The opossum scare worked brilliantly for both Beau and the show. Over the next two nights they spent sleeping on the property and exploring the ins and outs of the bar, they were able to disprove most of their encounters as wildlife behaviour. They sourced most of the strange sounds they heard, and reviewed all of their footage each morning to check for any further EVPs. Some of the electro-magnetic phenomena raised a brow or two, but they didn’t find anything decisive beyond it. Beau was sure it would be a fun episode to divide the fans.
Meanwhile, Isaac physically revolted from Beau when he returned from handling a wild animal. He kept staring at Beau’s hands with a horrified look, and only hovered over him until he was sure he’d washed his hands and checked for any cuts or scrapings. Once they got through their first night, Isaac kept his distance, and Beau only ever caught him looking with a suspicious squint on his face.
He never would have imagined that Isaac’s distaste for germs would be what put some distance between them, but he was grateful his heart finally had some room to breathe.
When they wrapped the episode and packed everything back onto the bus, Mark stopped to buy them a bottle of champagne before he had them on the road again. They drove for eight straight hours to their next convention location, and spent most of it in total silence. Beau managed to steal less than an hour of sleep before he gave up and immersed himself in a new book; Adelaide nodded her head to music playing through her headphones as she fixated on a coding issue that had arisen on their website; while Isaac poured over their footage, backing everything up across their multiple external harddrives, and importing the files into his editing software.
They arrived in a large, sprawling town around dinner time, right before the sun began to set. Adelaide and Isaac ventured off the bus to explore the local bars and restaurants while stretching their legs, but Beau joined Mark in the bunks to catch as much sleep as possible before their next big day.
When he finally awoke the next morning, feeling surprisingly chipper after an entire day on a bus, daylight had only just begun to break. He crept out of his bunk as quietly as possible, desperate to stretch his legs and enjoy some fresh air now that he’d had some proper rest.
Beau set his bare feet down on the asphalt and a cool chill ran all the way up his spine. The ground was cold and slightly damp, untouched by the harsh sunlight that would soon flood the sky. The air was warm despite the early hour, and Beau knew right away that it was a perfect morning for a jog.
No matter how little sleep he got, how often he awoke and tossed under his thin sheets, Beau could always count on feeling alive by the end of a good run. He was wide awake by the time he stopped to rest at a cafe across from the convention centre, which he’d run laps around to check out the venue before any of the volunteers and staff arrived.
He stopped to lean against the wall outside the coffee shop, taking a moment to catch his breath before he would go inside. He figured he could stop for a smoothie, then pick up a coffee order for his coworkers, and still have time to walk it back to the tour bus before they were scheduled to leave for breakfast. As he took out his headphones and ran through the options in his mind, trying to figure out what drink he was in the mood for, the doorbell rang and two young women stepped outside.
He instinctively moved further down the wall, away from the door to give them room to leave with their drinks. But he froze when they stopped in their tracks and looked at him like they’d seen a ghost.
Though they were wildly different heights and weights from each other, the girls matched perfectly with their outfits. They both wore faded blue jeans and varsity-style baseball tees, their chests covered in pins and badges that glinted in the early morning light. The taller girl had long green hair that was pinned back into a ponytail, while the shorter one had fuschia curls that matched her friend in its intensity.
“Beau?!” They exclaimed in unison.
Beau froze, startled by the recognition.
“From Paranomads?” The pink haired girl beamed.
“I-I, wow–” he stammered, before finally easing into a shy smile. “You know who I am?”
Greenie grinned so wide it might have split her face in half, then did an excited little jig on the spot. “Of course we do!” she exclaimed, then suddenly pulled her companion along with her to get out of the doorway of the bustling cafe. “I can’t believe we’ve bumped into you here! Can we get a picture with you?”
Beau felt himself flustering, completely unprepared for such an experience so soon. “Yeah, of course,” he eventually mustered, fighting to speak through the grin that had made its way onto his face.
He paused as the girls pulled out their phones, then grimaced at himself. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sweaty–”
“Dude, it’s fine,” pinkie assured him, while greenie jokingly fanned her own face while smirking at him. “I didn’t know you ran?”
Fair, he thought. People knew very little about him at all. He didn’t expect there’d be people who wanted to know more.
“Um, wanna get the convention in the background?” he suddenly thought aloud, which lit their eyes up with excitement. They nodded their agreement, then the three of them positioned themselves on the pavement so the huge centre across the road was in the background of their shot. Each girl stood on either side of him, and he bent down to fit more comfortably in the frame with them.
He felt a swelling of joy in his chest when he glanced at the screen of their phones, seeing the genuine excitement in their faces as they posed with him.
Once the photos were finished, Beau learned their names were Abigail (greenie) and Sam (pinkie), and they were out so early to set up their table in the artist alley. They even offered to buy Beau his coffee that morning, but they thankfully accepted his refusal and didn’t push it any further– he didn’t want to be a burden to these people he’d just met, no matter how keen they seemed to be.
