Pour la beauté du geste

Author's Note: I love this movie so very much - not just for the love story, but also for the beautiful depiction of grief. But I do adore the love story and Erwann, so this is his POV of the movie. It probably doesn't make much sense if you haven't seen it.
The title is from the song As-tu déjà aimé? (i.e. the "best conversation Erwann ever had") and means "for the beauty of it": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haV_TIkpF7c

***

Erwann never stood a chance.

Two years after relocating from a sleepy town in Brittany to bustling Paris with his brother, four years after their parents death, and five years after he realised that he was gay, he was more than ready to fall in love. So fall he did, hard and fast, and more deeply than anyone, himself included, would have expected.

When Alice asked Gwendal whether it was alright if her friend Ismaël slept over, Erwann's brother agreed, of course, even before she told them that Ismaël's girlfriend had just died. Gwendal was laid back, almost to a fault, and he didn't think twice about letting a complete stranger, who Alice might or might not have had sex with, stay at their place. Erwann himself didn't care one way or another - at least until he got up in the morning and laid eyes on the attractive dark-haired man that had taken up residence in their living room.

One look at the beautiful face with its haunted eyes, and all Erwann wanted to do was wrap himself around this tall, sad stranger and kiss him until the pain disappeared. Then he came back home after school, already smitten enough to have spent too much time thinking about what kind of pastry might be appropriate, to find Ismaël asleep in his bed, and his fate was sealed. He was head over heels in love for the first time in his life.

Neither their age difference nor the fact that, as far as he knew, Ismaël was straight, were any deterrent to the feeling that seemed to grow stronger with every beat of his young heart. Whenever he looked at, or even thought of, the journalist, an incredible tenderness flooded him, so deep and raw it hurt. He hadn't known love could be like this, this intense, almost physical sensation, lodging in the back of his throat, twisting his stomach, leaving him feeling vulnerable and open. It was the most frightening emotion he'd experienced since his parents' death, and Erwann would have hated it, if it hadn't also been the most wonderful feeling.

When Ismaël stripped off his shirt and unselfconsciously slipped into Erwann's clothes, smiling and teasing, it felt almost as if he was slipping into Erwann. In an instant Erwann was so hard he had to shift his bag in front of his crotch. Seeing Ismaël wearing his striped sweater was heartachingly intimate, more than coming home to him curled up under Erwann's sheets or seeing him shirtless.

Staying up until 3 in the morning in order to catch Ismaël leaving the office had been a no brainer after that. Erwann had never considered himself to be stalker material, had even scoffed when some of his friends became too obsessed with their crush of the week, but sleep was an impossibility, the images of Ismaël in his bed, Ismaël bare-chested, and Ismaël wearing his clothes on repeat in his head. Erwann imagined himself rewinding the process - peeling the sweater off Ismaël slim frame, kissing his pale, hairless chest, pushing him down onto the mattress… After this his imagination stopped short, porn-supplied images somehow not adequate to cover what he wanted to do to Ismaël, with Ismaël, but it was enough to leave Erwann shaking and coming all over his fist.

Maybe it was this imagined intimacy, maybe it was that Ismaël had seemed so unbearably alone when he waved off Alice and turned to walk home, but whatever it was, somehow Erwann felt entirely fearless as he followed and finally approached Ismaël in the dark streets of Paris. And when Ismaël rebuffed him, rejecting him gently but firmly, it hurt, but it didn't crush him. It was as if, alongside aching tenderness and fierce lust, this new-found love had woken an endless supply of courage in Erwann. Deep inside he simply knew that this beautiful, lonely man needed someone, and he was determined to show him that that someone could be Erwann, his for the taking.

This didn't mean that he didn't feel relieved and elated when, barely half an hour later, Ismaël appeared under his window and asked to be let in. He'd been writing his journal on his computer, naturally all about Ismaël, and five minutes later the object of his obsession was sitting on his bed, browsing his bookshelf and generally behaving as if his being here was the most natural thing in the world. It made the words flow from Erwann's lips almost without thinking. It made it easy to speak of love.

Even with Alain, his closest friend, would-be poet and philosopher, Erwann had never shared such a comfortable exchange about something so deeply personal. It didn't even matter - much - that once again Ismaël didn't accept his overtures, all that counted was that he took him seriously, looked at him as if what he was saying was worth listening to and replied in kind, even when teasing him gently.

It was the best conversation Erwann had ever had, and Ismaël seemed to feel it, too, this undercurrent between them, because he ended it rather abruptly by basically sending Erwann to bed like the high-school student he was. However, the next moment he stopped Erwann from sleeping in the living room, making hope burn brightly inside Erwann as he slid under the covers Ismaël was holding up invitingly. If he wanted to put Erwann off, he certainly was going about it the wrong way.

Nothing happened that night, but just lying next to Ismaël in the dark, feeling the heat radiating from his body, made every inch of Erwann's skin tingle. Ismaël was fast asleep, so different from the restless insomniac Erwann had encountered the morning before, and Erwann wondered whether his presence had anything to do with it. For hours he lay awake, eyes wide open, and had never wanted anything more than roll over, wrap himself around Ismaël and never let him go again.

In hindsight, maybe he should have done so, because when he returned from school the next day Ismaël was gone, and he didn't see or hear from him again for two days. And when he did manage to catch up with him in front of his office, Ismaël called him from around the corner, refusing to let himself be drawn towards Erwann, his face closed off, his whole body rigid even when they were finally face to face. This time Ismaël hit him right where it hurt, mainly because Erwann had allowed himself to become too optimistic, too hopeful after their night together. He knew that Ismaël was using the phone as a way to keep his distance, to keep whatever it was between them at bay, but something inside of him still flinched and shrank in on itself when Ismaël belittled what Erwann was offering. When he ran away, he fully intended not to come back.

