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college is for lovers

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College is trippy for a lot of reasons — a weirdly unstructured schedule, the fact that you essentially sleep and go to school in the same place, everyone running on a weird mix of adrenaline and happiness and desperation — but more than anything, it’s trippy because when Tony walks into his college dorm room he sees that Peter Maldonado from American Vandal is his roommate.

 

Peter’s not, like, famous famous, but he’s more famous than anyone that Tony’s ever met, except for that one time he saw Danny Devito in a Whole Foods in Chicago, which was very surreal, and he’s sitting on the other side of Tony’s cramped UCLA dorm room rifling through his mismatched socks while his mother chides him for not sorting them.

 

Tony’s not a huge diehard Vandal fan, so it could be weirder. He watched all of first season with the dicks and it was good, but he wasn’t ever obsessed like a lot of people were. His best friend, Matt, was the one who streamed the whole first season in one night when it dropped on Netflix and then cajoled Tony into watching it. But it’s still a little weird to see the kid who a couple years ago filmed and narrated and created a show he binged in person.

 

Peter looks up, noticing him and his parents moving all his boxes into the dorm room. “Oh, hey! You must be my roommate.”

 

Tony swallows down his first impulse which is to ask did or did not Christa Carlyle do the dicks, Matt really wants to know and says, “Hey, man, I’m Tony.”

 

“Hey,” Peter smiles and it’s a nice smile. A shy and a little friendly. “I’m Peter.”

 

“I know,” Tony says without thinking.

 

Peter blinks, confused.

 

“Sorry, man, I, uh— I didn’t want to be weird, but I— kind of watched American Vandal ?” Tony says awkwardly. He silent thanks his lucky stars that his parents are completely wrapped up in talking with Mrs. Maldonado about parent stuff. Mortgages and laundry and how their kids are still babies. You know. Parent stuff. Their moms are currently bonding the way that two Latino moms only can, laughing and trading embarrassing stories about the two of them already.

 

“Really?” Peter says, looking caught somewhere between pleased and self-conscious. His face is beginning to fall into something more serious than his original friendly smile which Tony feels guilty about. Alienating his roommate is not how we wanted his first five minutes of college to go.

 

“Yeah, my buddy Matt was, like, very invested,” he laughs awkwardly, scrambling a bit to make things normal. “I promise I’m not gonna be weird about it or, like, sell your stuff on EBay to fans.”

 

Peter blinks and laughs a little more naturally now. “Thanks, man, I appreciate that.”

 

The awkwardness dissipates slowly but surely after that. Their parents help them unpack and then Mrs. Maldonado smothers Peter’s face with kisses which totally makes him sniffling goodbye into his own mom’s shoulder slightly less embarrassing. They suffer through a dining hall dinner with some other people from their floor and all the other requisite freshman year ice break activities they’re obligated to sit through.  

 

When they finally get back to their room, Peter crashes pretty quick, falling asleep with his glasses in the little plastic holder that his mom clipped to the side of his dorm bed — Tony’s kind of getting the impression today was a bit far pass his preferred level of socializing — but Tony can’t sleep.

 

He spends about a half and hour tossing and turning before grabbing his phone and quietly slipping out his dorm.

 

Matt picks up on the second ring.

 

“Tony, hey,” Matt answers and his voice is warm and familiar and Tony suddenly feels like crying for the first time since his parents left. He misses home suddenly, all over again.

 

“Hey,” Tony says back. Matt’s all the way in Chicago at Northwestern and has been for like a week. He’s already settled in and Tony feels like he’s drowning.

 

“How’s the first night?” Matt prompts him when he doesn’t say anything else.

 

“Good, it’s—” Tony shrugs into his phone then realizes that Matt can’t actually see him. “I don’t know, it’s weird still.”

 

“Yeah, it is.” Matt’s silent for a moment, but Tony doesn’t mind, listening to the steady breathing of his best friend on the phone. It’s comforting white noise. “How’s the roommate so far? You didn’t get some weirdo, did you?”

 

“Yeah, okay, don’t tell anyone because I wanna, like, respect his privacy and be chill about it, but my roommate is actually Peter Maldonado.”

