Light trickled into the modest studio apartment from a lone window, whatever light could make its way in from the brick alley outside. Two pairs of legs tangled together under a pilling fleece blanket and faded striped sheets, in a bed meant for one on a practical metal frame. Sean Goodin, a junior in college, lay propped up on a couple pillows, gently running his hand through Benito's soft hair, pressed against his bare chest. They had met earlier that day at the cafe, their usual place on Wednesdays after Sean had gotten off work and Ben had a break from his shift. It hadn't taken long before they realized neither of them wanted to stay at the cafe, and immediately headed back to Ben's place. He felt Ben's breath as he dozed softly, and Sean murmured a few notes.
"I’m in love 눈에 콩깍지 씌었어..."
He glanced down at the grin that formed on his lover's face. He continued with his voice in full bloom, meandering like a ribbon of silk along the notes of the song.
"Baby, baby, 지금처럼만 아름다워 줄래 넌, 시간이 지나도 내가 설렐 수 있게, woah..."
Benito opened an eye. Sean continued the verse.
"Baby, Baby, 넌 시들지 마...Hello? Moshi moshi?" Sean answered his phone as it rang.
"Hello, Mr. Goodin?" He heard Mr. Kouyama's voice on the other end.
"Yeah," he said with a yawn.
"I apologize, did I wake you?"
Sean shifted under Ben's weight and rolled toward the side of the bed. "No, I just woke up from my afternoon nap. What's up?"
"Benito's birthday is on Saturday."
Sean paused as Ben placed a kiss on his shoulder. "Okay."
"He probably won't make a big deal about it, but we thought you should know."
"Yeah, okay." Benito gave another kiss to his neck and wrapped his arm around Sean's waist.
There was a short silence on the other end. "Thank you for being a good friend to our son."
Ben was kissing his cheek now, moving a hand up his chest. "Yeah...no problem. Take care." He hung up before anything could make Mr. Kouyama suspect something was up.
Sean turned toward Ben, embracing him in a long, passionate kiss.
"How old are you turning?" Sean asked when they were finally apart.
"What?" Ben asked, confused.
"It's your birthday on Saturday."
Benito rolled onto his back. "I'm turning eighteen. Why?"
Sean's eye's widened. "You're only seventeen?"
Sean stood up. "Maybe Adam was right, maybe I shouldn't date someone so young."
"What are you so worried about?" Benito said, looking up at the ceiling. "I can take care of myself."
Sean rubbed his face, then pulled his hand away. "You're just a kid, Ben. No wonder you've got parents calling, worrying about you."
Ben sat up. "Parents? My parents don't call me. At least, not since I started ignoring their calls."
Sean folded his arms. "You know, I figured, 'he's cut contact with them, he's trying to make a living for himself, they don't understand him.' I get it!" He threw his arms up. "But what are they calling me for, asking me to watch over you, like I ain't got my own shit to do."
"They called you?" Benito was fully awake now.
Sean rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah. Once a while ago, and then just now." He remembered the first awkward phonecall that had taken place about a month ago. Mr. Kouyama called, saying he was Benito's dad, asking if Sean was friends with his son. He rushes into things without thinking. His mother and I worry about him. At first, Sean was angry. He wanted to confront Ben the next day, ask him why the hell his parents called him. But after some careful thought, he calmed down and decided to let it go.
"What?!" Ben's mind started running circles, trying to put together what had been said.
"Don't worry, I haven't told him anything, your dad. He thinks we're just friends. He saw my name mentioned on your blog and called me." Sean moved into the kitchen area. "Do you have any instant coffee?" He opened up a cupboard. "Ah, nevermind."
Benito thought back to their relationship. It had started when they met at one of his magic gigs at the university, and later when Sean ran into him at the arcade where he worked. Soon, Sean would stop by the arcade multiple times per week, if anything just to see him. They started hanging out at the cafe, working on their blogs together. He thought he was good at hiding his affections for Sean, except for a few times when he got a little too close. It happened once when he was working at a haunted house on Halloween night, and Sean happened to take a job there doing special effects makeup. He had come back to the dressing room on his break when he saw Sean drop a makeup brush, intended or not, and he went to pick it up. Their hands touched, and he looked up to see Sean's face there in front of his, so close to a kiss, it was almost an eternity he looked into his eyes. Immediately afterwards, he felt embarrassed and fled, while Sean said nothing, didn't even move. Then there was the time on Christmas Eve, where he visited Sean at school. They were throwing snowballs when Sean tripped and rolled down a hill. Ben chased after him, slipped and ended up on top of him. He lingered like that just barely too long, lost in the moment, and then quickly backed away. What was I thinking, he thought. People could have seen us. For a while they would pretend that nothing happened. They were back to being friends. Then, one day at the arcade, there was a pipe burst, and Ben suggested they go to his apartment. He remembered how Sean mentioned he was doing a good job of keeping it up for what it was. Sean leaned against its lone window, the afternoon light playing with his hair and touching his shoulders. The image of him was burned into Ben's mind. He had then told Sean he should probably change out of his work clothes, but no sooner had he touched the bathroom doorknob when he felt a hand on his shoulder. When he turned around, Sean was there again, their eyes locked in contact. "What are you doing?" he remembered asking. "I don't know, you tell me," Sean had replied, before leaning in to kiss him. Suddenly they were making out, which turned into a glorious series of intimate moments that would continue over the course of the next few months. When he was with Sean, he felt like he could finally be himself, in a way.
