Public Display of Everything (6 page)

I chuckle and shrug out of my flannel shirt and sneakers, leaving me in jeans and a T-shirt. "What kind of preparations?"

"This way." He speaks as he guides me through the apartment. "I wanted to make sure I got the right movies, appropriate clothes, and best food for a day such as this one."

Appropriate clothes?

I grin and sneak a peek into the living room. It looks simple enough, aside from the arched windows and the fireplace in the corner.
Jesus
. Someday, I want a place like this. It's not extravagant, but still with an upper-crust feeling. White walls, hardwood floors that look rustic with age, a large entertainment center with a TV, a cozy-looking couch… Yeah, I want.

"This is a nice place," I comment, peering down a hallway. There are three doors, presumably leading to bedrooms and a bathroom. There was one bathroom in the entryway, too. At least I think so; there was a brass sign with the letters "WC" on it.

"Thank you. It used to be Grant and Amy's. Well, I lived here then, too. Now it's only me. Amy lives closer to work."

Behind his matter-of-fact words, I sense that air of loneliness again.

I hate it and wish I could take it away.

We reach the kitchen, and it's fairly small, but that’s not surprising. Houses in London are either narrow as fuck and have like three stories, or they're simply compact. Most buildings are old too, which I like.

That’s one of the reasons I love London. It's like walking through a museum, each building with its own history.

I set the Tesco bag on the counter next to the sink. I'm surrounded by cupboards in a faded green color that would've made me feel like I'd been thrown back into the '70s if it weren't for the bright spotlights and the state-of-the-art appliances in stainless steel.

I could cook here. One of the few things I'm actually good at.

As long as I'm careful with the knives
.

"You'll have to tell me if I've done something wrong with my plans for tonight," Flynn says as he opens the fridge. "A few people have said I'm too weird to be friends with, but this is my first movie marathon, so there might be a mistake or two on my part. If it's not too much to ask, I'd like the chance to correct them."

What the…?

Sorting through the contents of the bag, I keep my anger at a "few people" hidden and go with honesty. "Those people are obviously fucked in the head." Turning around, I lean back against the counter. He's still facing the fridge, his shoulders tense. "You're quirky, Flynn. I like it." As I tip my head to the side, I see his profile and catch him mouthing
quirky
to himself, as if testing the word. He seems to relax slightly. I don’t wanna make him more uncomfortable, so I leave it at that. "Anyway, you have me curious now. What movies are we gonna watch?"

We texted a few times last night; he asked me what kind of movies I enjoy. No specifics, just the genres. I told him anything with history, horror, or comedy works for me.

Flynn brings out cans of soda and places them on a tray, sending me a small smile akin to one of gratitude. "A movie site on the internet suggested themes. Since you like history and I enjoy war films, I compromised, or rather combined, and settled on a Western theme. Is that okay?" He glances at me.

"Hell, yeah." I nod my approval. "That sounds good. Where do you keep the bowls?" I hold up two bags of chips.

Joining me, he opens a cupboard directly above, and I try not to get a whiff of him. Try and fail, fucking obviously. Christ, I guess jacking off twice yesterday and once this morning wasn’t enough.

"Thanks." I accept two bowls made of hard plastic, having almost expected crystal or something. These look like something I'd find in the 99 pence store.
Love that store
. I buy T-shirts and socks there. And the occasional belt.

As I open the first bag, I accidentally tear it up completely and knock over a bowl. Chips scatter all over like shrapnel from a grenade, and I hiss a curse when I get salt in my fucking eye. In a futile attempt to prevent the bowl from hitting the floor, I reach for it with my eyes screwed shut, but incidentally grab the tray of sodas instead. I hear Flynn calling out my name, and the second he moves in to help, I step on a soda can and lose my footing.

I fall on my ass with a pathetic thump, chips crunching underneath me and one of the sodas soaking my jeans.

"Cory!"

I groan at the pain in my ass—not the good kind—the sting in my eye, and the ache in my shoulder blades. Flynn's floor isn't exactly soft. Still, my ego took the hardest hit.

"Crap, crap, crap—Are you okay?" Flynn kneels down next to me and puts a hand on my shoulder.

