When You Are Out There On The Road
By Ephemera.


Inspired by Such Great Heights, by The Postal Service, and written for [livejournal.com profile] tsuki_no_bara's 2nd Original Ficathon, June 2006. Thanks to C and M for the cheerleading, and especially to [livejournal.com profile] ms_manna, without whom this would have been much shorter and much less in every way. All remaining mistakes are my own.

*****

Beck's my room mate. My best friend. My guardian angel. He's, like, the single best thing about going away to college, so when he called my cell at two am, four days after he dropped me off at the airport so I could fly home for the summer, I was right there. I wasn't asleep. Actually, I was kind of putzing around on the computer one handed and jerking off, but that's fairly irrelevant.

"Hey, man, what's up!"

We keep pretty late hours on campus, so I didn't automatically think that anything was going to be wrong, but when he didn't answer right off the bat, I did.

"Sam."

His voice was real choked up, which made my blood run, honest to god, cold. Beck had seen me through some real crap that year, and I'd never heard him sound like that.

"Fuck, Beck. I'm here. What's up. What's wrong."

"Robbie. He …. Shit. My mom's going to hear and I just can't … Um. He – we're – it's fucked. It's just fucked up. He introduced me to his girlfriend, Sam."

Beck was crying, like it was being torn out of his chest, his voice going distorted in places, where I guessed he'd pressed his face into a pillow or something. His mom's a bitch. Although, I was thinking, nothing like his ex.

"He did … Jesus, Beck! That's just – shitty. Oh, man. You must be devastated. When?"

You gotta understand, Beck? He'd been singing this guy, Robbie's, praises since day one. He had, like, a framed photo on his desk in our room, and snapshots in his wallet, and he talked about Robbie like the guy had just stepped down off the medal rostrum after he'd got given the Nobel Peace Prize or something. They'd been together forever. They ended up long distance, but, like, they talked on the phone all the time, and I know Beck had turned down some serious offers 'cos him and Robbie were, you know, committed and shit. Hell – I'd lain awake nights wishing that maybe, one day, I'd have something like that. Since I had picked up this call, I had started to really rethink that!

"Tonight. Fuck, Sam: we hooked up yesterday, and he didn't say anything. I didn't know, I thought… and then we went down to the Barrel tonight, and this chick's all over him, and …. Two months, Sam. They've been dating two months. And I couldn't tell. I just …"

The words dissolved again, and, I swear, it hurt to sit there and listen to it, and not be able to do anything, not even, like, rub his back or whatever. I mean, what do you say?

"And my mom … I mean, I know she doesn't know, 'cos why the hell would she know? But just dealing with her and, just, everything. Fuck, Sam, what am I doing here. How do I do this? How do I get through tomorrow? This week. A whole fucking summer?"

Beck's mom still doesn’t know he's gay. She certainly doesn't know that her son hooked up with a guy who graduated High School when her son was only sixteen, let alone that said guy is a cheating asshole who probably just broke her boy's heart. Mrs Feeney seems pretty nice and all, to folks as don't know her, but she's both clueless and mean. Like, Beck will phone home to tell her that he got an A on a paper, and she'll bitch him out for not having gone out for a sports team, or some shit like that. My family's hardly perfect, but at least my mom doesn't act like I'm some huge disappointment to her all the time.

"I don’t know, man. I don't know. You'll make it, though. You're a tough cookie." Beck snorted. "Hey – what's it you told me when I was waiting for those test results? Tomorrow's a different day, so you gotta just stick around to see what's gonna get better?"

"God, I give such crappy advice!"

"Yeah, well, it's corny, sure, but - for serious man – you're, like, one of the best people I know. Robbie's a fucking idiot if he can't see that."

Shit, shit, shit. Beck had started to calm down some, and that just set him off again: near-silent desperate sobs, punctuated with gasped curses on the in breaths.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Fuck, Beck, man, just breathe, okay. Just breathe."

"I'm sorry, Sam. I shouldn't …"

I cut him off. "Yeah, you fucking should. That's what your buds are for. I just wish I could do something, man. Wish I could drive over and get you out of that house, head somewhere and figure out a plan for the summer … Hell, you want to run away from home, you know you've got a place to stay here, right?"

