The Best Moves
Matthew left his purchases and the bag of papers in his room before heading back out. He'd passed a rather empty internet cafe a few blocks back and the more he thought about it, the more he wanted to get online. He tucked the anime magazine, 'RT', into his jacket and walked quickly back into the night.
He found the building again easily and paid his two dollars for an hour of access. Hopefully he could get everything he wanted done in that amount of time.
His e-mail was first. It was the usual stuff, two mailing lists he wasn't much interested in, and e-mails from both Audra and Emily.
Matthew deleted both messages from the mailing lists without reading them and then clicked on Audra's message. Today she prattled on about the leaves turning color on campus and how her first battery of tests for the semester was going. Matthew wrote back a paragraph on how he hadn't even noticed the trees in Toronto but failed to mention how he'd ended up in the city.
He didn't realize his error until after the message was sent and then he didn't really feel like explaining it any way. Opening another window, Matthew typed in his first search. He was looking for information on 'yaoi', the Japanese term Billy had used to describe an entire homosexual genre. It was a fascinating concept, one that had never even crossed Matthew's mind despite his occasional observations that some of the male video game characters were much too close to just be friends.
As the search ran, Matthew clicked back over to his e-mail. Emily's message was short but sweet. She said she was working on a new story about Jorin and that she'd sent it as soon as it was finished. It was apparently a sequel to the one packed amongst his things and Matthew made yet another mental note, this one about reading her latest story.
He wrote her back quickly, trying to explain about the park he'd seen and how he'd automatically thought of Jorin. He also told her a bit about the University's campus.
After he sent that message, he switched back to his search window. The results amazed him. It was a rather mainstream thing after all. He had thousands upon thousands of results, the first of which was a convention dedicated to the genre. He clicked and was welcomed with a page explaining just what yaoi was. It was exactly what he'd been after and it filled out Billy's explanation quite well.
Now all he needed was more along the lines of actual examples.
Before getting too engrossed in the site, Matthew went back to his e-mail. He'd just gotten a new message, this one from Tyler. Matthew's heart skipped a beat as he opened it. Tyler didn't have a computer just yet, so he must not be at home orů
The e-mail was brief, but it made Matthew smile. Apparently he'd just been given an older computer that day and had spent the day setting it up. This was his first e-mail from it. It asked the basics, such as what the hell was going on and when it would be resolved.
Matthew's fingers flew as quickly as they could over the keyboard, explaining all he could about Toronto and his so-called quest. He left out a few details, such as Billy and the entire inner-debate over his sexuality. If he ever did want to tell Tyler just how hot he thought Tyler was, it wouldn't be through e-mail.
Hitting send, Matthew went to go back to the other website, but there was a tap on his shoulder.
"Hour's up, buddy," a cafe attendant said. "Either a toonie or you get outta here."
"I'm going," Matthew replied, quickly logging out of his e-mail and closing both windows, slightly embarrassed that the attendant had seen what he was looking at. He only later thought that the girl had probably seen much, much worse.
He left the cafe and wandered back to Quaker House. The sun was rising over the city and the first pangs of exhaustion had creeped back into Matthew's body. It was definitely time to curl up with Emily's story and to write notes on the day and what he thought he'd found out about himself.
Once in his room he turned on the lamp beside his bed and grabbed the packet that Emily had given him. Inside was a thirteen-page story about Jorin and two pages of her drawings of him and his friends. They were far from perfect, but they were engaging any way. Emily's drawings had that quality. The small flaws could be looked over easily when grabbed by Jorin's eyes or wings.
Looking at the bare, white walls, Matthew decided to ask if he could tape up the pictures.
Despite Emily's writing obviously not being that of a published author, she still wrote very well for her age and her latest story about the adventures of Jorin kept Matthew busy for the better part of an hour.
Somehow, a banshee of sorts began wreaking havoc in Jorin's faerie village. It was destroying the flower-filled meadows that the faeries drew power from, so they were all weak besides Jorin, for some reason.
