When Nathan had dropped out of high school he wasn't really anticipating this. He figured he would drop out, move to the big city, start a rock band and be famous. It had been a couple of years and all he'd really accomplished was move to the city. One of his housemates had got him a gig as a waiter at fancy parties. He sucked at it, but found if he hid for most of the party but was still around for clean up, he got paid. He had a tray with fruity little sea weed sandwiches and he was supposed to be walking around with them but he'd taken the first opportunity to slip out.
It was fucking cold on the balcony he'd escaped to. It never got this bad back in Florida. But Florida had his parents and his high school and the city had neither. So he stayed, cold be damned.
Time passed. The party continued on. It was times like these he wished he smoked so he could have something to do to pass the time.
Suddenly some party jack-off invaded his little balcony. The guy walked right passed him and didn't even notice him. That was another thing he hated about these parties, they treated him like he was invisible. Just because he wore a uniform, he didn't exist.
This particular jack-off was shorter than Nathan with goofy looking hair and glasses. He was dressed business like for what was supposed to be a social gathering. He leaned on the railing and looked out over the city. A cold wind blew and Nathan silently cursed his light uniform shirt. The mystery guy must have felt the cold too, because just then he turned around and noticed Nathan.
"Oh, I'm sorry." he said to the looming black figure in the shadows. "I didn't realize this hideout was taken."
Nathan reevaluated his opinion of the invading jack-off. He had apologized, which was something the regular jackoffs never did. There wasn't even anything worth apologizing for.
Nathan shrugged and grunted. That was about as eloquent as he could get. Mystery dude considered this for a moment before deciding the grunt stood in for a 'get out' and started to leave.
Nathan didn't quite get why, but suddenly he wanted company and he couldn't let this jack-off go.
"Wait!" he shouted reaching for the intruder.
Mystery dude stopped, startled. He turned back to Nathan and waited for him to speak.
"This, ah, place is big enough for both of us, stay." stupid, stupid, stupid. For all Nathan knew, this dude owned the damn building. Just because he'd been polite enough to apologize for something that hadn't needed apologizing, didn't mean he'd want to get all buddy-buddy with the help. Heck, the shower back home was broken. Nathan probably stank. That alone was reason enough not to want to talk to him. But no, he walked back over and leaned on the balcony facing Nathan.
Nathan couldn't help it, he didn't know what else to do. He offered the new guy a now frozen sea weed sandwich. He refused. Nathan relaxed a little. It was good to know he wasn't hanging out with the sort of freak that would eat sea weed. For lack of anything better to say he told the mystery guy this.
"Well technically speaking, watercress is more like a pond scum than a sea weed." mystery dude smiled a little and Nathan almost dropped his tray. Damn, but that was a great smile.
Right, sandwiches, Nathan didn't quite understand the difference but it was still gross. "Ew, and people eat this junk?"
The new guy chuckled in such a way that Nathan could see himself getting very used to. What the hell was wrong with his brain? He'd never thought this kind of stuff about a guy before. The sea weed, or pond scum, must be getting to him.
"My mother is probably in there right now looking for you. Those are her favorites."
Nathan worried for a minute that the mystery guy might be mad that he wasn't out there doing his job but mystery guy kept smiling that little enigmatic smile. Damn, he was going to be seeing that smile in his sleep, he just know it.
There was a lull in the conversation and the silence dragged on. It wasn't as awkward as you might expect. It occurred to Nathan that at some point he might want to ask his name so he can stop thinking of him as a mystery.
But before he could figure out how to ask, an old lady in an ugly dress stormed on to the balcony chattering away about how it was rude to hide and there were just so many people who wanted to speak to him.
Whatever spell had made the help suddenly visible was broken. Nathan was back to being a guy in a uniform who nobody ever looked at. The mystery man left. The balcony felt even colder than before.
Since the almost half conversation on the balcony Nathan had found himself looking forward to work. That guy look pretty important and he probably went to a lot of parties. Sooner or later they were bound to run into each other. It had sounded like good logic, but a month went by and nothing. Even if he found him again he probably wouldn't remember Nathan. It had been dark on that balcony and Nathan was just hired help and if there is one thing you learn as hired help, it was just how little the rest of the world sees you.
