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things we can't say

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1.

Sammy meets Lily first.

He also makes out with Lily first, horribly enough.

He isn’t really sure how it happens. All he knows is that one day after their shared class where they minimally speak to one another, Lily invites him for a coffee – well, pointedly tells Sammy they’re getting coffee, Lily doesn’t invite – and says, “You’re gay, right?”

Sammy chokes on the latte she bought him, and his eyes unwittingly search the coffee shop they’re sitting in. It’s a campus hang-out, but not one that’s overly busy right now, most of the student population in class since it’s outside of peak hours. No one gives their table a second look, but Sammy’s heart is still working overtime pumping his blood hard enough to burst a blood vessel.

“Calm down,” Lily rolls her eyes. She takes a demure sip of her own coffee. She had judged Sammy when he ordered a vanilla latte. She’s drinking hers black. “So am I.”

“Oh.”

That does calm him down, the breathing and the swallowing getting easier. Sammy coughs weakly into his shirtsleeve.

“Well, are you?”

“Uh,” Sammy looks at his hands. “I – yeah.”

He’s never actually had anyone ask him that particular question before. Plenty of implications, no point-blank questions. Lily’s a direct person.

Lily half-grimaces, half-smiles at him. Sympathetic. It’s a different look from her usual eye rolls.

“How’d you…” Sammy gestures at himself, feeling a blush coming on.

“It’s kind of obvious,” Lily shrugs and Sammy must’ve visibly balked because she adds, “I mean, not to straight idiots. But to me.”

“Oh,” Sammy’s a bit at a loss for what else to say. He takes a drink of his latte.

Lily quirks an eyebrow at him. “Want to hang out tonight?”

“Uh,” Sammy’s such a fucking idiot, can any other words come out of his mouth right now? “Sure.”

He meets Lily at the library when they’re both done with their evening class, and Lily leads him across campus as the sun goes down. She lives in a nicer building than Sammy, but most people live in a nicer building than Sammy.

“Jack’s here,” Lily says as she shoves her key into the door with more force than Sammy thinks is necessary. “But he’ll leave us alone.”

Sammy trails after her into the apartment, small and disorganized, with stacks of books and papers on the living room floor. The stacks surround a long-limbed muscular guy sprawled out on the floor, leaning against the couch. His hands are wrapped around a joint.

“Hey Jack,” Lily says, and the guy looks up, at Lily first and then Sammy. He smiles, and Sammy experiences something he’d probably call, if he had to name the feeling, desperate and overwhelming lust for approximately two seconds before he promptly represses it.

“Hey,” Jack says, and smiles. Dimples. Sammy’s repressing that, too. Just the whole concept of dimples, generally. “Who’s your friend?”

“Sammy,” Lily says. “He’s in my ethics class.”

“Cool,” Jack says, then holds up the joint in his hand when he looks at Sammy. “You staying long? I’m rolling joints.”

“Maybe later,” Lily answers for Sammy. “Once you’ve smoked enough to relax and are enjoyable to be around again.”

“Shut up,” Jack says easily, and Sammy privately thinks Jack looks plenty relaxed, sprawled out as he is. Jack’s eyes flicker to Sammy like he can tell he has questions. “I quit smoking cigarettes, and I’m replacing the void with weed. Apparently, I’m very annoying without nicotine in my system.”

“We’re going to my room,” Lily’s grip is tight on Sammy’s wrist as she pulls him down the hall. “Bye, Jack.”

Sammy barely gets to wave at Jack, but Jack grins at him nonetheless. He’s got the kind of smile that makes Sammy wish he was a different person.

Lily’s got beer in her room, and the two of them sit on her floor and toast to a shitty professor they’ve shared. They shoot the shit about class until Lily suddenly says, looking all too serious “Does anyone else know you’re gay?”

Sammy picks at the carpet with his fingers. It’s grey, shaggy, kind of gross to touch. “My mom. I guess. I dunno. I didn’t tell her or anything, I think she just guessed it. Said I could never tell my dad. I don’t go home a lot.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah. What about you? Who knows you’re –”

“I think Jack’s guessed it. Nobody else, though.”

“How – um. How long have you –”

Sammy’s never talked to another gay person before, let alone to a gay person who knew he was, too. He stumbles over his words as his face heats up embarrassingly.

Lily shrugs. “I don’t know. I was – sixteen, maybe? I mean, I think I always kind of knew.”

“Yeah,” Sammy’s voice comes out quieter than he anticipated, and Lily’s gaze fixes on him in a way that makes him feel not good or bad, but like he has the courage to keep talking. “I’ve always been, you know, not. D’you – get that?”

“Not like everyone else,” Lily nods. “Yeah. I get it.”

“I wish I could be,” Sammy sighs, playing with his beer bottle. It’s empty, and he hasn’t asked for another yet. “But I know I can’t. It’s – ugh.”

“Ugh,” Lily agrees. “You have a boyfriend or something?”

“Uh, no,” Sammy can’t help the laugh that bubbles out. “I don’t know if that’s ever in the cards for me.”

“What, you gonna marry a girl and have 2.5 babies and never tell her you like dick?” Lily snorts and Sammy stares at the ground.

“Haven’t decided yet,” Sammy says, and Lily stops laughing and sighs instead.

“I guess I haven’t either,” Lily frowns. “I don’t want to be with a dude, but like – it would make things a lot easier. I want a career in radio for Christ’s sake. And I already know my career is my number one no matter if I’m straight or not. I could just have a husband I perpetually neglect.”

“Your husband and my wife can form a support group,” Sammy can’t help a laugh from bubbling up, and soon he and Lily are both giggling.

“Hey, Stevens?”

“Yeah?”

“I think we should make out.”

That throws Sammy. He blinks at her a few times, but her expression doesn’t change. It’s very set in stone. Persistent. Not taking no for an answer. “Uh – what?”

“Look, you’re the closest thing to a girl I’m gonna find, probably.”

“Hey!”

“Am I not the closest thing to a dude that you could find?” Lily raises her eyebrow and Sammy relaxes enough to start giggling again.

“You’re enough of an asshole,” Sammy snipes at her before squeezing his eyes shut mostly with embarrassment. Lily leans in closer to him anyway, and there’s a laugh behind the sympathy on her face.

“C’mon. Straight experimentation. Since we’re both too chicken shit for the other thing.”

Even though it goes against practically every one of his instincts and Sammy can feel his stomach twisting, he leans in. He doesn’t make it far before Lily’s surged over to press her mouth against his.

It’s –

Horrible, really. Lily tastes like bitter alcohol, and their teeth clack noisily and annoyingly against one another. Lily’s half-pinning him her nightstand, and Sammy can’t shift himself into a more comfortable position where a handle isn’t digging into his shoulder blade.

Sammy has no idea what to do with his hands, so he does nothing. He’s kissed a girl before, in high school, and it’s not something he remembers well. He mainly remembers it being boring. Lily isn’t boring. More unbearably awful than boring.

“Holy shit,” Lily pulls away from him after a solid ten seconds that Sammy thinks might be the worst of his life. “That was disgusting. Do you even brush your teeth?”

“I just had a beer! And I wasn’t exactly planning on coming to a girl’s apartment to kiss her!” Sammy gestures over to the empty bottle defensively. “Besides, you didn’t taste so great yourself!”

“I’m never doing that again,” Lily shakes her head, wincing in a way Sammy thinks must be exaggerated. “Don’t be offended. I’m just using you as a representative for men as a whole.”

“Well, I guess I better not touch a girl again either,” Sammy wipes at his mouth, which feels numb and awful. He licks his lips to try and get the taste out, but it only makes it worse. “It’d probably be way worse with like, a straight girl.”

“Exactly,” Lily nods sagely. “Straight men are monsters and if I can’t even tolerate you, I’m never going anywhere near them.”

“It wasn’t ever gonna work out between us anyway,” Sammy tries for joking. “I’d be in lust with your roommate the whole time.”

“Jack?” Lily’s laugh is short but very nearly delighted. Sammy gives her a questioning look, wondering if he should regret telling her that. “He’s my brother.”

Sammy puts his face in his hands, hoping his groan can drown out Lily’s laughter. Tonight’s odds just keep improving for the chance of being what puts him in an extremely early grave.

“Jack, get in here!” Lily yells through her closed door. It’s a small apartment, the walls are probably thin, he definitely heard her. Sammy hopes that if he curls in tightly enough on himself, he’ll just sink into the floor and disappear.

“What?” Sammy looks up when Jack opens the door, but he can’t let himself look at Jack’s face right now or he’ll know Jack will just see it in his expression. “You guys wanna smoke?”

“That’s exactly what we want,” Lily’s smug and insufferable as she hooks a suffocating arm around Sammy’s shoulder. “Pull up some floor, Jack.”

“I’m gonna open the window first,” Jack says after a moment, striding past them to pull the shades up on the window above Lily’s bed, and then cracking the window. “You’ll complain tomorrow if you wake up smelling weed in here.”