So Jorin, and his best friend Lek, went to fight the banshee. In the end, the banshee was actually under the spell of a stronger sorcerer. They freed the banshee, Aanor, and took her back to help the faeries recover and prepare for war.
That was where Emily left off and apparently what she was working on at the moment was the battle against the sorcerer. But Matthew already knew that Jorin would be fine. He always was.
Matthew lay back on his bed, wishing he could always come out okay. Jorin's adventures had kept his mind away from Billy and the events of the evening, but now his mind was cycling back to the blond man. Billy was witty, cordial, conversational, and downright amusing in every regard. He would have happily spend the entire night talking to the man, wait... he had done that.
With a sigh, Matthew realized he'd forgotten to ask when next Billy was working so he could stop by to visit. However, he didn't want to Billy to think he was...
That wasn't it, was it? Billy was definitely attractive. Very attractive.
Matthew fought off a series of yawns before realizing he should probably sleep for a few hours and worry about everything tomorrow.
Notebook and anime magazine in hand, Matthew was a shopper on a mission as he walked through Chinatown. The anime magazine contained a handful of advertisements for high quality shops and many of them fell in the Chinatown district.
He almost missed the first one that he was looking for. It was called XAnime and was in the basement of another building. Above it sat a barber and from another shop next door, loud Asian music blared, distracting Matthew for just a moment.
The stairs were steep, but Matthew made his way down them undaunted. When he reached the door though, that's when the panic hit.
Inside were all sorts of things he'd never seen before - mainly a large selection of model robots. There was an article about them in the anime magazine, but Matthew hadn't expected them to be so numerous. Still, he entered the shop, not hearing the bell that tinkled above his head due to the noise inside.
A television near the door broadcast a subtitled episode of something Matthew had no way of identifying. The Japanese audio blasted through the store and to one side of the room a group of people were shouting above that, taking care of any possible space for more sound.
Or so Matthew thought. A store clerk ambushed him almost immediately.
"Can I help you find anything?" the clerk yelled. Matthew shook his head before answering.
"Just looking right now," he shouted back before turning to peer back into a case of models and statues.
He managed to recognize one character amongst them all and felt rather vindicated by that. Beside the case was a rack of books. Manga, Matthew assumed, Japanese comics. This lot was translated to English though, and despite some of them reading obviously different from normal English literature, they weren't too difficult to deal with. At least that's what Billy had said.
Billy had also made a few recommendations too, and Matthew had written them down on the front of 'RT', the anime magazine.
Looking at the shelf, he quickly found the ones that he'd been told about. One was a series called 'Gravitation', which Billy had passed off a rock band story that also fell into the category that he'd written about.
Only one volume was on the shelf, and Matthew quickly pulled it down and rested it on his arm. Many of the other series were unfamiliar to him and he flipped the anime magazine open to see if there were reviews or articles on any of them.
"This one," a voice said. Matthew looked up just in time to get handed a second book and it was another couple seconds before Matthew realized who had just spoken to him.
The man standing beside him looked almost completely different than the one he'd met the night before. Instead of the tightly bound hair, Billy's blond locks were loose and hanging straight down his back and over his shoulders. His bangs, which had been hidden by his hat, helped frame his face. But his eyes were the same, dancing and glittering as he pulled another book from the shelf.
"And this one, too, Matthew."
There was something in Billy's voice that made Matthew a little weak in the knees. He wanted to be Billy's student, that much was for sure. Yet he didn't want to develop a sort of bizarre attraction to Billy like he had to Tyler. Especially since there was no way it would ever be reciprocated.
Matthew nodded and took the book.
"Anything else?" he asked, his voice cracking ever so slightly.
"Depends on your budget," Billy replied with a smile. "I'd have you buy a ton of videos but I don't know if you even have a way to watch them."
"I don't," Matthew replied quickly as he realized he hadn't even seen a television at Quaker House. He'd added a newspaper to his mental list of things to pick up on the way home.
"Then just those three books and you need to come over," Billy replied as he grabbed Matthew's free arm and steered him over to the cash register.
