After the final bell rings, Sam grabs his history book from his locker and shoves it into his backpack when a shadow falls over him. He glances up and isn’t the least bit surprised that Grizz is hovering, running a finger down the side of the locker next to Sam’s.
“Hi,” Grizz says once Sam looks at him.
Sam smiles in greeting.
“You got a haircut?” Grizz asks, leaning over and palming the side of Sam’s head where his hair is shorter than the top. “Looks good.”
“Thanks,” Sam replies, still smiling.
They stare at each other for a few seconds before Becca runs up to him. “Sam,” she starts, grabbing his arm. “Gonna need you to come over and help me pick out an outfit. Mickey asked me out for dinner tonight.”
“Mickey?” Sam asks, surprised. He didn’t realize Becca was interested in him.
“Yes, Mickey. Now c’mon!” she says, tugging at his arm.
Sam turns back around to Grizz. “Sorry, gotta go.”
Grizz salutes him with a smile and starts walking the other direction.
“Are you ever going to ask him out?” Becca asks as they make their way to her car.
Becca gives him a cold stare. “Do you seen any other football hunks flirting with you?”
Sam shakes his head and gets into the passenger seat. “He’s not interested.”
“Bullshit,” Becca says. “He learned how to sign for you, Sam. You don’t just do that.”
“He’s a good guy. You know that he has a big heart,” Sam says.
“I know, but he looks at you differently. I mean he was just stroking your head when I walked up to you, was he not?”
“He said he liked my haircut,” Sam replies, instantly regretting it knowing how that sounds.
“Of course he did, because he likes you, love,” Becca says, pulling into their neighborhood.
“If he liked me, he would have done something about it.”
“I could say the same thing about you.”
“I don’t have the confidence he does. I can’t just go up to him and ask him out.”
“But he’s going to say yes,” Becca says, frustrated.
“You don’t know for sure.”
Becca parks her car and sighs. “I don’t know how many times we’re going to have this conversation before something changes. Are you really going to graduate and go your separate ways next fall without having said anything?”
Sam swallows hard. “Maybe,” he replies. Grizz is a great friend to him, and sure maybe he flirts with Sam a lot, but that doesn’t mean he wants anything more than that. Sam can’t be sure until he actually hears an admission of feelings from Grizz himself.
“If you’re not sure how he feels about you, then you should do something to find out.”
“Like what?” Sam asks.
They get out of the car and make their way to Becca’s room. She makes a bee line for her closet and starts tossing clothes out over her head.
A few minutes later, she gasps loudly and crawls out of her closet.
“You should make him jealous!” Becca shouts.
“Yes! Sam, I’m a genius,” Becca says excitedly. “Just mention something about a guy being hot and see what he says.”
“I don’t know…” Sam trails off.
“Oh please, it’s not like I’m asking you to make up a fake boyfriend. Just compliment another guy, that’s all you have to do. Is that so hard?”
Sam gives her an incredulous look. “Have you seen the guys at our school? Yes, that’s very hard.”
Becca laughs and rushes back to her closet.
“So when did you start liking Mickey?” Sam asks.
Becca sticks her head out and shrugs. “I’ve always thought he was cute, don’t really know him that well. Maybe that can change tonight.”
“I’m happy for you,” Sam says, flopping onto her bed.
Grizz slides into the seat across from Sam at lunch the next day, half of his hair tied up. “Sam,” he greets him with a smile.
“Grizz,” Sam replies, grinning.
“You look good,” Grizz says, signing as he speaks.
Grizz has been learning to sign over the last few months and while he’s not exactly a natural at it, it’s clear he’s been practicing. Sam can tell when Grizz is saying something off the top of his head compared to when he’s thought through the signs and practiced beforehand. You look good was definitely practiced. Sam’s never swooned so hard.
Before Sam can thank him, the rest of their lunch table fills in. He busies himself by listening to their problems and complaints, trying hard not to stare too much at Grizz who slouches into his sweatshirt and tries to take a nap.
