seesonlysmoke: (Painting)
[personal profile] seesonlysmoke
Altaaf was slowly but surely growing more confident and not just in the bedroom -- and all the other places he and Ryan had ended up having sex. He was more at ease with his faith than he had been, although that was still sometimes a personal struggle as he dealt with seeing through the brainwashing he had endured as well as living a modern Western life with a very all-American girlfriend and the contradictions that sometimes had with Islam. One thing that had helped was finding an online group of fellow Muslims, many who had grown up in strict, very devout Muslim families but were now settling into the freer, funner, and sometimes confusing world of secularism. Although not exactly his situation -- anyone with his background would be hard to find, inshallah -- Altaaf could relate enough that, along with Ryan's help and support, adjusting to his new life was becoming easier.

There was also not so much hesitancy in going into town, even on his own. He'd become something of a regular at certain places, such as the office supply store and, his weakness, Mickey D's. At least once a week he would take a trip into town. At first, such trips had been with Ryan, but more and more frequently, he was going by himself as his confidence and sense of security that he would not be abused for looking like one of those 'fucking ragheads', although he did take precautions and always dressed in Western clothes, and to those he spoke to, he told them he was Indian and a Hindu. It amazed him at how...ignorant...many were, but found that almost as many were happy to learn and asked a great deal of questions.

It was his day in town, and as usual, he went to McDonalds first for the chicken sandwich, fries, and Coke that he always got. After that, he did something that very few people in California did, and that was take a walk down the main street. He saw little point in driving from one point to the next when it really wasn't that far. This way, he noticed things that he otherwise might not have, such as today. Altaaf had almost reached the office supply store, where he regularly browsed and sometimes bought art supplies, when he saw a new store was opening. Except that it wasn't a store, but an art gallery.

Curious, he went in. Someone was inside setting up, hanging some paintings on the walls, and he just stood inside the doorway, looking on with a small smile.

"Oh, hello! Sorry, but we're not open yet." The man, fit in a a lean way with salt and pepper hair, had just finished hanging the painting and looked over to him.

Altaaf shuffled a little awkwardly. "No, I am sorry. I just couldn't resist a look. Your art is really very good."

"Thanks, but only this one is mine. The others are local artists as well, though." He extended his hand as he came over. "Paul Wardell. Nice to have an appreciative visitor. Let me guess, you'd be from India? The...Punjab?"

Nodding, the Kashmiri shook his hand, surprised at Paul's close guess. "Yes, the Punjab. Although now I live here, not far outside the city. I'm Altaaf. I've always loved art and paint a little myself and do some photography."

"Really? Come in, Altaaf, let me show you around, a little preview before I have my "grand opening"." Paul laughed. "I lived in Gujurat for about a year, long time ago. Beautiful country, India, and a land of great contrasts, some good and some bad." Altaaf had to agree with that, and for the next several minutes the two men chatted about India as they moved from painting to painting. "So, what kind of painting do you do?"

"Oh, a lot of it is of where I grew up. Pictures of home that I have in my head, but I'm also trying to paint the desert here."

As they finished up and walked back to the door, Paul shook his hand again. "Tell you what, Altaaf, next time your in town bring in your portfolio, and I'll have a look through it. Give you some advice, if you want."

"You would do that?" Altaaf was amazed at the offer. He liked to paint and Ryan told him he was good, but to hear some real advice from another artist would really help him to get better. "Thank you...thank you."

***

It was in the week that followed that Altaaf had his birthday, that Ryan gifted him with his own Harley, and that he...they voiced their love for each other. He hadn't even realized that he had told her at first, the words had just come out, but they were no less genuine for that fact. He did love her, and Ryan was the most important, not to mention beautiful, person in his life. It wasn't that she had saved his life, but that she had opened up a whole new world for him, understood him, cared for him, and he did for her.

Still, that didn't stop him from taking his routine trip into town the next week, by himself on his new Hog. He didn't tell Ryan about the gallery or Paul. If Paul didn't like his paintings and drawings, then he didn't want to feel a complete idiot.