"But I..." Matthew paused. He actually had nothing else on his schedule for the day. He technically could go over to Billy's house and watch anime. But it sort of went against everything intelligent he'd ever learned about anything. He was a second away from agreeing to go home with a stranger in a foreign country.
Still, he had his cell phone and he actually almost trusted Billy. Billy didn't seem the type to try anything bizarre.
"But what?" Billy asked. "I seem to remember you saying you were here for a month. Any tourist trap you want to see will still be here tomorrow."
"Okay," Matthew replied, offering his selections to the cashier. "But I do want to get going before dinner time. I need to get groceries and everything."
"I'll cook. Do you like Thai? I'm still learning, but... if you stay, we may be able to get through a whole series."
Matthew shook his head, ignoring the cashier for a moment. "I can't impose."
"I invited you, you aren't imposing," Billy shot back, picking up a stack of things from the counter - his own purchases, Matthew realized.
"That'll be $38.74," the cashier interjected, looking from Matthew to Billy with an amused look on her face.
"It's right on the next block," Billy said. Matthew had realized as they walked that the blond's smile never left his face. He'd pulled Matthew across a couple of roads where they'd crossed against the light. There was something of an odd little thrill that went along with proceeding against the rules, as though they were testing fate by denying the red lights their power.
But Matthew didn't tell Billy any of that. It was unimportant and he didn't want to trouble his new acquaintance with his bizarre little fixations.
As they walked back from Chinatown, Billy did most of the talking. Mainly he talked about the area, explaining places to never eat in and places to get some of the coolest little treats and trinkets.
Matthew was unsure if a few of Billy's questions and comments were totally innocent, but he paid it little attention. Instead his mind was going a million miles an hour, trying to figure out how he'd ended up getting taken home by a gorgeous blond who looked even more amazing out of his coffee attendant uniform. It was the sort of thing he'd never expected. Even if he didn't see Billy after the day was over, it would most likely be a defining moment in Toronto.
Perhaps, Matthew realized, he would learn something about himself from all of this. That's what he was in this for, after all. And if this chance encounter stemming from a chance encounter was what was...
Of course it was, it wouldn't have happened otherwise.
"Here!" Billy announced, pointing at a larger brick house. "It's not as big as the others on the street, but it's mine."
"Yours?" Matthew questioned. He hadn't noticed that the dwelling was any smaller and he couldn't begin to imagine what rent was like for a place like that. Earlier in the day he'd flipped through another free paper and found apartment listings. Even after mentally converting the amounts back to American currency, they were still far beyond his price range.
"Mine and my sister's, actually," Billy said. "It was left to us by my Grandfather."
That explained it all, except for how Billy's family had come across
a home like that anyway. Matthew decided it was none of his business though
and followed Billy up the walk.
Inside, the house looked much more like something belonging to the blond. It wasn't messy, but it was eccentric and a bit cluttered. Three chairs sat in the entranceway, each one piled high with jackets, books, and various other objects. Billy set his bag onto the closest one, threatening to cause an avalanche for a moment before Billy stilled it with a quick motion.
"Have a seat," Billy said, pointing into a sitting room off to the left. "I need to run to the can."
Matthew nodded and walked into the sitting room as Billy headed off down a hallway. The sitting room was far from the parlor it was originally intended to be. Dark curtains obscured most of the light that would have been coming in the front bay window. The only lights on were a strand of blue Christmas lights that wove their way around the doorway and then over to what had to be a fake plant for it to survive in the darkness. In the middle of the hardwood floor, a half-finished puzzle was scattered around. It looked to be at least a thousand pieces and it looked horribly complicated.
But there was something about the image - a sunset over clear blue water - that pulled Matthew to it. He knelt down aand picked up a piece, wondering if there was any way to possibly figure out where it went before his host reappeared.
"Who are you?"
Matthew turned, almost falling as he looked up to see himself getting the eye from a black-haired woman dressed in all black and carrying a lethal-looking purse.
"Anna?" Billy bounded into the room, looking from the woman to Matthew and back again.
"I should have known," the woman replied, looking at Billy. "Your friend scared me half to death."
