The liaison, stiff-backed, wearing brown slacks, a maroon vest, and glasses perched on the nose of his round face, makes a dismissive sound when Sterling cracks his first joke at Durham Academy. He's heard fake laughter for his sake before, and he's come to appreciate the effort, so while it's no surprise, really, that Mr. Franklin just 'hmph's at him, he's a little disappointed in the entire human race for not teaching this guy the same manners everyone else has shown him in the past.
Besides, he feels like he's boiling beneath his suit jacket, navy blue and tight around his shoulders. It was an attempt to relieve some of the obvious tension these old bastards tend to build up and exude upon everyone else, including himself, in working with teenage boys who really don't give a rat's ass about how Trebizond was founded in 1204 as a Byzantine successor state. But he gets shot down with one noise, and Sterling's smile slips off his face into something that can be conveniently misconstrued as humility in action.
Mr. Franklin knocks twice at the door they approach before he turns the knob himself. Sterling hadn't heard an okay to come in (maybe the policy is, come on in unless someone shouts bloody murder at you) but he's not even sure he was paying much attention to any possibly muffled voices of a complete stranger. Instead he's swinging his brief case back and forth, lips pushed out on a silent whistle as his current 'mentor' pushes the door open. Sterling is perfectly still when Franklin turns around again, although he gives Sterling a startlingly suspicious look. He hates it when adults have eyes in the backs of their heads. Creepy.
Aliens. He's convinced half the world is made up of fun-hating, eyes-everywhere aliens. And they like to stick unfortunately close to him. If they'd just tell him he's an essential part of an experiment, he wouldn't mind so much. He'd shrug it off and go about his business, but he guesses it would be too risky, compromising an operation like that. It might change the way he acts around them. He knows it wouldn't, but they don't know that. They're... aliens.
When Sterling feels the grip on his shoulder, directing him, more like forcing him with a pinch, into the room, he takes slow steps, observing. At first he thinks it's empty and mentally tosses an apology to the old man about his negative thoughts on people who invade other's privacy, but then he actually gets a foot in, and on the other side of the book case, along the same wall as the door, there's this boy. And he's primping. Running fingers through his hair, then dragging them back down around his face, then pushing up in small shoves of knuckles like his fingers are made of hair mousse. Sterling's eyebrows raise and he resists the urge to poke fun while Mr. Fanklin is still standing there. It's hard, with the words just sitting there, making his tongue heavy in his mouth, where he could flip them off so quickly and feel lighter for it.
Luckily Franklin speaks up as Sterling feels the muscles in his back start to tense up at the lack of release. (He can't help it. He's naturally sardonic, breathes off of jokes, whether they're funny or not, and he's more than happy to make people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if they give him a reason to.) "Mr. Efron, this is your room mate, Mr. Knight." Zac huffs out a breathe that could be a laugh, because that's a show. He's been at this school long enough that most of the staff calls him Zachary, including Mr. Fanklin. He bites down on his lip after though, and he's still peering at his reflection in the mirror, hands gripping at the small, white wall-sink. He's paying attention, but Franklin clears his throat anyway. When Zac pulls back to glance at him, he gives a small smile. "As I was saying, this is your room mate. He's been away for the last month, family matters, and he's going to require some aid in order to catch up with the rest of the students. In a way, he'll be in your charge. Is that clear?"
There's a soft 'uh' in the bottom of his throat, always there before he answers a question. Zac can be calm, cool, but he also doesn't like to give anyone the answer they're not looking for, at least, not anyone who may potentially be of importance. Anyone who can serve him detention is most definitely of import. In a school where teachers make students participate, raised hands or not, he is constantly working to shove that hesitance away. But always, by the time he speaks, it's clear and his eyes are bright and willing. "Yes, sir." He glances at Sterling who's toeing at the carpet, eyes half-lidded out of boredom, and shoves a hand into his pocket. "Of course."
"Mr. Efron?" Zac's head shoots back up. "Mightn't it be time for a haircut?" It takes acquired patience and resolve to keep the irritation off his face, but the tight lines that move down from his nose to his lips, making his nose look momentarily thinner, still appear before he forces a smile and gives a somewhat tight nod.
"I'll be looking into that sir, thank you for pointing it out." Sterling laughs half-heartedly and ignores the glare he feels aimed at the side of his head. He only, finally, looks up from the carpeting when he hears the door close. Zac's eyebrows are pointedly furrowed but Sterling just shrugs his shoulders and shows him a grin before pivoting fluidly to the bed farthest from him. There's nothing on it, or beneath it, so he assumes it's his. Zac doesn't make a fuss, which is kind of a pity, so Sterling flops back onto it, dropping his case to the floor in the process as the back of his head hits the standard-white pillow.