 

“Wait, like… American Vandal Peter Maldonado? Tony, what the hell, are you serious?”

 

“Yeah,” Tony laughs, getting caught up in Matt’s excitement. He misses him, misses the way that his joy can be so contagious that it sweeps into a room and invites everyone along for the ride. It always smoothed over Tony’s anxieties. “Yeah, American Vandal Peter Maldonado in the flesh.”

 

“Dude!” Matt sounds excited. “What’s he like?”

 

Tony struggles for a second. He’s only technically known Peter for about six hours. “I don’t know, I just meet him. He’s actually pretty cool. Kind of a fucking nerd, I think, but like— You’d like him.”

 

“Damn, man,” he laughs. “You’re so lucky. Your roommate is, like, famous and mine is some frat-star idiot who plays fucking lacrosse and drinks exclusively Natty Light.”

 

“What you got against lacrosse, Matty?” Tony teases. “You’re just mad because I went to lacrosse camp that one summer and left you at home alone.”

 

From there it devolves into an old bickering argument they’ve been rehashing since freshman year and Tony feels the tight knot of anxiety that’s been lodged in his chest since he set foot onto UCLA’s campus start to loosen.

 

…   

 

Tony and Peter, despite the initial fumbling, actually end up being really tight.

 

Peter’s a weird little dude, but he’s great. He and Tony are very different people, but it kind of different makes them good roommates and good friends. They introduce each other to people they would’ve have and push each other out of their comfort zones. Peter makes him watch weird art movies and Tony makes him join intramural soccer. They both watch old Spanish soaps and lovingly make fun of them because it reminds them of their moms.

 

They end up becoming pretty good friends with two girls who live down the hall from them because one of them, Katrina, is in Tony’s world history class. It’s an odd bunch — Pete’s kind of serious and quiet and super into film, Tony’s a recovering high school jock trying to figure what else he’s good at, Ash is STEM kid, Katrina’s an English major — but Tony likes it. High school was mostly him hanging out with people who did all the same things he did and sometimes it felt like Matt was the only one who really got him. Peter, Ash, and Katrina are wildly different from him, but they do kind of get him in their own ways. It’s cool.

 

Although, Peter, while his roommate and probably his best friend at UCLA, is kind of a difficult person to crack. Tony’s not sure if it’s because Peter’s a lowkey celebrity or just because of how he’s wired, but Peter’s a pretty private guy.

 

Tony’s self-aware enough to know that he talks about Matt and family and his life at home probably way too much, but Peter doesn’t say a ton about his life back in Oceanside or his friends from high school. He only consistently mentions four people from home — his mom, Sam Ecklund, Dylan Maxwell, and his boyfriend.

 

His mom and Sam are kind of givens. Sam’s his business partner and best friend of nearly a decade and his mom gave birth to him. He’s obviously going to talk about them. As for Dylan Maxwell, it’s sweet that Peter’s stayed such good friends with the subject of his first doc and Dylan stories tend to be some of Peter’s most entertaining from home.

 

The boyfriend is more elusive. Peter never mentions the boyfriend by name, but again, he’s a private guy and a semi-public figure. Tony figures that it’s not that he doesn’t trust them, it’s that he’s used to keeping stuff on the downlow.

 

None of them even know that Peter has a boyfriend until they’ve all been friends for about a month.

 

It’s not the biggest shock in the world. They all know Peter’s gay, after all. He doesn’t make much of a secret and besides, there’s a picture of him at Pride that Sam took posted on his Instagram. And Tony’s sort of, kind of, maybe working out his whole sexuality thing. He knows—  well, he knows he’s not 100% straight or as 100% completely straight as anyone is. He never really got to work through during high school because while the world’s come a long way, there’s still something terrifying about being the only gay kid in the locker room. The only person that he’s ever really told is Matt, who just nodded and said they could talk about it whenever Tony wanted to. Tony never really wanted to so now it sort of just hangs between them sometimes like Pandora’s Box or something else equally weighty.  

 

That may or may not be he gravitated to Ash with her colorful hair and casual mentions of both ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends and Peter, who mentions being gay so casually and unconsciously. It makes something inside him feel both out of place and in place at the same time.