"Mmmhmm?" Sean had just finished boiling water, and poured it into a mug with the packet of instant coffee. "Do you want some?" Sean asked.
He watched as Sean sat down at the foot of the bed, took a sip.
"Are you out? To your parents, I mean."
Sean sipped some more on his coffee. "Not really, although they probably have their suspicions. Adam knows, obviously; we've been friends for so long. And he could certainly tell when he met you."
A brief panic crossed Ben's face. "He could tell that I'm gay?"
"No," Sean said, playfully tilting his head and breathing a smile. "He could tell that I like you."
Ben looked away, blushing. "I don't think I could ever tell my parents."
Sean took a sip of his coffee. "You ran away."
"Yeah." Ben sighed. "My parents were always pretty busy, splitting time between their sake brewery in Japan and the vineyard in Italy. So they sent me to boarding school. And I always got bullied, partly because, well, this, and also because they knew I'm smarter than them. Dad would find out about it and have me switch schools. He never found out why, though."
"It's hard," Sean said, leaning back. "You can't know for sure how they'd react, or if it would be better with them knowing."
Ben nodded. For a while, they just sat there, Benito with his arms folded on his knees, lost in thought, and Sean sipping his coffee. After some time, Ben asked, "Why are you drinking coffee this late, anyway?"
Sean gave a sly smile. "I have a paper due tomorrow."
Benito woke up on sheets that smelled delightfully like Sean. The curtains were closed, so the dorm room was still dark despite the morning light outside. Last night he asked to come over, even if Sean had to work on his paper the rest of the night. Sean wasn't one to argue. They sat together on the bus ride over, their fingertips subtely interlocking together and letting go again. They shared a cup of ramen, and Ben retired to Sean's bed while Sean contined to work at his desk under lamplight.
Speaking of which, where was Sean? Ben felt he had shifted to the side of the bed, so it's possible Sean had been there next to him. He turned and looked up, feeling a sense of calm seeing Sean buttoning up a shirt, and then flipping through a packet of pages before putting it in his backpack.
"Hey," Ben said.
"I don't get why these professors want us to hand in hard copies when we could just turn them in online," Sean said, before finally looking up. "Good morning."
"So you got it done," Ben said, stretching his arms over his head. He wasn't wearing anything but a pair of boxers--Sean's, in fact; not that he knew.
"It didn't take me too long." Sean pulled upen a dresser drawer, and began searching for a pair of matching socks. "I finished around one. The coffee kept me up for
another hour, though."
"Yeah, it's pretty strong" Ben rolled onto his back. "I guess I should have warned you."
Sean finished putting on his tennis shoes. "Alright, see ya later. Let yourself out." He slung his backpack over one shoulder.
"What, no goodbye kiss?" Ben teased.
Sean rolled his eyes, a smirk on his face. He reached for Ben's hand and kissed his courteously kissed his knuckles. Ben gave a laugh. Sean waved before walking toward the door, but when he opened it, he was surprised to see Adam standing in the hallway.
"Hey man, can I borrow your deodorant? I lost mine again." Adam didn't even wait for Sean to answer before he stepped into the room. "Also, I'm about to drive to the
store, if you need anything."
Sean watched him as he automatically made his way to the dresser and opened the top drawer, his back to Benito. He pulled out the stick of deodorant.
"Nah, I'm good," Sean said, watching Ben panic for a few seconds before quickly striking a seductive pose.
Adam lifted up his shirt as he applied deodorant to his armpit. "Hey, have you done the essay for Couvalt's class? I'm trying to figure out what playwright to--"
He froze mid sentence, one arm still holding his shirt up, his jaw hanging open slightly when he saw Benito in Sean's bed, mostly naked and smiling apologetically.
Finally, Adam turned to Sean and said, "Sorry, I didn't know you had company over."
Sean stepped forward. "Adam, you remember Benito; I think you've met before."
"Yeah," Adam said, now as calm as he was earlier. He looked back at Ben. "How's it going?"
"Good," Ben said curtly.
