Disclaimer: Buena Vista owns the Power Rangers. No profit from or offense intended to Motel 6, McDonalds, or Snapple's Element. jamaisrien has a sig that says, "Relish today. Ketchup tomorrow."
"We have reservations," Hunter told the girl behind the desk. "Hunter Bradley."
"First floor or second?" she inquired, clicking her tongue ring against her teeth.
"First," Cam put in before Hunter could answer. He was hovering impatiently, backpack over one shoulder and his guitar case propped against the desk at his feet. "As long as it's non-smoking."
"Smoking is prohibited inside the building," she answered, without looking up. "There's a designated smoking area under the portico out back. That'll be $113.90."
"I've got it," Hunter said when Cam started to look for his wallet. "You can pay me later."
"You're in room 111." The girl tossed her dreads out of her face, trading Hunter's cash for two mismatched plastic cards. "Checkout time is at noon on Sunday. Enjoy your stay."
"Thanks," Cam called over his shoulder, already halfway across the lobby by now. Hunter caught up easily, pushing the glass doors open and waiting for Cam to shoulder his way through.
Cam turned left, and Hunter followed him without question. He had learned long ago that Cam didn't hesitate, whether he had any idea what he was doing or not. And unless Hunter had specific information to the contrary, Cam didn't appreciate being second-guessed.
Sure enough, 111 was in the left wing of the building, and Hunter wondered if Cam had seen some diagram of the building's layout that he'd missed. Or maybe he'd just figured it was fifty-fifty, which it was, and it was just as easy to go back as it was to actually ask someone, which it wasn't. Either way, he'd guessed right, and Hunter stuck one of the cards into the lock.
The light flashed green and he pushed the door open, gesturing for Cam to go ahead. When Cam tried to hold the door for him, though, he shook his head and held up the second key. Cam understood, and the door closed and locked behind him.
The other card worked just as well, and he handed it off to Cam as he joined him inside. "Not bad," he said, glancing around the room approvingly. "For a hundred bucks? Motels are cheaper here than the rent in Blue Bay Harbor."
He could almost hear Cam roll his eyes. "If you'd just get a roommate," he began.
"Yeah, yeah." Hunter dropped his duffel bag by the bureau and went over to pull back the curtains. "I like my space, all right? Hey, check out this amazing view of the parking lot."
"We're not paying for the view," Cam pointed out. He took a look anyway, then offered something to Hunter. "Speaking of which, here's my half for the room."
"Thanks," Hunter said absently, stuffing it into his pocket without counting it. Turning away from the view of the parking lot, he added, "So do you want the window or the wall?"
"Doesn't matter." Cam sidled over to the air conditioner, studying it for a moment before cranking it on. The room was stuffy, and the only alternative was opening the window to parking lot fumes. "I'll get the rest of the stuff from the truck if you want to call Blake."
"Deal," Hunter agreed, kicking his duffel toward the bed by the window. Cam got cold easily, and no matter how much he played with the temperature he was rarely without long sleeves by evening.
Throwing himself across the bed, he grabbed the phone from its cradle and punched in Blake's number. "Got your key?" he called after Cam. He got a wave in return, just before the door slammed shut and locked automatically.
"Insanity HQ," a familiar voice said in his ear. "Blake speaking."
"Hey bro," Hunter said with a grin, rolling over on his back to stare up at the ceiling. "We just checked in. We're getting stuff out of the truck now."
"Hunter!" Blake's greeting was echoed in the background by several high-pitched and very female shrieks. "You don't know how glad I am to hear from you, man. I'll be over in a few minutes."
"Whenever," Hunter assured him. "Motel 6, right off the interstate. We're in 111."
"Got it. Any word from Shane and Dustin?"
Hunter glanced over at the bureau and shook his head, though he knew Blake couldn't see it. "Cam's got the phone, but I don't think so. Were they gonna get here early?"
"Tor!" Hunter held the phone away from his ear as Blake shouted without warning. "What time were Shane and Dustin going to get in?"
There was a pause, through which he could hear muffled voices and what was probably frenetic activity, and then Blake's voice came back. "She said they were planning to be here by two, but Dustin was driving, so give 'em an extra hour."
Hunter lifted his left hand over his head, considering the digital readout. 3:13. Well, that was Dustin for you. "Right," he said aloud. "Well, we're here, so come on over when you're ready."
"Will do." Blake actually sounded relieved. "See you, bro."
"Later," Hunter agreed. Upside down, he replaced the phone without sitting up, and a moment later he heard he lock click. He tilted his head back, watching Cam cross the room with formal wear over one arm and a second backpack in the other.
"Blake's on his way," Hunter offered. "He hasn't heard from Shane or Dustin, though."