"You scared me too," Matthew said, standing up but still holding the puzzle piece he was holding.
"Matthew, this is my sister, Anna," Billy said, gesturing to both parties as he spoke. "And Anna, this is Matthew. I met him last night at work."
"So you brought him home? Fair enough."
Anna smiled as she looked at Matthew, first his face and then following down to his hand.
"No way, I've been looking for that one!" She snatched the puzzle piece from his hand and dropped to her knees, snapping the piece in place instantly. It looked odd, only because she was wearing, Matthew realized, a business suit.
"You've made a friend," Billy said, grinning as he elbowed Matthew lightly. "Anyone who helps with Anna's puzzles is a friend indeed."
"Oh, I just wanted to see if I could get a piece," Matthew replied. He was still in a bit of shock from the entire encounter. Anna's hair had to be dyed, but she had more visible piercings than anyone he'd ever met. He wondered what she could possibly do during the day that required a business suit. Surely she wasn't one of the domanitrixes Matthew had read about in one of the free papers. She seemed nice enough.
Anna looked at the puzzle once more before standing back up. She was a bit on the heavy side, but carried it well. "Well, I want to get out of this ridiculous suit. I can't believe I had to be in court today."
"You win?" Billy asked.
Anna nodded before catching Matthew's look of sheer confusion.
"I'm head secretary for a law firm for non-traditional citizens," Anna explained. "It doesn't pay very well, but I like the people."
"Oh," Matthew replied, nodding. Of course, in a big city there were bound to be various people for various jobs. Suddenly her outfit didn't seem so out of place.
"Anyway, nice to meet you," Anna said before giving a small wave and heading off.
"Didn't mean to leave you alone with her," Billy whispered after a moment.
"It's okay," Matthew replied. It wasn't like he had thought he was in any real danger, after all. "She seems nice."
"Just don't mess with her puzzles and all will be good," Billy said. "One time Nicole came home drunk and sent pieces flying. That was the only real time Nic almost got thrown out."
"Nicole?" Matthew asked. That was a new name. Billy hadn't spoken of his family at all the night before. Unless Nicole wasn't family. Billy had said the house belonged to him and his sister, and since Anna was his sister, perhaps Nicole was his...
"She's my girlfriend," Billy said, winking.
Matthew mentally fell over and stopped moving. Thankfully he only swayed a bit in real life, instead making an almost squeak-like noise as he popped back to reality.
"Or was, more correctly, before I realized I didn't really like girls too much, I mean, in that way," Billy continued, either not noticing or not wanting to make a fuss over Matthew's action. "But she's a good friend so Anna asked her to move in. Her room rent helps with bills."
Matthew popped back into his head for a moment. Billy had just said he was... Billy had just casually said he was not so fond of girls in the same sense that Matthew was also realizing he was not so fond of girls.
"Hey, Matthew... Matthew?"
Matthew had totally zoned out, he realized, as he blinked to find Billy waving a hand in front of his face.
"Sorry..." Matthew said quickly. "You were saying?"
"I didn't just freak you out, did I?" Billy asked, walking across the room to sit down in an easy chair with a black slipcover that was decorated with stars. "I mean... I didn't, um..."
"I'm good," Matthew replied as he walked to sit on a sofa decorated with a similar slipcover. "I mean, it would have come up, right?"
He was doing the best he could to keep his voice calm. It wasn't as though he wanted to lunge across the room, throwing his clothing as he went, to be claimed in some sort of ultra-ridiculous fit of passion.
Actually, that sounded rather fun, but it was definitely not on the itinerary for the day. It wasn't as though he'd even been propositioned or that any of what he was doing in Billy's house had anything to do with the possibility of a relationship, no matter how brief.
Billy was good-looking though, and funny, kind... a virtual shopping list of good qualities. Matthew paused, realized he was staring a hole through the wall while Billy was watching him curiously.
"You seem nervous though. I swear I only brought you home to make you watch anime," Billy said quickly. "Which means you need to go downstairs with me and watch anime."
