25. Wardrobe Malfunction
It was their first convention they were attending as mere guests, with an unofficial meetup planned for the afternoon. Even though they had no scheduling obligations for the convention itself, all three of the ghost hunters leapt at the opportunity to arrive as the doors opened and explore as much of the show floor as they could.
The official shops and vendor booths were dazzling, but when Mark announced his plans to wander off somewhere else, Beau took the opportunity to split from the group as well. He beelined straight for the artists’ alley, keeping a keen eye out for the two girls who bumped into him that morning.
The “alley” actually turned out to be a huge pavilion separated from the rest of the vendors, lined from end to end with rows of tables and booths. It was cut into sections for crafts and handmade items, clothing, indie projects, and fan art– and as soon as he stepped into the first row of fan art tables, he spotted that vibrant pink and green hair from a mile away.
The girls jumped at the opportunity to take a second photo with him, now that Beau was clean and dressed and not breathless from his run. He stood by and chatted for a few minutes, learning about how they met and had tabled together at several conventions before this one, and how they’d bonded over their shared interest in Paranomads. Everything at the table was jaw dropping to Beau, from the art prints of anime characters he didn’t recognise, to the highly detailed pins and buttons with drawings of Adelaide and Isaac and well known quotes from their show.
He bought a bundle of things before he left, including gifts for Adelaide and Isaac, then finally tore himself away to explore what the rest of the alley had to offer.
It was well past lunch time when he got a text from Adelaide, trying to coordinate them to meet for food. Beau was touting a colourful, caffeinated drink from an anime themed pop-up cafe, but had yet to eat anything of substance. He tucked the drink into the crook of his elbow so he could type out a reply with his spare hand, as he stepped out of the pavilion and into the fresh air.
“There you a–!”
Beau heard Adelaide’s voice right as he felt someone collide with his shoulder. His cup crumpled and the lid went flying, sending the rainbow liquid spilling everywhere as it toppled out of his arms.
Everyone froze, and Beau looked up from his phone to see Adelaide, Mark and Isaac right in front of him. His host stood directly in his path, rubbing his shoulder where they’d bumped into each other, while looking down at the sopping mess that was the front of his shirt.
“I’m so sorry! I was replying to your text!” Beau scrambled to hike his shopping bags further up his arm so he could bend down to pick up the toppled cup and stop it from dripping any more liquid onto their shoes. He was unscathed for the most part, but Isaac looked completely drenched.
“No, it’s fine – I wasn’t looking either…”
He looked frustrated, but calmly so, like he’d already accepted his fate.
Isaac pinched the front of his shirt and held it out from him to keep the wet fabric off his skin. He turned back to Mark and winced, “Are there shirt vendors here? I really don’t need one, but…”
“Oh…!” Beau exclaimed and looked down at his waist, where he had a long sleeved flannel tied around his hips. He definitely didn’t need the extra layer in the hot summer sun, but he had come to like the style, and always kept a shirt or hoodie around his waist for the aesthetic.
“Save your money,” he said as he untied the shirt and held it out for him. His host eyed it then grabbed it eagerly, shooting Beau a wide eyed, thankful look.
“Where’s a bathroom?” Isaac asked.
Beau jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “I saw a pretty dead one in the corner, I’ll show you.”
The two turned to leave, waving a hand at Adelaide and Mark before they did. Adelaide shouted after them, “We’ll meet you at the food trucks after!” before crossing her arms and exhaling a sigh at her friends’ clumsiness.
Beau hurried along with his flannel bundled up in one hand, leaving Isaac’s hands free to hold the wet cloth away from himself. He stuck close to his roadie so Beau could clear a confident path through the crowds of shoppers and cosplayers, eventually turning a corner to find a bathroom that few others seemed to notice.
Beau held the door for him and they entered together. As soon as the door shut behind them the bustling noise of the convention muffled, leaving them in peaceful silence.
“I’m so sorry,” Beau said again, more quietly this time as Isaac walked to the sinks. He froze when Isaac grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head without hesitation.
“Hmm, what was that?” Isaac asked, turning to look at him.
Beau stood two sinks away with the flannel held limp at his side. When he met Beau’s eye, Isaac fell silent and his face dropped, seeming to realise the position he’d put himself in.
His fingers fumbled in the crumpled, damp mess of his old shirt, fidgeting with the hem before finally tearing his eyes away to fetch some paper towels from the dispenser. Beau shook his head at himself, trying to break out of his stupor and respond to the question he’d been asked.
“I was just… apologising again. This must be really annoying,” he tried, taking another step forward and facing himself in the mirror over the sinks.
Isaac glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, then looked back down to continue wiping his chest.
Beau’s gaze faltered, eventually dropping from his own reflection to looking down at Isaac’s. He watched his face at first, watched the concentration that creased his brow as he patted his skin and dried himself. Then his eyes wandered further, following the flow of his shoulders, down his arms, to where his hands gently rubbed the towel over his chest.