This resolution lasted exactly until he reached his room and realised that, even while he was pushing him away, Ismaël had been wearing not only his sweater but his sneakers, whose disappearance Erwann hadn't even noticed. Gwendal stuck his head into the room and mentioned something about having broken up with Alice, but all Erwann could think was that not only had Ismaël chosen not to return the striped sweater he'd made such fun of, he'd taken shoes he didn't need. On top of this, Ismaël had certainly been home since he left Erwann's place, he could have worn his own things - but he hadn't. Erwann's grin was so wide his cheeks hurt as he left to wait for Ismaël to get off work.

Still, the hours he spent waiting and reading gave him a bit too much time to think and wonder, so when Ismaël handed him Alice's keys to their flat, Erwann's optimism wavered for just a second. Then, with a small, private smile Ismaël took back the keys, and hope turned into joy so sweet Erwann could taste it on his tongue.

Even sweeter was the taste of Ismaël's lips, not tasting of cigarettes at all, probably because he didn't smoke at work. But those were only fleeting thoughts in Erwann's mind, most of it overwhelmed by the reality of Ismaël sitting on his bed, looking at him with dark, thoughtful eyes. They hadn't said anything on their way to Ismaël's flat, hadn't needed to, their goal and intent clear in every glance and half-smile, and now Erwann stripped off his jeans without losing words either. He would have continued undressing, but Ismaël started to unbutton his shirt, and this time Erwann gave into the impulse and actually wrapped himself around the other man.

The sadness was still there, but there was something else, too, and Erwann used his whole body to coax out this tender, timid feeling. Slowly, Ismaël began to respond, as if he couldn't stop it, allowing himself to be held and explored from behind, until finally he turned in Erwann's arms and looked at him, really looked at him. Erwann held his breath, hoping that Ismaël would find what he was looking for in his eyes.

The older man touched his face reverently, and when he cradled him in his arms, it was with so much gentleness, Erwann felt like crying, his heart was so full. Nothing he had seen or read or heard had ever suggested to him that sex could be like this. Not that there was much sexual in the way Ismaël held him, even when he rolled him over and covered him with his whole body. Instead there was this almost reluctant tenderness, as if Erwann was a precious thing that Ismaël could not help but touch and embrace.

Erwann was still able to sense the sadness radiating from the other man, and once again it made him ache, made him press kiss after kiss against the pale throat and chin, twining his hands in the dark curls, until Ismaël rolled them over again so that Erwann was in his lap. When they kissed this time, hunger mixed into the grief, the joy, the tenderness, and clever fingers found their way under the sweater Erwann was still wearing, working it over his head. Then they were flesh to flesh, only their underwear between them, and Erwann explored Ismaël's back, reveling in the sensation of wet breath against his neck, of hands wrapped around his bare back, soft hair tickling his cheek. For a moment Ismaël held him so tightly it made it hard to breathe, as if Erwann's breath wasn't already laboured enough just from being so close to Ismaël.

They toppled over, and this time it was Erwann who covered Ismaël's body with his own, kissing every bit of skin he could reach, hungry for the taste, the smell, the feel of this beautiful man stretched out beneath him. Ismaël's grip on him shifted, changed, and he began to react to Erwann's caresses in kind. There was no more room for grief as they rolled around the bed, kissing and touching, their bodies sliding against one another as if they were meant to fit together.

Neither one of them had much experience with men, but even if Erwann hadn't grown up with the internet, he felt sure he'd have known how to touch Ismaël, how to take him in his hand and twist his wrist just so in order to be rewarded with the sight of Ismaël falling apart with a shudder that seemed never-ending. In return Ismaël appeared to have no qualms about leaning down and wrapping his mouth around Erwann, sucking first experimentally, then with more and more certainty as the young man arched and bucked.

They did no more that night, but Erwann fell asleep with Ismaël warm and relaxed against his back, his cock nestled between his cheeks in a way that held a promise of what might come. Unfortunately, the morning did not bring anything of the sort - instead it brought a strange woman bursting into the flat, and Ismaël almost flying out of bed and after her without a kiss and barely a word for Erwann.

Needless to say Erwann was pretty much useless in school, and his state of mind wasn't helped by the fact that Ismaël didn't pick up his phone all day. He was worried - not so much about himself, but that Ismaël was back to brooding all by himself. When Erwann went by their office, Alice hadn't seen or heard from him either, although she didn't seem overly concerned. It also cheered Erwann that she had somehow picked up that there was something between Ismaël and him, but he still spent the evening oscillating between writing in his journal, looking out the window and trying Ismaël's mobile.

What he didn't expect was to hear someone enter the flat with the sounds of shushing and loud whispers, and to come face to face with Alice, who all but pushed a very, very drunk Ismaël into his arms before disappearing as quickly as she'd arrived. Gwendal's door opened, but Erwann was too busy holding Ismaël upright to worry about explaining anything to his brother. At some point he would probably have to, but for now he was rather preoccupied, trying to calm down a skittish and maudlin Ismaël, who seemed suddenly to think that Erwann was too young, too pretty, too innocent for him.

He was drunkenly earnest, but no matter how he attempted to convince Erwann otherwise, he only succeeded in making him more and more certain that this was what he wanted - this slightly broken, rather drunk and completely endearing man. Erwann didn't care if Ismaël wasn't ready to say that he loved him, not when he was following Erwann onto the window ledge with complete trust, uncaring of the street below.

The wall felt hard and cold against his back, but Ismaël was warm all around him and his eyes were hungry and hopeful. When Ismaël gave in and claimed his lips for a deep kiss, Erwann simply wrapped both arms around him and held on, the way he suspected he would want to for a long, long time.

Really, he never stood a chance.

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