“Did you guys see Harry today?” Allie asks, crunching on carrots while wagging her eyebrows.
Sam knew exactly what she meant by that question. Harry wore a suit to school. Apparently he has some sort of mock interview in his Intro to Business class and decided to dress the part. Every girl and probably a few guys have been ogling him all day.
“Yeah,” Becca pipes up. “I mean he may be an asshole but damn.”
“What?” Will asks.
“You didn’t see him?” Kelly asks.
Will shakes his head.
“He looks hot,” Sam says.
Grizz’s head shoots up. “Who? Harry?” he asks, narrowing his eyes at Sam.
Sam shrugs. “Like Becca said. He’s an asshole but damn.”
“You think he’s hot?” Grizz asks again, signing slowly.
“Yes?” Sam replies.
Grizz’s face falls. “Right. Cool.”
“I don’t like him, though,” Sam replies.
Grizz doesn’t say anything, he just nods his head while chewing on his lips and tapping his foot anxiously.
Sam wasn’t really going to follow Becca’s advise to make Grizz jealous, but the opportunity fell in his lap and he went with it. It’s not like he lied either, Harry is hot.
“Grizz, I don’t like him,” Sam repeats, reaching out and gently touching Grizz’s hand.
Grizz instantly relaxes, smiling he asks, “Too much product in his hair, huh?”
He shakes his head. “Too much hate in his heart. But also his hair doesn’t do that,” Sam says, nodding at Grizz’s half updo. He’s indirectly telling Grizz he likes him, and while they flirt all the time, this is a huge risk for Sam.
“Oh,” Grizz says, hand touching his hair. “Does that mean...I mean do you…”
Sam waits while Grizz sorts through his thoughts and thinks of how to sign what he’s trying to say. The bell rings before Grizz can say anything. Everyone gets up in a rush, Grizz’s response lost in the hussle of students.
Gizz’s holding Sam’s backpack while Sam throws his homework in it at the end of the day. They always somehow find themselves together when the final bell rings. As if they can’t go home without seeing each other for one last time, or at least that’s what it feels like to Sam.
“Grizz! You coming to my party tonight?” Clark asks, clamping a hand on Grizz’s shoulder.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” Grizz says, glancing at Sam and then back at Clark.
“Oh c’mon, dude,” Clark whines. “Lexie’s totally been checking you out. She asked if you were coming.”
“Lexie?” Grizz asks, looking confused.
“”Yeah man, she might be psycho but she’s hot.”
“She asked about me?”
“Yup! Don’t worry dude, I’ll tell her you’re coming,” Clark says, slapping Grizz on the back and jogging back the way he came.
Grizz tries to call after him but gives up.
Sam zips up his backpack and takes it from Grizz, trying to show no signs of discomfort at the thought of Grizz and Lexie.
“I’m not going to the party,” Grizz says, as if he’s trying to reassure Sam.
“You should go if you want,” Sam says, trying to sound nonchalant. “Lexie will be there, so…”
“I don’t care about Lexie.”
“Maybe you should, apparently she likes you.”
Grizz bends down a little to meet Sam’s eyes. He looks at him for a minute before asking, “Is she the only one?”
Sam’s not falling for that. He’s already basically admitted his feelings to Grizz once today, he’s not going to make it twice.
“How should I know?” he asks, shouldering his backpack and making his way out to the parking lot.
Grizz catches up to him and knocks his shoulder into Sam’s. He’s smiling as he asks, “You’re killing me, you know?”
Sam smiles back at him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
A few hours later, Sam finds himself nursing a beer in Clark’s kitchen. Mickey and Becca were invited to the party and decided to drag him along. He’s a bit annoyed that Grizz isn’t here even though he would have been doubly annoyed if Grizz did show up after finding out that Lexie was looking for him.
Cassandra walks into the kitchen. “Since when has that been a thing?” she asks, pointing behind her from the way she came.
