The bathroom was empty, and Liam thanked his lucky stars. He made his way to his favorite shower stall, last in the row, and pulled the curtain behind him. The bench in the little changing area was dry, so he placed his clean clothes on it, and hung his towel on the hook. Liam shucked his clothes and turned on the water, the sound echoing in the tiled bathroom, as he waited a few moments for it to come up to temperature before stepping in.
Immediately, Liam sighed. The water was hot and relaxing, and he was glad he’d decided to shower now, in the middle of the afternoon, when there was nobody else around. He had the whole bathroom to himself, which almost never happened. Usually the times Liam was free, the bathroom was teeming with underclassmen. He relished the time alone.
As the surprisingly good water pressure eased the knots out of his shoulders, Liam soaped himself up and washed his hair. He stood there, letting the water rush over his body for longer than necessary and after a couple of minutes, he decided to relax further. He slid a hand down to his groin and palmed his dick, then began stroking.
He let his mind wander to his go-to jerk-off scenes, mostly images from porn he’d mentally filed away for later. Sweat, fingers pressing into flesh, teeth digging into tender places. He pulled up mental images of breasts, legs, asses. Nothing was doing it for him though.
His thoughts jumped to what Shane and Ari were doing after all, then steered himself aggressively in another direction. Ari was his roommate for Christ’s sake. Shane was in his band. It was just fucking weird.
Liam leaned back on the shower wall and dropped his head against the thick plastic divider between stalls, eyes closed. It figured. Too much pot, too much stress, too much on his mind. Way too tired. Way too tired. He sighed and gave up. Just his luck he couldn’t get anything to happen on the rare occasion he was alone and needed to relax.
He gave up on the shower, turning off the water then toweling off. He’d brought a button-down plaid shirt and skintight jeans, which he tugged on to his damp skin with some effort. He planned to wear this particular outfit to the show tonight, and didn’t want to have to go through the effort of changing again.
All clean, dry, and changed, Liam headed back to his room. He gave the courtesy double-knock he and Ari had agreed on before he walked in, hoping Ari and his boyfriend Shane hadn’t taken advantage of his disappearance to have sex. It happened sometimes, and there was nothing worse than coming back to catch them hastily putting clothes on, or to find the room smelling of sweat and cum.
Liam found them exactly as he’d left them, snuggling on Ari’s bed, watching videos on someone’s phone. He felt a pang in his gut.
“Hey guys,” he said, barely able to conceal his grumpiness. He shut the door and dumped his things onto the dirty clothes pile on the floor.
“Hey,” they said in unison, barely seeming to register his presence.
Liam debated lighting up a joint as he climbed back onto his bed. It would certainly improve his mood, but Ellie would be likely to kill him if she found out he’d been getting high before a show. Liam played lead guitar for indie-rock band Young Spades, and Shane was the lead singer. Ari had become their number-one groupie, and appeared front-row at every show to cheer them on, or perched backstage waiting to tell Shane how fantastic he sounded. They’d only been dating about six months, but Ari had become a fixture at their concerts. Liam didn’t mind—Ari was the best roommate he’d had, and he’d gone through a few during his freshman and sophomore years.
He thought about lighting up again, and sighed. It wasn’t even worth it. Shane in particular took serious offense to anyone smoking anything around him. Liam understood—Shane had lost his mom as a kid to lung cancer, and truth be told, he’d almost not dated Ari because of cigarettes. He sighed again. This wasn’t the mood he wanted to be in hours before a performance.
“What’s going on?” Ari asked, after a minute or so of silence from Liam.
Liam shrugged. “Just not in the mood today, I guess.” He lay down, kicking his backpack to the floor, unconcerned about the books and notebooks inside.
The truth was, he’d started to realize it was his senior year, and he’d done almost nothing except get high, play video games, and join a band. Not that the band was nothing—it was great, and they were planning to move to LA once he graduated. But it felt like not much today. He wanted something more.
Probably living with Ari, seeing him happily snuggling with Shane every moment they weren’t in class or working, wasn’t helping. It couldn’t be good to be surrounded by that lovey-dovey cheer all the time, could it? Maybe that was it—maybe he just wished he had a girlfriend or something.
Ari picked up on his doom-and-gloom mood. “You wanna play some video games before your show?”
“Nah, man, I’m good,” Liam said, even though he knew he needed some cheering up. Instead, he was tempted to take a nap. Getting off wasn’t an option so maybe getting some sleep would help.
