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Where Credit is Due

by Cameron Rogers

          Gavin’s ass hurt. A lot. He had just spent the better part of eight hours folded into what might have been the most uncomfortable coach seat on Earth. And then there was the nearly two hour car ride to where he would be staying while he was in England. His heart had not stopped thumping the whole ride there. He was going to get a chance to look at what might be an original lost Shakespeare! He glanced over at his advisor for this trip and found Dr. Olivier—He said call him Philip…—asleep, his head resting against the foggy window of the taxi they were taking. Rain beat against the top of the car and splattered over the headlights. Was it going to rain the entire time they were here?

The car pulled to a stop outside a squat, gray stone cottage. The cabbie got out and started unloading their luggage out of the trunk. Gavin gently shook Philip awake, his hand gingerly touching the surprisingly hard muscle beneath Philip’s thin button down shirt. “Uh…Philip?” The name still felt foreign on his tongue after years of undergrad classes calling him Dr. Olivier. “We’re here…”

          Philip sat up, readjusting his glasses. His salt and pepper was unkempt from where he was resting against the glass. “What? Oh…sorry. Didn’t mean to doze off.” 

          The rain had slowed to a light drizzle when they got out of the taxi. Gavin took a minute to stretch his legs and back while Philip handled tipping the cabbie. They grabbed their bags and walked toward the dark wood front door as the sound of the taxi’s tires on the gravel road faded into the soft pitter-patter of the rain.

The cottage the university was putting the two of them up in was small, maybe ten feet from the front door to the back door, with a single multipurpose sitting room with a long wooden dining table, an old redbrick  fireplace, and furniture that looked like it belonged in Abuelita Alvarez’s living room. 

          Philip left his bags near the front door and went to one of the only interior doors in the room, of which there were two. He poked his head into the room and let out a long groan. “Dammit…what else is going to go wrong?”

          “Everything okay?” Gavin said.

          “There’s only one bed. I told them I was bringing a grad student and we were going to need two rooms!” Philip pulled out his phone and started dialing a number. He paced the length of the house. “C’mon, c’mon, pick up!”

          “Uh, Philip? It’s nine at night in St. Louis. No one’s going to answer.”
          Philip groaned again. “You’re right. Well, we’ll just go into town, buy a blow-up mattress or something. I’ll put it on the university card. It’s the least they can do after this.”
          “And it’s two A.M. here. Nothing will be open. I’ll just sleep on the 
couch—”

          As he said it, Philip collapsed onto the couch in exasperation. The old wooden frame groaned beneath him and the threadbare cushions threw up a cloud of dust. Philip looked from the faded floral print fabric over to Gavin. “I don’t think so. I doubt the university will pay for the chiropractor you’d need after sleeping on this for a month.”
           Gavin set everything but the messenger bag he had slung over his shoulder down and walked over. He sat on the couch and nearly whimpered in pain with the force that his tailbone slammed into one of the support struts. 
“I guess you’re right…”

          “I’ll sleep on the couch, you take the bed. We’ll go to town in the morning and get a blow up bed.”
          Gavin bit his lip. “I couldn’t let you—”
          “I insist. I slept on the car ride out here, so I can live with staying up for a few hours. You must be exhausted, though. You take the bed.” Philip’s tone was so commanding that Gavin knew arguing with him would be useless. Instead, Gavin grabbed his luggage and took it into the bedroom. Inside was only a single queen-sized bed covered in a quilt made of patches of pink gingham and green corduroy. It had to be the single ugliest blanket Gavin had ever seen. 
          “God, that’s awful, isn’t it?” Philip said from the doorway. Gavin turned to look at him and let out a small laugh. He picked up the blanket, which felt about as awful as it looked.

          “Yeah, it is.” 
          “We’ll grab a better one when we go shopping in the morning.” 
          “Are you sure? Won’t we get in trouble?” Gavin glanced at the card, then back down at the blanket.

          “You let me worry about that,” Philip said with a lopsided smile. Gavin couldn’t help but notice the way his eyes crinkled in the corners when he smiled. Philip turned around and left and Gavin changed into his pajamas. 
He climbed into bed and the moment his head hit the pillow, he was out.
          His alarm went off a few hours later, and he got up and got dressed. Out in the main room, he found Philip curled out on the couch in nothing but a pair of tight black boxer briefs. A thin, over-washed fleece blanket was pooled on the floor next to him. He reached out to shake Philip awake. “Uh…Philip?”
          “Huh? What time is it?”
          “About eight-thirty in the morning…” Gavin bit his lip.
          Philip’s brows furrowed and he looked down at himself. His eyes widened and he grabbed the blanket, covering himself up. “Oh shit. I’m so sorry, Gavin. I typically sleep nude and thought I was going to have my own room, so I didn’t bother packing pajamas…I didn’t mean for you to see this.”

