Will and Nomi meet first.
It’s two months before freshman year of college and god damn is he glad his birthday’s in August and he’s still a minor. They meet in community service. Nomi is in for hacking the Pentagon which makes Will’s petty shoplifting and evasion of police custody seem, well, petty in comparison. They laugh about the fact they share a birthday. Things get weird when it’s the same year, same minute, and they’re going to the same college. Nomi’s reasons for picking that school are better than Will’s, positive rather than negative. Their soon-to-be university is known for multicultural diversity, for bringing in tons of international students, for being in the outskirts of San Francisco where people are generally more accepting of everyone in the LGBTQ+ spectrum than they are in Illinois. Will’s reason for picking their new school were all in the things it lacked. It is not in Chicago, it is very far away from Chicago, no one in the entire state of California will associate the name Gorski with his father.
Sun and Capheus meet second.
Fresh off their respective ugly interactions with the customs people at SFO, they meet on the van the school sent to pick them up. Capheus is all smiles, his face pressed against the window to watch the city go by. Sun finds herself sitting next to the infectiously happy Kenyan boy. He babbles about Jean-Claude van Damme for long enough that one of the other people in their van requests in the tone of a jet-lagged asshole that Capheus shut the fuck up. Before Capheus can do more than look confused, Sun is holding the boy’s finger, bent all the way back so if he tries to move, test her grip, it will snap. He leaves Capheus alone after that, but Sun has gained a new companion. She doesn’t really mind.
When Nomi and Will get to their new university, they discover – but are not really surprised – that they’re in the same dorm building, on the same floor, and are actually living directly across the hall from each other. Will’s roommate hasn’t shown up, and neither has Nomi’s. They spend their first night sitting on the floor of Will’s room eating Chinese takeout that’s seriously more authentic than any they ever got in Chicago and watching a movie on Nomi’s laptop. Nomi’s roommate shows up the next day, a bright eyed half-San Diegan half-Mexican girl named Daniela who eyes Will like he’s a meal and she’s just missing a fork. It makes Will uncomfortable as hell, but fortunately, his roommate shows up that afternoon, a fellow Chicagoan named Diego, who clearly wants to get along famously with Dani. Will and Nomi leave them to it, which is how they meet Lito.
Lito is sprinting across the quad outside the dorms after a man on a bicycle. He’s shouting in Spanish, but when that seems to fail, he switches to English.
“I see you, villain! I see you and your fucking villain moustache!” Lito screams, throwing a rock at the man on the bicycle. Will and Nomi exchange looks and approach Lito as he falls to his knees on the bricks.
“Are you okay?” Nomi asks.
“He stole my bicycle,” Lito explains.
Will and Nomi help him file a report with the campus police and discover he lives in their building, on their floor. They discover while Lito explains that the bicycle was a birthday present that Lito shares their birthday.
Lito’s roommate is still MIA, and so they leave Diego and Dani to the vigorous eyefucking they’re partaking in from their respective doorways and hang out in Lito’s room. Lito explains to no one’s surprise that he’s there studying theatre.
Capheus’s roommate has glasses and has covered his half of the room with famous Mexican artists’ work and has three shelves of books with him, not to mention a contraband hotplate. The room smells like cooking when Capheus walks in, Sun a step behind him to inspect his roommate for potential threats. Capheus is sunny and optimistic and Sun is not going to let the people in this strange country break him. She decides that if anyone in America is going to break Capheus, it will not be Hernando Cortez, who is wildly guilty looking while he makes tortillas on his illegal hotplate. The smell of Hernando’s cooking draws some of their floor mates, particularly a tall, stunningly handsome boy with soulful dark eyes who practically throws himself at Hernando’s feet begging for some of whatever that delicious smell is. Hernando happily shares his food with their new floor mates, Will, Nomi, and Lito. The group of them sit on Capheus and Hernando’s beds eating the delicious food – “Just like my grandmaused to make,” Lito sighs, staring at Hernando with such an immediately devoted look that Sun feels rather ill – until Hernando starts talking at length about Diego Rivera, Lito drinking in every word, and it becomes necessary for the rest of them to leave the room. Will generously offers Capheus a stolen key to Lito’s room for the night.
Sun’s roommate arrives with a large collection of technical music equipment and a blue streak in her hair. She explains that she’s a DJ and likes to make music. There’s a deep sadness in the girl that makes Sun decide to protect her just like Capheus. Riley clearly doesn’t need any more pain in her life and Sun is not going to pry but she’s not going to let anything else happen either.