He was about ready to call off work that day. He was going to be a rock star, damn it! And rock stars don't carry around trays with pond scum sandwiches. But his housemates had been making disgruntled noises about rent and Murderface just didn't play fair when he thought you owed him something.
So he put on the damn bow tie and carried around a tray of gross little sandwiches. He actually had to work for the first part of the evening because a gaggle of unpleasant old women in ugly dresses found him and demanded he stand around holding the tray while they chatted and ate. It was the most brutal thing that had ever happened to Nathan and he included that one disastrous time he went to a school dance, right before dropping out. He couldn't even figure out what the old hags were talking about, but they scarfed down his tray of sandwiches double quick as lighting, giving a chance to escape.
Now officially, once your tray was empty you were supposed to return to the kitchen and refill, but no amount of money was worth going through that again. Murderface and his bitching about the rent be damned. So Nathan made his escape through the first unguarded door he came to.
It turned out to be a stair well. At first glance it appeared to be unoccupied. Nathan was ready to find something to hide under and compose songs in his head about scary old ladies stuffing their faces with human remains. He was going to go down the stairs when he saw a shadow move overhead. Looking up it was that guy from last time. He was leaning over the railing one floor up and waving.
"Escaping again, I see?"
The smile was back, just like Nathan remembered it. Not that Nathan had been thinking about it-him-nothing. Not gay, not at all.
Climbing up the stairs he leaned on the railing next to mystery man. "These crazy old chicks grabbed my sandwiches and wouldn't let me go!" it crossed Nathan's mind that he still didn't know who this dude was and he might be offending someone he knew. But that smile was still there and it didn't look the least bit fake so he added, in his best attempt at being playful, "I'm lucky to have made it out alive and with all my fingers."
There was that chuckle. It was only the second time he heard it but already it was familiar.
"You know," mystery man said in a conspiratorial manner, "we are probably hiding out from the same group of people. One of those little old ladies has a granddaughter she wants me to meet."
"Is she hot?" Some of the younger women at the part had been lookers and Nathan wouldn't have minded meeting a few of them even with his new found fabulousness.
The other guy shook his head, that smile Nathan had gotten used to fading. "It doesn't matter what she looks like, when they say 'meet' what they really mean is 'marry'. That's all anybody can talk about anymore."
This stopped a particularly vivid, heterosexually reaffirming, fantasy Nathan was having dead in its tracks. Meet was one thing. Marry was something else.
That smile that had slipped off came back. "Yes, very. If I don't pick someone soon my mother is going to do something drastic."
Nathan didn't know what to say to that and they lapsed into silence. Again it was much more comfortable than it should have been.
Before he could remember what question he'd wanted to ask, a dreadfully familiar voice called out for him.
"Nathan! Get your god damn, ugly ass down here! People want their sandwiches and I don't pay you to screw around!"
Nathan looked chagrined as he mumbled good bye to his friend, whose name he still hadn't learned. Damn it, that's what he meant to ask!
That night had been the final straw for his boss. He was fired. Nathan had fought tooth and nail to keep his job, how else was he going to learn mystery man's name, but he'd screwed off one too many times.
Nathan spent the next week mopping around the house. His four housemates were particularly unsympathetic. Well, expect for Toki, but he was known to be sympathetic to the cockroaches in the kitchen cupboard. So, yeah.
He tried to get another job with a different caterer but his boss had spread the word and no one was hiring.
Now they weren't normally the sort of house that subscribed to the news paper, but Murderface had been in a local civil war reenactment-turned-massacre and was still hoping to see his picture in the paper from the bloody aftermath. That was how Nathan found himself looking through the society page, face to face with the guy he had been staking-I mean thinking about.
"Guys come quick, I found him!"
There was no doubt in anyone's mind who the him in question could be. Nathan hadn't shut up about him in a month. Pickles was the first to respond. Staring at the picture in the paper he asked, pointing, "Is that him?" Nathan nodded dumbly.