 

The first time any of them hear about the boyfriend is when Peter shows up to lunch in a bomber jacket that looks much more on trend than any of the multitude of hoodies and sweatshirts that Peter typically favors.

 

“Damn, Pete,” Ash teases when he sits down next to her, putting down his plate. “Did you develop a sense of fashion last night?

 

“Fuck you,” Peter laughs, ducking his head sheepishly. “My boyfriend picked out. He says that I dress like a 40 year old accountant when no one’s helping me.”

 

“Boyfriend?” Katrina practically screams, drawing the attention of a few random students in the cafeteria.

 

“You never mentioned a boyfriend,” Ash hits his arms excitedly.

 

“I have too,” Peter protests, but they all ignore him.

Katrina swivels to him. “Tony, has Pete ever mentioned a boyfriend?”

 

Tony pretends to think on it. “No, I don’t believe he has.”

 

“Dude,” Peter says imploringly and Tony shrugs with a shit-eating grin. Pete made his bed and he can lie in it. He’s kind of enjoying watching Ash and Katrina tear into him for information. It’s nosy, but a good nosiness. Nosy only because they care.  

 

“Tell us about him,” Katrina insists excitedly. “Oh my god, Pete, you’ve so been holding out on us!”

 

“What do you want to know?” Peter asks and Tony swears he’s blushing.

 

“Name, birthday, favorite color, current occupation, zodiac sign,” Ash rattles off. “You know, the basics.”

 

Peter furrows his eyebrows like he does when he’s especially surprised or confused. “He’s a Virgo, I think?”

 

“Hmm,” Ash hums, sipping her soda. “Virgo and Scorpio. Interesting match. Really good for match communication and intellect, decent match for sex and intimacy, too.”

 

“Er… Thank you?”    

 

Katrina cuts in, ignoring all of Ash’s questions. “Is he in college?”

 

“Yeah, he goes to UC Berkeley, we went to high school together,” Peter says, looking relieved by a question that’s more his speed.  

 

Tony knows that Sam goes to UC Berkeley. He wonders if he and Peter’s mystery boyfriend are friends. He never really got along with Matt’s one high school girlfriend — which was fine because they last for about two months sophomore year — but he figures that getting along with the best friend is important for a long term relationship. Then he starts thinking about Matt meeting someone at college and him having to try to figure out if they’re good enough for his best friend from hundreds of miles away.

 

He tunes back into the conversation just in time to hear Katrina asking Peter, “How long have you guys been together?”

 

“About two years, a little over,” Peter says. “We got together the summer after sophomore year.”

 

This leads to renewed rant from Katrina and Ash about Peter never bringing up his boyfriend of two years and Tony joins in teasing his roommate until eventually, he takes pity on Peter and saves him from Katrina and Ash’s interrogations, pivoting the conversation somewhere else.  

 

…   

 

A few days after the Peter Maldonado boyfriend bombshell, Peter goes to his three hour Tuesday night class and the rest of them end up an intense debate about his mystery boyfriend’s identity.

 

“I just don’t understand if they’ve been dating for two years — almost three! — how Pete’s social media is totally devoid of boyfriend pictures,” Ash moans, scrolling furiously on her phone. “How is that even possible?”

 

She’s basically scoured all of Peter’s social media back to the very first posts instead of doing her Chem homework. Katrina and Tony are at least pretending to do their reading.     

 

“Aren’t we being kind of invasive?” Tony asks, feeling vaguely guilty. He’s highlighted the same sentence about the ancient Sumerians in his world history textbook, like, three times.

 

“We’re his friends, Tony,” Katrina says. “We’re prying out of love.”  

 

Ash’s scrolling comes up with a whole lot of nothing. His social media doesn’t even have a trace of the boyfriend, which would be more surprising, except for the fact that Peter is essentially a seventy year man on social media and in some aspects of real life. His Facebook is all professional and serious, his Twitter is just movie opinions and tweets promoting Vandal, and his Instagram has tons of pictures of Sam—  although the most recent one of the four them that sort of makes Tony’s heart warm and reassures him that he’s not lying when his mom asks him if he’s making friends. But no boyfriend to be found.