Matthew forced a smile. He wanted to scream from the rooftops what he was thinking but he just couldn't. It was a combination of embarrassment and a host of other things. It would, really, have just been weird.
"Sure," Matthew replied, watching as Billy rose and stretched.
"Okay, follow me then. The steps are a little narrow, so hang on to the railing," Billy explained as he led Matthew from the sitting room and down the hallway and around a corner. The basement door was white and had a small sign on it that read 'Abandon Reality Here' in silver pen on black paper.
Matthew took one last look at the sign as Billy opened the door and flicked a light switch on the wall.
The basement seemed to be the actual hub of the house. It was sprawling and lacked the damp basement-like feel it could have had. Instead it was nicely finished and converted into a sprawling entertainment center.
Matthew counted a pair of televisions and a plethora of electronic equipment, as well as plenty of seating, a pool table, and a refrigerator.
"Most of this is mine," Billy said, gesturing to the walls of things. "RT has weekly staff screenings here too, if I forgot to tell you. Have a seat. I figure we can start with the basics, actually, instead of getting into anything too obscure."
"I..." But Matthew couldn't find the words. His eyes were still scanning the room and he was amazed that anyone save for Tyler could amass so many trinkets and toys. Action figures lurked on every shelf and corner, battling over a television and beneath a shelf of video games. It was definitely a place away from reality.
Somehow Matthew found himself sprawled over a beanbag chair while Billy lay on the nearest sofa to the television. After tossing around a dozen or so titles, Billy had selected Hyperspeed Grandoll as their viewing material.
"This part is even more ridiculous," Billy said, pointing at the screen before looking down at Matthew.
Matthew just nodded. He was having a hard time keeping up with all the subtitles flying across the screen. It was getting much, much easier as the show went on, but it was a trick at first.
The actual show was making little sense to Matthew. So far there was blatant lesbianism and a plot that seemed as though it had nothing to do with anything besides 'fan service', to use one of the terms both Tyler and now Billy regularly seemed to say.
It was definitely ridiculous, yet also addictive in its own way.
Afterwards, Billy rewound the tape and winked at Matthew. "You said you like fighting games, right?"
"I'm not very good at them," Matthew replied, shifting so he was sitting upright.
"Then we'll play one where it doesn't really matter," Billy replied, digging through a box of games sitting on the floor and pulling out an ancient and filthy PlayStation. "Ever played Ehrgeiz with your friend?"
Matthew shook his head before realizing Billy really wasn't watching him.
"I don't think he has it," Matthew replied. "Or if he does, I haven't found it yet."
"Okay, um... you familiar with Final Fantasy?"
"A little," Matthew said slowly, trying to remember details. Mainly what he knew was from skimming Tyler's gamer magazines.
They played for hours, taking breaks only long enough to devour a bag of potato chips at one point. The night probably would have fallen victim to their gaming, except Billy's watch beeped.
"Shit - that means work in two hours," Billy said with a sigh. "And I promised you dinner. I don't suppose eating out would suffice..."
"Whatever," Matthew replied, checking his own watch and amazed how time had flown. He and Billy were getting along without a hitch thus far. It had been great.
"Well, I know a great little cafe that's just about to close," Billy said. "It's just a couple blocks away and they have the Best Fries Ever."
Matthew laughed at the way that Billy's eyes got wide and his voice changed as he spoke about the Best Fries Ever.
But, as Matthew discovered, they *were* really good fries, if not the best he'd ever had. The two were the only ones in the cafe and after a few minutes, their black-haired waitress came over.
"Haven't seen ya around lately," she said, dropping down to be at eye-level with Billy.
"You're never working when I come in," Billy replied, gesturing for her to take a seat.
"I'm always working!" the woman exclaimed before sliding into the seat. "My feet can attest to that."
"Fine, fine," Billy said before gesturing to Matthew. "Skye, this is Matthew. And Matthew, this is Skye."
"About time you introduced me," Skye said with a grin.
"But you have a nametag on," Matthew pointed out.
"You don't," Skye shot back. "So is everything delicious here?"
