The trio watched in awe through the bus window, as the distant skyline soon became a forest of tall buildings that surrounded them on every side. As they drove on, the bus slowed down to navigate the tighter, busier streets, and eventually the brakes squealed as it slowed to a halt.
Mark swung himself out of the driver’s cabin and approached the trio, smiling, but with none of his usual vigour. He tiredly rubbed his face and leaned heavily against the wall beside them.
“Allow me to welcome you to our first big city,” he announced, sweeping one arm dramatically towards the window. They obediently followed his gesture, then snapped their attention back to him as he continued. “We’ve got a couple of things booked in while we’re here, so I was thinking of grabbing us a few motel rooms–”
His tone was questioning enough that the trio immediately answered with enthusiastic nods.
“Perfect,” Mark sighed, relieved. “I’ll get our rooms organised, then I’m going to crash for a few hours. We’ll regroup over lunch and I’ll fill you in on the schedule. Our first thing is around dinner time.”
His tired eyes fell shut as he recited the schedule from memory. Once he’d finished, the ghost hunters eagerly sang their thanks, Adelaide even giving him an affectionate pat on the arm as they did.
“I’ll be right back,” he promised, stopping at the door of the bus to look back at them over his shoulder. “Then I’m gonna sleep so fucking hard.”
Isaac opened his eyes slowly, awoken by the sounds of his co-stars shuffling and rummaging through their suitcases. He lifted himself up onto his elbows to look around the motel room, finding them both standing over Beau’s double bed with their open bags strewn across it.
He rubbed his sleep-encrusted eyes with one hand while the other fumbled for his phone where it lay charging. He groaned under his breath when he saw the time; he hadn’t napped for nearly as long as he’d wanted to.
“How are you both up already?” He mumbled, finally drawing their attention to him.
Adelaide, who had been hunched over her bags, stood upright by Beau’s side. His towering posture made her look even tinier than usual, and the thought briefly passed Isaac’s mind that finally their fans were getting to witness this as well. He smiled internally, his body too tired to stretch his lips beyond its usual flat line.
“We already napped before lunch,” she pointed out matter-of-factly. “So some of us have been getting ready for the photoshoot tonight. Are you getting up any time soon?”
Isaac fell back onto the mattress with a thump and stared at the ceiling. Their first photoshoot. Mark had given them the details over lunch, which had been quite a late one, after all four of them decided they wanted a little extra sleep in the luxury of normal-sized motel beds. They would be meeting for a quick dinner on their way to a photographer’s studio, where they’d be taking new promotional shots for their first season launching on Webflix.
If Isaac remembered correctly, Mark had just told them to wash up and dress like they would during an investigation, so he couldn’t fathom why they’d need so much time to get ready.
“I won’t take long,” he retorted. “So I can afford to sleep a little longer. You made me drink so much last night, don’t you feel guilty at all?”
Adelaide laughed dryly as she unfolded and flapped out a t-shirt from her bag. “Funnily enough, no I don’t. Last night was just one of a thousand times you owe me, so. Expect more of them.”
Isaac groaned dramatically as he swung his legs off the edge of the bed and heaved himself to his feet. Adelaide shot him a devilish grin, the kind she made when she thought she’d won. He glared at her and wandered to the bathroom.
When he finished his shower and stepped back into their room, Adelaide was gone. Suddenly alone in the room with Beau, he subconsciously pulled his bathrobe tighter around himself and hastened over to his bag to find some clothes. The thought of another man’s eyes on him, even someone he’d known as long as Beau, made his skin tingle.
“Where is…?” He started, lifting Beau’s attention from his Kindle.
“Servo’, around the corner,” Beau replied as he set the device down in his lap. “I think she said something about Red Bull.”
Isaac nodded as he found a black denim button-up with short, cuffed sleeves. It looked thin enough to get him through a warm summer evening, just like one they’d spent investigating abandoned buildings back home. He laid it down and looked for pants.
“Where are you at?” He asked next. “All ready for the shoot?”
Beau tapped a finger restlessly against the edge of the e-reader. “Almost,” he said quietly.
Isaac wasn’t surprised that he was nervous, but he had no doubts he’d pull through in the end; he looked well put-together, and the fans would surely be excited for any kind of hi-resolution content of him.
Beau threw a glance at the door as he added, “I’m just waiting for Adelaide to help buzz my hair. It’s getting a bit long and uneven, and I really want to fix it before we…”
Isaac stood up straight with his clothes bundled in his arms, having decided on a rugged pair of slim-fit jeans and his favourite cross-body fanny pack for a pop of colour. He followed Beau’s gaze to the door, then looked back at his roadie.
“I mean, I can do it,” he frowned. Beau looked at him with raised, surprised brows, but Isaac quickly turned to go and get dressed in the privacy of the bathroom. “I’ve never shaved a head before, but it’s not that complicated, right?” he asked over his shoulder.
“Not really,” he heard Beau faintly reply.
Isaac faced himself in the mirror and rubbed the crease between his brow, willing his inevitable frown lines away. He didn’t know why he felt the need to offer, but something about Beau always turning to Adelaide for this kind of thing made him feel petulant.
He knew he had no right to be. After all, Isaac and Adelaide were closer than anyone. It wasn’t jealousy, and he didn’t feel like Adelaide was being taken from him. If anything, he was glad that Beau was finally responding to the many attempts Adelaide had been making to further their friendship all these years.
Something inside Isaac just wanted to prove to Beau, and to himself, that he could do casual Guy Stuff too.
Beau was still sitting in the armchair by the door when he emerged from the bathroom, this time fully dressed, his fanny pack strapped diagonally over his chest. He nodded his head towards the bathroom, and Beau stood right away.