She brings Riley with her to the dining hall where she’s supposed to be meeting everyone else with the exception of Will’s roommate and Nomi’s roommate, who have gone out to dinner at an actual restaurant together. They are almost at the dining hall when there’s a loud thud and a curse and they look over to discover Will lying flat on his back on the sidewalk while Nomi laughs at him. Lito and Hernando, holding hands, look too besotted with each other to have completely noticed whatever Will has done. Capheus doesn’t laugh at him, but smiles, offers him a hand and pulls him up, helping to dust the dirt off.
The first time Will sees Riley, he, well, he does. He walks smack into a tree and falls flat on his ass in the middle of the sidewalk. He’s distantly aware of Nomi laughing her ass off at him, and then Capheus pulls him to his feet and dusts him off and they join Sun and her roommate. He learns her name is Riley Gunnarsdóttir, although she DJs under the name Riley Blue. Will doesn’t realise he’s spent the entirety of dinner staring at her until they get back to the dorms and Nomi claps him on the shoulder with the comment, “I have never in my life seen someone quite so fuckstruck before Will. And I was there when Lito and Hernando met.”
Will brushes her off but definitely dreams about girls with white hair touched with blue streaks.
Lito’s roommate shows up wearing a black eye, his blond hair slightly dishevelled. He comes complete with a thick German accent and a few nasty scars. Lito stoically accepts that the other boy’s name is actually, really truly Wolfgang, and then runs to Hernando and Capheus’s room because he’s fairly certain his roommate is involved in the mob.
“Don’t be a dork,” Will recommends from where he’s sitting at Capheus’s desk, eating Hernando’s contraband food.
“At least I didn’t walk into a tree over some girl,” Lito retorts.
“No, you did indecent things over good food,” Will replies, which makes Hernando blush and take off his glasses so he can’t completely see everyone else.
“There is nothing indecent about a blow job, Will,” Lito says. Hernando blushes harder and Will swallows his food uncomfortably considering the seductive look Lito gives him.
“Whatever,” Will says, flushing almost as red as Hernando. Lito files this information away for later. “Your roommate’s not in the mob.”
“Well his name is Wolfgang and he’s from East Germany,” Lito says.
“That’s not a real place anymore,” Hernando reminds him. “It’s just Germany.”
Lito grudgingly accepts this. He doesn’t particularly mind if his roommate is involved in the mob, because it would add some delicious drama to the every day, but he wants them all to know in the event he gets in trouble.
The first time Kala meets Wolfgang, he’s naked.
He’s standing in the middle of the hallway somewhere between the communal boy’s bathroom and his room, completely naked, and also wet. Kala yelps and pulls her bathrobe tighter around herself, clutching her shower caddy. Her yelp makes Wolfgang smirk, especially when her eyes drop to the – Oh please Lord Ganesha, this can’t be real, she begs – trunk between his legs. Her yelp also prompts Kala’s roommate to poke her multi-coloured dreds out the door. Amanita’s eyes go huge when she sees Wolfgang and before Kala knows what’s happening, Amanita is laughing hysterically and Wolfgang has folded his hands in front of himself.
“Why are you naked?” Kala demands, keeping her eyes fixed on Wolfgang’s face, which actually doesn’t help because holy crap his jawline.
“Someone stole my towel,” Wolfgang replies. “I just live there.”
He points – to Kala’s horror – at the door directly across the hall from hers.
“Lito’s your roommate right?” Amanita asks and Kala is horrified that she can make conversation with a completely naked man.
“Yeah,” Wolfgang agrees. He looks over Kala in her bathrobe again and she feels like she isn’t wearing anything at all. “His boyfriend, Hernando down in 416 makes food all the time. You ladies should come.”
The invitation is extended to both of them, but he stares right at Kala while he says it and suddenly her bathrobe is far too warm. San Francisco might be a lot colder than Mumbai but right now it feels twice as hot.
Wolfgang finishes his invitation with another smirk and turns to duck into his room giving them both an unimpeded view of his ass. Kala is fairly certain she will never stop being warm ever again.
“I have to go take a shower,” Kala says, trying to run for the girl’s bathroom. Amanita grabs her by the back of her bathrobe and tugs her back into their room.
“No, you’re getting dressed,” Amanita says, throwing her her clothes.
“Why?” Kala demands. She’s certain she’s still pink from the encounter with the blond German boy from across the hall.
“Because we’re going to have dinner at room 416,” Amanita explains like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“Why?” Kala demands, holding her shower caddy like it might protect her from this clearly evil Californian’s motives. “You don’t want to – to date that boy do you?”
“Honey, no,” Amanita says. “I just really, really want to see how long it takes for you to combust if the two of you are in the same room for longer than five seconds.”
Kala glares at her but for some reason decides she has to prove herself and not be prudish and shy. She decides that she wants to see Amanita be disappointed because Kala is not going to give her the satisfaction of panicking around the shameless German boy.