"Don't tempt me, man."

"I'm not joking. You met my mom. She thinks you're the best thing since sliced bread, dude. And my sisters'd live. There's space in my room for the air mattress. For real. If you want to come down, just tell me when to meet you."

There was a moment of quiet on the phone, like Beck was holding his breath.

"You actually mean that, don't you?"

"Yeah." If he'd been closer I'd have had to whack him for that – he sounded like he'd only just realised that people help out people they care about.

"Shit, man, you actually really mean that? Cos I don't think I can face working with him, and I want out of here so bad right now."

"God, yeah, the packing depot. No way, man. It's not worth putting yourself through that for, whatever it is, six bucks an hour?"

The real reason Beck went back home for the summer was for Robbie, but his parents wanted to see him working if he wasn't taking classes, so he'd signed up for this packing manufacturer's job, 'cos that's what Robbie was doing - it's, like, his uncle's factory or something. I don't know. Crappy minimum wage work, to prove that he wasn't some spoiled brat, basically.

"Seven twenty." Beck corrected me, and he sounded more like himself. I could just imagine him pushing his hair back from his face. He wears it pretty long in front and it falls in his eyes.

"You can get a job at Starbucks out here, for that, if you really wanted to."

I had no idea what baristas earn, but Beck's dad's loaded, so I was also pretty sure neither of us cared that much.

"You're really really sure? Your family's not going to freak out, or …"

"For real, man. You want me to look up plane times?"

"LAX and then the commuter hop up, right?"

We'd talked about me coming up to visit him last semester. I'd kind of wanted to meet this Robbie, see what perfection looked like from up close.

"Yup."

"I got my dad's card right here. You think it would be really stupid of me to just get in my car and leave for the airport now?"

"How much d'you drink?"

"Like, half a beer. I'm not drunk. I just don’t think I can act good enough for my mom not to start asking questions, and …"

His voice was getting higher and tighter, the words coming faster.

"Beck, dude, just chill. I don’t know. Leave them a note, tell them I've had a family emergency, and I'll make some shit up when they phone me. Just leave your parents my cell number, not the house, okay?"

"Samsam, how the fuck did I live my life without you?"

"All hail the gods of Residence Life, dude. You sure you're good to drive?"

"Yeah. Yes."

He didn't sound that great, but a whole lot better than he had.

"Then get your butt out of there, and call me when you know your fight to LAX. I'll drive up and get you."

"Road trip, huh?"

Back before Thanksgiving, when the first guy I ever sucked off at a club turned out not to be as clean as he promised he was, Beck and me, we road tripped up to Toronto and back, cos Beck's smart and figured it would take my mind of things. And when the guy I'd been sort of dating, Martin, decided that Valentines was a good day to give me the brush off, we drove down to NYC for a long weekend, because driving through Manhattan is never not cool. Road trips are kind of a thing for us.

******

The traffic heading into LA in the morning is always crazy, but between the insane people, and me driving like an old guy, cos four hours of sleep does not make me sharp, I did wonder if Beck would beat me to the airport, As it turned out, I got there first, but only just. I didn't have time to do more than think about drinking Beck's Starbucks before he shuffled out into arrivals.

Now, I room with the guy. I'd seen him in hour thirty of a research paper. I'd seen him drunk, hung-over, and sick . I'd never seen him look so rough. He just looked gray and exhausted, and when I grabbed him into a hug he practically fell on me. His hair was greasy, and smelt of airplane, but he felt good in my arms. Less than a week, and I'd already been missing him, and at least now he was here, maybe I was going to be able to do something to help. His shoulders and back were so tense, and after a second he pulled back, shock himself back together.

"Hey," he offered, not quite meeting my eye.

"Hey, yourself. Lets get out of here, okay?"

He nodded, and didn't protest when I swapped his case for the Starbucks cup, just breathed in the coffee and followed me when I headed for the elevators.

The silence strung out a bit, once were settled in my car. It's nothing like as snazzy as his Chrysler, but it gets me around. It was just weird me being in the drivers seat, I think. He had his head back on the headrest, and his eyes shut.

"Okay," I said, when it became apparent he wasn't going to start the conversation. "Motel or diner? Cos you look rung out, and I need food and sleep, in no particular order, before we do any serious driving. What'd you wanna do?"

