"Why don't you just," Eduardo asks, clearly confused by the situation in front of him, "buy it online or something?"
"Because, that's the whole point. They're only selling it at the stores and each store will only have a limited number of expansion packs," Mark explains.
"And it's the expansion pack you want?"
"It's suppose to be insane," Dustin butts in from the couch. "I played the first game for 36 hours straight. And the sequel is supposed to blow the old one away."
"So what do you need me to do?" There's a very complicated chart hanging across the dorm's walls. Eduardo's a little uncomfortable with how often his name appears.
"It's simple," Mark says. "We think we should be okay lining up at six."
"In the evening?"
"In the morning. On Wednesday," Mark says.
"But the game isn't released until Friday."
"That's why we should be okay if we get there at six. This is a very big game Eduardo, we all need to work together."
Eduardo doesn't mention that he neither lives with them nor plays video games. He doubts it will make a difference either way.
"You're officially crazy."
"It's called dedication," Mark corrects, "and it's only for three days."
"What are you going to do about class?"
The Gamestop sits in a little strip mall made out of red brick with detailed landscaping. The whole place is designed for maximum consumption. For their part though, the store and mall seem to be sufficiently handling gaming nerds engaging in their form of outdoor camping. The line of sleeping bags and tents stretches ten wide with Mark number three. There's a power cord with laptops plugged in and batches of textbooks scattered amongst the chairs and sleeping bags.
"It's why we have the schedule," Mark says. "I'm here from eight to noon and then Dustin will switch with me. As long as we have one person in line we're fine."
"So why am I here?"
"I need coffee," Mark says. "I have to finish this problem set and can't do it without the proper amounts of caffeine. Your assistance in bringing food and power cords will be greatly appreciated."
It says something about their relationship, that Eduardo heads to the coffee shop without having to ask for Mark's order or money.
Eduardo comes back at eight that night. The line's already doubled and Eduardo says hello to a guy from his European History class as he walks to the front of the line.
"How's it going?" Eduardo questions, kicking at Mark's foot to get his attention.
"The chair is killing my posture."
"Too bad they don't make ergonomically correct folding chairs," Eduardo says. "I brought your book by the way. I know your report is due tomorrow and I saw it sitting on your desk." He hands over Things Fall Apart, the book littered with pink and green stickie notes.
"Thanks," Mark says. "I guess I should actually work on that.”
"You guys sleeping out here?" Eduardo questions. He stands with his feet spread and hands pushed into his North Face jacket. It's comfortable outside but there's a chill in the air that says the mild weather won't last long.
"Chris is tonight. I should be done by ten though, " Mark says. "You want to come over after and get some pizza?"
Eduardo nods. "I'll see you tonight."
This time when Eduardo meets Mark, he brings coffee with him.
"I love you," Mark states, cooing to the hot drink.
"I figured since it was colder today."
Boston changed from a mild 50 to a bitter 30 that has half the line huddled in blankets and sleeping bags.
"It's like the weather has something against massive science fiction multi-players."
Eduardo crouches in front of Mark and his folding chair set up. It's pretty intense with a tent, sleeping bag and battery powered TV inside. There's a now redundant mini-fridge with cans of Red Bull and bottles of water too.
"Want me to get you some soup or something?" Eduardo asks.
Mark looks up, catching Eduardo at eye level. "Don't you have class?"
"He lectures from the PowerPoints."
There's a second of consideration, something complicated and conflicted crossing Mark's face. "I could do soup if you want to sit with me."
"It's 30 degrees Mark." Eduardo says. But he stuffs his hands in his pockets and asks, "Want me to see if they have matzo ball?"
DISASTER! Mark's text reads.
Eduardo bolts up, phone falling from his nightstand and hitting the floor. His feet follow. Eduardo scrambles for his jacket and shoes, sending Where are you? before heading out the door.
The sun's barely rising as Eduardo makes it to Gamespot. The line wraps around the block, just huddled masses of blankets and power cords this early in the morning. He bypasses everyone else and heads straight for Mark and his third in line position.
"Hey, no cuts!"
Eduardo turns to see a blond teenager with multiple hoodies layered over his small frame. "I'm not cutting," Eduardo says. He can see Mark just a couple of people up in line but his headphones are on and Mark doesn't look over.
"I've been here for three days and you're not getting in front of me," the teen says.
Eduardo doesn't have time to argue with some suburban adolescent so he's relieved when the girl next to the teen says, "Chill out Roger. I think the lack of sleep is making you paranoid. He's some dude's boyfriend."
"I'm - " Eduardo starts to clarify when the teenager interrupts.
"Oh, sorry dude. Just had to make sure you know?"
"Sure," Eduardo says, smiling at the girl before shuffling the rest of the way to Mark. "What's wrong?"