Matthew and Billy looked at one another for a moment before each one slowly nodded.
"It's wonderful, Skye," Billy said. "As always."
Matthew just continued to eat, listening as Billy and Skye bantered back and forth. From what he could figure, Billy ate at the cafe at least once a week. It wasn't a large place, just a dozen or so tables tucked into a converted house. There were no frills whatsoever about the place, but it seemed clean and orderly.
"So what's today - Thursday?" Billy asked Skye, looking at his watch to confirm what he'd just asked.
"Yeah. Hopefully tomorrow'll be a busy day. I need the cash," Skye replied.
"Don't we all?"
"Rich boy," Skye retorted without malice.
"Earn your keep, serving wench," Billy said, holding up his empty soda glass. Matthew couldn't help the smile that formed on his face as Skye huffed and snatched the glass from him before slowly, slowly walking off to the kitchen.
"She's cool, huh?" Billy asked once Skye was out of earshot. "She's one of Nicole's friends, actually."
"She's nice," Matthew replied.
"She's single right now - if you want someone to go out on the town with, just a friendly date, I'm sure she'd..."
Matthew held up his hands before he even processed the entire bevy of thoughts he was having. "Oh no, I..."
"What?" Billy asked, leaning over the table a bit. "Don't think she's cute?"
"She's cute," Matthew said quickly, suddenly realizing he may as well just say what was on his mind. He didn't really like girls as potential romantic interests. And he could say it. He could. He was a couple hundred miles from home and with someone he never had to see again if he didn't want to. "It's just that I kinda have a girlfriend."
That was, obviously, not what he'd meant to say, but at the last minute it seemed suddenly safer. He wasn't ready yet. And it was also the truth. Audra technically was his girlfriend, but Matthew didn't really like her in any way besides a platonic friendship.
Billy just nodded though. "Ah, I knew I'd forgotten to ask something. That's cool."
Matthew sighed. At the moment, it wasn't really worth explaining.
They'd parted not long after they were done eating. Billy had given Matthew directions back to the street Quaker House was on and clutching his bag of purchases from earlier, Matthew walked home alone.
Daniel was sitting, drinking tea, in one of the rooms just off the main hallway.
"You just missed tonight's discussion group," Daniel said, waving at Matthew. "But the Young Adult Friends are meeting tomorrow night at 8pm, if you're interested."
Matthew nodded. He wasn't about to neglect part of the reason he was in Quaker House. He resolved to get through a chapter of 'Faith & Practice' before sleeping, and headed upstairs to do just that.
'Faith & Practice', like many religious/spiritual/instructive texts, is not the easiest of reads, something Matthew soon found out. He realized why he'd never read the book before after just the introduction. It was the sort of text that he would either have to take notes on or re-read a few times just to get base ideas.
However, sprawled on his bed, Matthew really didn't feel like taking notes. Instead he decided to slog through the first chapter or as far as he could get, and then take a nap.
Out of curiosity, he checked the copyright on the book. It was 1960, nowhere near as old as Matthew had thought. But after checking a few other pages, he realized the book was only put together in its current form in 1960. The various parts it was made from all dated back to decades and centuries past, making for rather dry reading most of the time.
Matthew woke up a few hours later, half lying on the book. One of his feet was asleep and his neck was killing him. And he also had to pee.
It was almost one in the morning, Matthew realized, and after taking care of his bodily needs, he found himself to be wide awake.
His stomach rumbled, reminding him that he'd not bought any food to keep in the communal kitchen yet.
"Out," Matthew said to himself as he grabbed his jacket. The first place he thought of to get something to eat was the 24 Hour Coffee Shop that Billy worked at. But on second thought, Matthew really didn't want to see Billy just yet.
Billy made him feel really... funny. Mainly it seemed to be attraction, but Matthew didn't know or understand if it was merely friendly yet, or not. Of course, he'd been thinking about the joys of flinging off his clothing earlier - there had to be something more than friendly to that.
Still, after Matthew took a moment to smell himself, he decided a bath
was definitely in order before he went out.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!