Jack comes and settles on the floor across from them, leaning against Lily’s closet. Sammy thinks it’ll be weird if he doesn’t look up, so he does. Jack’s smiling at him, dimples again, and he holds a joint out in Sammy’s direction.

“Thanks,” Sammy takes it, and Jack’s grin gets wider.

“He speaks!” Jack seems pleased, not like he’s making fun. “Is Lily in here torturing you?”

“Kind of,” Sammy mutters, Lily elbows him in the gut, and Jack laughs.

“If that’s true, then you’re torturing me right back,” Lily points out, clearly not going to be subtle about any of this. “Jack, light this.”

“I just have two, so like, pace yourselves” Jack says as he lights the joint in Sammy’s hand. Their thumbs brush for half a second. “You smoke a lot?”

The question is clearly directed at Sammy, who shrugs as he takes a hit. “Sometimes.”

“It’s all Jack does right now,” Lily says conspiratorially. Jack rolls his eyes and Sammy passes him the joint. Their hands brush again.

“Don’t be dramatic,” Jack says after he’s inhaled. “I’m cutting back. I just – you know. Miss cigarettes. Gotta make up for it somehow.”

“Why’d you quit?” Sammy asks, ignoring the smug look on Lily’s face.

“Don’t want to ruin a perfectly good radio voice,” Jack says cheerily. “Shouldn’t have started in the first place, but sometimes you do stupid shit when you’re a teenager.”

“You’re still a teenager,” Lily says.

“For another month,” Jack rolls his eyes, looking more at Sammy than Lily. “You’re not even legal drinking age yet, so I wouldn’t get too high and mighty over there.”

“Are you in the journalism program, too?” Sammy asks, knowing he would’ve noticed Jack if he’d seen him, but it’s a big school. Jack shrugs.

“Sort of,” Jack says, making a vague gesture with his hand. “I’m triple majoring in journalism, English literature, and economics so –”

“What?” Sammy blinks at him, barely comprehending. Lily passes him the joint and Sammy takes another hit before he asks, “Who the hell triple majors?”

“Overachievers with too much free time on their hands,” Lily says in a sing-song voice. Jack sticks his tongue out at her.

“I like being busy,” Jack says like it’s a normal thing.

“You’re insane,” Sammy tells him. Jack grins.

“I still have time for the important things,” Jack gestures for Sammy to hand him the joint, and Sammy does, feeling more disconnected from his limbs than he had up until this point.

“Like getting high,” Sammy fills in and Jack practically beams.

“Exactly!”

“He’s terrible,” Lily shakes her head at Sammy, but her eyes are far too knowing for Sammy to be comfortable with. “Are you more or less turned on now?”

“Huh?” Jack says and Sammy squeezes his eyes shut.

“Oh, Sammy’s gay,” Lily says and Sammy’s head jolts up to stare at her. Her tone’s so blasé, as if she didn’t just fulfill Sammy’s worst nightmare of making a straight dude that Sammy was quietly lusting over all too aware of what was going on in Sammy’s head. “Stop looking like a fish, Stevens. Did I not mention that Jack is gay, too?”

“I – I –” Sammy stares into Lily’s knowing, smirking face, having absolutely no idea how he got to this point or what the hell is going to happen next. Also, he’s starting to feel the weed in his system and it isn’t helping. “You’re gay.”

Lily doesn’t even blink. “Yeah. We covered that already.”

“A lot of things just happened, just then, just in those thirty seconds,” Jack says, and Sammy can’t look at him. He really can’t. Jack’s voice is, however, very light. Almost laughing, not in a mean way.

Sammy finally looks up, and he’s surprised to see Jack blushing, half-looking at the carpet and half-glaring at Lily.

They make eye contact, just for a half a second. Sammy can see his own embarrassment reflected in Jack’s eyes. Green eyes. Sammy’s not really the type to notice eye colors, but Jack has green eyes and they look really nice. Jack looks really nice.

Sammy shouldn’t take the joint when Jack offers it to him again, but he takes it and this time their fingers brush for longer.

“Isn’t this fun?” Lily’s all too happy with herself. “Three gay people sitting on a bedroom floor.”

“Don’t think we’re not talking about that,” Jack points at Lily. “Tomorrow, we’re talking about that. Because you didn’t tell me.”

“I just did!”

“To be petty!”

“But you knew anyway!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t tell me!”

“Guys,” Sammy interrupts and they both look at him. He hadn’t been prepared for that. “Why are you yelling?”

“We’re not –” Lily stops, frowning.

“We are, a bit,” Jack bites his lip. “We generally escalate things very quickly ‘round here. You’ll get used to it.”

Sammy can’t help the warm feeling that bubbles up in his chest, even though it’s a very stupid feeling that he should work on repressing. He likes it, though. He’s gonna let it stay. He’s high, and Jack’s smile is so nice. And he’s gay. And he’s smiling at Sammy.

“You wanna shotgun smoke?” Jack says once he’s finished the first joint and has grabbed the second one.

Sammy unwittingly moves closer to Jack. He can hear Lily laugh from behind him.

“If you think you’re gonna shotgun smoke in my room, you’ve got another thing coming,” Lily says. “Get out. Go to Jack’s room. I’m begging you.”

Jack’s green eyes are almost soft, widening slightly as if to ask Sammy if that was okay, and Sammy quickly nods, swallowing a lump in his throat.  Sammy isn’t really in control of his legs, but they stand when Jack does.

“Thank me later, Stevens,” Lily says far too cheerily as Sammy follows Jack out of the room. Sammy knows she has a smug, pleased look on her face.  

“She’s very weird,” Sammy tells Jack as they walk down the short distance of the hall. “Very weird sister you have.”

“I’m used to it,” Jack leads Sammy into the room Sammy assumes is his. It looks like Lily’s, the bed pushed against the wall under the window, the same dresser, but far messier. Books and papers everywhere. Triple major, makes sense. Jack clears a spot on the floor for Sammy, and he sits on top of a stack of books like he does it every day.

“You ever tried to shotgun?” Jack lights the joint and Sammy shakes his head. “It doesn’t really work. It’s mainly just an excuse to make out with someone.”

He pauses as he raises the joint to his lips, like he’s asking. Sammy finds himself nodding. Nodding and smiling and maybe melting a little at the gentle look on Jack’s face.

Jack takes a hit. He leans in. Sammy mirrors him. He can smell the weed more than he can taste it, but Jack’s face is very close, their open mouths not even an inch from one another.

Sammy isn’t sure who starts kissing the other first, but then his lips are on Jack’s. He’s kissing a guy, in the guy’s bedroom, and the guy is so fucking hot that Sammy can’t stand it. He lifts a hand up to Jack’s neck, using the other one to somewhat balance himself as Jack pushes against him, angling Sammy’s head up in a way that’s almost sexy. Okay, really fucking sexy.

“I don’t think it worked,” Sammy murmurs when Jack pulls away. “We should try it again.”

“Agreed,” Jack laughs, and passes Sammy the joint. “You try this time.”

“Is it weird that I made out with your sister before this?” Sammy asks when they break apart again, and he can hear Jack choke and splutter. “I hated it, I swear.”

“I’m just gonna pretend you didn’t say anything and block that the hell out,” Jack says – a sentiment Sammy can firmly get behind – and kisses him again.

“Mm, stay,” Jack says when the joint’s gone and they don’t have the excuse anymore. “I’ll clear the shit off my bed. Okay?”

Sammy nods, not wanting to leave or let this stop, possibly ever. Jack makes a show of sweeping all of his books off of his covers. He makes Sammy laugh when he finishes with a little ta da motion.

Sammy half-stands up from the ground, falling into bed in the next second. Jack crawls on top of him and kisses him and Sammy feels all of his remaining inhibitions drain away.

“Have you –” Sammy doesn’t stop Jack, instead pushing Jack’s head down so Jack will kiss his neck and Sammy can talk, but the scrape of Jack’s teeth proves equally distracting. “Have you ever –”

“Uh, no,” Jack whispers, his almost shy tone the complete opposite of the bite marks on Sammy’s earlobe. Sammy likes the duality. “I haven’t. Just with girls. Well, a girl.”

“Step ahead of me,” Sammy doesn’t like the insecurity seeping into Jack’s voice. He wants it to go away. He nudges Jack’s shoulder with his hand. “C’mere. We should – we should.”

Sammy’s the one who ends up gripping Jack through his jeans first, even though it’s barely any time before Jack has Sammy’s dick out and their hands end up a sticky mess. Jack kisses him a lot and Sammy laughs a lot and he doesn’t mind the stickiness that much.

Jack goes to get a towel at some point, but they’re still uncoordinatedly kissing for awhile after that. Sammy thinks so, at least.

He definitely falls asleep laying in his side, chest to chest with Jack, because that’s how he wakes up the next morning.

Sammy stares at Jack, not quite comprehending it for a good thirty seconds. Then Jack makes a snuffling sound like he’s sneezing in his sleep and Sammy feels himself swoon.