I cough another groan and nod. "Yeah," I mutter, cracking my good eye open. "I'd love to say this never happens, but…" I sigh heavily and push myself up to survey the damage. "Shit." There's chips and Fanta everywhere.

I should be thankful only one soda exploded. 

Flynn sits back and leans against the cupboard. "This is astonishing." He looks it, too. For whatever reason. "You're always so confident—so cocksure. But you're a klutz?"

There is so much wrong and epically right with those words that I can only laugh.
Cocksure
—probably the only time I'll hear Flynn say cock. But that’s how he perceives me? As confident?

"Total klutz." I hold up my palms in a guilty-as-charged gesture. "I'm sorry about the mess." I rub my eye. "Now, if you'll just show me where the mop is, I'll get this sorted. I've become an excellent cleaner over the years."

Flynn shakes his head in wonder and touches his lips that are twisted into a grin. "I need to process this."

I snort a chuckle. Hauling myself off the floor, I grimace at my left pant leg, soaked from the knee down.

"It's a good thing you're going to change." Flynn stands up, too.

"What?" I frown in confusion. "Change?"

He simply nods. "Several sites suggested comfortable clothes slash pajamas when engaging in movie marathons, so I bought sweatpants and T-shirts for us." He gestures at his own gray sweats and white T-shirt. "I left your clothes in the bathroom down the hall."

I purse my lips and stare at the floor to withhold my amusement.

He's a fucking sweetheart.

"Got it." I hide my smirk and nod firmly instead. "Don’t touch any of this, all right? I'll clean it up when I get back."

"Yes, sir." He salutes me and everything.

"
Kid
." The smirk is definitely there now, and his scowl makes me chuckle as I head down the hall.

*

Once my calves aren't sticky with soda and I've changed into the clothes Flynn bought, I dump my own clothes in a pile, my wallet and phone on top, then leave the bathroom.

There was no reason to change into the black T-shirt Flynn got me when I was already wearing a blue one, but fuck it. No point in reading into it.

Rounding the last corner to the kitchen, I stop short when I see that Flynn has dealt with the mess anyway. Next thing I know, he comes up behind me, from the living room, and shoots me a quick smile.

I tilt my head to check out his ass.

Without a word, he gets the last of the snacks and returns to the living room.

That little…

"I thought I told you not to—"

He cuts me off. "Are we going to watch these movies or not, Klutz?" he calls over his shoulder.

Someone's gotten cocky.

Torn between sighing, smiling, rolling my eyes, and bitching at him, all I do is follow him into the living room, darker now with the curtains drawn.

"If that nickname sticks, maybe I should keep calling you kid." I sit down on the rustic red couch, sinking into the plush cushions. Hot damn, talk about comfy. Catching Flynn's expression, I can tell he's debating whether or not it'd be worth calling me Klutz. It means I'm not gonna go with "Kid" for him. "Or you know what?" I waggle my brows. "I'll come up with something better."

He grins, appearing relieved, and shrugs as if he couldn’t care less. But he doesn’t say anything. Instead he flashes the case of
Tombstone
, one of the best Western movies, and I nod.
Good pick
.

"Kurt Russell is the best Wyatt Earp." My opinion, anyway. "But Kilmer as Doc Holliday beats 'em all." Hell, I'd say Val Kilmer owns this movie.

"I don’t like Russell as a name," Flynn mumbles as he jimmies with the Blu-ray player.
What's wrong with Russell?
"But you are right. Val Kilmer is my favorite in this film. When he says, 'I'm your Huckleberry' to Johnny Ringo, I kind of wish my name was Finn instead.
That
would've been a cool nickname. Huckleberry, I mean."

I smile, favoring that quote myself, but the nerd in me has an objection. "I don’t think the line refers to Huckleberry Finn, though."

"Oh?" Flynn sits down a couple feet away from me and pushes play on the movie. "What else could it be?"

That gets me going. It's not often I get to ramble about my shit. "It's just a theory," I amend, "but back in the day, 'huckleberry' was sometimes used to describe something
little
. Like, someone would say, 'I'm a huckleberry away from bankruptcy' or 'I was a huckleberry away from getting shot.'" I drape my arms along the back of the couch. "Besides, at the time of the Tombstone shooting, only one of the books about Tom Sawyer was out, and Huckleberry Finn doesn’t say anything that would go along with Val Kilmer's use of 'huckleberry.' I think Kilmer's character said it sarcastically."

