A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "School for Counterfeits"
You promised Keith you would keep quiet and not rock things until you'd proved to the guys that you could be trusted with their secrets, so you hold back from barging in on Jessica. For the same reason you decide not to pester Keith.
That leaves Beta-Carlos and his friends as the only ones to hang out with after school. Assuming that you don't just want to go back to Keith's house.
Which you don't.
Where meet? you text him back. What do?
Vid stuff, he replies. And waiting.
Wait for what?
Gus to help.
You don't know who Gus is, but something about the clipped responses makes you think further questions won't be welcome, so you just agree to meet up with him and the others at the storage complex at five.
You kill the balance of the afternoon in the school library, doing homework, though you are careful (as Keith would be) to slip out and away from school before post-class basketball practice can break up.
* * * * *
"Yo," you call out as you step into the storage bay where Carlos keeps his workout equipment. He's dressed out in shorts and t-shirt, sitting on the workout bench, doing curls with a heavy dumbbell. His face is flushed dark(er) from the exertion, and he's drenched with sweat despite the chill in the air. "Thought we was doing something with the cameras."
"You're early," he grunts back. "When I'm done here."
"Hey, you ever think about filming yourself doing your workout? How come?" you ask when he shakes his head.
"Just never did."
"You could post it and send links to summa the girls, show 'em what kinda stud you're— Ungh!"
You had bent to lift one of the discarded dumbbells, and find it a lot heavier than you were expecting. Carlos sets his dumbbell down and, with a smirk, picks up the spare and finishes his curls with it. "Fucking showoff," you mutter at him.
Mike shows up a minute later, and together you and he open up the studio while Carlos changes into a fresh set of clothes. Hollister is distracted as he works to set up the cameras and monitors. "Christ," he says, "I jerked off twice last night and had to beat off the wood I had when I woke up this morning."
"Fuck you, what do I wanna hear about that for?"
"Just saying." He wipes his forehead. "Thinking about Eva and all. You know."
"You whacked off to Eva?"
"Oh, like you never did!"
"I mean—" His confession puzzles you, but you're skittish about asking a direct question, lest you blow that cover you're trying to protect. "Didn't— I thought you and the, uh, the guys— Yesterday." You feel yourself redden as Mike stops to give you a hard, direct look. "I thought yesterday you and Carlos were gonna, with the things, and Eva and Jessica—"
"Spit it out, Keith," Mike says. "You thought me and Mike were gonna switch places with Eva and Jessica."
"And we did. Just like you and whatsisname switched. You cream yourself last night, thinking about him?"
"No! But, um—" You drop your voice to almost nothing. "You're a beta, right?"
"Christ!" Mike looks like he's going to hit you. But he only retorts, "Yeah, same as you, doorknob!"
"Oh. Well, I was just confused, 'cos of the way you were talking. You know, like, about Eva."
"What's confusing about it? I jerked off to Eva. Fuck me, man!" He rolls his eyes toward the ceiling and vibrates in place. "When I think of the tits and pussy my alpha gets to play with—!"
"Yeah, my alpha's tits and pussy," Carlos says as he saunters in. He's looking fresher in clean clothes, but his skin is still shiny, and there's an unmissable ... odor ... drifting off him. "You know what they were doing all night last night with each other, right?"
"Love you like a sister!" Mike jeers. The two high-five each other.
Words fail you, and you're shocked into deeper silences as the two of them, in ever-mounting, ever-more-graphic detail, spiral into fantasies about what their originals will be doing with their tongues, tits, pussies, and assholes. It only ends when they notice you blushing hard, and break into cackles of laughter. "So come on, man," Carlos jeers at you, "whaddaya think your alpha's getting up to with his new junk?"
"Putting it inside your alphas," you mutter back. They only howl louder with laughter.
"Come on," Carlos says after wiping away the tears of mirth, "The movie. What's a bit we want to do for it?"
"What movie?" you ask.
"I ain't seen it yet."
"No shit," Carlos retorts. "Me and Mike saw it last night. Didn't see you with us."
"But I thought you guys— With Eva and Jessica—"
"After that. We needed something to do." He no longer sounds amused. "Something with a goat?" he asks Mike.