Beck shrugged.

"Sorry, man, I'm just – wiped. Whatever.

I reached over, ran my thumb along his cheekbone, and then let it drop to rest on his shoulder.

"Okay. You need sleep worse than I do. There are about a hundred motels around here. I vote we crash for a bit, and deal with the world later." His shoulder moved under my hand, which I guessed meant 'okay', so I shifted round, put my seatbelt on, and fired her up.

******

"Did my parents call you?"

I blinked. It took me that split second to put the pieces together, why I was sleeping in a strange bed, wearing the stinky-ass t-shirt I'd put on the morning before, and why Beck was perched on the edge of the mattress, making the bed dip, with one hand on my hip through the thin motel blanket.

"Sorry, Sam, I'm just – did they?"

I untangled my arm from the covers to fumble about on the nightstand for my cell. I blinked against the backlight, seeing as the drapes were doing a pretty good job of blocking out enough of the daylight to make the room real gloomy.

"Nope. You okay?"

His hand rubbed up my side and back down. "Kind of. I slept some. Took a shower. I just wondered… I should probably call the house, tell them something. What were you going to say to them?"

The clock on the nightstand said it was nearly seven pm - pretty late in Boston. I closed my eyes, and stretched my arms up above my head.

"Ummm." I had had a plan.. I mean, once Beck'd hung up on me to go get a plane, I had to do something with my brain, you know? It just took me a while to get my head back in gear. "Oh, yeah., that Carla, that's my cousin – my mum's sister's little girl - she's nine. That Carla and her mom have been in a car wreck, and Carla's, like, in a coma, you know, really badly hurt," I tapped on the fake-wood of the headboard as I said it, thinking of my actual cousin and hoping like hell I wasn't jinxing them with the white lie. "My mom's gone over there to try and hold things together, so I'm on my own with my sisters, and pretty freaked out, and I called you to help me out, and so you came down. Sound about right?

"Okay. That's – yeah. That'll work. I'm not sure even my mom's mean enough to argue about a nine year old in a coma."

His smile was kind of thin, but it was a smile. I gave him a sort of encouraging half smile back.

"Right – you make a call – I'll go get cleaned up."

Back shifted over to the other twin bed, and I grabbed my bag and cleared out so he'd have some privacy. He's always hated having people listening to his half of a telephone call, and when I turned round to close the bathroom door, something about the slump of his shoulders said that he was expecting the call to be the kind that really needs privacy.

I don’t think I'd realised quite how tired and grimy I'd been feeling until I was under the spray, because I'm sure that the shower couldn't really have been that good. It did just feel fantastic though, to be clean and cool, and I was humming to myself while I picked through Beck's wash kit to steal some of his designer label shampoo – roomie's privilege - and I only stopped when I realised that, really, 'Take yo mama out' probably wasn't what Beck wanted to hear, either in terms of taste or of content. We may room together, but I still think his music tastes suck, and he returns the compliment. I shaved and dressed, then cracked the door open to see if I could hear voices. Silence. I leaned my head round. Beck was lying on his side on his bed, facing away from the bathroom.

"Hey, man. You want to head out?"

Beck sniffed, and dragged one hand across his face before he rolled over and up. I pretended not to notice. He'd always been good to me about that kind of thing, and I really wanted some food in me – or at least in front of me – before we started really getting in to things.

"Sure."

******

"You going to eat any of that? Or just use if for table art?"

Beck had been shoving his breakfast around the plate the whole time, and I don't think I'd seen more than one or two forkfuls actually go in his mouth. My plate was two-thirds cleared, and he was on his second glass of Coke.

"Yeah. No. Sorry." He took a mouthful of mushed up hash and eggs, and chewed it exaggeratedly, but it wasn't funny like it would have been a couple of weeks ago, back in the Wreck on campus. Recreation centre, Rec, Wreck. They'd given in to the inevitable and made that official a couple of years earlier, apparently. Anyway, the point was, I'd probably eaten one or more meals a day with Beck for most of nine months, and normally, he was the one stealing fries off my plate, you know? It made me uncomfortable, the way he was acting.

"It's not bad," Beck concluded, and took a second mouthful. It wasn't.