An hour after walking into the gallery, Altaaf emerged with a stunned look on his face. Happy, but completely and utterly stunned. Not only had Paul liked most of his work, but he agreed to hang two in his art gallery, debuting as he put it, the area's newest talent. There had also been some wonderful constructive criticism that Altaaf had taken to heart. In return, Paul had been surprised that his new Indian friend had never had any formal training, and while some of his work was a bit on the raw side, that had an appeal of its own. The two that would be on display, and for sale, were a painting of the shore of Dal Lake back in Kashmir (although Altaaf hadn't mentioned that), near where he had lived as a boy and a drawing of a Joshua Tree that he had seen one day while he and Ryan had been out exploring the area together.

Hardly able to contain his excitement, and disbelief, he managed to ride the bike back to Ryan's. Back at the house, he found her relaxing by the pool, and after taking off his leather jacket, he crouched by her sun lounger. To stop himself from grinning like a loon, he had to bite the inside of his lip, so that hopefully, he would not spoil the surprise too soon. In fact, he tried to act as casually as he could. "Ryan, do you like art galleries? There's a new one in town, and I was given a couple of tickets for their opening tomorrow night." His lips pursed together to try and not smile, but his eyes were shining.

Date: 2012-11-21 03:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
Ryan had been thinking about Altaaf's situation, and worried that he might be feeling restless, or worse, unhappy that he wasn't employed. No man liked the idea of living off his girlfriend, and not having his own money. As far as she was concerned, what was hers was his, but he was a proud man, and his culture prized a man taking care of himself. Carolina had really come through, first with documents to give him a new identity and the ability to work in the US, but she sent him an email, that day, asking him to do some photography work for her. She had the studio, and the resort, and there was all kinds of stuff that he could do with his great way of seeing things. Caro had even offered to pay for him to have new equipment, and a darkroom, because it was an investment for her. Ryan was very grateful, and glad that Carolina was dealing directly with Altaaf, and not with her, giving him the much needed independence that would bolster his confidence and creative spirit.

When she heard him come in, she reached over and took a sip of strawberry lemonade, and lifted the brim of her hat so she could see him clearly. The desert sun was strong, and she didn't want to be a wrinkled hag, so she did shade her face from it. His question caused her to tip her head, curiously. Ryan saw a shine in his eyes, and an excitement that she had not seen for a while...well, except in bed. He took to that like a duck to water.

"I love art galleries. I had heard they were putting one in, but didn't realize it was opening so soon. Ooooh, I hear that they are putting in a great cafe, just down from it. Who knows? This berg might actually get some culture, yet." Were free tickets making him this happy? Ryan ran her finger over his lips, the cold beads of water from the glass of lemonade still on it. "You look all lit up like a Christmas tree, Altaaf. What's up?"

Date: 2012-11-30 11:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
Altaaf hadn't yet checked his email that. Actually, he hadn't checked it for a few days, not that that was unusual for him, so he hadn't yet seen the email and offer from Carolina. He already felt a little indebted to her for all her help with his new papers and new identity, but she had never made him feel like he was. In fact, she seemed happy -- to him, at least -- that he was with Ryan and had always treated him like part of her family.

He was still trying to do his best in acting cool, but as much as it was clear there was more to this than just an opening, he also really wanted to surprise her. "Yes, it is. I went past it today, and it looks really good inside. The owner, Paul, learned I liked art, so he have me some tickets." He kissed her cool, wet fingertips, even adding in a playful nip. "You will come, won't you, Ryan?"

Date: 2012-12-08 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
She laughed at the playful little bite, and nodded with enthusiasm. God knew there were few fun places in that town. The place was a biker's paradise, and she loved her wonderful rock house, but the town was really not up to par with some nearby towns. Art was something he was passionate about, so why not go have some fun with it?

