Author: Guede Mazaka
Galahad willed his penlight to be brighter and squinted at the diagram on the page. Okay, so if he wanted to write a modeling program that included a feedback loop for—
Shit. He nearly dropped the pen and textbook on the control board. Then he looked over the edge to see the stage manager—some redhead he vaguely remembered from a party back when he and Gawain had first arrived—glaring at him. She’d been a lot more friendly back then, but now…man. Scary. He dumped the book before she decided to charge upstairs, took a look at the stage, and cued up the lights. “How the hell do I get talked into this shit?”
“Kitty informed you that with dress rehearsals looming, she had no way to review and okay your computer lab time unless she got some help?” said somebody from behind Galahad.
This time Galahad slammed his knees into the underside of the board from jumping in surprise. He sat back down hard, hissing, and hastily flicked on the next set of cues. Then he slewed around to deliver his own death-glare to Tristan. “What are you doing here?”
“She always guilt-trips Arthur into asking me if I can help out with the make-up and special effects. I don’t have too much to do right now, and Gawain said to make sure you didn’t come home twitchy,” Tristan replied. He pulled out the chair next to Gawain, sat down, and stared up at the ceiling. He probably had owls or bats or something hidden up there.
“Twitchy? Did he actually say that?” Galahad spotted a packet of paper sticking out from the corner and picked it up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the annotated script. He tossed it over his shoulder and poked around some more. “She already approved my computer lab time. What she’s got to approve is the models I’m going to be running during it. Which I still have to finish writing code for, and which isn’t going to get done because—”
Paper rustled. When Galahad looked up, he found Tristan calmly shoving up the floodlights and dimming the back ones, getting the sound controls with his elbow…he really was disgusting sometimes. He paused to hand Galahad the stage directions, then fiddled with the mike volume so the female lead didn’t sound so screechy.
“Sorry, man. She’s naturally like that. Which sucks for her, because aside from the voice, she’s actually the best one,” Galahad muttered. He took the packet, flipped till he thought he had the right scene, and pulled up the programming manual.
“There’s been worse. The first year I was here, Kitty decided her theater majors would do a musical as their final.” Tristan actually grimaced, so that show must’ve been pretty damn bad. “Why can’t you finish coding on time?”
Galahad started to answer that one, then stopped himself. God, he was tired. He also didn’t normally care much for diplomacy, but this was slightly different. “I probably will, but it’s just that turning a philosophical hypothesis into an economic computer model’s not exactly easy. I just have all this other shit to do, like making sure a hundred-something philosophy undergrads get their grades entered into the system properly.”
Downstairs, somebody shrieked, then stomped off the stage. When Galahad checked, he found that yep, it was the prima donna again. Honestly, if she hadn’t figured out by now that Kitty didn’t need a corset for backbone, then she damn well deserved to flunk the course. Everyone else was just eyerolling and working around it—by now, even the understudy didn’t miss a beat as she slid into place.
“You’re done with classes, aren’t you?” Tristan abruptly said.
“I was done when I showed up, practically. I finished a semester early, but since I was hanging around for Gawain anyway, I figured I’d get some of the grad classes out of the way. Avalon transferred them all, thank God.” If Galahad had had to actually take classes on top of moving in and dealing with Tristan and Gawain and the circus that was Arthur’s private life, he might’ve killed someone.
Actually, it was kind of hard to remember why he’d disliked Tristan so much. He had—he wasn’t rewriting his memory or anything—but nowadays, Tristan was just always around. Annoying as hell, but in the way that a drippy faucet was, and not in the way that got you a manslaughter conviction.
“You’re done too, aren’t you?” Galahad asked. “A couple of weeks and you’re out of here.”
He didn’t get an answer right away. That was par for the course where Tristan was concerned, so Galahad let it go. Plus there was a complicated light direction coming up, and Galahad needed both hands to cover it.
But Tristan did usually respond sooner or later, so the next time they got a short break, Galahad spun around to look at him. “I can’t picture you in that robe and cap.”