We were in some diner I'd found by criss crossing the side streets once we'd gotten into Silver Lake, kind of an arty, boho kind of place, that was serving breakfast food all day, and would probably have sold you the art off the walls if you'd discovered a sudden urgent need for semi-abstract nudes done in primary colours. Kind of like Denny's, except the coffee was Lavatsio, the eggs were organic, and the mushrooms were these weird funky types, and not out of a can. I figured that round here no one would get too stressed if they clocked that we were talking about guys, not girls. The fact the two guys sat near the door when we came in had been kissing and feeding each other cake had kind of confirmed that.

"You look like you could use some solid food, man. You're still all…" I waved my hand at him, seeing as I had no idea how else to sum it all up. Exhausted? Haunted? Beaten? Freaking me out? Hollow? Maybe that was it. Like he was going through the motions, but there was no one home.

"Sorry." Beck looked down, dragging his fork through a pool of yellow egg yolk.

"God, Beck." I stretched my arm out across the table, resting my fingers on his tanned wrist. "It's okay. I'm just worried about you, okay. You've had a really really shitty couple of days, and I want to help, is all."

"Thank you. Sam, really, you're a hero." Lord, but that brave attempt at a smile was scary, but when he twisted his hand round to grab mine and squeeze, that at least felt real.

"Whatever you need, man. Whatever you need. And right now, I vote that includes some food to go with that caffiene."

"This is me, eating." He raised his fork in salute, and it vanished into his mouth a split second before the ketchup dripped.

"Good." I took a sip of my own soda, and let the conversation lapse. There was enough background noise that it wasn't really awkward, but it did mean that after a while, Beck noticed me watching him.

"What?"

"Nothing."

He rested his fork on the side of his plate, wrapped both hands around his glass, and looked at me.

"What?"

"Nothing." Beck arched his eyebrow, and I kicked him under the table.

"Jerk."

"You said it."

"You did it."

Beck raised his Coke – part truce part toast – and I clinked my glass against his. We went back to eating in silence, but it felt a lot less weird.

*******

By the time we'd eaten and drunk way too much caffeine, the evening was starting to cool off, and the traffic was thinning out, so it was pretty cool to get back behind the wheel, flip the radio on, and hit the road.

'Course we hadn't gone half a mile before Beck started fiddling with the radio, trying to find a station that he'd like, that wouldn't make me want to punch him in the head. He's a great guy, but he really digs that whiny emo stuff, and, man, that just sets my teeth on edge. I like something with a bit more pep. Some of his stuff's okay, but some of it? Not so much. And the radio stations in LA? Heavy on the pure pop, and the Spanish language stuff. So he flipped stations, catching half a song here and there, and I kept driving. Getting up towards Burbank, he found a classic rock show we could live with – Living on a Prayer got us both singing along – and I started spotting road signs that made me wonder.

"So, Beck. You wanna go to Santa Barbara?"

"Santa Barbara? What's in Santa Barbara?"

"The sea? Mountains? Stuff? – I just saw the signs, and I figured – there's no rule says I gotta drive straight home, right? We could go take a boat trip of something?"

We drove past another sign, and if I was going to get on I101 we needed to decide.

Beck shrugged, and said "Sure", so I switched lanes, and apparently, we were going to Santa Barbara.

The radio fuzzed as we went under a flyover, and Beck chuckled to himself. "Cool – we can go see if there really are vampires."

"Vampires? Did you just go nuts?"

"Vampires, Sam. You never watched Lost Boys?" He put on his 'doing an impression' voice, which kind of sounds the same for everyone, but everyone has their limits. "One thing about living in Santa Barbara I never could stand, all the damn vampires."

I shook my head, trying not to laugh. "Duh – that's Santa Carla, dude. Fictional city? For fictional vampires?"

He glared at me for a moment, while I concentrated on not getting hit by a truck as we merged, and then started to chuckle, and when I looked over he was leaning forward in his seat, hands over his mouth, and the late evening sun was making him glow, and I let myself join in the laughter.

******

Once we were over the mountains, heading towards Camarilo, the silence in the car was starting to get to me. Beck was still playing with the radio every now and again, but he hadn't said anything in miles.

I looked over, and Beck was staring out the side window.

"You okay, man?"