"I'd love to go. When is it again?" She gave him a sweet little kiss, which made Rocker bark. "We could walk around, get a coffee. They are going to have lights down there for La Posada...that will be nice. I can't wait."

Date: 2013-01-03 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
He was glad she was so happy, and he couldn't wait for Ryan to see his big surprise. He might now be able to support himself, at least a little bit, and hopefully she would perhaps be proud of him. But he was not going to spoil the surprise. No, he wanted to see her face when she saw his art on the gallery's wall. Ignoring Rocker's indignant bark, he kissed her back, adding to her soft little kiss with another playful nip. "It's tomorrow night, 7pm. I saw them putting the lights out. We can go look after the gallery, as we enjoy the coffee." Ryan had told him a little about the festival, and he was looking forward to seeing this Christian celebration, so different from what he knew.

The next evening, Altaaf was wearing his one and only suit, which Ryan might find a little unusual for him, and as he came out fiddling with the weird feeling tie, he tried to give an explanation. "This is okay, isn't it? It's Paul's business, so I should dress for it, right?" He didn't want to seem stupid, but he wanted to do this properly, so he looked to the woman he loved for advice, hoping she wouldn't get too suspicious. "But otherwise, I'm ready." e was practically bouncing. Over the past day he'd managed to not give away anything, but it had been hard as he wanted so badly to share his good news. The other good news, from Carolina, was still a mystery to him as he still hadn't checked his email.

Date: 2013-01-28 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"Okay, that sounds great." She was a little confused, because he seemed really super excited about it. But, then, Altaaf was naturally excited about new things, and he was probably glad to make some new friends, especially since the town didn't have many people of different nationalities. She reminded herself that she really needed to take him to LA, soon, so he could see the Little India district.

"Here, baby, let me." Ryan stood in front of him, and looked into his gorgeous eyes, her own a bit quizzical. She straightened his tie, so it had that neat little dimple in the middle. She was wearing a black pencil skirt, with high heel black leather boots, and black leather jacket over her silky tank. It was dressy, but not frilly, because that really was not her style. Ryan did tie her hair up with a pretty comb, in a soft topknot, so tendrils of her hair fell around her face. "Hmmm, I think I should drive, so let's take the truck. Besides, it's getting cold out, lately." It wasn't really cold, not like some places, but the high desert at night could get a chill. She grabbed her purse and got into the truck with him, and started it up, before driving down the highway towards town. "You look really great, by the way."

Date: 2013-02-19 11:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
Altaaf could see how puzzled she was as she fixed his tie, and again, he wanted to just tell her, but then he imagined her face as they walked around the gallery and she saw his paintings. That thought made him smile, which he quickly tried to smother, hoping that Ryan wouldn't suspect anything...or rather suspect more than she already did.

Once in the truck, he smiled at her compliment. He liked looking nice for her. "Not as great as you. You look terrific." It was not only her classy outfit, but he loved how she had her hair and how those tendrils softened an already soft and lovely face." As they drove into town, it was clear he was fighting not to fidget, and in the end Altaaf linked his fingers with Ryan's and held onto her hand. His nerves and excitement increased the closer they got. By the time they had parked up and were walking, hand-in-hand, to the gallery, he was fervently hoping Ryan would like his surprise and that the other people would not hate his work. He had to trust that Paul was right to have faith in him.

He opened the door for Ryan and had expected to slip in and take her around to where his paintings were hanging, and then pay his respects to Paul who was bound to be busy speaking with his other guests. "It's nice, isn't it?" The gallery was brightly lit and all the artwork well displayed. His own, he knew was just around the corner, and he was just about to take her over there, as casually as possible, when Paul stepped up. "Altaaf! I'm so glad you could make it." He shook his hand and smiled at Ryan.

"Hello, and thank you for the invite. Paul, this is Ryan Jacks, my girlfriend...Ryan this is Paul Wardell, owner of the gallery."

