2007-09-15: Falling


Elena_icon.gif Mikhail_icon.gif

Summary: Elena decides to take a break from classes to visit Mikhail at his studio space in the NYU arts center. Her visit sparks a very strange breakdown.

Date It Happened: September 15th, 2007


New York University, Greenwich Village, New York

Somewhere in this university, there is an art center. And in that art center, there are separate studios for dancing, computer graphic-ing, and for other artistic purposes. Although a number of students can occupy space without bothering too much as they work, there are still those who like coming back when no one is present.

Mikhail is just one of those artsy loners when he wants to be, setting up the studio to his liking. The painted (or messed up) canvas sits quietly on its metal easel, the white wall behind it calling out its mistakes. Fixing the newsboy cap on his head, he lays out his paints and brushes, various colors and sizes taking over one of the roll-away stands, a large cup of water sitting next to the clean palette. He feels like he's forgetting something, however.

While holding a paint tube, he blinks. "Oh." The artist kneels to pull out an mp3 player and a small set of stereos, putting them on another empty table. Click, click, play. He needs his moody music to work.

Monday, thankfully, was her short day. After lab at three o'clock in the afternoon, Elena's in the mood to socialize. Knowing where Mikhail spent most of his time by now, the young woman heads over to the arts center. It is something she's extremely familiar with - while Dance Corps usually practiced out in the quad, during the winter months when things got too cold to play outside, so to speak, Dance Corps practiced at the center. She is very familiar with the building, considering the mad hours Tia put them through last year in practice.

She swipes her ID card at the automated security turnstiles out front, and clambers up the art-deco stairs to head towards the studios. She doesn't know which one is Mikhail's exactly, but she peeks through the little plexiglass windows on each door to try and find him. She almost misses Miki's, since he bends over to grab his mp3 player. But she manages to catch sight of a pile of books set aside on one desk, with their Eastern Lit text right on top of it.

She knocks on the door, and pushes the door open, peeking her head in. "Hey, you mind visitors?" she asks with a grin.

The art student turns at the sound of opening and a familiar voice, muscles relaxing once he recognizes who dares enter the realm. "Ele," he grins, giving the girl a nod. He usually doesn't, but he'll make an exception for her. "Nah, come on in." He's still wondering how she found out, but…it all connects in his mind soon enough.

The tube is squeezed onto the white of the palette, a glob of paint now staying in place as he recaps it. The music fills the silence as he reaches over to squeeze a few more colors out, all of them forming a half-circle across it. Fidgeting, he takes up one of the larger brushes, inspecting its bristles before attempting to speak. "…So, how are things?"

"Awesome." Elena closes the door behind her and walks up to where he is. She sets her bookbag and her books to the side, and far out of the way from what he's working on. Clad in a ruffled blouse and a pair of hip-hugging jeans, she folds her jacket carefully and puts it on top of her bag. She moves over to where he's playing around with his palette. "You're not too busy are you? If not I can just bug you after you're done working." She looks around the studio space a bit curiously. Does he have other work up?

"So what are you working on?" she asks. He looks like he just got started with his present canvas, so she steps a few feet back to give him room to work.

No, not this one. Setting the brush down, he chooses another, doing the same observation before working with it. His hooded sweater hangs around his waist, tied in the front over a layered long sleeve and short sleeve combination, the patterns and designs somehow easy on the eyes. Wideleg pants swish with his movement as he takes a step forward, dipping the brush in the water and mixing the chosen colors. "I got time," he says calmly, glancing over at Elena. Short and sweet.

And he does have some things out on the side. Several scrap canvases and flat boards show his style, different mediums tested for each of the differing subjects. It's…weird and interesting. "Right now? Uh…" Miki looks back at his large canvas, staring at it blankly. "…it's…the large project I need to get done before the end of the semester," he says, pausing. "Well. One of them."

She wanders away from where he is, Elena's eyes traveling to the other work done by him as she looks around. They're all a little weird, but very interesting. She can't help but smile a bit, gravitating to the more colorful ones. She was a color person, she wasn't one for black and white. She doesn't touch them though - she knows better than that. "These are amazing, Miki," she says, walking around slowly to take a gander on each piece, her eyes riveting on the more interesting pieces. "Are all of these for school?" she wonders out loud.