He startled, and there was something off about his expression. I got my eyes back on the gently curving four-lane.

"Yeah. Sorry. Just thinking, I guess."

"You going to talk to me, any time? I only owe you about a hundred hours of shoulder to cry on, you know?" I was trying to keep things light and easy, but I guess I was missing the mark some, 'cos the silence was back, only a lot more uncomfortable.

"I'm still trying to figure things out, you know?" Beck spoke up before I started babbling just to fill the space. "It's just. Huge, I guess. Trying to make it all fit back together. Robbie, and … god, he said some stuff, and he's fucking done some stuff, and – yeah…."

I shot Beck a sympathetic look, and he was staring down at his hands, where he was picking at the skin round his nails.

"I'm just trying to make sense of what happened, you know? I mean, I thought I knew where we were, and I was fucking wrong, so …"

Beck sighed, and my stomach clenched. I just felt so sorry for him. I really had thought he and Robbie were practically perfect, so trying to imagine how that could go so wrong was pretty weird for me, and I could hardly imagine what it must be like for Beck. This time I let the silence ride, let a few miles pass by, and when the radio DJ started getting real excited about some contest thing, I leaned over and switched it off entirely, my hand tangling with Beck's where he'd gone to flip the channel. He jerked back, and I scanned the road real fast before turning to look at him for a few second.

"You seem kind of jumpy," I said, when he didn't say anything, and his head thumped back against the headrest.

"Okay," he sighed. "Look, this is crazy, but I guess … Right. Robbie's been dating this girl for two months, yeah?"

I glanced over at him again, but he wasn't looking at me, so I made a kind of 'uh hu' noise, trying to keep it real neutral.

"And one of the things he said, when we were trying to 'talk things through'" – I could see the movement of finger quotes out of the corner of my eye – "was that that was okay, because I had been cheating on him."

Lord, that just made me so mad. Beck's a good guy. There's no way he'd cheat on anyone, and he'd always been so wrapped up in Robbie. I felt, like, how dare this asshole say something like that, about my friend, you know?

"That's insane! What an ass!"

"Sam, shut up a second!" Beck interrupted me. "Sorry, I just need … He was saying that me and you, that I was cheating on him with you."

I was just stunned. Like, speechless. Me and Beck? That's crazy. I mean, he's my best friend, and he means the world to me, but we've never fooled around or anything. It's not like that.

A horn sounded, startling me, and I realised the car had been drifting, and hauled it back into lane.

"Jesus! Right. Fuck. I need off the road."

"Turn off in half a mile." Beck's voice was emotionless and flat, and he didn't say anything else until we were parked up outside a deserted strip mall just off the highway. It was more or less dark, the headlights from the passing traffic strobeing over us as they swept past. The car was real quiet when I killed the engine. You could hear the swish of nylon when I undid my seatbelt to turn around in my seat. Beck was staring down at his hands in his lap again, pick-pick-picking with short, violent movements.

"Dude, you're going to bleed if you keep doing that." I rested my hand on his knee, and he forced himself still.

"Okay. Let me get this clear. Robbie's been dating this girl behind your back, cos he thinks me and you…?" Beck gave me a small nod, without meeting my eye. "That's weak, man. That's really weak. I hate to say this, but this Robbie guy is starting to sound like a real son of a bitch. That is some raggedy-assed excuse of a reason. For fuck's sake. Even if you had been sleeping with every guy who eyed you up, him cheating back's meant to be a rational reaction? That's just making excuses, especially when he knows that you're solid. Fuck, man, you've never said a bad word about the guy in a whole year. What makes him think you'd cheat on him?"

Beck still didn't look at me, but he started playing with my hand on his knee as he spoke, running his finger tips over my knuckles, and dabbing them in the spaces in between. "I know, it's crazy, but when he … it was like he believed it? He said that since I went to college, all I've been talking about is you, and me and you did that, and me and you did this, and that he knew we'd been sleeping together, 'cos why else would we be rooming together, and taking road trips together…"

I snorted. "Yeah, right. Cos everyone in our dorm's fucking around. Sure!"

"I know. Like I said, it's crazy. I mean. I guess I do talk about you a lot – when someone says 'so what you've been doing today', how often is that, like, 'I did such and such with Sam, I went to class …,' you know?"