          Not that Gavin minded. Philip had nicely defined muscles, and though he didn’t want to, Gavin couldn’t help but notice that the outline in Philip’s underwear wasn’t exactly a small one. Gavin blushed. “It’s…it’s okay. I’ll go back in the bedroom so you can get dressed.”
          Philip cleared his throat. “Right. Uh. And then I’ll call the cab and we’ll get going…”
          Once the cab arrived, they traveled into the village, spending some time in some local shops. There was no luck in finding a blowup mattress, since no one seemed to want to camp in the wet season. “It’s always the wet season!” Gavin heard Philip mumble at one point.Philip did find a decent handmade quilt in a curio shop, and the woman who owned the shop recommended a local fish and chip place. Gavin had never really liked fish, but it was the local cuisine and he was willing to try anything once.
          Once they’d placed their orders, they found a small table for just the two of them. The chairs were red vinyl and Gavin’s squeaked a little when he sat down. 

          “What are we going to do about the bed situation?” Gavin asked, feeling a little defeated in their quest to get something better for Philip to sleep on.
          “I can keep sleeping on the couch. It’s okay.”
          Gavin shook his head. “I’ll take the couch tonight. We can switch off.”
          “I feel bad making you sleep on that couch.”
          “I feel bad making you sleep on it!” Gavin argued. Feeling a little emboldened by his outburst, he leaned forward a little. “It’s a queen and I’m used to a twin. Why don’t we share the bed?”

          “W-what?” Philip looked a little taken aback.
          “I’m serious. I know you, you know me. Neither of us are going to budge on this, Philip. So we’ll share the bed until we can find something better.”
          “I don’t think that’s appropriate—”
          “I think we crossed that line when I saw you in your underwear.”
          Philip blushed harder. “I…uh, suppose you’re right.”
          The conversation was interrupted by one of the workers in a black apron delivering two red plastic baskets of fish and chips. The aroma of salt and oil filled the space between them and Gavin heard his stomach rumble a little. “Here you go, loves.”
          “So tell me a little bit about yourself,” Philip said a few minutes later, between bites of fries.
          The question caught Gavin off guard. “What do you mean? We’ve known each other for a couple of years—”
          “As professor and student. Now we’re colleagues, and for the time 
being, bedmates. Plus, you’ve seen me in my underwear. It’s only fair I get 
to know some things about you.”
          “Oh…well, uh…what do you want to know?”
          “Tell me a little about your family.”
“Well…my dad’s family is from Spain, but my mom’s first generation American. Her parents came over from Korea right after the war.” 
          Philip nodded knowingly. “My family is French through and through. Why did you become an English major?”
          “I never really figured out what I wanted to do, and then I got to college and…it seemed like the thing that sucked the least. And I was kind of good at it, I guess?”
          “I think would so. I distinctly remember you getting almost a perfect score in my class.”
          “I would have too, if I’d been bothered to turn in that last paper...”

          Philip chuckled. “What about now that you’re a graduate student?”
          “I’ve got some roommates, I’m going to grad school, I’ve got a—”
          “Girlfriend?” Philip’s eyebrow was raised.
          “No…I’m uh…I’m gay, actually…”
          “Boyfriend then?” Gavin stopped for a second. Philip continued to eat, popping a chip into his mouth and sucking the grease and salt from his fingers. It was almost as if the revelation didn’t even phase him. “No, not-not right now.”
          “Is everything okay, Gavin?” Philip’s voice had turned from bemusement to concern.
          “I just…Not a whole lot of people know what I just told you…”
          “You mean about your sexuality?” The way Philip said it, taking that part of Gavin that he worked so hard to keep private in stride, made the knot in his stomach tighten. Gavin just nodded. “There’s no reason to be ashamed. We’re both adults here, and you’re not the first student I’ve had that doesn’t identify as straight.”
          Gavin let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “In fact,” Philip continued, “because you’ve been so candid with me, I guess I should return the favor. I’m not exactly straight myself.”
Gavin choked on his mouthful of chips. He took a long drink of water and looked at Philip with bloodshot, watering eyes. “What?”
          He nodded. “I’ve experimented, I think is what the kids say these days. I even started seeing a guy when I was getting my masters. I thought maybe we were going to get married, if it ever became legal. He didn’t see it that way. He was only in it for the sex.”
          “I’m sorry…” Gavin said softly.
          Philip looked out the window. It had started to rain again. The two of them finished their meal in silence. Things were tense, and Gavin wanted desperately to breach the silence, but nothing he could think of sounded right after the revelation that Philip had just given him. Even their cabbie on the way home could sense it and kept quite most of the drive. When they got back to the cottage, Philip went directly for the bedroom.