Paul extended his hand out to her. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Jacks. You must be so proud of him." He caught the slightly panicked look that sprung suddenly to Altaaf's hazel eyes and chuckled. "Ahhh...I take it he hasn't mentioned our little chance meeting? Don't be so shy, Altaaf." Paul turned to the small crowd who were already milling around the gallery. "Ladies and gentlemen! I'd like to introduce a new local discovery, who just walked in here a week ago and impressed me so much that you'll find two of his artworks already displayed tonight and for sale, Mister Altaaf Husein." That last name was now his legal one thanks to Carolina and a variation of his birth family's name, and though he used it publicly now, it was odd that it did not feel his as his adoptive last name of Khan did.

Date: 2013-02-20 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
It took her a while to catch up with what was happening. On the ride over, she had just concentrated on driving, and feeling pretty, thanks to her lover's compliments. "Thank you...but I think it's a tie." She had scrunched her nose up, cute and teasing, and just enjoyed the warmth of his hand, and his happiness. This was what it was supposed to be. Ryan had really never had someone to do things like this with. Lexi had once said he was going to take her to the ballet, but never did. Altaaf was so excited, she couldn't help but be the same.

She blinked at the bright lights, and then at Paul. Ryan blushed a little, at the introduction, still getting used to that word, girlfriend, and how nice it was to hear. She looked confused by Paul's question. "I am very proud of Altaaf. He's wonderful." That was true, and she held his hand tighter, but then it dawned on her what was going on. The people in the gallery began to applaud, and she turned to look at her lover in shock. "YOU? Your work? Here?" She didn't answer Paul, she just looked at her boyfriend, so surprised and happy for him. "You're kidding! Oh, that is just awesome! Show me! I have to see!" Taking his hand, she tugged, urging him to take her to the pieces.

However, all around them, people were gathering, talking fast and loud, and trying to congratulate him. There were even some pretty girls eyeing him, and Ryan just held his hand, and waited for him to greet people, so he could show her his works.

Date: 2013-03-05 12:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
Altaaf was blushing furiously when Paul announced him and stood, rather self-consciously as the gathered crowd applauded him. His hand reached for Ryan, wanting to hold onto her at this moment. He hadn't expected such an introduction, had only planned on quietly showing her his work, thinking that no one else would really be that interested, but clearly Paul had done a good job of promoting him.

"Errr...yes." He grinned as if he had just been caught with his hand in a cookie jar. "I showed some to Paul, just to get his opinion, and he offered to display two of them here." He leaned down to whisper in her ear. "I just wanted to surprise you. I didn't think it would be like this!"

He tried to lead her over to his work, but they were hampered by the well-wishers. Being polite, Altaaf tried to thank each and everyone for their congratulations, and he didn't even notice the pretty girls hoping to get his attention. It just would never occur to him that anyone would think to flirt with him, and he would never do anything like that back. His hand squeezed Ryan's. She was the only one who had his true attention.

After a couple of minutes, Paul stepped in to help shepherd people back so they could make a path. "They really like your work, Altaaf. I had a couple of friends come in to look at them, and they were impressed and word just spreads in the art community, especially a small one like here."

Eventually, they reached the painting with the drawing hanging next to it. "What do you think?" He looked at Ryan, wanting her to like it, and he had to say, Paul had made them look really good with the lighting and framing. The drawing already had a 'sold' sticker on it, and he was stunned that for a small drawing it had fetched a couple of hundred dollars. "I wanted to see if I was really any good." Paul distracted the last few people who were still trying to get Altaaf's attention as Altaaf continued. "You like the surprise? I was so thrilled, but I didn't want to tell you, I just wanted you to see for yourself. And you don't mind that I called you my girlfriend?" He had worried a little about that when he had practiced in his head how to introduce her. Partner just hadn't sounded right and lover was too intimate for the more conservative man to announce publicly.