"Surprise," Cam said dryly, slipping the hangars onto the bar by the window. He turned to retrace his steps, dropping the backpack by his bed and fishing something out of his pocket. "I'll try Shane's cell."
Hunter waited, wondering how much food they were going to need to make it until dinner. He had no idea how long the rehearsal would take, but he certainly didn't believe Tori when she said they'd be eating by six. Maybe he could hit the fast food place down the road before they left.
"Where are you?" Cam asked abruptly. Then, after a pause, he added, "We've already checked in. Blake's on his way over."
Cam rolled his eyes, though in response to what Hunter couldn't tell. "You said you'd be here by two," he reminded the phone. "You can't have gotten that lost."
Hunter grinned. "They probably didn't leave till two," he muttered. Cam must have heard, because he nodded in emphatic agreement.
"We'll still be here," he said at last. He lowered the phone from his ear and tossed it on the table between their beds, catching Hunter's eye as they did so.
"They had to pick something up before they left," Cam remarked. "Apparently it took an hour and a half. But according to Shane--" the emphasis indicated how reliable he thought that source was-- "they're almost here."
"Great," Hunter said, sitting up. "I want some food. You hungry?"
And that discussion, as it always did, took longer than any normal conversation ought to. Which was why he had brought it up as soon as possible. They were still arguing over the merits of various eating establishments, grocery and take-out options when Blake arrived. Hunter greeted him with open arms.
"Blake!" he exclaimed, hauling him inside. "Where do we eat around here?"
"Congratulations," Cam called from around the corner. "Good to see you, been a long time, tell your brother he can't eat fried chicken for three days straight."
Blake just grinned, returning Hunter's bear hug and allowing himself to be shepherded out of the entryway and into the actual room. "Cam," he greeted the other with a nod, and Cam got to his feet to shake his hand. "Good to see you too, man. And thanks."
"Just glad to be here," Cam replied with a genuine smile.
"Glad but hungry," Hunter put in, not about to lose sight of the original conversation. It could go on for hours, and Blake was the perfect arbitrator. "Got any suggestions, bro?"
Voices in the hallway were obvious enough to make all of them pause, and a moment later Dustin's distinctive tone was easily recognizable. "They just don't have the same feeling," he was saying. "I don't know what you're hearing, dude, but a band's gotta have some emotion in their songs or it's like, what's the point?"
"They've got plenty of emotion," Shane's voice argued. "They're practically the kings of emotional rock!"
Hunter shot a sideways glance and Blake and found his brother looking back. "They sound gayer than I do," Hunter muttered, making no move toward the door. "You sure they don't swing that way?"
"They do have girlfriends," Cam reminded him, turning his back as he crossed the entryway.
"I had a girlfriend," Hunter called after him. "What does that prove?"
"That you have no taste?" Cam stepped out into the hallway, letting go of the door for a moment. They could hear him saying something to Shane and Dustin, his voice getting farther away as the door settled against its frame but didn't quite close.
"Dude," Blake said quietly. "Is he--?" He jerked his head at the door.
"Nah," Hunter said with a grimace. "He's still on the fence. He just didn't like Melissa, is all."
"Can't believe he doesn't date," Blake said, frowning. "He's got the best of both worlds, right? Why doesn't he take advantage of it?"
"Oh, he dates," Hunter muttered. "He's got girls and guys lining up for a turn. He's just... Cam. Hasn't found anyone he likes more than his computer, y'know?"
"He likes you," Blake pointed out. Hunter caught a speculative look on his face, but nothing more. Blake wasn't teasing.
"He likes me as a friend," he countered. "And that's not exactly breaking news. Everyone else moved out and moved on. Of course we're gonna hang out."
"So?" Blake prodded. "Maybe you should give it a try."
"What, dating?" Hunter said with a sneer. "We'd kill each other inside a week. Don't try to set me up just 'cause you found the one, bro."
The door banged open and Shane strolled in, followed closely by Dustin, who looked as though he was trying to figure out a complex math problem in his head. "Dude, I don't get it," he complained, making way for Cam as they all clustered in the entryway. "There were, like, three exits for Angel Grove. We took the one Tori told us to take, and we ended up on the AGU campus!"
"Those were the directions for tomorrow," Shane insisted. "I told you, we should have written down the motel directions when she gave them to us over the phone. The ones that came with the invitation were for guests."
"Hey, we're guests!" Dustin protested.
"We're members of the wed-ding par-ty," Shane emphasized. "Guests arrive tomorrow, dude."
Dustin lifted his hands in surrender, shaking his head. "All I know is, I was the driver, not the navigator. Someone gave me bad directions, and it wasn't Tori."
"I told you they weren't the right directions! I said, 'these are the directions to the chapel, not the motel.' But you just went ahead and followed them anyway!"