She looks over at him and grins. "So what's the project about?" she asks, moving back to where he is, against a table where she folds her arms and leans against it, watching him squint his eyes at the canvas. "Color theory, still life, abstract….I don't know much about art to be honest," she confesses.

"Those are practice, but…I think I can use one of them," he answers, adding a few quick strokes to the canvas. He's been chided before about splattering too much paint on the walls, but he figures that's what artist do at times. The whole cleanliness aspect confuses him.

Mikhail gets some more paint, smothering it all over one side with the poor brush in hand. He shrugs, glancing back at Elena for a moment. "I'm…not exactly sure, really," he replies, sounding slightly sheepish. He thought he could come up with it on the fly, but so far, nothing has happened. Another shrug is given, the young man returning to his art. "Eh, art basics are sort of boring, but just as long as you understand something, it's cool. I'm not going to mark you down for that," he smirks, his tongue poking out a little.

"They look pretty complex than just practice…then again you've been doing this for a while, right?" Elena says, still looking over her shoulder at the other flatboards that were propped up. He's got enough talent to show in a studio somewhere, and he's not even twenty yet. Still, she should support her friends, right? She turns her gaze back to Mikhail as he focuses on his canvas. "Wonder if you've got pieces for sale," she tells him with a quick grin. "I'm getting an apartment…well. With a friend of mine. Nadia, you've met her before." The one he'd been gawking at when they heard about the pirate rave. "I was thinking I could buy some artwork to spruce up the place. Maybe I can score one from you before you make it big and gravitate further out of my price range."

When he says he hasn't thought of it yet, she laughs. "Well you're supposed to work when you're inspired, right?" she asks. "Muses and all?" She props her chin on one hand, her eyes moving to the canvas. When he tells her he won't mark her down for her lack of art knowledge, she sticks her tongue back out at him. "Well maybe if I hang out with you long enough maybe I'll learn more than just the basics," she replies whimsically.

He nods, smiling faintly while a steak of blue and red runs vertically down the other shapes. Is he embarrassed? A little. Blue gray eyes flicker when Elena mentions art sales, the brush stopping in the middle of making another line as he thinks. "I was thinking about it, but it always sounds complicated. Selling, naming prices, all that." He nods again when she mentions trying to get an apartment with Nadia, making a small, understanding noise to go with it. "I'm sure I wouldn't mind it," Mikhail chuckles, "and maybe I'll even make you a new one. I don't know."

His mind has been going over the half-filled wooden frame with tarp on it, still not sure what to make of it. There's a brief snicker escaping him when Elena does that, actually believing that it might work if she ever did try. "Whenever you have time, go ahead," Miki offers, brisk marks appearing on another blank spot. He steps back, tapping the blunt end of the brush against his chin. "That's the thing. I haven't really been inspired lately," he says, lifting his eyebrows. "All I can do are small, random things. None of them have a related theme." Broken bits of what he thinks, what he feels, and his insane imagination.

"I'll pay you for it," Elena promises, when he flashes her a quick smile and tells her that maybe he'll make her a new one. "I'll hang it up in our apartment with a little label that says you made it." Starving artists are starving, and she doesn't want Miki to starve. She watches as he makes quick work of his canvas at the moment. "I know, but you'll learn eventually right? Or get an agent or something…I'm sure Eric's got hook-ups in the art world too. He's connected to everything." But the mention of Eric causes her to falter, and look subdued for some reason. She glances away, in favor of inspecting the nearest piece.

The wooden frame with the tarp over it catches her eye. She walks over towards it, though she doesn't pull it off to take a look at it. After all, it was covered for a reason, right? "Maybe you just need to take a walk or something," Elena suggests. "Clear your head a little. I know when I need to figure something out, that's what I do. Drop everything and take a walk. Inspiration can be random, maybe you just need to wander around aimlessly until you find it." She points to the tarp-draped object. "…do you mind if…? I mean, if you're keeping it a secret, I won't be offended or anything. You can tell me."