Date: 2013-04-25 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
“They’re beautiful!” Ryan was wide-eyed at the sale tag. She had come to know the man, in the last year, and she had really learned a lot about his personality. He had doubted whether or not he could really assimilate into American society, and earn a solid living, and now, here he was, making art that was not just great, but marketable. She kissed his cheek, softly, then leaned her head on his shoulder. “This is wonderful, a great surprise.” There were one or two very disappointed female faces, when it became very clear that the handsome artist had no interest in groupies or sugar mamas. Altaaf was too inexperienced to notice it, but Ryan wasn’t, and she couldn’t help giving one older woman a smirk. That cougar would have to go find some other boy toy.

“You are so good…” Teasing, she kissed by his ear. “…in every way. I love you calling me your girlfriend. Probably good timing, because I think some women were wanting to get close to the new artist in town.” Ryan put her arms around his neck, and kissed him gently, not so much as to embarrass him with too much PDA. “But I’m the lucky girl who gets to take this work of art home with me.” Her green eyes danced with humor and pride, as she supported her lover in his moment of triumph.

One tall, thin, man came over, and offered Altaaf his card. “Gary Norman, Los Angeles Magazine. I do the art column, there. I’d like to do a mention of your work, and put a photo of this painting. Maybe one of you.” Ryan was still smiling, but she was a bit worried. It was still new and raw for Altaaf, with his new identity. It might be too risky for him to be photographed and splashed across a magazine.

“I think that, being so new, maybe the art should do the talking…not focus too much on other things?” Ryan was holding on to him, supporting him in whatever he decided, but definitely backing him up to avoid suspicion, should he want to stay in the background.

Date: 2013-06-10 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
"Thank you." Altaaf blushed at her praise, still unaware of all the admiring gazes directed his way from the most determined of his new female fans who nearly all giggled when his cheeks took on a slightly more reddish hue. "Good, I wanted it to be." Not seeing the smirk Ryan shot that one woman, he wrapped his arm around her waist. "Paul says he'll give me advice on my other paintings. So, perhaps they might be good enough to show."

Hearing his comment, Paul smiled. "He's far too modest, Miss Jacks. For no formal training, Altaaf is extremely talented, and all his paintings were good, although yes, some need a little more work. But he did have another that I would love to have displayed, but he wouldn't let me."

"It was the one of you and Rocker, but I told him that picture was just for you." The truth was he loved drawing and painting Ryan most of all, but there was no way he was going to share her like that with anybody, not that they were erotic in any way. He smiled again at her praise, kissing her back lightly his hands still firmly around her. She seemed to know the right balance between showing him such affection in public and what would be too much for his sensibilities. He laughed lightly. "I'm the lucky guy who gets to go home with you." His own hazel eyes reflected back his love and gratitude for her support and to stand by him.

He took the man's card, looking at it with some puzzlement while this Gary Norman spoke. He too was a little worried. The truth of it was, he wasn't sure what kind of attention such publicity could attract or how seriously he was being sought, but it was not something he cared to put to a test. Altaaf nodded, agreeing with Ryan and thankful that she knew what to say. "Yes, thank you, Mister Norman, but this is all so unexpected.Ryan's right. I'd rather it just be of the painting than of me." He looked down at his girlfriend, assured that she had his back.

Date: 2013-06-11 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"I bet they are all good enough. I think you have a wonderful eye." Ryan grinned, then purred up by his ear. "In fact, both eyes are wonderful, as are all of the parts of you." She liked to tease him, just enough to keep him excited, not so much as to embarrass him.

"Modesty is one of my boyfriend's most endearing qualities, but you are right, he really is so talented." She could not help but think that had he spent his youth learning art, instead of the art of war, he might be a huge star in the art world. Of course, she might never have gotten to meet him. Ryan couldn't imagine her life without him, now. "And I don't mind if he shows paintings with me in them, but that it up to him, of course." Ryan thought it was so sweet how he was protective of her like that. She was equally devoted to his protection.

"Of course, I'm sure that all copyrights and things are properly tended to, by the magazine? Altaaf is new to this kind of thing, and I know how social media can take an image and use it broadly, and it must make it hard for a publisher." Ryan knew business, having worked for her aunt in the studio and other places.

