"Well, here we are."
They had arrived at the train station in Corvallis. Sören turned to smile at Dooku. "Thank you, again, for the ride here." Sören didn't drive - not since the accident.
"You are most welcome." Their eyes met.
They got out of Dooku's Jaguar together, and Dooku opened the trunk. Sören put on his backpack, and even though he was capable of taking out the rolling suitcase by himself, Dooku still took it out, rolling it up to him. Sören reached in his pocket for his wallet. "Here, let me pay you for the ride -"
"There's no need."
"But you went out of your way to the station -"
"It's no trouble." A small smile.
"All right." Sören wanted to hug him, but restrained the urge; Dooku was always aloof, even with someone like Sören where it was established they considered each other friends - best friends, even - not just neighbors and colleagues.
"Enjoy your vacation, Sören."
"And you enjoy your summer. Maybe shoot me an e-mail now and again, let me know what you're up to."
"And you as well. And do call me when you return, and I'll pick you up at the train station."
"OK." Sören lingered, again, wanting to hug him. But he didn't.
Dooku gave a small, polite wave, and watched as Sören walked to the train station, humming to himself as he wheeled his luggage.
It was a twenty-four hour trip from Corvallis to Sausalito. Sören would be renting half of a cottage there, sharing with another out-of-towner for the summer - an unknown, which made him nervous, but so long as they didn't get in each other's hair it would be fine. Sören finally had enough money to go somewhere nice on vacation, having worked a good job as the studio art professor at the local university the last few years, but he didn't want to be too extravagant, hence why he was doing a rent share in the pricey Sausalito - he would already be paying close to two grand a month to rent the room, and he'd be renting it until the end of August.
He'd thought about going home to Iceland, seeing his cousin Ari, but he could do that for Christmas. He hadn't been a lot of places, and he'd chosen Sausalito because he wanted to see the Bay Area of California.
He took his seat on the train, and put his headphones around his neck, waiting as the passengers assembled. When the train started rolling, he listened to the horn, feeling self-conscious at smiling at it like a big kid. When the horns stopped, he put his headphones on and zoned out to Cocteau Twins, watching the Oregon countryside roll past.
From the train station in Sausalito he took a shuttle he'd arranged ahead of time, to the location specified. The two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage was a short walk from the ocean, and exhausted as he was, Sören gave a happy sigh when he smelled the salt air. He tipped his driver and got out, taking a moment to take it all in, watching the waves, before heading into the cottage.
It was bright and airy, a big living room with a flat-screen TV, leather couch, plush recliner, beautiful tapestry rug in front of a gas fireplace. A painting of the sea hung above the mantle. The kitchen included a bar, and had a glass-doored patio that led out to a deck and the beach. Sören would have to wait for his roommate to get here, if they weren't already here, before picking out one of the two bedrooms. He was hoping he could get the master bedroom so he'd have space to set up the art supplies he'd brought with him, packed in the suitcase, with some being shipped down by UPS within the next two days. But even the smaller bedroom was luxurious.
They would have to share the one bathroom, but it was spacious, done in rich grey marble, and there was even a jacuzzi bathtub in addition to a glass-doored shower stall. Sören still couldn't believe it; he'd never been in surroundings so posh.
He was going to need to go into town to grocery shop, looking at the empty fridge and freezer, and there were just a few "survive a storm" type staples in the cupboards, none of which interested him. Sören flopped on the couch and put the TV on, and since he'd had a long travel and hadn't slept well on the train, he dozed off despite himself.
He woke up to hear a key in the lock, but still couldn't fully rouse himself out of sleep, groggily laying there until he heard footsteps in the living room and a familiar voice.
Sören sat up with a start, and looked at him, eyes blinking. "Mark? What the hell are you doing here?"
"I could ask the same of you." A wry smile.
Sören laughed nervously. "What are the odds...?"
"This is quite a coincidence." He also laughed.
Mark Lowry was the music theory professor at the university. They had a cordial relationship, as the art and music departments saw a bit of each other. They sometimes ate together in the cafeteria. But Mark tended to keep to himself, and that was that.
Here he was now, all close-to-seven-feet of him, long dark hair to the middle of his back, and the first time Sören had ever seen him wearing something other than all black all the time, a black T-shirt with a pair of faded jeans, looking nice on his lean, muscular build. He wasn't wearing his usual wire-rim glasses, which gave Sören a better look at his grey eyes. He had a few suitcases with him, including a violin case.
Sören ran a hand through his nape-length unruly dark curls, and scratched his beard, before stretching. "Well," he said, "it's nice to see you?"
"We could have done far worse for roommates, yes."
Mark didn't protest Sören's request to have the master bedroom, and Sören breathed a small sigh of relief as he brought his backpack and suitcase in, sitting down on the edge of the king-sized bed, looking around at the room. Both bedrooms had a sea motif, done in blues and browns and greys, with paintings of the sea in both rooms, seashells and driftwood on shelves, and there was a gorgeous view of the ocean from his window.
"Wow," Sören heard Mark say, across the hall.
He got up, curious, and tiptoed. The smaller bedroom had another glass-door patio, with a smaller deck than the one in the kitchen, leading out to the sea. "Mine doesn't have that," Sören said. "But you're still welcome to this one."
"This is... really nice. This is better than what was advertised in the listing."
"It sure is."
"So... I take it we need food, and all of that."
"We do. I was going to take the bus or walk or take an Uber into town later, I need more of a nap first."
"I'll drive you." Mark knew Sören didn't drive and carpooled with Dooku frequently.
"Thank you. You don't mind waiting?"
"No, not at all. I had a long drive down here, so it'll be nice to take a rest, myself."
"OK. Well... sleep well, or enjoy your chill time, or whatever it is you're doing."
Sören tried to get comfortable on the bed, but as tired as he was he couldn't get back to sleep right away, and after a few minutes of tossing and turning, he knew why. Really? He zipped open his backpack and took out the well-loved Eeyore doll he still slept with.
God, I hope Mark doesn't see me with this.
Curling up with Eeyore made the difference, and he was out like a light soon enough.