Yes, he needs food. But right now he should be all right, considering he still has that check for the random tattoo commission saved. He's still deciding how to split that up…

Mikhail starts to open his mouth to respond to what the girl is saying, but he pauses, noticing the change in her tone. Did something happen between Ele and Eri? He wants to ask, but he feels he shouldn't; he doesn't know them that well, yet, and it just seems like he's jumping into things.

The subject changes, thankfully, about taking breathers, clearing his head. He's been doing that too often. However, the artist is now being questioned about the work he has in progress. The one under the tarp. He keeps it under there for no apparent reason, but it's mainly for protection against other student paintings. "Um," he purses his lips, putting the brush down. "G-go ahead, I don't mind." He even goes up to help remove it, pulling it back to reveal wings. Spread wings attached to an unknown figure, the pose twisting, reaching out toward the sky. "…It's not done," he simply says after a few minutes, his tone sounding tired.

She doesn't know he had been paid a commission for a tattoo - Elena would've told him she got one recently. The pause is unnoticed, Mikhail didn't ask the question. She smiles a little bit when he looks over though, like him, she looks tired. She doesn't look like she's been getting enough sleep considering the bags under her eyes. But stress was normal in the early weeks of the semester. After summer vacation, it's taking a bit for some students to get back in the groove.

She helps him remove the tarp, setting it gently on the side. And then, she takes a few steps back. She blinks at the unfinished painting.

"Miki that's…" The colors. The pose. The juxtaposition of the focus-image of the canvas to the background was spectacular. For someone religious, the imagery speaks to her strongly. She takes a few steps closer. She wants to touch it, but she can't. "It's….it's spectacular! I know it's unfinished, but…" But it was beautiful. "What are you thinking about calling it?"

Slowly. All very slowly, he is being wound up. Swallowing, he nods absently to nothing, the music far from his hearing. "…" He spends another moment looking it over, finding more mistakes. The body is misproportioned, the wing not going the right way. He needs references to work with and he hasn't gone out of his way to find any. The professor gave him a laundry list of what to do and how to improve on his efforts.

And yet her comments reach him. Mikhail looks astonished to hear that, his eyes moving over to stare at Elena. He isn't even sure of what to say. But…a title? His throat goes dry, his voice faint and small. "……Falling."

She doesn't seem to be aware of Mikhail being wound up, Elena's eyes are still fixed on the painting as she continues admiring it from where she stands. She walks over towards it, getting closer to the canvas. She still doesn't touch it though. She's not an artist, so she doesn't see the flaws. But she looks at the pictures in its entirety and all she sees is an amazing piece of work. Then again, her opinion might not matter much. She knows very little about art, and has no artistic talents whatsoever.

It's the tone of his voice that catches her attention. She turns slowly to look at Mikhail, wondering if she said or did something wrong. "….Miki?" she broaches hesitantly. The title, though. Was there a significance? "….you okay?"

The critiques, the 'eyes' of real artists looking over and scrutinizing every little thing each art student presents, the stuedents themselves also adding suggestions and frank remarks. It was open to interpretation, open to almost anything, beating down upon a student before he or she can get back to work. Most people can take this sort of thing, but some eventually broke.

His mask is slipping. Too fast. It's only been a few weeks. Mikhail clears his throat, eyes cast down to the side. "Y-yeah, I'm fine." His answer is abrupt, turning to go work on some other parts of his miscellaneous project. A faint laugh follows seconds afterward. "Maybe I should take that walk…"

She watches him silently from where she's standing. Elena isn't psychic, or a mindreader - nor does she understand that the pressure could be bad in his major, just like every other major in NYU. Sadly that was par the course these days. Professors pushing their students harder. Students putting pressure on themselves to do better. It's not as bad as MIT, she's heard stories and she's read the papers. Still, concern softens her face even as the expression on her new friend's face shifts.

"….if you're going, you want company?" she offers tentatively. He's turned away from her now, so she watches his back. She's…part of her is a little confused. What did she do? What did she say? What just happened?

The brushes fumble in his hands, one or two of them clattering onto the floor. "N-no, it's cool. I just need some time to myself," he falters, bending down to pick them back up. It's not her problem. He can handle this. He needs to. "I mean, you have things to do. Coming over here takes up your time…" The excuses aren't exactly up to how he normally does it, but it was worth the shot. The paint blobs sitting on the palette have already grown a dry layer. All he can do is stare at them when he gets back up.