“Morning,” Jack croaks after Sammy’s done far too much staring. Not that Jack’s noticed, too busy yawning and wiping sleep out of his eyes. His grin is sort of dopey when he looks at Sammy. It’s so cute. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Sammy says back, and that’s when he gets worried because he has no idea what the fuck is supposed to happen next. He’s never done this before.

At least Jack’s never done this before either and judging from the awkward smile and blush on Jack’s cheeks he’s thinking the same thing Sammy is. Which is extremely comforting.

“So,” Jack doesn’t quite look in Sammy’s eyes. “Not that I ever want to kick you out. But I do have a rugby match in like two hours?”

“Oh,” Sammy’s hopes fall a little. “I, yeah, I should –”

“You can come!” Jack says quickly. “I mean, you don’t have to come. But I’d like it if you did. And Lily’s gonna be there, so you’d have someone to hang out with. I – sorry, you probably don’t want to come to a rugby match, I’ll –”

“Jack,” Sammy interrupts, and suppresses the urge to reach out and just touch Jack again, but he feels like the time has passed for that and he keeps his hands to himself. “That sounds fun.”

Jack’s face splits into a wide grin and it’s so, so worth it. Sammy barely knows that rugby is a thing and it’s so worth it.

Lily’s insufferably smug when Sammy greets her in the kitchen, but Sammy won’t let that interfere with the lightness in his chest when Jack grins at him, even later that morning from yards away when he’s playing a sport Sammy doesn’t understand.

Plus, Jack’s possibly even hotter when he’s playing rugby.

The three of them end up going to lunch afterwards. Lily is acerbic, Jack is sweet, and Sammy finds himself making plans with them for next weekend.

Platonic, group plans but Sammy’s okay with that, too.

“See you soon,” Jack says when they part ways outside the restaurant, he holds his hand out awkwardly.

They end up fist-bumping, which makes Lily roll her eyes and Sammy think about something dirty. The moment is gone as quickly as it came. Sammy’s left wondering if he dreamt it all.

2.

Sammy didn’t dream it all, but it also doesn’t happen again.

Jack’s quickly a staple in Sammy’s life. They get coffee between their classes, study in the library together on weeknights, spend every weekend hanging out and getting high as Sammy convinces Jack time and again not to go back to nicotine. Lily’s usually there, usually smirking, always smug.

But they’re not fucking. Sammy knows they both remember it perfectly well, there just hasn’t been a repeat experience.

It’s all well and good. Sammy hadn’t expected to get a boyfriend of that night or anything. He doesn’t want a boyfriend, that sounds absolutely mind-numbingly terrifying. He’s just worried a bit that the sex was bad, and Jack was grossed out, and that’s why it hadn’t happened again.

If they were just friends, that was just fine. Sammy likes being Jack’s friend. He likes being Lily’s friend. He likes having friends who are gay who know that he’s gay. It’s a new, foreign, kind of wonderful feeling, like they’re all sharing the world’s most obvious secret.

He and Jack don’t really talk about hooking up. Sometimes Lily will hedge on bringing it up, and one of them will hastily change the subject. Sammy doesn’t really know what’s going on with that, this whole Not Talking About It thing, but he likes the status quo and doesn’t want to change it.

Jack’s still sexy, still plays rugby and triple majors and smokes a lot of pot, and Sammy is glad that Jack’s his friend and that’s that.

Sammy’s never really had a good friend before, not one he can really talk about things with. Things like –

“Did you like…you know, with that guy who was hitting on you last night?”

Jack,” Sammy aims to kick at Jack’s legs as Jack struggles to get his keys out from his back pocket while he’s holding groceries. He still manages to jump away without knocking any of the groceries to the ground, a true miracle. Sammy’s almost dropped the bag Jack finagled him into carrying in from his car.

Sammy doesn’t live at Jack and Lily’s place, but he spends more time there than at his own apartment. Another reason he’s not going to bring anything up to Jack about disappointment that they haven’t slept together again. He likes his friendship with Jack, likes hanging at his place all the time, and doesn’t want anything to change.

“Did you?” Jack asks, kicking the door open and gesturing with his eyes for Sammy to go through first, since his hands are preoccupied. Sammy goes, side-stepping a couple of piles of economics textbooks on his way to the kitchen. “Silence means you did.”

“Shut up,” Sammy puts the groceries on the counter, his voice coming out far too light for Jack to take that seriously.

“C’mon,” Jack’s green eyes are bright as he reaches across the table after he’s set his own bags down, poking at Sammy’s shoulder. Sammy grabs his hand to keep him from doing it again but then he lets go before either of them can think anything of that gesture. “Tell me!”

“It’s embarrassing,” Sammy relents, walking past Jack to the living room.

He knows Jack’s going to catch him around the waist as he walks past, and he isn’t disappointed when Jack pulls him back into the kitchen. Jack isn’t tactile with his other friends, but he is with Sammy.

It makes Sammy blush. Jack obviously notices if the laugh on his face is anything to go by.

“Fine, we like – did some stuff,” Sammy waves his hand and Jack grins. “In the bathroom. I don’t feel the need to give you any more details than that!”

“Tease,” Jack says, but he doesn’t bother Sammy about it again, even though he keeps smiling.

He suggests putting on some Twilight Zone reruns – that’s another funny thing about Jack, he’s really into the Twilight Zone and the X Files. Even though he’s a triple major, half the books lying around the house are about the Loch Ness Monster or something wild like that.

Lily mocks Jack mercilessly for it, and Sammy mostly joins in. Privately, he thinks that it’s kind of cute the way Jack’s face lights up when he talks about proving the existence of Bigfoot, but he’s not going to share that with the class.

Sammy’s all too aware of Jack being only a few meters from him as they both settle on the couch.

“When’s Lily getting home?” Sammy asks and Jack shrugs.

“I think she’s working? I don’t know, she said she wouldn’t get back until late tonight,” Jack says, blasé and innocuous. Oh, good. Another thing for Sammy to be painfully aware of. Being alone with Jack.

Sammy’s unconscious has come up with a plan before his brain’s realized what’s going on, and before he knows it, he’s opening his mouth and words are coming out and he has no control over it.

“That guy I was with last night? He said I was really bad at giving head,” Sammy says, and immediately feels more mortified than should even be possible. He feels himself blush to his core and he looks at his hands.

He feels Jack shift slightly, hears a little intake of breath that sounds like a laugh but not a mean laugh like Lily would laugh. An understanding, commiserating laugh.

“He’s no fun,” Jack’s so fucking sweet. Sammy looks up and Jack’s smile is soft as he moves a little closer to Sammy, nudging their shoulders together. “That’s not how you properly thank someone for blowing you.”

“Thanks,” Sammy mutters, regretting this a little less now that Jack’s leg is almost touching his own. He definitely regrets this at least partly, though, because he’s so fucking stupid for even doing this. “I – Jack – I mean – do you –”

“Oh my God, are you propositioning me?” Jack sounds more gleeful than anything as Sammy groans and puts his head in his hands. Jack starts tugging his hands away from his face almost immediately. “Don’t, it’s cute!”

“Me offering to give you head is cute?” Sammy says, aware that he’s pouting a bit. Jack’s eyes don’t change; they remain nothing but delighted, amused, a little teasing.

“Fucking adorable,” Jack declares. “You’re blushing so much right now.”

“Well we haven’t exactly – you know – since –”

“Since we got each other off the night we met?” Jack fills in, too easily for someone who hasn’t talked about it for the past four months.

“So we’re talking about it now?” Sammy can’t help but be a little sarcastic. Jack’s face doesn’t exactly fall, but he turns pinker.

“You weren’t saying anything either!” Jack points out. “Silence is a two-way street. Besides, you’re my friend now. Maybe my best friend. I’d rather you be my best friend than like – a guy I have sex with.”

“So…you’re turning down my offer to blow you?” Sammy wishes, not for the first time, that he could read Jack’s mind.

Jack’s eyes flicker, just for a second, before he leans in and kisses Sammy. It’s soft and brief and nothing like the way they kissed the first time, but Sammy closes his eyes and wishes the moment would last for the rest of his life.

He represses that thought right the fuck away.

“Fuck no,” Jack says, more than a little breathless as he pulls away. “I’m just saying – you’re my best friend. And, well, seeing as how a hand job was the foundation for this great friendship we have now…”

“You think you’re so funny,” Sammy undermines his snipe by laughing. Jack laughs with him before he kisses Sammy again.

“So did a guy actually tell you that you sucked at giving head, or is that just a convenient excuse for you to seduce me?” Jack pulls away, and Sammy takes a second to respond.

“Oh, that’s real,” Sammy mutters, feeling his shoulders tighten at the memory. It hadn’t really been fun. Sammy hadn’t ever blown anyone before, and the dirty bathroom of a gay bar with a guy who kept criticizing him was hardly a stellar first. “Told me I should take lessons.”