Adam turned back to Sean. "So about the paper--"
"You know it's due today, right?" Sean said, folding his arms.
"Not in my section," Adam said, tossing the stick of deodorant back in the drawer and shoving it closed. "He forgot to post the assignment online, so he changed the due date to Monday."
"Damn. I wish I was in that section."
"Yeah, well he added that we need another source," Adam said. "So it's not that much of an improvement."
Sean nodded. "Can we talk about this later? I have to get to class."
Adam checked his phone. "Oh, right. Well, catch ya later." He turned around. "Good to see you, Benito." He left.
Sean and Ben gave each other one look and both burst out laughing.
"Well that's Adam," Sean said.
Ben chuckled as he reached for his phone. "Oh, damn, is it nine already?" He sat up and swung his feet over the floor.
"Yeah, why? Are you late for your shift?"
"Not yet, but I will be." He rummaged through his jeans pockets and cursed. "I think I left my bus pass at home. Remember, last night you paid my fare?"
"Oh, yeah," Sean said. For a second, his face was lost in thought, and then he swiftly opened the door and shouted down the hallway. "Hey Adam!"
Ben heard a faint voice echo from down the hallway. Sean made a signal for Adam to come over.
"What's up?" Adam said, standing in the doorway once again.
"Adam, my dear friend," Sean said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "My best friend. My greatest friend."
"What do you want?" Adam said, folding his arms with a slight grin.
"If you're going out, would you mind dropping Ben off at work? It's not too far into town. The arcade, I think we went there once?"
Adam glanced behind Sean at Benito, who blinked through the head hole of the shirt he was pulling on.
"I'll be out in a sec, just give me a minute," Ben said.
Adam gave Sean a look, and left for the parking lot. Sean turned to Ben, who was quickly putting on his jeans.
"Hey, are those my boxers?"
"When did that happen?" Sean asked, bewildered, as Ben gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"You know a magician never shares his tricks."
Benito always felt like the immature one in the relationship, yet here he was in a car with his older boyfriend's mature friend, who was currently singing passionately over a Justin Bieber song on the radio. They reached a stoplight, and while Adam had the brakes on, he began a drum solo on the steering wheel.
"I won't let goooooooo! I'll be your liiiiiiiiiiiiiife liiiiiiiiiiine, toniiiiiiight...."
Benito rested his arm on the passenger side window. Finally, the light passed, and the song ended; they were moving again. The radio announcer's voice came on.
"You're listening to Steel City Hot 105.9, next up is the hit song off Adam Eaton's new album, Island Heart..."
Suddenly Adam became silent as the first few chords played, and he reached to change the station. The next few stations he found were all on commercial break, so he turned it off. The car ride was awkward before, but this point the awkward had reached full tangibility.
"So," Adam began. "Sean said you're a magician?"
Ben sat up. "I do a couple gigs here and there. I'm not really making much off it right now, hence the job at the arcade." He slipped a hand in his pocket.
"That's cool," Adam said. He looked at the street ahead. "Is the turn here?"
"Yeah, you can just let me off at the curb."
Adam pulled over in front of the VG Zone and put the car in park. "Here you are."
"Thanks for the ride," Ben said, about to get out when he heard the engine shut off. Adam was looking more serious now, sighing briefly as he gazed out upon the passing traffic.
"You really like him?"
Ben cocked his head slightly. "Yeah. What do you mean?"
Adam turned his head to sincerely look him in the eye. "He's had his heart broken before. You think he's strong, and he is. I don't want to see him hurt again."
Ben furrowed his brow. "That's not going to happen."
Adam's expression lightened. "Good."
"You have my word," Ben said, outstretching his palm. In it was a piece of paper the size of a sticky note.
Adam picked it up and turned it over. "It's blank."
He looked at Benito, who was motioning with his eyes to put it back, and no sooner had Adam put the white square of paper in his palm, Benito's other hand swept over it in a fluid motion, and the paper had disappeared. Adam watched in amazement as Ben's hands swept over one another, finally revealing the paper, now perfectly folded into a crane nestled in his palm. He held it out to Adam.
"Dang, you are smooth!" Adam said, taking the bird.
Benito gave a cool, satisfied grin and got out of the car. "See you around, Adam."
"Later!" Adam called. Ben waved once as he drove away.
Once returned to the stale smelling air and flickering fluorescent lights of the arcade's employee break room, Ben pulled his work clothes out of his locker. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic card. A Hawaii State Driver's license, with the name "Eaton, Adam" printed under the picture. He looked it over again, and pulled out his own wallet, where he tucked the card for safekeeping.