"Well, yeah. We do a bunch of stuff together. Robbie's not familiar with the idea of friends, or something?"

Beck shrugged, and I tried to process some. No wonder Beck's been kind of off with me. I mean, not only has this Robbie guy just up and stomped all over his heart, but also I'm kind of responsible, apparently.

"Fuck, I'm sorry man. I'm just – he's crazy – you know that right?"

The way Beck shook his head just made my heart ache.

"He's not crazy. He's wrong, I wasn't cheating on him, but he's not … I don’t know. Maybe it's like it was ok when he went away to college, cos he was pretty local so he could come up for weekends and stuff, and 'cos everything I was doing was, you know, familiar. People he knew, you know? And then this year … I mean, shit. I know I didn't do anything wrong, but maybe I didn't do anything right, either? If I couldn't tell he wasn't happy. I couldn't even tell he was fucking around on me. What's that say about me?"

"Maybe it says he's a good lier?" It cut me up to hear him beating up on himself. It always does, like if he's having a hard time getting something in class, or when he's been talking to his parents.

"Maybe. But I should have known."

"No – he should have told you. You were, what, four hundred miles away? You trust your partner to be honest with you. It ain't your fault if they don't do that. You deserve better than to have someone do that to you"

He looked so miserable, I just wanted to fix things somehow, but we were out in uncharted territory here – normally, he's the one fixing me.

"Yeah, but what if he's not wrong?"

"Huh?"

He looked at me, and his eyes were huge and dark.

"What if he's not wrong, what if maybe he picked up on something, like, between us?"

And again – huh?

"But we've never …" I protest.

"Yeah, that's not …" He's shaking his head, not looking me in the face, but his hand is hot and damp and holding on hard to mine. He took a deep breath. "What if he picked up that maybe I do, you know, care about you. Maybe love you. In the not entirely platonic sense of the word?"

"Okay, Beck? You're kind of freaking me out a little here." I'm trying way hard to keep my voice level and calm, 'cos if Beck's saying shit like this, he's got to be on some kind of psychological knife edge. "This just something you're wondering, or something you're saying is so?"

The sound Beck makes could be the start of a laugh or a sob.

"Fuck, Sam. You think I know? I'm just – I'm going crazy, here. I don’t know shit, do I?" His hand let go of mine and slammed into my dashboard, rattling the plastic. His breathing was ragged. "I can't do this, right now. Look, Sam, can you get us to a hotel or something, just pretend I never said anything till tomorrow, and get us back on the fucking road before I do something that'll fuck things up worse?"

"Beck, man, I mean this. You can't fuck this up. You can't fuck me up. I've got you. You want to get to a hotel and stop for the night, that's cool, but you ain't going to fuck this up."

Like I knew that, but I'd got to say something, and I have no idea what was going on in my head, 'cept that Beck was hurting real bad.

And then Beck grabbed my hand, and pulled me forward, and he'd gotten his other hand round the back of my head and he kissed me – we were kissing – hard and fast and I registered that his lips were dry and that he tasted like the Jolly Ranchers he'd been sucking on, and then he let me go, and we were leaning against the car doors, as far away as we could get in a poky saloon car, and all I could hear was two lots of breathing. My head was just spinning.

"I could fuck this up," Beck's voice was quiet, but kind of gravely, like a lot of stuff on a real tight rein. "And I really don't want to fuck this up. So either give me the keys, or just get back on the road, Sam, please?"

And he sounded desperate enough, and I was just freaked out enough, that I found myself nodding. Right. Driving. Motel. Space. Can do.

I turned the key, and the engine fired, and beside me, Beck put one hand over his eyes, and my stomach felt sour. He's my best friend, my guardian angel, and I really didn't want to fuck this up.

*****

We pulled in to the first motel we came to, and they only had one room, which was a double with a cot. Apparently there was some film festival in Santa Barbara, and the lady at the check-in desk looked pretty doubtful whether we'd find another place, that late at night, if we drove on, so Beck said 'fine' and put his credit card on the desk, and I could have argued, but I didn't. It was his card, not his dad's. We got a room number and two key passes. I went to move the car, and Beck stopped off at the vending machine to collect drinks and chips. We'd gotten the road trip routine down, so we worked together pretty good as a team, even when everything had gotten real weird.

