Chrysanthemum pulled the trunk shut on Robin’s yellow, modified 2005 Ford Thunderbird. Yes, Robin was one of those guys. An old car guy, in case that was unclear. Chrysanthemum sat against the hood.
It was the first day of summer. June 21st, 2020. Today was the beginning of their long drive back home. It was their routine. They would fly into California, live together for the three months of their contract, and then road trip back to New York. What a weird way to make a living.
The California sun was hot on the back of his neck. He could already feel the sweat dripping down and pooling at the small of his back. He checked his phone, 10:22 am, and peeked into the coffee shop they were parked in front of.
The big neon sign reading ‘BETTY’S COFFEE’ shined brightly, competing with the harsh morning sun. Betty’s had the style of one of those old 1960’s diners, albeit in a much smaller space. The little coffee shop even had those iconic red leather bar stools and booths, all of which were occupied with high school and university students who had come to grab their morning coffee and breakfast. It was a cute little place. They would have to come back next time.
He looked over at Robin who was placing their order at the register.
If Chrysanthemum was honest, sometimes he found it embarrassing to be seen around Robin. Not so much in the winter, but definitely in the summer. The guy had no concept of a winter versus summer wardrobe.
Robin routinely wore a full black get-up, complete with a dark trench coat, regardless of the season. Chrysanthemum never understood why he clung so hard to his wardrobe - like it was a safety blanket of sorts. Robin wasn’t unattractive. Sure, he frequently sported long (usually greasy, ugh) hair and had never really grown into his long limbs, but he still had a nice enough face. He had a long nose, nice jawline, and soft green eyes, all of which (unsurprisingly) drew him a lot of compliments.
Not that Robin ever knew how to respond to those compliments. He was a little socially awkward.
Speaking of - he watched as Robin interacted awkwardly with the clerk. He could tell right away from Robin’s mannerisms that the clerk was flirting with him. Robin always became very quiet and robotic when anyone other than Martin flirted with him. He chuckled when Robin shot him an anxious look through the store window.
Okay. Chrysanthemum thought. I guess I’ll bail him out. He pushed himself away from the front hood and grabbed his wallet. Might as well grab some breakfast for the road.
They had mutually agreed that Chrysanthemum would take the first stretch of driving.
Robin wasn’t really a morning person. His driving tended to be a lot worse when he was tired, which wasn’t exactly the best for driving long stretches at a time. Chrysanthemum was obviously the better driver, regardless of the time of day, but that also came from his added 6 years of experience on the road.
Robin sipped on his coffee and pulled out his phone. 11:58 am. It was 2:58 pm in New York. Martin would be on his lunch break shortly. He opened up their Facebook chat.
Robin: lunch break?
Martin’s typing bubbles popped up as soon as he had finished sending the second message. Robin was grateful that Martin had his lunch break at the same time every day. It made it a lot easier to chat with him when they were apart.
Martin: yea :)
Martin: crazy long morning. i needed the break tbh. Scott dropped our backup simple syrup and i had to make more while dealing with the lunch rush.
Martin: it’s pretty slow now but i still have to begin on tomorrow’s loaves
That’s right. Scott. His new coworker. He hadn’t had the chance to meet him yet because he had only started two months ago. They were becoming incredibly fast friends. He had expected himself to be jealous when the day finally came that Martin started making friends outside their social bubble, but he never really felt that way with Scott.
From what he had been told, Scott was a lot like Martin. They both had shaky upbringings that eventually saw them moving out of their home cities, and coincidentally, to New York. They were both into all things cooking and baking. They were both incredibly optimistic and upbeat. They were extremely similar given the fact that they had grown up without knowing each other.
The only notable differences between them were their heights and ages. Scott was 24, two years older than Robin and Martin, but he was already engaged (somehow) and living with his fiancé. He was also much taller than Martin, who had only ever grown to 5’ 2”, at just a little over 6 foot. Otherwise, you could have mistaken them for cousins.