"Hey, guys," Blake interrupted. "Good to see you."
"Hey!" Dustin might as well have just noticed them. "Blake, man! Congratulations!"
"Yeah, congratulations," Shane echoed, grabbing his hand when Dustin released it. "This is gonna be one sweet wedding, huh? Hey, Hunter," he added, almost as an afterthought.
"All right, Hunter!" Dustin put up his hand, and Hunter clasped it with a grin. "Sick race at the Games, man! That was awesome! You in for next month?"
"Better believe it," Hunter responded, stacking his fist on top of Dustin's and rapping their knuckles together. "You coming? You say the word and I'll set you up."
"I'm so there!" Dustin exclaimed. "You think you can get Marah in too?"
"No problem," Hunter promised. "If I can't mail you the stuff, it'll be waiting at the gate."
"Hey, I think your room is bigger than ours!" Shane pushed past them to survey the room with a critical eye. "Guess that means this is the--" he swung back, catching Dustin's eye, and at the same time they both exclaimed, "Party room!"
"Bars do exist for a reason," Cam interjected, folding his arms as he leaned back against the doorway. "You want to drink, you can do it there."
"While we're on the subject," Hunter jumped in, before Shane could launch into a detailed description of what "the party room" involved, "who else is hungry? Cause I'm starved, and I'd just as soon bring something back here as eat on the way."
"Count me in," Dustin agreed immediately. "We saw some fast food places when we got off the highway."
"Which was almost an hour ago," Shane reminded him.
"No. Fried. Food." Cam glared at them. "I've already had enough McDonalds to last the rest of the day, thank you very much."
"There's a sub shop just down the street," Blake offered. "They've got good sandwiches and great coffee. I'll go with you, if you want."
"Nah, you've got enough running around to do. Stay here and relax for a while." Blake didn't take much convincing, and Hunter checked his pockets for his keys and his wallet while Blake gave him directions.
"I'll find it," he assured his brother. "What do you want?"
Blake was obviously there often, because he rattled off an order without having to think about it. Dustin made it easier by copying Blake's order, and Shane took a guess that Blake didn't veto. Hunter turned to Cam expectantly, but his temporary roommate just shook his head.
"Oh no," he told Hunter. "I know what happens when you get sent out for food alone. I'm going with you or you'll come back with the fastest, greasiest thing you can find."
Hunter shrugged, ignoring Blake's amused look as he shoved past the others and yanked open the door. "Suit yourself," he said, taking his room key out of his pocket before he stepped into the hallway. "But you're carrying the drinks."
"And you're paying," Cam retorted. "Dustin owes me almost thirty bucks by now."
"Hey!" The closing door cut off Dustin's exclamation, and Hunter smirked as they started down the hallway. Whenever Cam covered something for him, Hunter remembered, and he got the next bill until they were even. Cam didn't call in debts, but he did keep track. So Hunter kept track too.
"What did Blake look so smug about?" Cam asked abruptly, grabbing the door to the lobby and waiting to follow Hunter through. "Did you lose a bet over the food or something?"
Hunter got the next door. "Better than that. He thinks we should date. You and me," he clarified, in case it wasn't obvious. "I think you reminded him by volunteering to come along."
"Us?" Cam didn't seem appalled by the thought, but he was a master of the deadpan expression. "One of us would be dead in a day."
"I gave us a week," Hunter said conversationally.
"Well, one of us has to be a realist." Cam must have locked the truck on his last trip, because when he reached it he waited by the cab until Hunter got in.
He leaned over to unlock the door, and Cam added, "No offense, Hunter, but I've seen you in relationships. You make a better friend than a boyfriend."
"I make a perfectly good boyfriend," Hunter informed him, waiting until Cam fastened his seatbelt to start the truck. He braced his arm against the back of the passenger seat as they backed out, then let the truck roll down toward the bottom of the parking lot. "It's just that I'm the only one."
The eye-roll was audible. "I sincerely doubt that you're only good boyfriend in the world."
"Guess I'll just have to wait until someone proves me wrong, then." Hunter couldn't help feeling that he'd won that one. Cam didn't say a word for the rest of the ride, even when he missed the sub shop entrance and pulled in through the exit instead.
The silence ended the moment they walked inside, and Hunter went over to collect juice and soda while Cam stepped up to the counter. Hunter hadn't even bothered to remember their orders, and Cam knew it. It was probably the real reason he'd insisted on coming.
"What do you want?" Cam asked, when he finally joined him at the front of the shop. "And you're still paying, by the way."
"Not for yours, I hope," he retorted.
"I already paid." Cam made it sound like the most obvious thing in the world. "Did you get my--"
"Element, yes," Hunter interrupted, leaning over the counter to shift five bottles out of his arms and onto it without shattering anything. "I do know what you drink, y'know."