 

“Tony, you haven’t heard anything more about the boyfriend?”

 

“No, no more than you,” he shakes his head. “C’mon, you know Pete— he’s private.”  

 

“But you live with him. Don’t they like Facetime or call or anything?”

 

“I dunno,” he shrugs. “He calls Sam a lot, but they’re best friends.”

 

Tony calls Matt nearly as much as Peter calls Sam, he rationalizes. It’s what you do when your best friend goes to a different college hours and hours away.   

 

“Do you think he’s making the boyfriend up?” Ash looks concerned. “Because he thought we might not believe he’s gay without proof or to impress us or something?

 

“No, Peter would never do that,” he shakes his head. Peter prizes the truth over most things—  he’s a legit documentarian and Tony’s seriously seen him use the phrase “journalistic integrity” while drunk off his ass. He wouldn’t lie to impress them or for any other reason.

 

“Are you sure his boyfriend isn’t Dylan Maxwell?” Katrina asks, changing gears as she peers over Ash’s shoulder, her homework now abandoned as well.

 

Tony sighs and pushes his textbook away. “Dylan, really?”

 

“I don’t know,” Katrina shrugs. “He’s the only other person that comes up on Peter’s Instagram repeatedly—”

 

“Okay, Pete has like thirty-two posts, being on his Instagram “repeatedly” doesn’t exactly take a lot,” Tony interrupts.

 

Katrina ignores him. “I mean, he still talks about Dylan pretty often and I don’t know, the internet might have been onto something—”

 

“I’m, like, ninety percent sure that he’s not dating Dylan,” Tony insists. “Besides, Dylan’s probably not gay and definitely not Pete’s type.”

 

“What is Pete’s type?” she asks.

 

“I don’t know?” He searches for an answer. “Damien Chazelle? Alfonso Cuaron?”

 

“We all know he’s more of a del Toro man,” Katrina says dismissively.

 

“Cuaron’s hotter, though,” Tony says without meaning to. The girls both given him a sort of knowing look, but don’t say anything. Apparently digging into his sexuality crisis — something that he kind of skirts around while Ash tries drag it out of him and Katrina gives him affirmations and Peter nods supportively — has been tabled for talk of Peter Maldonado’s boyfriend. And you know what? Fair enough, honestly.

 

Ash shakes her head. “No, okay, I picture, like… if Timothee Chalamet was film buff who wore a lot of cardigans and bought vintage cameras.”

 

“No way, that is so not Peter’s type!” Tony protests again, laughing at the mental image of Peter awkwardly holding Timothee Chalamet’s hand in spite of himself.

 

This devolves into them Ash’s type and by the time Peter shows up, they’re digging into what precisely Katrina’s type is — men who look like they haven’t slept in days, she insists — and Peter joins in the conversation easy enough, laughing along. They let Tony off the hook, which he’s grateful for and almost disappointed about. He’s kind of figuring out his type along with a lot of other things right now. He could maybe use some input.

 

Maybe that’s why he brings up the whole conversation to Matt later when they’re talking on the phone. He’s tucked in his favorite phone call spot in the basement of his building, right by the laundry room where there’s not a ton of foot traffic. He doesn’t think Peter’s eavesdropping or anything when he takes calls Matt in the room, but he likes feeling like it’s just him and Matt sometimes. Like the old times.  

 

“So, yeah,” he’s saying into the phone. “Basically, we know, like, virtually nothing about Pete’s boyfriend and they’ve been dating for years, it’s crazy.”

 

“Do you—” Matt starts and cuts himself off in one breath. “Never mind, man.”

 

“No, what?” Tony presses.

 

“Forget, man. How’s your Chem class going? Your lab partner still blowing stuff up on accident?”

 

“Matt, c’mon, what is it?”

 

He hesitates for a long moment over the line. “Do you… like Peter?”

 

“Yeah,” Tony says immediately. “Of course, I like Peter. He’s, like, my best friend. I mean, not my best friend, obviously because that’s you, but like my college best friend.”

Matt huffs. “No, I mean— do you like Peter?”