The motel room was nothing special, and Beck had dumped the snacks on the double bed, and taken himself off to the bathroom. The door was locked and I could hear running water. I dropped his bag on the double, and mine on the crib, and then I flicked on the tv, just to be doing something. I'd been trying not to think too much, but Beck had really thrown me for a loop with that whole thing in the parking lot. Like, him kissing me couldn't have been any more out of the blue. I would, honest to god, have been less surprised if the captain of the college football team had turned up and smacked one on me. I guess, right from when I first met Beck, how I'd seen him had been shaped by 'and he has this really serious boyfriend he's madly in love with back home', so I'd never even really thought about 'what if'. I was thinking about it then, though.

The TV was broadcasting an infomercial about some revolutionary new skincare product when Beck finally eased out of the bathroom, and when I snapped it off, the silence seemed pretty loud.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself." Beck stayed back, leaning on the bathroom door frame. He looked tense.

"You okay?" I asked him. "You want me to go take myself for another drive or something?"

He was shaking his head before I'd even gotten that out.

"We should talk, huh?"

"Maybe." No argument from me, though I'd told myself I wasn't going to push if he didn't offer. He didn't move, and I found myself patting the bedspread, where I was perched on the end of the double bed. "First, though, come sit your ass down, man. You're making me twitchy all the way over there. And you'll bitch if I eat all the munchies."

Beck's mouth twisted into this expression I didn't know how to read, but he came over, and settled himself with his leg drawn up on the bed between us.

"Okay," he breathed, like he was preparing to recite a script. "Do I need to apologize?"

"Um, no? You might want to, you know, explain, though."

"Yeah." His hand was resting, palm up, on the ugly bedspread, and I let my fingers weave their way in between his. Didn’t matter how weird things were, he was still Beck. "Thanks, Sam. You're being incredible, and I know I'm kind of all over the place, but, just, listen, okay?"

I nodded, because what else was I going to do?

"Right. Um. When Rob threw that at me, he really just,.. okay, I was asking him why, you know, why not fucking say something, if he thinks I'm screwing around on him, yeah? And he was all 'yeah, and if I asked you to choose, me or him, you'd choose him, wouldn't you?', and – it kind of hit home. Like, how much you do mean to me, and since then …"

Woah. "Woah, back up, man. That's … people say shit when they're arguing. You went back home for the summer instead of coming out here, or signing up for an internship or something. You already chose him!"

Beck wasn't meeting my eye again. "But that's not 'or' you, Sam. I mean, really, absolute, him or you, no calls, no nothing. It'd be you."

The idea was kind of like someone throwing a bucket of ice water over me. The idea of never speaking for Beck again. I'd be fucking lost, I can tell you that. But still, the idea that he'd have picked me over his one true love? Even before the guy turned out to be a total asshole?

I must have been making like a goldfish, cos Beck moved his leg to nudge my knee.

"You didn't know that?" he asked, and I snorted.

"Uh-huh. I mean, I know you're my best friend, and that you'll be there for me, and all that stuff, just like I'd be there for you, but, Beck, dude, this is Robbie you're talking about. I mean, now, yeah. He deserves less than nothing from you for doing something as shitty as that, but …"

"Yeah, but what I'm saying is, I don't think it has anything to do with him cheating on me, that you're, like, my magnetic north or something."

"Okay, Beck. If you're saying things like that, then this has to be some freaky rebound thing. Your magnetic north?"

"Shut up." Beck nudged me again, and for a second it felt normal. "It just sounds crappy when I try and talk about it. I mean it though."

"I don't get it," I admitted.

"Sam, man," was all he said before I realized that he'd gotten all up in my personal space, and the hand he'd been leaning on was touching my face, and then we were kissing again, and this time I wasn't quite so shocked, and I leant into it, because no matter how loud the part of my brain was, that was screaming about this being a really, really, bad idea for a thousand different reasons, it was Beck, and he's a phenomenal kisser, all hunger and tongue and the touch of teeth.