'Mr. Efron' seems content to ignore him for the time being, and Sterling watches from the corner of his eye, while appearing uninterested, as he returns to the sink and runs his hands under the soft-dribbling water. "You look really pretty," Sterling says, biting back a laugh at his own hilariousness. He gets that silent response, that questioning quiet, and presses on, turning his head to the side. There's Zac giving him a look that's asking, 'What? No, wait, please don't tell me...'. "I really like the way you do your hair." Then he adds with a purposeful lisp, "It's fabulous."
"Dude," Zac says, looking half-disgusted, half-surprised. He turns away from Sterling, shaking his head like Sterling is ridiculous.
"Learn to take a compliment, gorgeous," Sterling keeps pushing. He's been at this school for an hour now and he's already bored out of his mind. He supposes that's the real reason they call it boarding school. It's just spelled different to throw off the scent. Efron sighs, defeated already and Sterling is torn between a smirk and an offended falling of his facial features. Where's the fun without the fight? He makes it through maybe ten minutes - feels like twenty, thirty maybe - before he heaves an exaggerated sigh. "I was kidding." His tone inflects upward on the last word, sort of playful and condescending all at once.
"Yeah man, me too," Zac says all light and breezy from where he's now flipping pointlessly though a book on his bed, legs crossed at his ankles.
It frustrates Sterling. People who aren't easy-going, but pretend to be, are irritating, end of story. "But what if I was really gay and into you?" Sterling asks. He knows that most of these kids are the conservative types, or at least they think they are, but Sterling doesn't consider it very clean-cut to become a man who hires hookers when he gets bored with his wife, which half of the students here will end up doing, and they'll get away with it too. So it's something of a sure-shot to get under skin by bringing up god-awful subjects like homosexuality, especially when every response given is meant to remain dignified.
Zac remains quiet, distant, and Sterling turns his eyes back up to the ceiling. It's white, gray almost, and smooth except for one chip in the paint that really shows the gray of the primer. "I'm Sterling. You don't have to call me Mr. Knight," he informs Zac, pretending it's necessary to give permission. He thinks he's hit Efron's off-switch or something, because the guy refuses to talk to him, but then he hears shuffling and Zac's face is hovering above his. Sterling's eyes dart down, and Zac's holding a hand out. He takes it, surprised, loosely in his hand and moves it around a little.
As quietly and randomly as he crossed over to Sterling's bed, Zac begins walking away, settles back on his own. "I'm Mr. Efron," Zac tells him cheekily and Sterling can't help the fierce wave of appreciation he gains all at once, and it comes through in a wide open smile. "And if you've got the hots for me, you aren't the first guy, and I don't care." He has to admit that the smile on Zac's face is kind of dazzling, charming, and he ignores his body's attempt to make heat rise to his cheeks.
Sterling's no conservative man, and he never intends to cheat on his wife with a prostitute.
The next day, the sun is shining. It's rough waking up in a new bed, and his muscles sort of ache as he climbs out and gets ready, putting on his uniform and pushing up the knot of his tie. He enters class, picks a seat at the center-right, and slides back in his chair, fist resting on his face from bent elbow instead of the other way around. Every now and then, as people make noise filing into the classroom, he'll turn around and take a look, curious but barely, mostly bored again.
Zac wasn't in the room when he woke up and he's still calling him Efron at this point, so he wasn't exactly surprised he had to find the classroom on his own. He's not even sure, then, if they share a class or not. It's a fairly small student body, he was told, but higher education often means small, more concentrated classes, and he doesn't know if that means seniors are split up or not. He's thinking about digging a pencil out of his messenger bag (the one he uses to replace the ridiculous brief case his father gives him at each school he ends up attending), just for something to do with his hands, when he hears laughter coming from behind him.
It's Zac and this other boy, a boy with freckles, ridiculous curls for hair, and bright eyes. His laugh is high-pitched while Zac's is significantly more controlled. They look like such an odd pair, he thinks. Zac looks over at him, not on purpose, just happens to pass his glance Sterling's way, and he turns back around as nonchalantly, non-curiously as possible. Sterling sees when Kevin sits down at a desk, so he jumps when he gets thumped on his opposing shoulder. Efron leans down, closer than he needs to be really, and winks. "That," he points quickly, limbs loose, "is my best friend." Then he squeezes Sterling's shoulder and walks over to an empty desk beside his 'best friend' and sits down, looking back at Sterling with a smirk that has Sterling's gut tightening. His brows furrow as he sits up in his seat, both elbows planted on his desk now as he takes interest in his nails. Did he just get told he's worthless and batting way out of his league by Pretty Boy?