A soft rain hit the window of Benito's apartment as he aimlessly scrolled on reddit. He checked the clock in the corner of his computer screen; it was past eleven at night. He checked his phone. No new messages since the one Sean had sent this afternoon, wishing him a happy birthday. He closed his laptop and buried his head in his elbows on top of the cheap card table that served as his kitchen table. He shut his eyes, his mind turning to darkness, an empty blackness with a hollow knocking sound. The sound got louder and he looked up, suddenly.
"Ben!" It was Sean's voice.
Benito jumped up and nearly tripped over himself trying to answer the door, and when he did, Sean was indeed standing in the hallway with a tray of cupcakes.
"Don't even pretend like you're not still up," Sean said with a smirk.
"What's all this?" Ben said, his eyes filled with a child-like wonder.
"There's a baking club at my school, so I figured I'd check it out. I had some help, otherwise I would have been completely lost." He set the cupcakes on the table. "I
brought my laptop; we can watch a movie or something. I torrented some Studio Ghibli films. Also, I got you something." He reached into his backpack and pulled out a palm-sized gift, wrapped in newspaper comics.
"You didn't have to," Ben said, blushing.
"But I did. That's what makes it a gift," Sean said, holding it out.
Ben tore the paper away to reveal a black deck of cards.
"These are cool," he said. "Thanks." He threw his arms around Sean. He breathed into the shoulder of Sean's jacket, and Sean ran a hand through his hair. He pulled away slowly, his eyes slowly matching his, his lips locking his. His hands running up and down his back.
"Happy Birthday," Sean whispered into his ear.
It was around noon when Sean woke up, staring at the ceiling of Ben's apartment. Ben had woken him up earlier, saying he had another shift at the arcade, and left Sean to enjoy some precious hours of sleep. He could still hear rain outside, which was comforting, in a way. There was nothing he had to do and nowhere he had to be. He almost didn't want to answer when his phone buzzed, but on the last ring he decided to at least check the caller ID.
It was Steel City PD.
The phone nearly slipped out of his hand, but he managed to answer in time. "Hello?"
His face contorted with confusion as he recognized the voice. "Adam?"
"Yeah, it's me." He could hear a faint sigh of desperation on the other end. "I'm at a police station. I need you to come get me out."
"Christ, what happened?" Sean asked, rubbing his face.
"I don't know. I don't really remember." There was a silence. "Can you go into my room real quick and see if my phone and wallet are there?"
Sean put his feet on the floor, accidentally stepping on his laptop in the process. He gently kicked it aside and buried his face in his hands. "I can't. I'm not at the dorms right now."
"Really? I would have thought you'd be working on homework already. Shit." He groaned. "I forgot I have that paper for Couvalt's class."
Sean blinked. "I would say your priority for now is getting out of jail. Okay, I'll go to your room, get your phone, your wallet, and come downtown--"
"No, it's not downtown." He was silent again. This was probably the least talkative Sean had ever seen him. "I'm in Grenvile."
"What?!" Sean exclaimed. "That's gotta be, like, 40 minutes away!"
"Yeah," Adam said. "I'm really sorry."
Sean pressed a hand to his forehead. "It's fine. But shouldn't you call John? It's going to be hard for me to bail you out when I have no car and no money. It'll take time for me to get there by bus, and should I even ask how much bail is?"
"It's a lot," Adam said apologetically. "And I can't call John. You're my one phonecall."
"Okay, I'll call him--"
Sean was surprised by the sudden outburst. He patiently waited for Adam to explain.
"I don't want him to know. He kind of....we were at a party last night. The album is finished, so we were celebrating. He told me I was too drunk to drive home, but I did it anyway and got pulled over. I'm already on his bad side, and if he finds out about this...Sean, I need you to come get me."
Sean glanced down at his hand to see a few bits of frosting that he had wiped off of his face. There was still some on his cheek, left over from where Benito had been licking it off last night. "Okay, I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks, man. Really, thanks. I owe you." Adam sounded relieved.
"Sure thing," Sean said, and he hung up. He listened to the rain outside, then stood to turn on the lights. He looked around for something to eat, but he figured there wasn't going to be anything other than leftover cupcakes, so he resigned to taking a shower.
The warm water felt good against his back as his mind wandered, occasionally crossing paths with the task at hand, which he both wanted to address and ignore. All
last summer when Adam was on tour, Sean remembered him being almost religious in the fact he never accepted a drink. The afterparties were almost every night, but at some point Adam would find him and say he was ready to go back to the hotel. Adam could be the life of the party, but he cared about his music, too. Drinking and show business aren't always a good combination.