“Should we go outside?” Beau asked with a gesture at the door, and Isaac squinted when he noticed more nervous fidgeting.
Once the question sunk in, he sighed tiredly. “No, you’ll have to sit down so I can reach. We’ll do it in the bathroom, otherwise the asphalt will fuck up your knees.”
Beau chuckled as he picked up his electric razor and approached the bathroom. “How tall do you think I am?” he grinned.
“6’7” exactly,” Isaac replied with a straight face. “We measured, remember?” He was pleased that Beau recognised his barely-discernible joking tone and grinned a little wider at him.
The roadie stepped into the bathroom and Isaac followed right behind. When Beau stopped in the middle of the room to turn and face him, Isaac immediately dropped his gaze to take the razor from his hands. He fumbled with the voltage converter as he plugged it into the wall, and when he turned back to his friend, Beau was already down on his knees.
Isaac did not consider himself an anxious person, but if there was anything that could wrap a vice around his stomach and pull a knot in his throat, it was that very sight before him. His thoughts began to tangle together as he stood frozen in front of his friend, their eyes locked.
“Reckon you can reach now?” Beau laughed, thankfully oblivious to the tightening of the grip around Isaac’s insides.
He swallowed and forced out a short laugh, averting his gaze from his friend and that ridiculously suggestive pose he sat in.
Why did he offer to do this again?
Why were men so fucking beautiful?
Isaac swayed backwards, leaning his hips against the basin. “Should be fine,” he said simply, then switched the razor on. It roared to life in his hand and the intensity of the vibrations down his arm did little to help how suddenly weak and shaky he felt inside.
“Wait,” Beau laughed again, leaning back and holding his hands up in front of himself. “I was kinda just joking. We can pick a more comfortable spot if you want.”
Isaac shrugged and swallowed another quickly forming lump in his throat – he needed to get this over with already, he needed to stop looking at his straight friend this way. But Beau just shook his head, then twisted to reach for the toilet behind him, shutting the lid.
“Maybe sit here? Don’t wanna get a crick in your neck.”
Isaac didn’t want to delay any further, so he scooted past him and sat down as he was told.
His eyes widened when Beau shuffled backwards and nestled himself between Isaac’s legs. More anxious heat bloomed from where his thighs connected with Beau’s broad shoulders, biting at him like sunburn. The tingling in his skin returned, but this time it travelled all the way up his legs and settled uncomfortably in his groin.
He went to pull back and adjust his posture, but froze when Beau’s shoulders tensed and his head dipped down. Had he noticed Isaac’s trepidation? Was he being… What did Adelaide call it? Prickly, again?
Isaac took a deep breath to prepare himself, then reached out to lay his free hand atop Beau’s head, in an attempt to counteract the tense vibes he was putting out. Beau seemed to startle at the touch, but his shoulders relaxed as he settled into his palm.
Meanwhile, Isaac’s tense stomach, burning limbs, and prickly skin all dissolved into one big wave of warmth when his fingers threaded between Beau’s dreadlocks. The way the buzzing razor had begun to numb his fingers went completely unnoticed while he leant into the texture of Beau’s hair against his fingertips and the heat that emanated from his scalp. The knot in his throat swelled for a completely different reason now, and he made an attempt at swallowing it before finally pressing the razor against his friend’s temple.
Beau’s preferred guard was already attached to the end of the razor, leaving an extremely short layer of fuzz wherever Isaac shaved. Without thinking, Isaac moved his free hand to brush his thumb against his temple, swiping as if he were dusting off a collection of hair. There was nothing there; he just desperately needed to feel the soft yet somehow sharp texture against his skin.
Isaac squeezed his eyes shut and tore his hand away to continue shaving the right side of his head. This wasn’t the time or place to get touchy-feely, and he couldn’t let himself buckle so easily under such an innocent kind of touch.
He followed the curve of his ear, going over his hairline a few times to make sure it was even and smooth. Beau automatically tilted his head forward when he felt the razor nearing the nape of his neck, and Isaac sucked in another sharp breath at the sight of his neck and shoulder muscles stretching where they connected. The warmth in his veins slowly turned to heat, slowly dripped down his body until it was pooling in his gut.
This is exactly what he was trying to avoid.
‘I’m so fucking repressed,’ he thought bitterly to himself, as he ran the razor up the curve of Beau’s skull.
‘I need to get laid.’
He tried to disguise his sigh as a calm exhale as he buzzed off the feathery strands of hair at the nape of his neck. ‘Maybe then I’ll stop setting myself on fire every time guys even get near me.’
Beau shifted in place when the razor moved towards the left side of his head, turning his whole body so he could give Isaac better access. He kept his arms drawn in closely to himself, like he was trying to avoid being touched… Or perhaps he was avoiding touching Isaac. They’d been friends for a long time and Beau was an observant guy, plus Isaac wasn’t exactly subtle in the way he avoided affection with other men. He must have thought Isaac just hated being touched in general.
‘Oh, sweet Beau,’ Isaac set his teeth around his tongue piercing to hold back another sigh. ‘He probably thinks I hate him.’
He returned his hand to Beau’s head, this time cupping his forehead so his head could lean into his palm as Isaac positioned him. He watched Beau’s eyes slip shut as he relaxed a little further, dropping more of his weight into Isaac’s hand.
‘Don’t worry,’ he thought as he released his piercing and sucked his lower lip into his mouth instead. He used his thumb to hold his dreadlocks back, then began to run the corner of the razor along the edge of his buzzcut. ‘Maybe out here, where no one knows me, I’ll find myself a boyfriend.
‘Maybe once I have someone of my own, and start getting this out of my system, I’ll stop flinching every time you touch me.’