it was committed discretely Who: Kal & Chris. What: Chris checks up on his friend, trying to get some answers about his arrival. Where: Kal's apartment, 305. When: Shortly following this conversation.
It had not taken Chris long to get up from his computer, walk across his apartment, glance down the hall and see the crisp, golden 308 that was now apparently Kal's lodgings. Sighing, he pulled his door closed behind him, limping slowly down the hall to his friend's apartment. He slowed as he neared it, stopping completely before opening the door as Kal had instructed.
As he entered, Kal was exactly where he said he'd be; with his back to the door, drilling holes in the walls for surfboard shelving. Chris made sure to close the door behind him quietly, but it seemed his presence was already noted as Kal turned around.
"Seriously, man? You just wanna drop in on me, like this?" Chris spread his hands wide, annoyance clear on his face. He needed to swallow it down; it wasn't like he was going to be able to explain. "Did you just move in today, or how long have you been planning this?"
Kal could see the annoyance on Chris’s face but it only made the smile on his face grow all the wider. Opening his arms, a screwdriver in one hand, he beamed. “Hey, you little asshole. Maybe if you actually talked to me more, I’d have given you proper notice.”
He laughed and it was a booming laugh, it always had been, and quickly put down the screwdriver as he made his way across the floor that was littered with various boxes of items Kal had collected through his travels.
He came in with a no excuses embrace, hugging Chris tight whether his shorter friend wanted it or not. “It’s good to see you, too.”
Chris could see the embrace coming, and he was in no shape to avoid it; he awkwardly returned it, gently patting Kal on the back as he was deftly squeezed and lifted a bare inch off of his feet, as though Kal needed to remind him who was the larger man.
"It is good to see you," he replied, taking a step back once the other man had put him down. Chris eyed Kal for a moment, before glancing over the rest of the room. "Did you bring a little bit of everything? Jeez. I hope there's more in there than just pottery bowls and figurines."
“Some great bowls,” Kal replied with a smirk and gesturing with his hand the motion of smoking one. “Come in, I got the mattress down and a chair you can sit on. Just knock whatever shit’s on it out of the way.” He turned away, already moving on sure feet back to his project at hand. “Kuku has a lot of my stuff, says she can travel the world without leaving her house.”
Cramming screws between his lips, he bit down on them as he lifted a support beam for the surfboard and pressed it to the wall. Pulling a screw free and grabbing the driver, he let the rearing noise of it all kill the pause in conversation before he continued. “I also have my mom’s record player over by the bed. The box of records are there too if you want to put something on.”
Chris shook his head, disbelief at Kal's relaxed demeanor momentarily making him a bobblehead. That was how his friend had always been, so he was surprised at his own surprise; a little annoyed, too, but he shuffled away from the larger, surfboard-bent man and toward the chair pointed out to him. A few boxes were easily displaced, moved to the floor, and he took a grateful seat, slightly admiring the easy way Kal had told him to take a load off without making a fuss about his leg. He pulled one box of records closer and started to flip through them.
"So...why Pax?" He asked, when he had a moment of silence between drill screeches.
Kal stepped back and admired his work. He considered Chris’ question for a moment and the various answers he could give. There was a part of Kal that he wouldn’t admit existed, a part that was worried about his friend, a part that wanted to ensure his friend was alright, but that part was easily shoved aside for the silent agreement between them that topics like that were never verbally discussed. “Kuku is getting old. I hate to admit it, you know it just… it fucking blows. She’s getting a little confused, sometimes forgetful. She isn’t feeling comfortable driving at night, you know, things like that. I just want to be closer to her, drive her to the grocery store or whatever, but she didn’t want me living at home.
“I didn’t realize you were living so damn close to her and this place is pretty damn nice so I figured why the hell not. The creepy guy downstairs suggested this apartment, actually.”
"Stephan?" Chris looked up from the records, his fingers separating a Janis Joplin album from a Bowie. "Stephan suggested you move onto my floor?"
“Yeah, that guy,” Kal responded with a nod as he picked the surfboard up. He met his friend’s gaze. "Said this apartment was available now if I was willing to sign the lease and since all my crap has been in boxes and storage, I figured why not?
“And I tried to let you know,” Kal said, pushing the surfboard under one arm and using his free hand to point at Chris. “I called you a few times and you never called back.” With a shrug, he turned his attention back to the wall and lifted the surfboard onto the support beams. “So I figured I’d just move the hell in and surprise you.”
A thick tongue bubbled over Chris's lips as he glanced back down to the box at his feet. Teeth raked after, pulling loose skin.