He turned off the water and grabbed a towel to pat his hair dry. He wrapped it around his waist and wiped a circle of fog off from the mirror. Leaning in towards his reflection, he ran his fingers through his hair. He checked the drawers below the sink, looking for a comb. There was a jumble of various hair products: gels, bleach, green dye that he had to dig through before he found a worn plastic comb sticking to the bottom. He rinsed it clean from any excess residue and combed his hair, making it neat and then running his fingers through it again to make it look messy. He tossed the comb back in the drawer, and returned to looking at his muscles, frowning as he flexed his bicep. Suddenly he heard the sound of the door unlocking in the other room.
He stepped out into the room, and Ben was there, shaking the rain off his hoodie. He froze when he saw Sean. "I was hoping you'd still be here."
"Hey, kid," Sean said, picking his shirt up off the floor. "Shouldn't you be at work?"
"I got someone to cover my shift," Ben said, sitting down at the kitchen with Sean's state of undress in full view. "I thought we could hang out."
Sean smiled. "I have some errands to run."
"Then I'll come with you," Ben said, picking up a cupcake and taking a bite. "What's first on the agenda?"
"Adam," Sean said, pulling a shirt over his head.
"Oh," Ben said. "What about him?"
"We're bailing him out of jail."
"It's just down this hallway," Sean said, as he and Ben walked towards Adam's room. "Either he left the key in the door like he sometimes does or there's going to be awkward conversation with the RA."
They reached the door to Adam's room, which had a picture of Squirtle taped to it, along with a strip of construction paper with the block letters "Adam" written on it
in black marker.
"You guys must really like pokemon, huh," Ben said.
"Damn it, the key's gone." Sean looked up. "Oh, the RAs do that. I think our floor's theme is water-type."
Ben remembered the Magicarp that was on the door of Sean's room.
Sean was craning his neck to look at the door further down the hall. "It looks like Alvin is out, so we have to try our luck with the RA on duty." He pulled out his phone
and started dialing a number. In the meantime, Ben tried the doorknob. "Hello, yeah I'm in building--" Sean stopped midsentence as the door swung open and Ben looked up at him. "Nevermind."
Adam's room was typical for a college student in his junior year, with a desk covered in books and old papers, and the floor littered with clothes. On the walls he had tacked up some band posters, and a nice set of stereo equipment lined the far wall. Ben walked in, taking in his surroundings as Sean immediately started digging through piles of clothes.
"Do you want to help me look?" Sean asked quietly.
"Oh," Ben said, "Sure."
They spent about twenty minutes turning over the place, until they reached the conclusion that there was no wallet or phone to be found. Sean tried calling it, and they listened for a faint buzzing noise, but there was none. Then Sean asked if Ben was hungry, and now they were eating pizza in the dining hall.
"Yeah, it's kind of a problem," Sean said, chewing on a mouthful of pizza. "John knows where they went last night, but Adam doesn't want him to know about it."
"You can probably ask him without telling him," Ben said. He held out his hand. "Let me text him."
Sean hesitated, and then handed over his phone. "Sure."
"Okay," Ben said, looking at the past text conversation. It was something about doing set makeup. "You said he produces music with Adam?"
"Yeah," Sean said.
Ben thought for a minute, and then typed something in the chat box. "How about this?" He held out the phone to Sean, and pointed to the send button.
Sean read it carefully. "Hey, heard you and Adam were at a party last night, where at? Jealous I wasn't invited lol." He looked up at Ben. "'lol'? Really?"
Ben nodded. "It keeps the mood light."
Sean shrugged as he hit send. He waited a few seconds. "Oh! He's responding."
As he watched the screen with anticipation, Ben stood up and sat on his side of the table, leaning over his shoulder. Finally, a response.
"We were just over at club luna. I thought he told you. Pretty crazy night haha" Three dots appeared again. "Did he make it home okay? He had quite a bit to drink"
"Uhh..." Sean glanced sideways at Ben before typing "Yes."
"Gimme that," Ben said, taking the phone. He changed Sean's answer to "Yep but he's kinda hungover haha"
John responded back. "Good to hear. See u tomoro"
"Great," Sean said. "Now we have to find this club."
Ben smirked. "I think we make a good team, detective."
Sean raised his eyebrows suggestively before taking another bite of pizza.
It was pouring rain as Lloyd pulled up to the back entrance of Club Luna, where a couple of kids were huddled by the back door, keeping out of the rain. When he saw Lloyd, Sean let go of Ben and reluctantly put his hands in his own pockets, which felt strange, so after a few seconds of figeting, he settled on folding his arms.
"Hey, I heard you need to get into a club in the middle of a Sunday," Lloyd said as he approached them. "You called the right part-owner."
"What's up, Lloyd," Sean said. "Thanks for coming."
"No problem," Lloyd said, moving past them to unlock the door. "The cleaning staff has a lost and found that they might have put it in, whatever you're looking for." He walked in and turned on the lights. He looked at Ben. "Who's your friend?"