“I’m gonna be a shitty teacher,” Jack says, and his eyes flicker from Sammy’s face to his hands. “I’ve only ever gotten one blowjob – I’ve never given one. So we’re both gonna suck at this but neither of us will know any better so it’ll be fine.”

“You offering to blow me, too?” Sammy hadn’t really expected that, but it seems stupid of him in retrospect. Jack’s the reciprocating type.

“Duh,” Jack says like it’s obvious. “C’mon, Stevens. Go down on me.”

Jack’s the blunt, forward type and Sammy is simultaneously so turned on but also already getting ready for this to be a huge, embarrassing mistake.

Jack must sense that, and he puts a hand on Sammy’s chin, lifting his head up. Eyes kinder than Sammy’s ever seen anyone look, Jack says, voice low, “I’ll go first?”

Sammy nods and Jack kisses him, and Sammy closes his eyes when Jack begins kissing his way down to Sammy’s neck. It’s a little more uncomfortable than it had been in Jack’s bed, Sammy angled awkwardly against the couch, but then Jack pushes him back to lay down and it gets much better.

“Gonna get condoms,” Jack leans back up to kiss Sammy’s lips briefly. Sammy misses the contact during the whole thirty seconds he’s gone. When he comes back, he straddles Sammy immediately, and Sammy’s overcome with complete lust and something else that he doesn’t want to think about.

Jack takes Sammy’s shirt off with very little effort. When he unzips his pants and slips the condom on, his smile is somewhere between filthy and gentle. Sammy closes his eyes again when Jack gets his mouth around him and spends the next five minutes whimpering before he comes mind-boggling quickly.

“Five stars?” Jack leans back up, laughing, probably at the blissed out look on Sammy’s face. Jack leans up to kiss him again and he tastes kind of gross but in a good way.  

“So good, Jack,” Sammy can’t even be embarrassed at telling the truth. “I mean, I have literally nothing to compare it to, but – you know – tough competition for the future.”

“You too useless to return to the favor?” Jack props his elbows up on either side of Sammy’s head. There’s no judgment in his grin, all teasing affection.

Sammy’s overcome with fondness and he leans up to kiss Jack himself this time.

“Can’t let you have all the fun,” Sammy mumbles into his mouth.

Sammy intends to flip them over, but their limbs catch together awkwardly and it’s more fumbling and negotiating movement than anything, but it makes Jack giggle. Somehow that makes it easier. It’s a reminder that Sammy can be shit at this and it’s gonna be fine because it’s just Jack.

Sammy starts kissing Jack, figuring at least he’ll like this part. Jack underneath him, Jack without a shirt on. Jack’s chest is great – really fucking great, all muscle, Sammy feels pretty stupid in comparison – and Sammy feels like it’s just gonna be weird to bite Jack’s shoulder, but he does it anyway. Jack moans and pulls Sammy’s hair.

He keeps pulling Sammy’s hair even once Sammy’s gotten Jack’s jeans undone. It feels good. Sammy doesn’t really expect it to feel good, but it does. All of it feels good, but especially that.

“That guy is a fucking idiot,” Jack says after he comes, pulling Sammy back up on the couch so they’re face to face again. “So fucking dumb. That was great.”

“Guess I’m 50/50 now,” Sammy tries to prop himself up, but Jack pulls him back down so their heads knock together a bit. They both laugh, more than a little giddy. “That was – that was good for me, too. I didn’t think it would be, but it was. I didn’t like doing it the first time.”

“Well, you did it with that asshole,” Jack says, “and I’m obviously superior.”

“Yeah,” Sammy agrees. “You’re – you’re, you know, my friend. I don’t have to be nervous and shit about doing it.”

“Exactly,” Jack says. “It was like – you know, practice. No pressure. S’not for real sex, it’s – it’s you and me. Judgment free zone. Other than telling you how fucking good at that you are. Because you are.”

“You’re pretty good, too,” Sammy’s lost so many of his inhibitions at least for the next five minutes. He takes advantage of the temporary way he feels free and like he’s floating by kissing Jack messily.

“We’d really better clean up and move off this couch before Lily comes home,” Jack breaks the kiss, looking more than a little reluctant. “She’ll kill us. And insist I buy a new couch.”

“Mm,” Sammy doesn’t want to move, but he knows Jack’s right. “Five more minutes?”

“Your fault if she murders us,” Jack says, but he shifts so Sammy’s head fits against his better. The couch isn’t large, both their legs are hanging off the end. Sammy likes that too, weirdly enough. He likes everything about this.  

He’s not going to analyze that.

3.

There isn’t exactly a routine after that, but there’s a structure. It’s deeply irregular, and only when Lily’s not around or she’d quite possibly castrate them both and make getting any action impossible.

But sometimes they’ll be hanging out and Jack will put his hand on Sammy’s hip, or the back of his neck, or cup his cheek.

Then something will happen.

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s enough that Sammy knows that Jack wants it as much as he does. This quasi friends with benefits situation they have going on.

They’re mostly just friends. Except maybe once or twice a month when they’re still friends but orgasms are more involved than usual.

There are lines they don’t cross with each other, things they don’t do. They keep things minimal. Down-low. No pressure.

At least until the morning after they both get incredibly plastered at one of Lily’s friends’ graduation parties and Sammy wakes up curled into Jack’s side, Jack’s nose buried in Sammy’s hair.

Sammy freezes when he wakes up there, but he knows perfectly well that he and Jack hadn’t done anything last night. His clothes are on, his throat doesn’t hurt, and his jeans aren’t wet. He remembers enough to know that Jack told him to stay because Sammy was too drunk to drive, and Jack was too drunk to walk him home.

Still, it feels a bit like they’ve done something they shouldn’t have. Sammy tries to suppress the feeling as he sits up, cracking his neck.

“Dude, that sounds painful,” Jack blinks over at him, eyes bleary. “My head’s fucking pounding.”

“Same here,” Sammy doesn’t know what the protocol here is, but his head started swimming when he sat, so he figures laying back down can’t be a totally awful option.

They’re not quite touching anymore, but there’s less than an inch that separates them. Sammy could shift even the slightest bit and their entire bodies would press against each other.

He’s not going to do that. He’s going to repress that urge. He’s going to –

“Hey,” Jack says, a little quiet. “Can I ask you something? I’m trying to avoid sounding contrived or bullshitty.”

“Course,” Sammy says automatically, even he can feel the nerves crawling underneath his skin.  

“I know we haven’t…” Jack trails off for a second, making a gesture with his hands that Sammy takes to mean fucked. “But have you? With anyone?”

Sammy’s quiet for a moment, deciding how honest he’s going to be with Jack. Blunt, straight to the point, endlessly genuine Jack.

“If I haven’t done it with you, I definitely haven’t done it with anyone else,” Sammy’s voice barely comes out as a whisper. “It’s – uh – kind of terrifying, honestly. And I think I’m gonna suck at it.”

“You’re not,” Jack tells him, and bridges the tiniest of gaps between them. Sammy shudders, but not in a bad way. Nothing’s ever bad with Jack. It’s easy and good and Sammy knows it’s going to be perfect because it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect or not.

“Do you want to?” Jack’s voice very nearly shakes, which doesn’t make sense to Sammy. Why should Jack be nervous? Sammy would never say no to Jack.

“I didn’t have any plans today,” Sammy finds himself saying, almost in a teasing way except not because he means it so fucking much, and Jack tilts his head affectionately when he looks down at Sammy. “Seriously, let’s just – let’s just do it. Better to do it with you first. Better to do it with you period.”

That seems to be all Jack needs to hear before they’re kissing again, and Sammy wonders if today means something different than all the other times.

It’s certainly the most intimate he’s ever been with anyone, and not just for the obvious reasons. He’ll tell Jack what he likes, and Jack will listen. Jack will say to stop, and Sammy will immediately. Sammy will screw his eyes shut, and Jack will ask if anything’s wrong, genuine and honey sweet.  

Sammy can’t imagine it being this good with someone else. There’s so much about it that’s only good because it’s with Jack – the way Jack pulls his hair, fingernails scraping Sammy’s scalp as he says fuck, god, move faster, or the way Jack gently mouths along Sammy’s jaw as Sammy whimpers Jack, don’t stop.

By the time they drag themselves out of the bed – Sammy with all kinds of reluctance, he hadn’t wanted that to end – Lily’s in the kitchen, staring them both down over a mug of coffee. Her own green eyes, darker than her brother’s but just as bright, are hard and unrelenting.

“That was loud,” Lily says, completely deadpan. Jack almost steps backward into Sammy at the impact. “You both reek. If you’re going to do that, at least fucking take a shower together to prevent atrocities like this stench from entering my apartment. Stevens, give me the key to your place.”

Sammy wordlessly points at his school bag, halfway across the room. He left it there ages ago – maybe on Thursday? He doesn’t remember.