"Sorry," he finally offered, the word sounding trivial and unfulfilling. "Some stuff...things just came up." He picked up the Bowie album and set it on the player, moving its arm into place as the record spun. Pleasant, relaxing classic rock started to pour out of the speaker. "Seriously, though, you could've picked a better place. Elevator keeps breaking down, there was a cat infestation a few weeks back, and..." He stopped just short of detailing his shared dreams with Nish and Daniel. Chris shook his head, deciding it was better that Kal didn't think he was crazy. "Just, it's not worth the money. I bet if you asked, you could probably get out of your lease."
Kal stepped back from the surfboard that was now resting securely on the wall and crossed his arms. “No, no way, not after I got that fucking thing finally hung.” He looked at Chris and frowned. They inched around this topic all the fucking time and he knew they were just going to do it again. Stuff. Things. It was always the case with Chris and Kal was pretty sure what the stuff and things were.
“I mean, all this negativity, I’m starting to feel like you really don’t want me here,” Kal said, trying to keep his voice chipper but a small ounce of concern still lacing its way into his tone. He moved closer Chris and sat down on the floor with a sigh. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “I’m sorry for the surprise but this isn’t the first time we’ve surprised one another. It’s kind of what our friendship was built on.”
Chris rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and finally shrugged. Clearly it was too little, too late to dissuade his friend from his course. He finally spread his hands wide, shrugging, a peace-offering gesture.
"I gotta say, it'll be nice to actually know someone else in the building. This place is so empty, good to have a friendly face around." He switched topics, fingers picking at another box as he peeked inside. "So how often you think you're gonna be around? Nat Geo got you signed up for any trips soon?"
He reached into one bubble-wrapped corner and withdrew a carved, black-brown figurine. "You know, I bet I could fit in your suitcase, the way you travel. Way too many clothes."
“Hey, handle Tlazolteotl with care, she’s delicate,” Kal sighed, reaching out and taking the figurine from his friend. He cradled the small statue in his hand, running a thumb over the smooth shoulder of the Aztec goddess. “No plans right now with Nat Geo. Just getting settled for now. You know how they are, they give me a call about a trip about a week in advance.” He looked back at Chris and grinned. “I could see about you coming with next time. You know, if it’s nothing too crazy. Might do you some good to get a break from whatever the hell you got goin’ on.”
Chris leaned back in his chair, hands reprimanded to his thighs after Kal had chastised him. He mirrored his friend's grin, brows rising in contemplation.
"God knows I'd love a vacation," he started, excuses welling up in his throat. He changed tack, keeping the focus on Kal. "Where were you last? Sorry to disappoint, but I don't even have an Instagram. You know social media's not my bag." He didn't have a Facebook, or a Twitter. Such things would only work against him.
“Costa Rica!” Kal exclaimed, clambering to his feet and making it over to a cluttered side table where his phone lay. “I’m lucky I get in touch with you as much as I do.” He swiped his phone awake with a finger and brought up an app before tossing it to Chris. “La Fortuna, like that song? Except it’s a fucking jungle. Swimming under waterfalls, ziplining through trees, it was a fucking blast.”
He moved closer to Chris to turn the music of the record up a bit more. “But I’m completely serious, Chris. Come with me on my next trip. We get chances to do that, you know. Work for Nat Geo for however long and you can bring a friend or family member. I’ve got enough points racked up that I could take you a couple times.” He eyed his friend for a moment before giving a nod. “It’d be good for you.”
Chris scoffed, but his focus was wholly on the photos before him. As Kal described, the locations were lush, tangled, wild, for lack of a better word. Trees spun toward the sun and the sky, creating a thick canopy of gradient green, softening toward neon as leaves reached their zenith, drowning in sunlight. Part of him felt slightly nauseous looking just at the pictures; most were from a great height, or dangling over a precipice of some sort. Spindly, dangerous looking bridges, or simply the edge of some monstrous cliff.
"No lie, this looks more like you have a death wish than wanderlust," he returned, offering out the phone for Kal to grab. "Besides, someone has to hold the fort down here until you get back. You think Los Angeles can function without me? Not likely."
A half smile quirked onto Kal’s lips as he pocketed his phone. “The king of Los Angeles, no doubt. I should've bowed when you came in here.” He kicked a box over to where he had been sitting and plopped down beside it, digging in and pulling out well worn travel books. “But seriously, things would probably crumble at least a little if you weren't here. Kuku loves when you call her to check in.