Riley is glad to be in San Francisco. She’s glad she made friends with the people on her floor, thanks to her roommate. She’s glad she’s got to spend time with Sun around dawn sitting on the roof in the quiet, watching the sun rise over the hills. She’s glad she’s got to spend time sitting on the roof at sunset watching the fog roll in to the valley with Will and Nomi.
She thinks she loves the evenings where they all forgo the dining hall and pile into Hernando and Capheus’s room so that Hernando can feed them. She’d never had Mexican food back in Reykjavik and now she’s not sure she could ever even try to find a Mexican restaurant back home because there’s no way it could possibly compare to Hernando’s cooking.
The day they all meet Kala, Wolfgang, and Amanita, she’s sitting on Hernando’s pillows, wedged protectively into the corner between Will and Sun. Will is warm next to her and where their arms are pressed together she can feel his heart beating erratically. Sun, by contrast, is perfectly still and her heartbeat is impossibly steady.
Lito shows up sort of late for dinner because his mob-connected roommate has decided to join them and apparently, this was a complicated process that involved needing to find Wolfie a pair of boxers. Wolfgang makes himself comfortable on the floor, leaning against Capheus’s half of the dresser, and there’s a knock on the door. They fall silent in case it’s the RA trying to confiscate Hernando’s hotplate and therefore their source of food. In the four days they’ve been on campus, they’ve started a jar on Hernando’s desk where they throw their spare change to help him buy groceries.
It isn’t the RA. It’s a pair of girls from the room across the hall from Lito and Wolfgang’s.
“We heard y’all had the best food in the building,” the girl with the dreds says. Riley absolutely loves her hair. She watches as Nomi sits up straighter and then pretends she hasn’t done anything.
“What are you smiling about?” Will whispers, tipping his head down so he can reach closer to Riley’s ear.
“Nothing,” she whispers back, watching Amanita’s roommate enter the room. She looks more nervous and briefly makes eye contact with Wolfgang, who smirks. Kala looks away quickly and accepts the food that Hernando offers.
Everyone introduces themselves to Kala and Amanita, who fold right into the group, joining Riley, Will, and Sun on Hernando’s bed. Riley finds herself hoping that next year Hernando moves off campus so he can have a real kitchen – that they can all take advantage of, of course.
“Oh my God, I love your tattoo,” Amanita says, pointing at the power button on Nomi’s neck.
“Thanks,” Nomi says, blushing.
“That’s what I was smiling about,” Riley whispers to Will. He smiles as well and steals a piece of tortilla from her plate.
“How long have you had it?” Amanita asks.
“I got it on my eighteenth birthday,” Nomi says. She looks over at their corner with a mischievous look that makes Riley endlessly curious. “Ask Will what he got.”
“What? No, I didn’t – I don’t – Nom--” Will splutters before he understands she’s teasing him. Riley’s pretty sure he’s the most adorable boy she’s met.
“Do you guys have the same birthday?” Kala asks before she interrupts herself to tell Hernando he’s an amazing cook.
“So does Lito,” Nomi says. “August eighth.”
Riley blinks while a weird silence falls over the room. Half of them – Nomi, Will, Lito, Hernando, and Amanita - simply look confused. Riley glances at Will, then at Sun, Capheus, Wolfgang, and Kala who all look like she does – slightly disturbed.
“What’s up?” Amanita asks, looking around the room.
“When’s your birthday?” Will asks Riley.
“August eighth,” she says while Sun, Capheus, Wolfgang, and Kala nod in agreement.
“Fucking Twilight Zone,” Amanita says before she bursts out laughing.
For a week after they meet Neets, Kala, and Wolfie, Nomi wanders through all of their rooms collecting their times of birth.
“It would be weirder if we were all born at the same time,” she explains. They’ve gathered in Will and Diego’s room since Diego and Dani are out. “But Will and I were born at two in the morning, Riley was born at eight, Lito and Wolfgang were born at nine, Capheus was born at eleven, Kala was born at one in the afternoon, and Sun was born at five in the evening.”
“But we weren’t all born in the same city,” Wolfgang points out. The others stare at him until Nomi smacks herself in the forehead.
“No, of course. Time-zones,” she says. “You’re totally right.”
Wolfgang shrugs as if to say he knew that anyway.
“Where was everyone born?” Nomi asks, stealing Will’s laptop and pulling up google. There are no surprises as everyone shares their place of birth, at least until Lito explains he was actually born in Spain, not Mexico. “Okay, guys, this is fucking weird.”
“We were all born at the same time,” Kala guesses.
“Yeah,” Nomi says.
Capheus smiles and throws his arms around Sun’s and Wolfgang’s shoulders. “This? See, this was fate.”
They decide on the spot that it is going to be a very interesting year.