He glanced down to read the caption. Murderface joined them on the sofa.
"At least he has a name now." they both looked to where Murderface was pointing. Pickles paled.
"Dude, your prince charming is an Offdensen!"
Nathan didn't know what that meant other than it could be hard to spell.
Skwisgaar, who had just entered the room with Toki in tow, clarified. "They ams the richest families in the wholes city."
Nathan was starting to see how this could be a problem.
Murderface unhelpfully added, "They own half the city and the part they don't own, they rent." This was a surprisingly sophisticated observation from him. But then again he had been reading the newspaper cover to cover for the last month waiting for his picture to show.
Pickles had grabbed the paper when Nathan had put it down to listen to Skwisgaar. He read through the rest of the article and crowed.
"Listen to this! Not only is prince charming an Offdensen, but he is heir to the family fortune. His mom is insisting he get married and is throwing one party a week until he picks someone."
Nathan flashed back to the last conversation they had had. It made a perverse sort of sense. Of all the stupid people Nathan could have pick to get a man crush on.
Murderface grabbed the paper out of Pickles' hands and kept reading. "Holy shit, who ever this Offdensen character picks will get half the damn fortune!"
They all turned to look at Nathan with an evil glint in their eyes. Even little Toki, who was usually so sweet and clueless, looked scheming.
"Nathan, dude, you've gat ta do it."
"It's like a sign! You've been man crushing on him for a month."
"Ja, is true loves, now goes and marries him."
"I thought you were all not cool with my sudden bout of bisexuality?" Nathan was very suspicious of their support. All month long they'd been screaming at him to shove it with the gay life crisis and now they wanted him to marry the dude?
"What's there not to be cool about?" questioned Murderface. "Half a fortune is half a fortune. We could be rich!"
Nathan didn't think he liked the idea of going after the guy just 'cause he's rich, but support was support, and who was he to turn away help?
The first party was Saturday night at some hotel ballroom. Mrs. Offdensen had spared no expense and invited all of eligible high society.
The gang was determined to get Nathan in but they hadn't planned on, well… anything really. First they had the problem of getting into the hotel. Turns out, most fancy hotels won't let you into the lobby with a stained t-shirt and old jeans. Nathan didn't know doormen could be so scary before now. The doorman had stood impassible till Toki managed to stub his toe in a stupidity related injury. There was not a human alive, no matter how scary, that could resist that face when it started to wibble. The rest of them snuck in while Toki unintentionally kept the doorman busy.
Then they had to find the damn ballroom. You would think being such a huge room it would be obvious, but no. Forty damn minutes before they figured out they were on the wrong floor. And they had to sneak around to avoid the hotel staff. They may be good at a lot of things (I said maybe, not that they are) but sneaking around was not one of them. Skwisgaar and Murderface bravely sacrificed themselves to keep Nathan from being caught. Finally, they found the right ballroom but there was another doorman here too. The guy manning the door insisted on seeing their invitation and just would not believe Pickles' insistence that they 'totally know the guy throwing the party'.
Finally, Nathan remembered the service entrance he took that one time they'd catered a wedding here. They decided to try that. No one ever looks at the help anyway, so maybe no one would notice him.
It started out good. Pickles successfully distracted the guy at this door by sharing a joint and Nathan was moving through the kitchen looking for the way to the ballroom when, damn it! It would be Nathan's old boss, the one person who would actually notice Nathan and try and to stop him.
Nathan was unceremoniously tossed out into the alleyway on his ass. Damn again! Even if he could find another way in, the party was practically over. He'd never get in on time. This caused him to kick a nearby dumpster in frustration. As the ringing stopped he heard that noise that haunted his dreams.
Looking up, he saw Charles leaning out a window and chuckling. A less brutal man would have compared the sound to the laugher of angels but Nathan decided it was more like Satan revving up a really sweet Harley.
"I looked for you, I thought you weren't here."
Nathan could practically feel his sprites lift. That guy whose name he hadn't even known last week had looked for him. He'd noticed that Nathan was missing and gone off in search of him. Maybe all that bullshit Pickles was spinning about meant to be was not quite as bullshit as it sounded.