          Gavin gave Philip a minute before following him into the bedroom. He had pulled the quilt off the bed, leaving it in an unceremonious heap on the floor. “Could you give me a hand with this?”
          Gavin silently helped Philip redress the bed before standing back. “I’m uh... I’m going to get changed.”
          Before he could leave the room, Philip put a hand on his shoulder. “Gavin, I want to apologize for what happened earlier. I didn’t mean to startle you or anything. I shouldn’t have brought it up.” 
          “No…I’m glad you trust me like that. After all, we’re colleagues now.” 
          Sleeping next to Philip wasn’t unpleasant for Gavin, but he found it hard to fall asleep sometimes, just being aware of the body next to him. Gavin tried to distract himself by focusing on their work. They had been given access to a manuscript thought to be an unfinished play of Shakespeare’s that had been discovered in a trunk in someone’s attic. It was turned over to a local museum, and no one but Philip and Gavin had been allowed to look at it for longer than a day.
          “As is, it’s not a tragedy, that’s for sure,” Gavin said, turning another page in the twine-bound script. He was wearing white cloth gloves to keep the oils on his hands from destroying the paper.
          “Without the ending, it’s hard to know for sure.” Philip said.
          “I think it’s meant to be a comedy. This character here, Pyrros, the thief, he’s almost like Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Because he steals the king’s crown, everything goes wrong.”
          “Everything goes wrong? He prevents Calliphe from having to marry Haemon!” Philip said.
          “Prevent her?! She doesn’t want to marry Haemon. Look, this line in act two. ‘Oh Haemon, were I to marry him, all would be well and I would be but set right.’ She says right there that she’s hoping marrying him helps her love him.” Gavin said, pointing at the line for emphasis.
          “Then what is their conversation in act four scene three?”

          “It’s nothing more than polite talk.”
          “No, it’s a declaration of love. Here, I’ll prove it. I’ll be Haemon, you be Calliphe. ‘And I lay myself at your feet, prostrate but for your judgement of mine heart.’”
          “‘And you shall have it. I pray thee stand, for you make a fool of yourself in this court.’”
          “‘If it be true I am but a fool of love for our most beautiful Calliphe.’”
          “‘Cupid’s bow has struck you blind that you would not see my heart for what it is.’”
          “‘I see your heart and would ask to keep it for my own.’” The next line was a simple stage direction, two words: They kiss. Philip leaned down and pressed his lips to Gavin’s, causing his eyes to widen in surprise. Philip tasted a little like the coffee they had grabbed that morning, with just a little artificial sweetener. He pulled away, his face flushing. “Gavin, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—”
          “Uh, it’s okay. You just got caught up in the moment. It was the next stage direction…”
          “I…think that’s more than enough for today.” 
          Gavin nodded, putting the manuscript back in its glass case and taking off his gloves. Philip was silent as he did the same and was silent the entire car ride home. In fact, Gavin tried to put as much distance between the two of them while they were at the cottage. They hadn’t said a word to each other by the time it was time for bed. 
          “Gavin, I—”
          “Philip, really. It was an accident.”
          “Actually…it wasn’t.”
          “What?”
          “I think you’re attractive. You’re wonderful to be around, you’re funny, you’re charming…I enjoy spending time with you, Gavin. When you said you were gay, I thought maybe I’d have a shot, but it would be incredibly inappropriate. You’re a student, I’m your professor…”