He waited as Martin continued to type.
Martin: i’ll be out by 7, then i’m seeing simon
Oh, that’s weird. Robin thought. He never said anything about meeting Simon today.
Robin: what are you two doing?
Martin: just groecry shopping for when you get back. that way when you come home i’ll have everything ready for us!!!!
Martin: grocery*** and he’s bringing his car so i’m going to see if i can get that new vacuum from walmart … we’ll see though!!!
Oh. Maybe he did mention something about the vacuum. How long has that thing been broken for? I better send him the money for it. Robin thought, hovering his thumbs over the screen for a minute before typing.
Robin: i see. i’m sorry about the syrup. that really sucks.
Robin: you should tell scott to be more careful
Robin: he seems a little accident prone
Robin: you don’t need a workplace accident to worry about too lol
He watched as Martin’s chat bubble popped up then disappeared several times. Oops. He knew Martin hated gossiping - especially about friends. He was probably writing, erasing, then rewriting his response. Martin didn’t like to argue either. In any case, Scott was the first friend Martin had made in years, so he probably wouldn’t have teased Scott in the first place. Even if there was some truth to what Robin said. Generally, Martin’s opinions of his friends were always kept private.
Martin: it’s not a big deal
Martin: he’s clumsy, that’s all.
Martin: how’s the drive going so far?
Robin slid down a bit in his seat and took another sip of his coffee. Ah, a subject change. He looked over at Chrysanthemum, whose eyes were focused on the road ahead of them.
“How’s the drive going so far?” Parroting Martin’s message to Chrysanthemum. He saw Chrysanthemum’s eyes flick over away from the road. Chrysanthemum didn’t like to be distracted. As such, the majority of conversation during their road trips happened while Robin was driving.
He watched as Chrysanthemum tapped his fingers once against the steering wheel before clearing his throat.
“We’re an hour in. What more could have changed from an hour ago?” He replied flatly, making Robin snort. “Who are you texting? Martin?” Chrysanthemum asked, nodding at his phone.
Robin nodded. “He’s telling me about his new coworker. The ginger one. Remember him?” He watched Chrysanthemum mull it over as his eyes drifted back to the road.
“Scott or something? That’s the one that’s banging Martin right?” Chrysanthemum joked. He laughed when Robin threw their breakfast garbage at him.
“That’s not funny. Martin would never do that.” Robin said sharply. “Besides, Scott is engaged. He wouldn’t cheat now.”
Chrysanthemum looked back again and raised his eyebrows, smirking a little. Which probably meant he was about to say something annoying. “Oh yeah? What about you? Did you tell Martin about that university girl who was flirting with you? I mean, I don’t get the appeal, but obviously, she wanted a piece.”
Robin felt his cheeks flush. It’s not like he asked to be flirted with. “It wasn’t like that. Jerk.” Chrysanthemum laughed more as Robin turned back to his phone.
Robin: good. i got a coffee from this place, but it’s not as good as yours
Robin: the girl at the cash was flirting with me, i think. it was kind of embarrassing
Robin: i never know how to deal with it
Martin was quick to respond this time. If his comment about Scott had upset him, Martin wasn’t showing it.
Martin: aw don’t be embarrassed!! you’re just too cute!
Martin: especially with the long hair :P
Martin was very aware of how sensitive Robin was in regards to flirting or PDA. They had been together for 6 years and yet Robin still blushed when he held Martin’s hand in public. He was grateful Martin wasn’t turned off by his shyness.
Robin smiled as he typed his response.
Robin: thanks :) i miss you
Martin: i miss you too
Martin: call me tonight?
Robin: of course
Martin: k. ttyl! <3
Robin clicked his phone off and focused on finishing his coffee.