"Absolutely. I am fierce about protecting the intellectual and artistic works of fine artists." Gary nodded solemnly. Ryan knew that the magazine had a good reputation.

"And I am even more fiercely protective of the artist." Ryan was sweet, and smiling, but her eyes held a strength that hinted at how fierce she could be, when it came to her lover and his safety. If a magazine article led his enemies to him, it would be a disaster for them both.

Date: 2013-06-30 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com

Again Altaaf blushed at his lover’s praise, but especially at her more personal compliment. Not that he minded at all, but he was still getting used to such comments said in public and wished, not for the first time, that he knew how to be as open as she was. He hoped that one day he would be able to share his love for her so easily.

“Well, Altaaf?” Paul looked hopefully at his young, new artist that had made his opening such a success. “If your wonderful lady doesn’t mind…”

But he shook his head. It was something very deeply rooted inside of him that while he got a thrill with going out with Ryan and showing off that they were very much together, having people looking at, perhaps even ogling her likeness, was very different. Those pieces of art, as innocent as they were, were moments between themselves that were not for sharing. And for a man who had lost his whole family, it was something precious he wanted to protect, just as he wanted to protect Ryan. “It is very kind of you, Paul, and I know Ryan doesn’t mind, but I just don’t feel comfortable showing them.”

Paul raised up a hand, smiling. “Okay…I more than respect your choice, but if you ever change your mind…?”

It was a good thing that Ryan knew about this kind of thing as Altaaf knew he would never have thought to ask about copyright and stuff like that, and he was more than happy to have her speak for him. Gary was impressed. “Well, Mister Husein, not only do you have a devoted girlfriend, but it looks like you may have found the perfect agent and manager as well. I assure you that we will not publish anything that you don’t approve. Here’s my card. I’ll be in touch later this week just to get a little background information, a really casual interview format.”

Date: 2013-07-04 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"You heard the man. I find it refreshing, in this day and age of reality TV, where people will do anything to get their fifteen minutes of fame, that Altaaf has such integrity. His art speaks for him, and he is clearly able to set his boundaries. I admire him so much." Ryan laid her head against his strong, muscular chest, grinning madly. How sweet, how sexy was this man? He was so adorable and so different from anyone she had ever been with. Carolina had voiced concern that Ryan would get bored with Altaaf, after the complicated natures of Alex and Frankie. However, the more she knew him, the more he intrigued her, and she never got bored, not in any way. Even in bed, every time they made love, it was fresh and new.

Ryan laughed, at Gary's comment about her being an agent. Carolina had a whole office building full of people who did this kind of thing for a living, and she knew that they could turn to them for legal stuff. However, whether it was with a gun, a pen or her mouth, Ryan would always protect her lover's interests, and never allow him to be taken advantage of. That lovely mix of innocent and killer was so hot, so intriguing. Ryan just smiled and nodded as Gary walked away with Paul, and they looked at other artists.

"Do you want to stop and congratulate the other artists, and then go to the La Posada?" She had her arms around his waist, giving him a gentle kiss and then smiling. "I think this has been just wonderful, and a fantastic surprise. I am so proud of you."

Date: 2013-07-17 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
To Altaaf that seemed like a wonderful suggestion. Of course, he had no idea exactly how big the Jacks empire was, and that Carolina had whole departments of people who could handle such things. "I like that." He looked at his lover with a smile, liking how she was resting against him. "We would make a great team.

He nodded at Ryan's suggestion. "And I'm happy that you liked it. I never imagined that it would be like this, that so many people would be interested and like my stuff...let alone buy it." They wandered around the rest of the gallery, spending a few moments chatting to a couple of the other artists, congratulating them on their work and success as well. They left after saying their goodbye to Paul and thanking him again. In return, he thanked Altaaf for helping to make his opening night a great success. Then they headed out, hand-in-hand, into the cooler night air and headed over to the festival.