The wait was shorter than he had expected, and they made it back to the motel in plenty of time to dole out a post-lunch, pre-dinner meal. Blake was looking visibly less harassed by the time they finished eating, and Hunter had to ask. "Just how many women are there at the apartment, bro?"
Blake gave him a meaningful look. "Too. Many," he emphasized. "All the bridesmaids are there, plus Tori's mom, her grandmother, and our grandmother. Oh, and Jeike's daughter. We're gonna be seriously outnumbered."
"How old is Jeike's daughter?" Dustin wanted to know.
"Three," Blake said with a sigh. "Or four. I can't remember if she just had a birthday or if it's still coming up. She's loud, that's all I know. Too bad she's better at yelling than she is at walking in a straight line."
"Is she the flower girl?" Cam guessed.
"She's the flower princess," Blake replied. "She doesn't like being called a girl."
Hunter snickered. "She'd better get over that," he said, gathering up his sandwich wrapper and assorted other debris. "It's gonna be a long twenty years."
"Yeah, for us," Blake grumbled. "Jeike wants us to move down the coast after we graduate. I think she sees free baby-sitting in her future."
"What does Tori think of her?" Shane asked, following Hunter's lead. He tossed his trash into the garbage can they'd put between the beds.
Blake shook his head, glancing at his watch. "We're pretty much in agreement that she's cute when she sleeps. Do you guys mind if I change here? We need to be at the chapel in half an hour."
"Our room is your room," Hunter told him. "You got stuff in the car?"
"Yeah." Blake crushed his sandwich wrapper into the trash, taking a last swig of soda before the plastic bottle followed the wrapper. Hunter glanced at Cam, but Cam didn't say a word. "Thanks, bro. I'll be right back."
Dustin was brushing crumbs off his shirt as he stood, and Shane offered, "We'll meet you back here in ten?"
"Great," Blake agreed. "It won't take that long to get to the chapel from here."
He followed them out into the hallway, and Cam waited until the door closed to retrieve his soda bottle from the trash. Shane and Dustin had taken their drinks with them. "I don't know why they don't have recycling bins in these rooms," Cam muttered, putting the bottle on the bureau next to the TV.
"I was waiting for you to call him on that," Hunter said with a grin. He set his own empty juice bottle on the bureau beside Blake's. "Feeling more generous than usual?"
"He's got enough stress right now," Cam grumbled. "I'll get him next time."
Either Blake had parked in the next town, or Shane and Dustin had kept him talking in the hallway after they left, because Hunter was digging out his shoes by the time there was a knock on the door. "I'll get it," Cam said, still buttoning up his shirt as he headed for the door.
"Thanks, man," Blake said. "Bathroom open?"
"Knock yourself out," Cam answered, and Hunter winced. Since when had Blake gotten too modest to change in front of the guys? He'd better not be hearing about that later.
He sat down on the bed, stuffing his feet into his shoes and trying to remember where he'd put his comb. The only problem with a massive duffel bag was that it didn't narrow down the possibilities very much. Maybe keeping coats and suits on hangars wasn't so annoying after all--at least he knew where that stuff was.
When Blake emerged a few minutes later, the only thing he said was, "What'd you guys do with the towels?"
Hunter frowned at him in the mirror. "What d'you mean?"
"There aren't any towels in the bathroom," Blake informed him. "You're supposed to steal them just before you leave, not when you first arrive."
"We didn't steal them." Hunter peered around the door, noting the lack of towels for the first time. "That's weird. I'll ask the girl at the desk."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cam whip something out of his backpack with a flourish. "Towels," he announced. "Never leave home without them."
Hunter just shook his head, unsurprised. "Only you would bring towels to a hotel," he told the mirror, tossing his recently found comb down onto the bureau.
"I don't use hotel towels," Cam said firmly. "Do you know how many people have used them before you?"
"No," Hunter replied, "and I don't need to know. It's called bleach, Cam. Don't be such a hypochondriac."
"I'll remember that," Cam told him. "Tonight, when I'm using my nice clean towels and you're wondering why the hotel staff still hasn't managed to scrounge up any for you."
There was another knock, and Blake opened the door for Dustin and Shane. Hunter grabbed his keys and slid his wallet into the pocket of his sport coat. "You want me to give you directions?" Blake was asking Dustin.
"Nah, I got it." The sarcasm apparently went straight over Dustin's head. "We already found it once, right?"
"Right," Blake said dryly, exchanging glances with Hunter as he joined them in the entryway. "You guys all set?"
"Yeah, I think so." Hunter craned his neck around. "Cam?"
"We're good," Cam agreed, guitar in one hand and Tori's directions in the other. "Let's go."