"What am I s'pposed t'do here," you ask, "if I ain't seen it?"
"Run the camera." Now Carlos sounds exasperated.
"Where's Josiah and Philip? Aren't they coming out?"
"No! They're off with the other guys. You know. Maria and Chelsea." Now he looks pissed.
"Oh. Is, uh, my alpha with them?"
"Didn't you have a business lunch with him today?"
"No. And what do all these questions have to do with keeping the camera pointed at me and Mike?"
"None, I guess," you mutter. You step behind the camera as Mike and Carlos settle in behind the desk. "Just didn't picture myself as a substitute for a substitute for a substitute," you continue to yourself, "when I said I'd come out here with you."
Carlos snorts, and he and Mike settle in to talk about what kind of comedy "bit" they can wrap around a horror movie about a cult that worships a demonic goat.
* * * * *
You've only been at work for an hour—a very long and boring hour, as far as you're concerned—when you're joined by unexpected company: Philip Fairfax. Your scalp prickles a little when he comes in. Fairfax, Keith's memories tell you, is the one who has more or less been running the project. He's a science-fair-type honor student with a serious demeanor behind his black-frame glasses, and even in a white t-shirt and corduroy pants he gives off a science-nerd vibe, as though he should be shooting off model rockets in his back yard in his spare time when he's not helping NASA launch real rockets as part of his summer job.
"Guys," he says as he looks around the studio. "Keith," he adds, nodding at you. "How's the new video going?"
"We need props," Mike says. "A goat's head. Or a goat skull."
"How'd the thing go with the girls?" Carlos asks.
"It went," Philip says. "My alpha is now in place."
"Hooo!" Mike chortles, and his eyes gleam wickedly. "So what's it like for you, man? Knowin' your alpha's got some—" He mimes fondling a pair of enormous jugs.
"This is a science project," Philip retorts, a little stiffly. "It's not about ... having fun."
"Well, you're not having fun," Mike jeers back. "You having fun?" he asks Carlos.
"I'm not having fun. My alpha is. I bet your alpha is too," he tells Philip. "You can be honest now, you're with friends. We're all"—he even catches your eye as he speaks—"sitting on the same shitter."
Philip hesitates. "There were certain pleasures he was anticipating as a byproduct," he admits.
Raucous laughter from the other two. "What about Josiah?" Carlos asks. "When were they gonna try for—?"
"Already completed. His alpha sent his beta home. My alpha asked me to check in on you two." He turns a querying eye on you. "And to see how this one is doing."
You flush. "You think there's something wrong with me?"
"I have no opinion," Philip replies while Carlos sniggers. "Not any of my own. My alpha—" Again he hesitates. "My alpha harbors doubts about your alpha. Perhaps I shouldn't have admitted that," he adds.
"Well, your alpha can suck my alpha's dick," you retort.
"Don't take it personally. Remember, we're not really the people we're impersonating, there's no reason to get defensive."
You notice that the beta's mild reproof has deflated the other betas, at least a little. An awkward silence settles over the studio.
"Well, as long as everything is nominal here," Philip resumes, "I can report and return home. But I also have to secure this." He hefts the backpack he's carrying and turns to Carlos. "Can I have the key to the gym?"
Carlos grunts and pulls a copper-colored key from his shorts pocket. Philip catches the toss and exits the studio. He returns a minute later to toss Carlos the key back, and leaves for good.
The interruption seems to have destroyed the others' mood, though, and Mike suddenly declares that he's tired and hungry and doesn't want to work on the video anymore. Carlos agrees, and the three of you pack up the equipment, close the studio, and shuffle out. You glance at the gym door as you pass, and ask Carlos what it was that Philip's beta had to "secure" inside it.
"That book they used to make us," he replies. "Everyone's made their switches, so they don't need it anymore. Not until— Well, not until whatever comes next," he lamely concludes.
So the book is inside the gym, you think to yourself. I know the codes to get into the complex and into the building. If I could pick the lock—
If? Keith Tilley jeers at you from the back of your head. Dude, I can totally get you in there if you want!
It's a surprise to you: Keith Tilley actually knows how to pick a lock. Which means you do too.
That's all for now.