"I'm not following. Explain, please." Flynn faces me fully, interested. "Sarcastically?"

"Yeah," I answer. "I mean, come on. Doc taunts him; he's condescending as fuck toward Ringo. And what could be more infuriating than referring to yourself as small, a mere nuisance, yet Ringo can't take him out. Doc might as well call Ringo a woman." I pause. "Actually, I'd say it's the same as a woman punching a dude these days. The guy's friends would be all, 'Yo, a
girl
beat you.'" I shrug. "Humiliating to macho men. Or Ringo."

Flynn hums and lolls his head along the back of the couch to face the TV again, his hair brushing against my hand. "I see your point. Which makes Huckleberry an awful nickname. Who would want to be called tiny?"

"No," I laugh. "You're definitely Huckleberry now."

"I am
not
." He shoots me a scowl before returning to the movie. "Now shush and watch. Klutz."

Watch. Oh, there's a thing or two I'd like to
watch
.

"Anything you say, Huck." I grin. Side-eyeing him, I can't help but go for another dig. "Doc Holliday FTW."

 

Chapter 6

*

Cory,

I'll be in Oxford on business next week. Jennifer and I are having problems, understatement of the century, so I'm bringing Dylan and Jayden with me. The nanny's coming too, lest I want a toddler running wild around the university.

I've set aside two days for us to spend in London. I will be the fool on the lookout for a familiar face. Out of millions of Londoners, what are the odds I'd see you?

I can't help but hope, though. Even four years later, I'm so ashamed of how I treated you.

Hope you're well,

Luke

*

I can see his brows furrowing, but he keeps his gaze locked on the movie.

There's no doubt in my mind: he's thinking about his username on his site. Possibly wondering how I know about it? Or why I would use it like that?

We watch the movie in silence, the back of Flynn's head still resting slightly against my hand on the back of the couch. It's soft, his hair. Silky, only a couple inches long. Unruly.

Eventually, about twenty minutes in, he speaks up in a quiet voice. "What did you mean by that?"

If I answer right away, it's gonna be too suspicious, so I pretend to be casual and confused. "About what?"

"FTW." He spells it out.

"Oh. That." Fuck, I feel like a tool. Couldn’t I have just been honest instead? "You know—" I shrug "—it's short for 'for the win.' An abbreviation like LOL and BRB."

"Oh," he mouths, stiffening. His eyes grow large, trained on the TV, but I'm willing to bet it has nothing to do with
Tombstone
whatsoever. "Crap."

"What?"

He exhales shakily and twists his upper body to face me. "I have made a monumental mistake." I wouldn’t call it monumental. Just a little funny. "If I tell you something, can you promise not to laugh at me?"

There goes the amusement. The last thing I want is for him to be in distress or feel like he's really messed up. It's not that big of a deal.

Having a feeling that it'll be easier for him if I fess up, I do just that. "I'm gonna be honest." I shift in my seat, turning in his direction. "I think I know what it's about." He gulps. "Your username on Public Display, right?"

He starts biting on his thumbnail and averts his gaze to his laptop on the coffee table. "You know it?"

"I became a member yesterday," I admit. "I was curious."

"I see."

"I'm sorry for not being up-front about it—"

"That’s your prerogative," he insists.

"I should've been honest, end of story." I place a hand on his knee to make him look me in the eye. "Hey, don’t feel bad. I'm guessing those letters mean something else to you?"

He nods, staring at my hand.

I should remove it, but I fucking won't. "Can I ask what?"

"Flynn Thomas Wright," he mumbles. "Thomas, after my grandfather on my mother's side."

"Then that’s all that matters," I tell him. "Ignore what anyone else might think. And you know, I honestly don’t believe people have batted a goddamn eyelash at that. If anything, it goes well with your online personality. You said it yourself: it's easier to be confident and outspoken on the internet."

He considers what I've said, doubt lingering. "I'm embarrassed."

"You shouldn’t be." I shrug. "It's nothing. Embrace it instead. You have thousands of people obsessing over something
you
built. That’s pretty fucking win to me."

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