“Excellent,” Lily turns and digs around the front pocket until she has Sammy’s key. “I’m going there. So that I don’t have to be here. I’ll be back, let’s say noon tomorrow. At that point, everything will have returned to normal and you two will continue hiding your disgusting lust for one another from me and also the rest of the world. Got it? Good.”

She doesn’t wave goodbye on her way out the door.

“Could’ve been worse,” Jack says as they both stare after her long after she’s gone.

 “I guess I’m staying here again tonight,” Sammy says, suddenly very aware that he doesn’t have his own key and Lily is probably going to sleep in his bed and do something atrocious to it to get revenge for today.

Jack must read something into Sammy’s voice, because his hand slowly twists around Sammy’s wrist.

“We don’t have to like, do anything,” Jack says. “We can just hang out.”

“Well – we probably do need to shower first,” Sammy says, and feels himself start to smile. “And I believe that doing it together was suggested.”

“Fair point, fair point,” Jack’s grin is blinding. “You’ve got me there. It’s something else to…practice.”

They both blush, Sammy holding in a giggle.

Jack’s face turns a little more serious but completely fond and soppy. “But afterwards, we can just like, watch the X Files and chill out, okay?”

“Okay,” Sammy says, trying to contain how brightly he wants to smile.

Somewhat surprisingly, that’s exactly what they do, and it’s not weird at all. It’s easy to fall into their usual pattern of being together without feeling the need to be together. Sammy can make fun of Jack all day long for being able to quote along with Mulder, and it feels like it does every other day.

Sammy forgets, more than once, that they’d spent all day in bed together. He’ll remember it suddenly, moving from his periphery to the front of his brain, and it won’t feel real.

It isn’t until later that night when Jack’s shifted closer and their shoulders are brushing, that Sammy turns the volume down and says, just to confirm, “So. Everything seems really normal.”

“Yeah,” Jack says, looking over at him with affection. “Really normal.”

“I hope it was good,” Sammy says, his voice slipping into the insecurity that he’s trying his best to ignore. “It was good for me, so – thanks. It would’ve kind of sucked to do that for the first time with someone who wasn’t you.”

“Yeah, it would’ve,” Jack says, quieter than before. Serious in a way he’s usually not.

He rests his head on Sammy’s shoulder. Sammy, feeling himself melt, knows nothing could ever be sweeter.

“No pressure, right?” Sammy tries his best not to let overwhelming affection for Jack pour out of every word he says. He knows that’s probably been a lost cause for a good long while. “Not when it’s just us.”

“Did you like – actually like it?” Jack asks, and Sammy’s almost shocked to hear the hint of insecurity in his voice.

“Jack,” Sammy says, honestly a little floored. “It – it was perfect. I knew it was going to be perfect because it was you but –”

Sammy quickly clears his throat before he can say too much. “I wouldn’t have wanted – well, you know, a stranger or some guy who didn’t really care about me to be doing…that. You – you obviously care, so much, and I know that you want it to be good for me. That makes it better than literally anything else.”

“It’d be kind of awful, doing that with someone I didn’t know,” Jack says, sounding like he’s agreeing with Sammy even though his voice hasn’t lost its unsure edge. “I don’t know how anyone has random hook ups.”

“You’ve had random hook ups, come on,” Sammy tries for teasing as he jostles Jack a little, not liking Jack getting melancholy. Jack’s the cheerful one of the two of them.

“Not like that,” Jack’s insistent as he speaks, and Sammy nods slowly, trying to find something more meaningful to say.

“I get it, Jack, I do,” Sammy reassures him. Jack makes a face like Sammy wouldn’t, but Sammy has an immediate example on hand. “Like – okay, so I fucking hate giving head.”

Jack pulls his head off of Sammy’s shoulder, giving him a surprised and a little offended look. “Dude, you should’ve told me, I –”

“But not with you,” Sammy finishes, resisting the urge to take Jack’s hand. “With you, it’s good. It’s shit with literally anyone else, but I like doing it with you.”

Jack’s smile gets soft around the edges, all fondness. Sammy feels a surge of warmth, pleased that he’s gotten Jack grinning again.

“I don’t think I ever want anyone else to fuck me,” Jack says, lips twisting in a little laugh. “With you it was alright, because it was you – but that would’ve been awful with someone else.”

“You liked fucking me better?” Sammy tries for a joking tone as he nudges Jack’s shoulder.

“With you? I liked it all,” Jack says, and it sounds more like a promise than a statement. Sammy can’t analyze that. “What about you? What did you like?”

“You,” Sammy says, the complete and honest truth. That’s the kind of conversation they’re having right now. It won’t be the kind of conversation they have starting tomorrow at noon, when Sammy will certainly follow Lily’s instructions and go back to repressing everything.

“M’glad we’re friends,” Jack’s arms shift. Sammy expects Jack lean in and kiss him.

Instead, Jack hugs him, a bone crushing squeeze that takes Sammy’s breath away. Sammy makes a show of wheezing for air before Jack lets go, giggling.

Somehow, the hug is even better than another kiss. Sammy finds the courage to lean his head on Jack’s shoulder this time, and Jack slings an arm around Sammy’s neck in response.

Sammy barely pays attention to the X Files after that, far too preoccupied with matching his breathing to Jack’s and trying to stifle down anything else he could say.

4.

 “Oh, are we –” Sammy says when Jack suggests they shotgun smoke with a glint in his eye. “I mean. Your boyfriend…”

Jack sort of kind of has a not at all serious boyfriend now. It’s a new development. His name is Paul, which is a stupid fucking name. Sammy’s met him twice.

Sammy despises him with all his might. He isn’t telling Jack that, though. Especially now, tonight, as they sit on Jack’s bedroom floor and their feet are tangled together.

“It’s not serious,” Jack frowns, and Sammy looks away.

As if Jack can sense the insecurity, he shifts closer, putting a hand on Sammy’s knee.

“Dude,” Jack says, voice quiet and affectionate. “Don’t look like that. It’s not! We’re not exclusive, I won’t ever have sex with him without a condom, there’s no worries here. Nothing is gonna change between you and me.”

“It’ll be weird,” Sammy tries to justify it, even though Jack’s gentle smile is pushing him out of his grumpiness and insecurity. “I mean, you’re like – actually into him, and I’m just –”

“Whoa, hold up,” Jack cuts off, and his grip on Sammy’s knee gets tighter. “Are you saying I’m not into you? Sammy. Be realistic here.”

“I could make a dirty joke here,” Sammy mumbles, but from the way Jack raises his eyebrows, Sammy knows the deflection isn’t going to work. He didn’t really expect it to. It’s Jack, after all. “I just mean – it’s just practice with us.”

“It’s not just practice, it’s friendship,” Jack says, and Sammy gives him a look that he knows Jack will understand, a do you know how ridiculous you sound? look. “It’s a part of our friendship! Not like, an integral part, but it’s a thing we do together as friends. And maybe that makes it a little different but that doesn’t mean it’s less. Or that I’m not into you, where the hell did that even come from?”

“I don’t know!” Sammy flaps his hands at Jack, fake trying to push him away but not meaning it. He wants Jack closer, and Jack will get closer the more Sammy pretends like he doesn’t want it. Jack can see through him so completely in so many ways. That doesn’t scare Sammy, but it does make him wonder how they got to this point. A year ago, he barely knew Jack and now –

“Your boyfriend –” Sammy can’t bring himself to say Paul, it’s just a stupid fucking name. And a stupid fucking person to go along with it. “He’s like, hot. It’s –”

“Oh my God, is this a pity party about how you’re not hot?” Jack stares at him with an open mouth that Sammy can tell is entirely teasing.

When Jack shifts closer and takes both of Sammy’s in his, the teasing aspect of his voice fades into something more serious. Not entirely serious, there’s still a lightness, but it’s – it’s a lot to take in, the gravity of his voice.

“I know it’s been awhile, but you do remember that we hooked up before we even knew each other, right?” Jack says and Sammy nods without looking at him. “You were the first guy I ever did anything with. I obviously thought you were hot then, and I still do now. The audacity of you thinking otherwise is offensive, honestly. You’re – I mean, c’mon, Sammy.”

Jack kisses him, his fingers slotting between Sammy’s like they’re holding hands. Sammy’s heart beats quickly as he kisses back.

“Poor taste on your part then,” Sammy says as they break apart and Jack groans at him.

“Well, you have poor taste then, too,” Jack grumbles and Sammy laughs.

“Have you seen yourself?” Sammy asks, and Jack lets go of Sammy’s hands to shove at him. Sammy almost regrets it missing the gentle contact almost the second Jack lets go.

“I don’t need flattery from you,” Jack’s lips twitch with a smile that he’s clearly suppressing. “Get in bed, Stevens, and I’ll show you how fucking sexy I think you are.”

“That sounds like a threat,” Sammy snipes, but does as Jack says.  

Jack doesn’t lay down right away or initiate immediate contact. Instead, he moves to sit on the edge of the bed. Sammy, already making himself comfortable on Jack’s pillow, blinks up at him. Jack’s got a weird expression on his face, one that Sammy can’t quite read.

