“Hello,” a voice whispers. “Remember me?”
This is a library. Ben remembers that. The same library Ben was in yesterday, and he remembers that, too. He looks up from the book he’s re-reading: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.
“Yes,” Ben whispers back. “I do remember you.”
Ben thinks in that moment that Finn looks nice today, and just as nice as yesterday. He wears the same red beanie with a pattern of stylised snowflakes skillfully worked in white around the band. But his jumper today is cream. And vertical bands of rainbow wool are woven through its cabling.
Ben thinks it’s a pretty jumper. A pretty respite amid the gloomy rundown library, with its peeling grey walls still visible through the assortment of fading fine art reproductions, patched across them as though the colours in those could somehow hide the age, not very far beneath, or very well concealed. Ben no longer tries to hide his age, it’s too hard. But he does still notice aging, in all of the things around him. He and those things seem to all be doing that together.
“I’m reading,” Ben says, his voice still quiet and his eyes still observing the tiring particulars of the room.
And then they return to the page, although no longer taking in words. Ben is just kind of staring at the spaces in between those words. Tracing imaginary lines up and down and around those spaces. Making pathways between the phrases about DNA. And about science and playing gods. And dinosaurs. And old men in charge of things they probably shouldn’t be, and now Ben’s distracted.
“Yeah, I know,” Finn says, his own voice still quiet, too. “But I want to talk to you. I think we got off to a bad start yesterday. I'm wondering if we could start over.”
Ben contemplates this, then looks up again; Finn is glancing around the room now, ensuring perhaps that they are not being overheard, not that they would be.
Very few people come to the library, most people go to the clubhouse to read; the books there are better and people in the clubhouse are allowed to talk in the room with the books. Ben supposes that’s because in that room there’s also a billiard table, and the people who play billiards seem to want to talk a lot, at least that’s what Ben’s noticed. The one or two times he’s been in there. And that’s why he comes to the library: no talking. Maybe that’s also why he’s never seen Finn before yesterday. He seems to like talking. Maybe he also likes billiards. Ben doesn’t know how to play.
“You can’t talk in the library,” Ben whispers again, watching Finn as closely as ever as he draws up a chair and sits down.
And he’s sitting reversed, his chest to the chair’s inside back, and his knees spread wide, as a consequence of that. And Ben finds that posture curious, it makes him wonder at Finn’s age. Which must be just perhaps a little less than Ben’s because Ben doesn’t think that he himself could sit like that anymore, least not that fast. He's not as confident these days. His body is not always as sturdy as he always thought it would be.
“Sure, you can,” Finn whispers. ”Nobody’s watching, all the carers are busy... Reading fanfiction, or something… Look at ‘em… That one over there? That one is definitely doing it… I bet that one over there is reading a really, really dirty one, a real smutty story… Who’s that guy from MCU?”
Ben's eyes haven't left Finn's knees, as he's said whatever he's just said. Ben only really paid attention to the last part, about MCU. But at that mention Ben's eyes have dashed to find Finn's, whose eyes are as bright as stars, even through the creases and greys.
“MCU?" Ben repeats. "Like, um… Falcon?”
“No, no, no... Not the one with the shield... The one with the hammer.”
“Oh," Ben says. "I know the name of that one... That's Thor.”
Finn smiles and Ben forgets all about his book, and the library. And the fine art reproductions and the billiards and the dinosaurs. All he thinks about now is MCU. And Finn's eyes when he smiles.
“Yeah," Finn says. "That one... I bet it’s about that one, Thor... Maybe it’s about Falcon and Thor... Oh! Now that would be a good one...”
Ben's mouth turns up at one corner. His right eye narrows, and twitches along with that corner of his mouth Finn's teasing. And throughout this Finn just keeps on smiling back.
“Hi,” he says to Ben, because now - for the first time since they first met yesterday - Finn has Ben’s full attention.
“Do you mean listening?” Ben asks him. “When you say watching, do you mean listening?"
"Like... You mean all the carers are listening, not watching. Right?”
“Ah, yeah sure, that,” Finn answers. “Watching, listening… Falcon, Thor… Same difference... But nobody’s doing it, don’t worry. They’re too busy reading smut… They don’t really care about us old guys, just the young ones… And the girls, too, I bet... All those young bodies, lithe bodies, crazy big muscles, all that… Captain Marvel…”
“What you reading, anyway?” Finn asks, and Ben remembers his book. He closes the pages and reveals the cover.
“Oh,” Finn murmurs, leaning in. “I’ve seen that movie... I like that movie, it's good. You like the movie, too?”
“All the movies are pretty good, yeah,” Ben says, his mind caught halfway now between not wanting to and wanting to talk, maybe just a little bit more. Maybe he’s done enough reading for today. He tries to read a little bit every day. Keeps his mind occupied. Keeps his mind active. “I like this one best though, the first one. I’ve seen it a lot of times. A lot of times.”
“Do you know I made a movie once?”
“Oh, you did?”
“Yup, I sure did,” Finn says. “I made a movie.”
“Oh. So... What, were you an actor? Used to be an actor?”
“Oh, hell no,” Finn chuckles. “No, I just used to work in sound… Do you know foley?”
“Ah, yeah,” Ben says, straightening up in his chair, because he does know that, and it makes him feel pleased. “Yeah… Hey, that was, um… That was named after somebody, right? Ah… Wait on…”
Their voices have raised but nobody is coming to tell Ben or Finn to be quiet. To remind them that this is a library. Just in case they forgot. So Ben and Finn keep talking, a little bit more. About nothing more or less than the kinds of things you talk about with people who you secretly crush on, and that is to say everything. Nothing and everything. And then after awhile, Ben and Finn leave the library and go outside together. Still discussing nothing and yet also somehow everything. The world. The universe. The galaxy. And going to the clubhouse, to play billiards, because Ben was right. Finn does like billiards. And that's nothing too, and yet also knowing that is somehow everything. Ben doesn’t know how to play, but maybe he will soon.