 

“Oh,” Tony blinks in surprise. “No, no, we’re just bros. I don’t know… I guess Pete’s not really my type.”

 

“What is your type?” Matt asks and there’s something weird in his voice almost like urgency, but that can’t be it. Tony feels something strange turn in his stomach.

 

“I don’t know, Matty. I’m still figuring all this shit out, you know that.”

 

“Yeah, sorry, T,” he says softly. “Don’t worry about it. You’ve got plenty of time to figure out.”

 

They end up talking about other things after that — college classes and friends from home and how Matt has to write legit sonnets for his poetry class that he took for shits and giggles — but the conversation keeps coming back to Tony when he lets his mind drift. He keeps replaying what Matt said.

 

…   

 

During his first Halloweekend of college, Tony gets drunk and kisses a boy for the first time. He later pukes all over the lawn of the house they’re at and Ash and Peter take turns juggling him on the way home.

 

They’re all dressed as the gang from Scooby Doo and Tony lost his orange Fred ascot somewhere on their way out of the party. All in all— not a bad Halloween.

 

“I didn’t— I didn’t think that boy lips would be that soft,” Tony says as Peter practically walks him into the Uber waiting for him and part of his brain is screaming at him to shut up but he doesn’t care.

 

He kissed a boy and it was awesome and it deserves to be discussed.

 

Peter snorts. “They’re not always that soft.”

 

The Uber ride back to their dorm isn’t long. Ash sits up front engaging their driver in an in depth conversation about something that Tony’s drunk brain can’t really keep track of — his mixtape? his side hustle as a juggler? who’s to say? — while he slumps in the back seat between Katrina and Peter.

 

“You guys are the best,” he slurs, trying to smile up at Peter and Katrina’s blurry faces. He notices that Peter’s Velma glasses are just his real glasses and he nearly snorts with laughter at the realization. What a nerd. “I love you guys. Best friends ever.”

 

“We love you, too,” Katrina smiles, looking amused and maybe even a little touched. “Even if you’re a messy drunk.”

 

“Yeah,” Peter agrees. “We do love you. Please don’t puke in our room.”

 

They hustle him out of the Uber and crash land him onto the futon in him and Peter’s room. Getting up into his lofted bed seems like a Herculean task right now so he just kind of makes his peace with probably spending the night on the futon.

 

“You got him, Peter?” Ash asks from the doorway.

 

“Yeah, no worries,” he nods. “I’ll make him drink some water, too.”

 

True to his word, Peter bring him a glass of water and makes him drink it all before settling him into the futon. He even pulls Tony’s comforter off his bed and tucks him in with a trash can by him.

 

“You’re the best, dude,” Tony says with the sincerity of a thousand drunken idiots. He vaguely hopes Peter’s mystery boyfriend knows how lucky he is to have him. He should tell his boyfriend if he ever visits.

 

Peter shrugs. “Sam always says I’m the best at taking care of drunk people.”

 

Tony suddenly has a brilliant idea. He struggles to sit upright, making grabby hands at his roommate. “Pete! Pete! Gimme my phone.”

 

“Tony, I don’t think that’s such a good idea—”

 

“No, dude, it’s the best idea! I just wanna call Matt.”

 

“Fine,” Peter relents, grabbing Tony’s from where he’s plugged it into its charger — again, such a thoughtful a bro — and hands it to him.

 

Tony unlocks his phone and opens his favorites, tapping on Matt in his contacts.

 

Matt answers on the first ring.

 

“Tony?” he answers, sounding a bit concerned. There’s a lot of noise in the background of his phone call and it occurs to Tony that his best friend might be at a party of his own right now. Before he can think about hanging up and letting him get back to his night, Matt asks, “You alright, dude?”

 

“Matt! Matty! I’m fine!” He practically beams into his phone and Peter shakes his head at him fondly. “I’m, like, better than fine.”

 

Matt laughs, sounding warm and relieved and so close it feels like the thousands of miles between them practically evaporate. “Ah, man, how drunk are you, T?”

 

“I’m drunk on life,” Tony says, because yeah, he’s drunk. That’s the kind of shit drunk people say.

 

“Man, you giving Peter a hard time?”

