for where Ronan failed. “I just…I just really liked the pose you gave me, and I was wondering…if I could see it?”

For a moment, Ronan just stares at him. His immediate reaction is no holy hell Adam can’t see it! Ronan had bared his heart on that damn paper, in that damn sketch, for this damn boy. Just the thought of how Adam would react to seeing Ronan’s attraction and affection puked onto his notebook horrifies Ronan.

And yet, against every instinct and nerve screaming in his body, he pulls his notebook back out of his bag and hands it to Adam. “It’s the one in the back,” he says uselessly, not knowing what else to say. Anything else is too terrifying to bring to life.

Watching Adam flip to the correct page and just stare at his drawing is the most painful thing Ronan has ever experienced in his entire life. And he’s been through hell and back. It’s almost worse that he can’t tell what Adam think is thinking through his expression – it’s irritatingly blank, except for a spark of surprise in his eyes.

“I…I don’t know what to say,” Adam eventually murmurs, and to Ronan’s horror starts flipping through the rest of his notebook.

Shame, embarrassment, and the familiar self-hatred flares to life as one big ball of anger in Ronan’s chest, and he digs his fingernails into his palms to stop himself from lashing out. Gansey and his counselor have helped him get better about non-violent ways to unleash his anger, grief, and other intense emotions—it’s why he got into art in the first place—but having his heart exposed and crushed like this is worse than anything he’s felt recently. Dammit, this is why he had closed up to people after his dad died!

“Sorry it’s so shitty,” Ronan growls, hurt leaking like venom into his voice despite his best efforts. He reaches to grab his notebook back, but Adam quickly tucks it into his chest, like he’s protecting it. Ronan just blinks at him in surprise.

“No, no, it’s not bad, god how could this be—” Adam, seeming to realize that Ronan has no idea what the fuck he’s trying to say, pauses to take a deep breath before staring directly at Ronan and saying, “I didn’t mean to imply that. It’s just that no one’s ever drawn me so, so…beautifully before. Like, you draw me like I’m worth something, like I’m…lovable.

Ronan doesn’t know what to think – he doesn’t know how to react. On the one hand, he kind of wants to throw his fist into whatever or whoever made Adam feel like he’s worthless and unlovable. On the other hand, Adam, beautiful, freckled Adam just gave Ronan’s sketch the highest possible compliment. On the third hand—you don’t have three hands, Ronan’s brain supplies unhelpfully—Adam apparently saw right through his sketch and to the deepest part of Ronan’s soul.

Ronan’s love for Adam is tangible enough for Adam to notice, and that is the most terrifying thing he has ever heard in his life.

He feels like he needs to blow something up. Set something on fire. Instead he brings his arm up to chew on his leather bands and, pointedly not looking at Adam, says, “I’m just drawing what I see.”

It’s apparently the right thing to say, as Adam’s entire face brightens into a large smile. Ronan passionately wishes he had his notebook back, so he could draw it. “Wow, that’s um…wow. Do you…do you want to go out for coffee sometime?”

If Ronan wasn’t so surprised already, that would’ve sent him falling right off his stool. He’s so in shock that for a moment he’s convinced Adam is messing with him. Why would he have any reason to want to take some crazy artist on a date—oh God—especially one who had just drawn him like he was the most beautiful thing in the entire world? It sounds rather creepy, to Ronan. Against the aching want in his chest, he complains weakly, “You don’t even know me.”

That doesn’t seem to deter Adam in the slightest. “I’d like to.”

Ronan blushes at that, feeling warm and excited and giddy. It’s been a long time since someone has wanted to climb through his spiny walls and get to know him. He hadn’t realized it until now, but maybe he’s been waiting all this time for someone to want to. He can’t help but smile. “If I agree, can I sketch you again?”

Adam tips his head back and laughs, and Ronan wants to sketch him. Again. Jesus, he’s just found his motivation for his next one thousand art projects. Maybe more than that. He wonders if Adam will laugh for him again. If he’ll let him caress his hands.

Dear God.

“Sure, I’ll even let you pick the pose again, since it’s obviously been your goal all along,” Adam teases, grinning and leaning forward to whisper in Ronan’s ear, “I also do full nudes, if you’re interested.”

Ronan’s spine nearly snaps he sits up straight so hard, blood rushing to both poles making him abruptly dizzy. Holy fuck.

“Jesus,” he breathes, embarrassed when Adam pulls back with a snicker. Suddenly he leaps to his feet and practically throws his phone into Adam’s free hand, babbling in a flustered way he didn’t even know possessed him, “Okay listen, fuck, here’s my phone, just put your number in or something and I’ll…I’ll text you. Actually, I hate my phone, so maybe you should text me. I might not reply, but I’ll come whenever and wherever you want to meet – I literally don’t do anything. I just sit in my room and sketch. That’s it. Sometimes my friend Dick bothers me.”

Jesus. He might as well have thrown an I love you somewhere in there.

To his surprise and relief, though, Adam doesn’t seem overwhelmed – if anything, he finds the whole situation amusing, if his wry smirk is anything to go by. Ronan badly wants to kiss him. Fuck this is a mess.

He watches as Adam plugs his contact info into Ronan’s phone before handing it back to him. Then he just stares at him, an eyebrow raised. It takes a few awkward moments of getting lost in Adam’s eyes and knowing absolutely nothing about phone etiquette for Ronan to realize he’s waiting for Ronan to text him so that he’ll have his contact info, too. Feeling like a blundering idiot, Ronan texts him a simple message—guess who—before pocketing his phone again, relieved to get it out of his hands.

Adam pulls out his own phone as he gets the message, and the small smile on his face is worth every moment of suffering in Ronan’s life to get to this point. He spends a few moments editing the info before also pocketing his phone and sending that smile at Ronan. Ronan forgets how to breathe. “Great. You know, I’m actually free now – do you wanna get lunch? There’s a great pizza place not far from campus.”

Ronan would run through hell and back for this boy. Again. But he tries to regain some sense of his pride and integrity, so he leans back at his whole height and says nonchalantly, “Fine. Only if you let me drive.”

“Deal.” Adam smiles widely before flipping to another page in Ronan’s notebook and showing it to him. “But first, tell me about this raven.”

2

Bettie Page rose to fame in the 1950s for her pin-up photos. She is often referred to as the “Queen of Pinups.”

In 1959, Page became an Evangelical Christian. After her fame wore off Bettie Page’s later years were marked by depression, violent mood swings, and several years in a state psychiatric hospital suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

On the 28th of October, 1972 Bettie was arrested. When police answered a call placed by her ex-husband Harry Lear. When they arrived on scene they found him and Bettie out on the front yard with Bettie hitting Harry, repeatedly punching and verbally attacking him.

Bettie would stay at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a state mental care facility for six months spending most of the time under suicide watch. At age 56, Bettie was arrested again. She had stabbed her elderly landlords on the afternoon of April 19, 1979 in an unprovoked attack, during a fit of insanity.

Bettie Page died from a heart attack on December 11th 2008