Disclaimer: The characters belong to Ngozi Ukazu.
A/N: This is part of my series of fics based on misheard song lyrics. The real lyric is "HD technicolor," from Grace Petrie's song "Technicolor."
Lardo's exhibit at the fall art show is small—for art majors, junior and senior years both culminate in big shows during spring semester, so the fall shows aren't nearly as much pressure, nor are they anywhere near as well publicized. Lardo's planning on inviting all of SMH to their spring show, but they keep quiet about the fall one. Not only because it's not as big of a deal, though there is that. Also because it's about past crushes they've had, and it feels . . . a bit intimate for any of their boys to know about. It's a lot of their soul to bare, and it's easier to do that when the audience is random fellow Wellies, or even their art classmates, than the boys who mean so much to them and whose respect they need to maintain.
Somehow, though, despite Lardo not telling anyone on the team about the fall show, Shitty asks about it at the kegster the week before the show. "Hey, brah," he says. "I won't come if you don't want me to, but, uh, would you mind if I showed up at your art show next week?"
And the thing about Shitty is that they know he really won't come to the show if they don't want him to. That's one of their favorite things about him, honestly. He's better at consent—not just listening to "no," but knowing how to ask the right questions rather than making assumptions—than just about anyone they've ever met.
But they don't really want to say no. Not just in a "saying no is hard" kind of way, but because they kind of want Shitty to understand what they've felt for other people before, the ways their previous relationships and crushes have gone.
Because then they can make him understand that he's different. That things could actually last with him.
So what comes out of their mouth is, "Sure."
"Yeah?" Shitty asks, sounding excited. "I can come see your swawesome art?"
Lardo ducks their head. "Not sure how swawesome it is, but yeah, you can come. Don't bring any of the other guys, though, okay?"
"Ooh, am I getting special dispensation?" he jokes.
"You kind of really are," Lardo confirms, "so show some respect."
Shitty grins. "Of course. I'm all about that respect—you know that."
"Mmm, you're all about that consent, but that's not quite the same thing."
"Okay, fair," Shitty concedes. "But seriously, I'm honored that you're letting me come to your show. Will you tell me what your pieces are about?"
"We can talk about it afterward," says Lardo. "I think it'll be easier to talk about once you've seen my work. It's kind of hard to explain." They're not sure if they really believe that or if they're just procrastinating on a pretty important conversation. It won't necessarily be easier to talk to Shitty once he's seen Lardo's art—it'll introduce a whole new set of difficult things to talk about, really—but hopefully it'll also provide a jumping-off point for the discussion, at the very least.
"I look forward to seeing it," says Shitty. "And getting a private debrief."
Lardo can feel their face heating up. "Yeah, yeah."
So a week later they find themself in a button-down and black pants wandering around the gallery at the Center for Fine Arts, chatting with classmates about the art they've made this semester, waiting for Shitty to show up. When he does, about 20 minutes after the show's opening, he's dressed marginally better than usual, meaning he's fully clothed and the denim is confined to his bottom half. He beelines to their side and asks, "Will you show me your work?"
"Sure," says Lardo, leading him away from their classmate who'd had a bit too much to say about his own exhibit. It's not like they needed rescuing from the conversation or anything, but they appreciated the out. "So—I mean obviously you could read the card on the wall, but I may as well tell you—my exhibit is called 'Hasty Technicolor.' It's about how the world looks different when you catch feelings for someone, like things have been colored in that were in grayscale before. But often crushes are fleeting, so they color things in wrong. So I tried to capture that by doing line drawings of everyday objects I associate with people I've liked, and then painting over them in watercolor as quickly as possible, not always in the colors that were logical for that thing."
Shitty nods along with Lardo's explanation, and then he walks closer to the paintings until he's a little closer to the wall than is really polite. Lardo trusts him, though, so they don't tell him to back away. Instead, they watch him take in each painting, moving from the green and orange soccer ball associated with their first crush on a boy back in sixth grade, to the purple Chuck Taylors associated with their first crush on a girl the following year, to the splayed rainbow highlighters of the lead in the eighth grade musical, past each of their high school crushes, to the blue microphone of the girl they met at an open mic their first month of college. Shitty stops at the hockey stick and puck. They'd known he would, but the painting had been long finished by the time Shitty had asked to come to the show, and they weren't going to not put it up just because of him.
"Can I ask . . ." Shitty starts.
Lardo laughs quietly. "Yeah. Jack. That crush lasted like a week."
"You liked Jack?" Shitty's eyes are bugging out.
"What?" Lardo replies, a bit defensive. "He's really fucking good at hockey, he's smart, he doesn't take me for granted as manager, and he knows how to navigate a silence."
"No, I know," Shitty replies. "I'm just trying to figure out if we liked him at the same time."
Oh. "Wait, is this you coming out to me?" Lardo asks, very quietly.
"I guess?" says Shitty. "Hi, I'm Shitty Knight, and I'm bisexual." He sticks his hand out like Lardo's supposed to shake it.
Lardo laughs a little louder this time and shakes Shitty's hand. "Nice. Can I ask who else you're out to?"
"Yeah," says Shitty. "I came out to a couple friends at Andover shortly after I figured it out, and I mentioned it offhand one time in a Women's and Gender Studies class here, but it just . . . hasn't seemed that relevant a lot of the time? Or like, not something that I need to make a big deal of? And the team—I don't know; they've all been great with Bits, which has been awesome to see. But I just . . . I don't know how to be that guy. Which makes me feel like a fucking hypocrite when people come out to me."
"It's okay," Lardo says, feeling unexpectedly emotional. "You don't owe people that information about yourself. Thank you for trusting me."
Shitty nods. "Thanks. Can I have a hug?"
"Yeah, for sure. But don't ruffle my hair. I have street cred here. My art friends think I'm angsty."
It's a tight hug, and Lardo thinks it's comforting for both of them. When they step back, Shitty says, very quietly, "I should maybe admit that I was also kind of hoping the hockey stick would be me."
Lardo smiles, because it's the perfect opening. "Nah. This exhibit is only for crushes I've gotten over."
Shitty's eyes go wide. "Wait, Lards, do you—"
"Yeah," they say. "I like you. Ongoing. Present tense. Have for a while now."
"I'm not going to ask to kiss you in front of a bunch of your classmates," Shitty says, "but is that a thing that can happen later?"
Lardo nods. "Yeah."
The art show feels interminable after that, milling around with Shitty and seeing the rest of the junior art majors' exhibits, but at long last they're able to leave. They head back to Shitty's room at the Haus, speed-walking across campus in the dark and running up the stairs before crashing onto Shitty's bed and smashing their mouths together.
Lardo's thought about kissing Shitty more than they probably should have, wondering if the moustache would be a problem, wondering if he'd be over-enthusiastic like he is about so many things, but it turns out he's good at kissing. Very good. He uses just the right amount of tongue and isn't sloppy like some previous people they've kissed. They eagerly prod him horizontal, and he goes willingly. Soon after that, clothes start to come off, and, well. It's a good night.