Jack takes Sammy’s hand again, just one this time. He squeezes.

“You’re my best friend,” Jack says, and Sammy groans.

“You’re a sap,” Sammy tells him. “I no longer have reservations about sleeping with you while you have a boyfriend. If you’re not exclusive and it’s not serious, then it’s fine. Also, he’s annoying. Get on top of me.”

“You think you’re funny,” Jack shakes his head, a fond expression on his face. He doesn’t do as Sammy says, which makes Sammy prop himself up on an elbow and glare.

Jack,” Sammy does not whine. “Lose the melancholy expression.”

“I just – I don’t know, we’re shit at talking about things,” Jack says, the look on his face turning into a grimace. Sammy doesn’t like that. “I’m just trying to tell you how important you are to me.”

“You just did,” Sammy says. That makes Jack crack a smile.

It also gets Jack to lean over and kiss him, finally shifting to lay down so they’re chest to chest. Sammy cups Jack’s neck, running his fingers through Jack’s hair.

“You’re important to me, too,” Sammy says the second Jack pulls away just the tiniest bit, just so he remembers to get that out before he stops thinking entirely. “The most important. First person I slept with. First person I – you know, only person I – you’re right, we’re really bad at this talking thing. We should do something we’re better at.”

“I feel like you have some suggestions,” Jack’s laughing as he reaches up a hand and brushes Sammy’s bangs out of his eyes. A swooping sensation goes through Sammy’s chest that he isn’t going to analyze too much.

“A few,” Sammy says, and kisses Jack again. Jack laughs into the kiss as he pulls himself on top of Sammy, finally doing what he should have done five minutes ago.

“I have a suggestion,” Jack says into Sammy’s mouth and Sammy hums. “At the risk of sounding like we’re in a bad porno – spread your legs.”

He drops his voice to an awful, fake-sexy mimicry of an 80s porn movie that makes Sammy laugh so hard he doesn’t even bother to listen.

5.

Sammy’s generally aware that he’s snoozing on Jack and Lily’s couch after crashing there last night. He never really falls asleep, it’s only a weird half-sleep most of the night. He’d been propped up against Jack’s shoulder for awhile after they fell asleep watching a movie.

At some point not too long ago, Jack’s shoulder had disappeared. Sammy misses the contact, misses Jack generally, and since he’s half asleep he actually lets himself feel that. He doesn’t have enough sense of himself to suppress the thought.

It’s only when he hears Jack’s voice from the other room, soft at first but growing in volume and intensity, that Sammy fully wakes.

“Lily, I don’t want to hear your insinuations.”

“They’re not insinuations! I’m being as up front as I can be. You and Stevens are heading for some dangerous territory.”

“Don’t be stupid.”

“You’re blinded by lust, so you can’t see it.”

“You know, lust isn’t the predominate feature of our friendship, no matter how much you bring it up.”

“That’s exactly my point, Jack. It’s not the predominate feature yet. But if you don’t watch out, it’s going to be.”

“Sammy and I have been sleeping together since we met, that’s not –”

“If it was just that, I wouldn’t be so worried, Jack. But it’s more.”

“Lily, what the hell –”

“When it was just a random hook up here and there when you were high, it wasn’t an issue. But I share a wall with you, and I know perfectly well how often you’re having sex. And the numbers have gone up staggeringly in the past few months. Since you broke up with that guy –”

Jack’s voice drops to a hush, like he’s embarrassed. Or ashamed.

“That was just…”

“That was just you, breaking up with your first boyfriend. A guy who really liked you, I might add! Because you like fucking Sammy more. Don’t even try to pretend it’s not true.”

Sammy swallows. He doesn’t actually know if that’s true or not. He knows Jack broke up with Paul, but it’s not like Jack’s stopped going out or anything. It doesn’t mean it has anything to do with Sammy.

He hears Jack sigh, and something inside Sammy twists.

“...It’s not as simple as you’re making it seem. Or as emotionless! Sammy’s my best friend.”

“Exactly. And if you want to stay best friends, you really need to stop fucking each other’s brains out.”

Please don’t talk about my sex life like that. I’m begging you. And Sammy and I can be friends who have sex, plenty of people –”

“Not plenty of people who want to start a radio show together. Or…or plenty of people that are as close as you guys.”

Lily’s voice lowers. She almost sounds affectionate. Sammy finds himself straining to listen.

“Look, I get it. He’s your best friend, and he’s gay, and he likes being with you. But friends with benefits don’t work out in the long term.”

“We’re not…friends with benefits. No, we’re not, not in the way you’re thinking. When people talk about friends with benefits, it’s always – people who have sex, and sometimes hang out. We’re friends first, always friends. The sex is…it’s just a thing we do.”

“Jack. You know it’s not as simple as that.”

There’s too much silence after that.

Sammy pulls himself up off of the couch, not knowing what he wants to do, whether or not he wants to make himself known. Whether or not he wants Jack to know that he heard.

He doesn’t move, though. He doesn’t want to argue with Lily. He just wants to talk to Jack.

Unfortunately, Lily comes out into the living room first. She grimaces when she sees he’s awake. Her eyes are almost sympathetic. Almost.

“Jack, you might want to come out here,” Lily calls behind her, and Jack appears in the doorway.

He takes one look at Sammy and then his eyes hit the floor. Sammy can see that they’re red. Why? His brain still isn’t fully awake yet, he’s not putting things together right now.

“I’ll leave you two bros to talk about your feelings,” Lily says, a little biting but she always is. Her eyes don’t match her voice, they’re more apologetic. “I’m just gonna head out to the library or something. Call me when it’s safe to come back.”

The door shuts behind her before Jack even looks at Sammy.

“Hey, c’mere, what’s the matter?” Sammy reaches his hand out toward Jack. Jack looks at it like he’s considering, but it only lasts half a second before he relents. He takes Sammy’s hand and moves to sit next to him on the couch. “We only have to take Lily as seriously as we want to. You know she’ll judge anyone for anything.”

“She’s not wrong, though,” Jack says, and Sammy feels his stomach drop. “I mean – we’re making plans for the future together. I don’t want to risk that.”

“It’s not like we ever have to tell anyone anything, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Sammy starts, not entirely sure where Jack’s going. Jack puts out a hand to stop him. His other hand is still loosely holding Sammy’s.

“No, no, that’s an entirely separate issue than this,” Jack’s mouth twists into a grimace. “I just mean – you’re my best friend, and I want you to be my best friend…for the rest of my life. And friends who have sex, no matter how infrequently, aren’t exactly sustainable.”

“I guess you’re right,” Sammy isn’t sure how he feels. His heart’s sinking, but there isn’t any dread or anxiety. Instead, he feels warm. Jack cares about him so much that he doesn’t want to sleep with him anymore. It seems incongruous, but at the same time it really doesn’t.

“I just – I love you,” Jack says, and Sammy stares at him, feeling his mouth fall open without any conscious control over it.

He shouldn’t be that surprised. And he isn’t, really. It’s just that no one’s ever told him that before.

“I love you too,” Sammy says, no small amount of wonder ins his voice. He’s never told anyone that either.

Jack half-laughs through his nose as his bright green eyes meet Sammy, still a little red around the edges. “So…I think we have to stop sleeping together.”

“Some real whiplash here,” Sammy tries to joke, smiling but falling a little flat. He can tell Jack feels the same, his lips quirking up just slightly.

“It’ll suck,” Jack grimaces. “But I think it’ll just suck in terms of like, no one night stand is ever gonna be as good. But our friendship – that’ll be fine. That won’t change.”

“Of course it won’t,” Sammy says automatically, even if the thought of anything changing makes him nervous that everything he has with Jack will come crashing down. “You and me – we’ll be fine. You’re my best friend, and us sleeping together doesn’t have anything to do with that. We’ll still be just as close. I mean, won’t we?”

“We will,” Jack says, but there’s a waver in his voice that makes Sammy’s chest hurts. “I just – I mean, we’ve been doing it since the beginning, I just – I’m not worried. I’m not. I just want us to stay as close as we are now.”

“We’ll always be close,” Sammy says, and he can almost believe it. “We’re – we’re gonna graduate soon, and start a radio show together, and everything is gonna be fine between us. But Lily’s right. I hate that she’s right, but she is. Friends with benefits don’t last forever. We can’t keep doing this forever if we want our friendship to have a future beyond shotgun smoking at college parties.”

Jack smiles, soft and perfect, and Sammy wishes that what he said was a guarantee.

“I’m really glad we did, though,” Jack’s hand, loose before, now holds Sammy’s tightly. His fingernails dig in, but Sammy doesn’t mind. “I’m glad you were my first everything. And I’m really glad I was yours.”

“Practice is over, now time for the big leagues?” Sammy jokes and Jack half-groans.

“You’re not allowed to use sports metaphors,” Jack tells him. “You barely grasp football.”