"Benito," Ben said, sticking his hand out.
"He's with me today," Sean said.
"Lloyd." He shook Ben's hand. "Alright, I'll go check the lost and found."
"We're looking for a wallet, and the phone is an iPhone 7 with a blue case," Sean said. "Actually I'll call it."
Lloyd disappeared behind the bar while Sean punched a number into his phone. He was surprised when someone answered.
"Hello? Bill's Pizza Palace?"
"What?" Sean said in confusion, until it dawned on him that the voice was Lloyd's. "Very funny."
"I do my best," Lloyd said, returning with Adam's phone in hand. He gave it to Sean. "Although, there weren't any wallets back there."
"So what, you think it's not here?" Sean asked.
"It could still be around, and the cleaning staff just missed it," Lloyd said, frowning.
"You think so?" Sean said. He knelt down on the floor to look under a booth. Seeing nothing, he swiveled his neck to look under the other seat, eyes scanning the darkness. He pulled out a light on his phone. "I think that's it." He reached in for the object, and then stood up and brushed the dust off his sleeves.
"Are you sure?" Lloyd asked.
Sean opened the wallet to see Adam's driver's license showing through the interior window pane. "Yep." He looked up. "Hey Ben! Where'd he go?"
Ben came into the room from the back corner. "I was in the bathroom," he said.
"Ben, get a load of this old picture of Adam. He still has braces," Sean said with a laugh.
"That's funny," Ben said, leaning in for a closer look.
"Well, we should probably be going," Sean said. "Thanks, Lloyd; I owe you."
"Anytime," Lloyd said.
"Hey, wait," Sean said suddenly. "Do you you have a minute? I forgot I was going to ask you for some production advice." He turned to Ben. "Ben, Lloyd's the producer I was telling you about."
Lloyd turned to face them. "I'm all ears."
"Oh, great!" Ben said, shifting into business mode. "I do some work as a magician; there's an upcoming site that wants to feature me as one of their main artists.
They're funding me, but I have no idea where I'd get cast or crew or anything."
"Hmm," Lloyd said, leaning on a cocktail table. "That is a conundrum. My best advice is to find people in a similar situation. Students in filmmaking. Or the drama department at school. They'll have knowledge and training, although their experience will probably be lacking. But they're willing to learn, and a paying gig like this is always appreciated."
"That's a good idea," said Benito.
"I'm sure there's some people at my school that could help you," Sean added.
"Excellent!" Lloyd said. "You two are going to do beautifully well."
Sean nodded politely, not sure what Lloyd meant, exactly.
Benito stepped forward. "Thank you for your advice, sir. We'll do our best!"
"Yeah thanks, Lloyd," Sean said. "I guess we'll be going now."
"Let me show you out!" Lloyd said. He lead them to the back door again and locked it behind them. "I'll see you later, Sean, and best of luck to you." He waved to them
both as he got in his car and drove away.
"How are we going to get to the station?" Ben asked.
"I don't know," Sean said, thumbing through Adam's wallet and pulling out a credit card. "It looks like Adam's going to call us a cab."
The cab pulled up and they hurried out from the side of the building to get out of the rain.
"Can you get to the Grenville police station?" Sean asked as Benito slid into the backseat next to him. The driver nodded and pulled away from the curb.
Ben idly watched the rainy buildings pass by his window for a few minutes, and then looked over to Sean, who was scrolling through the notifications on Adam's phone.
"What's all that?" Ben asked.
"I think he's got a bunch of girls texting him." Sean smirked. "'Call me again sometime, xoxo'? There might be some nudes, even."
Ben gave a laugh. "Why don't they text you like that?" he teased.
"I don't know," Sean said as Ben pulled his shoulders closer. "I think they know I'm seeing someone."
Their lips locked and suddenly they were making out in the back of a cab. The driver glanced in the rearview mirror and then rolled his eyes before returning his attention to the road.
Adam sullenly rested on a bench behind the bars of his jail cell. He was lucky it had been a slow night, and the police decided to give him his own cell, with his VIP status. He had been sitting there for what felt like days, until finally Officer Briggs returned with a ring of keys at hand.
"Your friends finally came for you," She said, rolling open the cell door. "Hold out your wrists."
Adam sighed as the officer cuffed him. He stood and followed her down the hallway. His eyes glanced up at a corner security mirror, where he saw a deeply colored bruise across his nose. From then on, his eyes remained trained on the floor until he heard a familiar voice.
He looked up and felt some relief to see Sean, and then those feelings became mixed when he saw Ben with him.
"What the fuck happened?" Sean said. "You didn't hit anyone while you were driving, did you--"
"No," Adam said. "They said I fell when I got out of the car."
"What? Why didn't you take him to the hospital?" Sean called to the officer, who ignored him as she finished filling out some paperwork.