"I uh, got fired." Nathan explained, trying not to shout but still wanting Charles to hear him. Charles wasn't really that far away. The window he was leaning out of was only a foot or two higher than Nathan in the alleyway. It almost reminded him of some bullshit play he read right before dropping out.
Charles chuckled again and all thoughts of plays and balconies went right out of his head.
"That's a shame. This party has been interminably dull without you."
Nathan didn't really know what that meant exactly, but he got the part where Charles had missed him. He was almost ready to shout something sappy and stupid and so un-metal he would never live it down, but someone must have been calling for Charles because he turned his head away from the window to say something.
He turned back and spoke with a look of regret. "I've got to go, duty calls."
Nathan couldn't just let him go like that. He had to say something. "Look, I'll uh, see you around, okay?"
Charles turned back and gave Nathan that inscrutable smile before disappearing.
The papers announced that the next party would be a costume ball in the Egypt room at the museum. This time they tried their hand at planning. Nathan was going to need some sort of costume to blend in. Toki and Skwisgaar took over that task. It's not common knowledge, but Toki and Skwisgaar happen to be totally gay for each other. When Skwisgaar wasn't banging everything that moved, you could find him cuddling up to Toki. They didn't like to talk about it because it's not gay if nobody says anything. Still, everybody knew about it and it was common knowledge that liking cock gave you instant points in fashion designer. Sure, this had yet to happen to Nathan and he'd been crushing after Charles for over a month, but maybe you got all that secret queer knowledge after you did it the first time. Nathan was looking forward to understanding what so many people saw in Mamma Mia.
They pooled together everyone's resources, tore up a chunk of carpet and sent Toki dumpster diving. In the end they made Nathan a passable cyberpunk Viking costume, because cyberpunk Vikings were the most metal thing they could think of on such short notice. They had covered his old combat boots in carpet meant to look like fur. Skwisgaar, in a rare display of non guitar related talent, had sewn an old fashioned tunic. they appropriated Murderface's morning star and Skwisgaar's horned helmet. Toki was responsible for the cyberpunk accents, welding together pieces of his model airplanes. Pickles supplied enough pot to make the whole thing look like a good idea.
Nathan wasn't sure if it was the pot talking, but he thought he looked handsome in his get up.
They even had a more cohesive plan for getting in this time. Which is to say that this time they had a plan. Toki intentionally distracted the outer guards with tales of a lost puppy. They still didn't have an invitation but Murderface and Pickles took care if that with carefully coordinated distraction streaking. While the doorman gave chase, Nathan and Skwisgaar snuck in. Skwisgaar was his back up, should he need a distraction later on.
The party was full of the sort of social jack-offs he couldn't stand. Most of the guests were women. Their costumes could mostly be described as sexy -blank-. There were sexy nurses, sexy cats and a sexy executioner. Nathan thought the rich were supposed to have more taste than that. Nathan began his search for Charles. He found him amongst a better dressed group, where the necklines weren't scandalously low and the skirts went below the knee. He looked deathly bored but Nathan didn't know how to butt in. He stood there dumbly on the outskirts, berating himself for ever thinking this was a good idea. Charles didn't even seem to notice him.
Nathan crept away to hide in an alcove of the transplanted Egyptian temple and wait for this all to be over. He was such an idiot. Charles probably thought of him as that guy with the pond scum sandwiches. He was just being polite when he said he missed him last time. Charles was always polite, he was reading too much into this.
"That's quite the costume you have."
Nathan's head whipped around. The gaggle of over enthusiastic women had left and Charles was standing by himself. He was dress up like one of those old fashioned princes from those long boring movies that chicks cream themselves over.
"I, aug ah..."
That was supposed to be something suave like 'you look pretty good yourself' but the sight of Charles had left him tongue tied. Charles smiled at him and Nathan was forced to pick his brain up off the floor.
Still stuttering but more coherent he managed to say, "I s-snuck in so you wouldn't, uh, be like, bored."