Date: 2013-07-25 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"We DO make a great team. " Ryan looked at Altaaf with pride and adoration, truly impressed by his talent and how he had managed to surprise her. If he only knew how hard it was to impress her, he would maybe become puffed up? No...not him. He was humble, and that was so beautiful.

"You are very talented, and you have an eye for things that is lovely. You have so much innocence, but you also see the pain, and you don't whitewash it, you just let it be what it is. That is such a gift, you have no idea. That delicate touch is where genius lies." She kissed him, and the pride she had shone in her green eyes. "They know a great deal when they see it, and someday their purchase will be worth fifty times what they paid for it." The other artists were nice, and Ryan had met one of them in the bar, once, and they chatted a little about the vistas over the ridge, and she promised to show it to her lover. After they said goodbye to Paul, they walked out and saw the candle lights up and down the street.

The children of the town began their little parade, carrying candles and dancing in their traditional Mexican costumes. All around them, there were food carts with mouthwatering scents drifting by. The kids were dancing and singing, laying gifts at a manger scene, and Ryan was explaining to Altaaf about how they were bringing lights and treats to the baby Jesus, to welcome him as the light of the world. When the procession was done, the cart owners began to loudly offer their wares. There were yummy street tacos and burritos, including her favorite pork barbacoa. There were churros and Mexican hot chocolate, and there were children selling flowers, beads and packets of gum. Like India, there was a lot of poverty for some kids, many who had parents who were crop pickers illegally in the country. Ryan had a pocket full of ones, and she had lots of change, so she was buying gum she would never chew, and she did buy a necklace made of a leather strip with silver and quartz beads, and she tied it around her lover's neck.

"It is supposed to bring good luck and love." She was eying the food, but looked up to her lover, laughing. "You are my good luck and my love, but if we don't eat soon, I may have to take down a cart cook." Ryan laughed, as she handed out change to the last of the children, and they scattered to new customers.

Date: 2013-07-30 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
Walking down the street passed all the vendors and children, it reminded Altaaf very much of India. The colours, the different things for sale, and the delightful smell of so much food cooking with spices very similar to those he knew well. The children, as well, were so familiar to him, so poor and surrounding them hoping to get the adults to give them something that they could eat or spend for themselves or their families.

He loved the necklace that Ryan placed around his neck and kissed her shyly as she tied it. "It is lovely, but you have already brought me good luck, and especially love." He himself had bought some suckers and was handed them out to the children as Ryan gave away her change. Laughing at her suggestion, he nodded. "You might have to beat me to it because I'm starving as well." He got a burrito after being assured that it was beef and tried some churros, deciding they were his new favourite food.

Date: 2013-08-11 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"Then I say we eat, and quick." She was laughing, too, as she enjoyed her pork barbacoa burrito, and instead of churros, she had flan, offering her lover a bite. Ryan didn't cook pork at home, because of Altaaf's religious diet limits, so it was nice to have the sweet, shredded pork in the luscious sauce here. When they were done, they walked some more, going over to the enormous Christmas tree in the middle of the town square.

"This has been a perfect night." A happy sigh followed that. Ryan never dreamed she could be this happy. Love and laughter and good fortune for them both. "There is a festival in Laguna Beach next week, and it is your faith there. Would you like to go?"

Date: 2013-08-17 03:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
“I think I could happily eat nearly everything here, that I can, quite happily.” Altaaf grinned as he took a bit of Ryan’s flan, which was also delicious, and he offered her one of his churros. He looked up at the massive Christmas tree in awe, taking in all the decorations. It was so magical that he did something that was very unusual for the normally reserved young man. He turned Ryan to face him and kissed her fully right there. “Now, it’s perfect!”

He held her hand, smiling with his own happiness. Never had he felt this good, this much in love or loved, and it was the best feeling in the world. “Ryan, I would go anywhere with you. I would love to, even if my faith is there.” He laughed to let her know he was teasing. “ Although he had put his crisis of faith behind him, he still sometimes felt ambiguous about it, even if he couldn’t shake certain parts, like no pork, but would enjoy seeing other Muslims and people of his culture.