"Sean, it's fine. It's just a bruise."
Sean grew quiet. "Fine, but it'll be harder for you to keep secret," he mumbled.
"Okay," said Officer Briggs, breaking up the awkward silence, "Since this is a first time offense, we're letting you off with a warning, although your license is suspended for thirty days and you'll have to appear in court. The impound lot will mail you instructions on how to retrieve your vehicle." She took the handcuffs off of him.
"How is that just a warning?" Ben pointed out, but immediately closed his mouth when Adam glared at him.
"Well, I hope you kids have learned something. Maybe next time you'll think twice before you drink, much less get behind the wheel of a car." The officer returned to sit down at her desk.
Adam didn't say anything, just stared at the floor.
"Let's get just out of here," Sean said.
Ben mindlessly shuffled a deck of cars as he sat in his usual spot at Cafe Diem. He pulled out his phone and scrolled through his recently taken photos, and his finger
rested on the one he had taken of Adam's license. The bells on the front door chimed, and he glanced up. Quickly, he stashed his phone in his pocket as Sean passed the line at the counter and hastily made his way to sit down.
"Sorry I'm late, I had to go with Adam to the doctor," Sean said, rolling his eyes and shaking his head slightly. "He had his face x-rayed."
"Oh, is it bad?" Ben asked, leaning in with his elbows on the table.
"He'll be fine. It's next week's press event he's worried about."
Ben shuffled the cards again, letting the cards fall together in a fluid motion between his palms. "At least he has a professional make up artist to cover it up." He peeked up at Sean through his lashes.
"I have my work cut out for me," Sean said with a laugh. "Although it's funny, working on Vice these days, I'm usually painting bruises and scars onto people's faces, not trying to hide ones that are already there."
"Is that where you've been? Working on that show?" Ben said. "I was wondering why you didn't come to the arcade."
"Yeah," Sean said, slouching back in his chair. "I've been trying to stay on John and Lloyd's good side until this whole thing blows over."
"But you'll have time for the showcase this weekend?" Ben asked, his eyes full of anticipation.
"Yeah," Sean said. "Why wouldn't I?"
"No reason," Ben said with some relief in his voice. "Alright, let's get to work."
"Okay," Sean said, pulling his laptop out from his backpack. "Did you get my email to the drama department?"
"Yeah, I saw that," Ben said, his fingers interlacing. "A handful people already contacted me, saying they can do Saturday. Thanks, by the way."
Sean glanced up from behind his laptop and gave a nod. "That's good. Now you just have to get them to show up."
The weather was a perfectly sunny day as Sean made his way onto the university's quad. He saw a crowd of students idling and talking amongst themselves, and he made his way through them to find Ben, who was fidgeting with his hands a little.
"Sean!" he said, "You're here."
"Yep," Sean said, setting down his bag. "Are you nervous?"
"Not really. Excited, mostly" Ben looked around the area. "Is your cameraman still coming?"
"She texted me this morning. She's on her way." Sean pulled out a set of brushes.
"Great," Ben said. "You're not going to do too much with the makeup, are you?"
"I'm thinking just a throwback to your zombie look, but with more blood." Sean grinned at Ben's sudden look of panic. "Just a touch-up for the camera. Take a seat."
He looked around. "That bench over there."
"Sure, sure." Ben hurried to sit down. "I was just re-thinking that last trick. The card should appear under my hand, not over it..."
"You're the artist. I would say to go with your gut," Sean said, gently tilting Ben's chin towards him. "Look up."
"Sean, always the professional," Ben mumbled.
Sean dabbed at Ben's face with a sponge. "Professionally a gay piece of trash," he said under his breath. Ben spit out laughing. "You have to stay still," Sean said, trying to hold in his own laughter.
Ben flashed a smile. "You do such a good job blending into the crowd, but you somehow still manage to distract me."
Sean playfully hit his nose with the powder brush, but his face dropped its youthful demeanor when he looked up. "Hi, Rachel."
"'Morning, kiddos. Ready to get this thing rolling?" She had some equipment under her arm.
"Almost," Ben said, turning to see her. He stood up. "I'm Benito, nice to meet you."
"So you're the star," she said, shaking his hand. She turned to Sean. "Do you have a crew for me to work with?"
"Yeah." Sean stepped up on the bench. "Hey everyone, thanks for coming. If you're from the filmmaker's club, can you raise your hand?"
A few students clustered to one side, mostly dressed in black, raised their hands.
"Great, this is Rachel," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I'm going to need you to follow her. Everyone else, please stand in the holding area over there." He
looked around at the students, who were clutching pieces of paper. "If you have your release forms, I'll take them."
He hopped down from the bench and started taking the forms. Rachel waved to the film students and began to get them organized.