“You’ve explained enough of it!” Sammy laughs. “I’m getting the hang of it!”

“Scrimmage is more fun than the game anyway,” Jack says. Sammy shakes his head, trying not to look too fond.

“Alright, sports guy,” Sammy says. “I guess since I can’t distract you by making out with you anymore, we’ll probably get through more football games. Positives all around.”

“Yeah,” Jack smiles at him. A bit dopey, just like that first morning.

Jack’s eyes flicker for half a second, but then he leans in to kiss Sammy. Soft and warm and over entirely too soon.

“You know,” Sammy says when Jack breaks away. “We should probably do it one last time. Just – just as a goodbye.”

“Don’t say as a goodbye, that makes it sound like I’m never gonna see you again,” Jack looks genuinely upset for half a second before he says “but yeah, you’re totally right. We should definitely give it one last try. You know, like, end of class exam – show off all you’ve learned.”

“We never did any roleplay,” Sammy can’t help from giggling. “You gonna be a sexy professor or something? One last first?”

“Absolutely not,” Jack shakes his head, even though he laughs at Sammy’s joke. He always laughs at Sammy’s jokes, even when they’re awful. “Just want you and me. C’mere.”

Sammy can’t argue with that.

There’s a lot more joking and laughing than there usually is – and there’s typically quite a bit, constantly a competition between them to see who can make the other laugh harder. Sammy supposes it’s a front to keep from getting emotional. He knows it is on his end.

Jack gives himself away when he stops midway through, his bright green eyes only inches from Sammy’s when they suddenly give him the saddest look Sammy thinks he’s ever seen. Then his eyes close, and Jack kisses him so deeply and gently Sammy thinks he might tear up –

Jack runs his hands through Sammy’s hair, stopping when his hands are entirely cupped around Sammy’s face. He stops moving, staying entirely still. He even stops kissing Sammy, just presses their lips together and stops.

Sammy thinks he might cry if he doesn’t say something pithy, and almost hates himself when he says “Hey Jack, I think we’re kind of in the middle of something…”

“Shh,” Jack whispers, lips against Sammy’s skin. Sammy might be imagining the way his voice shakes. “Shut up for like, ten seconds.”

“Don’t make this sad,” Sammy tries to move, but Jack has him pinned down. Instead, he relaxes into the touch, hoping it’ll make Jack relax, too. “We’re still gonna spend every day together.”

“I know,” he can feel Jack smile against him. “This is all selfish on my part. Just gonna miss this.”

“Jack,” Sammy doesn’t know how to handle this. Jack’s always been candid, but it feels so intimate right now, when they’re completely pressed together possibly for the last time.

Sammy can feel the words threatening to come out – Jack, you’re perfect. Fuck everything and let’s do this as long as we can get away with it. I love you so much.

Even though Sammy’s already said that today, he can’t say it now. Not when they’re like this, and it almost hurts how badly Sammy doesn’t want this to end.

+1.

Sammy’s miserable.

The only thing making this new dimension his friendship with Jack easier – the dimension where Sammy doesn’t ever get to take off Jack’s clothes and get him off, kiss him to shut him up, hold his hand for no reason at all, lean against him and just feel so close – is that Jack is clearly equally as miserable as Sammy.

Sammy finds himself making excuses not to spend time with Jack. Which is maybe the stupidest fucking thing he’s ever done. Jack makes him happy, but Sammy just doesn’t know the rules anymore. He wants to be in Jack’s space but Lily’s there glaring at him and Jack’s backing away and Sammy doesn’t know what to do.

They jump apart if they accidentally touch, Jack shooting him a guilty and furtive look like he did something forbidden. Sammy supposes it sort of is and wonders why this was never an issue before.

Having sex with other men does not make Sammy feel better. It’s a pitiful distraction at most. He wonders if Jack’s having any better luck.

“It’s just gonna be awkward for a couple weeks,” Jack says when they accidentally run into each other at the coffee shop next to the economics building, where Sammy pointedly hadn’t been hanging out hoping to see Jack. “We’ll be fine. You want to come over on Friday? I – we can hang out. We’ll make dinner? Lily will be there.”

“Yes,” Sammy says immediately. He hopes the relief flooding through him isn’t as evident on his face as he feels like it is, but from the way Jack smiles Sammy knows they’re in the same boat. “Yes, that sounds great.”

“We could just –” Jack breaks himself off. He shakes his head, a rueful grin appearing. “Nope, I’m not gonna suggest that. I’ll just see you then, okay?”

“See you then,” Sammy says, wondering what Jack had decided against. He catches Jack’s arm before Jack can brush by him though. “Hey –”

“What?” Jack asks, so genuine. Green eyes all affection, even now.

Sammy doesn’t blush, but he lowers his voice. “I just – you know.”

Love you.

Sammy doesn’t say it, but Jack smiles at him like he gets it. Then he’s gone and Sammy’s left to reckon with the fact that he has no idea what to do now. Jack is probably the only thing in the world that matters to him. As wonderful as being with him was, Sammy can’t help but wish they’d never slept together so he’d never know what he was missing out on.

He’s still determined to make this better though, and make everything just be normal, goddammit. And so he buzzes up to Jack and Lily’s apartment on Friday night, wondering when he got so awkward when he used to basically live here.

Lily opens the door before Sammy even knocks, with pursed lips and a hard glare. Sammy doesn’t flinch backwards, but it’s a near thing.

“Hi,” Sammy tries. “What’s up?”

“You two are ridiculous,” Lily says. She steps aside to let Sammy in, even though her shoulders are tight and her gaze is begrudging at best and caustic at worst.  

“You only have yourself to blame,” Sammy reminds her, mostly under his breath. He doesn’t necessarily want Lily to hear it.

She clearly does, if the way she smacks the back of his head as she breezes past him into the kitchen is anything to go by.

Sammy rubs the spot with a scowl but follows her.

“Hey,” Sammy says when he sees Jack leaning over the counter, drinking a beer. Jack’s smile is tired but still bright – Jack’s always bright – when he greets him.

“Hey,” Jack says, quiet.

Lily makes a euch sound in the back of her throat as she rolls her eyes. “Well, we’re making quesadillas for dinner. I’d ask you not to be weird, but I think that’s a lost cause at this point.”

“Can I help?” Sammy asks, and Lily immediately sets him to work melting cheese, all she trusts him to do. It gives Sammy something to do with his hands, but it also takes all of five minutes while Jack still has chicken on the stovetop.

“Can I just get around you to get the…” Jack gestures at Sammy with an awkward expression and Sammy practically jumps out of his way for Jack to grab a spatula from the door. Their shoulders brush anyway, and Sammy feels himself wince involuntarily.

“Oh my God,” Lily blinks at them from over her beer. She takes a long drink before she says, “You guys realize you can still touch, right?”

“Don’t make this harder on us,” Jack mutters under his breath, not looking at Sammy or Lily as he pushes the chicken onto the tortillas that Lily’s set out. “We’re trying.”

“Just touch,” Lily’s gaze almost softens. “Maybe this would be easier if you two stopped acting like you both have the Black Plague. Friends who don’t sleep together touch all the time. I realize that you two have never not been sleeping together, but you’d think you would’ve figured that out. Oh, wait – I forgot who I was talking to. You guys don’t have other friends.”

Jack glares, a hurt look in his eye. Sammy feels a defensive surge as he says “Oh, shut up, Lily. We’re your only friends.”

Lily’s expression turns sulky, and she takes another drink. Sammy’s victory over her only lasts as long as it takes for Jack to look at him again with wide doe eyes and then Sammy’s sad again.

“Hey,” Jack takes a step into Sammy’s space, so their hips brush. Sammy smiles up at him. “All good?”

Sammy nods, and they keep standing next to one another, elbows brushing occasionally. It feels so much better already. They’re getting used to this. It’s all going to be fine soon. An awkward adjustment period, that’s all.

Lily changes the subject to an upcoming exam, which helps ease the awkwardness as well. It isn’t long before Jack’s laughing at some joke Sammy made, loud and bright. Sammy feels himself melt at the sound.

Their hands brush under the table as they eat, and Sammy’s about to blush and jerk his hand away before Jack takes it in his own, blink and you’ll miss it he’s so quick, and squeezes tight.

Sammy feels a rush of happiness that’s promptly ruined by Lily going “Don’t think I didn’t see that, weirdos.”

“What?” Sammy tries for deflection, and Jack nods along. Lily just rolls her eyes.

“You’re like a tragic romance, if tragic romances were about friends with benefits,” Lily laughs.

Sammy’s eyes hit the floor and he feels an awful redness creeping into his cheeks. He can’t look at Jack.

Lily obviously senses something though, because she’s groaning the next second. “A genius solution on my part – you two could just go on a fucking date.”

“Shut up,” Sammy mumbles under his breath as Jack says, voice suspicious, “Lily, what are you even talking about?”