"Chris is sick," Mark replies, taking off his headphones and letting them rest on his neck. "He got sick and can't take his shifts now."
"What shifts?" Eduardo asks before remembering the mission that's overtaken his friends lives. "Oh, well is he okay?"
"Oh, he's fine," Mark says. "The bigger problem is who's going to take over. Chris is supposed to be taking this morning because Dustin and I have class. And we're down to the last day and if we lose our spot in line there's no way we'll be getting the game and all this work will be for nothing."
Eduardo sighs. He's somewhat relieved that it's not something serious but he also knows what a big deal this game has become to Mark. "I'll take the shift."
"Really?" Mark questions, perking up.
"Yeah," Eduardo says. "I have class at noon though."
"Excellent, Dustin will take over before then." He claps Eduardo on the back. "Thanks, I owe you. We'll grab lunch after class."
Mark gathers his backpack, giving Eduardo an actual smile before beginning the trek back to campus.
Eduardo looks up and down the line, seeing some inquiring faces glance back. He attempts to smile before the wind picks up and Eduardo realizes he's forgotten his hat and gloves. He grabs the sleeping bag and doesn't think about being Mark's line boyfriend.
"Almost time, almost time," Dustin says, unzipping the tent and beaming at Eduardo. "Thanks for covering for Chris, dude. We really owe you."
"No problem," Eduardo says through chattering teeth. He's been completely numb for the past two hours. He tried passing the time by sleeping but even the tent and sleeping bag couldn't keep out the chill of the frozen pavement. He had huddled instead of sleeping and just developed a crick in his neck. "When do you guys get the game?"
"Midnight tonight, have you seen the line? It's insane."
"No," Eduardo remarks. "Spent my time trying to keep warm."
"It is freezing. Where's your hat and gloves by the way? I'm wearing like five layers right now."
"Mark got me up a little early," Eduardo says. "I guess I'll see you later tonight?"
"Maybe. I'm pretty sure the three of us will be enjoying the fruits of our labor for a couple of days. Mark wanted to talk to you though. He's going to be home the rest of the day. Bastard won rock, paper, scissors and gets to be the one to buy the actual game."
Eduardo just nods, standing up and letting his joints creak back into place. "I have to go to class, I'll see you later though."
The first sneeze comes during attendance. They don't stop as the professor drones on and Eduardo tries to follow along. His notebook holds chicken scratch and a vague attempt at a diagram.
As class finally ends, Eduardo gathers his empty notebook and heads over to Kirkland. He almost trips on the front steps, catching himself just in time before getting run over by a hoard of outgoing students.
"Nine more hours!" Mark greets when he opens the door.
Chris raises his hands from the couch where he's huddled with a blanket and eating soup.
"Wahoo," Eduardo says, quietly and in between sneezes.
"You don't sound good," Mark says. "You should probably wash your hands before we go to lunch."
"I'm actually kind of tired. Would you mind if I just crashed here for a bit?"
Mark watches him carefully, eyes scanning his face and then up and down Eduardo's body.
"Sure, I'm not going to leave until around ten. We can eat before then."
Eduardo nods, stripping off his jacket and mumbling something about Mark's bed before collapsing into it. He throws back the covers, wrapping the sheets around himself and laying on Mark's pillow before falling asleep.
Eduardo barely remembers Mark waking him up, a hand on his shoulder and a gentle nudge before Eduardo mumbles something and goes back to sleep.
Eduardo wakes up and glances out the dorm window. The streetlights are on and the sky is inky. He rolls over and finds Mark on the bed next to him with his computer in his lap.
"What time is it?" Eduardo asks, throat scratchy and raw.
"Shouldn't you be at the-" Eduardo's hands search for the right words, "the game thingy."
Mark finishes whatever he's typing, looking over at Eduardo. "You're sick, someone had to stay."
"You should go back to sleep," Mark says. "You need your rest."
Eduardo feels something warm in his chest that has nothing to do with his fever. "Thanks."
"I still get to play the game, Dustin's buying it right now."
"Can you just stop talking and let me soak in the moment of you being an actual human being?"
Mark's lips quirk into a smile. "Fine. Just know I won't be talking to you until after we finish all the levels."
"Understandable." Eduardo leans into Mark, letting his fingers brush against the other boy's arm.
"Maybe after though, we can get coffee or something?" Mark questions, eyes on his computer and not Eduardo.
"We get coffee all the time."
"The kind of coffee that ends with us making out."
Eduardo feels the smile spread across his face. "Ohh, that kind of coffee."
"I figure I owe you," Mark says.
There's more meaning in there but Eduardo lets it go. He's tired from sleeping on the sidewalk and knows that in a couple of minutes Dustin's going to barrel through the door and Eduardo won't see Mark for a couple of days. So for right now, Eduardo's going to enjoy being next to Mark. He'll enjoy it for as long as he can.