Date: 2013-08-29 03:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"Oh...wow!" THAT was so totally unlike him! The fact that it was so out of character made it all the sweeter and more sexy. Ryan kissed him back, feeling very swept off her feet, and didn't want the moment to end. All around them, young lovers and families and even old people were enjoying the lovely night and the festive glow from all the revelry.

"Wonderful! We can go Friday, and it will be awesome! There is dancing and food and music...you can explain everything." Her excitement was compounded by his wonderful surprise, and how he just shone with pride at his achievement. "OH...the Pageant of the Masters is going on then! And the Sawdust Festival!" Ryan walked towards the car with him, but was explaining it at the same time, even turning so much towards him that she was walking backwards. "The pageant is where they take famous works of art, and they have people made up and dressed for it, and they re=create the painting with live people who just sit there and pose for hours! The Sawdust Festival is all crafts, that people sell, and it has gorgeous crafts. This will be awesome, babe."

Date: 2013-09-04 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
He grinned at Ryan's wonderful reaction, even if he was also blushing a little at his own forwardness. Slowly, but surely, though, Altaaf was growing more confident in more ways than one.

Her enthusiasm was just as contagious as he listened to her tell him all about the festival. He was holding her hand as she walked backwards, laughing whenever he had to guide her out of the way of an obstacle or someone's path. "They actually sit there, doing nothing, just being a...live painting...?" That seemed incredible and very entertaining. "I can't wait to see that. And I love the crafts that they make here. Friday, it is."

The evening had been incredible with the festival, great food, the support of the woman he loved more than anything, and his own amazing success at the gallery. As they reached the truck and got in, he didn't want the evening to end...and hoped it wouldn't once they got back to the rock house.

Date: 2013-09-24 02:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"Yeah! It is fun, even little kids are in the paintings. How they get those kids to sit still that long, I don't even know! I could never get JJ or Sara or Dwee to sit that long. Just impossible!" Ryan had not taken care of Carolina's kids for a while, but she was sure they were still the same irrepressable bundles of energy that they always were.

Ryan let him drive home. The beautiful desert night was peaceful, with a nearly full moon lighting up the scenery around them. When they got home, she closed the garage, and then did the many little things to do before bed, like letting the dog out and giving the pets fresh water. She got a glass of cold water out of the fridge door, then took it upstairs.

In their room, she quickly changed into a short little nightgown, white with soft green dots all over it. She was sitting at the dressing table, having taken off her make up and putting on moisturizer. When she brushed her hair, she heard him, and turned to smile. "What a perfect night. Your work is amazing and everyone was so nice."

Date: 2013-10-05 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seesonlysmoke.livejournal.com
Once home, Altaaf changed out of his suit and had a quick shower before drying off and slipping on a pair of loose fitting sweatpants. Whilst in the shower, he reflected on the evening. Before meeting Ryan, he would never have imagined to have had such an amazing time, his art appreciated and to have what he viewed as an ordinary life.

He stepped into the bedroom when Ryan saw him and came to stand behind her, looking into her reflection. "They were, and it is all thanks to you." He stroked her hair as their eyes met in the mirror. I could not have done something like this, thought my art was worth anything, without you, your help and support." Looking down almost shyly, there was a growing smile on his face. "And your love. Shukran."

Date: 2013-11-15 06:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theprivate-ryan.livejournal.com
"Altaaf, it is not all thanks to me. Seriously, you have done an amazing thing, to change your life like this. Most people would have given up, or turned to a life of violence. You are the one who is so special and strong." She stood, and ran her hands over that magnificent chest of his, which never failed to mesmerize her.

"You are my favorite work of art, so how about you let me show you my appreciation of that beauty?" She took his hand and led him over to the bed, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down with her to the Egyptian cotton comforter.

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Altaaf Khan

November 2012

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