“What?” Sam asks, confused.
“Grizz and Lexie.”
“What?” Sam asks again, still confused.
“They’re practically making out,” Cass answers, still pointing behind her. “I thought you and Grizz were, y’know.”
Sam swallows and grips his beer extra hard. “Well we’re not.”
Cass looks skeptical. “Did you fight? Is he acting out to get back at you?”
“We were never together. He can do what he wants,” Sam grits out.
“Shit, sorry,” Cass mutters. “That blows.”
Sam steps out of the kitchen and into the living room to see them with his own eyes. Grizz is standing stick straight as Lexie grinds on him, his hands on her waist and hers on his back under his shirt. He’s not really an active participant in whatever Lexie’s doing, but it’s not like he’s pushing her away either.
Sam continues to watch for a whole song, his heart breaking more and more with every second that passes, before Grizz’s eyes meet his. Grizz immediately pulls away from Lexie and rushes up to Sam. “It’s not what it looks like,” Grizz says.
“You’re a terrible dancer,” Sam replies, turning away and heading out of the house.
Grizz catches up to him on the front porch. “Sam. It wasn’t like that.”
“What are you talking about?” Sam asks, feigning confusion. The last thing he needs is for Grizz to pity the gay deaf kid. And when he thinks about it, maybe that’s what this has been all along. Just some pity flirting.
“What you saw, Lexie and I...it’s not like that. I don’t like her,” Grizz says, wrapping a hand around Sam’s wrist.
“It’s okay if you do,” Sam says, smiling. “She’s kinda mean, but you’re allowed to like people, Grizz.”
“I-you. You’d be okay with me liking Lexie?” Grizz asks with furrowed eyebrows.
Sam shrugs. “Why would I care?”
Grizz releases his grip on Sam’s wrist and takes a step back as if he’d been shot. “Yeah, why would you care? It’s not like you have feelings for me, right?”
Sam didn’t think Grizz would outright ask him anything like that. Now that he’s put on the spot the best thing to do in his mind is to make things go back to the way they were. Status quo.
So Sam shakes his head no. “You’re one of my best friends.”
“Right,” Grizz says with a wattery laugh. “Fuck. This kinda hurts a lot.”
“It’s just that I thought-I mean I was so sure you...doesn’t matter now. I was clearly wrong,” he says, backing up and then running down the porch steps.
He stops when he reaches the bottom and turns around to face Sam. “For the record, I don’t like her. She asked to dance and I guess I’m too fucking nice to say no. I tried to pull away but she was drunk and wasn’t having it so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go with it for a bit until she got tired. My mistake, I guess,” he says, walking down the lawn.
“Grizz!” Sam yells, running after him.
“What?” Grizz asks, deflated.
“I was lying. You know I didn’t mean it,” Sam says. “You know.”
Grizz sighs. “I’m done playing games then. What do you want Sam?”
Sam feels a weight lifted off his chest when he says, “You.”
Grizz takes a step closer, leans down to meet Sam’s eyes. “Can you teach me a phrase to sign?”
Sam, with his heart in his throat, nods.
“How do you say ‘kiss me’?”
Sam breaks out into a grin before grabbing the back of Grizz’s head and pushing their lips together. Grizz smiles into their kiss. When Sam pulls away, Grizz chases after his lips, sealing them together for another.
“Did you really, even for a second, think I didn’t like you?” Grizz asked pulling away.
Sam shrugs, staring at the ground. “Her hands were under your shirt.”
Grizz winces. “I was trying to be nice.”
“You’re too good for this world, Grizz.”
Grizz drops a kiss on Sam’s cheek and then another on his forehead. “You got that all wrong. It’s you who’s too good.”
Sam grins at him as Grizz continues to kiss all parts of his face. He pushes Grizz away and signs.
“What does that mean?” Grizz asks, repeating the gesture.
“Kiss me,” Sam answers.
Grizz laughs. “Don’t mind if I do,” he says before meeting Sam’s lips.