          “You’re my research advisor, which I would argue is different. Plus, inappropriate has kind of been the theme of this trip.”
          “I suppose you’re right.”
          Gavin shrugged. “And maybe I find you attractive too.”
          Philip raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?”
          Gavin bit his lip. “I’ve seen you in your underwear, but I’ve been kind of curious as to what’s underneath it.”
          “I think that’s something I can show you.” Philip smiled, a little half smile that showed his canines, and slowly started to unbutton his shirt.
          They only had enough funding for three weeks in England, and it was over all too soon. Both were confident that they had sufficient evidence to prove the lost play was indeed Shakespeare’s and Philip had mentioned that if their work was accepted for publication, their names could go down in literary history. When they got back to the states, Philip and Gavin had to keep their relationship secret, because while they could be open and free in England, the threat of the university became all too real in America. They got by with stolen kisses in the office and steamy text messages at home. 
          “And I think…it’s ready,” Philip said, printing out their paper. Gavin stared at it, the culmination of months of work, and his heart swelled.
          “I can’t believe this. This breakthrough is amazing.”
          Philip smiled and gave Gavin a quick kiss. “And it’s all thanks to you. You’re amazing, Gavin.” 
          Before Gavin could respond, there was a knock on the office door. The undergraduate desk worker poked her head in. “Dr. Olivier? Your wife is here to see you.”
          Wife? What did she mean wife?
          Philip turned red. “Uh…tell her I’ll be right there.” 
          Gavin stared at him. “Wife? Philip… are you married?”
          “Gavin, I can explain…”

          “No. Just save it.” He stood up and grabbed his bag, passing a blonde woman on the way out. Probably her. Gavin considered saying something, but he worried if he opened his mouth, he’d break down and start crying. He fought back tears all the way to his car. Once he was in the driver’s seat, he finally let himself sob. His phone exploded with texts from Philip, trying to apologize and explain, but Gavin just turned off his phone, and once he’d stopped crying, drove home.
          He avoided Philip at all costs after the revelation of his marriage, and almost didn’t open the package from the journal their article was published in, but he still wanted to see his name in print. He opened the journal to their article, and found…nothing mentioning him. No footnotes, nothing. Gavin got no credit for a discovery Philip had said was “all thanks to him.”
          Tears welled up in Gavin’s eyes and he threw the journal against the wall. Also in the mail was an invitation to a banquet in his honor. Gavin scowled, but he knew he would go. There were some people he needed to talk to.
          It was a black-tie affair. When Gavin arrived, he was shown to a large table in the front, taking a seat next to Philip. At the table, there was the president of the university, the chair of the department, the dean of the college, and the woman Gavin had seen that day in Philip’s office, Mrs. Olivier. Much of the evening was small talk and congratulations, and then Philip was pulled up to the podium to give a speech.
          “I want to thank everyone for this, it’s such a tremendous honor. When I set out on this investigation, most thought I was running a fool’s errand, and to those people, I say, I probably was but the beauty of being an English scholar is stretching it enough to make it work.”
          That earned a laugh that rippled around the room.
          “But there’s one person I want to thank, one person without whom this whole thing would not be possible. The love of my life…”Gavin had to fight back a scowl.

          “My wife, Amy Olivier.” She waved at the whole room. When Philip sat down, Gavin placed his napkin on his plate. 
          “Philip, can I speak with you in private for a moment?”
          “Gavin, I don’t think now is the time—”
          “Now, Philip.” They both knew that tone of voice. It was the same tone Philip had used when he first insisted Gavin sleep on the bed at the cottage in England.
          They both got up from the table, Gavin ignoring the strange stares he was getting.
          “Gavin, what’s going on with you? You ignore my calls and texts, now this? Where’s your sense of professionalism?”
          “I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that. I’m also going to pretend you didn’t use me in England. I’m going to pretend nothing happened between us.”
          “Gavin, I never meant for it to go that far—”
          “I don’t want to hear it. We’re over. What I want to hear is why I’m not getting credit for the manuscript discovery.”
          “What do you mean?”
          “I got an advanced copy of the journal. My name isn’t anywhere on the article.”
          “I don’t know how—”
          “Save it. Where’s my credit?”
          “If the journal chose not to list you—”
          “Give me my credit, Philip.”
          “Why should I? It was my discovery. You’re just my assistant, a nobody. You don’t deserve the credit. You’re nothing but—”
          “But what? A cocksleeve? Yeah, I see that now.”
          Before Philip could reply, Gavin walked away. He had a single destination in mind, and as he rehearsed what he would say in his head, his scowl turned upwards into a grin. He reached the table they were sitting at and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to look at him in confusion and surprise.

 

          “Mrs. Olivier. Hi, my name is Gavin Alvarez. I think the two of us 
need to talk.”

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