Charles was suddenly distracted by a skanky version of little Bo Peep making a beeline in his direction. Ever the quick thinker, Charles pushed them both toward the nearest exit. Charles led the way through a labyrinth of galleries. Nathan had never been to the art museum before and while he hurried to keep up with Charles, he also got a chance to look around. He should really come visit this place when he wasn't on the run, some of those paintings could be really brutal. He was pretty sure they just past one with a dude getting his head chopped off.
They stopped in a weird little room filled with dark paintings of elongated figures in exaggerated poses of suffering. Nathan took a minute to admire the nearest one.
"I think we are probably safe here."
Nathan tore himself away from the painting to look at Charles. Now that he had the other man alone, he didn't quite know what to do with him. Charles stood next to him and contemplated the same painting that Nathan had been looking at.
"El Greco always did have a way of conveying the depth of human suffering in his work."
Nathan didn't know what that might mean, but he felt that just having heard the words spoken out loud raised his IQ a point.
Hoping not to make an ass out of himself, he replied, "It's uh, like, pretty brutal for something in a museum." When Charles only nodded and didn't turn to accuse Nathan of being a fake, he continued. "So I heard about the parties and the wedding plans. It was in the newspaper. That's how I found your name. Charles, right?"
Charles smiled when Nathan said his name. It made the embarrassment of the costume and all the trouble of getting in (and the trauma of seeing Murderface naked) worth it.
"You're Nathan right? I heard your boss yelling at you. For the record, I apologize if my distracting you got you fired."
Nathan shrugged it off, irrationally happy that Charles knew his name.
"That's okay, I didn't like being a waiter anyway. Some day I'm going to be a fucking brutal rock star and dildos like him won't matter."
Charles actually looked interested in what he was saying. "Are you in a band?" he asked.
Nathan explained about Dethklok and how they were great, but stupid. No one would actually pay them to play music. At one point someone had paid them to stop playing, but it wasn't the same thing. Charles seemed pretty interested in the whole thing and asked all the right questions. Without meaning to Nathan found himself recounting the story of how the rest of the band had gotten him into the party. Unfortunately, in the middle of explaining the logic behind the model air plane parts Charles' watch beeped.
Charles looked down at his watch and cursed. "Damn, the party is about to end. If I don't make an appearance my mother will never forgive me."
Nathan was reluctant to let Charles go but through their conversation he'd heard a little about Mrs. Offdensen and didn't want to see Charles get in trouble. A mother's wrath could be brutal.
Charles took a few hurried steps toward the exit before he turned back around. "Look," he began "the next party is going to be at the Ritz-Carlton. I can leave an invitation at the door for you." Charles lost his self confidence all of a sudden. "if you don't mind keeping me company again, that is."
Maybe Nathan's man crush wasn't completely crazy after all. He might actually have a shot. Nathan could feel himself flush at the thought. "That uh, sounds cool." he said, trying not to think of the possibilities. "Um, see you later."
Charles stopped looking nervous once he heard Nathan agree. He smiled that heart stopping smile once again and then ran out the room to make it back to the party in time.
The next week couldn't pass by quick enough. He'd found some two bit job sorting donations at the local Salvation Army. It didn't pay much but it kept Murderface from knifing him in his sleep over the rent. It had the added advantage of letting him go through the junk before everyone else. Most of junk fell into the categories of impossibly out dated or horribly stained. However through careful squirreling he managed to collect all the necessary pieces of a halfway decent suit. Maybe if he looked the part it wouldn't be quite so hard to get in.
This time he got ready without the help of his housemates. Toki probably would have tried to glue more model airplane parts to him and Pickles would have gotten him drunk enough to agree. Still, once he was set to go, he walked out into the living room to get everyone's opinion.
They immediately burst out laughing and called him a tool, so he figured he must look okay. After they had gotten all the laughing out of their system, Pickles reached over to straighten out his tie and Murderface handed him a switch blade knife, for protection in case zombies attack. Toki and Skwisgaar both wished him luck and soon he was out the door.