 

“No!” He turns to Peter, who’s scrolling through his phone. “Pete, am I giving you a hard time?”

 

“You’re an angel,” Peter says dryly, without looking up from his phone. Tony recognizes that concentrated scrolling after being roommates for two months. He’s definitely on Twitter.

 

“Pete says I’m an angel,” he informs Matt proudly.

 

“Uh huh,” he snorts, but it’s definitely fond. “I bet you are.”

 

“I’m not that drunk,” Tony says into the phone, softer now. “I just— I miss you.”

 

“I miss you, too,” Matt says and he can picture the smile on Matt’s face and he suddenly wishes he could teleport to Chicago.

 

Tony must fall asleep still on the phone with Matt because when he wakes up to hear Peter murmuring into his phone.

 

“Yeah, he kind of got sloshed… No, he’s fine, just a little puking… Yeah, I know…” Peter breaks off laughing. “You saw that picture? Since when are you friends with Tony on Snapchat?” He pauses again, laughing. “I was not sexy Velma. I was just regular Velma… Well, Ash wanted to be Shaggy so... Yeah, I’ll keep the orange turtleneck… Weirdo, you would be into that...”

 

Peter sounds possibly more fond and relaxed than he’s ever heard and Tony thinks that maybe he’s witnessing a real live phone call to the mystery boyfriend. He focuses very hard at staying still on the futon. He doesn’t want Peter to feel uncomfortable, like he’s eavesdropping even though he kind of is.  

 

He talks on the phone for a few more minutes until he says, “Okay, I’ll talk to you later, Sammy. Love you.”

 

Tony’s almost disappointed. So it definitely wasn’t boyfriend. Still, it’s cool. Modern bros who say I love you . Tony wonders if he and Matt should start saying I love you, too . Maybe it would affirming or some shit. He drifts off to sleep without thinking much more about it.

 

…   

 

A week or two later, they’re all in a haze of midterms that has Tony eating almost nothing but pizza bagels and iced coffee and wanting to call his mom in tears because maybe he’s not smart enough for college after all.

 

The only thing that’s really keeping him together is the forced interaction of his daily study sessions with Peter, Ash, and Katrina. Otherwise, he’d probably be isolating in his room and spiraling into a fit of test-related stress.

 

Tony’s considering putting his head inside is history textbook and napping when he glances up to see Peter smiling at his phone with the dopiest look on his face.

 

He raises an eyebrow at Peter, who shrugs.

 

“My boyfriend sent me a meme,” Peter explains, looking unbearably fond. He shows Tony the meme and he snorts. Peter’s boyfriend has a weird sense of humor, but a good one. That’s probably why Peter likes him.

 

“When’s that boyfriend of yours gonna visit?” Ash asks casually, looking up from her laptop. It reeks of that fake innocence seen only in meddling younger siblings, but bless Peter’s only child soul he doesn’t notice. Tony had a sister in the seventh grade. He knows better.  

 

“He was thinking of coming down this weekend, actually,” Peter says. “Berkeley is having their fall break this week, so he has a long weekend.”

 

He says it so casually, like he doesn’t know that the three of them are practically foaming at the mouth to meet his boyfriend. Tony can feel Katrina suppressing a shriek next to him.

 

“Really?” she asks.

 

“Yeah, really,” Peter stops, looking at Tony. “I mean, if it’s okay with you, dude. I was meaning to ask. It’s your room, too, I don’t want to overstep—”

 

“Bro,” Tony cuts him off, mostly because Peter makes that scrunched up face he does whenever he calls him “bro.” He realizes that it’s kind of a leftover jock thing and Peter isn’t really the jock type. “It’s fine. Of course, your boyfriend can stay at ours. I’m really excited to meet him.”

 

Peter smiles something that Tony’s beginning to categorize as his boyfriend smile. “He’s really excited to meet you guys.”

 

“We promise to be so normal about meeting him,” Ash says seriously.

 

“Just be yourselves,” Peter says because he’s part teenage boy and part eighty year old man and, apparently, part guidance counselor. “He’ll love you guys.”

