Voyage of the Rust Bucket
Grown Accustomed

There is a song near the end of a famous musical – My Fair Lady – called "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." In it, the singer – Henry Higgins – realizes, well, that he's grown accustomed to Eliza's face. But he realizes this only because Eliza has left. He's too late. His emotions are not that of someone full of sorrow, but rather anger. Who is he angry at? Eliza, for leaving? Or himself, for not realizing the importance of her while she was there? I suppose it's open to interpretation.

I don't have the worries of Henry Higgins, however. I know I've grown accustomed to his face. His scent. The way he laughs. The way he cocks his head, or the way his ears turn red, or maybe the leg bouncing or the finger tapping. I've grown accustomed to the way he touches me, the way he kisses, the strength or softness of his embrace. It didn't take a catastrophic moment of potential loss for me to appreciate him. And by him, I mean them. Charlie and Roy.

When I wake up, I expect them there. I need them there. And they always are. Am I lucky to have acknowledged this now? Does this secure us in some way? Will we not suffer the terror that Higgins felt when he believed Eliza was out of his life for good? Not that Higgins' terror mattered, of course; Eliza returns to him. True love always finds a way together, right? But that's for books and movies… and musicals.

This morning I wake up to the smell of Charlie – he's so close that even the tiniest movements from him shake me – and the sight of Roy. Neither one of them know I'm awake. Charlie is busy reading from his tablet, his headphones in, his mind on another planet. Roy is sitting on the bed near Charlie's knees on the opposite side, a goofy ass smile on his face. He's doing nothing other than looking at Charlie. Simply seeing Charlie has him smiling like a doofus. It's a good look on him.

Now I'm staring. He must sense it, because after a few seconds he turns to look at me. The smile becomes a bit tidier as he greets me. Crawling over Charlie, he nestles himself in a strange spot half on top of me, half on top of Charlie. Charlie doesn't react in the slightest.

"How's your back?" I ask, voice thick with grogginess.

"Not bad. Little sore," Roy says, giving a shrug. His hands find my thigh and begin a soft massage. I'm discovering that "aftercare" for Roy continues onward into the next day. I think he could stretch it out for days if he wanted to. Unnecessary, in my opinion. I won't complain, though. Giving me a cheeky grin, he says, "Worth it."

I roll my eyes. "Stop it. You make me cringe." Unembarrassed, he chuckles at me. "Why do you have to say cringey shit while we're fucking, too?"

Roy raises a brow, but it doesn't take him long to dig the memories from last night up. Amused, he taps Charlie's knee. "Listen to this. Last night I asked her whose pussy is this. She said Charlie's."

Charlie furrows his brow and frowns. "I don't have a pussy."

"I know, bud. It's not that you have one. Hers belongs to you."

"I don't get it," Charlie says. Interest in our conversation gone, he turns his attention back to his tablet. Charlie has accepted that he won't always understand the stuff that comes out of our mouths and is okay with that.

A series of knocks on the door leading to Liam and Justin's room interrupts our idyllic morning. Roy pops up and bounces over to the door without a hint of pain. Of course, we're not surprised to find that Justin and Liam are on the other side.

The two men push past Roy into our room, still in their underwear, and flop onto the carpet once far enough in. "Oh, thank god. Air conditioning," Justin says. Despite the fact they're seeking cool air, Liam does as he always does and latches onto Justin like a koala.

Roy pokes his head into the other room and pulls back immediately. "Damn! It's hot as balls in there."

"AC broke in the middle of the night," Justin explains. Roy doesn't ask any further questions. The door is closed and he tiptoes over the couple.

Roy takes a seat on the edge of the bed and asks Justin, "Did you know Liam wants to be a cop?"

"A cop? Oh, hell no. We're breaking up."

"Nooo," Liam whines, feigning terror. Justin isn't going to actually break up with him over this.

I find their early morning flirting to be too much for me, so I creep out of bed, grab my bag, and hide in the bathroom. I can hear Roy say something about how they need to "stop it." Safe to assume they escalated their playfulness into a makeout session like they usually do.

After getting dressed and doing my morning routine, I exit the bathroom to find Roy and Liam are up and partially dressed. "Gonna go wake Ted and Holly," Roy says to me. No idea why they waited just to tell me, like Justin or Charlie couldn't have filled me in. They were already halfway out the door, anyway.

At the sound of our door closing, Charlie looks up. "How do I send this?" he asks. I see that he's traded the tablet for his phone.

"You're not sending whatever Roy took last night, are you?" I ask. Justin gives a disturbing snicker from his spot on the floor, because he's able to put things together in his head quick enough that he knows what Roy probably filmed.

Charlie scoffs. "No. Why would I do that?" Sitting next to him, I lean closer to him and he shows me his phone. It's the picture of him holding the rabbit that Liam took. Obviously, he figured out how to receive the picture, he should be able to figure out how to send it.

"Who are you sending it to?" I ask. Somewhat of a rude question, I suppose, but Charlie isn't exactly known to have a lot of people on his contact list outside of us.

"This guy keeps sending me pictures of a rodent looking thing. I want to send him an animal, too," he says. Ah, Hidalgo. Glad I'm not the only person bombarded with quokka pictures. It's a good thing he never exchanged numbers with Holly or she would have to block him.

"Can I get a copy, too?" I ask.

"Really? You want one?"

"Yeah, you're cute."