My hands moved automatically, one to his waist, one curling against the front of his neck, where I could feel his jaw moving when my tongue slid over his. His t-shirt was soft under my fingers, but not as soft as the brush of heat when they fumbled their way to his skin, and my head really was spinning, because I couldn't catch my breath like that, And I did think that, maybe that would be best, because it was screwy for me to be making out with my best friend hours after he broke up with his boyfriend, but then again, I was scared that if we stopped, we might never start again. Beck's arm looped around my side and pulled me closer, chest to chest, and I couldn't ignore that he was bigger than me, stronger than me, and and his teeth nipped at my lower lip.

We broke apart long enough to gasp for breath, and to shove the junk food off the bed, with a collection of rustles and thuds, and then he power-housed over me, pushing me backwards, until he was half on top of me, his thigh between my legs, and we started kissing again, hands burrowing under clothes, and it was incredible. I'd never thought about wanting Beck that way, but now I was presented with the reality, I realized that maybe that had been a really dumb oversight, because it felt just, oh my god, good. Really, incredibly, good. His skin was like hot, heavy cream under my hands, where I slid them up and down his sides and shoulders, his fingers tugging in my hair, his hips rolling against mine, little sharp shocks of sensation.

God, it was just – it was crazed and it was perfect, and it was awkward and beautiful, and there was no 'just', no 'just making out', it was falling, or flying, or racing towards coming, towards that release, and I hadn't even known I wanted it, until his mouth was on me the second time, and then – we were wriggling and writhing, stealing skin contact and fighting with buttons and zips and t-shirts, and I didn’t even get my hand on his cock before he got there, pressing down into me so hard, I could feel the heat spreading through his shorts and mine, and that was what pushed me over, nothing to coming in minutes, and not even his hand on me, because it was just that good.

******

I woke up to the smell of coffee. I'd missed that while I'd been home. Beck's normally awake before me, and we have a little electric kettle in our dorm room, and a jar of instant coffee. When I opened my eyes a crack, there was a cardboard cup of vending machine coffee on the bedside table, and Beck was sitting on the crib, reading. It was bizarre how normal it felt, like we hadn't fallen together like some kind of irresistible force of sex was driving us, and then taken our time to really explore and enjoy and do it again before we fell asleep together. And then Beck looked up, and he smiled, and something inside me twisted in a way that wasn't like every other morning on campus.

"Hey." Beck put the book down, and padded over to the bed, making the mattress dip and roll when he sat. I pushed myself up to one elbow, and I swear I actually thought 'Eep! Naked! Although kind of late to be worrying about that.' Which should tell you how smart I am when I first wake up.

"Hey, yourself."

Beck passed me the coffee, and I took it, gratefully.

"How're you doing?" he asked.

"Good, I think. A bit, you know. Shell shocked?" Beck's hand gave my bare shoulder a squeeze, and I took that all important first sip of coffee. And then I tried not to snort it back out of my nose by laughing.

"What?"

"Dude, I just thought. Like, not even two days ago, I was tooling about, looking for photos of Hugh Jackman, and thinking my summer was going to be really boring, and now … well, I guess, now you." I swallowed another gulp of coffee so I didn't have to be looking at him when I said that, just in case.

"Yep. Looks like you got me for the summer," Beck agreed easily.

"Yeah?"

"Dude, what, you thought that was a one-off last night?"

The coffee cup was pried from my fingers and Beck bounced over me to lie down behind me on the bed, his arm heavy over my waist.

"You weren't listening, were you, Samsam?

I figured if I combined shrugging and shaking my head with turning round so I could face him, maybe he'd just pick whatever the right answer was. He greeted me with a kiss on the nose, which I wrinkled back at him, 'cos - he kissed my nose?

"Stop over thinking," he instructed. "For real, this is good, right?"

I nodded into his chest, where I was hiding my head.

"Yeah! Just – I don’t know. Maybe it was some mad rebound thing, and now you're really regretting it, and you're going to, like, run away to San Fran, and transfer schools, and I'll never see you again?"

"Yeah, and maybe you're crazy. People who want to run away very rarely cuddle." His voice was amused, and he tightened his arm around me, breathed hot air into my hair, and looped one foot over my leg. Even I can take a hint like that. I wrapped my arm around his shoulder, and squeezed back.

"Okay." I smiled. "Guess I need a new plan for the summer, then"

*** end ***
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