Actually, what he needed to do was pick up his guitar and run through a few songs. They’d recently added to their lineup, and while they hadn’t taken the full summer off, they had definitely played fewer shows. He worried a little about getting rusty, if not on the instrument then at least on the tunes themselves.
“Mind if I practice a little?”
“Go right ahead,” Ari said.
At that, Shane sat up. “I’ll join you.”
“Aww,” Ari protested. “You left me.”
Shane smiled warmly and kissed Ari. “I’ll come back,” he promised when they parted.
Liam fought the urge to roll his eyes, grabbed his guitar from its stand, and crossed his legs on the bed. Playing guitar always lifted his mood, and Shane chiming in with his vocals didn’t hurt. After a while, he did feel better, ready to put the weird cloud over his head behind him, and kick ass at the show.
Jack lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He was going to get up early the next morning and hike to see if he could take some good photos of birds for his class in the morning light, he decided. His phone buzzed.
“Yeah?” he said by way of an answer, without looking to see who was calling.
“What are you doing tonight?” asked the voice on the other end. He recognized it instantly, one of only two people who ever called him. The other was his granddad, the only person in his family who gave a shit about him.
“Liv, we are literally roommates. You could have waited until you got home to ask me that.”
“Fuck you. Now what are you doing tonight?”
“Nothing, really. I’m going hiking tomorrow with my camera so I’m going to bed early.”
“Not anymore. We’re going out.”
Normally he was up for just about anything, but he’d really had his heart set on getting those shots before his Saturday got too far along. “Do I have to?”
“Young Spades is playing. I’ve been meaning to get to a show for ages. I think you’ll like them. And the drummer is hot, so I want to see if I can get her number.”
“Of course you do. And hey, I’m happy you’re over your ex, but why does that mean I’ve gotta play wingman?”
“You’re my best friend. It’s what best friends do.”
“Listen, you’ve only been out for, what, three years? You’ve hardly hooked up with anyone in months, and you’ve never bothered to have a boyfriend. Have fun. Loosen up.”
“I have fun. I sleep around when I want to get off with someone. I don’t have time for a boyfriend. I’m busy. I wanna build my portfolio so I can get a decent freelance job when I graduate.”
“Photography is great, but have you even had sex before, John Wayne?”
“Fuck you. Keep my real name out of this.”
She laughed—cackled really. “Just because you’re moving literally a bazillion miles away once school ends next semester, doesn’t mean you have to live a cloistered life now. So what time can you be ready to leave? I’m going to work in the art studio until I have to pick you up.”
Jack sighed. “Okay, fine.” He knew he wasn’t going to win this battle, so it was better to give in now than to argue. “What time’s the show?”
“Oh, God. Nine? Really?” He had zero chance of getting to bed early enough to go hiking the next morning. Not if the show started at nine.
“Yes, grandpa, and you’re going.”
“Hey, my granddad stays up late, like a normal college kid, thank you very much. Come home whenever, eight maybe?”
She snorted. “Sure thing. See you then!” The phone disconnected.
Jack lay there another minute. Young Spades. He’d heard of them, but he didn’t know much about the band. They’d even played at the spring music festival on campus last semester, but Jack never bothered going to those things. His taste in music was pretty terrible by any reasonable standard, so he knew he’d probably hate them, but if it made Liv happy, he’d go. Despite the fact that they shared an apartment and were best friends, they didn’t get much time together, considering they both spent a lot of time with their respective art projects. He didn’t mind sacrificing a single plan of his own to make her happy. Not really, anyway.
In the meantime, he could work on editing some shots he’d taken during the week. Jack grabbed his laptop and camera and transferred the images to his computer, then set to work.
He’d taken some shots around campus, mostly candids of unsuspecting students, because he hadn’t really had time to get out and do much else. The first week of school was usually pretty laid-back, but now that he was a senior, it seemed his professors were determined to make the classes challenging.
The time slipped by, and before Jack knew it, Liv was barging into his room without knocking—as usual. She planted herself at the foot of his bed and stared at him.
“I’m never done. You should know that, you’re an artist.” Jack saved his work and set his laptop aside.
“So, you ready?”
Jack glanced at the clock on his laptop. It was significantly later than he expected. “Not exactly.”
He closed his laptop and took it to his desk, then began rummaging in his closet for something reasonable to wear. Eventually he settled on a pair of comfortable jeans and a plain black t-shirt. He slipped his sneakers on, grabbed his camera, and stuffed it into its bag.
“You’re taking your camera?”
“When do I not take my camera?”
“Good point. Now are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be.”
Liv grinned. “Perfect.”