"…." Elena gapes at his back "What? What are you talking about? I came up here so I could hang out with you. It's not….it's not like I'm wasting my time. I chose to be here." She's becoming more confused by the minute. What's going on? And why the hell does he sound so upset? All she did was admire his painting. She's panicking a little bit, and she walks over so she could crouch near him and help him pick up his fallen brushes. "….are you sure you're okay?" she asks, looking over at him. God. Did she upset him without meaning to?

He's failing at this. Blue gray eyes dart over at Elena, widening a little. Oh good grief, he's worrying her. He doesn't mean to! His mouth gapes, his thoughts suddenly scrambled as he tries to repair the situation. "…Ah…I…" He shouldn't have said anything at all. Everything would have stayed fine and happy and weird.

Don't do this now, Mikhail.

"….I don't know," he says weakly, shutting his eyes tight.

She's a bit of a worrier, but Elena didn't know what she did wrong to get him the way he was at the moment. She hands him the brushes, and she keeps watching him for a bit. She doesn't want to say anything that would get him any worse, but there's confusion in her expression. Still, she was glad he said something - they were friends, aren't they? She doesn't know him very well yet, but she's trying. She's never seen this side of him before.

When he squeezes his eyes shut, she reaches out to touch his shoulder.

"Try? I mean…I'm not gonna say anything, I just…did I do something?" she asks softly.

He flinches slightly at the touch, muscles relaxing moments later. His hand curls around the brushes, the tension going there instead. "You…did nothing wrong," Mikhail exhales, still keeping his eyes closed. His throat still feels dry. "Nothing."

'I shouldn't have said anything.'
'School work and pressure…you know…'
'It's me.'

He isn't sure if any of those choices would work. He can just leave it like that if he has to.

She's frowning. So if it wasn't her, then what is it? Elena has absolutely no idea that it's psychological, or a propensity - if she knew that, she'd be more alarmed. Instead, her hand slips away from his shoulder, winding around to the other one in a one-armed hug, and she squeezes warmly. She doesn't say anything, not yet. She just half-hugs him even as he keeps his face averted from her while they're both crouched on the floor. At least this way, whoever's passing the hall won't see them while they're crouched on the floor. She'll wait. She doesn't move from where she is, nor does she press the issue anymore. She just keeps one arm around him.

This isn't what he expected. He never had hugs from friends. It was something he never understood while watching them do this on a regular basis. Could he even call them friends? Acquaintances. He was use to staying distant from others, reacting when he should without crossing the line. But this is different.

Mikhail's eyes snap open, caught in the embrace Elena gives. He feels stuck, unsure of how to move out of it. The thing is he couldn't. "…."

Eyes close again, his arms rising, uncertain. He then returns the hug awkwardly, trying to choke back a sob.

What was going on? Problems at home? Elena is reeling. She…can't….doesn't know what to say when the other person isn't saying anything, so she's stuck. But when she's hugged awkwardly and hears a sound from him, all she can do is tighten her hug, and absently smooth down his hair. Confused, and more than just a little bit concerned, she remains where she is. She's not pressing him to talk still, hopefully he'll do that on his own, eventually, someday. But her fingertips rest gently at the back of his neck afterwards. "It's okay," she says softly. She's trying to be soothing. "It's okay. I….this is probably embarassing for you but you don't gotta worry about it, okay?" She shifts so both her arms are around him now. This isn't the first time she's had to do this for a friend of hers. She had to do the same thing to Gene about a week ago.

Why? Why is she doing this? Why is he letting her? And why can't he stop crying? It is embarrassing: a girl, a friend, is seeing him cry. Or is it still acquaintance? He's not even sure anymore. Mikhail doesn't say anything while they stay there, an occasional sob escaping him.

She doesn't know what to do other than do this. He's not talking, and he's crying for some reason - she didn't know what was happening. She doesn't really know anything about Mikhail outside of school, and whenever he socialized with all of them outside of class. She doesn't know if he's having a tough time at work, if he works, or school, or…she didn't know. "It's okay," Elena repeats again, slowly leaning back so she's not crouching anymore, slumping at the side of the table as he cries. She just stays there, pushing her fingers through half-bleached hair.

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