While Beau coughed and cleared his throat, Isaac glanced around the table to look for the source of his distress. When his eyes landed on his laptop, his shoulders relaxed, and he turned back to the roadie. Once Beau had finished wiping up the spilled drops of tea, Isaac set down his bowl and leant forward.
“Sorry I didn’t ask… Did you want to see what I’ve found so far?” He reached for the computer and turned it to face him, already shuffling over to make room for Beau’s large frame beside him.
Beau’s eyes widened as he contemplated the offer and stared at the newly freed space in the booth. He tried not to think about how Adelaide had been sitting there and snuggling their host just minutes earlier, tried not to picture himself in that position. Instead he made one last attempt to clear his mind and enjoy the opportunity to witness Isaac in ‘research mode’.
Isaac quickly rearranged the table as Beau slid into the booth beside him, cradling his bowl to his chest so it was out of the way, then positioning the laptop between them. He reached out and tapped the trackpad a few times, clearing the mess of windows so Beau would be able to make sense of what he’d been looking at.
“I slept like shit and kept waking up. Eventually I figured I should get up and start looking at some of the locations Mark has scouted for us,” Isaac began. Beau nodded, but he was immediately distracted by the way Isaac’s body tensed beside him, how his leg jolted out of the way when Beau slid into place and accidentally brushed their knees together. The momentary contact filled him with nervous, loving heat, which not even Isaac’s prickly demeanour could stifle.
“I dunno,” Isaac continued without acknowledging their brush under the table, nor his instinctive reaction to pull away from it. “There just doesn’t seem to be anything special here. I wish we had a little more time, or that we had two separate trips – one where we tour and do panels and meet everyone, and a different trip where we could take as long as we wanted to film...”
Isaac’s sad little slouch finally snatched Beau’s attention away from the bonfire in his chest. He frowned gently as he listened to his host’s concerns, then slowly set his mug down.
“What’s this one?” He asked, pointing at the screen, careful not to physically touch it. Isaac’s laptop was probably worth as much as their tour bus; he knew to be careful with it.
Isaac leant forward over the laptop and pushed his glasses back up to the bridge of his nose. “It’s a museum. It doesn’t look bad, but… I always feel a bit iffy when these places charge for entry.”
The host sighed and set his emptied bowl aside. “This one is my favourite,” he noted, as he expanded one of the windows to fill the screen. “But their availability is more limited, so we’d only get two days with them.”
Beau hummed in thought. He reached out to take over the trackpad so he could browse further down the page. “Maybe it’ll be worth it,” he wondered aloud, despite knowing it would be fruitless.
Their episodes were edited to be quite fast paced, but behind the scenes, they preferred to spend as much time at a location as possible. Typically they would stay for a week, so a vast majority of their earlier low-budget episodes were spent in abandoned buildings and outdoor hotspots that didn’t charge them to stay. Locking down for a night made for great content, but staying multiple days meant they really got a feel for everywhere they investigated.
Mysterious groans quickly became familiar structural noises; it was easier to source the branch causing an eerie scratching sound when they’d been around the building a dozen times; and hoaxed venues that faked phenomena always slipped up when they were under the microscope for too long. It was a good system that worked for them, but Beau knew they’d have to switch it up sooner or later.
“I just want to do it right,” Isaac eventually replied, his tone almost sad as he frowned at his computer. “I don’t want to sacrifice quality for convenience, or…”
“I get it,” Beau interrupted. “I get where you’re coming from. But…”
His pause drew Isaac’s eye to him and he took a breath, continuing carefully, “Years ago, you nearly passed on a booking because it didn’t speak to you. We ended up doing it at the last minute, and that became a fan-favourite episode. After that, I was really hoping you’d realise that you can’t plan everything start-to-finish…”
Beau paused, glancing at Isaac to try and figure out how his critique was being received. Isaac’s face was blank as he listened and processed, so Beau took another breath and lowered his gaze. “Some things you just need to… let happen,” he finished.
The infatuated heat in his chest had quickly turned to anxious dread as he spoke. ‘Great idea,’ he thought regretfully to himself.
‘Let’s tell the showrunner how to run his show, after he’s been kind enough to invite you halfway across the planet and–’
“I guess… you’ve got a point,” Isaac murmured.
Beau had to double take when he saw Isaac’s determined stare at his laptop screen, fully expecting a scowl or petulant frown in its place. But Isaac simply nodded to himself, pulled his laptop a little closer, then opened a fresh tab.
“...I’ll keep that in mind,” he added.
Beau couldn’t help but beam down at his friend, flooded with a proud warmth that was nothing like the spike of anxiety or hot touch of yearning where their skin brushed together. The heat made him feel happy and slow, which made it all the more difficult to pull his gaze away.
Instead, he admired the barely-noticeable curve of Isaac’s smile. His thin lashes that fringed his sleepy, hooded eyes. The faintest dusting of freckles over his nose; a gift from the sun that no one would notice under his glasses, unless they were inches away from him, unless they knew exactly what to look for.
As if matching his pace, Isaac slowly turned to meet his eye. He raised his eyebrow, curious about this look he was being given – but the quiet moment shattered when they heard a camera shutter clicking across the room.
Isaac and Beau both whipped their heads up to find Adelaide peeking around the corner of the kitchen, phone held up as she snapped a photo from the hallway.
“Your turn!” she announced.
Beau flung himself back, not realising how far he’d leaned over to see Isaac’s computer until he pictured what it must have looked like from the outside.
“Don’t post that!” Isaac snapped furiously. Beau was too swept up in his fear of their fans joining the dots of his crush to feel offended, instead staring at Adelaide with just as much urgency in his eyes.
“Why not?” she frowned, flipping the phone in her hand. “I could caption it ‘Study Buddies’ and drop a fun hint about our next location.”
The warm sleepy aura at the dining table had completely evaporated, instantly replaced by Isaac’s icy chill. “I… wasn’t ready,” he said stiffly.
“You’re not supposed to be ready for a candid,” Adelaide grinned as she approached the opposite booth. She slumped down into the seat, flipped her phone one last time, then gave Isaac a more relaxed, genuine smile. “But… fine. I’ll show you, and if you hate it then I won’t post it.”
Beau quickly slunk out of the booth, scooping up their empty dishes to make himself look busy in the kitchen. He could hear Isaac and Adelaide quipping at each other behind him, and while he would normally love to join the banter, he felt a little too shaken to even listen in on the rest of their conversation.