Author's Note: The good news is that this was written for Eowyn77's birthday. The bad news is that it's several months late. If you're trying to avoid spoilers, well, don't read anything but The Daily Buzz because we write all over the timeline. This takes place 2 years after Revenge of the Fallen. The characters are a little bit different because—and here's the shocker—they do grow up sometimes. You will not fully understand this unless you've seen The Marriage of Bette and Boo, but the out-of-context things are funny anyway.
There were a lot of excuses to hang around campus for the summer. The nerdy answer was that we could get classes out of the way during down time and graduate earlier. The greedy answer was that all the best-paying jobs had seasonal vacancies. The most honest answer was that I couldn't put up with my mom's aromatherapy and Zen lifestyle (and Dad's obsession over my grades) for more than a few days at a time.
The answer that I gave Mom about why I was hanging out in Pennsylvania all summer instead of coming home and seeing the family was that I wanted to be supportive. The girlfriend she had liked so much over Spring Break was doing summer stock and I wanted to be around for all of the drama. Last year, I had sympathized every time she whined about the props master and had laughed intelligently when she told me about people who couldn't tell upstage from downstage. I had even watched her awesome lighting from the eighth row and ignored the fact that I hated Julius Caesar.
This year, the play looked actually funny. Julius Caesar had apparently been meant to be a tragedy, but I didn't really grasp that fact until after an awkward moment in Act 2 where I got a joke that wasn't there. This time, I knew from Lisbeth's read-throughs that there were some really weirdly funny things about The Marriage of Bette and Boo and, best of all, Lisbeth wasn't just your ordinary techie. She actually had a fairly major role.
I'd seen all the dress rehearsals and had shelled out twenty bucks for a normal ticket on opening night. I was there with flowers when she hit the halfway mark for the season. I even went to a party with her and laughed politely (but not loudly) at Arthur Miller jokes that had Lisbeth in well-educated stitches. I would have liked to see a single one of them take on a line of coding, but thanks to the combined efforts of Mom, Nancy and Sam's warrior goddess, I was a supportive boyfriend.
And in return, Lisbeth talked her dad into lending us Moby for the purposes of schlepping my stuff from campus to the basement apartment that NotTheToothFairy's biggest fans were planning on sharing for junior year. She took all the stuff she'd learned in set design and applied it to our new crib. It wasn't like I let her put out doilies and air fresheners, but, by golly, the posters were hung straight in my room.
The roomies didn't really need to be in-state until a couple of days before the semester started. Sharsky had a job with Freshman Orientation that both he and the people organizing Orientation were going to regret by the end of Day 1. Leo wanted a few days to get to know the girls in the neighborhood, but I had warned him that I'd already met most of them and admired the pictures of their 50th wedding anniversary party. Sam was spending as much time as possible with Mikaela.
But they had all sworn an oath on a pack of Red Bull to be there for closing night of Lisbeth's play and that meant they showed up a good week before was absolutely necessary. The conditions were that I was in charge of dish duty (throwing out the pizza boxes and Chinese takeout boxes) for that whole week and they could leave if anyone started rhyming.
I didn't have the heart to tell them that the opening was a song, mostly because it would make them bolt like they'd just seen a Bieber concert. But the rest of it was funny, even if it would make even Sam think his family was well-adjusted and stuff.
It didn't mean that they went gracefully, though. For all the stuff we'd done to grow and learn since freshman year, we were still techies and that meant that we got annoyed when too many minutes passed without a reference to an operating system or Linux.
"Let me guess," Sharsky said loudly while flipping through the program for a lack of anything better to do. "No one dies at the end."
"You say that like it's a bad thing," I said. "What, you can't take a little culture?"
"I watched Downton Abbey for that one girl in Franklin Hall," he said. "What's that worth in culture years?"
I considered that for a minute. He'd gone through a phase where he ate lots of English muffins and had a thing for Maggie Smith, but that was as long-lived as his obsession with Nina from the Latin class.
"Do you remember anything about it?"
"Nina Patterson let me make out with her when we thought Matthew was dead."
Of course he'd always remember his first. "And?"
After another minute, he perked up. "That one girl banged an Indian dude and he croaked."
I wasn't going to decrease my testosterone levels by explaining that Lady Mary "banging an Indian dude" had resulted in her being considered unsuitable for marriage by most of London society. I'd watched it for the WW1 scenes.
"Yeah…" He had sniggered at that part and gotten the silent treatment for a week from the girl he was barely dating. "You've got a week in culture years."
"Boy don' need no culture," Leo interrupted as he shoved his way through the row of seats. "Girls want a fixer-upper."
"Thanks, bro," Sharsky said, oblivious as usual to the jab. "Where you been?"