Without pause or hesitation, he ran the towel from his ribs down to his stomach, sliding it over the curve of his hip bones. Beau’s drink had really done a number on him, and made the skin of his navel glisten under the fluorescent bathroom lights. As he dabbed the cloth across himself, his fingers dipped and pressed with gentle pressure, which only accentuated the curve of his hips that beckoned Beau’s eyeline to wander lower.
Heat filled his face and flushed his neck as he stared, unable to tear his eyes away from Isaac’s skin. He was pale but smooth, with little bulk or definition. Though he was short and slender, Beau ached to know how well those hips would fit between his hands.
Because, fuck. Everything pointed to Isaac being gay. The conversation he’d overheard, the bluetooth disaster that he’d almost completely forgotten about until now… Of course he was thinking about that now, about Isaac watching bear/twink porn in secret, Isaac writhing and touching himself mere feet from where Beau slept.
He took a deep breath and fought to shift the direction of his thoughts and stifle the hardness that threatened to grow in his jeans.
There was something more important to consider:
If Isaac were gay, then what did Beau have to be afraid of?
That was the thought that sent the sharpest pain to Beau’s chest. He was grateful for his dark complexion that hid his blush, but he still felt the heat rising to the top of his ears, burning in his throat, as he stared at Isaac’s hips and wondered if he should just confess, potentially ending all of this pain and secrecy right now.
Beau squeezed his eyes shut when he realised himself. He quickly lifted his gaze again, back up to Isaac’s face. But the colour drained from his own when he found Isaac looking right back at him.
How long had he been staring?
He opened his mouth to say something, but panic flooded his brain and turned his thoughts to inaudible screeching that made it difficult to remember how to speak. Besides– Isaac wasn’t speaking either, he was just… Looking.
Suddenly, Isaac’s lips parted and he pressed the flat of his tongue out, capturing his piercing between his teeth. The heat that filled Beau’s throat shot straight down to his groin again.
“Um–” he stammered, awkwardly holding the flannel out for Isaac to take, having no idea how long his host had been waiting for it. But Isaac kept his eyes up, kept looking at Beau through the reflection, before slowly turning to face him.
Beau instinctively turned to look at him in person, and no matter how hard he fought it, he couldn’t resist flickering his eyes downwards again. He was so close. When did they become so close?
Isaac reached out to touch the flannel, grasping the fabric between his fingers, but he didn’t take it. Not yet.
“Thank you,” he said quietly, still locked onto Beau’s eye. Beau frantically searched his gaze to figure out what emotion was on his face, what this stare could possibly mean, but he came back clueless. He just stared back, nodding shortly.
Isaac finally pulled the flannel out of his grip, then flourished it out so he could slip it on over his shoulders. He didn’t move, just stayed standing mere inches from his roadie as he pulled the fabric over his shoulders.
Beau swallowed the lump in his throat as Isaac dropped his head and started doing up the buttons from the very bottom. It fell open at his collar, exposing his smooth chest and collarbone as he gently worked on the buttons. Why was Isaac putting clothes on so attractive?
Isaac’s fingers paused about half way up, and Beau only just noticed when he heard him gently exhale. He looked down to find the source of his hesitation, then realised what his host’s gaze was aimed at, what his head was turned down to.
Beau cleared his throat and adjusted his grip on his shopping bags, holding them in front of himself. In front of his growing erection.
His hopes that Isaac maybe hadn’t seen it were shattered when Isaac glanced up at him, his head still down so his gaze filtered up through his lashes. His expression didn’t change, but he took in another slow breath before continuing with his buttons.
The air in the room felt thin as Isaac approached his collar, never breaking eye contact with Beau all the while. Beau thought he was going to explode, then when Isaac finished and brushed the wrinkles from the front of his shirt, a different kind of heat filled his chest when his host stood back and inspected himself.
The flannel hung loose from his shoulders, the sleeves completely encased his hands. It was beyond cute, beyond ‘boyfriend shirt’, but it still filled Beau’s heart with a primal, possessive heat he hadn’t expected himself to be capable of feeling.
“I’m going to be honest,” Isaac said quietly as he turned to face the mirror and bundled up his wet v-neck. Beau froze, terrified of what direction this would go in.
But Isaac continued, “I was planning on ditching lunch to go nap on the bus. I think I’m done with shopping for the day…”
Beau let out a sigh of relief and nodded, once again looking at Isaac through the mirror. His host glanced at him, before giving his ruined shirt a final squeeze over the sink.
“You don’t mind?”
Beau shook his head, his mouth too dry to talk.
“I-I’m sorry to bail. I already told Adelaide I wanted to–”
“It’s fine,” Beau finally managed. Isaac stopped and nodded at him, then averted his gaze back to his feet.
“I’ll walk back with you…” He said quietly, and Beau simply nodded in response.
They made for the bathroom door together, silent and close like they had arrived, but with an entirely different air between them.