The trio spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking their essentials, each finding a corner of the tiny bathroom to call their own, and setting up their tangle of cables and chargers. Mark supplied them with American sim cards for their phones, then set up the bus wifi just in time for them to curl up and tune in to their new episode as it aired online.
Adelaide opened the subreddit’s weekly live-blogging thread to watch fan reactions and comments pour in as they watched together. They didn’t often watch their episodes in this way, and Adelaide usually only read the comments the next day – but they all agreed it was a special occasion to see Beau’s face properly revealed on the show for the first time.
Despite his nerves, Beau was satisfied to be crushed between his two best friends in the dining booth, their weight being a comforting anchor to get him through the episode.
He cringed at the sight of himself on the screen, covered his face when he heard his own voice played back to him, and yet giggled at Adelaide’s humorous editing and liberal use of subtitles. He opted not to read the comments as the thread updated, but couldn’t help noticing the influx of messages when his face reveal scene began to play.
When the episode ended, Isaac reached out and shut the lid of his laptop without ceremony, then flipped Adelaide’s phone over so the screen was face down. She whined a protest, but didn’t fight back, and let them sit in the silence of their season finale.
“Well done,” Isaac announced, holding up a fist in front of Beau. He gladly bumped it, then Adelaide leant over to bump hers as well. “Don’t show me the comments, Adelaide. But if you still need some peace of mind,” he turned to Beau, “Go have a look. I guarantee they’ll be supportive.”
Beau was frozen in place for a while after that. Isaac didn’t even try to get him to move out of the booth, but simply shimmied out of his seat and crawled over the table to get out. He scooped up his laptop and tucked it under one arm, then stood beside the table to look down at them.
“A successful season, I’d say,” he announced, and finally gave them a proper smile. Adelaide took that chance to cheer, then flipped her phone back over so she could pour through the comments without distraction.
Isaac continued, “I’m going to bed – let’s see how these bunks fare.”
The bunks did not fare well, it seemed. Beau tossed and turned all night, feeling horrifically cramped in the tiny tube that barely fit all his limbs and fat and muscle, like a coffin that was two sizes too small. The sheets were also thin, and Beau felt like he was rolling around in the dirt without so much as a pillow under his head.
He ended up digging his e-reader out of his bag and reading throughout most of the night, just to keep his mind settled while his limbs screamed and ached for rest.
Whether it was discomfort, nerves, or jet lag, Adelaide and Isaac didn’t look much better when they rose the next morning. Isaac’s eyes looked sealed shut as he stumbled to the bathroom, and Adelaide had heavy shadows under her eyes that were normally bright and clear.
It took them all several minutes of yawning and grumbling to realise that the bus was stationary and Mark was missing from his bunk. Beau rolled out of his coffin and squinted his way into the kitchen, where the curtain over the dining table was already drawn, and a bright morning light was filtering into the bus.
“Coffee,” Adelaide croaked, barely audible from the hallway. “Need coff–”
“Coffee, anyone?” Mark suddenly called out from the door of the bus. Isaac whipped his head out of the bathroom as Adelaide and Beau turned to look at him eagerly. Mark simply laughed, their silent enthusiasm enough of an answer, and stepped up into the kitchen. “How about we go get some together, and I can show you around the convention centre?”
They each took a rushed shower and picked out some fresh clothes. Exhausted and struggling to think straight, Beau decided to find solace behind a camera, to switch his brain into autopilot while gathering some behind-the-scenes footage he knew Adelaide would love. He dug into the equipment under the bus while the others got dressed and checked their phones, knowing exactly which case held what piece of tech, and found his favourite shoulder-cam that was light enough for vlogging.
The bus was parked a few blocks away from the convention centre, in a modestly-sized city that reminded Beau of the suburb they lived in back home. Mark promised them an Uber to and from the convention, but convinced them that a spritely walk that morning would help wake them up. As an avid morning jogger, Beau agreed, and already began to plot out a route in his mind.
On the other side of the busy road was a park, which Beau was admiring through his viewfinder. Isaac was in the foreground of the shot, out of focus as he stood and spoke to someone out of frame. Beau was fixated on a group playing with a frisbee in the park, when Isaac turned and tilted his head questioningly.
There was a beat, then suddenly Isaac’s face filled the frame, making Beau jump when he saw his host looking directly into the lens.
“Earth to Beau,” Isaac grinned. “Latte?” He asked, for what was apparently the second time.
Beau whipped his head up to look at Isaac without the tech between them, then spun around to see they were standing in front of a Starbucks. Through the glass front windows, he could see Mark was already in line inside the cafe.
He was grateful for his dark complexion hiding the blush that threatened to bloom across his cheeks. “Cappuccino, please,” he responded sheepishly, then watched as Isaac smiled and walked past him to join Mark inside.
The coffee definitely helped liven their spirits, despite tasting identical to the less-than-desirable Starbucks made back home. Beau turned off his camera as they finished their walk to the convention centre, thankful that they were all too busy waking up and finishing their drinks to converse with him. Once they reached the centre, he slipped back behind the viewfinder, capturing the day like a documentary as Mark picked up their passes and led them through the half-prepared convention buildings.
Beau figured he could take the same route through the building on the weekend, once it was filled with stalls and con-goers. In editing, he imagined cross-fading the footage from the vast, empty hall, to the busy crowd of cosplayers and fanatics all gathered together.
He imagined the thrum of the crowd, of people looking straight past him, where he was just another face in a sea of vloggers and enthusiasts. He imagined the cheers and screams when people saw Isaac and Adelaide, when their fans realised where they were and what was happening. He imagined the rush they would feel when they were backstage, about to step out into an auditorium filled with hundreds of fans, of their incredible international audience who they’d never had a chance to meet until now.
Beau imagined this with excitement, but it quickly turned to dread when he realised the weekend had arrived, and the only thing standing between him and an onslaught of judgemental screaming was a thin curtain and his little camera.
Isaac and Adelaide stood in front of him in their backstage wing, checking each other’s hair and fixing each other’s collars and shirt tags. Beau sucked in a sharp breath when Adelaide turned around to check Beau, reminding him that, oh yeah, he was going to be in front of everyone as well.
He yearned for one last word of encouragement, but before he could even wish them good luck, Mark’s voice echoed through the microphone to welcome Isaac and Adelaide on stage.