"Where else?" he snorted. "I got me some chicas escuelas action."
"How many numbers?" I challenged.
"Three. And one of 'em slapped me. I'm so golden, man. Chicas escuelas EVERYWHERE."
That was because this was listed as one of those things that incoming freshmen could see for free, just to convince them that the university was on THEIR side. In my day, we could have gotten free tickets to a modern dance thing, but that was a no-go. As for thinking the university staff was on our side, between Langstraad and Nightingale, we had all known better by the end of freshman year.
"Sahweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet," Sharsky said without looking up from his program. "I'll take your leftovers any day."
"One of them was a chubby hanger-on," Leo said, waving his phone. "I think she'd dig your hair."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." He was practically panting at the idea.
"Done," Leo promised. "One chica escuela chubby coming your way."
"You know that doesn't mean schoolgirls, right?"
They both gave me blank looks, like I'd changed the subject.
"Chicas escuelas means little schools," I pointed out. "Not schoolgirls."
"Ay, mira el gringo," Leo snorted. "Two semesters in Spanish and he thinks he's more of a chamaco than me."
"I got better grammar," I shot back. "Have you even taken a Spanish class?"
"Did you take English classes?" he challenged.
"You don't take classes in Spanglish," Leo philosophized. "You're born Spanglish and you die Spanglish."
"And the rest of us hate Spanglish," Sharsky commented.
"Whatever," I said. "Where's Alienboy?"
"Parking the alien," Leo answered. "Move over."
Sharsky moved immediately and Leo plopped down between us so he could hog the armrests.
"So," he said once the both of us were uncomfortable. "Does this have the three bigs?"
"Sex, drugs and violence?" Sharsky clarified, like I hadn't heard it before. "Especially the sex?"
"Yes," I said convincingly.
"I've seen it, like five times," I protested. "I think I would have noticed."
"Yeah, but you said Romeo and Juliet had the three bigs."
"And it did."
"Post-coital monologuing about birds and priests pushing poison don't count," Leo said.
"The swordfights were good, though," Sharsky added helpfully.
"There aren't any sword fights in this one, but someone does die at the end."
"Someone?" Sharsky asked. "Not more than one?"
"This is going to suck," Leo added.
Honestly, it was like taking a 3-year-old to watch Doctor Who with these guys. "Someone," I said. "I dare you not to cry."
"Twenty bucks says Sharsky's the soft one," Leo said.
The guy had teared up at the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness. "You're on," I said. "Whydja move?"
Before he could answer, I spotted Alienboy picking his way along the row. He was tripping over feet just like Leo, but this guy didn't mean to do it. And behind him, looking his usual chill self, was Cam, our actual alien boy.
"Easier this way," Leo explained. "We thought Cam could use some entertainment. He doesn't get out much."
I got that. If I had to look everything up on the web, I'd probably get sick of Youtube, too.
"So which one's your girlfriend?" Leo asked, turning his attention to the one program that Sharsky had gotten for all of us.
"Emily," I answered.
Leo yoinked the program and flipped to the scene list. "Arts and crafts with Emily," he read. "Margaret and Bette visit Emily in a rest home. Matt gives Emily advice. What's your girlfriend doing in a rest home?"
"Having a nervous breakdown," I said cheerfully. "She's kind of the play's unofficial nutjob."
We were all silent for a few moments—though that was pretty normal for Cam—and Leo finally summed up what the rest must have been thinking.
"You must be so proud."
It was time to change the subject, so I leaned forward to talk across Leo to Sam. "Where'd you get the extra ticket?"
"Lisbeth heard he hadn't ever been to a play before and talked someone into getting us hooked up," Sam said.
"Most of the time it just happened to me without my ever seeking it," Cam's "phone" quoted.
If we were going to show an alien intelligence drama, I would have picked something less weird, but beggars couldn't be choosers and it wasn't like we were dragging him to an opera or something. This could be okay.
"You'll like it," I asserted.
Right on cue, the lights dimmed and I turned back to the stage.
The guys were about as bad as I expected. Sharsky sniggered at the dead baby thing until I elbowed him in the ribs. Sam fell asleep during Lisbeth's arts and crafts scene. Leo did shut up, but asked me "Da hell be wrong with your girlfriend, bro?" as soon as we got to intermission.
As for Cam, he played laugh clips when everyone else laughed. Once or twice, he laughed a little later than he was supposed to, but no one gave us death glares, so that was okay.
When it was finally over and the guys had clapped their hands red for Lisbeth when she did her bow, we gave her some space and went to hang out in front of the theater.
"So," I said encouragingly, "you liked it?"
"No," Leo said immediately.