 

Ash and Katrina launch into a stream of ideas for things they can do while Peter’s boyfriend is in town, with Peter laughing and either accepting or vetoing their ideas, but Tony’s kind of stuck in his head. He keeps thinking about the way Peter smiles at his phone when his boyfriend texts or the look on his face when he talks about him. And Tony… he kind of wants that. Which is something he’s realized before in an idle way— obviously, one day he wants to be in love. But it’s never felt as a real before. He’s never thought, wow, I hope I feel that way about my boyfriend one day . He’s not sure he’s ever let himself even think the word “boyfriend” in relation to himself before.

 

So he just sits there, as all his friends laugh and make plans, wanting something that for once doesn’t feel completely out of reach.

 

…   

 

Tony comes home from his class at 3:30 like usual, mango smoothie from the student union in one hand and one earbud in playing some catchy Ariana Grande song as he unlocks his door, to find Peter making out with some guy in their dorm room.

 

Which isn’t exactly usual.

 

Tony recognizes Sam not just because he watched Vandal. He recognizes Sam because he’s a constant in Peter’s life— in his stories, in his pictures, on the other side of his Facetime calls. So he knows who Sam is. And he knows that the guy that Peter’s kissing in their dorm room isn’t his boyfriend because the guy that Peter’s kissing in their dorm room is Sam.

 

They break apart when the door swing closed behind Tony, no longer kissing, but still in each other’s space.  

 

“Oh, hey,” Peter says and has the dignity to look sheepish, but not nearly a sheepish as someone caught cheating red-handed should be. “Tony, this is—”

 

Tony cuts him off. “You don’t need to tell me who this is.” It might be a little harsh, but, well, cheating’s serious and he’s seriously disappointed. He never thought Peter was the kind of person who would cheat on someone, much less his boyfriend of two years. Maybe he doesn’t know Peter at all. Peter just gives him a blank look, so he says, “Seriously, Peter, what the hell? You said your boyfriend was supposed to visit this weekend.”

 

“Yeah—” Peter starts, looking a bit confused, but Tony’s heated enough to cut him off.

 

“So your boyfriend is coming up to visit this weekend and you decide to cheat on him with your best friend? Dude, what the fuck? That’s so fucked up.”

 

Peter’s entire face scrunches up in confusion. “What are you— Tony, Sam is my boyfriend.”

 

Tony stops short, deflating completely. “What?”

 

“Yeah,” Sam breaks in finally, looking caught somewhere between confused and kind of amused. “Unless Pete’s found a hot new college boyfriend, I’ve been his boyfriend for the last two years.”

 

“I haven’t found a hot new college boyfriend,” Peter says immediately, frowning like the very idea of it is offensive to him.

 

“I know that, babe,” Sam says fondly.

 

“Oh, uh,” Tony pauses, trying to keep himself from turning around and running away or throwing himself through their third floor window out of sheer fucking embarrassment. “It’s nice to meet you then?”

 

Somehow they do manage to recover from that.

 

Tony apologizes profusely and thankfully, Sam and Peter seem to find the miscommunication more funny than deeply offensive. He briefs Katrina and Ash via text message and by the time that the two of them show up, it’s mostly smoothed over.

 

He does make decide to disappear from their dorm room for most of the afternoon tomorrow to give them some privacy. They deserve it after he accused Peter of cheating on his boyfriend with his boyfriend.

 

Sam is charming, funny and quick and absolutely perfect for Peter. The two of them have the kind of easy chemistry of two people who have known and loved each other for a really long time, who orbit around each other and complete each other.

 

Tony overhears them Facetiming in his dorm room like once a week. Sam is the first person Peter thinks of, talks about and wants to talk to in any situation. He really should have known.  

 

They all eat dinner together and hang out before going to a party, a lowkey kind of thing where it’s mostly people sitting around and drinking with music in the background rather than the makeshift living room dance floor and darkness of most house parties.

 

And Tony wouldn’t have pegged Peter Maldonado as someone down with PDA, but by 11:30 Sam’s fully sitting in his lap. Turns out Sam’s a touchy drunk and Peter doesn’t seem to mind too much.