"Sean, this is impressive," Ben said.
"It's nothing really. Thanks," he said, the last student handed him her form. "You're the impressive one."
Ben put his hands in his pockets. "Well, whichever way it goes, I'm still thankful for your help."
Rachel called from her post. "We're ready to go!"
"I'll go get the first batch of actors, then," Sean said, closing his kit. He put a hand on Ben's shoulder before walking over to the holding area. "Alright, Everyone in group A, follow me."
The sun was setting as Ben lay next to Sean on his dorm bed, checking his phone while Sean did some reading for class.
"You were great today," Ben said, looking over his shoulder.
Sean smiled into his book. "I told you, you were the star. I just stood by the sidelines."
"But it was more than that." Ben rolled towards him. "The way you knew how to shoot the scene so it looked right. I don't know what would have happened if you weren't there."
"I think you still would have won everyone over with your charm," Sean said, setting his book aside.
"Charm can only get you so far," Ben said, leaning into Sean's lips. They kissed for a moment, until finally Ben pulled away.
"I forgot, I wanted you to show you the pictures they're going to put on the website." He pulled out his phone. "There," Ben said, handing it to Sean.
Sean scrolled through the first couple of pictures of Ben wearing a suit and holding a few playing cards jauntily.
He laughed. "I was afraid these would look like dorky senior photos, but they actually look...really nice," Sean said.
Ben watched as he flipped through a couple more, but nearly jumped when he reached the end of the photos. He snatched the phone out of Sean's hands.
"Well that's enough," he said, laughing nervously.
"No, what was that last one?" Sean said, his face growing more serious.
"Oh that? It was nothing, really." Ben glanced away. "Just some medication I'm taking. It's not important."
Sean was speechless, mouth hanging open as his eyes retrained on Ben's. "My name was right there."
Ben stifled another laugh. "Really? No, it was definitely mine." After a few more seconds of silence he leaned into kiss Sean again, but was pushed away.
"You know," Sean said, his brow furrowed, "I should be concerned that you have a picture of my anxiety meds on your phone, but now you're lying to my face?"
Ben grabbed his arm. "I can explain. I--"
"No," Sean said, brushing him off. He stood up, walking absently to the opposite corner of the room. "The other day, I thought I misplaced them, but...you took them?" He turned around to glare at Ben.
"Sean, stop, I...I put them back, okay?" Ben said, throwing his arms up. "No harm done."
"You can't do that!" Sean yelled back. "Fuck." He put a hand to his face. "I'm so stupid, the wallet."
"What wallet?" Ben said, before darting his eyes away once more.
"You think I'm so dumb, like I'll just play along." Sean rubbed his forehead. "Adam's wallet! You took it and then you planted it in that club, and I didn't even suspect a
thing! Do you know how much trouble he's in?"
"He was already in trouble, and I didn't steal it!" Ben argued.
"Oh, you didn't steal it?" Sean said, incredulous.
"I didn't!" Ben yelled. He lowered his voice. "Just the license."
"You've got to be kidding me--"
"--But I put it right back! And in the end, it didn't matter anyway, because he still left it at--"
Ben sat there, stunned at Sean's sudden outburst. He swallowed, and then opened his mouth to speak again.
"Sean, let's at least talk about--"
"No! Get your shit, I want you gone."
Ben sighed. "Fine." He stood up and grabbed his jacket. Sean watched as he put it on and walked to the front door. As soon as he touched the knob, though, he turned
"I just wanted to know more about you. You don't tell me anything."
"What are you talking about?" Sean folded his arms.
Ben shook his head. "I don't even know where you're from, originally."
"Hawaii, one of the smaller islands." Sean's voice was low. "I told you that."
"No you didn't," Ben said. "And you didn't tell me that your best friend is Adam Eaton, like the Adam Eaton."
"I would have told you if you'd asked," Sean said. They were standing two feet apart in the doorway.
"No, you don't tell me anything. I don't even know where you work. You never talk about it."
"Oh, like I can trust you after what you've just done," Sean said. "And it's not like you tell me about your life."
"I've told you everything!" Ben said, throwing his hands up. "My parents, where I was born, how I went to all those boarding schools, what more do you need to know?!"
"It doesn't matter, because you don't need to know those things about me," Sean said, his face burning with anger.
"Why shouldn't I know about you, now that we're together," Ben said. "If you can't tell me about your life, than who am I to you?"
"I don't know," Sean said, shaking his head. "You're just...you're just some guy I'm fucking."
The moment he said that, they both could feel the air grow cold.
Ben glanced away bitterly. His earnest eyes returned to Sean's face. "You're right, I guess I should go."
He turned towards the door again, and Sean watched him go without either saying a word.