"It was…different," Sam said diplomatically. "Lisbeth did a great job."
"Lisbeth gone nuts was awesome," Sharsky concluded. "Can she do it again?"
"Ask her to do Lady Macbeth," I suggested.
"But I'm going to have to watch 'Frontier Psychiatry' like, fifty times to get that out of my head," Leo whined.
"Come on," I wheedled. "The gravy vacuuming thing was pretty funny."
"The gravy vacuuming thing was like Christmas at mi tio's house after he's done a few shots," Leo corrected me. "I could have spent that ten bucks on something I hadn't seen before."
"You guys are frigging Philistines," I grumbled out of real disgust. "Didn't you learn anything?"
"'Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a masochist,'" Sam quoted.
"She's so nasty," Sharsky said in a falsetto. "Did you not punish her enough as a child?"
"You said it had drugs," Leo complained.
"Yeah," I answered. "The sister with the nasal spray thing."
"You crazy, man," Sharsky sighed. "Next time, let's watch Stanley Kubrick. That'll be funny weird."
"Shut up," I hissed. "Incoming."
Lisbeth still had her hair in the little girl pigtails that she had sported for the whole play and it was a wacky thing to see on someone wearing boot-cut jeans and a leather jacket.
"Hey, you," she said.
I kissed her quickly—lip-surface-to-lip-surface, no tongue-just in case she didn't feel like coming near me after she heard what everyone had to say. "Hey, you," I said.
"Kicking play," Sharsky said.
"I liked the gravy thing," Leo flat-out lied. "And the crazy sister was funny."
"Which crazy sister?" she asked.
"Do we have to pick one?" I replied.
"The author had daddy issues," Sam said. "In fact, I'm not sure what kind of issues he didn't have."
"And that's really what makes him a classic," Lisbeth said. "The Greeks were convinced that you had to be crazy to be a genius and that idea's never really worn off."
"Is that why theater people are so…"
Sam left it at that. Sharsky whistled the Twilight Zone theme. Cam looked confused.
"No," Lisbeth said patiently, since she was used to this kind of crap. "But it helps."
On that awkward note, we all took another vow of silence. It was a good idea, since we were wandering into the realm of douchebaggery.
"But yeah," Sharsky said finally. "Kicking play."
"Thanks for coming," Lisbeth said enthusiastically. "If you guys haven't eaten yet…"
All of a sudden, Cam broadcast a belly laugh. It was his clip for ROFLMAO but was much more subtle than playing an actual laugh track. And it looped. We joined in so he didn't sound awkward, but after the third time, we still didn't get why he was laughing.
Apparently, neither did Lisbeth. And since he had yet to actually weigh in on the play, it was a lot more noticeable.
"What's so funny?" she asked, sounding a little nervous to hear the answer.
"'Get the veils, Soot. The shades are down,'" he quoted.
It was one of the things that had made the play worth watching for my Philistine roommates. There wasn't sex, but there was a dirty joke that was Biblical enough for us not to be the only ones laughing.
"Yeah, I liked that part, too," I said tentatively.
"'I just got it! Very funny!'" he quoted .
We all stared at him for a few seconds while Lisbeth waited for someone to explain our unofficial fifth roommate. And then, in unison, Sharsky and I turned to each other.
"Emotion chip," we chorused.
"Exactly!" I said.
"He even quoted it!" Sharsky agreed.
"Nice one," Sam said, slapping Cam some skin.
"I don't get it," Lisbeth admitted.
We gave her the kind of look we usually reserved for, well, Cam. "Star Trek: Generations," Leo said very slowly.
"Never seen it," she said. "Scratch that. That's the one where Deanna Troi got drunk, right?"
I simultaneously gave her brownie points for remembering Counselor Troi's first name and mentally facepalmed that she was opening herself up to this kind of abuse.
"Wait, wait, wait," Sam said.
"Your name is Borg and you don't know your Star Trek?" Leo blurted.
"Your middle name's Ponce de Leon," she pointed out. "When's the last time you discovered Florida?"
"Spring break last year," he said. "What's your point?"
She patted him condescendingly on the shoulder, but didn't address that issue. Instead, she turned to Cam.
"Sometimes , I don't get what they're talking about," she admitted. "Glad you and I have so much in common."
Lisbeth was a Pennsylvania native who hadn't been out of the country until her cousin's wedding in Montreal last year. I think that was the ONLY thing we could safely say she had in common with our alien robot car.
"So," she said, looping a friendly arm around Cam's waist, "anything else you have questions about?"
That was the worst open-ended question she could have possibly have asked and we were morally obligated to eavesdrop. We immediately jogged to catch up.
"Why is…'Tess of the D'urbervilles…a masochist?"