 

Peter pushes Sam’s floppy boyband bangs out of his face, a movement so sweet and intimate that Tony almost feels like he needs to look away. It feels like an invasion of privacy to watch, but he can’t help it. Luckily, Katrina’s drunk and curled into his side and equally enthralled at a glimpse of Peter, their friend, that they’ve never seen before.

“I’m glad I could come down this weekend,” Sam says.

 

“Yeah, me too. I missed you,” Peter smiles, kissing his boyfriend’s temple.

 

“Missed you, too,” Sam says. “Being apart in different cities for whole months is stupid.”

 

“They’re really cute,” Katrina sighs into Tony’s side. “Fuck. I want a boyfriend.”

 

“Yeah, me too,” he says without meaning to and is surprised to find he really means it. And he’s not scared to mean it. He’s not scared to say it aloud. It makes some part of him ache.

 

Katrina looks up at him, smiling. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” he nods, feeling more sure. Maybe it’s liquid confidence, the kind that’ll desert him come the morning, but he’ll take it. “Yeah, I do.”

 

They don’t last at the party too long after that. Tony helps Ash get Katrina home and into her lofted bed — a feat even when she’s not trashed — and by the time he’s back in his room, Sam’s fully asleep and cuddling up to one of Peter’s pillows like it’s a substitute for his boyfriend.

 

Tony quietly shuts the door behind himself so he doesn’t wake him.

 

“So,” Peter says quietly once Tony’s shut the door. “You really didn’t realize Sam was my boyfriend.”

 

In retrospect, it’s pretty embarrassing that he didn’t realize it earlier. It was kind of obvious. Peter doesn’t talk about anyone like he talks about Sam.

 

“Dude,” Tony groans quietly. “We, like, had a betting pool on what your mystery boyfriend was like.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah, like, Ash was convinced your type was like… a Timothee Chalamet film ho,” Tony stops, wincing. “I hope you’re not weirded out by that. It was a little invasive of us—”

 

“It’s okay,” Peter assures him. “I feel like I probably shouldn’t throw around accusations about being nosy in friend’s love lives.”

 

Tony remembers his segment in the first season of Vandal about Sam’s supposedly crush on Gabi. Suddenly, that whole scene comes in a new light. Peter was definitely jealous. Like so, so jealous. He makes a mental note to make fun of Peter for that later. Now’s not really the time.

 

Peter cocks his head at him. “So Sam’s not what you guys pictured?”

 

“Nah,” Tony shakes his head. “He’s way better.”

 

It’s true. Now they’ve met Sam, Tony can’t really imagine Peter with anyone else. He’s better than any randomized Sim of potential boyfriend traits that they came up with for Peter.

 

“Yeah,” Peter smiles and it’s what Tony realizes is his Sam smile, not his boyfriend smile. Or maybe, more accurately, it’s the same thing. It’s different than all his other smiles— a little softer, a little smaller, a little deeper. “He is, isn’t he?”

 

Tony hesitates, a question curled on this tongue that he can’t swallow down. Fuck it. He’s embarrassed himself enough already today. “Peter? Can I ask you something?”

 

His response is instantaneous because Peter is a better friend than Tony deserves right now or maybe ever. “Yeah, of course.”

 

“How’d…” he pauses, fumbling, but pushes himself forward. “How’d you know you liked Sam? As, like, more than friends?”

 

Peter pauses, a crease popping up between his brows that lets Tony know that he’s really thinking about his answer.

 

“He’s my best friend,” Peter says finally. “The first person I want to tell about anything, the person I know is always going to be on my team. I guess I just sort of looked over at him one day and thought… why would I ever want anyone else?”

 

Tony nods, feeling like his heart is stuck somewhere too high in his chest. “How’d you know that Sam liked you?”

 

Peter smiles, like Tony’s said something funny. He glances down at Sam, sleeping soundly. “I didn’t.”

 

Tony smiles, too, in spite himself. “Sleep tight, Pete, okay?” he says and Peter nods before they get the lights and climb into their own beds.

 

Peter wraps himself about Sam and Tony stares at the ceiling the in dark, just thinking. Maybe he’ll call Matt tomorrow. He thinks they might have some stuff to talk about.