“You will. Arthur insists.” Tristan looked about as enthusiastic as if someone had told him that they’d cut down all the trees on campus and he had to always enter through a door. It wasn’t totally because of the wardrobe issue.
Galahad poked at the control board. “Is it…kind of weird?”
“Weirder than having to suddenly move overseas because there’s a body in your kitchen?” Tristan asked. His deadpan was so perfect that Galahad couldn’t help feeling a little bit of jealousy. It was a good thing the man wasn’t interested in poker, or else Galahad never would be able to find a Texas Hold’em game in town.
There wasn’t really a great answer to that kind of question, so Galahad assumed it was rhetorical. He flicked up the sidelights and watched them beam up through the dry ice fog that was slowly curling onto the stage. “How is Arthur? He seems tense lately, and not like finals tense. Also haven’t seen him get hauled into his office recently by either of them.”
“They’re all still having sex, if that’s what you’re asking.” A tiny smile flashed over Tristan’s face as Galahad made gagging motions. Then he sobered up and stared out and down onto the stage. “He’s busy. He…he’s gotten a third of what he was supposed to do during his sabbatical year already done.”
“That’s not a good thing?” Galahad asked. He idly flipped the pages of his programming manual. Mariette had had to cancel their date later, so maybe he’d just hole up in the g-brary and get some kind of draft banged out.
Tristan shrugged. Nonchalant as that was, he was worried enough to look worried. “There are other…problems bothering him. Non-collegial ones. But I don’t know much. I think he’s trying to keep me out of it. And he’s trying to clear out his college workload just in case.”
“So what, you’re going to be running around all summer helping out?” Galahad raised his eyebrows and stared back at Tristan. “I’m asking so I know if I’ve got to deal with twitchy Gawain. You know, he might seem really okay with the moving-in-together deal, but he’s…he is happy about it. Don’t go freaking out, because he is. He’s just also…getting twitchy.”
“I know.” Despite the warning, Tristan went and chewed briefly on his lip. But he got hold of himself after a moment and absently adjusted the sound as a scene change came on below. “Not unless Arthur asks. And I don’t think he’s going to,” he finally said in a quiet voice. “I’m graduating. He’s taking that as a kind of signal.”
Which seemed perfectly normal to Galahad. He couldn’t draw any comparisons between them and his parents, but he could do it a little with how Grandma Yvie had gone from ordering him and Gawain around to asking and then to advising. She’d been pretty cranky about it at points, but it’d happened just about when Galahad thought it should have. “Well, you’re way over the age limit for having a legal guardian.”
Tristan shot Galahad a look that was just shy of being outright irritated.
“Yeah, yeah, you’re close to him, it’s not because you’re being forced into it. But hey, he’s got his things to do and you’ve got yours. It happens.” Galahad kicked at the floor a little bit.
“He has a habit of confusing maturation with isolation,” Tristan said.
For a moment, Galahad was pretty stunned. Usually he got this kind of info secondhand through Gawain. Then he shrugged and rolled with it; after a year of putting up with them and sometimes being the one to shove them into the same room together so they could work things out, he figured he deserved a little more. “Well, you don’t, do you? So make sure you’ve got his GPS coordinates at all times.”
Tristan looked at Galahad again, then turned away. He glanced down to turn up the volume on one of the softer-spoken actors and the corners of his mouth tugged upward. A very soft, short chuckle came out. “Are you coming to the graduation ceremony?”
“Somebody’s gotta make sure Gawain takes a decent picture. I really want to see you in that stupid cap,” Galahad grinned.
“Hey!” the stage manager snapped.
Both Tristan and Galahad rolled their eyes; Galahad leaned over and waved her off. “I got it, I got it. Sheesh.”
“Thanks,” Tristan said.
When Galahad leaned back, the other man was gone. A big dream sequence with all sorts of special effects was up next, so that made sense, but Galahad still was a little piqued. Then he chalked it up to normal-Tristan weirdness and got on with the lights. “You’re welcome, but don’t fuck it up,” he muttered.