He smiles, always pleased to be complimented. It takes about thirty seconds to show him how to send a picture on his phone. I only have to show him once before he's confident he can do it himself; apparently it's not all that different from his old piece of junk. My phone buzzes. Checking my notifications, I'm not surprised to find that Charlie sent me the picture as I requested.

"What happened to your face?" Justin asks. At some point he slinked onto the bed without us noticing. He's laying across the foot of the bed, his head resting in his hand, propped up on his elbow, his legs dangling off the edge.

I'm guessing my face is bruised from landing against the headrest. "Got a little rough last night."

Justin raises a brow. "You don't like it rough. You should tell them."

"I was joking. It was an accident," I say.

"You should still tell them. You're shit at communicating and I'm sure there's a lot they need to know."

Okay, Justin. I'm not talking about any of this right now. Shut up. Take a nap. Besides, Charlie – aside from his piranha teeth – is the sweetest man on the planet. And Roy is a lovey-dovey doofus who wishes he was kinky.

Fortunately any conversation that might erupt is interrupted when Holly arrives with Roy and Liam. Instead we discuss what to do for the day. We've still got some ground to cover before we're home, but there's not any major cities going forward. Even where we're at is much smaller than anything I'd call a "city." For some of us, that's fine. For people like Ted, that's not so fine. So I'm sure when he rolls out of bed, he'll be pushing that we have to stay here one more night so we can hit up a bar or club. Sounds terrible.

Before any of that, we have to decide breakfast. And before we can do any of that, we need energy to focus. None of us got much sleep the night before. Justin and Liam had a broken AC, Ted and Holly were stuck in a room next to an arguing couple, and us three – well, you know why.

Holly volunteers to grab us coffee at a local coffee shop. Justin says he'll give her a hand. After he gets dressed and the two of them take off, Charlie decides its time to get out of bed. He shuffles to the bathroom, dragging his backpack.

Right as the door to the bathroom closes, the door to our room opens. It's Ted. "Smells like sex and Doritos in here," are the first words out of his mouth. None of us have the energy to fire back. Unperturbed by our silence, Ted changes gears without missing a beat. He holds his phone out to Roy and says, "I looked into that stuff you asked for."

I watch as Roy takes the phone and looks over whatever Ted presented him with. I'm tempted to make my way around to look for myself out of curiosity but I don't get the chance. Handing the phone back, Roy says, "His dad's not listed."

"Yep. No dad on the birth certificate and we don't know his dad's last name. All we have to go on is Dung for a first name, but – "

"His mom might not even know. Might've made it up," Roy says. I'm able to put the pieces together and see what they're discussing. It has to be Charlie's dad.

I ask, "Why are you looking into Charlie's dad?"

Roy explains, "He mentioned kinda wanting to know. Maybe he can get some kinda closure, too. But I don't think that's gonna happen." Then, turning back to Ted, he says, "Not to push you, bro, but maybe you could talk to him?"

"Me?" Ted questions.

"Yeah, I mean, you don't know your parents, either, right?"

Ted does not compute at first. To him, his parents are the ones who adopted him. Of course he knows his "parents." Biological parents, though? No, he has no idea who they are and as far as I know, he's never bothered to look. Not as long as I've known him, anyway. He says, "It's not the same. Yeah I don't know my biological parents but I was adopted as a baby. I don't remember any other way. It never really made a big difference. Sure I wondered sometimes. But that's not the same as never having a dad."

Any further attempts to persuade Ted are shoved aside as Charlie exits the bathroom. The two men share a polite greeting. Charlie falls onto the bed like he might go back to sleep. Instead, he asks, "Are we going out tonight?"

Ted's eyes light up. Here we go. "We should. Actually I already looked a place up. There's a cheap nightclub in town. I'll pay for the cover and everyone's drinks," he says.

"No, no. Not going. Tonight the Yankees start a series against Seattle. I'm going to a sports bar to watch the game. And if no one is playing it, I'm watching it here," Roy says.

"Do you wanna do that instead?" Charlie asks me. Yeah, of fucking course I do. Fuck clubs. Roy and I only get to shit talk directly a few times a season. But I don't say this. I simply nod. "Okay. You can do that." Did he give me permission? That's what it felt like.

"Are you going out with us?" Ted asks, way too excited at the prospect of having Charlie under his clutches for a night.

Rather than answer Ted directly, he turns to me and says, "If that's okay with you?"

I'm not sure why he feels the need to seek permission or approval. Nothing wrong with spending time apart doing something different. I'm more surprised that he wants to go to a club. It's not like his only other experience was great. Reaching out, I lightly touch his arm to show support and say, "Of course. Have fun."

"I just feel like, when we go back, when we get home… I'm not worried about things going back to the way things used to be. I know I'm not going to be kicked out or abandoned or something. We're gonna be together. That doesn't scare me anymore. Now I have to start figuring out who I am and what I want. I've spent a long time surviving. At first it's gonna be weird. I don't know what it's like to do anything else. That kinda scares me, honestly. But I want to be a… a complete person," he says.

It's not me, or even Roy, but Ted who says, "Fuck yeah, man. And you got the best support system on the planet. Us!"

Ted's not wrong. Neither is Charlie. At this point, I think I'm the one who is going to be needy and clingy. Getting back to reality, however, will force us to spend time apart. Not just Charlie and I, but all of us. More than dealing with the responsibilities of adulthood, that's what scares me the most. What kind of relationship will we all have once this trip is over? I suppose we'll have to see.