Chrysanthemum pulled into McDonald’s around 4 pm. Robin had finished his coffee a little around noon and then had promptly fallen asleep. He was always surprised that the kid could fall asleep so quickly, even with a full cup of caffeine coursing through him. Chrysanthemum was only 28, but there’s no way he could pull something like that now. A cup of coffee after 2 pm meant he’d be up past midnight.
He thought briefly back to his university days. Before he had become a Private Investigator he had been a nurse. He had loved nursing at first. It was one of those fields where he thought he could really make a difference. However, after just two years in the field, he found himself burned out and overwhelmed. It was impossible to work in a system that hurt its patients more than it helped them.
So he made the choice, on a random Thursday night, to fly to Miami to speak with a Private Investigator he had met on Instagram. From then on, he was hooked on the lifestyle. Private Investigation was exactly the out he was looking for. He could help people and he could get paid to do it.
He was surprised when Robin had joined him, only two years ago, with almost no experience. Robin was a college dropout, but he definitely didn’t lack intelligence. He was extremely observant and a great problem solver, and though they fought on occasion, he was a perfect fit. He had enjoyed their last couple of years working together. They were a good team. He considered Robin a good friend.
He gently pulled the coffee cup from Robin’s hand and chucked it in their makeshift garbage bag. He caught himself in the rearview mirror and paused to take a better look. He looked presentable enough for a McDonald's. Probably.
He figured they were still probably in a Liberal enough neighborhood that he wouldn’t get gawked at for his piercings. Growing up in Oakland had given him a lot more of a left-leaning view on a lot of things, including piercings. He didn’t have too many, but he did sport a nose ring and several upper ear piercings. He had opted for gold piercings (who wouldn’t?) because of the way they contrasted against his dark skin. He got a lot of compliments on them.
As for everything else? It could use some freshening up. He generally kept up with his hair and face care routines. He usually went with a short, clean-cut (it made showering easier) and a nice clean-shaven look for his face. It helped him feel more organized and on top of things.
However, at this moment, he struggled to care. He was off the clock and road-tripping. He could look however he wanted. The McDonald's crowd would just have to deal with it.
Chrysanthemum unbuckled his seatbelt. He glanced at his face to make sure he was still asleep. He was.
“22-year-olds, man.” He joked quietly to himself. “I miss when I could do that.” He quietly took his wallet from the middle console before slowly getting out. He made sure to double-check that the door was locked before heading in.
Fortunately for him, it seemed like everyone else was too wrapped up in their own lives to pay attention to him. He ordered himself a Double Quarter Pounder with a large fry. He liked Robin, but sometimes it was nice to eat without him chirping about his dislike of meat and other animal products. He knew Robin was vegan, so McDonald’s most likely wouldn’t be high on a list of things he’d want to eat. If Robin was hungry, they could find another place - not a big deal.
He sat down with his tray and picked up the burger. He had taken one glorious MSG-filled bite before Robin spilled into the seat in front of him. Chrysanthemum sighed. Of course, he had woken up. Couldn’t he have ten minutes of peace?
“What is that? A Double Quarter Pounder? What about your arteries?” Came the immediate line of questioning. Chrysanthemum ignored him and took another bite. He watched Robin type something into his phone before holding it up to Chrysanthemum’s face.
“Can we stay at this place tonight? I want to get some good wifi so I can video call Martin.” Robin said.
“Sure. one of that funny video sex business though. We’re sharing a room.” Chrysanthemum said, with a grin, before taking another bite of his burger. It brought him great satisfaction to see the colour drain from Robin’s face.
“What’s wrong with you? Who raised you to be able to say something like that in a public space.” Robin hissed, but he had no real venom behind his words. He glared when Chrysanthemum shrugged in response.
“I’m going to drive down the street and grab a rice bowl. Text me when you’re done eating deep-fried animal carcass.” He said as he stood up. He held out his hand and waited. “The keys, Chrys.” Robin said, still flustered.
Chrysanthemum smiled, pulling out the keys and dangling them in front of Robin. He laughed as Robin snatched them and stormed away.