Standing at the fancy doors of the hotel he was almost nervous they weren't going to let him in, but the door man just smiled that fake soulless smile and held the door. Standing in the lobby he was afraid to open his mouth. He kept thinking they were all going to peg him as an intruder but when nothing happened after a few minutes, he figured his thrift store disguise must be working. Not wanting to waste valuable minutes looking for the party this time, he stopped to ask a hotel dildo in a uniform where it was. This turned out to be a good move as the concierge handed over his invitation along with directions. The engraved invitation was made out to a Nathan No Last Name Given and Nathan was surprised to remember that he'd told Charles his life story last week yet never mentioned his last name. It was weird to feel so close to someone and then realize that they were missing basic information like that.
He had a much easier time walking into the party with an invitation. Once inside he looked around and spotted Charles in the corner hiding behind a potted plant. Seeing Nathan walking toward him Charles looked relieved. Then he motioned to a door and quickly walked through it. Nathan followed after him and found himself in an emergency stair well much like the one from their second meeting. Charles was looking haggard but good in an expensive tailored suit that put Nathan's to shame.
Charles looked pleased to see him. Motioning for Nathan to sit down on the steps next to him he said, "Thank god you came. Mother is getting sick of these parties and the guests are getting pretty desperate. One more minute in there and I would have started snapping necks." He didn't look like he was kidding.
Charles started recounting some of the more outrageous things women had done to get him to marry them. As the conversation went on the harsh lines on Charles' face relaxed and soon he looked less haggard and more like the guy who apologized to waiters and made jokes about pond scum.
Suddenly Charles stopped mid joke and turned serious. "I've been thinking," he began. "Maybe I should put a stop to these parties and just announce that I've picked someone."
Nathan felt his stomach go cold. Of course Charles would eventually pick someone, that had been the point of the parties. Nathan had been foolish to even hope for something different. "That's probably the right thing to do." He mumbled. He wanted to run out there and drown himself in black metal till he couldn't feel any more, but that would be rude and Charles deserved better.
Charles gave Nathan a strange look, wondering why he suddenly seemed so deflated. "Mother has a one track mind and she won't quit until I pick someone. Since I'm pretty sure I've got the right person, I might as well tell her."
Nathan felt like someone had just ripped out his heart and stomped on it. It would almost make a good song but Nathan didn't want to remember this moment every time he sang it. Forcing himself to look happy for his friend he asked "Who?"
Charles was a bit surprised at the question but the light bulb went off. Leaning in close he took Nathan's shocked face in his hands and moved in till they were only inches apart.
"You, you idiot." Charles' eyes searched Nathan's to make sure he hadn't made a mistake.
Nathan could feel the words as much as hear them and for a second he thought he must have misheard. Then Charles pressed their lips together and suddenly there was fire and passion and all the things boring people wrote songs about. Charles broke the kiss for one horrifying moment but just repositioned himself to kiss deeper. Kissing while sitting side by side in an emergency stair well was awkward but they both gave it their best shot.
Charles was incredibly distracting but Nathan needed to be sure he'd really heard right. He reluctantly detached from Charles who whimpered reflexively at the loss of contact.
Nathan waited for his brain to catch up before asking "Did you just ask me to marry you? Because I'm pretty sure that's not legal in this state."
Charles was trying to catch his breath and he felt a little ridiculous at having lost control like that. "Not exactly," he responded. "I was thinking of something more like running away with you and managing the band. It sounds like you are pretty good. All you need is some direction."
Nathan was confused. One minute they were practically making out and now they were talking about Nathan's stupid band? "Wait a minute, you want to manage my band?"
The little smile was back and Nathan had to fight to concentrate on what Charles was saying. "Not exactly. I want to run away with you and never attend a fancy party again. But since doing that will probably piss off my mother enough to cut me out of the will, I figured we could make our own fortune." Nathan found the whole idea very appealing and bent down to kiss Charles again. Before he could seal their lips together and effectively stop all conversation he thought of one last question. "You're sure you want to pick me?" some of those chicks at the party had been pretty hot.
Charles gave a light laugh and closed the gap between them. He was sure.