“‘Oh, Chris called, he is such a nice boy! So sweet, so handsome.’ She goes on and on about you. But…” Suddenly the playful man became serious and met his friend’s gaze. “Thanks for that. It makes her happy and I'm glad to know you'd be there for her when I'm away.”
He kept eye contact with his friend for a breath then looked away, continuing to rummage through his bag. “Anyway, what's been going on with you?”
Chris's hands slid on his jeans, wiping away nonexistent sweat born of anxiety. These kinds of questions were where the dance really began; instead, he latched on to other topics, things he felt comfortable talking about with his best friend.
"Work, like usual. It eats up a lot of my time," he started, the prerequisite response. One hand rose, scratching at his nape, stroking at unruly hair that he'd not had time nor thought to fix with gel. "I, uh, met someone, though. We've been hanging out a lot. I'm sure you'll run into him, too, he's kinda hard to miss. Lives just one floor down."
Just as Kal was going to question Chris further on his “work,” his friend threw that curveball that could only make the man smile. “You met someone? And he lives here.” He nodded and pursed his lips, approving. “Nice that you don’t have to go very far. So, I said we were going to have a slumber party and do each other’s hair. Tell me, what’s his name, what does he do…” He moved his hand, urging Chris to spill it out and give details stat. Kal wanted nothing but happiness for his friend but he also was just as protective. In a way, Kal was happy Chris liked men. It made it easier for Kal to beat the shit out of any guys that may wrong his friend--women, no, he sure as hell wouldn’t do that to.
Chris gave a little laugh, his eyes rolling. He pointed to the floor in front of him. "If you wanna sit here, I can braid. His name's Daniel," he continued, answering the question regardless. An excited smile slipped over his face unconsciously, his face lighting up. "He's a, uh, a transition counselor, I think with the county. Works with parolees and all that, making sure they get set up all right once they're out. Makes a half decent tamale, but don't tell him I said that. It's kind of a contest we have going, right now." He made no mention about the issue Daniel had taken with Chris wanting to keep their relationship under wraps, or how quickly the disagreement seemed to have been solved. Liquor and sex will do that, Chris's cheeks flushing a light red color as he remembered St. Paddy's, a hand rising to ruffle the back of his head.
"But yeah, beside that...not a whole lot else going on." He shrugged, trying to remain casual.
Kal was beaming, noting the subtle changes in his friend that indicated his clear happiness. “So when do I get to meet him? Are you guys in deep enough that you know about each other's friends? I mean, even if you aren't, I need to meet him if we are neighbors.” He laughed slightly, knowing his friend would surely find discomfort in it. Chris had always been shy about his sexuality but Kal was one of the few who had been let in and Kal treasured it like a delicate flower.
"Ugh, can we... I'd rather there be some breathing room between you guys meeting. We're not ... It's not official or anything, OK? It's not like he asked me to go steady." Chris shook his head, smirking all the same. "I'm sure you'd run into him eventually anyway. Maybe... I dunno, dinner or something." He paused, his gaze coming flatly back to his friend. "Why do you make me feel like I'm introducing a boyfriend to my parents?"
Kal waved away his concerns as he got to his feet once more. “This isn't at all like introducing your boyfriend to your parents. I just want to know what the guy looks like so if I pass him in the hall I can be friendly.” He moved closer to Chris and stopped the record player. “I mean, I do feel a little emotional, my little boy is growing up.” His hands grabbed Chris by the shoulder and he gave Chris a firm shake; Chris rolled his eyes.
“Anyway,” he broke away with ease and moved towards the kitchen. “You want to get dinner? I'd suggest Taco Bell but kuku is making dinner and wants me over. You should come, she'd be ecstatic.”
Chris almost immediately rejected the very idea of patronizing the thoroughly American fast food establishment, but his interest perked up at the mention of Kal's grandmother's cooking.
"Sure, I'm down for it. I haven't seen her in person in awhile. If you think you can stand an evening of her saying I'm better than you, I'm all for it." He rose from his chair, carefully getting to his feet. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think kuku thinks we should get together. All those so handsome comments have to come from somewhere."
“Eh, probably. You know we would make a damn fine couple,” Kal replied with a wink and a wolfish smile. He grabbed his wallet, slipping it into his back pocket, and waved his friend on. “Come on, we can stop at your place if you need anything, but I’m hungry. Maybe she’ll have some appetizers ready.”
He opened the door of his apartment and spung the apartment keys on one finger as he waited to give his friend the lead. The creepy front deskman downstairs definitely new what he was doing when he set Kal up for this place, it was going to work out well, Kal could feel it.