“God, you’re both stupid,” Lily’s voice takes on a decidedly gleeful tone that Sammy despises. He wishes he could disintegrate into the floor. “The easy answer to all of this is for you two to be in gross love with each other.”

“You’re really not being helpful,” Jack’s voice is tight and for some reason, Sammy feels his heart sink. “Dating – that’s not – I mean, Sammy and I –”

“Dating is bad,” Sammy fills in tentatively, chancing a look at Jack. Jack’s eyes are narrowed, but he nods along seriously as Sammy talks. “Dating is weird and awkward and terrible. We’re – we’re best friends, that’s all.”

Maybe, and I’m just spitballing here,” Lily says, “dating has been weird and awkward and terrible for you because you’re in gross love with each other. I really am a genius. You guys never would’ve figured that out on your own.”

“Lily!” Jack is sharper than usual. “Keep out of our business, okay! We’re not…. you know, that. It’s like Sammy said. We’re best friends. Just because we…”

Jack trails off, a furrow in his brow. Sammy isn’t sure if that’s a good sign or not. he really isn’t sure what a good sign would be. All he knows is that his heart is hammering, and he feels too big for his skin.

“Just answer me one question,” Lily says. “What the hell do you guys want from each other?”

There’s a beat of silence. Sammy can’t look at Jack. He can’t think about the question, either. It’s a pretty stupid question, and one without an answer because what Sammy wants from Jack is –

Everything.

Huh.

“I’m taking that silence to mean weddings and babies,” Lily’s snide as hell, but that doesn’t mean Sammy doesn’t heat up.

He doesn’t speak, but Jack does, a moment later. There’s a quality to his voice that’s almost – almost sad. Like…like he’s thought about it before, and it makes him sad.

“Please stop,” Jack’s voice barely makes it out.

“I’m not trying to be mean or snotty!” Lily’s voice does lose most of its snarky quality as she gives them both somewhat desperate looks. “This is for real! I’m not making fun, I’m actually suggesting that you two go on a goddamn date! Have you two ever had a genuine conversation about how you feel about each other?”

Their palpable, tension-filled silence must be the answer, because Lily sighs a second later. She throws her empty beer bottle in the trash can with a shake of her head.

“I’m not your therapist,” Lily tells them. “No matter how much the two of you need one. Dinner’s over, get out of the apartment.”

“What –?” Sammy looks up, not expecting that reaction at all.

Jack does the same, his frown annoyed. “You can’t kick me out of my own house –”

“Don’t come back until you’ve spoken to each other like regular human beings,” Lily points at the doorway. “What are you staring at me for? Go!”

It’s either a tesetament to Lily’s power and how scared they both are of her, or it’s something else that makes Sammy and Jack look at one another, shrug, and walk out the apartment door and into the hallway.

It’s probably something else, Sammy realizes when the door shuts behind Jack. His wavy hair falls in his voice just slightly as he half-smiles, half-grimaces at Sammy.

“We probably do need to talk,” Jack says and Sammy nods. “Doesn’t have to be about any of the shit Lily just said, but –”

“We can walk back to my place,” Sammy suggests, though the hope he’d been feeling starts to drain away. Why? Was it because Jack had dismissed what Lily had to say?

That was stupid on his part. What Lily had to say was nonsense. Obviously – right?

“So,” Sammy says when Jack doesn’t, once they’re out in the early evening sun. Jack looks more relaxed the further behind them Lily is. “That was…sure something.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack’s shoulders tighten as they fall into step with each other on the sidewalk. Jack’s a couple inches taller, but their strides are evenly matched. Sammy only lives a ten minute walk away, that’s only ten minutes that they have to talk about any of this. “She’s kind of a ridiculous older sister.”

“I know,” Sammy says and Jack laughs, short but still bright and real. “I never know what she wants out of us. She wants us to hook up, she wants us to stop sleeping together, she wants us to – to date…”

Sammy trails off, his stomach twisting. It isn’t a wholly uncomfortable feeling, but it’s just – odd. He can’t imagine what dating, actually dating would look like.

Sammy always assumed he’d never date anyone.

He looks at Jack, sun glinting off of his brown hair and making it seem almost golden and reflective.

Sammy –

Sammy can picture dating Jack. It’s easy to picture. It basically looks exactly like their relationship did two weeks ago, only this time without the carefully constructed front Sammy puts up to stop his feelings from getting anywhere outside of the locked cavity in his chest.

He quickly stares at the ground, wondering whether or not he wants to keep that thought in his head or throw it right out the window.

He puts it all on hold when Jack speaks again, low and a little unsure. “Well, it doesn’t really matter what she wants. It’s – well, it is like she said. It’s what we want out of our friendship.”

“Well, that’s easy,” Sammy says, and at least that still makes sense. When Jack gives him a questioning look, Sammy wonders how he doesn’t already know. “I want you – you know, just you. In my life, all the time.”

“Yeah,” Jack nods, sounding a little more confident. Not to mention hopeful. It makes Sammy smile, really smile, even amidst his inner turmoil that he’s trying to keep under lock and key right now. “Yeah, it’s just like I said before. I want you to be in my life – for the rest of my life.”

“Forever,” Sammy says, and accidentally meets Jack’s eyes.

They’re Sammy’s favorite thing in the world, always have been, green and perfect and so familiar – but right this second, Jack’s eyes are blown wide, completely terrified.  

Sammy knows that the same look is reflected in his own face, that Jack’s thinking about what Sammy is. What forever means.

“Forever,” Jack repeats, the word twisting in his mouth and the only reason Sammy doesn’t let himself think about kissing Jack is because they’re walking by the journalism building right now. “That sounds – well, it sounds kind of like….being gross and in love. Weddings and babies and…and all that.”

“You don’t have to just say that,” Sammy says quickly because how the fuck can he deal with the mass of emotions threatening to pour over right now? “I – I mean, to make me feel better.”

“I’m not,” Jack says, eyes widening with shock. “I – I wouldn’t ever. I – Sammy, you’re – you’re my whole –”

They’re both quiet for a moment, and Sammy focuses on the sidewalk beneath his feet. They’re off campus again now, the other side, only a few minutes from Sammy’s building. He can see in the distance as he and Jack cross the street. Their strides are still perfectly in time. Sammy watches their feet hit the pavement, the thumps echoing together.

“I told myself that the reason I liked being with you so much was because it was practice, and it wasn’t pressure because it wasn’t real,” Jack’s voice drops to almost a whisper. “I’m pretty sure I was lying to myself because – because being with you is the most real thing I’ve ever done. The most authentic I’ve ever been. With anyone. Ever.”

A lump forms in Sammy’s throat, and he wishes they were alone. He wants to kiss Jack, wants to hold his hand, wants to – to –

To date him, probably. To be his boyfriend. To be with Jack for the rest of his life.

“I lie to myself all day every day,” Sammy manages to get out after a few tries. He doesn’t look Jack in the face. “About everything. I – I never thought I’d be able to be with a guy. I thought I’d eventually marry some nice girl and just repress everything. And then I met you and – and suddenly, that wasn’t an option for my life anymore. It wasn’t something I could just feel shame over, because – because I was with you, and it was amazing, and I didn’t want it to end.”

Jack’s quiet, and Sammy thinsk that might’ve been too much to say.

Then Jack’s shoulder brushes against Sammy’s, just lightly, but stays pressed there as they walk the remaining hundred yards to get to Sammy’s building.

Jack moves away for Sammy to get his key, but when Sammy plucks up the courage to look at Jack, Jack’s smile is tentative but hopeful.

Sammy smiles back, and Jack looks away, biting his lip.

“So…what?” Jack says when they’ve made it up the stairs and Sammy’s opening his apartment door. They never really spend any time here – Sammy’s always over at Jack’s. “Not to sound like a cliché, but like – what are we?”

“I think…” Sammy swallows his nerves and fears and everything that keeps him up at night. “I think you’re my boyfriend? I really don’t know. We can push aside the weddings and babies stuff for today, I think, but like – I think you’re my boyfriend.”

“That’s good,” Jack’s laugh is so bright, even as he blushes and looks at the ground. “I was thinking that you’re probably my boyfriend, too. You’re still my best friend, you’ll always be my best friend but there’s no rule saying you can’t be both.”

“Lily’s gonna be insufferable,” Sammy says as a deflection of how on top of the world he feels, and Jack rolls his eyes, but his smile gives him away.

“Let her be,” Jack says, and Sammy pushes open his door.

Jack kisses him once the door closes behind them, and Sammy can feel the relief flood through his body. Not just relief – hope, too.

“I love you,” Jack says when they break apart, his green eyes soft on Sammy’s. “I know we already said it but like – that was in a sad, weird context where we were repressing it’s pretty much everything but that. And I just want you to know – I love you so much. No matter what way in – you’re my best friend.”

“And your boyfriend,” Sammy says, amazed at the concept but already in love with the way the word sounds. “Don’t forget that part.”

Jack laughs, and it’s so perfect. Sammy can’t imagine anything feeling better than this.