Instead, he promised to swing by the alley in hopes of finding their shop, which put them into another state of nervous, excited grinning. He was grateful their appearances would be so easy to remember, and silently repeated their names to himself as he finally stepped inside and approached the counter to order.
By the time he’d finished his smoothie at a table outside the cafe’s front window, the sweat on his brow had dried, and it was getting closer to their scheduled breakfast date. He hurriedly put in a coffee order for his co-stars so he’d have something to bring back to them.
Though he had to walk all the way so he wouldn’t spill the drinks, he was feeling thoroughly invigorated by the time he arrived back at the bus. He’d had such a pleasant morning and figured he’d be riding the high from bumping into those fans all day.
When he set foot into their car park, he spotted Mark making his way away from the bus. He stopped him just in time to hand him his coffee (and a few sugar packets in case he needed them), then wandered up to the door of the bus. It was ajar, but before he was able to pull it open further, one of the sugars slipped off the take away tray and landed on the asphalt in front of him.
He paused and knelt down to pick it up, being careful to balance the coffee as he did. By the time he rose back to his feet, he realised he could hear voices from inside the bus.
Beau didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but the words he heard froze him in place immediately.
“...out with me?”
Beau took a slow, deep breath, his veins turning to ice at the sound of Isaac’s question.
Beau’s eyes slipped shut. ‘Yes, please, can you repeat that?’ he pleaded to himself.
There was a pause, a shuffling of feet, then Isaac spoke again. “Why not? Go out with me. Everyone thinks we should, anyway.”
Eyes still shut, Beau’s brow furrowed and his breath hitched. A sharp pain panged in his chest and his grip tightened on his coffee tray. What?
All their teasing, the shallow fights, the just friends reassurances, Beau had never expected the two to actually have that kind of connection.
Had he misread their friendship the entire time?
But then Adelaide huffed, sounding angry. “What the hell, Isaac? And how do you think Dana would feel about that?”
Isaac replied before Beau had the chance to wonder who that was. “She’ll understand,” he pleaded. “You can tell her it’s not real–”
“I’m not going to be your beard full fucking time, Isaac,” Adelaide snapped. “I’ll do this for your family like you do for mine. But think before you speak, please?”
Beau’s eyes fluttered open and another breath caught in his throat. Be his what? Didn’t that mean…?
“What’s the difference?” Isaac asked, his voice quieter now. “Whether it’s my parents or yours, or the whole fucking world–”
“The difference is that I’m not afraid to tell people I’m gay,” she responded quietly, but harshly. “My business is my own, that’s all. But I’m not about to lie to hide it.”
Beau’s head started to spin as the word gay left Adelaide’s lips, his knees going weak when Isaac remained silent after the accusation. His mouth fell open, struggling for air as he comprehended what he’d just overheard.
Finally, Isaac spoke again, his voice soft. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, only just loud enough for Beau to hear. “I just thought…”
“Let’s not do this now,” Adelaide interrupted. “I promised you we’d find a cool gay bar in a safe neighbourhood, remember? We’ll get you out of your shell a little bit. At least hold off on fake-dating girls until then, okay?”
Beau steeled himself as they chuckled together, then stomped his foot down on the asphalt. He stomped once more to make it sound like an approaching footstep, then pulled the door open enough that it clanged against the outside of the bus.
He took the steel steps into the bus slowly, and by the time he emerged aboard, Adelaide was sitting at the table with her phone casually in her hand, while Isaac pretended to rummage for something in the fridge. His loud entrance had worked, giving them enough warning to pose naturally and think their conversation had slipped by undetected.
“G’morning,” he greeted. “I brought coffee back from my run. How’d yous sleep?” He tried his best to swallow down the nerves that threatened to block his throat as he approached the table with their coffee.
Isaac glanced up at him, clearly shaken by his presence, but Beau threw him a quick, unassuming smile like he hadn’t heard a thing. It clearly wasn’t his business to know. Good god, it would be running through his head all day, but he couldn’t let this be the way Isaac came out to him. He would do this best to feign ignorance until he figured out the best way to approach this, and hopefully he wouldn’t be pretending for long…
Adelaide beamed at him and reached both hands out for her cup. “Thanks boo!” she exclaimed as he pulled out her coffee and handed it to her. “It was fine, just woke up, really. How was your run?”
“It was good. Here,” he interrupted himself to hand Isaac his, and waited as his host carefully reached out to take it. “I actually bumped into some fans who recognised me, it was nuts.”
When Beau made it clear that he hadn’t heard a thing, that the conversation would carry on as normal, Isaac started to relax. He leant against the kitchen counter as they sipped their coffees and Beau filled them in on his exciting encounter. He grinned and told them every detail he could remember, but the glint of excitement in his eye was just for show as his mind reeled from Isaac’s rejected proposal.